In today’s post I thought I’d demonstrate my approach to painting a figure in opaque watercolor.
While anatomy is important to me, drawing and painting anatomically correct figures isn’t. In my paintings, I’m much more interested in realizing these two intentions: 1). Going beyond the obviousness of a subject to create a world that is at once both personal and universal, and 2). Creating a rich picture surface that is alive with emotion and enchantment. My subject is the jumping off place for achieving my two intentions.
Working from a photo I took in Hawaii, I began with observation, aiming to understand the figures, their gestures, and their body language. Then I looked for the natural abstraction present in the subject, working hard to see everything as simple masses of shapes and values.
In putting together my compositions, my aim is to put together a design that consists of a few large interlocking masses of light and dark. That design provides the abstract structure for my painting. The composition process begins the moment I choose my subject, and doesn’t end until I place the last brushstroke on my painting.
Because I like to let everything unfold in an intuitive, spontaneous, improvisational way in my paintings, my medium of choice is opaque watercolor (watercolor combined with gouache), which allows me to change my mind, make corrections, and try out any ideas that occur to me in the process of painting without worrying about ruining my picture surface.
Here are some process photos for my painting, Susie’s World:
If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.” Zig Ziglar
“A dream without a goal is a wish. A goal without a plan is just a dream.” -Unknown
“Actions speak louder than words.” – Unknown
It’s already the second week of the new year! How are you doing with your art goals for 2017?
While I’m not a fan of making new year’s resolutions, I do love dreaming and envisioning new possibilities for where I might take my art in the future because doing so inspires me to raise the bar higher and hopefully move my paintings a little closer to where I’d really like them to be.
This year I added a new question, “what habits or personality traits might trip me up?” (see my last post) to my yearly art review and goal setting practice and wow, was that informative! I realized that I have LOTS of habits that trip me up and stand in the way of moving forward in my art! That led me to ponder the second new question I added this year, “what actions will I take to overcome them so that I can achieve my goals?” for a very long time. In getting totally honest with myself, I became aware that while I’m good at making plans, lists, and setting goals, I’m not so good at staying the course and continuing on the path I chose for my art when I’m distracted by something in my personal life, when life gets too busy, or when I feel discouraged about a painting I’m working on.
With that in mind, I chose a watchword for 2017 to help me stay clear and focused on where I want to go this year and the actions I will take in order to get there. A watchword is a word, slogan, or phrase that can be used as a focusing or re-focusing tool – basically a watchword is a reminder to yourself of your intentions. In 2016 my watchword was CONTINUITY. Last year, one of my art goals was to be in the studio regularly and to be continuously connected to what was going on in the studio even during those times when it was impossible for me to actually be painting. By recalling my watchword regularly, I was able to remind myself routinely that my big picture goal is to always have and feel connected to something percolating in the studio no matter how stressful, challenging, chaotic, busy, or wonderfully distracting things are in my personal life. Having a relevant and personal watchword proved to be a very useful tool that helped me achieve some of my art goals last year. An added bonus was that I also learned that sometimes a “slow drip” approach to the percolating process yields tastier results!
After generating a lot of words and phrases over a number of days, I chose FOLLOW THROUGH for my 2017 watchword. I think it will be a perfect reminder to me to keep on keeping on in terms of my art goals and action plans at those times when time and my personal life become challenging, and most especially at those times when I haven’t a clue about how to resolve a painting I’m working on, or when I feel totally discouraged or depressed about how my work in general is progressing and feel like abandoning my art practice altogether. I guess this year’s watchword, follow through is a lot like my 2016 watchword continuity. For me it seems to be all about getting my head in a good place, always having something percolating in the studio, and showing up regularly.
I encourage you to choose a 2017 watchword. And if you do, please share! Send it to me via the comment section below. We all learn from each other and seeing someone else’s watchword may open up possibilities we may never have thought of.