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See Like an Artist

20 Aug
Confined Watercolor Warm up

“Confined” watercolor on paper by Katie Turner.   The view is from a platform above an enclosed courtyard.

 

After thumbing through one of my old graphic arts books, I was thinking about how artists learn to express themselves visually and learn to see, not just using the sense of sight.  Matisse said that when he ate a tomato he just looked at it, “But,” he said, “When I paint a tomato, I see it differently.”

It’s true that artists see the world differently.  Seeing things differently enable an artist to deliver a message through their art.  Some say artists have heightened awareness.  How is it that an artist can see something different from others?

Some artists learn through life drawing classes.  Sometimes it can be a real struggle but life drawing classes can be a real growth opportunity for an artist.   They look, analyze, translate what they see into marks on paper and along the way acquire visual skills.  Learning how to “see” makes it possible to conceptualize more unique and original designs.

Some art classes don’t teach students to see but give them quick shortcuts to produce life drawings.  Historically, drawing was thought unnecessary and a lot of design students graduated from art school without any drawing at all.  As time continues, the pendulum swings back and forth with what is taught in school.   When representational art is popular, you will see more formal drawing classes available and when it’s not, less formal will rule.

There are many exercises available to hone your drawing skills that will also grow your ability to “see” creatively.

 

Here are my favorites:

  1. Turn things upside down before sketching. By placing an object in an unusual position it forces the mind to look more closely at it.  This forces us out of automatic drawing mode and trains us to draw what we see.

 

  1. Draw the negative spaces only. Concentrating on drawing these abstract shapes forces your mind away from preconceived ideas.

 

  1. Squint or use Red Acetate Film when sketching. Squinting or using this red acetate will quickly simplify any complex subject into simple shapes and values.  Your mind will be less likely to focus on the detail.

 

If you put just a few exercises into your daily practice, you will be “seeing” and drawing better in no time.  When the artist has better visual awareness, the door to creativity is opened.

 

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Glorious Creative Expression

25 Jun
Van_Gogh_-_Terrasse_des_Cafés_an_der_Place_du_Forum_in_Arles_am_Abend1 
Café Terrace At Night (1888) Oil on canvas – Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo Vincent Van Gogh
Van_gogh_cafe_arles

The café terrace, now called “Le Café La Nuit” at Place du Forum, Arles, France

 

fishing on lake

Onondaga Lake, Syracuse, NY

Blue abstract woods small for blog

Blue Abstract Woods, Watercolor, K Turner  (1 of 2 interpretations of lake picture above)

Onondaga Lake for blog

Fishing, Watercolor by K Turner (2 of 2 interpretations of lake picture above)

 

Have you ever thought about how you want to paint a subject?  What is the message or feeling that you want to convey to the viewer?

Recently, artist David Becker  blogged about how different artists interpret subject matter or a scene.  Some like to interpret things in a very realistic manner and others more abstract.  The way an artist decides is based on their own unique style.  You don’t have to look far to see examples of this – even the masters (Picasso, Dali, O’Keeffe, Rothko, Matisse, Van Gogh, etc.) have numerous examples of unique artistic interpretation.

After reviewing these famous artists from the past and looking to all the unique modern day artists and what they are producing – I am convinced there is no right or wrong way.  My personal feeling is that a photograph can tell me a lot if I want a report.  A painting can tell me more about the feeling and the artist’s thoughts and ideas.  There are of course artistic photographs that are wonderful and impactful. I’m not saying photographers aren’t artistic – they are!  When I’m painting, I am forced to edit myself and think about what it is that I want to say to the viewer.

There are times when I think of my painting as a musical concert with a large orchestra, maybe even a brass section.  As the conductor I might want a certain color to give me a deep background sound while another note becomes an essence of color to highlight an area.

Creating your own unique style seems to only come with time and lots of painting.  So I’d like to encourage all creatives, whether an artist, musician, writer, scientist, inventor, etc.  keep working towards your own unique style.  Try hard to avoid becoming someone else’s clone or copy.  Develop your own style.

As a creative you have a special gift of seeing the world a little differently than others.  You owe it to the world to share that unique original vision and idea.  Let your unique style shine through!

The night scene above, painted by Van Gogh, interprets the night scene without use of black.  He creates this with beautiful blues, yellow and citron green.  Van Gogh enjoyed painting right on the street at night, painting his observations and impressions directly.  He shares his interpretation with a spiritual and psychological tone using his brushstrokes to convey his sense of excitement.  The café still exists in southern France today and is a favorite tourist spot for Van Gogh fans.  The café terrace, now called “Le Café La Nuit” at Place du Forum, Arles, France

*Pictures credit: Wikipedia.  To read more about Van Gogh click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh

Put It in Reverse

14 Feb
seascape painting

“Waterways” 16″x20″ watercolor on paper, Katie Turner

There are times when an artist might get stuck in a rut.  Maybe you are beginning to tire of creating similar items day after day, week after week.  There may be times when you’re quite comfortable with what you’re doing.  You are even doing quite well financially but there is a seed of unrest within.  Whatever your condition, change and growth are calling.  Experimentation and exploration are the answers.  Experimentation and exploration may even lead to new innovative discoveries.

There are many ways to get started with experimenting.   One particular way that artist Edward Betts discusses in his book “Master Class in Watermedia”, piqued my interest.

Reversing the sequence was Betts suggestion.  A normal painting sequence would be to observe a scene in nature, then set about sketching, drawing and finally painting the shapes until you arrive at the desired scene.  Reversing the sequence would be to paint from abstraction toward nature, thus being intuitive and spontaneous and relying on chance.  Betts encourages all artists to do experimental exercise and adapt techniques that help with improvement.

Experimentation and exploration can be exciting and fun.  Have you been experimenting lately?  Have you ever tried reversing your sequence?  Thanks for reading.

~ Katie Turner

 

TerraSkin vs. Yupo

6 Nov

I’ve been using both TerraSkin and Yupo paper for several years.  These two smooth papers have been produced as shopping bags and labels, envelopes, wristbands, signs, banners, booklets and more before it came to the fine art world.

I heard that TerraSkin was a more eco-friendly alternative than Yupo synthetic paper but it’s really a toss-up.  Neither use trees to make their paper, both conserve water in their production processes and both are non-toxic.  The biggest difference is in the plastic they use to hold the ground stone, also known as Calcium Carbonate together as a sheet.  Yupo uses Polypropylene which has a high melting point, is pliable has a slight static charge (attracts dirt and dust), and costs less than Terraskin.

Terraskin uses High-density Polyethylene with a lower melting point, is less pliable, doesn’t carry a static charge (attracts less dirt and dust) but costs more due to a higher purity (100% virgin).

Here is what these two chemicals look like:

I’ve made up charts of each paper’s properties below.

charts so

My Thoughts on Synthetic papers:

Synthetic papers are easy to work with and have only slight differences that I’ve noticed.  The paper doesn’t need to be stretched.  It doesn’t shrink or expand.  They work fairly well with wet or dry mediums but the floating wet paints take a lot of practice to control.  Terraskin seems easier for layering colors but with patience and practice you can find ways to work with both.

If you are not happy with your painting, you can take it right to the sink and wash it off, although Terraskin tends to stain with certain pigments.

Tyvek is another synthetic material that painters are experimenting with but I haven’t worked with this yet.  Synthetic papers are being embraced by artists for their durability, eco-friendly qualities and their unique painting surfaces.

These papers may be better for the environment due to their tree-free and low water production processes but many of our oceans have plastics floating in them causing problems for the marine wildlife.  So I would advise painters to re-use and recycle their papers rather than tossing in the garbage.  Since I work in watercolor, it’s easy to just rinse off a painting and start again.  If you are using a more permanent medium and wish to start over, remember to use the back or maybe you would turn it into a collage or recycle where #2 plastics can be recycled as an alternative.

 

CREDITS:  https://www.globalplasticsheeting.com/our-blog-resource-library/bid/92169/polypropylene-is-it-different-from-polyethylene  http://www.sea.edu/plastics/frequently_asked_questions, http://www.sea.edu/plastics/current_sea_research

creeping yellow roses with logo

“Creeping Yellow Roses”, Watercolor on TerraSkin paper, 26″x34″ Katie Turner

Unusual Materials

26 Oct

UlaEinsteinSCALESwebArtists are known for creating all kinds of odd and wonderful things, so it’s not a surprise to see art using Tyvek®.

DuPont™ produces Tyvek® which is best known for its application as housewrap.  It is used to protect the walls of a home from moisture.  Tyvek® is also used in medical packaging, protective clothing and now in all kinds of art, jewelry and more.

Ula Einstein is an artist living in New York City who creates with Tyvek®.  She first started working with Tyvek® in 2008.  Einstein usually starts her process with cutting the Tyvek®, then uses a variety of techniques including: painting, scorching, piercing, crumpling, searing, drawing out and layering.  All these, result in innovative works that are a cross between paintings and sculpture together.

Her works titled “Hybrid In(ter)ventions” exhibited at the FLUX Art Fair 2015 in NYC.

There is an article about her work here: Tyvek Graphics Einstein

Other artists who create with Tyvek® include Taiko Chandler, and Susan Greer Emmerson, Tom Sachs, Kathy McCreedy and more.

If you are looking to try your hand at creating with Tyvek®, it can be purchased online by roll (22”x84”) for approx.. $9.99 from ebay, etsy, amazon and also www.hollanders.com which sells  bookbinding supplies.

Dupont has information on artists who use their Tyvek® product here: Tyvek Graphics Uses Article

Something is Better than Nothing

16 Oct
Purple Pole Beans

“Purple Pole Beans”, Watercolor on Yupo paper, Katie Turner

A fellow artist approached me recently bemoaning that his drawing wasn’t as he would have liked it.  When I asked him why he didn’t like his drawing he explained that it had been done using a photo reference rather than sketching it “en plein air”.

In my opinion, drawing from a photo is certainly better than not drawing at all.  But without the right approach it can be a sad experience with drawings and paintings that look flat, lifeless and soulless.

So how do you keep your drawing or painting from lacking soul? First, have a positive attitude and then an open mind. What are you feeling as you draw this?  What senses are affecting you during the drawing process?  What is it about this particular subject that you want to communicate to the viewer in your drawing?

Another thing to consider is what the photographer has already done in the photo.  How have they already edited the scene and what can you do to make it your scene rather than just a repeat of what the photographer created?  What else can you bring to this drawing that would make it fresh and spice it up?

Remember that your art tells your story and you get to choose what you want to say and how to say it.   Happy creating. ♦

Chromatic Interaction

29 Aug

There are many methods for organizing colors in the world of art and science.  Having a visual model can help an artist see the relationships colors have with each other. A color wheel, developed by Albert Munsell in 1905, assigned a numbering system to colors and became a useful and common tool artists and designers could use for planning color ideas.  Johannes Itten also developed a three-dimensional model, integrating the color wheel into a globe.

Using a sketchbook to study colors can help an artist examine the relationships between warmer and cooler colors as well as between analogous and complementary colors.  As a watercolorist, I can gain an understanding of how the various watercolors work together, but may find changes as I experiment with different brands.

Testing chromatic interaction doesn’t have to be boring at all – try this exercise for fun:

  1. Draw several free-hand circles in various sizes.  Allow them to overlap.  This first step is optional, since you could just create your circles with the brush.
  2. Start with the largest circle, painting one color into the circle.
  3. Clean the brush with water before adding a second color. Paint the new color into the adjoining circle on the first circle.  Watch the colors bleed, paying attention to how the colors are interacting.
  4. Continue painting circles with different colors.
  5. This is only one way to paint the circles. You could also wait for each circle to dry before painting the next, so there would be no “bleeding” of colors.

Have fun!

To read more about color theory, click here: https://watercolorpainting.com/color/

https://uxplanet.org/algorithm-for-automatic-harmonious-color-selection-for-the-image-fc26dde69ca1

The Munsell Color System: https://web.archive.org/web/20030813092028/http://www.adobe.com/support/techguides/color/colormodels/munsell.html

Itten Color: https://www.bauhaus100.de/en/past/teaching/classes/preliminary-course-by-johannes-itten/index.html

An art & design duo from Milan have chromatic interaction art:  https://www.carnovsky.com/RGB.htm