Archive | Watercolors RSS feed for this section

Modern Art Pioneer

18 Feb

I was asked about a pioneer who I admire and immediately thought of Edgar Whitney.  I felt he was a modern art pioneer because of how he shared his great talent through teaching.  Many of his students went on to become great painters and teachers, influencing modern watercolor painting in a positive way.

Edgar Whitney was born 1891 and died 1987.  He worked 25 years in Commercial Art, then 5 years as an Art Director before becoming a full time artist and teacher.  The American Watercolor Society lists him as a Master Watercolorist and has an annual award in his honor.  His dedication to American Watercolor greatly influenced our modern day art.

“There are only 2 things that matter in life – your friends and your art.  Everything else is worthless.”  ~ Edgar Whitney

How did I come across Edgar Whitney, my friend asked.  I was interested in finding an artist that painted in a similar way to my mother.  When I came across Whitney’s art, I knew this was it.  His paintings were what I was really looking for – very impressionistic and loose with lots of movement, spontaneity and texture.

Since he was no longer alive, I realized the only way I could learn from him was to learn from his students.  I spent about 10 months researching who his students were and even located some classes from them.  Some of his students were Cheng Khee Chee, Barbara Nechis, Tony Couch, Frank Webb, and of course there are many, many more.

I realized I could learn a lot from his books and for the next five years I dove into studying and practicing his way of painting.  Every class that came up with any of his famous students, I attended.

“No door is closed to a stubborn scholar.” ~ Edgar Whitney

I admire the way he was able to share his style and technique and had some students who went on to become famous painters and teachers.  From what I heard, he had a tendency to push his students and he was quite an interesting character.

“You have chosen to spend your time and money on esthetics.  Others can cheat you, a craft cannot.  It’s the only area in life where you get back what you’ve put in.”  ~Edgar Whitney.

Who do you admire as a pioneer?  What pioneer qualities do you possess or desire?  I’d love to hear some comments.

                                                                             ***

On Drawing and Painting

13 Dec

In the wintertime I paint almost exclusively in the studio.  Here I can paint from drawings or pictures I took as reference during the summer months or use my imagination.  Now is the time I can interpret any scenes that interest me while also making note of the words I may have jotted down on the corners of my sketches.  “Stippled sky” or “Mottled grass” give me clues to the scene in my art journals.  Although some items need to be more carefully rendered –  most other times details can be left to the imagination.

I try to think of drawing as exercise and fact-finding while painting for me is more explorative and experimental.  When I develop a picture I prefer to emphasize the abstract and textural qualities of the object.

Truth be told, I am hooked on watercolor with its fluidity and transparency.  I delight in wet-into-wet process but have also found that in order to paint more abstractly, I must experiment.  So I stipple and blot, crinkle and scratch until the surface reveals the look I’m seeking.  There is no sacred part but I always try to keep in mind the initial idea that prompted me to sketch or paint at first.

Wintertime can be a fabulous time of exploration and adventure!

                                                                             ***

 

Expressive Gesture

30 Nov
Wilderness Welcome 72 1200 with logo

“Wilderness Welcome” watercolor by Katie Turner

I’ve had some great conversations with artists about whether or not they like their touch to show in their work.  What do I mean by “artist touch”?

When applying a medium to paper, it will take on a texture.  The way an artist builds the painting with paint strokes, softness, boldness, neatness or spontaneity – all of this works to establish the “artist touch”.

So, should an “artist touch” be visible in the artwork?

I’ve heard two schools of thought on this.  The first argument points out that the viewer’s focus ought to be on the image, not the paint quality.  This perspective views brushwork and gesture as distractions.  These artists want the viewer to have an immediate response to what is being said, not how it’s said.  To these artists, texture and technique should be secondary to the message and it would be even better if texture and technique are completely unnoticeable.

The second position suggests that brushwork and gesture are the artists signature.  These artists believe it’s important to see the artist hand in the work.  With this argument, how the artist says what they say is critical to the message.  The brushwork and gesture enhance the message, emphasizing the content of the painting.

Whatever you choose, to emphasize gesture and brushwork or not, you will definitely establish a texture of some sort and this touch gives an inner life to a piece of art.  Keep in mind that different textures stimulate our senses in different ways.  In the same way that no two people have the same handwriting, no two artists apply their paint in the same way.  I’ve illustrated a few types of texture below.  Although this is not a complete example of all the many hundreds of textures, you can see how each brush style has a different textural feeling.

texture samples

Experimenting with various brushwork and gesture in your art can be a key to discovering which you prefer – expressive gesture or hidden?   Have you thought about how much of the “artist hand” you prefer in your paintings?  Either way, it’s a fabulous tool to have in your creative toolbox.

Thanks for reading.  I’d love for you to share your thoughts.

***

 

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

 

The Origin of American Watercolor

1 Jan
Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner_-_Bell_Rock_Lighthouse_-_Google_Art_Project

Bell Rock Lighthouse by Joseph M. W. Turner (1775-1851) Watercolor on paper

Have you ever wondered how watercolor ended up in America?  This was a recent subject I researched and I’m happy to share it with you here.

To start, watercolor was used in other countries long before it arrived in America.

In prehistoric times, watercolor was used by cavemen to paint on cave walls. The next time it appears in history, it is used in illuminated manuscripts, such as religious texts.

Actually, watercolor didn’t develop as a major medium until paper was invented.  Paper was made in ancient China.  It was then improved by the Arabs and then made in European Mills in the late 1200s.

Thanks to Chinese poet-painters, watercolor painting was now considered as more than merely a decorative craft.  Their paintings were on paper and silk.  Their art was filled with calligraphy with the main image usually being a landscape.  The landscape became a central theme for western watercolor in later centuries.

According to author, Theodore Stebbins, Jr. who wrote “American Master Drawings and Watercolors”, watercolor originally was used as a tool for sketching drawings.  It was for practice and recording information, not for fine art until German artist, Albrecht Durer began using it for his landscapes in the late 1400’s.

Originally a printmaker, Durer found a way to combine transparent and opaque watercolors to make lovely colored drawings.

In 1770, England began producing paper made especially for watercolor paint.  Suddenly an influx of watercolorists emerged with lots of landscape paintings.  As Britain’s power grew, so did the influence of these artists.  Joseph M.W. Turner, a famous English painter from that time, excelled at watercolor experimentation.  He discovered new ways to apply the paint with sponges, rags, knives and brushes.  For a long time, the English watercolorists were considered more skilled than any other artists in the world.

Early watercolorists used to grind their own pigments.  In the 1850s Winsor & Newton and Reeves (two companies that still exist today) began producing paint in tubes and in dried cakes.  The portability helped the tradition spread to America.

Maps were some of the first watercolors to come from America – used as visual aids to the new land.  Gradually more skilled and talented artists began to develop and rivaled the Europeans.

American artists saw watercolor as a primary medium. This attitude was different from that of the Europeans! American painters considered watercolor as an equal to oils.  By 1866 watercolors were shown in galleries here alongside oil paintings.

Famous American watercolorists include: Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and John James Audubon.

Today, American Watercolor Artists continue to take the lead.  We contribute to the international watercolor tradition like no other country – producing important and varied bodies of work.  We are known for our individuality and artistic expression. We are continually pushing the limits of this medium.

We can expect watercolor development to continue as new products come onto the market.  Although Americans did not invent watercolor painting, I have no doubt we will lead the world in unique and original artistic development. I encourage you to keep watch for new developments.

 

***

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