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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Art show winners

The only thing that makes me happier than winning an award is having my students win them. At today's Tri Art show opening three of my students won awards (one watercolor, two collages) and several had paintings or collages that were attracting a lot of attention. I was surprised at three of the collages by students who had taken my class in February--two of them won prizes on works they did after taking the class. About a third of the entrants are my current or former students. This is a balanced show, which I like to see. I think it's a result of the categories chosen for the show. Instead of judging by media, the judge was asked to select award winners in three catetories: landscape, still life, and emotion. There were special awards for experimental painting, Impressionist style, etc., as well. His comments while judging were related to design elements and overall technique. He had a good eye for quality work.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

World's largest digital artworks

Ted Rainer sent me this link: Chris Majors web site. These are spectacular pieces! Check it out.


Friday, April 28, 2006


Joyce requested this photo. Here's Jack. He grew a couple of inches since yesterday, so I guess he isn't a baby anymore. I noticed flowers on one of the young buckeye trees this morning. The parent tree next door was cut down a couple of years ago, but there are quite a few young trees and seedlings in the woods that are thriving without the honeysuckle overgrowth.

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Book reviews on pouring watercolors

  • Pouring Light Jean Grastorf's Pouring Light: Layering Transparent Watercolor focuses entirely on pouring without tricks and experimental techniques. Grastorf's demos are very well done. One of the later demos, "Shell Beach," would have made a good first demo of the processes. The opening pages on supplies and materials are thorough. I like her take on design, too. She works with a very limited palette of three colors in most paintings and has an excellent chapter on color (color wheel with yellow at the top. Yay!). Note well her excellent pages on value studies. She describes the masking techniques clearly, but you must pay attention in every demo to how the process works, otherwise you may get "mud" if the colors mingle too much or the pours are of too heavy consistency. This is in my opinion the best of the three books for breaking down the pouring process into doable sequences.

  • How to Make a WC Paint Itself How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself by Nita Engle is subtitled: "Experimental Techniques for Achieving Realistic Effects." Nita Engle is the Grande Dame of masking-and-pouring in watercolor. Her paintings are far more complex than Grastorf's and Wallake's and create an illusion that is almost photographic without being filled with picky detail. Her palette is unique and she is the absolute master of her colors. She sprays water, throws and squirts paint, spatters, floats and pours colors in sequences for special effects, after having masked key lights and white areas on the paper. This is a text-heavy book loaded with information as well as technique, but well worth the concentration it takes to work it out. Her watercolors are magnificent. I love this book for intermediate to advanced watercolor painters.

  • Watercolor: Pour It On Jan Fabian Wallake's Watercolor: Pour It On is subtitled: "Let Your Creativity Flow Using Dramatic Color Glazing Techniques." The book has many demos and varied illustrations of creative watercolor techniques. Wallake describes at least thirty techniques and texture washes. There is a good section touching on design with rudimentary color (and a skewed color wheel, which drives me nuts). Wallake shows a palette arrangement similar to that of Nita Engle. There isn't as much detail on pouring in Wallake's work as there is in Grastorf's and Engle's. Both of the latter have more subtlety in their work, but Wallake does love vibrant color. Along with an index, there is useful information on showing and selling your work. The author's explanations are clear and illustrations are instructive. The book is very user friendly and helpful to artists who want to loosen up their watercolor techniques.
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    Thursday, April 27, 2006

    Watercolor pouring continued (not)

    Didn't get a chance to pour today, but will tomorrow, I promise. I'm also going to do book reviews here of two books on pouring watercolors. I plan to move my book reviews here from my web site and put them up as I read them instead of waiting for web site updates.

    Too much to do today. I made a flyer for the Pre-publication Offer for my new book, The New Creative Artist this morning and had some printed to take to the program I'm doing next week for the Western Ohio Watercolor Society. Then I helped hang a show for the Tri Art Club at the 48 High Street Gallery in Dayton. Haven't done that for quite awhile and I enjoyed it. Tonight I'm going to check out the slides I've selected for next week's WOWS program (after CSI, of course).

    Woodlands update: I found a baby Jack-in-the-pulpit blooming in the lower woods today. I think it came from seeds I planted from one of my older plants in the upper woods. I'm feeling more and more like Mother Nature every day.

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    Tuesday, April 25, 2006

    What a watercolor pouring looks like

    Here's a digital photo of the first-pour demo on a quarter-sheet of Arches 300 lb.cold press watercolor paper. The subject is a close-up of a shooting star wildflower that I took in my woods. The white and yellowish spots are the masking over the whites and the lighter areas that I added after the first pour. I used Da Vinci Rose Red Deep, Hansa Yellow Light and Cobalt Blue thinned with water to a very pale tint. I don't paint with Da Vinci paints, but they work for pouring. After masking the whites, I brushed clean water on the entire surface of the paper. I poured the colors onto wet paper and let them mingle, tipping the paper to direct the flow now and then. After the color had drained off the bottom corner of the paper, I blotted excess drips with a paper towel and laid the painting flat to dry. (It's important to let everything dry thoroughly between stages.) The three colors mixed randomly to produce greens and violets in some areas. I hope to have time to do some more pouring on Thursday. I can't wait much longer, because the masking may bond to the paper if I leave it on too long.

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    More on watercolor pouring

    Yesterday's class continued to work on their pieces from last week, when they did masking and pouring for the first time. Some really nice things came out of the lessons. First of all, there was far more transparency in the backgrounds. I think some of them realized for the first time that they could have beautiful backgrounds if they just let the paint flow, instead of brushing it over and over until it gets muddy and streaky. I have to hand it to them. They persevered, even though they felt out of control throughout the beginning of the process. It really doesn't matter if they never pour again. They learned more about masking, and what is more important, about how beautiful transparent watercolor is when you let the paint do what it does best--just flow. That's it--"go with the flow."

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    Sunday, April 23, 2006

    Boston, Wicked and the woods

    I've been out of town since last Wednesday, visiting my son in Boston. What a great town! We saw a David Hockney portraits exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art and visited my favorite Arthur Dove paintings while we were there. Then we went to the Fogg Museum at Harvard to see the American Watercolors exhibition, which was fantastic. Not a big show, but really good examples of the work of American artists from the 19th century to 1950. Whistler was my favorite, but I loved the Homers, Sargents and Hoppers, too. We went to see "Wicked," the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. It was great fun. I didn't expect it to be slapstick, but it was, in places. On Friday we hiked through the Garden in the Woods and enjoyed the early wildflowers, which weren't as far out as mine are, but there are many more than I have in my little woods. Nevertheless, I was glad to walk through my little woods when I got home and see even more wildflowers blooming and some new ones popping out. I discovered a couple of colonies of garlic mustard under the big fir trees before I left, so I pulled it all out this afternoon. I keep saying I've seen the end of it, but I suppose I never will. Still, in the woods I find only one or two each time I walk through, so I've made huge progress. In a few days, when I'm caught up on everything else, I'll update my woodlands pages on my web site. I have several paintings to get ready for juried shows. They all seem to come at once in the spring and the fall. I haven't entered shows for years but since I had a few pieces I did for the new book, I thought I might as well put them out there. Framing is so expensive I may not make a habit of it!

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    Monday, April 17, 2006

    Pouring Paint, Woe is Me!

    This was a really fun class. Everyone seemed very pumped up about pouring paint for the first time, including me. I have a different way of doing it, but I decided to use Jean Grastorf's method from her new book. Nearly everyone had a crack at it and although the results were mixed, there were some pretty good beginnings. You wouldn't have thought it, to hear the wailing. "Oh, no! This is such a mess!" It's hard to imagine what's going to happen when you pour liquid watercolor paint onto wet paper. Usually, it's totally out of control when you first try it. I know some of the students didn't believe me when I told them they had a good start, but at critique time, when we looked at what they had done, it was exciting to see all the possibilities. It will be fun to see what they do to finish them. On the whole, no one seemed to be ready to change their techniques, but I know the pouring lesson will give them another tool to add to their bag of watercolor tricks.

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    Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    Be careful what you ask about color

    After six weeks of classes, reactions run the gamut from "Eureka, I've got it!" to "Now what are we supposed to do with that?" Everyone is trying to deal with the huge amount of information and to understand how they can use it. Today they indicated they would like to have a followup class, but I can't do that in the near future. Maybe next year. One student told me she went home last week and looked at a painting she had been struggling with all week and wasn't satisfied with--and immediately said to herself, "I used the wrong yellow." Problem solved. I love it when that happens. Another, who had insisted that she wasn't too thrilled with the idea of changing her palette came up with eight variations of compatible primaries--six were mine and the other two she had worked out herself. We have two more classes, but they're alternating with events at the gallery, so we miss next week and the first week in May. Then I'm taking four weeks off from teaching. I'll probably get together with the Monday class, as some of them paint together when there is no class.

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    Sunday, April 09, 2006

    I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow. --Julia Cameron

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    What's new in the woodland restoration

    bloodrootHere and there in the woods I'm finding bloodroot blooming where I haven't seen it for years. I know I planted a few, but I'm pretty sure some of it has been dormant for a long time. I think I mentioned the first flowers came in March--a couple of snowdrops, followed by winter aconite. Then suddenly last week some pink Grecian windflowers I planted were blooming next to a little spring beauty I brought from my daughter's woods. Yesterday some grape hyacinths popped out in the same area. Elsewhere there are white striped violets, vinca minor, Siberian squill, celandine poppy, sharp-lobed hepatica, a few toothwort and false rue anemone (isopyrum). The Virginia bluebells will bloom soon. They've scattered here and there throughout the woods and in time will be a beautiful display, I think. I've posted a year of wildflowers in my woods on my web site. Most of them are blooming a little later this year.

    It's so nice to be able to walk through the woods without getting snagged by broken honeysuckle invasives everywhere. I've only found one seedling so far this spring. The garlic mustard is widely scattered, so not much work has to be done to clear it except in the back corner, where I wore out last fall and let it go. Even that isn't too bad. Overall, my woodland restoration has been a success, especially since I decided last year not to make this a woodland garden, but to keep it natural. Instead of mulch, the path is covered with fallen leaves and roughly outlined with dead branches. I like to walk on the path so I don't endanger any delicate plants.

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    The Little Artist strikes again

    We fingerpainted yesterday and used computer paper instead of fingerpainting paper. It doesn't work as well, because the paint doesn't slip and slide as much, but still it was fun. We like big paper better, but once we figured out how to make handprints without putting a blob of paint on the paper first, it really got interesting. I "buttered" Jenna's hand with paint, using a plastic picnic knife, and she plopped it down on the paper for the print. She loved having both hands buttered with paint and found she could make more than one print each time. Unfortunately, her favorite color--purple--had turned into a gummy substance, so we couldn't use it, but every other color had a turn, except orange. Eventually we ran out of paper and floor space. Simultaneously, Daddy came home, so Grammy went back to the real world, where sticky hugs are just a warm memory.

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    Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    True art is an epiphany, an enlightening spark dancing in the perceived gap between ourselves and everything else." --Duane Preble

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    Catching up on watercolor and collage

    The Monday watercolor class continues to improve. One student who had been on vacation for several weeks brought in ten pieces she had done while relaxing in Florida. Several are good enough for shows. She's working hard and it shows in her work.

    On Tuesday collage artist Jonathan Talbot stopped by for a studio visit and lunch with me and Virginia Lee Williams, my co-author of Creative Collage Techniques . Jonathan has pioneered a method of adhering collages without liquid adhesives, described in his book, Collage: A New Approach. He's very personable and entertaining, not to mention a fantastic collage artist. Jonathan Talbot's web site.

    Today the color class learned how compatible triads work. Typically, they were a little confused after the lecture, but once they got into mixing the color wheels, light bulbs began popping on. By the end of class most of them understood what it was all about and were enjoying getting the unique mixtures of the triads. There are still a couple of people resisting the new concepts, saying, "I would rather use my own colors." That isn't very productive. When you have the opportunity to learn something new that might add to your mastery of color, isn't it better to try it while you have the chance? You can always go back to "your" colors, although I've found that most artists make a rather dramatic leap into creative color after this workshop.

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    Sunday, April 02, 2006

    Art in the fast lane

    Last night I went to the opening of the spring juried show of the Western Ohio Watercolor Society and came home with a blue ribbon for my transparent watercolor portrait of my granddaughter. Jenna and her parents attended, so I introduced my "model" to the group at the presentation. She did a couple of twirls in her dress as only a three-year-old can do, then whispered to me, "I got a cookie." Now, that was something to twirl about.

    Saturday's workshop for the Art Quilt Network was challenging and fun. Art quilts were exhibited around three walls of the conference room on eight-foot vertical panels, a dazzling display of color and skills. I made short work of some basic principles just to be sure we were all on the same page, then we jumped into color contrasts and color schemes. Questions were asked about color design, so we did that, too, although I hadn't planned it. It was a good group, intensely devoted to the pursuit of excellence in art quilting.

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