It seems strange to think that I’ve reached the end of my fifth week of watercolor classes. The time has passed quickly. At last, though, I’m beginning to feel like I can do something besides “childish scrawls with crayons”. There are still plenty of those, no doubt, but every so often I create something that I like. The last painting I’ll share today is something that I like.
I missed last week’s classes because I was in New Orleans for Fincon 2023. I took a small travel watercolor set with me, but I didn’t use it once. I was too busy having fun.
Returning home, I wanted to follow the written assignment from my instructor, but I was just too tired to go downstairs to paint. No worries. Because this is a community ed class, it’s very very chill.
At Tuesday’s class, we learned how rubbing alcohol interacts with water and pigment. We have homework to use these techniques to paint dandelions, but we also practiced in class. For the first time ever, I like my in-class project enough to share it here. (Usually my in-class projects are a mess because I’m learning some new technique.)
Here are some dandelion puffs created using masking fluid as a resist. It’s tough to tell, but there are some “blotches” on the background wash that were created using alcohol in a mist sprayer.
This piece took maybe 30 minutes of in-class time. The bulk of that time was working with masking fluid.
After Tuesday’s class, I tried to parse the written instructions for Thursday’s assignment. Because I’d missed the class where my instructor (Vikki) explained things, I had to guess at some of what she wanted. (The written instructions aren’t complete. They’re meant to be a reminder of what she covered in class. Kind of like a technical challenge on The Great British Baking Show, if that makes sense.)
What Vikki wanted was a sort of abstract piece with simulated trees. We were practicing negative painting, which is where you paint around your subject instead of painting it directly. The other students created stylized rainbow-colored pieces. I created this literal grove of trees.
This piece took three hours to produce. I also spent three hours working on a (failed) test version that taught me a lot about how to make a second pass. I did use negative painting to produce this, but then I went back and filled in details on the trees. I don’t think we were supposed to do that.
In any event, I do not hate this. It looks less like childish scrawls with crayons than previous efforts. Now it looks like “adult scrawls with crayons” haha. (One of my fellow students really liked this, though, which was edifying.)
As a side note, I’m a little shocked at how much like me this piece looks. What I mean by that is my “art” — anything visual I’ve ever produced — has had a specific look every since second grade. This has that look. It’s very clear in the shape of the trees. I always find it interesting when certain artists have a certain style, and I’ve wondered whether that’s deliberate. I’m beginning to think the answer is “no”. It’s just how they draw or paint or whatever. I didn’t deliberately set out to make “J.D. trees”. It’s just how I make trees.
One issue that I’m having is that my tonal values are all relatively flat. Everything tends to be very, very dark. That’s part of what gives me my “childish scrawls with crayons” look. I’m trying to get a range of values in my paintings, but I’m mostly failing.
Because of this, I decided to do my first independent project. I took four hours Wednesday morning to follow along to
Although this woman is painting…thistles? imaginary flowers?…I thought I could work on painting dandelions instead. So, that’s what I did. And for once, I was able to get some tonal variation!
This piece took four hours to produce. It was my only attempt.
Sure, there could be more variation here, but I’m not displeased. In fact, I like this. What’s more, working on this gave me some confidence that I didn’t have before.
You see, I’ve been watching a lot of watercolor videos on YouTube thinking, “I’m so far from being able to do that.” This was one of those videos. I watched it and dismissed it as too advanced. But then after learning how to paint dandelions, I got to thinking I ought to at least try it. So I did. And the results were great!
Now I want to go back and revisit some of the other YouTube projects I’ve liked. I want to see whether I can get close to what the artists are doing. I just might be able to.
Kim is gone all day today (Friday) and Sunday. Translation: I have a lot of time on my hands to work on watercolors. I think I’m going to drive north to McMinnville this morning to visit The Merri Artist once more. (I want to try some different watercolor paints.) But once I get home, I’ll descend to my basement studio, crank up 1989 (Taylor’s Version), and get to painting.