Thursday, April 4, 2013

A little patience, please!!!

The teacher has been a student in the studio lately.  Honestly, it is hard to know what and how much I have learned because learning is such a nebulous thing. Sometimes it's only in retrospect that you can fully appreciate the scope of the learning.  One thing I do know that I've learned:  I am an impatient artist. I never fully realized how much my impatience impacts my work.

I have been learning from two artists.  Using a video from Susan Harrison-Tustain, I painted this piece:

I was particularly interested in learning from Susan because of her ability to create atmosphere in her paintings.  Originally trained as an oil artist, she is unusual in that she paints on smooth hot pressed paper, using layers and layers of glazes to achieve rich results. Through this process I discovered the true level of my impatience and how it is a major stumbling block in my work. Probably because of insecurity, I am uncomfortable when the work doesn't look right.  There is a level of anxiety and a desire to make it right, RIGHT NOW!!!  Through the process of glazing, I discovered that tempering that impulse will go a long way to improving my work.  You learn to become comfortable with the fact that the painting does not look finished for quite a while and THIS IS OK.  I am very pleased with this piece.  I chose this video lesson because of the challenging textures presented in the subject matter - the soft rose, shiny porcelain, and reflective wood.

Lian Quan Zhen is the polar opposite from Susan Harrison-Tustain.  Trained in the minimalist Chinese style of watercolor, Lian has developed a style of painting that begins with pouring, splattering, and blowing just three pigments of color all around the page.  He then masterfully brings order out of chaos.  I was drawn to Lian's work because of his skill with negative painting.  Here is one of three pieces I completed based on his teaching:

This entire painting just used three colors: Antwerp Blue, Hansa Yellow, and Pyrrol Red.  Lian isn't concerned about colors matching the subject in the photographic reference.  It is his skillful use of negative painting that really makes his work sing and is the meat of the learning I carried away from his workshop.  Negative painting is painting around the subject rather than painting the subject directly.  It is much harder than it seems.  The piece I shared above doesn't have a lot of negative painting in it, but here is a close up of one area where I used it:

Negative painting creates an illusion of depth that is powerful. The only way to become excellent at negative painting is to practice it.  It doesn't come easily or naturally, but I am determined to become more skilled.

As different as these two artists are, I am thinking that they are actually two sides of the same coin.  I noticed during Lian's workshop that all of the other students suffered from the same lack of patience that I do, resulting in them making missteps - particularly the mistake of adding too much pigment at the wrong time to make it look right, NOW.  Watercolor has an elusive nature that demands a real understanding of the properties of paper, pigment, and water to truly master.  I have to relax into the medium, trust my understanding of it, and learn to be patient.

Oh, and practice, practice, practice.