I just came back from a relaxing weekend at Lost Lake, in the Mount Hood National Forest. It is aptly named because you will lose all cell phone and GPS reception to get there (on Lolo Pass from 26 or coming south from Hood River). We didn’t plan on being disconnected from the internet but it was definitely nice to have a break from it all.
This is the majestic view from the north day use area. Lost Lake is actually a privately run campground and you can rent boats. I was able to easily kayak from the boat launch/ general store area to the lakefront by the day use area. The lake is deceptively big, I tried to kayak from the northern part to the other side, close to Mount Hood. I would say Sparks Lake, Trillium Lake, and Waldo Lake are still my favorites but Lost Lake is definitely near the top of the list.
There’s also a 3 mile roundtrip trail around the lake and a steep hike up to the butte where you can see 3 mountains.
Without having the internet to distract me, I had to amuse myself by other means. I did a set of plein air lake studies on watercolor paper:
I normally don’t paint outside, you can’t really in Oregon except in the summer (at least I don’t know how other painters paint in the rain). I had to be much more economical and less fussy- using lake water in a plastic cup, not having a proper palette setup, painting much more directly on the paper. All while having bugs constantly try to distract me from painting.
It’s flower season here in Portland. I have been doing a lot of fun watercolors.
Here’s one of some geraniums:
Geranium, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16
Foxgloves are biennials, which apparently means they bloom every two years. I thought this was a yet another weed in my front yard and recently I got surprised by these lovely blossoms.
Foxgloves, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16
I also grew a bunch of wonderful tulips this year. Here’s a view of the tulips when they get all floppy and flattened right before the petals are going to drop.
Spent tulips, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16
And I could take pictures of peonies forever. I have peonies in my garden! Hot pink ones and these pink frilly ones (I think they’re Sarah Bernhardts?) I want to grow tree peonies but they’re like $80 a pot.
Peony bouquet, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16
Last time I mentioned I painted a canvas with a lavender background. I wrote out that dream quote in yellow paint and then smeared it out. Not sure where this is going. I could see this one being used for a landscape eventually or maybe I’ll make it an abstract. This canvas is larger than the ones I’ve been working on.
The canvas is sitting on an unstretched piece of canvas that I found rolled up (my mother had dutifully saved everything of mine). I’m going to paint over it as well with oil. We’ll see how the shapes in the background play out.
I was reminded of an artist that I like on Pinterest …Jenny Holzer. She writes memorable quotes and they are embedded in all sorts of places: billboards, movie theater signs, etched in marble, projected on a building, etc etc. I love this quote:
This piece is so fitting for today’s politics:
Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise from the series Truisms T-shirts (1980-)
I had a drawing teacher tell me a long time ago, in a place far far away that my charcoal drawings reminded him of Cy Twombly. I was fortunate to see Cy Twombly at a retrospective I think at the Whitney Museum several years ago. He’s amazing. He embeds words in scribbles and gestural marks in a very beautiful and effortless way
Apollo by Cy Twombly
Here’s a recent watercolor of a peony with the word daydream scribbled on top. Nowhere near as masterful as Twombly but we’ll see where adding words in my art leads me. Don’t quit your daydream!
I already blogged about Matisse, after my trip to the Met Museum a few months ago. I’ve been pinning his work over and over again.
I really like how he is able to abstract his work and ‘flatten’ form into shapes that are reminiscent of pattern. In this book I got from Le Souk Le Souk, it describes how inspired he was from his trip to Morocco– and it shows!
He flattens space but it still makes sense as a cohesive space because the color and the line weight guide you from foreground to background. It’s very skillfully done. It reminds me of when Web 2.0 came out and everything had a drop shadow on it. There is dimensionality while still being flat….it’s 2.5 D.
He said, “It is the beginning of my expression with color, with blacks and their contrasts.” The painting’s black ground separates the three parts, but black unites them, too, by working its way into various areas of each part. The black, though it serves to depict deep shadow, also refers to light. Matisse wrote of a contemporaneous painting, “I began to use black as a color of light and not as a color of darkness.”
I’m inspired by his skill and am going to explore color, line, and pattern in my work in an abstracted but flattened space…particularly in watercolor.
I have mentioned before on this blog how I am always looking for great shades of grey. I have found one from a mix of transparent maroon and an emerald green.
In this painting of silhouetted quince leaves I played around mixing the grey on the palette and allowing the colors to mix directly on the paper. What do you think would be a good background color to complement them? The green turns this crazy bright teal color. It’s a little too psychedelic for me, but I really enjoy the shades of grays that are produced when blended with the maroon.
I tried this same color scheme in my painting of an ornamental plum tree branch, using a background of coral colored paint because coral and grey go well together. Again this is also feeling a little too garish. I think if I can get just the right amount of understated greys , it will look really nicely against a coral colored background.
What was interesting while I was painting this were the muted shades of maroon and green on top of the more tangerine colored background…together they started to make this brown color…too much of it and the painting would look muddy but just enough of it helps offset some of the bright saturated colors used elsewhere. It’s kind of like cooking (not that I can cook) where you seek to have just the right balance of acid…too much and the dish is bitter/sour…too little and the dish is too salty/sweet…with the right amount you achieve a superb balance of flavors. That’s what I’m going for this balance…I haven’t hit it yet but hopefully with the same colors I can get it in my next painting!
I am searching for great greys and blacks in water based paint. I love how darks look in oil paint. But I haven’t found a really great way to do a dark background in watercolor. I’m trying this slate gray using gouache.
Gouache is an opaque water based paint that has a wonderful chalky texture. You can dilute it so it’s like a watercolor or apply it thick like toothpaste. The sweet spot is a chalky soup but as always I tend to use too much water. I love the soft matte texture that you get, and the colors man. I’m like a kid in the candy store and I want every single color that they make. One trick about gouache- it’s not permanent like india ink or acrylic— you can always reactivate the previous dried layer. It’s fun or frustrating, depending on your goal.
I love patterns but I normally don’t paint them because of the effort involved in drawing them. Patterns tend to be stylized, so they aren’t the curves or shapes you would find in nature but very precise geometric shapes. IMO they’re boring to draw and you have to have the type of personality to painstakingly want to paint each line and curve exactly.
I was inspired by this blue rug, the perfect shade of blue, I still haven’t mixed it exactly yet. And I love all the antique rugs that are popping up on my Instagram feed. There’s something about the texture and the age of these old rugs that I love (the patina, can I use that to describe rugs?) and wanted to try to emulate using gouache.
Of course a part of me is like, I’m spending all this time to paint something to look like a rug, when I could spend that time to do something like learn to weave a rug and then I’d have an awesome rug, instead of this piece of paper. I am never practical.
Well I went too far with this, I should’ve stopped earlier. But I wanted to try to see how gouache would look with a pure watercolor area and the transition doesn’t feel right. Also the colors are way way way too garish for me. I think that Kehinde Wiley exhibit somehow made its way into this painting.
If you’re going to go wet in wet, do it at once, on crisp, virgin watercolor paper. Or, wait until your first color is dry and then go at it again.
If you are impatient, like me always, and you decide to blend in another color, don’t be wimpy about it…use enough pigment. If you’re like me, you’ll tend to add a wash that has too much water to pigment ratio. And the result will be mud. A wimpy mud.
Look how my wimpy, impatient wash in the background ruined the luminosity of this painting I did of yet another cherry blossom leaf thing.
You can successfuly blend two complimentary colors (colors that across from each other on the color wheel) without it turning it to mud. You can get amazing shades of grey. Or, you can get awesome blends of one color that is subdued and enhanced by the compliment. But be patient and bold.
It’s been a long time since I played with a watercolor style in oil painting- using lots of gamsol solvent. Somehow I think oil paint will be more forgiving – as it always is- when you’re doing your washes. I think if anything, if you go too aggressive with your solvent, you’ll just end up wiping off what you put down but you won’t end up with this awful mud stain thing.
And acrylic, man. That one is a tough cookie. I know people say you can use it like watercolor or like oils. But I think it’s very, very easy to do the wash thing wrong with acrylics, which is why acrylic has this bad reputation with me for being difficult and not looking as good as oil and watercolor. You best wait till that layer is dry before going again with another glaze in acrylics.
I actually found Randall, a Portland area artist, through his blog, Painter’s Process. I seriously consider him one of the top contemporary landscape painters, I mean why isn’t this dude in MoMA?
He graciously has shared some of his tips and wisdom with me. My favorite piece of advice? Don’t be afraid to ruin it (artwork). It reminds me of what Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book, Big Magic, to take art seriously but not seriously. He also inspired me to start writing this blog!
I absolutely adore the colors in this one: the cold, dark maroons and greys. He so wonderfully captures the quality of light in winter. It’s muted without being muddy, and somehow glowing. Incredible!
It’s all a matter of pushing the paint, scrapping, pouring, tilting, blotting, and wiping as I try to build my idea. The studies are where I can try something out in a manageable space, but I take them seriously as paintings. My goals are the same for any size. I want a rich, painterly image which represents my view, my regard, my understanding of paint and nature. For myself. I`m trying to paint the paintings I want to see.
Interview with Randall David Tipton The second to last sentence is so good- maybe the best artist statement I’ve read in a long while. Don’t get me started about artist statements…
It’s crazy that he paints largely from memory. Look how keenly he observes the subtleties of nature. He so convincingly captures the reflection of clouds and the movement of grassy wetlands.
Look at that cloud reflection! And this one is a watercolor. People it’s incredibly difficult to have both that freedom and control in watercolor. He is a master!
He has elevated Yupo, a plastic watercolor paper, as an artist medium. If you google or go on Pinterest, most of the stuff you’ll see painted on Yupo is amateurish and features extremely garish, saturated colors. It’s not surprising- Yupo is slick and even more difficult to control than normal watercolor paper. You can see how he takes the unique pooling and puddling texture that paint forms on Yupo and makes it work wonderfully to depict water and sky. I love the transition from the blue sky into the ambiguous forms of the tree. Lovely.
More free flowing textures on Yupo. This is all very, very difficult to do well.
He is wonderfully irreverent of “proper” art techniques- no underpainting or drawing, he’ll use black straight from the tube, he’ll use white watercolor, he won’t clean his brushes after use, he’ll use cheap brushes, he’ll use non-brushes as brushes. He’ll paint right over an older painting without second thought. I asked if he sands it first before painting over it. He said he supposes he should. He asked me, “What’s gouache?” He normally purchases canvases that have been pre primed with gesso, explaining that he doesn’t have the time for it. I like it! That is a very good lesson (I mean I’m already lazy and messy enough so I guess I am extremely biased here) but I think it is true that we all have so limited time, if we can afford to take shortcuts, why not outsource the awful, boring parts?
He credits his tenacity for pulling many pieces together. Hopefully I can be just as tenacious and keep working through paintings that are a struggle and that I’m down on.
Watercolor can be a battle, and I can end up with unpredictable results. I think that is why I am always drawn towards it. It’s so much fun. But it can get frustrating when the results are as they were today – inconsistent and illogical? I’m trying to find the lessons in today’s studies, because I think they all ended up pretty bad:
This one is the most direct painting. I like the ‘drawing’ and the brushstrokes. But, the colors are too garish. The foreground and background don’t work together. It’s meh.
This one is working into a wet background, trying to pull the form like I do in oils. It became a muddy mess, yet I love the texture on this one the most and the weird blob cloud that comes out of the blossoms on the lower right is very satisfying to me and feel the most convincing of all the flowers I painted in this session. But the rest looks like dodoo.
I try to mix between 1 and 2. Here you an see that painting a lighter color over a darker color in watermedia looks really funky -not as much fun as in oils.
Choosing a focal point and painting in a direct way like in 1 with the most paint. Then in other areas picking a midtone and laying a background wash. Then apply slightly darker layers on top. This one was my favorite of the four studies and I think most successful until it started to get away from me. I think if I had picked the right mid tones and then waited a little bit until that layer got drier and then went over with slightly darker shadesthat were still close too that layer and then letting the dilution that comes naturally from adding water to the brush create a gradation. Not only waiting a little longer for the background layer to get dry but also premixing my colors in my palette more to get more accurate mid tones. Wow I am overthinking it today. What’s next? I think if I was giving advice to someone else I would say simplify and try to keep everything the same and change one thing. I’m going to pull back on the color and try more monochromatic in the next session while focusing on things I learned in 4. Stay posted.
I have thought about coming up with a less lame name for this blog, but I haven’t thought of anything good. Which is why I am so jealous of this brand with the best name ever, Library of Flowers. It combines my love of flowers and books and art. So easy. Would have been a great name for this blog, too bad it’s taken.
Anyways here are some of their delightfully vibrant packaging- pretty floral watercolors: WANT!
They’re selling a bunch of items on One Kings Lane. It’s not cheap but candles and perfume are pretty pricey even at Target.
Art, Photography, Flowers- all images are my own unless specified