Tuesday, July 18, 2017

We're lucky...

Last weekend Bereskin Gallery in Davenport organized a paint out along the riverside there. Mainly the LeClaire Park area between the roller dam and the stadium. Not a huge footprint but more than enough subject matter within eyeshot. Being a nice day, there were also more than enough gawkers strolling by.
 Plein air painters expect dumbfounded looks and inane questions but these Davenporters are a sophisticated lot. They seem to know easel + person + brush = artist. More surprising still, apparently no one in the Quad Cities has an aunt who paints, nor do they struggle with drawing straight lines. One guy did mention Bob Ross, but then asked a series of REALLY intelligent questions about the painting process (one of many who did). Several returned to watch things develop. They were more like cheerleaders than gawkers. This was my view of the river walk by the park.

 Afterward, I got out my sketchbook, mini-palette and waterbrushes to do a quick recon of the area.  This is the glass skyway (that I think used to connect to a casino boat...I just dug the panorama).

 Crazy as this world is nowadays, I feel pretty blessed to do what we do. That sentiment was brought home all the more as I sketched this fountain/memorial across from the Figge Museum (an all glass edifice which defies color matching since it changes every second with the light and has nothing taller nearby to shade it to a consistent hue).

 I was working from a bench, near a disheveled fellow and his belongings.  He was delivering a nonstop, speed-rap on the current state of our nation and the world to no one in particular. He was evidently well read. His complaints were encyclopedic, though Millennials and the governor of Illinois formed a thematic focal point. His observations seemed considered and I found myself agreeing on more points than not. Even the boulevardiers in Davenport are high functioning (hence my use of the swanky French term for street person).
 I really wanted to sketch him...he felt more monumental than the monument I was sketching. On one hand, I was enthralled...on the other I wasn't sure making extended eye contact or taking photos was wise. If there's such a thing as "found performance art", he qualified. That's what I love about plein air - the encounter with the real.
 Anyway, it got me thinking. There but for the grace of God...

Monday, July 3, 2017

Hobbits and habits

This summer I'm trying to create stronger images by simplifying them. You'd think simplification would be simple...less work...fewer marks...less time. HAH! It's amazing how parts of you will resist the rest of you doing something good for you. Guess that's what makes the rehab industry tick.
 I decided to start with watercolor and try the quartered sheet approach I've seen artist friends benefit from. The idea is, 4 smaller images give you more practice than one large one. It's should force you to create big interesting shapes (like a Notan) because now your regular brush is effectively that BIGGER brush you SHOULD be swinging.
 Theoretically, you should use fewer strokes. Plus, a smaller image provides less fiddle-and-fuss room. Unfortunately, that bad habit works on you like the One Ring in Frodo's pocket.
 FEWER STROKES means MORE DECISIONS about those strokes - and that involves more time and mental effort. As in MORE TIME LOOKING AT THOSE BIG RELATIONSHIPS instead of constantly looking back and forth, spotting little bits of detail here and there and overworking things.
 On the first sheet I drew in the panels and painted over my drawing as usual (Sorry for the arbitrary rotating of the images. Also these are un-spectacular phone pix).

On the second sheet I forced myself to look longer - and hopefully more broadly - by just painting with no preliminary drawing. It didn't help. My problem isn't judging values or color, it's fussing with edges.
The part that was like Frodo slipping on the ring was this: if the initial stroke wasn't satisfying, it was too easy to get in there before the area was dry and try a second or third solution.
 Often that works...but it's never as fresh or wow! as a single hit. Do it routinely and it becomes a dubious method.  I've decided to call it "Smeagling", to remind me not to become a Gollum overstroking his "Precious".