I've long been an admirer of Crows and Ravens. I've collected photographs, stories, websites and more in my efforts to learn more about these intelligent birds. And since I've been painting bird portraits for awhile now, it was only a matter of time before I began a series on Ravens/Crows.
And since my first Hereford portraits on black canvas, the idea of painting Ravens on black canvas was a natural first step into this series. I had originally planned to add colors - to liven up the personalities of each bird. I've seen wonderful crow paintings by such artists as Dean Crouser and Bev Jozwiak and I love all the colors they add to their works of art.
My first attempt on black canvas included using blues, purples, black and white to illustrate what I believed to be the personality of the Raven I was painting. I generally work on several paintings at a time, and I had three separate works on two easels and my drawing table. The second and third paintings wouldn't allow me to use anything other than black and white paint to portray the Ravens I had selected. The longer I worked, the more it became obvious that MY paintings were destined, at this time for sure, to remain monochromatic in black and white! Much as I wanted to add a dab of bright blue or shocking red, the birds involved were very much against such a portrayal!
As artists, we do learn from our works. It sounds absurd that a painting tells the artist how to paint it or what colors to use, but the longer one works as an artist, the more one pays attention to the communication between the art and the artist. It is vital now, for me, to pay attention to what my piece wants to say and how it wants to say it.
So here you see the three paintings I have thus far been working on. The one on top is, I think, not quite done. The other two are now at the framers to be suitably enhanced by a subtle black with silver-rubbed-into-the-wood frame. We tried lots of different frames - the black frames did nothing to enhance the work. The gray frames that had the slightest tint of wood tone or other warm color definitely clashed with the work. Finally we tried the black with a hint of silver and the paintings both shone with delight. The art also tells you what frame to use!
All three in the Raven series are 9" x 12" acylic paintings on black canvas. I'm uncertain as to whether or not the top Raven - which feels to me like a young bird - is complete or not. I have the feeling that it is not, so I'm just waiting for it to tell me what's next...perhaps a touch of blue to the eye, guaranteeing that it is a juvenile Raven. Time will tell - or rather, the bird will let me know!
The sling has been very supportive... but also restrictive. I'm still supposed to wear it when I go out in crowds, to minimize the possibility of being bumped or hugged or some such that might pull the joint before it's totally healed. But today, there was freedom to work in the studio!
I've started working with Charles Reid's book, Painting by Design: Getting to the Essence of Good Picture Making. I enjoy Reid's watercolors because they look so loose and free - but they are really not at all that loose since he spends hours placing appropriate drops of paint in appropriate places on his paintings! However, his compositions are excellent and his drawings are superb. I can learn a lot from Charles Reid and use the information that fits my style of watercolor painting as it evolves.
Painting by Design: Getting to the Essence of Good Picture Making
Here are a few of the exercises that I've done in the past day or two - with a focus on contour drawing, learning to draw without looking at one's paper, teaching the hand/pencil to move along with one's eye as the eye travels slowly along the edges of the object(s) being drawn. This type of drawing is definitely a favorite of mine, although I haven't done it for years - even though I used to teach it back in the day! So brushing up on this technique has been fun and also has reminded me to slow my eye down and to encourage the eye and hand to work together for more effective representational drawings. No, they are not realistic, however, they are accurate - or become that way with practice/experience.
Today, I was inspired to get out some newly ordered/arrived small canvases and to prepare them for what has been circling around in my mind for the past month or two. I prepared 5 of the canvases with black house paint (used as gesso) so that I can continue painting my farm animals. I really had fun with the Hereford cows on the black canvas, so I figured I might try painting roosters, hens and sheep on black, also. Who knows how that will work out, since these animals/birds aren't black! But it will be fun, and that's the important point for me right now. Alas, I'm fairly certain that I'll need to add a second coat of paint to make sure the canvases are totally, completely black and evenly coated.
The remaining 5 canvases were painted with Daniel Smith's Watercolor Ground. I'm thinking it will be fun to try my hand at painting watercolor on canvas as opposed to watercolor paper or illustration board. I'm not sure, but I may need to give the canvases a second coat, as well. First, I must wait 72 hours for the first coat to dry.
Notice my drying racks? They are kitchen accessories - cookie cooling trays. I've never liked them because they are supposed to stand up and be stack-able, but they don't stack at all well. But they work well for drying racks for small items in the studio! We use whatever we can, don't we?!
So that's my adventures of the past few days. Hope you are having fun, too!
Just finished this book - pretty much all about color, contrasting & harmonious. Not too much new in it, but still it was a good refresher, reminding me that I rarely think about changing the colors that I see...
For instance, in the chapter entitled: Energize Your Paintings with Contrasts and Complements, Janice Gennaway says, "Like emotions, colors are a reflection of life." Connie Zekas BAiley says, "Color brings excitement to a painting, whether pure and bold or through gradation. Courage to change the color of what I see to what I WANT to see enables me to aim for a bold, colorful, sparkling statement."
Here is one of Connie's paintings illustrating the colors she WANTED in the white areas of the cat and in the background.
In Splash 15, Joyce Hicks makes a big point about changing the scene to say what you want to say with your painting. Here are a few photos from that book to illustrate that point.
Here you can see more about reflected color in a different cat!
Here are a few other examples concerning the use of color in our paintings. First, making connections with color. The artists used the complementary color of lavender/purple to connect her primarily warm floral composition.
Below, the artist used both geometric forms in the background and softened complementary colors to create a wonderful composition with the humble cows as her subject matter.
Here is an example of analogous colors (3 colors next to one another on the color wheel) and how to use them effectively (with the use of one complementary color - opposite the analogous colors on the color wheel).
And, of course, there are monochromatic colors that work extremely well for creating mood and atmosphere, as shown in the paintings below:
Above, the artist is creating the feeling of HEAT with the use of various shades of yellow.
Below, the artist is creating the mood felt at sunset, when the world is calming down. He's using the same yellow tones, but dimmed with a lot more of of the complementary color to diffuse the power of the yellow as it stands alone.
So you see, one can learn by reading, exploring the art of others, listening to their reasons for what they have done, noting the composition and color selections and why they work successfully, or less so, depending upon the painting!
I believe I will pay a lot more attention now to what I really want to bring forward in my painting, rather than simply looking at my palette and choosing the colors that I see in what it is that I have chosen to paint. Color choices make a HUGE difference to all paintings!
These past two weeks plus a few days has been a relatively quiet time for me - unless you count Facebook and the news. I've spent a great deal of time resting, as might be expected, some time in therapy as prescribed, but a nice amount of time perusing through some watercolor books that I purchased used prior to the surgery - so I'd have some inspiration to return to watercolor ASAP!
I bought three of the SPLASH series of watercolor books and went through each one taking down notes that I want to instill in my subconscious as well as consciousness. One thing that kept being stressed in many different ways is the act of disciplining oneself to DO ART. I used to be fairly disciplined - especially prior to semi-annual exhibits in which I participated for 15 or so years in upstate Pennsylvania.
When we moved to New Jersey, back in 1990, I was immediately faced with the fact that my watercolors were primarily country themed, appropriate to upstate PA. Not so appropriate to the NJ suburbs between NYC and Philly! Seascapes were popular there, of course, as well as many different styles of modern art. So I chose to go modern in a different media - fiber art. Thus the next 15+ years were spent working with fiber art creating wall pieces for home, office, business. Mind you, fiber art really does not sell all that well yet it takes much more time, effort, equipment, and fabric/yarn/threads/batting/backing and so much more to create.
So when it came time to retire, we both leaned towards returning to Pennsylvania to a quieter life-style, country living, less stressful driving, plus the benefit of being near one of our children as we age. We now live in central PA near Penn State University so we have the best of two worlds - country living but wonderful educational and arts events that match well enough to city living for our tastes.
With my shoulder deteriorating rapidly, it was also a time when I had to give up drawing with the sewing machine on fabric - a beloved pass time and an integral part of my fiber art creations. If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I've also been doing bird portraits in acrylics on canvas - a fun thing for a niche market, to be sure. But my love of the transparent watercolor media remains part of my essence. I've only dabbled in it during the past 2-3 years or so, instead focusing primarily on the bird portraits, since they are popular in this area.
It remains to be seen where I will go with all of this - suffice it to say that I want to work in watercolor but my fears get in the way. I've been disappointed with my efforts so far, partly because I know how well I USED to paint and I also know what I'd LIKE to paint. And my recent efforts do not match either of those expectations.
So it is that self-discipline must be my driving force if I truly want to paint in watercolor. Yes, the new paints, brushes, papers, and techniques now used in watercolor are quite different from what I'm accustomed to. But that is also exciting with all the new possibilities. I certainly do NOT want to paint the same old way I did back in the 1980's. They were nice enough - realistic and precise, but totally lacking much in the way of my feeling for the subject matter. They were fairly accurate representations of what I was seeing, but they did not reflect anything profound about of my love of nature, animals, birds, etc. Anyone can paint pretty pictures if they practice long enough. I want to paint beautiful images that combine what I see with my spirit's connection to what I am painting. I have done a few pieces - mostly back in the 1980's - that were moving in this direction. I have a sense of where I will be going when I begin painting again more seriously.
Meanwhile, I'm reading other watercolor books, filling my mind with something other than politics - something to nurture my soul, my art, my personal life. We all need to nurture ourselves to move forward in our own lives, particularly now in a time of challenges, division, and even crisis. Some of us will opening resist. Others will balance out the movers and doers with the arts and contemplative spirituality. And some of us will do both.
Off to more reading, thinking, writing, planning, and so much more...
Today is the final day before my total reverse left shoulder replacement. I've spent it, thus far, preparing my studio for my 3 week absence and our living room for my 3 week residential stay! Fortunately, a friend of a dear friend has loaned us her electric relaxing chair - somewhere for me to sleep for as long as I'm not allowed to lie down. My arm will be in a sling and supported by a pillow, if the directions are correct. The chair works smoothly from a hand-held device that reminds me of a remote control unit. And there's even a small pocket to put the control in when I'm not using it - so I won't lose it and be unable to change the chair position! I can easily envision hilarious film clips of folks stuck in such a chair with a sling and spilled drink on top of wet book along side a table full of drawing supplies - should I even feel like drawing while I'm somewhat limited in motion!
A total reverse shoulder replacement involves putting the new titanium ball where the socket now is, and the new socket where the collapsed head of my humerus bone now is. At least that's how I understand it!
I have no idea when I'll be back to write - I can certainly type one-handed, but prefer using both ever since my high school typing class. And I'll be able to read the blogs of others while I'm recuperating. Wishing you all creative moments, joy, and good will as we slip back and forth between winter and spring!
As I continue to prepare for the upcoming surgery, there were two bird portraits that needed to be completed, plus several others that required signatures prior to going out tomorrow to State College Framing and Gallery Shop for exhibition. The gallery has requested 7 bird portraits, so they are now packed in bubble-wrap and nestled safely in a box. I'll be bringing the two frames that were removed from the birds that sold last time around while there. The shop can put them on the two - the Downy Woodpecker and the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. That will dress them up and show them off a bit!
Meanwhile, here are some photos from today's painting session.
Here is the last version before making corrections today:
Below, I decided to remove the wing on the left side and also the foot that is on the tree. If you click on the image, you'll be able to see that foot penciled in. It seemed to distracting to the composition, so I eliminated it.
Below, the completed painting, which I think is more successful than the earlier version.
Here are a few others recently completed and requiring a signature. So far, the Red-Winged Blackbird is my favorite of this bunch.