Saturday, May 02, 2009

My Former Life: a Watercolorist

Title: Cat on a Quilt - large framed watercolor - sold at AQS, Paducah (c)1984 Pat Dolan

I've been wrestling with my desire to switch art mediums... lessening my involvement with the fiber arts and mixed media and moving back towards earlier mediums that I have used. Much as I have enjoyed the fiber arts, I have not had the same financial success that I have had with other mediums. Since my shoulder problems intensified a few years ago, I have gradually been moving away from the sewing machine. I've done hand stitching, and played quite a bit with mixed media which allows one permission to do whatever one wants with whatever one has! And that has been fun, to be sure.
The Hummingbird - collection of Elaine Dube

I was trained as a HS art teacher, and I have dabbled in many mediums and have excelled in several over the course of my lifetime. Many of you know that I spent 20 years as a watercolorist, painting nostalgic subject matters including antiques, flower boxes, quilts and lace, glass jars, etc. The example below is one of the family's favorites, thus was never sold. It's title: Apples and Lace (c)1988

This was a sample for a commission - but the client didn't like blondes! My husband liked it, though, and he's had it in his office for years.

Another commission:

Detail of the hawk in lower left corner of the grouping above:

Hawk in the center of completed commission:
Collection of Don Simmonds

Still other watercolor paintings sold long ago:

Title: Carousel Roan Pony

Title: Acadia Lighthouse

Title: Lobster Pots - Collection of Steve + Chris Keating

Title: Hawk Landing

When I switched from watercolors to fiber art, I frequently combined the two media as seen below:
Title: Cat Portrait - collection of E. Shaw

Title: Carousel Pony - detail

Title: Blue Jay - Collection of S. Gangl

More recently I've been experimenting with mixing my media
Title: Inner Seascape - using Setacolor like watercolor - Collection of Alesia Maltz

Title: Painted Feather - 11x14" (c)2008 Pat Dolan - Colored pencil on printed image:

And even more recently, mixed media has come to the foreground. With limited range of motion in one arm, my time at the sewing machine is seriously limited. Mixed media allows the best of all possible worlds in that I have fabrics, texture, color, and any combination of media that brings the desired image forward. Below are pieces made from rusted cloth and subsequently embellished by various means.

This is a detail from Woodland Walk where I used colored pencils and watercolors to define the dried leaves prior to free-motion quilting them. The full image of Woodland Walk can be seen on my web page: .

Title: Rustine's Adventures - mixed media (c)2008 Pat Dolan

Rusted fabrics; digital images; memorabilia; metallic fabric, threads; with some hand stitching.

Title: Rusty Key - mixed media (c)2008 Pat Dolan

But, if you've been following my blog for any length of time, you will notice that the majority of my posts are not based in fiber art but are full of fine art photography. Nature images (birds, in particular, as well as flowers, etc.), local farms, and old architecture all have captured my eye and been captured by my camera. I attempted to find ways to use my photos in my fiber art, but found it very boring (as well as physically painful) to simply free-motion embroider my photos on fabric... I did several lovely bird portraits, some of which are now part of Virginia Speigel's Fiber Art for a Cause, being auctioned off for a donated sum to be given directly to the American Cancer Society. My three donated pieces are somewhere around page 37 or so. All three are Ravens, done as part of the recent Edgar Allen Poe/Raven Challenge.

Title: Raven By The Sea - 5x7" fiber art mounted 8x10" backing - (c)Pat Dolan 2009

Stop by tomorrow to see where my art is heading next...

8 comments: said...

Dear Pat, Your watercolor work is excellent, and I can see how it would draw you back, without physical challenges. Recently, I had hand surgery, and had to consider "what if" I couldn't work with needle and thread anymore. My immediate response to my self question was that I'm an artist, and I would continue to create in whatever way was possible. I hope you will do the same. Honor your body and it's limits, but go forward. BTW, I am fortunate to say my hand is healing, and I should be able to use needle and thread again. Rosemary

Rayna said...

Lucky you, to have another medium in which you are so talented. Go with your instincts, Pat.

Carole said...

Pat, I have been just so much enjoying this post, wow... an inadequate word! I can seewhy you would be drawn back to your painting, but goodness, your fibre art is delicious too...What a decision.. can you do both? Or is the ability to do fibre art not there[as in limits to the body]...
I must echo Rayna... nice tho' to have a choice in which you won't have to 'learn'...
Whatever way you go, it will be good... and I wish you the very best!

norma said...

Pat, your watercolors are fabulous! Lucky you to have so much talent to put into both mediums. I love the pieces where you have combined painting and fiber, such as the leaves.

smoky50 said...

Your photos and fiber art work and water colors are fabulous. It was
wonderful to view your work. I recently lost my husband and feel so fortunate to have come across your blog -- what an inspiration.
We have indigo buntings sometimes
here in WI and they are so beautiful. It is such a joy to see that color and no fabric has
ever been made that gorgeous yet.

Leslie said...

WOW. I love your painterly works too. I have a special affection for the Acadia Lighthouse as a Blair ran it for years. Thank you so much for sharing your paintings. What a treat.

Peggy S said...

Pat, there's no question that you excelled as a watercolorist...I'm a big fan. Do you have any watercolors currently for sale?

Pat's Place said...

Thanks to everyone who responded to this post. Your affirmation of my works, both fiber and watercolor, mean more to me than you can know. At a time of recognizing and surrendering to my physical limitations, it is good to know that I still have creativity and talent - I can still create one way or another. Or perhaps, many other ways!

Rosemary: yes, my mind agrees with your "what if" response. But the emotions are having a harder time catching up with the knowing. I'm happy that you are healing and will be able to return to doing that which you love.

Rayna: Don't we all have other media available - whether or not we have explored them? You are a master of exploration, particularly with fabric marking and mixed media. You, too, will always find a way to create!

Carole: I did love watercolors and was fairly successful with sales. I certainly made enough to cover all my supplies and then some. However, after 16 years of perfecting my wc technique, I felt as though I were simply doing another number painting - albeit one that I myself designed! Such perfection (which actually was rather imperfect, but that's another story!), can drive a person crazy with the details. I hope fiber has taught me how to consider the whole piece and what is best for the whole, not any particular piece thereof.

Can I do both? Yes, I can, but I don't know if I will. Sewing at the sewing machine is very taxing for my shoulder and back - even while wearing the pain patch. Perhaps small pieces...and short periods of time at the machine.

Surprisingly enough, switching media absolutely requires a new learning curve - in other words, oh yes I do still have a lot to learn.! I may have had things perfected for who I was at that time in my life, but I now have an added 20 years of life experience to influence my work. Whether or not that means new techniques or simply new ways of expressing what I have inside of me to share - time will tell.

Norma: Thanks for the compliment, but remember it's not all talent. Most of our work is a result of hard work! Experience, particularly making and learning from mistakes, is hard won, no matter what the medium. Happy accidents don't just happen - they come with all that practice and hard work.

Smoky50: I am glad my words have been inspiring for you, especially in this time of loss. In difficult times I always turn to bird watching - there's something reassuring about watching the birds go about their daily tasks that reinforces that no matter what the present circumstances, all eventually will be well... My thoughts are with you.

Leslie: so glad you like my work. That lighthouse is special to many of us, but hardly anyone else can claim a relative manned the light at one time! That's really COOL!

Peggy S: now that's the height of compliments - asking if I have any watercolors currently for sale!

And the answer is: not at this time, although that may change over time. I do have some bird studies in colored pencil... ah, but that's for my next post!