My first few attempts at returning to the watercolor media are less than satisfactory, as one might expect after a hiatus of 20 years or so. But I'm giving it a go round - what do I have to loose? Maybe I'll develop a new painting style for myself. Or not. It's more a matter of getting back on the horse and riding it again.
Several weeks ago I went to a Native American Pow Wow in Central PA. I took lots of photos, as I do nearly everywhere I go. These were the first images to inspire me to pick up my brush, paints and give it a try. There are several tranquil scenes that have captured my attention, and these have come out, too, and are on the wall behind the drawing table. After selecting a few photos to work from, I began making small black and white composition studies to plan the proper placement of lights, darks, horizon, etc. With my photo of Tennent (NJ) cemetery in autumn, I did a light pencil sketch on the Arches watercolor block, following the notes made in the small trial drawing. Next, using Windsor Newton Watercolor Masking Fluid, I painted out with the mask any areas I thought that I might want white. The masking fluid dries like rubber glue and can be painted over numerous times without coming loose. When one is ready to remove the mask, it rubs off quite easily leaving pure white paper beneath. Once the masking fluid is totally dry, watercolor can be applied. I use Windsor Newton and Daniel Smith watercolor paints - the tube kind. I put some in the divided spots on my plastic wc pallete. Mixing is done in the larger central pans or in another pan totally so as to keep the paints uncontaminated by one another. This is the painting as far as it has developed. I've removed the mask, thereby exposing white paper behind the trees. I will create layers to indicate depth of field - sky, light leaves, darker leaves. With watercolor, one generally moves from the lightest values to the darkest. But, like all rules, it can be broken and/or applied differently. So there remains a great deal of work to be done: the head stones, trees, foreground grasses, etc. so as to bring the composition into a harmonious whole. But it's a start...
Next, I attempted to capture the mood, feelings, and intensity of one particular young dancer who caught my eye at the Pow Wow. First, is the drawing on a single piece of Arches watercolor paper that is mounted to a board. Mounting the paper on a board keeps it from rolling up once it gets wet. I like a flat surface to paint on, not a buckling piece of paper! Starting with the lighter colors first, I began to lay in the color. The headdress is particularly detailed and while I don't seek perfection in each and every bead, I do want a fairly realistic representation of the headdress. The symbolism and colors of his dancing costume all has meaning and I want as much accuracy as preserves the traditions when working with such subject matter. Blues are all "staining" colors and do not lift off the paper well once they've been laid down. With so many shades of blue, it will be difficult to create exactly what I want in this piece. This is Portrait of the Dancer as far as it has developed. There is more to be done, but I needed to step away from my work so as to obtain objectivity before returning to complete the final painting.
Little by little, with a lot of practice, I hope to develop my watercolors beyond these preliminary stages. Surprisingly enough, switching media absolutely requires a new learning curve - in other words, YES, I still have a lot to learn! I may have had things perfected with my watercolors in the 1980's - 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.
Most of our art is a result of a lot of hard work. Experience, particularly learning from making mistakes, is hard won, no matter what the medium. Happy accidents don't just happen - they only come with practice, experimenting, and more hard work.
After my last watercolor post, Peggy S wrote to ask if I have any watercolors currently for sale... That question is taken as the height of compliments and balm for the faltering ego. The answer is: No, not at this time... although that may change as I explore new ways to express my creativity. However, I do have some lovely little bird studies in colored pencil... ah, but that's for another post later this week!