Painting Process, Part 2

Watercolor on Masa Paper, 10.5×14.5″
This is my second attempt at this scene. The previous one was cropped to eliminate the unsatisfactory resolution of the right half. Now it is complete as originally intended. It was the arc of fencing and grasses that attracted me to it in the first place. Having the whole scene in watercolor and having it work well makes me very happy with this.
I am not usually one who likes to re-do a painting several times. I don’t even like to do preliminary sketches. I find that the more I make studies the less I like the result.¬† It seems my quick sketch or study is imbued with the spontaneity of the moment. Having dissipated that spontaneous impulse, the second or third study falls flat for me. Then the finished work is less satisfying than the energy contained by the sketch. The fact that I am happy with this actually surprises me.
I remember seeing an exhibition of the 19th century French symbolist, Gustave Moreau, at the Art Institute of Chicago. He tended to study things to death. I got the impression that he was wracked with self-doubt. After seeing his ‘finished’ works in one gallery there was an alcove filled with his watercolors in the next gallery. They were fabulous! There was nothing tentative or self-conscious at all about them. The 19th century aesthetic¬† considered watercolor to be strictly a study medium. Study works had little value as works of art. Drawing also had a similar status. I guess he considered those watercolors to be throw away pieces so he didn’t hold back when making them.
Here is a study of Salome. There are a few of his finished works accompanying this little watercolor. I think you can see what I am talking about.
Moreau was a colorist whose influence can be seen in Mattise’s work. Matisse studied with Moreau. Well, you just had an art history lesson along with a partial explantation of my watercolor process. Go to the library to see if it has a catalog of that Moreau exhibition. Look at the watercolors and the studies. Let me know if you agree with me or not.

T F m
August 16, 2012

Art Process

Across the Meadow
Watercolor on Masa Paper, 15.5×10.25″


There is always a process to art making. It is an individualized process that must be discovered by each artist. It may change with each body of work. My process with figure painting is different than my process with landscape painting. It is also tailored to the materials I am using.
I need to define some terms here. My medium is painting. My materials are oil paint, acrylic paint, or watercolor. My painting supports are canvas, archival linen canvas panel, or paper. So I am not using three media. I am using one medium with three distinct materials requiring three distinct approaches. These approaches must be assimilated into three ways of working to achieve my personal intents or goals.
This watercolor is based on an oil painting done in Utah. (That oil painting is not very successful and I am going to rework it. I will post a before-and-after later.) I did two watercolors of this subject. This is half of the first attempt. I was not satisfied with the right half of the painting so I cropped it. That’s one way to resolve a problem painting. I don’t usually do that. I’d rather struggle on and not give up by using the X-acto knife. Resorting to the X-acto can become a lazy habit that can keep one from learning how to successfully complete a work.
In this instance, the right half was beyond redemption but the left half worked as a complete piece. So I caved in and cropped it. I then proceeded to do a second watercolor of the same subject keeping in mind all the problems which plagued the first watercolor.
These are purely technical problems. One of my goals is good craft which in the high art world doesn’t seem to count for much. There has been a bad painting and a slacker art movement for some time now. I do not fit in with these categories. I am a skills based artist and I find these categories of contemporary art to be unsatisfying to me. I feel I need the technical expertise to execute the ideas for content when they come to me. I have ideas in my head that will remain un-executed until I acquire the expertise or find someone who already has the expertise who can execute them for me.
The second watercolor which shows the complete image as initially intended with be posted in the next few days.

T F m
August 4, 2012