Old Habits

I resisted for most of the day. No, ‘resisted’ is not the right word. It is better to say I was confounded. Yesterday I mentioned that I put all kinds of roadblocks in my way before I begin being creative. I procrastinate by trying to read up on my subject – in this case, watercolor painting. Most of today I was looking for a book about color. A book written by the woman who wrote ”Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”. I know I have it somewhere. I could not find it.

All I remember from the book was one exercise in which she suggested choosing colors that appeal to the reader/student and, using those colors, painting small representations of the seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn.

I proceeded without benefit of the book, and any guided decisions.

Painting #1 decision making

I believe that an artist makes decisions during the course of creating. Below is the thought process I followed for the painting below.

Watercolor Painting Number 1, December 1, 2013

I began with red (Winsor Red, to be precise). I don’t know exactly why I began with that. Perhaps my serial watching Dexter  for hours yesterday contributed to my choice. Also, the thought that red shapes give the illusion of being in the foreground crossed my mind. I saturated the top of the paper with water then added Winsor Red. I was hoping for some random drips down the paper, but it didn’t happen without a couple of taps of the watercolor block on the table.

Since I started with a primary color, the next color I added was Peacock Blue (Holbein). I outlined the wet field of red partially with the blue, encroaching on the upper right, to mix the colors. In other areas I tried to keep them separate.

In keeping with the primary color line of thought, I applied Winsor Yellow next.

Somehow I thought of painting a red square, to contrast with the free shapes previously painted. I followed with blue and yellow squares. I remember that Hans Hoffman juxtaposed rectilinear shapes in his otherwise amorphous color fields.

The primary-colored squares inspired outlining with their complements, so I used Phthalo Green (Daler-Rowney), Cadmium Orange Pure (Utrecht) and Permanent Violet (Utrecht) for Red, Blue and Yellow, respectively.

I used other shades of red and green as well (Permanent Alizarin Crimson – Winsor Newton and Cobalt Teal – Utrecht).

The spatter of red was definitely inspired by Dexter.

Painting #2

I painted this one much more quickly. I decided to begin with a secondary color. This time, I saturated the middle of the paper with water and added the orange (I used the same colors as above). I applied the blue concentrically, part wet-on-wet and part wet-on-dry. Then yellow, then violet for contrast. I finished with red, mostly dry strokes.

12-2-13 Painting 2

Connect with emotion

I still don’t know how to connect the colors with emotions. Do I have to feel the emotion while painting, or can I imagine the feeling and paint that? The latter would be intellectualizing, wouldn’t it.

I hope that I can get past the mechanics and paint what I feel. I am sure I must equip my skill toolbox with more fundamentals before I can do this.

Maybe I should put in some extra effort to find my book after all.

[Note: Both paintings are on 5X7 Artistico Extra White, Rough Surface, 140# block paper.]


2 thoughts on “Old Habits

  1. The book is by Betty Edwards. I have it and refer to it in my post about my autistic son: ‘My trees have grown hair: the poetry of autism’. I’m interested in the way Edwards discusses hemispheres of the brain and the visual/linguistic world. Your painting reminds me of the ones I used to make at Steiner kindergarten. Just red, blue and yellow, wet on wet; the idea (with very young children) was not to paint anything figurative but focus only on colour and shape. It was about emotions, feelings and response, as you suggest. The children at kindergarten made some of the most beautiful paintings I have seen in my life. If a child mixed up their colours to make brown I remember the Kindergarten leader called it ‘making mud pies’.


    • Yes! Betty Edwards. I’m still on the lookout for her book here in the house. I remember that the exercises she suggested made me a a little uncomfortable: drawing the 4 seasons? I’m trying to get back to the kindergarten mentality minus the dementia.

      All the best, Liz.



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