Shifting Gears


The list of materials for my watercolor class, that I just started, includes a 3″ brush, a 2″ brush and a 1.5″ brush.  I have none of these. The widest brush I have is .75″.  The paintings that I have made, for the most part have been small scale. I must admit, it would have been nice to have a wide brush for washes. The washes I’ve done with my .75″ brush are pretty crummy.

The instructor told us students to make wide strokes with our big brushes (I bought a 2″ brush during class – convenient that the class is being held at an art store). This also took me some getting used to.  I practiced today on the largest sheet of paper I had (9″x12″). Since the sheet was not in a watercolor block, I had to tape it down to a board, since the technique I’m using (wet-on-wet) requires the paper to be soaked. It is a messy proposition. I’m sure I’ll get used to it if I keep on practicing.

Here is a practice study I did today:

Wet-on-wet technique red to yellow to blue

Blending Study 2-9-14
9″x12″ Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper

Watercolor class and my mission

The technique we are now using involves the whole sheet of paper. If we start with yellow in the central pool and merge it with red/brown pigments in the surrounding pool of water, we get what resembles a sunset. The imperfections in drying, unanticipated watermarks or stray marks suggest how to finish the composition. Perhaps the composition would appear better upside down, depending on what happens. It is the liquid equivalent to “that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

This is totally different than what I want to do with my pictures. I have something specific to say, not a generic sunset or desert scene. I am sure that we will be learning about how to paint something we actually have in mind.

Today’s on-mission study

The subject I selected for today’s study contains one of Mike’s stereotypical hand positions. I took it from the photograph below. The photograph is underexposed. Mike is giving a ‘high five’ to one of the caregivers. His eyes are looking up, but only one of them seems to look at the hand offering the greeting. For those of you who don’t know, my older brother is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal.

Mike high fiveing

Perhaps I was a bit flustered, shifting my mindset from the large, sweeping brushstrokes and bright colors used in the blending technique we learned in class to using smaller brushes, a smaller work surface, and of course the dark sobering image. I must say that the image doesn’t really reflect that moment in time. Mike seemed to enjoy interacting with the staff. Maybe he was showing off that he knew what he should do when someone said, “High five, Mike!”

The dark-valued image, poor color mixing, edited content and small scale of my study all probably contributed to its unusual look. I just couldn’t seem to get my act together for this study.

Portrait of Mike - part of high-five photo

Part of High
7″x5″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

What do I feel when I look at this study? Embarrassment at having painted it; darkness; disconnection. I hope that it does not come across as disrespectful; I did not intend it to be so.

There is a kind of parallel between this study and the pictures resulting from the wet-on-wet color blending. In color blending, one never quite knows what the result will be; in this study of Mike I missed the mark. I never meant it to be ghastly.

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