Saturday, February 26, 2011

reflections in watercolor

I am what I am, and I'd probably prefer not to think of myself as what I'm not.
That being said, sometimes I do think about the things that I don't do versus the things that I do happen to do. For instance, I'm not a "painting a day" adherent. I paint when I want to paint, and I don't when I don't. And generally, when I do paint, I tend to make like multiple paintings in a sitting. There's something about making art that needs to be inherent to me, not routine. It's not a this versus that kind of thing, it's just a who I am as a person kind of thing.

So, the thing I like about watercolors isn't so much painting "things" as it is playing with color and being pleasantly surprised. Watercolor (not unlike certain glazing techniques in ceramics) can be a semi-random process. Now, when I get out the paint and the brushes and the water and the salt and sit down, I usually sort of have an idea of what I was maybe thinking about doing, but then it depends on the colors that are already on the palette and then, well, I just sit there and paint and add more color or change colors or get into a mood or a movement and just go with it until there's no more paper or spots on the floor to put paintings to dry...

And it kind of happens like that last sentence - it just goes on until it stops.

I have a good gauge of color, and a reasonable idea of how the colors I have combined are going to look together, and yet, with my watercolor paintings there is always an element of surprise. And that's kind of the kismet of the thing: making something and being certain in knowing that the outcome isn't exact and yet it will probably be fantastically interesting.

With every batch of paintings I do, I always have favorites, this is one of them:

raspberry misty morning rain


Now, for the person who asked on the comments of my last entry:
"...wonder if you would tell me what you use salt for and what it does?"
When you apply salt to wet watercolor pigment it creates the 'fractal' effect you can see in the bottom half of that painting. See this detail. Basically, the salt crystals play with the pigment and the water and leave little 'star' patterns. For a matter of amusement, you may also notice that rock salt when dried on a sidewalk will also leave a similar pattern.

Now, if you look this up on watercolor painting tutorials it will tell you about creating stars or snowflakes or lichen or something. Let's just say I have a heavy hand with the salt and a heavy hand with the pigment — because I scrape my salt off with an old gift card, and always either wear sunglasses or avert my eyes when I do it. Safety first; that and my eyes are important.

There's a semi-amusing thing about this series of paintings (at least, to me there is) because when I had started painting I had the fleeting thought that I wasn't going to end up going full bore with the salt and that I was going to try to do something more oriented with droplets of pigment.... that didn't happen. I mean, the next painting I did was mostly based in white pigment, but by the time I had finished the rest of the paintings the next morning - everything was salted. This is probably why I don't "plan" things.

I suppose not planning in some respects can be construed as lowering the bar; so as to not have to suffer the indignity of not meeting expectations... but, I mean, as conceited as maybe this sounds, when I sit down to make something I do always expect it to be damned awesome. You know, it's not like I'm thinking "oh, this is going to suck." But really, when I sit down to do watercolors, I did kind of already know what I was going to do, I just like to let things take their course. As it turns out, I made 15 paintings that got progressively more salty as I went along. And I'm pretty happy with how all of them turned out.

Slowly, but surely, my new paintings will pop up here... (except for a couple of my favorites, which I just can't part with)

17 comments:

slommler said...

I love this painting!! Sometimes I wish I could work in my studio everyday and accomplish "art"! But I too work when I feel like it...no regimen here either! Ha!!
Hugs
SueAnn

Nancy@A Rural Journal said...

I think that's why I like making lye soap -- there are variations you can play with that affect the final outcome.

Very interesting process with the salt. Thanks for sharing your technique. :)

Out on the prairie said...

It is the flow and blends I enjoy with your work. If you were doing it everyday would the ideas remain the same, or would colors float into obscurity?

texwisgirl said...

Very cool. And I like your safety glass suggestion. :)

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Sarah, Your watercolor is gorgeous... Looks like you are looking out of a window in a hard rain..... TERRIFIC.... Like I've said, I'm always in AWE of someone with your talents.... Keep it up!!!!

Have a great day.
Hugs,
Betsy

ellen abbott said...

somebody told me once that if you want to develop a body of work you had to put in two hours a day without fail. I've tried to do that but when I'm not in the mood to work on it then I get nothing accomplished.

Love the painting.

OnePerfectDay said...

Love that painting!
It's got my favourite colours!

Catherine said...

That is so pretty! I like the texture and design of the color. Very nice!
xo Catherine

Beyond My Garden said...

I would just love to take a class from you. I wish you lived closer to me.
nellie

yeevon said...

awesome :) :) I find the colors combination very beautiful and brings the look and feel of the coming spring!! Lovely lovely work and thanks for explaining the salt effect! :D

Two Happy Stampers said...

My grandpa was a watercolor artist and this is one of the techniques I distinctly remember him doing when I was a girl: salt on the wet paint. It creates a beautiful effect and your painting is no exception. Lovely! =)

Mari said...

Thanks for stopping at my blog. I've so enjoyed looking around here! You are so talented - I like your watercolors, your photography and your paper bowl! Amazing!

CherylK said...

That's just a beautiful painting! I think I know just how you felt as you were creating it because it looks loved.

My Mane in the Wind said...

Love the pink green -- one of my favorite color combinations -- soothing and healing and a bit flirtatious!

S. Etole said...

the salt adds such an interesting texture to the painting ...

Dave said...

Sarah, thanks for the explanation and example of the use of salt. Worth a try I think. Your works look great! - Dave

Shelley Whiting said...

Wow I love how you do watercolor. It's very spontaneous and loose and creates amazing textures. The colors are very fresh and sing. Very beautiful work.