Sunday, February 20, 2011

weekend watercolors

I came home from work this weekend, and maybe in my mind I had constructed elaborate plans (well, I "planned" to work on a project). But then, I started vacuuming instead. I even went so far as to clean the bathroom. So, apparently, there was a part of my brain that decided against working on the project — because the project was certainly not house work...

So, I watched some tv and did some painting instead - watercolors. Now, I have this project floating around in my imagination that involves combing watercolors with prints, and I have a mental fascination with a certain technique with gouache... but neither of those were on the itinerary. Nope, this was straight up salt on watercolor.















I had watercolor sets when I was a kid - the kind with the little circles filled with paint in a neat little container. But I remember using markers more. To fulfill some sort of "painting" requirement for my BFA - I took "Aqueous Media" (2 semesters, no less). So, somewhere in my portfolio there are watercolors of pumpkins and nude people (although, oddly, no pumpkins with nude people, heh). And while I could do minimal color combinations just fine (only orange & blue, or purple & yellow, or red & green) well, I don't see the world in terms of "complimentary colors" and I never have. I see the idea of complimentary colors as being arbitrary. So, yeah, it was an exercise in aqueous media (which, btw, could have just been called "watercolors", it wasn't exactly like we did anything with gouache).

What I do distinctly remember was being told that we should avoid using the color black. when rendering shadows, and to just kind of avoid using black in general. I also remember thinking that "don't use black" thing was both stupid and absurd. I took "Aqueous Media" to fulfill a painting requirement in college, specifically because I didn't want to take "Painting" which, if I recall correctly, was mostly oil painting, which is something that has never held any charm for me. I really do think that portraiture in museums, particularly anything meant to be realistically representational is duller than absolute boredom. I didn't take Aqueous Media because I wanted to learn how to make watercolor paintings that looked like I had mastered "watercolor techniques" — I took it to avoid taking another class & to fulfill a requirement. Plus, watercolor paint & supplies were cheaper than oil painting supplies...

I've been drawing since I was 2 (or so says my Mother). Art is something that came inherently (unlike playing the piano or poker). So, my approach has always been to do it like a savant, not to grab a book and read a tutorial. Although I went to college where my actual skills were refined (which doesn't mean that I refused to learn anything or anything new there) - I didn't take Aqueous Media to learn how to make watercolors that are supposed to look like "watercolors." So, when I read things like this on wikipedia, I laugh; particularly the last paragraph.

While I did the exercises in Aqueous Media, they were just that: exercises.

Anyway, every time I pull out the watercolors and inevitably squeeze some black pigment out of the tube - I think of being told that I shouldn't and just inwardly chuckle. Rules, schmules.

So, I got out the tray (purchased on the basis of the supply list for Aqueous Media) which is always covered with dried paint. I filled up a faux tupperware bowl with some tap water (because it's not like I see the act of painting in ceremonial terms - any bowl that holds enough water will do). Got out the kleenex box full out paintbrushes which hangs around in various places. Put a fresh sheet of newsprint down on the paper cutter. Got the elaborate bowl I made in one of many semesters of ceramics which holds my salt (regular table salt mixed with sea salt mixed with used salt scraped off of previous paintings). And, of course, got out the paints, and sat down on the floor and commenced with the painting while watching the Simpsons on hulu & CSI reruns from onDemand.

The paintings sit on the floor to dry. And then I wait impatiently for paint to dry, and chuckle inwardly at the idea of waiting for paint to dry... And when they are finally dry, then I take an old gift card and scrape the salt off them (and then collect the salt debris and add it back to the bowl; the bowl sits on a shelf in front of a pile of art theory books along with a decorative resin turtle).

Watercolors - particularly the abstract nature of salt on watercolor - are always an interesting surprise, which is part of the appeal. There is a difference between the way the piece looks when the paint is still wet and how it appear when it's dry (particularly because I use a lot of color and I always use the "white" watercolor, which alters the opacity of the colors). As a general rule (and this isn't like the don't use black) - watercolors will dry darker and duller.

I suppose the paintings I make are perhaps an acquired taste or a specific taste, because, in all likelihood, I am never going to be one of those people who is compelled to make intricate photo realistic paintings with watercolor. And yet, through medium and technique, my paintings are intricate and meticulous even with all the factors of chance and happenstance. There is the combination of what is inherent and entropy.

There is no other painting medium (or pastels or colored pencils) that is going to produce this visual. In the end the painting is a painting, it is a visual thing.

You can check out some of my watercolors on my "sarahknight" shop on etsy.

15 comments:

Out on the prairie said...

While working with them in a class Iwas told i had my own style,which made me a bit shy since i wanted to belikethe others.I like to play with ideas and get lost in some of the landscapes i do along with inkings.It is a medium I like best, and always enjoy what others are doing.

Catherine said...

Your creations always amaze me Sarah! So gifted and so disciplined. I would have skipped the house cleaning and gone straight to the colors... :)

Happy Sunday!
xo Catherine

Nancy@A Rural Journal said...

Interesting -- I like the fact you do your own thing. The results are nothing less than awesome! ;)

texwisgirl said...

Really beautiful - and different. The salt is interesting.

Dawn said...

:))) I like the fact that you inwardly chuckled as the black paint was opened and out! Good for you. I agree...rules-schmules!!

*jean* said...

i am so with that...although i have been enjoying painting my birds...i LOVE salt (and other things) added to the flow of WC's...have you tried YUPO paper yet??? i LOVE this paper! i'm having a blast this weekend playing with it...i think most WC people take themselves too seriously and forget to play..

Linda R. said...

Oh my goodness.. This is amazing. It makes me want to pull out my Watercolors and give it a go.. Oh wait a min.. I don't have any watercolors. A good reason to go to the craft store.. Very inspiring work you have here..

I hope you have a beautiful day!
Hugs, Linda

Kelly said...

I LOVE salt on watercolor....it's so darn beautiful and your paintings really show the variations. I love them...

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Sarah, You are so creative and I'm jealous... My gifts and talents do NOT lie in the area of painting or drawing. So --I'm always in AWE of someone who has that talent....

Hugs,
Betsy

S. Etole said...

what fun to be had when you bend/break the rules!

Judy said...

Really like your attitude on watercolors...have always wanted to be able to 'fix' my photos and make them into watercolors...even have the materials to do so...haven't been successful yet...still trying...

Dave said...

Sarah, your pattern-style of paintings are interesting, and I do like your snowman Christmas cards. I am a beginner painter with water colours (I'm 71) and wonder if you would tell me what you use salt for and what it does? - Dave

Brie said...

I'm learning a lot - love your blog!

My Mane in the Wind said...

Love these photos Sarah -- and the technique -- I'm gonna try it. Now I want to see a picture of that bowl!

Emily, Resplendent Tranquility said...

Watercolors have always been my favorite paints to use even though I'm not the greatest at using them. I must discipline and practice more! A dear family member was a most excellent watercolor painter and I am always inspired to do better when I find myself gazing upon one of their paintings.

I really like these photos you've shared. The colors you worked with are lovely and, of course, the salt effect is great, too.