Painting less

Shirley Trevena says that mindset is a big thing before painting. And she says that planning is important before painting as well. She does color studies, sketches, shape arrangements, and during painting, will pause and do cut-outs of colored paper to hold against her partially-completed painting to see how a particular green might go with what's already on the paper.
I am intrigued by that.
Also, I was startled to come across this fact in various places over the course of a week - that some artists will start two versions of the same painting based on the same initial sketch. While one dries, they will work on the other one - try something different. I don't think it's like reading two books at the same time (which is what occurred to me when I read that).
The third thing that intrigues me right now is coming across (again) Jeanne Dobie's interview in which she says she set herself a challenge to paint only half the paper, and to use the unpainted parts as part of th…


Even after being true to the (previously posted) value pattern - which in this case, I treated as a notan (darks and lights, no intermediates) - the painting can be punched up if I had courage to put in the dark darks. I just never know where those dark darks would go. I should play with this painting in Procreate or Gimp and see what I can do to push the values.
Right now, this is a sweeter-faced girl than the last attempt, and the values/colors are better too. It still needs a punch - the dark darks, and I am not feeling brave enough to do that. If I knew where to do it, I may feel braver. But, it's the classic case of not wanting to ruin what I have, so it will stay this way.


Another similarity between architecture and watercolors is starting big, and then carving out what you need. In architecture, in creating new space, first, the silhouette (massing) must be explored. Then, the smaller shapes (rooms) are carved out within that.

In art/composition, similarly, the big shapes come first. Examining the shape of the silhouette, and the ensuing negative space it generates, is the best analogy. Then, within it, smaller shapes are created - carved out like rooms, some negative, some positive, making a jigsaw that in total equals the silhouette - the house, or the shape the painting takes on the paper.

Of course, architecture is 3-dimensional, but must be explored on paper in 2D. Art is 2D, and paradoxically, represents depth and space - the illusion of 3D. How interesting is that!

Michangelo's response when asked how he sculpted David:  "You just chip away everything that doesn't look like David."
This is from a value study I did of my daughter …


I love some paintings that I see - I have a visceral reaction to them, and when I analyze them, I realize they are very ordinary scenes made extraordinary by colors and treatment alone, and that I am not at all curious to see the reference material, that it could not possibly be as good as this painting. The actual subject is secondary.

Art must take reality by surprise. Francois Sagan
So, rather than spend time looking for a perfect scene (and naturally assuming the ensuing watercolor will be perfect too - hah!), I need to spend time painting the ordinary, and creating extraordinary art.
It is a huge revelation.
Even if the painting does not turn out extraordinary, the practice of painting is always a good thing, and of course, not dismissing what drew me to the ordinary scene in the first place, and just trying to paint something that attracted me.

Zero to something

I have been working on two architectural projects, and I can see many parallels between painting and architecture.
It is all about shapes. In the street elevations that I was working on, I could instantly see when something didn't feel right, didn't look right, seemed off-balance somehow. "Everything counts in large amounts" - one of my favorite song from ages ago, not only for the depth of meaning in its title - all that reading about composition, watercolor, shape arranging - must have led to something, a sharper sense of balance and what looks right.
It is harder to create from nothing than tweak something that is already there. A long time ago, when I would only read, and hadn't attempted writing, I was the best critic. I could really see what was wrong with this story, this chapter, this character. Of course, it is MUCH easier to critique than to write and create. Zero to something is HARD. Something to something more is much easier.
At the time when I felt …


I realize that lately, I have been sitting down to paint, feeling too lazy to set up my easel every time I go for plein-air. I was thinking of how to be loose - big brushes, big movements, and realized that sitting just doesn't make that possible. Gripping the brush with an overhand grip, or using my opposite (left) may all be conducive to looser bolder movements where tightness and details are not important, at least in the beginning.
So, no more sitting.
I read somewhere that you can use your wrist and move the brush with small tight strokes. Moving from the elbow gives bigger movements, and you cannot get too detailed that way. Moving from the shoulder gives yet bigger movements.
Now I realize sitting and standing are worlds apart - and the latter makes you looser, lets you have distance to the paper, and allows you to move more than just your wrist.
Today I went plein-air painting on my own to downtown Los Altos, and was drawn to this scene because of the bright yellow umbrell…

Cognitive painting & Camilla

In cognitive therapy, you challenge your original thoughts so that you can think in a more healthy way. I think of it as talking yourself out of something you believe in that is bringing you down. I am hereby defining cognitive painting as painting with more awareness, trying to recall all that I have learned, and actually slowing down and applying it to the process, and not discovering at critique time what I should have actually done. I know so much theory from all my reading, but because it is more learned than practiced, I forget half of it when I start to paint.

Today, I told myself that there is an invisible teacher sitting on my shoulder, talking me through the process.

Big Shapes, she whispered, and I looked for the big shapes.
Value Studies, she said, and then added, at least four. So I obediently did one and loved it. Then I forced myself to do another, and another. I didn't do the fourth one because I was happy with the third one. She wasn't pleased.
Focal point, sh…