Commitment: the state of being emotionally impelled to do something. My commitment is to making art, loving life and doing well.

Daily Artworks... my continuing challenge for 2015: Observe and record. Record and observe. And stretch - s-t-r-e-t-c-h - myself.
What will I discover?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 30

Fronds and Leaves

My last entry for AEDM for this month!

Today's painting was done, like yesterday's, with a brush-on rubber resist compound to separate the figure areas from the background areas in the picture.
Where yesterday's work was very precise and provided a clear space on the paper for a contrasting color to be painted in, today's painting is loose and free-flowing.

I feel a sense of accomplishment, certainly, at completing and posting a painting each day for the month of November, and a especially a sense of gratitude for how much progress my watercolor painting has made for the sake of an hour or two of daily practice.

And it's not just my paintings that have benefited from AEDM, because at the beginning of the month I also pledged to use Twitter to publicize my posts.
From Twitter and the AEDM'ers who used it, and from the Creative Every Day website, I feel a remarkable sense of ... community... is the only way I can describe it. And that was an unexpected bonus!

Thank you everyone for a great experience working with you! I will be checking in on your websites and blogs from time to time to see how you are doing. I invite you to continue to check into mine as well.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 29

A Tray of Gingerbread Cookies

All the activity at home this weekend has been baking, and baking gingerbread cookies, in particular. The whole house smells spicy and warm.

Baking, like painting, is a precise activity, with a certain tolerance for error, but with a critical eye for the characteristics and conditions of those errors.

I could beat myself up over accidental backflows in my watercolor washes, in the same way that I could reject a batch of cookies which got burned on the bottom.
I could do both those things, but right now, I won't.
I know I will become a better painter and a better baker, if I acknowledge my accidents and the mistakes that caused them, and watch next time so I don't make those mistakes.
I may make other mistakes, but, if I stay alert and remain aware of what I am doing, I will continue to improve.

And I will continue to enjoy what I am doing.
It's a bonus for me that other folks enjoy what I am doing, both paintings and cookies!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 28

8 Words for the Holiday Season

A friend of mine discovered some ancient rubdown letter sheets in his basement, and passed them on to me thinking I might be able to use them.

Old English typeface in gold letters!
And just before Christmas!
Well, of course I could use them!

I didn't even have time to get my brain in gear before I started to see the Christmas words forming... and y'know once you start, it's awfully difficult to stop.

An interesting thing about the old rubdown letters is that the way in which they glue themselves to the paper makes them water resistant.
So you can paint over them with watercolor and the water will pool back from the letter onto the paper where is will be soaked up.
This can lead to some interesting markings around the edges of the type, a sort of random drop shadow effect, or the appearance of a highlight where none really exists.
And this can add visual emphasis to what could be a very ordinary application.

So, with thanks to my generous friend, scant days away from Christmas, my Advent gift to you is the meaning of these eight words in the Holiday Season.
Happy Advent!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 27

Signaling Flags

I am spelling the message in today's challenge using the International Code of Signals, or ship's signaling flags.

I was planning to leave the background as plain white paper, but I decided that the flags needed some visual separation, and that it would be more interesting to look at the overall design against a background, like a sky.

Sailors who know this system will realize that I have included a whimsical flag that does not have an official entry in this code, and to these folks I also acknowledge, to my chagrin, that I have hung one of the flags backwards.

To those who cannot read this message... may I suggest that you do an online search to find an alphabet of signaling flags, and then decipher the message as a puzzle.

And to all, I say, doing these AEDM paintings really does my "art" good!

Art Every Day Month - November 26


In all the time I have been painting with watercolors, I have never used the technique of sprinkling salt onto wet washes to achieve that characteristic random granular texture.
So today I tried it. I painted today's challenge in three layers, lemon yellow deep, alizarin crimson and prussian blue, and each layer had to dry completely before I moved to the next. I learned several things.

1. I had to wait. And wait.
Each grain of salt (what's the technical word?) pulled the water and the paint towards it, and that's where the color stayed as the water dried, on the salt crystal or on the surrounding paper.
And it took a long time. And, I went to bed not knowing how the painting would turn out.

2. The results were random and to a large extend uncontrollable.
I could control the placement of the sprinkles, and the direction in which I laid down the salt, but after that, the water took over and it was the water that actually painted the picture.

3. The salt effect was strongest in the places where the wash was the wettest... and where there was the most paint in the wash. The least effect was in places where I graded the washes down to almost pure water.

4. It was easiest to brush the salt crystals off the paper at that point when the paper was still a little moist but the paint had dried completely.
After I had left the painting to dry overnight, I had to almost grind the salt crystals off the paper... it was like working with sandpaper.

5. If salt can be messy, this is a messy technique! I brushed away the salt from the yellow layer at my work table... and I will now have to vacuum up the residue.
For the other two layers I cleared the salt off the paper over the bathtub!
And it's not just clean salt... most of the crystals are covered in paint, and if they get wet again, even from moisture in the air, those darn crystals will continue to paint whatever they have settled upon!

5. I'm glad that it tried it, after all this AEDM is playtime with the art toys for experimentation with techniques.
I don't think this salt technique is something I will add to my repertoire. But, it might just be useful, sparingly, for special effects.
And that's always good to know.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 25

Five Stages of the Creative Process

I first came across this theory of creative thinking years ago in freshman psychology. At the time I thought, this is interesting and it will probably be useful to me, in the long run.
And yes, I really have referred to it many times since.

According to this theory, the process of creative thinking separates into five general steps, which can flare into action quickly, or which can take place over a long period of time, depending on the project being considered. These steps are:

1. Identification: You identify a problem to be solved. In order for a creative solution to arise, there needs to be a situation that you know needs to be fixed. This problem could be the need to paint a landscape or to write a poem, or the need to find a way to tie a dog onto a broken leash at the park, fast! Creative thinking won't happen unless you identify a problem that needs solving.

2. Preparation: You look for ways to solve the problem that you have identified. You could research how other people paint landscapes, you could sketch out some rhymes for a sonnet, or you could rack your brain to remember your old Scout methods of tying knots. You think and compare possible ways to do what you want to do.

3. Incubation: You let things settle for a little while, so your unconscious mind can mull over the problem and the possible solutions you have thought up. Incubation could be a very quick process, or it could take a while for a solution to emerge.

4. Breakthrough: You get a great idea! A solution becomes apparent. It may feel like sudden inspiration, but this breakthrough is really the result of having applied the previous three stages of creative thinking.

5. Resolution: You try out your solution and see how well it works to solve the problem.

As an example of how the process of creative thinking works, these are the stages I followed in developing today's AEDM challenge painting:
1. I identified the problem as being me needing to complete a painting based on a 16 block arrangement.
2. Since the beginning of this month, I have been preparing ideas that I could use for daily paintings. What I did differently today was to block out divisions on the paper using masking tape. Then I painted loosely over the whole sheet and pulled away the tape, leaving a grid of plain unpainted paper to work on next. I looked at what I could do with it, and came away with no real sense of a direction to follow with the painting.
3. I decided to put the brushes down and go do something else. I came back to the work table a couple of times, but I couldn't get any clear sense of what to do next.
4. I was holding a paper towel in my hand when I thought of painting layers of color and blotting the wet paint away leaving textures in the paint.
5. I got back to my work table and started applying wet paint and blotting it off to leave textures. It worked the way I wanted in some places, but not in others.

In the end, I finished the painting by a steady re-iteration of these five steps... I'm not totally happy with it, but this painting has paved the way for me to try some new techniques.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 24

16 Star Blocks

Ask a quilter what a 16-patch is.
It's a patchwork quilt pattern arranged with four squares running horizontally and four squares running vertically.

The watercolors I have been doing for AEDM have the same configuration of 16 blocks, if not the same proportions.
So you know it was only a matter of time before I broke out the quilt patterns to put a 16-patch design together.

I love star quilt patterns, and I wanted to play around with emphasizing the triangles that make up the star shapes by using contrasting colors... complementary colors, actually.

I like that I have got a sparkling background with the blue and violet "Star Puzzle" blocks in the background, and the four orange and yellow "Mariner's Star" blocks in the corners twinkle nicely against it.

I regret that the four "Guiding Star" blocks in the center appear to have a rigid rectangular border. Takes away from the night sky look.

Too bad this design is a watercolor painting... a quilter could just pick out the stitches on the offending areas and patch together the right colors!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 23

16 Views of a Strawberry

I am having fun with the challenges of making my daily paintings fit a 16-block format on a quarter sheet of watercolor paper. Earlier in the month, I experimented with using this format to give multiple views of an apple and a beach pebble. In the same vein, today's painting shows 16 views of a strawberry, slightly larger than life size.

Throughout this month's challenge, I have resisted the temptation to do preliminary sketches, choosing to brush the watercolor directly onto the paper in a spontaneous way. However today, for the sake of placement and representation, I sketched each berry in pencil before I painted it. You may be able to spot the pencil marks underneath the color.

I am pleased with the way today's painting has turned out. Hope you like it, too!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 22

Translating Value Studies from Graphite to Watercolor

Several days ago on this blog, I posted a 16-block arrangement of value studies based on a series of little graphite doodles.

I wasn't thrilled with how the graphite sketches translated into the watercolor, and I promised to come back to the experiment and repeat it, using what I had learned the first time around.

Today I am more pleased with my work.

This time I painted in a rich monochrome gray that I mixed from alizarin crimson and prussian blue.
I achieved a much larger tonal range, with the darkest tones of gray being touches of thick gooey paint, and the lightest tones being diluted with water and brushed on with even more water.
I developed a smoother application of washes, which more closely resemble the graphite pencil shading of the drawings.

I am not ready to declare this experiment complete, however. There is still a lot for me to discover about brushwork and how to make it correspond with the pencil strokes in my sketches. And I still have a lot to learn about controlling the flow of the watercolor paint, too. But for now, I am happy with what I did today.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 21

Mixing Relationships between Colors

We're all familiar with the standard circular color wheel, showing the primary colors of red, yellow and blue, and their relationships to a number of other colors. Color wheels have been tools of scientific examination since the days of Sir Issac Newton who used prisms to split white light from the sun into a continuous spectrum of colors.

What I did for today's Art Every Day for the Month challenge is more of a color mixing chart than a color wheel. I arranged four base colors, alizarin crimson, lemon yellow, viridian, and prussian blue, into the four corners of the rectangle. The two blocks in between each pair of base colors show the colors mixed from those pairs, across the top, bottom, sides and diagonally through the center of the rectangle.

If I had paid a bit more attention while I was working, I might have mixed up enough fluid colors to paint flat washes on each of the 16 blocks. I might also have been a bit more precise about the proportions of base colors I used, and even paid some attention to the tinting strength of the base colors, too. Lessons learned for next time.

But even this simple mixing chart demonstrates the intermediary relationships between these four base colors, and that's what I was hoping it would do.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 20

16-Block Exercise Based on a Painting by Paul Klee

When I was a student, I was given an assignment to study the work of an artist of my choice. I had to demonstrate my familiarity with the work of this artist by presenting a written report, accompanied by an entirely original visual composition done in the style of that artist. The artist I chose back then was Paul Klee.

When I was figuring out what I could do with the 16-block format I have assigned myself for AEDM this month, I was reminded of Klee's much-reproduced painting, Senecio. This painting was crying out to be chopped up into 16 blocks! So I set in to do the interpretation.

And with some adjustment in proportions, it worked. Although the original painting is in oil, the watercolor techniques I am using worked reasonably well, too. I stepped back from the 16-block arrangement pleased with today's results.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 19

16 M's

My initial, and also the initial of Maya Angelou, who says:
"Not everything you create will be a masterpiece, but you get out there and you try, and sometimes it really happens. The other times you're just stretching your soul."
Thanks to Leah at the home site of Art Every Day Month for this quote.

So, this Maya Angelou quote was running through my mind as I started with today's challenge.
I wanted some imagery that would develop briskly on the paper but still be a challenge in technique and rendering.
Some icon or logo, I thought... maybe some oriental character? ... What about using capital letters?

I thought, well, where's the challenge in just painting letters?
And then I thought there's that quote, it's telling me that if nothing else, my challenge will be staying with the project and making it happen.
And if it doesn't work this time, according to Maya Angelou, at least I'm stretching my soul.

As it turned out, today's painting was a bit of a challenge technically.
I haven't created letters with a brush since I was in my teens, and I became fascinated with how the shape of the letter showed up against its background.
I attempted shading the letter with lighter and darker strokes, and I was just as intrigued with the failures in rendering as with the successes.

In the end, this sheet of 16 M's reminds me of rough hand-lettered signs, carnival sideshow banners, and for some reason, a children's book that I may have owned when I was little.

And I'm thinking that my soul is being stretched every time I glance over and take another look at one of those 16 M's.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 18

Lost in the Translation

I spent a good part of today listening to downloaded audio conferences, and as I was listening, I was doodling with a pencil.

Before I knew it, I had some interesting little value studies on the go.
All tiny rectangles. A page full of them. And it all had a very familiar look to it.
So I thought, how would these gray-scale designs translate into the watercolor painting arrangements I'm doing for the AEDM daily challenges?

I picked three tubes of colors to represent the dark, medium and light tones in the pencil drawings: alizarin crimson, opera magenta and permanent yellow. And I tried to work as loosely with the paint as I had done with the pencil.

Now that it's done, I do not feel that I have represented the graphite sketches at all as I had intended.
Perhaps I should have used a single color of paint and done a monotone value study to reproduce the pencil work.
Perhaps my choice of colors didn't represent the full tonal range of the graphite.

No matter, it was an experiment, and sometime before the month is out, I will take what I have learned, and paint it again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 17

Layers: Diluted Washes

I have been challenged to do a watercolor landscape from a photograph of an early winter sunset on a quiet, partially frozen lake.
All the colors in the photo are pale, but they do cover the full spectrum of color.
There are dark areas in the foreground of the photo, but I may crop them out in the painting, or I may leave them in to give weight to the bottom of the composition.
We'll see.

My experiments yesterday with graded washes showed me that to do this winter sunset project, I need to thin my watercolor paints much more than I have been.
So for today's 16-block challenge, I began working in layers of heavily diluted color to achieve the range of tones I would need for this landscape, letting each color layer dry before I applied the next.
At one point I was startled when I realized that the water I was rinsing my brush in was more intense than the paint I was carefully mixing to apply as a wash.

It seems strange that I could accomplish today's art challenge with the tiniest dabs of three colors of paint, but I am happy with the opalescent quality of the light that I am seeing reflected off the paper.

If it works, that's what matters.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 16

Graded Washes II - Allowing It To Happen

Today's challenge was graded washes, using Opera magenta, prussian blue and permanent yellow, and allowing the colors to blend on the paper.

My friend Patricia Scarborough says it's good to "allow" things to happen and not force them, to let things happen at their own pace. She'd be good at watercolor painting.

The technique of watercolor is that you dissolve in water the pigments and dyes and binders of the paint, and then you allow the colors to disperse on the paper according to their own characteristics.
Some watercolor paints have particles that settle on the paper and emphasize the texture of the paper or the trail of the brush.
Some are made of floating powders that dry in a dusty layer wherever the water carries them.
Some watercolor paints stain the paper permanently, and some are vulnerable to smudging anytime at the touch of a moist fingertip.

Watercolor paintings keep on painting themselves long after the brushes are rinsed and the rags are hung to dry.
That's the key to understanding watercolor technique.

And the hardest thing about using watercolors is allowing them to respond, on their own, to the physics of the fluid surrounding them.
No meddling, no touching-up, just letting it happen.

No forcing it.
Allowing it to happen.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 15

Spirited Calligraphy

I found a quote from one of my old painting teachers, John R. Fox, who passed away recently:

"I believe that a painting has to be a feast for the eyes.
I try to create in my art something that makes me feel alive.
Any art that makes me feel better is good." - John R. Fox

The colors I used in today's challenge, a flat wash of cadmium yellow underpainting, with Opera magenta and alizarin crimson details in the blocks, would look bright and cheerful in any painting.
When you look closely, the alizarin crimson actually looks dull and brownish in contrast with the much more saturated pink and yellow.

But it is the active brushstrokes that bring this painting to life.
I blotted these calligraphic marks out of wet washes with a brush that I first wiped absolutely dry, and then put a touch of color straight from the tube just on the tip.
When I made a firm heavy stroke, the dry brush sucked the wet paint away, and the concentrated paint laid itself down on the paper in the same movement.

This painting certainly makes me feel enlivened just looking at it, and I am grateful that the 16 block arrangement has become truly a feast for the eyes.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 14

Layers - Graded Washes

Graded washes create areas of paint that move gradually from dark to light, or from one color to another.

In today's painting, I applied an underpainting of permanent yellow with a touch of alizarin crimson.
After that had dried, I painted the blocks in graded washes of either yellow or alizarin, and after that had dried, I painted graded washes of prussian blue, going in a different direction.

In some places, the new color pooled or bled into already painted areas that were still damp.
I didn't really mind - that saved me from having a painting that would have looked like 16 industrial paint chips from the hardware store!

Graded washes are among the hardest techniques to carry off well in watercolor, and they are also among the most useful techniques to know how to do.
I will have the chance to do more of them during this Art Every Day for the Month of November challenge.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 13

Flat Wash, Overpaint and Scrub

I began this painting with an overall flat wash of viridian, covering the entire surface of the quarter-sheet of paper.
A flat wash requires a steady hand and good timing in applying the wet paint: excellent practice for me!

After the wash was thoroughly dry, I started painting the sequence of today's 16 blocks with varying dilutions of prussian blue, using a wet brush to remove the underpainting or simply painting over it.

I discovered that a sufficiently wet brush and enough pressure would remove two layers of dried paint, so there are several areas where I have scrubbed back to the white surface.

This effect is similar to Day 6 in Layers: Transparent Washes, but this time it's not an accident, and the brushstrokes make it a lot more lively.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 12

Two colors, two brushes

I loaded up my watercolor palette with ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, knowing that when these pigments mix, they give a rich range of browns and grays.

I used two paintbrushes, for the ultramarine a 1/2 inch flat synthetic sable which gives lovely full washes, and for the burnt sienna a #1 round which gives fine detailed strokes.

What did I learn?

First, the little spaces I have been allowing myself are barely big enough to swirl large brushstrokes of color around the way I wanted to.
Next, the paints straight from the tubes can be blindingly bright contrasted to their near-complementary color.
Finally, I could have used several more sheets of paper today to keep experimenting with the way these two colors worked together.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 11


This granite pebble came from a gravel quarry over a hundred miles inland from the ocean. Obviously it had been a beach rock at some time, but it probably hasn't been near the salt water for thousands of years.
I picked it up because I was intrigued by its two-tone pinks and grays and its banded pattern. I was also taken by the shattered crystal look under its smooth surface. I laid the rock in the sunlight and turned it different ways to get the sketches in this matrix.

Originally, I was planning to paint a dry brush scumble over the wash, but I got fascinated by the way the watercolor paint was doing its own job on the pebble's texture, so I left it alone. I will do the dry brush scumbling another time.

It is obvious to me that I have not exhausted the possibilities in this rock.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 10

Brushstrokes and stretching

Chinese brush painting is a difficult discipline.
For a skilled Chinese brush painter, the brush just touches the paper, and the strokes make beautiful pictures.
For someone unfamiliar with it, you start working on the art piece in a different way.
You hold the brush in a different way, and you make brushstrokes in a different way than you are used to doing.

Today I made 16 attempts of the hundreds of brushstrokes that I will need to render a credible leaf or blossom in this technique.

My process in this Art Every Day for the Month challenge is to push myself beyond what I know. So I experimented, I improvised and I tested.

And that's how I stretched myself today.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 9

Working in from the Frame: Islands

My method for today's painting is was working in from the frame. I started each of the 16 blocks with a rough rectangular outline and I worked the watercolor paint in toward the center with wet-in-wet washes and drybrush application of color. I worked quickly and left each separate block as an individual composition, part of the total Matrix (and thanks to Margaret Ryall of Painting On for this description!)

Earlier today I was looking at satellite photos of islands .

Now that I have finished these watercolor arrangements, I am struck at how remarkably similar they appear to each other. I guess both sets - islands and paintings - show things that were shaped by fluid movement and pressure from different directions.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 8

Transparent wet in wet washes

I did today's painting in transparent washes, wet into wet, with three primary colors, magenta, prussian blue and permanent yellow.

As I progressed from one block to the next, I began to see the painting as a whole. So, instead of accepting each little arrangement on its own terms, I did a final overall retouching to balance the entire composition.

It still reminds me of a Hawaiian shirt fabric, so perhaps it's time to get out the silkscreens and do some yardage!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 7

Prompts and crossovers: Boy Scout Apple

Barbara Martin's Reptitude offers a creative nudge for writers in the form of a Daily Writer's Note. Today's prompt was to envision dessert and write about it.

Well, I'm not writing, I'm painting, but I could still envision dessert, a big juicy Boy Scout apple, cold out of the fridge and warming in the bright sunlight in my workroom window. And the crossover worked. I was able to "put that deliciousness on the page."

The only trouble was that I had to paint the apple before I could eat it! Enjoy!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Art Every Day Month - November 6

Layers: Transparent Washes

Today for my "Art Every Day for the Month of November" challenge I laid down two washes of transparent color – viridian and prussian blue – with deliberate and accidental movements of paint on the paper, and with varying degrees of wetness and dry brushing.

What did I get? Lovely delicate marbled effects, abrupt patterning, and a jewel-like quality in the depth of color. See-through textures, mottled tones, and an underpainting that dissolved as the next layer went over it.

I also got a sense that however controlled I might want to be in applying it, the paint will create its own random characteristics as it dries on the paper. I just need to wait to see what it will look like.

And I needed to remind myself not to judge whether or not I like the effect until the painting has finished itself.


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