New #USkWorkshop in San Francisco, Oct. 10:

August 16, 2014

Adding lots of water to paint...not always a good idea at Killeenaran, Co. Galway

Up until very recently - that would be Wednesday - I have been pretty happy with my way of working. My drawing is becoming increasingly easy, I'm getting to know my watercolours better (which is great, as long as I don't throw them into the sea, of which more later), and all in all I may have been getting a little...smug.

But on Wednesday morning, the postman arrived with two copies of Urban Watercolor Sketching by Felix Scheinberger. One was for me and one for my sister who is also a painter. How excited I was - but my sister was due to arrive later that afternoon for a visit (she lives in Jamaica but is spending the summer in Ireland) and her standards of cleanliness are a good bit higher than mine so I had to get busy in the house.

No sooner had I started reading Felix's book than I knew I was about to have another of those pivotal moments as a painter. I was immediately enchanted with his beautiful style, and was inspired to get cracking immediately. My sister and I have spent lots of time outdoors over the last few days, she with her oils and canvases, me with my sketchbook and watercolours. I wanted to see if I could catch a bit of Felix's loose, expressive manner, so yesterday I took the chance to try and put it into action, using my brand-new Schminke set of watercolours:

The boats had been painted in many layers of colour over the years, and I know they look like a pair here, but they are often not together. However, I think the paint told me that they are either owned by the same person or two people shared the same buckets of paint in the same order. I tried to be less literal than normal, oh, how I tried. Where light hit the deep pink bits I tried to throw on more than I normally would; same for the rust, the ultramarine and the cerulean.  I tried to channel Felix. I really did. But my own hand kept breaking through, my brain kept taking charge, telling me to get that curve right, that number of lathe thingies...
This morning I continued reading Felix's book.
"If you want to measure, weigh or count, then art is not the right medium for you anyway."
That could be why I've always felt so uncomfortable calling myself an artist - I've suspected for a very long time that I am more of a measurer, a weigher and a counter than an artist. Never mind! I enjoy doing those things very much.

Meanwhile...I was just getting to know my sketchbox of W&N watercolours, after having them for a year or so. I was finally understanding what colours mix well together (never having read anything on colour, never mind having bothered to attend any classes) when it all came to naught, as I lost them last Monday.
This is the painting I was doing:

This is just a little to the left of the two boats above, except the tide was at almost opposite ends of its range. Minutes earlier, the water had been up over the quay, and had just begun to recede when I arrived. It was very windy, I was all alone and even though I had brought my swimsuit, I wasn't in the mood to jump into that choppy, scary-looking water. Then a man arrived and went in for a dip, trying to convince me to join him. I told him I'd rather sketch, but that I'd put him in to the drawing (he's in it twice, sorry). Then another lady came down, a doyenne of the village, and when SHE asked me to join in, I felt compelled to do so, it was terrifically exhilarating, and I was delighted I did it. I drove home in my wet gear, feeling very happy with my sketch and my swim.

But in my excitement - and the wind -  I lost concentration and didn't pack up my stuff properly. Although I returned not fifteen minutes later, the box was nowhere to be seen, and no one had been there in the interim. A gust must have taken it.

I went back the next day at super-low tide, and all I got for my trouble was a pair of very muddy feet.

Not to worry: the Schminke are amazing, and I'll be getting a full set. With an elastic band attached them somewhere.

More of my work here.


ElaineB said...

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to count, weigh, or measure as you create your artwork. I think Felix would likely be horrified if he realized that his statement (probably meant as hyperbole) made someone doubt their creative abilities. Every artist is different, because the skills required to translate three dimensions into two dimensions on paper is an extremely complex task for our brains. We will all come up with different solutions that feel comfortable to us. If you find yourself wanting to understand something you see by measuring it, and/or comparing it to other objects in your field of vision -- that's great. The desire for precision can be a very fruitful goal as we keep learning to draw. As long as it does not morph into a negative sort of perfectionism that intrudes on your creative process, rejoice that you care so deeply about the specific objects you see. You want to paint THIS boat, the one in front of you, and not just a generalized depiction of generic boats.

Capt Elaine Magliacane said...

Oh man I'd be just SICK if I lost a paint box full of Schmincke paints, they are so expensive and so very lovely to use. I think your boat and quay paintings are delightful. Your are an artist whether you measure or not.

Róisín Curé said...
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Róisín Curé said...
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Róisín Curé said...

Thank you ladies. Capt. Elaine Magliacane, luckily my W&N box was pretty well-used, and not my new Schmincke set.
ElaineB, I don't mind at all someone thinking that my approach is not that of an artist: the label "artist" means nothing to me, and never did. As long as I can draw and paint on paper, I'm not at all bothered I'm called! I really enjoy getting a line "right" - I don't think that's going to change.