Sharpie marker sketch & watercolor washes on cold press watercolor sketchbook paper"Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug."
- John Lithgow
Friday evening I was sketching with Sharpie markers a composition I plan on painting soon. I like to work out the design linearly, then take thick markers & mass in the darks. I was thinking about the various things that influence over the course of an artistic life time. I was remembering what fun it was working in watercolors .....I haven't gotten them out in a long time. So I put some washes over the inked in sketch. Sometimes it's a nice mental 'stretch' to get out some old supplies (or try new ones, if it's new to you).
While on my last trip to Ireland, my friend Barbara & I walked down to St. Brendan's well on Valentia Island. We continued on over to Culoo rock, where the anglers fish from the ledges on the rock face over Dingle Bay. We sat up on a high ridge of rocks to have a look around. I got up to gather a few interesting rocks, and a flock of sheep that had been wandering around started running toward me. I held out my arms to my sides, fingers stretched wide (as to drive them away)...and they all "put on the brakes". I snapped a few pictures before they turned & ran the other direction.What are things that influence an artist (or any creative person)?
The answer is everyday life, my friend.
Ten years ago we lived in San Diego, and I had joined the San Diego Watercolor Society. What a great opportunity for growth and learning. We had a group paintout every Wednesday of the entire year (yes, that's how great the weather is)! Many of the members at that time were retired Disney artists, in their 80s, who had worked as young men for THE Mr. Disney! They had so many great stories from their early life as young artists beginning their careers.
I'll never forget the one story that one of them told me about working on the animation for Dumbo. Real elephants were brought into the studio for them to draw from life. This fellow described his frustration with the Art Director at the time "for drawing over his 'perfect rendering' ", as the director wanted all these features exaggerated! "He drew over my perfect drawing"! Well, he eventually 'got it', and understood the lesson...and I appreciated the story.
They were generous with their time and information. We held a group critique at the end of each Weds. session - that was so valuable. After taking part in these critiques for about a year, (that these older fellows led), one Weds. I was asked to lead the critique. Wow, it was humbling and an honor at the same time. It truly made me think about every word that came out of my mouth. I still find an honest, constructive
critique a valuable experience.Art is a cumulative learning experience.
Everything on your path will add to your knowledge and unfold in wonderful ways to help you become the 'you'
that you are intended to be. About eight years ago I saw a painting in a gallery by Howard Behrens (a palette knife painter). This was a new & exciting thing for me to see - the thought of someone completing an entire painting with a knife & no brushes! I was living in Virginia at this point and on Wednesdays would get together with another painter friend, Faye Vanderveer. We would usually set up a still life and proceed to paint it. But on one particular session we set a challenge for ourselves to paint this one set-up using only a palette knife. It felt like the most clumsy, awkward thing I had ever done, yet there were certain passages that were so beautiful! I was still "slave to the brush" for a long while, not wanting to break out of my comfort zone. But I would tinker around with the palette knife once in a while on certain areas in some paintings. But a couple of years ago, something clicked yet again on one of my trips to Ireland. I really liked how I could simplify the shapes of these strong landscapes and not overmix the colors.
By this time I was living in CT again, and I realized I was not one to paint outdoors in winter. So I'd get flowers from the florist and bring them home to paint, setting up the whole thing on a table by the window in my studio. (I'm a big fan of backlit scenes). By this point using a palette knife had become a real joy for me. I was using it pretty much exclusively.
On my annual trek to Chincoteague, VA last September, I realized that I had no use for the brushes that I had brought along. I had been painting entirely with a knife for a long while. I'm continuing to find joy in the expressive qualities this tool brings about. Join along in this journey, follow my blog for more thoughts about painting, gardening, & finding the expressive creative qualities in your own life. Thanks for reading along!