TEACH TO LEARN

 

When it comes to growing as an artist, I have an unfair advantage — I teach

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Teaching in Hawaii

Some years ago, I noticed that many of the very successful artists who come to Oregon to jury and speak at Watercolor Society of Oregon (WSO) conventions are also very good teachers. I believe this is no coincidence. Teaching keeps us continually pushing the edges of learning. We HAVE to! It is part of the job requirement. It is essential to find a way to articulate how we do what we do. First we have to really understand our process, step-by-step. Teaching forces us to focus on the details! Of course, it’s also just plain fun to share what we know.

Between teaching, painting, shows, contests and having a life, my calendar is full! Sometimes I’m asked, “how do you ever find time to paint?” In truth it is the teaching, along with our vibrant artist community, that stimulates me.  I learn so much from my students and colleagues through osmosis. I’m continually being introduced to new products, interesting techniques or another aesthetic concept. Traveling to teach is an added plus!

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Teaching in Saint Remy, France

 

Teaching gives us permission to paint. Maybe you’ve found another way to give that to yourself — taking a class or joining a group to find incentive. Let’s face it — life offers oh, so many distractions! If we haven’t made a commitment to painting, likely we will not do it — regardless of how rewarding it is when we do paint.

There are plenty of accomplished artists who don’t teach, or don’t teach well 🙂  so it’s not an essential component. But if you’re one who is inclined, I encourage you to share what you know as an opportunity for growth!

LEARNING

One parting thought… if you live in Oregon and you’re not already a WSO member, you’re missing the best opportunity for art community and low cost learning that I know of. I’ve been going to the conventions for years, soaking up ideas and inspiration from our esteemed jurors as well as breakout sessions by some of the best local teaching talent in the state. Plus, the twice yearly conventions are just a hoot! The corresponding spring and fall workshops taught by the juror offers studying with nationally respected instructors at an affordable price.

MEMBERSHIP — Check it out… you can apply for WSO Associate membership any time, regardless of where you live. The annual Full membership application is in the fall — just submit three digital images of your work.

OUR NEXT WSO CONVENTION will be April 7, 8 &9 in Eugene.

I’ll be leading a breakout session on marbling with Liz Walker

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The show will be held at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum! Don’t miss it.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?

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My collage portrait was awarded 1st place at Oregon Society of Artist’s 200 for under $200 show by juror Paul Trapp, along with a very generous prize. It is such a fine honor, as the gallery is filled with beautiful artwork! Some of it no doubt took many loving hours to make. With a different juror or perhaps even on a different day, the prize could have gone to one of them.

I had planned to enter the painting, “Blue Fresco” read about it here — and since it sold before the show started, I got to work on a new painting — actually two of them. First I used a watercolor portrait study to mount on a wood cradled panel by American Easel, then added both Golden crackle paste and sheetrock mud to obscure it. Here it is, clearly unfinished.

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But not seeing where to take it from here, I shifted gears with another idea… a collage painting.

A large order had just come in from Nova Color.  They don’t advertise and you won’t find it in art stores… If you don’t already know about Nova, they sell very high quality acrylic paint and mediums at very reasonable prices.

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The padding inside the box happened to be Chinese newspaper — neutral grey patterning — a perfect background for a collage. Here’s a very basic thing about collage: If your subject has strong value shapes it is far more interesting. And neighboring neutrals really make color pop! Collage can often look funny, and that gets noticed. Most of the time when we paint portraits we work very hard to make them look normal, while it is the unique that draws attention.

Here’s a section from a large, painted portrait…

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… that I made from a photo I took of Mary on hat day at Menucha, with light across the edge of her face. It has rich color and shadows.

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Since I’d already interpreted the image and it was the right size for my 12 x 12 panel, I simply put a layer of tracing paper over it and drew the shapes, creating a pattern for my collage.

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While packing supplies for my portrait workshop at Menucha, I’d run across a bag of maps and one had the light value yellow tones I was looking for. The more intense color is from my stash of marbled paper with oranges and yellows in medium value, sandwiched with black & green strands. And I also had a piece of black marbled paper with shades of deep grey, perfect for hair. Here is my palette!

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For the whites of the face I used white drawing paper.

One advantage to working in collage — you can simply layer the paper and decide if you like it before you commit. Here’s an early version when the pieces are still loose.

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I’ve rearranged a bit and added a few more shapes for the final, below. Before attaching the map face, I ran a wash of orange watercolor over the profile. Notice I’ve simplified my shapes from the pattern — too many shapes can be less effective. I want large, medium and small shapes — the more varied they are, the more interesting.

Searching for a name, I realized the map I’d chosen was one of Paris that I’d picked up in my travels. The added color gave it a “HOT” feeling and I wanted to refer back to traveling because so much of my inspiration comes from that. Taking my final cue from the newspaper, I titled the painting “Travel Fever: Paris to Shanghai”.

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Thanks to Sue Parman, for purchasing this piece, even before the awards ceremony. Yes, we both agree she has good taste!

Sometimes the question is asked, how long does it take to make a painting? The answer — it takes a lifetime! Without the experiences I’ve had up until this moment, what I’ve collected — memories, maps, marbled paper — and all the previous artwork I’ve created, I couldn’t possibly do the work I am doing now! If I added up just the hours spent actually making this collage and finishing the panel, it still took the better part of a day. But as with writing, it does speed things up to know what it is I want to say!

One other thing — while my work comes from within, it is also a product of the inspiration I borrow from everywhere around me. As you exercise your artist’s voice, I invite you to do the same…

WHEN LESS IS MORE

The concept of ambiguity has been resonating with me for some time — the idea that telling the whole story in a painting can be, well, boring, while omitting parts of it is intriguing. Ambiguity is engaging.
It invites viewer participation as we work to fill in the blanks. My visuals editor at the Oregonian, Michelle Wise, encouraged me to create interest with unfinished paintings that showed only part of the image.

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After traveling in Italy, I have also been interested in creating the feel of antiquity and have been seeking a way to express that in my art. The first time I visited many years ago, Mary Lee Damutz took us to see a ruined chapel near Lucca with a blue fresco on the back wall. It left a lasting impression.

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Then exploring a Tuscan village while leading a workshop there, I saw paintings by Stefania Orru in a gallery. Her contemporary works reminded me of the peeling layers of old frescoes found in Italian villas. Here is an example.

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She may have been channeling Da Vinci‘s painting, above!

I’m not the only one inspired by these two concepts. After one of our Italian trips, my workshop partner Laura Shea made this painting, incorporating sheet rock mud and gold paint on canvas.

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Here’s work by a French artist I just discovered on Pinterest last week, Florian Nicolle. I love how she includes newspaper and line in her work, with just a little color.

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I finally had a chance to put my ideas to work last August. I’d been working with collage madonnas in Vera Dickerson’s workshop. Vera is also an wonderful instructor and here is an example of her work. 

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I wanted to include a portrait, and I already had one, a study that I’d painted in Lynn Powers’ first portrait workshop a few years ago, from a photo she supplied of her daughter, Kelly. I have always admired Lynn’s work and learned so much from her in a few short days. I am eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to study with Lynn. She was a master of color and technique and has left a lasting legacy.

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Here is one of Lynn’s paintings, “Woman of Color”.

I am the proud owner of this gorgeous print! You can find her prints available to purchase here:

http://lynnpowersart.com/

So, I took my painting of Kelly and attached it to a 12×12 wood panel by American Easel. Then with a metal spatula I applied spackling paste — essentially sheetrock mud — allowing much of the portrait to show but covering the surrounding wood. When it dried, I liked the peek-a-boo effect with some of the portrait being visible. A wash of blue watercolor paint over the sheetrock simulates the blue fresco.

But it needed to be pushed further.

Having a stash of almost transparent marbled papers, I decided to imply a halo by adding bits of marbling to the background corners — essentially negative painting it with the marbled paper. Then I added a beige marbled paper with streaks of red and yellow ochre to create the illusion of shoulders and neckline. Squares of collage paper I’d made by adding Citrasolve, to National Geographic magazine pages were the final touches. Here is the result!

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“Blue Fresco”

These experimental techniques are such fun to play with!

Two coats of Dorlands wax were then rubbed on the surface to protect it. This actually improved the effect by lifting a little of the spackling paste, increasing the translucency and allowing a bit more of the portrait to show.

The painting elicited many comments. Seeing it on a Facebook post, Jim Powers bought “Blue Fresco” for his daughter Kelly! He took this photo of me with the painting at the WSO Convention last weekend.

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I feel so honored to have this art go to Kelly and her family.

It’s good to seek inspiration from all around you, then find unique ways to translate it into your own work.

Experiment and play! Everything you do today informs your future work.
I look forward to discovering new ways to use these concepts of ambiguity and antiquity.

PROVENCE ART WORKSHOP 2016

Highlights from the art workshop in Provence, France!

ART FROM THE KAUAI TRIP 2016

Check out some of the wonderful student art from this year’s Art Retreat in Kauai…

KAUAI ART RETREAT 2016

I took a group of artists to KAUAI to paint again this year…

ART GROUP – JOIN or START one

Looking back to my art successes — both personal triumphs and award recognition — some credit goes to my art groups. 


Getting feedback on my work from other artists is SO valuable. I consider it to be my single most effective resource for inspiring and improving my work.

WHAT A GROUP CAN DO FOR YOU…

Some groups create an incentive to produce art — after all, you’ll want to have something to show at the meetings! Plus, after a few hours of talking art you’ll be wanting to paint.

Some groups get together to paint. My fall 2015 bird class at Village Gallery decided to meet on their own to paint after the classes ended. Here they are with their paintings – some are in progress.

Ronna, Mary Lou, Gail, Robin & Meg (JoAnn was painting with me at the Kauai workshop)

Some groups offer an art critique. Cultivate a culture of respect and trust and you will have access to a wide range of ideas and possibilities. There are times when we get stuck with a painting and can’t figure out what it needs! Feedback from others is SO valuable.

Most groups create friendships and a cross pollination of ideas.  You might be introduced to the work of other artists or where to go to print greeting cards or how to set up a studio.

MY GROUPS

I belong to a total of six different art groups now and they all have something unique and valuable to offer!

I joined Westside Critique group 7 years ago. Through their camaraderie and support I have flourished! In working with this group I’ve discovered many of the techniques I use in my art today. We meet once a month and paint together each August at the coast.

WESTSIDE CRITIQUE GROUP PAINTING AT JUDI WYGANT’S BEACH HOUSE

Two large and well established groups — Painters Showcase and Lake Area Artists — pool resources to put on art shows and sales.

The very first travel workshop I led in Tuscany formed an art group of their own, The Melogranos. I am an honorary member and love being connected with them.

THE ORIGINAL MELOGRANOS with LINDA & CAROL

The other two groups started in 2015. They are both intensionally quite small. The Moas, forming out of the momentum of an exploratory trip to France, offers camaraderie, inspiration and a strong emotional connection.

Critical Mass has just 4 members but is a powerful “teaching” group that helps focus my art career. It began when Liz Walker asked if I would get together with her to critique our work. The next month we asked Geoffrey McCormack and Chris Stubbs to join us. We talk about contests, inspiration and sometimes the “business” of art.

I very much recommend finding a group to join or starting one of your own.

TO START A GROUP…

CHOOSE MEMBERS
Determine how many members you want. 
Identify others who produce art regularly and embrace artistic growth.
Look for artists who have integrity and are completely trustworthy.
Welcome a variety of styles and personalities.
Make sure potential participants realize the extent of their commitment to the group.
One way to add to your group is to invite prospective members to submit work and attend one meeting, after which both decide if the match feels right.
MEETING PLACE
Decide where and how often to meet. 
SET GROUP GUIDELINES
Intimacy: A group where members feel safe to be completely vulnerable.
Nurturing: Members will support each other in reaching their goals.
Respect: Members communicate thoughtfully and constructively and have a good ability to listen.
Inspiration: Artist members should feel free to share artistic ideas and opportunities.
FORMAT FOR CRITIQUING
How much time does each person get? 
Will we use a timer?
Can we meet at a time not used for art making?
How long will our meetings last?
DEFINE INDIVIDUAL GOALS
What is it that’s calling you?  (Media, size, subject?)
What are your artistic strengths, weaknesses?
What would you like to say, create, achieve with your art?
What’s holding you back?
What’s your wildest art dream?
What do you want from the group?
How can the group help? best support your vision?
Where do you find your inspiration?
Goal for next meeting?
CREATE A MISSION STATEMENT 
Based on joint goals…
CHOOSE A NAME 
It is good to have an identity for your group. Some groups prefer to “grow” into their name instead of choosing one too quickly.