Sunday, August 23, 2009

SIDE TRIPS part six---Missed the Memo

In college I minored in art where I studied various mediums and styles. My present paying job is in computer graphics. I like it, but I enjoy even more painting landscapes in transparent watercolor, the operative word here is TRANSPARENT. There are many ways to get color down on paper using a water-based medium. The attribute that distinguishes transparent watercolor painting from one using opaque medium is LUMINOSITY. Works in transparent watercolor are similar to stained glass. Light passes through the crystallized pigments and bounces back from the white paper. When done right, the result gives the work a kind of glow. Achieving this effect requires a lot of forethought and there is not much that can be done to cover up a mess. A few years ago I studied with Jane Hofstetter, a member of the National Watercolor Society, in a workshop at Long Beach, Washington. She taught us a great deal about composition, design, mixing pigments, and, when possible, preserving paper for the whites of the painting. Long Beach is at the mouth of the Columbia River where a handsome light house sits on one of the cliffs. See below the painting of Cape Disappointment that I completed after that workshop. But that was ten years ago. I was excited to go Mr. WBL’s workshop to improve my skills and learn new techniques. He told the group the he was not there to impose his style and techniques on our way of painting. He also said he was not concerned about what a painting looked like, but how it made one feel. Our first assignment was to work in a series of repetitions---painting the same subject six different ways. He proceeded to demonstrate by slapping down layer after layer of opaque paint, throwing in plenty of thick white and solid black.
To be fair, in my eagerness to take classes from WBL I had missed the line in the website description of the workshop, “He has devoted much of his life to his passion for art. His style has certainly changed throughout the years, but his desire to create has not.” His style had dramatically changed. It was like going to study classical piano only to find out the teacher had switched to jazz. I thought his work was great in an abstract, opaque sort of way. It was just not what I had come to learn. I did the assignment using clouds as a nonrepresentational subject. Mr. WBL’s critique was that I let the paper show through. “Little flecks of dandruff” he called them. He challenged me to try painting a subject from an unusual angle. I decided to paint a picture of the old church in Bannak (see Side Trips part two below) in a dark way. I used big paper, big brushes, and some paints I didn’t mind sacrificing to the abstract gods.
I was amazed at how a painting of a little brown church could express such ire and frustration! Of course I was criticized for letting white paper show through, and he said I needed to lay down thicker paint. Back at the motel I couldn’t get my magnetic door key to work. It was raining by then so I got soaked walking to the office. Got a new key. Didn’t work either. “Would you like me to go with you to see what the problem is?,” the clerk asked, looking at me like I was some hayseed from Idaho. Duh. Another walk in the rain. She could not get the key to work either. Fine! I told her I would go get something to eat and give her time to get the problem fixed. Without any effort at all I found a monster mall with exact duplicates of every store in every mall I have ever visited. At least I could walk off my exasperation in a dry place. I even went to a movie. Back at the motel the clerk said the lock to my door was worn out and broken beyond repair. She gave me a master key and told me I had to move my things to another room. I was being “upgraded” to a place with two queen beds. It took three trips in the rain to haul everything upstairs to the room with a little window facing the parking lot. What would I do with two queen beds? I slept in one of them.

6 comments:

Linda Sue said...

Oh GAWD Neener- your painting of the lighthouse is exquisite! WOW! Your story still cracks me up, sorry, but it is just so ridiculous and the church says it all.

fifi said...

oh, nothig worse that feeling frustrated like that.

I learnt watercolur a few years back, it was so helpful in so many ways but mainly in a formal sense, as I went through Art School in a totally conceptual phase and was taught NOTHING in the way of technique. Especially not in painting, which was considered a defunct art form anyway. even doing my postgrad, we were always groomed to be conceptually accountable.


I think your understanding of watercolour is completely valid. I am not sure as to why you wuld use watercolour is thickly applied layers, that is what acrylic is for. I'm not so sure I would want to paint like that man...you can tell that you are being totally counterintuitive in that church picture....


I hope you get to go off and look at landscapes and paint them as yu wish and be happy. That is what you are meant to do, it seems. I'm kind of thinking your black cloud of thought was so palpable it blew the door right up....ignore that man, and paint your luninous pictures. they are lovely.

olivia said...

Sounds like you're on an interesting adventure. Looking forward to the next edition. And what you did w/ the other queen-size bed. :-)

I love your paintings. And while you disappointed that Mr WBL's technique/workshop wasn't what you expected, that can really lead to some wonderful personal discoveries.

Pam said...

I really like your lighthouse painting. I admire anyone who works with watercolours- I've never quite mastered the technique, and now just tentatively dabble filling in pencilled outlines.Wishing you all the best on your luminous path.Art cajoles us to be adventurous, but with watercolours I end up with muddied good intentions!

Laura said...

You are very talented; your work is amazing! I too agree with everyone that the lighthouse and ocean wave is outstanding!

I also love your new header. Perfect placement of the little white sail boat. Did you wait for it, or was it there just at the right moment? :-)

Janie said...

I like you Cape Disappointment painting, and the church. Too bad the art class didn't turn out to be what you expected. I hope it improves...