I am in Maui Hawaii today with my family on vacation and am reminded that as artists we have a heightened awareness of the visual. The beauty around me is vivid as it is for my family, but my language differs. We live in a visual world that is defined by seeing things differently, part of what makes us who we are. I am thinking — Is the ocean a little more phthalocyanine blue red shade or turquoise? Are the values around me mid tone or deep and rich, are the shapes more organic or geometric? Fortunately my family is used to my language and are not surprised by my descriptions. My mind wanders into the artist thoughts often. It is exciting and travel always adds to my images that will have to be expressed in the visual.
Each year I choose 2 to 3 different elements and principles of art to focus on. This year, one area I have been exploring with determination is “line.” I see so many wonderful lines here… the horizontal waves of the ocean that are in constant change, the verticals of the palm trees and the organic of the tropical plants to mention just a few.
This year I am simplifying line in new ways. Often you would not recognize the lines source in my paintings as would be the case of this week. I will be abstracting and rearranging what I see to take my art to new levels along with mixing new medias and color choices to my watercolors.
My “Exploratory Territory” as I call it, has been successful getting me into regional and national shows this past two years. One way I have used as educational, is drawing line exercises (see “Disciplines in Line” video on my youtube channel amanarts) as well as rearranging the lines in shapes. I work within many of the “rules” of art along with strategic breaking of rules.
Since I focus each year on different elements and principles in my work, I am adding to my knowledge of past years. As these disciplines add up I feel I am getting a wide range of possibilities opening up and keeping me engaged in my past work but also staying fresh with the new discoveries.
I wrote this article to present thoughts to you that I have found are helping my work and other artists. As I teach I see other artists come to new levels of expertise in their work as well. Line, color, shape, value, composition, etc. choose one or two to ponder a little more in your art. If I live a very long life, I may have just opened a broader education than if I hadn’t put the effort into the discovery of the What If? I would enjoy hearing from you as you put some new discoveries on your art surfaces. I continue on… Exploratory Territory in Disciplines of Line! Come join me.
If you have done more than a few watercolors there have been times when something extra special happens while painting. We’ve heard these moments called “happy accidents”. They are happy, but accidents? Maybe not. It may be a lucky moment of discovery. Almost like magic. It may be the advancement of your skill.
Real accidents can happen, messy and not good. It does happen. Recently I tore up and trashed several large pieces of what had been really nice rag paper. Both sides had been painted, wash-off was tried. They were beyond reasonable use. The paper was truly worn away. Out they went. I call that quality control. I’ll bet you’ve done that also.
And…there are times when good things happen that we try to duplicate and it’s not always easy. It might even be the very part of that painting that catches the eye of the public or a juror. If something happens that mysteriously adds to your collection of skills consider yourself lucky and keep it if you can.
I have a quote saved from a long ago. It’s from the great American author Tennessee Williams. Maybe it speaks to our subject even though he was, of course, talking about his art of writing. He said, “Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”
Is that not an honorable goal of any artist? Your painting or mine may be simple and only a small slice of life, but the truth, indeed!
Over the decades I have painted watercolors I have discovered several things by so-called happy accident. I keep them in my pocket, up my sleeve. That sounds like a secret. Not so, I have no secrets but I have discovered several things that may still be unique in my work.
Some of you have watched me “paint” with old kitchen pot scrapers, my fingers, brushes chopped into weird shapes, self-made rubber stamps, a worn paper towel in my left hand and anything else that gets the result I’m looking for. Here is some of that “junk”. If you have extra and strange ways of painting, we’d be delighted to see that. Whatever is in your pocket or up your sleeve, be friendly and show us.
There is an old saying that “life” is what happens while you are busy making other plans. The truth of this adage was made clear to me last week when my mother was returned to the hospital in Ft. Collins. She had cracked her pelvis in a fall last month but had seemingly recovered. This was a set of new, and as yet undiagnosed, problems that made her very ill. Driving the 797 miles to Colorado non-stop, alone and without a radio, gives the mind a lot of time to worry and dwell on unhappy possibilities. Spending three days visiting her, talking with the health care providers and meeting with my sister was by turns encouraging and frustrating. It became apparent that at 96 years of age, my mother’s life, while not immediately threatened, is entering that last phase where a continuing series of health issues will probably be the normal state of affairs. Driving home on Friday, I could see where for the foreseeable future, the plans Betty and I have made will no doubt be revised in light of this new reality.
I don’t mean for this message to be overly gloomy. My sister and I had planned for mom’s final years and had the living arrangements made. But the nature of the illness means that all those preparations will probably have to be altered, in ways we don’t yet understand. I know many of you have dealt with similar situations and can relate to the consternation and worry that such developments bring. What I do know is that the travels and concerns had worn me out and arriving home in Boise was a welcome respite to the continuous worry of the previous week.
Finally, yesterday afternoon, I was able to spend a few hours in my studio area in the garage, working on the painting I had left a week ago. After a while, the comfortable routine of finding the right color, wetting the paper and bringing the image to life with the application of the brush (a #2 round of course) lifted the burden of the past few days and I felt calmer and more relaxed. For me, that is one of the most precious miracles of art. Your studio space and the art you create are a sanctuary for the mind and spirit. At least for me, when engaged with a project, my mind is occupied and at peace – the outside world and all its problems is banished from my consciousness.
I hope each of you also has a place, a sanctuary, where your art is your only concern and your sole focus. And I hope each of you also finds the same respite from all the concerns of daily life when you are in that place. You can go there, leave the world behind to make art, and come away refreshed and at peace.