Where did the time go?

Time is rushing us so badly that it sometimes feels I just wake up and go back to sleep. At least, I got this feeling recently. Along with doctor’s appointments, household stuff, daily meals, cleaning, laundry, classes, preparation of new images and steps for their painting, preparation of hand-out materials, advertising, social media posts, and I had two huge medical writing jobs, each one took a week approximately: that meant there was no time to paint. Although, my show is coming up and this is a gift season for which I should have better prepare. There was just zero time.

I put up a few decorations yesterday, and I had to give a class later, and that was it. The day just disappeared again. Anyway, I’m posting a watercolor still life which was done about 3 weeks ago, but THERE WAS NO TIME TO POST ANYTHING!

Watercolor still life

I hope my duties will somewhat balance out during the upcoming weeks and I can get to things which I really want to do: JUST SIMPLY PAINT. Starting image for a class is not quite the same: I have to take into account all distinctive levels of skill, and we often have absolute beginners, so that painting is just an illustration for what I am saying while teaching. Showing is definitely better than only telling about it. It is very helpful also that I can see and correct things which are usually problematic: very little paint, too much water, completely dry brush, unclean brush, putting pressure on brush and similar basic issues with painting supplies. The one thing which is ALWAYS WRONG is: trying to paint with tiny bits of paint or not having paint on a brush. We have to be generous! I think, generally, generous people also have much better results when creating art, they simply are not that much afraid of wasting anything. That certainly helps!

Watercolor still life detail

Painting takes time; at least a few hours here and there have to be set aside, so that no disturbances, interruptions or hassles harm the image which lives already in the imagination. I just didn’t get this chance recently, but I’m looking hopefully to the future.

Stick to your plan and pay attention to reference

Lesson 3

Whatever we are doing, we need some kind of a draft in our head or some plan which we keep in mind. However, it is easier said than done. That especially refers to classes. I have noticed that most people want to draw or paint without any plan and without any thinking. It might be so that when starting out it is hard to know what parts or segments should be paid most attention to. There are lots of simple things which make the object look multi-dimensional. By far, those are not only darker and stronger values. Strongly emphasized edges or absence thereof, always darker spots behind the lighter areas also contribute a lot to the spatial perception, not to mention color if it is used. I remember from early years I was told that the darkest dark should meet the lightest light. It can be tough to implement, especially when not having a real reference, but just a photography or sketch. I am personally not excited about patterns which repeat in a regular rhythm such as petals or trees along the path, blooms on a branch and similar things which we unintentionally place on our canvas when there is no firm plan or sketch.

 

Magnolias, recent class demo and I always work together with students straight in front of the class

Why am I saying: pay attention to reference? Because most people don’t do that. When we are just beginning the painting, they would have a look at the reference image or set-up. After a while, I notice nobody looks any more at the reference. You have to! The only exception is when it is a completely abstract work which has been drafted in one’s imagination or when we paint from memory. Painting from memory takes practice, however, and beginning artists cannot handle that too well. Reference or value drawing (if you have created such) has all the answers: where to use dark color, where to make strong edge, where to wash edges to lose them, where to place highlights and what exactly the shape of something is. It is extremely important, much more important than what brush to use. Talking about brushes: always use these ones which you feel comfortable with and which suit the size of the area you are working on. Very simple. We can use no brush at all, use a sponge or palette knife, that is a matter of a preference and choice. I know how some instructors want to make rules about everything. There are no rules in the use of tools. It is very obvious that using a very wide brush for tiny spot is simply difficult and vice versa. I know a lot of artists who create the entire painting with just one brush. I do that sometimes, too.

 

The Pink rose, recent class demo

So, the conclusion is: do not change things around dramatically or completely when the work is halfway through and always keep an eye on the reference. That’s why it is so rewarding to paint from real objects, live is live and photo is just a photo. Live comes with smell, touch, very visible shape and very noticeable values. Do not pressurize yourself and painting: there are moments when we need to stop and make a decision about the next step.

 

Purple pansies, finished just yesterday

Paintings and drawings really hate when they are not treated with due respect. It is much better to allow everything to develop in a natural way. For illustration I have attached the recent flower paintings. There are many more, but they just need finalizing touches. You know: painting is never done, right?

Change is always possible, but it will cost us some efforts

I’ve recently done quite a lot of reading, and articles were ranging from stress, life coaching, fitness, diets, moms and kids, teens’ problems, depression, anxiety to universe, loneliness, obsession, complaints and visual art. Well, the common thing most often was: everything is pretty much wrong and we should really work on some kind of improvement. Poets were less unsatisfied with life since they found something inspiring in being not that well off.

We are used to believe that humans are steadily progressing and we become better, smarter, more intelligent, stronger and healthier with every new generation. However, there has been only a huge technical progress, and only mobile devices and computers have become noticeably smarter and more advanced, but humans are meanwhile regressing. At a fast rate. Our health is terrible, and many earlier unknown diseases are genetically inherited, our mind gets much less used since there is always an answer on the Internet, and our human skills and the ability to interact and build personal relationships is totally neglected. Taking into account the abnormal consumption of toxic substances and chemicals, scientists have figured out we would last for just 30 more generations. That would be the moment when humans lose their reproductive ability because of genetic errors which the body will not be able to fix. Well, they might just learn to re-write the DNA and correct the broken sequences by that time.

Thankfully and despite the ignorance which is very characteristic for consumers society, the hand-made art is still surviving. One might think it is so silly to try to draw and paint for real when it is possible to do everything digitally. It sure is, and there are always new apps, but the gain and the goal is actually to maintain our humanity, and that won’t be achieved using apps. This might sound way overdone, but when we meet kids who rarely get in touch with nature, who have seen it mostly on the TV or computer, when we hear adults who complain about stresses and loneliness and how dysfunctional their lives have become, I am wondering why don’t they do anything to change this?

At the studio, we are about small droplets which build a huge waterfall and tiny leaves which make up a forest. I mean, one does not necessarily have to choose art as a career, there will be so many other benefits along the road. The ability to experience and create the beauty is just one of them.

I was just looking at grape leaves on vine in my backyard. What perfection, what grace in every angle, in every shape! The weather is fantastic at the moment, so the magic light of late afternoon was playing in these leaves and creating amazing patterns and soft value transitions. So simple, yet absolutely stunning! Nature does not love emptiness: we can fill ourselves and our time either with something useful, or with waste. We have actually always some choice, and we have plenty of choices when it comes to our leisure. Small changes lead to big results, although they still take efforts. I know, it’s much easier to sit back and stare at the TV screen. I do that, too when I am feeling totally exhausted and cannot even move, but that’s limited to just some 20 minutes here and there.

I had the largest number of workshops ever this August: 8 in total. I did not manage to take pictures of all works because there were just too many, but I still got a lot of watercolor sketching pics. Although, art teaching can be very tiring, I sometimes feel like re-energized after a long workshop, and this happens due to the great energy which is circulating in the studio. I wrote a mom who expressed her satisfaction for daughter’s successfully created art: the hugest and the most meaningful reward for a teacher is the student who has acquired new skills and new passion.

 

I must say things like poetry, writing, singing, dancing, playing an instrument, drawing or painting cannot be even taught. A teacher is only providing with tools, methods, techniques and explanations about such processes, but the doing and learning is actually up to the student. As a teacher, I can show, demonstrate, advise, recommend, comment and draw attention to some technique or issue, but the student will have to apply these recommendations and tips on his or her own. The result or lack of it greatly depends on that person who is learning.

I will discuss in more detail next time why some great intentions lead to nothing and why there will always be somebody who drops out.