.

Aug 19, 2015

Hey, Perhaps Oil and Water Can Mix...

Or, maybe they can at least play nicely together...

I dunno, but lately I have become interested in painting with watercolors again.  Initially this felt like crazy-talkin' to myself because watercolor is hard and incredibly time-consuming if you are going to do it at a high level. It requires draftsmanship, focus, skillful technique, and the acceptance of chaos. I think I feel pulled to it now because most of the painters I venerate, living or dead, seem able to switch back and forth effortlessly. So I it is time to go back to trying to master the media and endure the inevitable crashing and burning and bad, bad work. And how best to make myself do this, other than to bring the watercolor kit when I go out to paint in oils? The kit that has been sitting in a dark corner in my studio for over twenty-plus years now.

Here is yesterday's efforts, my first ever bi-media outdoor experience. A day without competition, or teaching, or meeting any other expectation beyond going outside to push some color around with an old friend.


Photo credits: Brenda Boylan




7:30 am, Sauvie Island – 30 minute watercolor, on an Arches WC block. The live area is about 6 x 8 inches or so. This is the third watercolor I've done in perhaps, oh, I don't know TWENTY YEARS! (did I mention that already?) I was killing time waiting for some shadows to lift off a field of sunflowers to my right and thought, "Hey, Now would be a good time to sneak a watercolor in before my friend showed up. (I called her to see how far out she was.) You can see I tried out that paint-into-the-wet area thing and well, I must say the technique remained a complete mystery to me. I am definitely going to have to work that some more. Mental note: "Looser is better. Looser is okay. Loosey-goosey makes it juicy..."



Same location, the next painting up – oil on a taped sheet of Claussen's linen, live area about 10 x 14 inches in size. I was looking for the shapes in the sunflowers amidst the greenery of the leaves, not the individual flowerheads themselves. The sunflowers were the small kind, about three feet tall, not the giant gnarly showerheads Van Gogh liked to paint. I'll likely mess around with this sketch sometime during the winter just to tease out the abstract qualities, and spend some time practicing brush strokes, but I doubt this painting will ever see the outside of my studio. More likely, the dark and moist confines of a landfill...



Next stop, later in the day, and a new location. This time I thought I might actually do the same scene twice, one in watercolor and the other in oil. 



My impromptu WC set up. When I was packing up to go out this morning I realized I could use the same easel for oil painting AND watercolor if I flipped the easel upside down and used the pegs to hold the WC block. (This being an Open Box M easel). 




There was enough pressure between the pins to hold the watercolor block in place while I fumbled around with badly handled pigment. So the Open Box M easel can be turned into a kind of 2-'fer-1 sort of solution without extra any pomp or circumstance. I've always liked multi-use devices... you know, the spork, the toaster oven, the swiss army knife, duct-tape, the beer-hat...





Thirty minutes later it was time to switch over to oil. Only this time, I clearly wanted to avoid making any sort of useful comparison. I arbitrarily decided to paint in oil using my big brush. Something I made a student do last weekend during an outdoor workshop. (She did awesome, BTW.)




So here is the"Big Bertha" in my kit. It's a Rosemary & Co., a stiff 1.5 inch nylon brush that still has a chiseled edge after two years of hard use and careless storage. (My goodness, this brush takes a lickin' and it keeps on tickin'!) It is the ONLY brush I used for this painting except for the rigger I picked out to sign the painting with. I set the timer on my iPhone to one hour, with the idea of keeping things moving along – but somehow I finished up before the alarm went off. At that point my friend and I had already packed up and were on the other side of the dike looking at another painting site. So I estimate I put about thirty minutes into it.


Again, maybe this is not the greatest painting in the world, and the point wasn't to paint it like an unsupervised Red Bull-fueled teenager driving the family sedan – the point was to force myself completely out of my comfort zone and make me try something new. First in waterolor and then in oil. I doubt I'll make a point of painting like this in the future, but hey, I had fun doing it anyway.

So there you have it. Me painting watercolor again. Who would have thunk it? So much to learn and so little time. Look out!. Conserve those whites...

TJK






4 reader comments:

Timothy Young said...

Your making me want to pull out my watercolors.

Thomas Kitts said...

Well go get 'em and splash some around!

T

Frances Buckmaster said...

Thanks for the article, Thomas. You completely hit the target with what's going on in my urban sketching life. I bounced off of this blog article in my own blog article for Urban Sketchers Tacoma today...showing a couple of my recent more 'loosey-goosey' sketches. I love your many handy hints and your sense of humor, and general all-round knowledge/experience... and your paintings too, of course. I linked to your blog so our urban sketchers would come visit, hopefully.

Thomas Kitts said...

Hello Frances. I've heard about your Urban Sketchers. Let me know the next time your group hits PDX and I'd like to tag along. And thank you for the kind words.