This painting was an unexpected surprise. As I looked at it when finished I saw a valley running near a mountain with pine trees. Yet it started as just blocks of color in order to practice the “pine tree” technique. I had to ask myself, to what extent does the painting ‘suggest’ and the mind ‘interpret’ what is seen. Not a particularly surprising thought, but a bit startling to actually experience it. The larger version ‘Three Pines’ is at this gallery page.
I stumbled across an old photograph taken in the 1980s. It was when I was just learning how to set aperture and exposure time to take low light photographs. I was using Ektachrome 35mm slide film at the time. All I have left of the slide is this very bad scan, also done on the first scanner I ever owned — the name of which escapes me.
I always liked the photo mostly for sentimental reasons, recalling my joy at being able to capture what the sun looked like and being able to position the shot to have the sun setting right on top of the dock.
I wanted to know what would happen if I tried to capture this same image as an acrylic painting – I needed some experience mixing colors in acrylics which has turned out to be a problem since I cannot mix on the brush for some reason.
I began the painting by using painter’s tape to mask off the horizon line, and used black gesso for the sky. After that was dry I painted in the sky and let it dry. Next was to mix a color for the water and add it up to the horizon line. The rest of the painting was done by mixing colors (very dark browns, very dark greens) and finishing the components, adding the sun highlights at the end.
Obviously I was not able to render the sun the way I thought I should have, and will mask if off leaving a white disk should I ever try this effect again. But all in all, I am not upset with the result, which I’ve titled ‘Boca Ciega Sunset‘ (click for full image.)
Lots of lessons lately, or maybe understanding is a better word. In creating this image I began to think about the difference between art and craft again. For me, and I realize all these concepts are personal rather than general, art is the conceptualization while craft is the skill with which the concept is implemented in the chosen medium.
Now thinking that brought me back to a couple of my original reasons for starting this blog — improving photography and discussing my work in videography. I have perhaps surprised myself in realizing that to create the “mood” or “reaction” I hope to achieve, I need to choose the medium (photo, video, watercolor, acrylics, and so on) with as much care as anything else.
For example is you check out my Payne’s Prairie Foal image I found it could only work as a photograph to convey the “mood” I was after. On the other hand, the photo I took of the Amelia Island Lighthouse, which is somewhat off the beaten path and not where a vista with water can be approached, seemed to cry out for watercolor.
I have been trying to zero in a bit on what drives my decision concerning whether I should publish an image as a photograph or as a painting. When I did this one I at least got one clue. The painting is very close to the actual photograph but by rendering it as a painting I was able to declutter some of the vegetation and to slightly enlarge the sabal palm which is the main subject. But indeed as I wrote in the description this image caught my eye as we were walking between two points when visiting the preserve. The full resolution image is here.
I came across the most curious discussion. I searched for a watercolorist presentation and discussion group on one of the popular artistic media websites. What I stumbled into was an intense debate on the subject of “who *really* is an artist.”
It started with a discussion over whether a piece of work which was predominately watercolors but also included some ink lines was *really* watercolor art? That moved on to discussions concerning *how much* of the work was ink and how much watercolors (ah, the artist ink police!). Not stopping there, the discussion went one about whether one should use a pencil sketch as an underdrawing, and if one did were they *really* a watercolor painter.
That wasn’t the end. The next subject concerned why watercolorists represented only about 10% of the marketable art world. (Internecine fighting would be my answer) Another way to interpret that was “are watercolors really art?”
So here’s what comes to mind. Watercolors in basic sets are available to most kindergarten children, just as water-soluble finger paints are available. The argument seems to be that if the medium is available at the kindergarten level, anything produced with that medium is probably not *serious art.*
Oh balderdash (I cleaned that up). The result can be art regardless of how it is produced. I would tell my new colleagues to stop trying to be so full of themselves, or to paraphrase Laura Ingraham — shut up and paint, don’t worry about what you use.
Sometime around 1965 I took an undergraduate course entitled “Introduction to Modern Art” (I know that surprises those who are familiar with my subsequent career in computer science). The paper I had to write as part of the studies was on Spanish artist Joan Miro. I got the clever idea to produce a really catchy title page by including a representation of one of the amoeba like shapes Miro included in some of his works. In making that representation I did not make a solid outline, but instead scrunched up the shape something like a kidney bean getting ready to spit out a watermelon seed. My instructor graded my paper as perfect, but nicked me a half a grade over the tiny, nearly microscopic, gap in the shape’s outline.
I have spent 52 years thinking I had been “wronged” – that the error was so minor as to not detract from the intent, cleverness, or content. As I experiment with various watercolor techniques to render my first true painting – the Spanish mission noted in my previous post – I decided to try color wash over an ink outline drawing. When I finished the drawing I could not help but notice the places where I got “sloppy” with the pen and did not complete the lines correctly. I decided I need to re draw the item, and that my old art instructor was right after all — in a drawing little details mean a lot.
This is my sketch of Ingrid Bergman as she appeared in Casablanca — a movie I have always found to be as much about style as about acting and writing. The gallery is posted at this link — here. I think this will be my last of the classic movie stars — unless something or someone particularly inspires me. I have branched out into landscapes drawn from imagination and enjoy doing those, but more importantly, I feel I am now ready to go back to black and white photography and see what I can produce. Meanwhile friends “we’ll always have Paris.” (grin)