Saturday, July 17, 2010

Watercolor Summer 2010

Getting into Our Right Mind. Glass and Metal

I know that most of my students thought that I had lost what little mind I had left with our first assignment of the semester, but as you later found out, there is method to my madness.

As a teacher it is my job to help you along your artistic journey. I watch as I see my students struggle with even simplified scenes, I know what they are going through because I've been there myself, but until they understand on their own, the struggle will continue.

Most of that struggle comes from how our brains work. Students who have been with me for a while will get tired of hearing me mentioning Betty Edwards' "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" but it is an excellent book on how we see things and how our brain processes the information dividing it up into the left and right sides of the brain. It is the right side we need to tap into as artists but more often than not, the left side just won't let go of the brush so we can get closer to our artistic goals. This is the struggle and we need to find ways to convince ourselves that it is okay to let that creative side take control, which was the purpose of the exercise.

The left side of your brain has a very short attention span, if you will. It wants to name things and move on. If it looks like a chair or a flower or a car or whatever, that is what it is now let's move on! It is your right side that sees the difference between a delicate rose bud and a wilting daisy; or a beat up old Vega and a hot new Porsche. It sees the beauty and nuance of the world around you but with the left brain in charge, it is like driving on the freeway with someone with a lead foot and you are trying to look at the scenery. You need to find a way to make it stop.

Fortunately, we do have ways to slow that side down and the more you feel that shift in your mind, the easier it will become. One of the best ways to slow your brain down is to turn your picture upside down adding the element of the opposite hand brings it to a stand still! What you are left with are shapes and color, the very thing that interests your creative side. When you get right down to it that is what all painting is about: Shapes and color.

You will hear me say quite often that it is just shapes: Shapes of the highlights, shapes of the shadows, shapes within shapes. If when you get done putting those shapes together and those shapes are similar to the original shapes you will have a painting that looks close to what you pictured in your minds eye, the picture will be there.

All in all, I think all of my classes did a great job. It was different and a challenge but in the end what we had surprised everyone and that is a good thing. It is also good to know that if you do have problems with a painting, turn it upside down. You don't have to paint it with your opposite hand unless you want to but it gives you that option to tap into your creative side.


We started a bit on what we will be doing for the next couple of weeks and that is working to create glass and metal. I want to just do some studies to begin with because it is an important step to understanding how everything goes together.

As I mentioned in class, most beginning and intermediate artists want to get right to the business of painting their masterpiece but more often than not, there are elements in that masterpiece they are at a total loss as to how to proceed. Rather than stopping and doing a few studies to work out the problem, they will work and re-work the areas that cause them problems until the rest of the painting suffers and there goes the masterpiece.

I just did a quick demo on focusing in on certain areas of the subject like a glass bottle or polished metal vase, neither are as they seem. Glass in particular can be reflective, transparent and have its own color, things you need to deal with if you want a convincing piece of glass in your painting. Even if you are doing a more impressionistic rendering, you need to see what is going on in that glass so what you have will look transparent instead of solid. Glass and water have a lot in common so this is good practice for both.

Metal is much the same with out being transparent. Metal has its own color but it also picks up the color of things around it, even burnished metal or tarnished metal, they will still reflect the things around them.

We will work on this more in the next class so don't forget to bring something glass and something metal, I say this because it helps to have it in front of you rather than going by a photo alone.