Two watercolors I painted at two waterfront parks in Manhattan. I painted them in May and have only now got around to posting them. Looking at these paintings I can still remember the thrilling sense of freedom when winter ends and it's finally warm enough to paint outside. Sort of how kids feel when June comes around and school is out for summer. Yippee!
What I got down on my paper doesn't completely match what I had in mind when I first spotted these two spectacular views on the piers. Don't get me wrong, I'm not unhappy with them! But the results are an approximation and a surprise. I'm still pretty new to watercolor, and In these paintings I concentrated on experiments with washes and dry brush techniques. I didn't know how they would turn out. Of course, an artist who wants to grow never stops experimenting and learning. After all, we're always inventing ways to interpret a three dimensional world in a two dimensional medium. Not only that, but we've only got a finite number of pigments to describe all the infinite and dazzling colors of nature. So we're always reaching. And then reaching for more. And so it goes.
This was a complicated subject and frankly I was a little intimidated by it. Since I'm relatively new to watercolor, I wondered how I could possibly preserve the tiny white flowers in the planter and the skinny little sprays of water in the fountain ... when there was a whole forest of trees standing right behind them. Well, the answer is: I didn't.
Actually I take that back, I did, a little. With negative painting. That is, instead of painting the sprays of water directly I painted everything around them and left the paper white where the sprays went. After everything dried I used a wee bit of white gouache* on top for extra oomph. However, I didn't have the patience to paint around every single itty-bitty white flower in the planter. So first I painted the foliage and let it dry. Then I laid in the flowers with gouache right on top. I even used gouache to lighten up some of the foliage in front. Hey, Homer and Sargent did this all the time. So I guess it's all right!
*(Gouache is an opaque water-based paint, so it can be used to paint light colors over dark. Unlike watercolor, which is transparent.)
Watercolor is a gorgeous, magical medium. But until recently I never learned how to use it. Frankly I was intimidated. Why? Because I was trained in oil painting, which is an opaque medium. With oil paints if you make a mistake you can paint right over it. Or easily wipe it off and start again. That's why my adventure in water paints began with gouache, which is a kind of "starter" medium for oil painters. Gouache is opaque, and like oil paint there's wiggle room for painting over serious flubs. Whereas the transparent nature of watercolor means there's only so much "adjusting" you can do. Sure, you can lift the paint off a little. But once you've put a stroke down on paper you're pretty much stuck with it.
And that's not all. With watercolor you need to plan where your light areas and highlights will go -- way before you even begin painting. Once you put down a dark color you can forget about painting over it with a light one. The dark colors underneath will show right through. Because hey, they're transparent, right? (Although there are a few tricks that help in recovering your lights if you do happen to forget them. Like using white gouache. Purists won't touch the stuff, but many great watercolorists did, including John Singer Sargent himself.)
So, you may ask, with all these complications, why not just stick to gouache? Well, gouache is a beautiful medium, it's true. But even so, it has somewhat of a chalky look to it. Unlike watercolor, whose transparency gives the colors a special brilliance and luminosity. And who doesn't lust after gorgeous, luminous colors? Well then.
Okay, so it was time to try out my brand new watercolor set. I brought it along last week when I met up with another artist pal in Queens. We decided to check out Flushing Meadows Corona Park, at the site of the old 1964 World's Fair. And there it was, the Unisphere! Shining brightly in the afternoon sunlight. Commissioned to celebrate the dawn of the space age and the fair's theme of "Peace Through Understanding." What a beautiful globe and a wonderful theme. A theme that is still so significant in these contentious times. Definitely worth sketching!
'Twas a long, busy spring ... with not enough time for making art, let alone blogging about it. Sad. But I'm back. And all kitted up with a brand new box of Faber Castell - Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils, wheeeeee! Aren't they gorgeous?
The colors are rich and beautiful when you draw with them like regular colored pencils. But the color really pops once you brush them with water. Of course I wish I had more (and more and more) colors. And I'll probably get them eventually. But so far I'm loving this nifty assortment of thirty-six.
Couldn't wait to try them! So on a hot summer afternoon I took them out for a walk in Central Park. Where I found a cool spot in the shade of this wonderful old American elm tree.
Valentine's Day. Let's celebrate by taking a peek at the amorous whipped cream confections of French Rococo painter François Boucher (1703-1770). A fashionable artist in King Louis XV's court, he had a playful, sensuous style that was sentimental and often quite erotic.
Some critics find Boucher's work superficial and vacuous - an expression of the decadent “One Percent” of his time. Well, they've got me there. But all the same, I surrender to the seduction of his luscious, liquid brushstrokes. Not to mention the sheer pleasure of gazing at his bubbly ribbons and bows. And creamy pinks and baby blues. Yes, even the “99 Percent” can enjoy a bit of dessert now and then.
Summer is one of my favorite seasons, because it's great fun to draw and paint outdoors. But there's hot weather, and then there's HOT weather. And last week New York City was so hot and sticky that I decided to paint indoors. Fortunately I keep a bag of penny candy around for still life emergencies.
I love painting shiny, transparent wrappers, and penny candies are perfect for that. But they can also present problems. Because candy colors are quite intense, and if you're not careful the painting can become loud and garish. So I decided to stay mainly with yellows and oranges. And I threw in a few soft brown caramels to tone them down a bit.
When I saw these two pears at the market I loved the way they looked with their beautiful colors and dark purplish leaves. And I thought they'd be perfect for a still life. So I carefully carried them home, hoping and praying that the leaves wouldn't break off. And somehow they made it, leaves intact. But then, just as I was setting up the still life, there went one of them, snap! Oy, what to do? After careful analysis I decided to glue it back on. Who would know? Shhhhh, don't tell.
One recent morning I took a trip up to Washington Heights to meet Sam Adoquei and some of his other students at the Hispanic Society of America. Chances are you've never heard of the place. Most tourists and even native New Yorkers don't know about this secret treasure in uptown Manhattan. If you decide to go there, and I highly recommend that you do, you just might be the only one there besides the guards.
From the name of the museum you might expect it to be a community center for the numerous Dominicans that live in the neighborhood. But actually it is filled with art, books and historical objects from Spain, Portugal and Latin America--including a few paintings by master artists El Greco and Velazquez.
On this visit our mission was to take a look at the highlight of the museum: their collection of exquisite light-filled paintings by Joaquín Sorolla (Spanish, 1863-1923). Here is my interpretation of a few of the fascinating things Sam told us as he led us through the galleries.
If you've never seen the paintings of Sam Adoquei you are in for a special treat. Aside from being a fabulous and formidable artist he is also an excellent teacher, and this summer I decided to hone my skills by signing up for his Central Park landscape workshop. In his classes Sam generously shares not only his incredible knowledge of the "how to" of painting, but also the "whys and wherefores," with many examples from art history and his own work. He gives his students a solid foundation with plenty of food for thought.
One morning he gave an inspiring talk about how landscape artists use color from three different perspectives: expressionism, impressionism and realism. Here is my summary of what he told us, as best I can remember.
My name is Julie Kessler and I'm a representational artist. I love painting in oils with their vibrant, juicy colors. Lately I've been exploring the unique qualities of gouache, watercolors, colored pencils and other media. I started this blog to share my work and thoughts about making art. I toss other things into the mix too, such as painters that I love, and art books and exhibits that inspire me. Your comments are welcome. I'd love to hear from you!