Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sticking My Neck Out

fluid acrylic and transfer on Crescent board

watercolor on gessoed Crescent board

This past week I received Celebrate Your Creative Self: More than 25 Exercises to Unleash the Artist Within, by Mary Todd Beam, through interlibrary loan. I've had an urge to try some paintings that are experimental and outside my comfort zone. What surprises lay in store if I use new materials, try new approaches? This North Light book appealed to me because it uses a series of exercises that build upon each other. The first few deal with saving white areas in paintings, the next on creating interesting surfaces, the next on personal color choices, then design elements, and so on. I'm never going to get through this book before it's due back at the library, so I'll probably have to take some good notes.

This week I just am working in the first chapter. Beam uses illustration board, and lots of fluid acrylics, neither of which I use very often. All the exercises suggest a limited palette of either watercolors or acrylics, basically yellow ochre, pthalo blue, alizarin crimson and burnt sienna. I don't use those colors frequently, but since all the lessons use the same colors, it isn't too expensive. I also invested in some gel medium, foam brushes, and an adhesive spreader. It's playtime! One frustrating thing I noticed about her exercises is that although she does a clear job of listing materials and explaining the point of each demonstration, the photo of her completed painting does not match the steps she describes. Her finished painting uses techniques not described in the demonstration, leaving me wanting to know, "How'd she do that?" Guess I'll have to figure it out for myself.

The two paintings on this page are my initial attempts. The first is an acrylic created by laying white Con-tact shelf paper on the illustration board and making abstract overlapping shapes, including a circle, a square, and a triangle. I used an craft blade to cut away the background, and a broad brush to add color. I peeled away the adhesive paper and decided what to do with the light shapes reserved. After that I just experimented, finally layering enough color to be happy. I decided at the end to make a transfer of a crow from my sketchbook, added him to the bottom, because the colors and shapes reminded me of a folktale about a raven that brings sunlight to mankind.

The bottom painting is watercolor on gessoed Crescent board. It was not gessoed to start with, but my first try ended up muddled and dark, and I wanted to use the board I had already cut. I took a photo from my botanical garden field trip, transformed it to black and white, then outlined the main shapes with a Sharpie. That gave me a point of departure for general shapes. Then I just painted in the watercolors thickly, encouraging some drips and splatters. The end result doesn't look much like the original photo, but it does suggest the shapes of leaves, and it does have some of the colors that made an impression on me from my visit to the Bolz Conservatory. I tried to add some extra interest by taking advantage of the way I could lift paint from the gessoed surface. It looks nothing like anything I have painted in the past couple years, but that is the point.


Teri C said...

Very interesting concepts and very beautiful. Over time I have become so in love with colorful abstracts, and I love these.

mARTa said...

I love the intensity of your colors!!!! These are fabulous!