Watercolor: Three Lemons on Blue (& Haters leaving Comments)

Three Lemons on Blue 5x8 Watercolor
This summer, the haters are out in swarms. Among my community of artisans with an online presence , this is a frequent topic. Haters skulk behind the bluish light of their computer screens, and crouch under the cloak of anonymity, while launching criticism, sarcasm, and insults in the comments of social media sites. Some of the javelins are tossed by "Helpers".  They include a caveat "I hope this helps"; a short little primer before an avalanche diagramming your mistakes with carefully crafted "you-don't-know-what-you're-doing" pointers. Long-winded, jagged-edged word-smithing, punctuated with LOL's, as though a punch in the gut would be more tolerable if the hitter smiles and laughs while swinging.

Posting the results of creative endeavors - as a writer, a painter, a musician, a crafter or a chef, etc - takes some courage. Silent supporters and vocal critics are all gazing through the same pipes at creations generated by the ambitious hands of makers sweating with the hope of some sort of achievement.  And communication on the internet is not a conversation on the couch. We don't have the benefit of acquaintanceship, carriage & gesture, vocal inflection & tone, etc. Thumper's Law dates back to at least the 1940's: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. That's some seventy-year old wisdom.

I don't think it's a good idea to reply & argue with haters.  They would thrive on the attention they're craving. My grandfather used to say "Acid will eat it's own container." Don't internalize that which does not nourish you, and keep your creative/making spirit well-fed & sprightly. So, I don't publish sarcastic comments - I delete the barbs & starve them of oxygen. Direct the urge to Take Action to better results. Because there's a glorious amount of creating to do. Throw back the curtains, put on some music, and grab a paint brush.

How do you handle insults and hateful comments?

Art Quote
It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
President Theodore Roosevelt in a Speech at the Sorbonne, April 1910


Water Soluble Graphite & Watercolor: Waiting for the Coffee to Brew (& a video of Jamie Wyeth painting a large watercolor on cardboard)

Waiting for the Coffee to Brew - 8x9 Water Soluble Graphite & Watercolor
My friend JMC came over the other day with new art supplies.  We set up a still life and used water soluble graphite in a tin (made by Artgraf), and a water soluble sketching pencil (made by Derwent) [See below].  The products are quite different in saturation & lift-ability on cold press paper vs plate-finish illustration board.  The saturation was much lighter in value on the cold press, but very dark & rich on the plate finish surface.  The cold press paper also didn't allow the graphite washes to lift or erase as easily as one might expect, but while re-wetting the graphite on the illustration board, it lifted completely, to stark white, so if you wanted to knock value back just a bit with a wet brush, that required some strategy to avoid lightbulb whites. Who knew paper would make such a difference in the performance of simple pencil lead?  Art-Brain-Aerobics. 

Last night, I started another experiment with the graphite - again on illustration board - laying it down in thick and thin washes, and adding watercolor.  It was satisfying to drybrush the facial details today, while listening to an audio book.  I often wonder how Andrew & Jamie Wyeth work(ed) in drybrush on such large pieces, as it requires quite a bit of focus and concentration for me. This week, I found a video of Jamie painting a mass of seagulls and a figure on a huge piece of cardboard. You can see it below. 

Have you found any art making videos on youtube or vimeo that inspire you? If so, please share the links in the comments.  The art above is available in my Etsy Shop.

Scumbling loose washes of color over the graphite
Testing effects of water soluble graphite on a still life using a pencil (by Dewent) and
graphite compressed in a tin (by Artgraf) on plate finish illustration board
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a Jamie Wyeth exhibit right now. If I lived in New England, I'd go, but since I don't, I'm very grateful for digital publishing, because we can all have a little glimpse & preview the exhibition here.  We can also watch this compelling short video (below) of the artist working with watercolor on a giant sheet of cardboard (!!). (If you get this blog via email, you can see the video here.)

Art Quote
I look at myself as just a recorder. I just want to record things that interest me in my life and so forth. These paintings are like part of a journal to me. It's part of my life - I'm in Monhegan - it's as if I'm drawing a diary. And again, I think a painting - I mean, what is it? It's a piece of canvas, a stick with some hair on the end of it, and then there's some sticky stuff called paint, and you apply that. And there's nobody standing over you, saying "Paint!" every day. And I think in painting, much like music or a pianist or whatnot, you have to practice, and it certainly isn't all inspired! I mean, many times, working with the gulls, there's some sort of drudgery - but once in awhile - things really click, and that's... that's the opiate!  When that gull all of a sudden breathes and becomes a fire source, I mean that's why you paint! That's why I paint.
Jamie Wyeth


Watercolor: Atlantis [and musing about making a living as an artist]

Atlantis 7x10 Watercolor on paper Sold
Thanks to everyone who emailed me words of encouragement and camaraderie after reading last week's post about artists' rejection. I enjoyed the shared stories, historical anecdotes and like-minded scenarios. I also loved hearing about how so many of you slogged through the rejection, and had really good things sprout from your perseverance.

I had an accomplished art instructor years ago (before social media) who gave a small group of artists a lecture about being industrious in the art world. He said if you took all the artists in America with abundant talent, and put them in one place, you might potentially populate the island of Manhattan in New York. Then, if you removed the artists who didn't prioritize the passionate practice of their craft, and the artists who were too "thin-skinned" to handle rejection and criticism, and the artists who lacked the social skills or desire to meet patrons, and talk about their work, and the artists who couldn't focus or stay on-task to meet deadlines or work in series, you might reduce that group to a quarter of the original size. So, the world of "working artists" might not be such a big swath of the population after all, and there was potential space in the crowd for you too.

Talking to patrons about process while painting at an Art Festival

None of his theory was based on fact; his calculations were conjectural, but his point was to not be swayed by populous competition in the art world, and to be aware that many of our talented peers want to make art as a livelihood, but they might be missing some of the parts in the toolbox that he felt was crucial to make a living at it.  His lecture was encouraging at the time, as a newbie painter. It's easy to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of showing your work, and everything that entails related to marketing, inventory management, presentation skills, etc. Especially now, when social media gives us a telescope to see into so many uber talented artists' studios. But show it anyway. Post your work, share it on facebook, instagram, twitter and pinterest.  Make an art blog and post every painting, sculpture and photograph. Take every opportunity to practice talking about your art, and encourage your peers to do the same, so maybe, with diligent habit, we really might have enough friends to occupy all of Manhattan. :)

Art Quote
As Flannery O’Connor said answering a similar question [why are you drawn to uncomfortable or dark subjects], “It is the nature of my talent.” That does not mean, however, that I do not enjoy the lighter side, because I do—and I find a great vent for that nature of my talent in children’s books. It’s yin and yang. To explore the dark, one must explore the light as well, and vice versa.

 As William Faulkner said, the only thing worthwhile is failure; but failure coming in the striving for perfection. I seriously believe that. So, therefore, all I ever strive for is perfection. But knowing that perfection is elusive at best, and impossible in fact, is the internal “fuel” that keeps me going day in and day out.
Barry Moser, interviewed by Becky Crook for The Other Journal, 2009


Intaglio Etching: Sure Temptation (and a great video tutorial for a cloth & hardboard portfolio)

Sure Temptation, 6 x 9 Etching & Watercolor

Available in my Etsy Shop.  This intaglio etching & watercolor was the result of a print-exchange with 12 fellow printmakers. We clipped the alphabetical headers from the upper corners of the Los Angeles Yellow Pages, and tossed them into a box. Each artist pulled a slip from the box, and created a print inspired by their selection; I pulled Sure Temptation - the boundary page between the S & T listings. The word temptation conjures Eve in the Garden of Eden.  I hadn't pondered Eve's story too deeply before that print exchange, but after researching the details, I imagined Eve, with innocent demeanor, and naive carriage, in the seconds before her first exchange with the serpent at the tree of knowledge.

Sketches around the yellow pages clip I pulled from the box
The Artist's Proof, getting some watercolor

Sketches and the beginnings of the drawing on a coated plate, headed for the acid bath

Beveling zinc plates so the edges don't cut paper, or felt blankets on the press
If you've participated in a print exchange, and you have a pile of beautiful prints to store, or you have art and photos you'd like to keep safe and protected from light, I found this wonderful tutorial online by printmaker Graham Stephens of Diode Press to make a cloth & hardboard portfolio. His instructions are clear and concise, and the end product is beautiful. (If you get this blog via email, you can watch the video here.)

Art Quote
One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe, and find ashes.
Annie Dillard


Watercolor: Rieke's Bowl & a question about artists' studios work surfaces

Rieke's Bowl 3x6 Watercolor Sold
I've been working on a large painting on the floor because it's too big for my easel. It reminded me that I had a display board in my apartment a few decades ago, mounted to the wall in the living room, and it was terrific to pin or tape large sheets of paper - for charcoal drawings, pastels & watercolors, etc. The ability to have several pieces up at the same time, in process, had a big impact on how I looked at my work. Standing back to survey drawings & paintings from across the room, or from the adjacent kitchen was incredibly informative, and I could walk over and make adjustments on the fly. It was also helpful when trying to work in a series. See some examples in other artists' studios below:

Alexi Duque's studio

Andy Frost's studio, with his pal Woody
Narangkar Glover's studio
I didn't know till recently that quilters use display walls to lay out patterns and colors for their quilts. The benefits are exactly the same as a painter's - squinting to see values, checking the path of the eye through a color way, pattern or composition, etc.  They're just using fabric instead of pigments.

Here's a video (below) about using 2  4'x6'  $11 sheets of foam insulation to make a quilting display wall covered in flannel, so that fabric pieces stick and can be moved around.  (If you get this blog via email, the video can be seen here.) I'm thinking about making one for my studio with this same material, minus the flannel. What do you think? Have any of you made a display wall in your studio to work larger, and if so, what did you use as a support?

Art Quote
One of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought.
Albert Einstein