As I had written in the previous blog entry, I was dissatisfied with all my attempts to “paint” dew sprinkled over cob webs. Then I determined to drape real “jewels” (beads from my mother’s old costume jewelry) between the dead stalks of mullein to better express the excitement and surprise I had felt when I found the dew soaked webs that early fall morning.
First I collaged the water colored print with pieces torn from “failed” watercolor paintings, adding at least 1/8 of an inch between the support and the surface of the collage. Now the “webs” of beads fall loosely as they festoon from plant to plant. The different levels of the painting’s surface please me immensely.
I have created an artistic memory of a lovely fall morning and woven into that memory articles from my beloved mother’s life. The three dimensionality of the work allows the light to play off the pieces as the morning sunlight had danced through the beads of dew. Around all I have added block prints of railroad tracks to complete “Railroad Garden; Mullein, Fall”, about 24×40 in.
In my seasonal rhythm of working the time for watercolor collage is again in ascendency. I began though, not with collage but with printmaking, specifically block printing or stamping that grew to include collage.
I have been attracted by the shape of the wildflower, mullein, that grows along the railroad track in my area. These wild plants are found almost exclusively along the railroad because they are mowed down by cutting crews along the roadsides or weeded from our yards during their summer growth period. I have painted them growing from their emergence in the late spring through their yellow blooms in the summer.
Last year in the fall I was taking an early morning walk along the railroad track beside my studio just as the sun was topping the mountains but before its strength had dried the dew. I was astonished to see that the tall, skinny, dried mullein plants were festooned with webs of the orb spider, heavy and drooping with glistening drops of dew. I just had to add this reality to my mullein depictions. I would make block prints and watercolor them as I had in the summer.
Mullein along the Rail Road Tracks, block print, watercolor, 42×15″, private collection
Village, July, oil on canvas, 48×36″
I am so excited about the development of my new “Mullein” piece that I want to share my journey . I began with the design of the linoleum blocks for printing. As in image no. 1 above, I designed and cut several blocks and combined them in different ways to create mullein plants of different shapes and sizes. Then I water colored three different versions.
The issue at this point was how to depict the spider webs. Immediately I decided not to print or paint. In the first I sewed the web pattern with metallic thread and pearls; in the second I negatively painted around the web design and sewed the metallic thread and a few pearls on the painting. In the third (long horizontal) I scoured the paper with a blade in a more or less accurate reflection of the spider web patten. I painted around the scouring then sewed an approximate pattern with metallic thread and pearls over the scared paper.
No result satisfied me. How to treat the final vertical print above? The big breakthrough came at this point and I have been working to execute my vision since then. I will finally finish in the next few days–keep posted!
As is my usual habit when I went south in the Winter, 2014 I determined to try some new art medium; this time with an objective in mind–to produce a coloring book inspired by my own original watercolor plein air paintings. I enrolled at the New Orleans School of Arts and Crafts to learn the art and craft of pen and ink drawing. I have used commercial, loaded pens to sketch for years. But my need here was different; I needed to deliberately reproduce the images depicted in my watercolor paintings. These paintings, themselves had involved NO DRAWING.
In class I mastered the tools, i.e. the different pens, quill, inks and practiced. Plus I got a lot of good advice when I explained my goal.
Initially, I used the computer to reduce the painted images to a semblance of line drawings. From these computer “line” drawings under tracing paper I eliminated lines until I had twisted them into an image I liked. From there I used old fashioned transfer paper under the tracing paper images to get the image to drawing paper suitable for ink. I used a thin nib to make the first ink drawing and had it scanned so that I could work and work until I had a drawing I approved of. From there I eventually used 2 additional nibs, each producing a thicker line than the one before.
You can view a selection from the coloring book by clicking Catskill Coloring Book in the Blogroll below and to the right.
For the month of April, 2014 I was flattered to hang a show of my most recent New Orleans inspired watercolor collages at the Ariodante Gallery, Julia Street, New Orleans. I had been creating watercolor collages from “failed” watercolors for several years. In 2013 I rented a studio in the city and from one of my plein air Curbside Studio watercolors took a theme for the paintings above.
In New Orleans I paint from the street curb, which I call my “Curbside Studio”. I walk the streets with a bag filled with brushes, paint and paper and when I am struck by a shape or the light I just stop and sit down on the curb. This ground level seat gives a common low viewpoint to my NOLA paintings.
From one such painting, “Old House, no. 2” I worked on elephantine sized Arches watercolor paper cut in half lengthwise. I tore sheets of paper from a roll of Arches watercolor paper and randomly painted the paper colors that appealed to me and that I had an idea would be useful in the paintings I was imagining. This paper I tore into shapes and began to fashion the finished paintings above. I secured all with acrylic adhesive.
The four paintings above: 1. left, “Old New Orleans House”, 2. “Crape Myrtle”, 3. “Shotgun House at Mardi Gras” and 4. “New Orleans Shotgun House at Nigh”t, formed the basis of the collection at the Ariodante Gallery and was augmented by plein air paintings made of the streets of my New Orleans neighborhood and the French Quarter.
A collector recently purchased “Crepe Myrtle” and had it framed on a dark background. The effect was stunning. All the places where the collage extended beyond the edges of the painting became even more dramatic!
I again agreed to coordinate the Andes Margaretville Roxbury Open Studios tour for 2014. This time I elected not to open my studio but instead visited studios. It was a most interesting event and one we have decided to repeat in 2015 only this time with a new coordinator. All such continuing events benefit from new blood with brand new ideas. Everything I have heard has convinced 2015 will be expanded to new visitors and exciting new events associated with the two day affair.
New Orleans House, Watercolor, 14×21 in. originally uploaded by aht9.
I have just received notice that my painting, “New Orleans House”, has been awarded an Honorable Mention in the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society’s Online Members Exhibition, 2013. You can view the show, awards and judges comments at www.PennsylvaniaWatercolorSociety.org
This New Orleans house is one of many painted en plein air, sitting on the street curb in the spring, 2012. I call this mobile studio, Curbside Studio, any curb in NOLA. Others paintings from the Curbside Studio can be viewed to the right.