Thursday, May 17, 2012

Evolution of Painting Style

another azalea sketch
approx 4" x 6"
ink and watercolor on paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

I am having a bit of a style crisis. I think it is a natural part of artistic growth.

In the beginning most artists just want the skills to be able to draw something recognizable. If a new artist draws or paints an apple and people say "Wow! That is a great apple!" they are thrilled. Mainly because the people who commented didn't think it was a plum or a pepper.

However, as their skills improve they start wanting more.

For me, I am finding that I want to paint in a more "painterly" fashion - still realistic, but a little looser.

However, when I sit down with a brush, what comes out is very controlled. The part of my brain that controls the brush just can't help it.

Alright, if I am totally honest, this style crisis effects more than just my painting style. I hold the misguided belief that if I am in control of everything nothing bad will ever happen, life will be made up of rainbows and butterflies and the whole world will be happy.

At least I recognize that it is a misguided belief.

And I am working on being comfortable with relinquishing control - in my paintings and in life.

Typically in my watercolor paintings I have worked a lot on dry paper. When I apply the paint on dry paper it is easier to control where the paint goes.

I also mix my colors on the palette so I make sure I get the exact color and value I want before brushing it on the paper.

While this method of controlled application is very effective for painting realistic and detailed works, there is a trade off. Pre-mixing colors on palette and applying them to the dry paper means I lose some of the magic of watercolor.

One of the things I love most about watercolor is the way the paints mix on wet paper. Beautiful things can happen when an artist "lets the paints do the work for her".

But letting the paints do the work requires that I give up some of the control and take on a certain amount of courage.

Since courage can be harder to come by on large studio pieces, I decided to start with baby steps, also known as sketches.

After completing the azalea sketch last week, I knew I wanted to try it again only this time working more "wet on wet." Working "wet on wet" mean working on wet paper so the pigment can move and spread on its own.

Using last week's sketch as a reference, I started by creating an ink sketch of the outlines of the flowers and leaves.

Once that was complete, I applied yellow to all of the leaves. While it was still wet, I brushed in greens and blues and let the paint do its thing.

Once I was happy with the leaves I moved on to the flowers. Again I started with a light yellow wash and worked in with different yellows, yellow-oranges and oranges while the paper was still wet.

Although the outcome of the sketch might not look all that different, I was happy with the process of how I applied the paint. And I love the places where you can really tell that the watercolor pigments mixed and blended on their own.

Best of all, I gave up a little of my control and nothing horrible happened. In fact, it was fun to try a new technique.

Having fun builds courage, so I will definitely be trying more wet-on-wet experiments. I'm looking forward to seeing how these exercises influence my style.

One of the things I love about art is that there are always new things to try and always room for growth. Life in the studio is never boring!!


Robyn Sinclair said...

The colours are blending beautifully, Stacy. It must be the season for artists to try to break free. I've been sketching on large paper, standing at an easel. It helps. :)

M. J. Muir said...

Hi Stacy - Your new painting is lovely. As I read over your thoughts you made me think about my thoughts when I need a different approach and I have found the artist's video workshops can be so inspiring. Recently I took advantage of a free weekend and I watched four hours of free demonstrations by two different watercolour artists. I always think of you when I watch one of these excellent workshops which last about 30 minutes to an hour. They have over 150 different artist's workshops available. They have demos of each one so you know what style of painter before you commit to one. Anyway. For me, these workshops have always taught me new ways of doing things for my own satisfaction. But you know me. I am all over the place. Anyway. Just thoughts from me. Ignore me if you want to. hahaha.
Next time they offer a free weekend I will let you know.

Stacy said...

Robyn, I've seen your recent sketches and love them! Are you following your whims or is there a program you are using? I also saw the watercolor of the windows you recently posted. I've always thought you have a natural talent for watercolors.

MJ I have been thinking I need to identify watercolor artists with a style similar to what I am going for. The artists video workshops sounds like a good place to start because if I like their style I can immediately see the techniques they use to achieve it. And free weekends make it sound even better! :D I got your email and will be checking out your recommendations. Thank you!!