Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Silo & Barns

Today is the start of World Watercolor Month!   All this month, watercolorist are celebrating this wonderful elusive medium.  I'll try to post here as much as I can.   [Check out my Instagram feed for daily posts]




© Robin Edmundson, 'Silo & Barns', watercolor, 9 x 12 inches.



This is another piece that developed from a drawing started in the Ian Roberts study group.  It's interesting and fun to try a composition out on paper that is differently proportioned.   It stretches and compresses things in interesting ways.   

Here's the original drawing:


I'll likely paint this one again on a larger piece of paper with proportions similar to the drawing.  I like those trees on the right a whole lot.  

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Hay Fields & Clouds


©Robin Edmundson, 'Hay Fields & Cloud', 10 x 14 inches.  Framed to 16 x 20 inches.  $375

One of my goals for taking Ian Roberts' drawing class was to have a more anchoring, practical and productive creative process.  [Translated, that means to find a way to actually DO and enjoy doing value studies.  It just makes for better art.]

I started with a drawing from the class [now a study group], and painted draft after draft after draft of the scene, learning all sorts of things along the way. 

The composition evolved.   I stopped looking at the reference photo a drawing pretty quickly and by the 8th draft [the painting above], I was mostly working from memory.

Here is the original drawing:


Working with pencil is a whole different ballgame from working with watercolor, so I am never trying to copy that drawing exactly, but rather take the structure and play with it in different ways until I find one or two that I can live with. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Even More Thoughts on Magic




This is another drawing from my class with Ian Roberts.  It's amazing how when you arrange a few lights and darks a certain way, suddenly a scene appears. 

Almost by magic.

I've been writing a lot about this kind of magic.  See my posts HERE and HERE

I realized as I looked through my work during the class, that there's still a big part of me that does not believe that I drew that. 

That part of me believes it must have been magic.   Some power outside of me that on a good day I can tap into, but not reliably, not regularly, not predictably. 

That was a surprise.  And then I reminded myself that it's not magic.  It's illusion.   

I got so caught up in the success of the illusion, that I bought into the 'magic' part of it too.  

Doing one of these a week for the next year is the best way I know to really internalize that these are reliable skills, not unpredictable magic bestowed and withdrawn at the whim of the Muses.  

  

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Keeping it Simple








I'm taking a drawing class right now and for the next year will be doing a drawing a week like this one.

This time the reference photo was provided by the instructor, Ian Roberts and the exercise was in cropping.   The ref photo was a bigger scene of a French village.   

I'm pretty familiar with simple architecture and roof lines, but this piece gave me fits. I wasn't sure I could do it. I struggled. I fussed and fussed and fussed.  I made many disparaging remarks about French villages.  

In the end, I got the darks and lights in the right places and it looks as intended - like a French village.  

I learned more than drawing in this piece.   I learned that I can do more complicated, fussy compositions IF I remember to leave large areas very simple and to focus only on the details in the focal area.   

I have to keep repeating that to myself .   Keep it simple.  Keep it simple. 

I have a tendency to expect things to be hard.  Part of me wants them to be hard so that when I finally get it, it feels like a huge accomplishment - one deserving of a large reward.  [Which I never give myself, btw.]  It's how I prove my worth.  

However, over the years, this habit of doing hard things has been accompanied by a goodly amount of fear. I am always battling to prove myself. I'm always afraid that this time I won't be able to pull it off.
 
I need to stop.

I keep wondering if there's a way to make things easier and I think this is the key:  Keep it simple.  Keep the harder work just at the focal area.   

In this drawing class we spent a lot of time learning to intentionally focus on the important stuff and to intentionally simplify the rest. 

This is a strategy worth cultivating in many areas of my life.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Sycamore Series




Sycamore study #730, watercolor, 9 x 12 inches

I've been painting a lot of pictures of trees.   I have a favorite sycamore along our creek.  It is damp and covered with moss and vines.

The trick here is to suggest the idea of woods without spelling out all that chaos.   Lots of marks.  

Here is the second version: 
Sycamore study #731, 9 x 12 inches


The paint did more of the heavy lifting here and I'm in love with the stuff going on just to the left of the trunk. 

Now to try it bigger.  Much bigger.

Next version:

©Robin Edmundson, 'Sycamore - 733', watercolor, 18 x 24


Painting something that much larger requires a rethinking of many aspects of the piece.  Mostly it means larger brushes and a lot more paint preparation.   I like this more the more I sit with it.  I like the light, the moss, the balance of paint runs and marks, the lights and darks.  It feels like a friend. 

I'll be submitting this to the Hoosier Salon this year.   

Thursday, May 21, 2020

More Thoughts on Magic and Art


Drawing practice


After my last post, I spent a lot of time thinking.

I wonder a lot whether I have what it takes to make great art.  Whether I can move from being a 'promising' artist to a great one.  

I wonder if I will ever master the art of illusion on paper.   And in the meantime, I find the best teachers I can to help me master more illusions.  [I'm taking a Fab.U.Lous. drawing class with Ian Roberts right now.]

Though art is a right-brained activity for the most part, the way I approach learning is very left brained.  My left brain is happy when I have learned 'how' to do something, but it's not thrilled when I practice and find out that the 'knowing how' does not translate into 'doing' it well time after time.   

My mind kicks in and tells me stories about how I should stop trying at all because I'm too old, it's taking to long to learn, I don't have what it takes, I'm making too many mistakes,  it's a waste of time, I don't have the natural talent, yada, yada, yada.  

If I have a magic at all, it is the ability to allow these opposite forces to co-exist in myself.  I work on letting these parts of me get to know each other and I carefully choose who gets to run the show.  

I show up at the paper.  I make another attempt.  I have learned to keep track of every single attempt and what I've learned from it, but to not consider them failures.  I have learned to turn my 'trash pile' into journals where I can work through the stories I'm telling myself and keep integrating all of the parts of myself.

Thus, my art feeds my self-awareness by providing a canvas for self-exploration and my continued self-awareness then makes it easier to practice my art.    

 

That is a good system.  That is good magic.







Monday, May 18, 2020

The Artist as Magician

Art as Magic

An artist is a magician.  After a wave of a brush and a swish of some colored water, she shows you a flat piece of paper and convinces you that you're looking at something else. 

It's all illusion.  

Art is the mastery of illusion.  

'We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.'

I like that phrase, '...makes us realize the truth'.   In English, 'realize' means both to 'come to understand' and 'to make real'. 

Artists are trying to 'make real' that thing on the paper.   

For example, I take a plain flat piece of paper and with a brush and some colored water, and on a good day, I create the illusion of a bouquet of flowers in a vase on a table.

On a great day, my lie convinces you that the light is streaming in from the top right.  

©Robin Edmundson, 'Zinnias #4', watercolor, 14 x 10 inches.
Framed to 20 x 16 inches. $375


On that piece of paper, there's no object.  No table, no flowers, no light, no leaves.   Just colored water that stained the page and then dried.


Space

On another day I create the illusion of a hundred acres of wildflowers.

© Robin Edmundson, 'Misty Bottomlands', watercolor, 18 x 24 inches.
Framed to 24 x 32 inches.  $750.

Feel the sunshine and the dew?  Can you see that mist way back there?  It's maybe half a mile walk to get back there to that misty place where the little creek empties into the big one.  

And yet this is just a flat piece of paper.  It's not a window to step through.  

There's no creek, no clouds, no dew, no ironweed and helianthus blooming. 

And yet. 

There it is.  A hundred acres of wildflowers.  Somehow.  Fit on a piece of paper that's 18 x 24 inches. 



Story

On another day I stand at the easel and tell a story.

© Robin Edmundson, 'The mailman always brings treats', watercolor, 18 x 24 inches.
SOLD.  Prints available. 

This is nothing more than a piece of paper with a few colors judiciously applied here and there.  No words at all.  Just an illusion.

And yet.  

It tells a story that has touched many people, sparked delighted laughter and dozens of conversations.  


Not everything is an illusion

Those feelings, laughter and conversations are not illusions.  They are real.  They are evidence that the artist was successful in pulling off the illusion.

They are the evidence of the magic that is art.   

A skilled artist magician can carve out space on a flat piece of paper.  Make something from nothing.  

The most skilled artist magicians are the ones who can create the illusion with the least work possible.  The harder we work to push the illusion, the easier it is to spot the trick. 

Artists are acutely aware that their work is that of illusion.   We see every flaw, every alternate interpretation.   And, there are critics everywhere just waiting to expose the tricks and spoil the illusion for everyone else.  

[Don't be that person.  Don't tell an artist that you see something unintended in the piece. It's really rude. And never point it out to someone else.  Once pointed out, some people can't un-see it and all conversation becomes about that one alternative viewpoint rather than the rest of piece.]

I'd much rather have you start a conversation with me about the farm like the one in the piece we're looking at that your Aunt took you to every summer than I would about why you think that tree should not be in the picture [and believe me, I've had people start both conversations.]


© Robin Edmundson, 'Barn in the Woods', watercolor, 18 x 24 inches.
Framed to 24 x 32 inches. $750

How do they do that?

What exactly is the magic?  How can some people create such great illusions?

Most people assume the most important thing an artist needs is natural talent.  They assume that artists are the people, who, as children, sat down and drew realistically from a young age.  

That's not true. 

The most important thing an artist needs is the discipline to practice, to learn, to try new things.

She needs enough 'failure tolerance' to keep going when things aren't going well.  

She needs excellent critical thinking skills.  She needs to be able to look at the tricks she's used to see what  illusion was produced and how it can be tweaked to produce the illusion she's after.  This can mean getting other eyes on a piece to find out how the illusion is coming across to other people. 

This does not mean looking to others for approval.  An artist needs to tune into herself to know when she has said all she needs to say in that piece.  [One look at the history of Impressionism will convince you of the value of that skill.]

Hone those skills and put in the brush miles and the magic is yours.


No Small Pressure

For the vast majority of artists that I know, perfecting the illusion of making something from nothing is no small pressure. 

Their task is to craft an illusion such that it will make real and draw one into a truth. Every time an artist stands at the easel, she wonders if she's got the magic today.    Some days yes.  Some days no.  

I know some great artists who have been painting their entire lives.  They have painted masterpiece after masterpiece and they still have days when they can't make the illusion happen.  

After a few days of no magic, the task becomes about having the courage to continue to stand at the easel and try.

These artists are great because they continue to show up, making that bouquet of flowers appear out of thin air onto the page.   Waving their brush and sprinkling colored water on the page until a vista appears.  Telling stories with nothing but stains on a piece of paper.  


The Best Magic

I know other artists who may never master artistic illusion on the page, but they are so in love with the process that they show up day after day, putting brush to paper, mastering the magic of a joy-filled life.

Now, that's some powerful magic - and every bit as wonderful as creating the illusion of something on a page. 

 















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