Saturday, May 8, 2021

Cherry Tree, Last Light


©Robin Edmundson, 'Cherry Tree, Last Light', watercolor,  9 x 12 inches.  Framed, $300

This time of year, there a space in the trees on the south that the evening sun shines through and spotlights that one little tree.   Enchanting. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Pink Poppies

©Robin Edmundson, 'Pink Poppies' 951, watercolor, 12 x 9 inches.  
Framed $300

'Negative painting' is the technique of painting around something to show its shape.   We do this a lot in watercolor, since we can't paint light on top of dark.   We have to paint the dark around the light shape to indicate a light object.   

It takes some practice thinking about things differently, but the effects are outstanding and the process is fun, once you get the hang of it.   

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Apples & Scale

 ©Robin Edmundson, 'Apples & Scale', watercolor, 9x12 inches.

I've discovered how much fun a still life can be.  I love this crop where you have a sense of what the scene is, but the focus is just that one red apple in front.  

I took some heat for that from a few people in my critique group, but I stand by the decision.   You don't have to show everything.   

Sometimes a poem is just as powerful as a novel.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Beehunter Creek Series - Failing Faster

© Robin Edmundson, 'Beehunter Creek, gold field 949, watercolor, 9 x 12 inches. 
Framed $300.  

In my day job, we’ve been working on some big projects lately. Learning new things, new platforms, new ways of thinking about things - at the very same time that these same platforms are ‘updating & upgrading’, which means that just as we learn how to do something, it changes. At one point we launched a project and it just wouldn’t work. It was a bit discouraging, but our team has a great mindset and at our next meeting we spent some time talking about the notion of ‘failing faster’.

This is the idea that the object of the game is to blaze new territory, build skills and go where we have never gone before. We remind ourselves that new stuff is…new. There are no crystal balls, you just have to wade in and figure it out. The more you do that, the faster you figure things out and reach your goal. It takes time, effort, and a tolerance for failure and frustration.

This made me think of Thomas Edison’s approach to his own work. You’ve probably heard of his ‘Ten thousand things’ quote. I found the real story HERE.

‘… in 1910 in a comprehensive two volume biography called “Edison: His Life and Inventions”. The anecdote was told by a long-time associate of Edison’s named Walter S. Mallory. Edison and his researchers had been working on the development of a nickel-iron battery for more than five months when Mallory visited Edison in his laboratory.

‘I found him at a bench about three feet wide and twelve to fifteen feet long, on which there were hundreds of little test cells that had been made up by his corps of chemists and experimenters. He was seated at this bench testing, figuring, and planning. I then learned that he had thus made over nine thousand experiments in trying to devise this new type of storage battery, but had not produced a single thing that promised to solve the question. In view of this immense amount of thought and labor, my sympathy got the better of my judgment, and I said: ‘Isn’t it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven’t been able to get any results?’ Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: ‘Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work.’’

In 1921 Thomas Edison was interviewed by B. C. Forbes for American Magazine. Edison described an incident that matched the anecdote presented by Mallory although he did not provide a precise dialog [BFTE]:

‘I never allow myself to become discouraged under any circumstances. I recall that after we had conducted thousands of experiments on a certain project without solving the problem, one of my associates, after we had conducted the crowning experiment and it had proved a failure, expressed discouragement and disgust over our having failed ‘to find out anything.’ I cheerily assured him that we had learned something. For we had learned for a certainty that the thing couldn’t be done that way, and that we would have to try some other way. We sometimes learn a lot from our failures if we have put into the effort the best thought and work we are capable of.’

I love that last line.

It’s true for art as well. This is why we work in series - to explore an idea by putting into the effort the best thought and work we are capable of.

Recently, I’ve been working on a series of paintings of Beehunter Creek. [You can see some of the early versions here.] For each study, I have a question: What happens if I use this brush? What happens if I use these colors? What if I reverse that? What if all I do is pay attention to the edges? What if I start this way or that way?…

It means that I end up with stack of things that didn’t work, but slowly, slowly I collect the things that did work and if I keep going, then some day all those things will click into place and a higher and higher percentage of the studies I do will turn out well - precisely because I will already know what doesn’t work and I’ll be able to focus on what does. [The painting above is the 5th study I did of the Beehunter Creek scene. I’ll continue to explore it - larger, brighter, looser, etc.]

I’d love to know the things that you’ve been working on, that you have stuck with until you know the things that won’t work and the things that will. Drop me a line and tell me about it.

Here's another of the studies I did in this series. 

© Robin Edmundson, 'Beehunter Creek, 948', watercolor, 16 x 20 inches. 
Framed, $575

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Beehunter Creek Series

 ©Robin Edmundson, 'Beehunter Creek, purple', watercolor, 16 x 20 inches.  $475, unframed.

I'm doing a thing this year where I work from one reference photo and spend the year painting it so at the end of the year I have several versions and can let myself experiment in all the ways. 

The reference photo was taken last March on a cloudy day.  Mostly beige, but I love the lines. It's a good photo to work from.  I want to emphasize here that the point is *not* to copy the photo, but to use it as a jumping off point.  

This means that I'll leave things out, simplify, go crazy with color, experiment, paint different sizes, etc, and if I drift away from the literal, that's ok - great, even!  [In the ref photo, there was a large tree branch coming in from the left.   I left it out completely.]

©Robin Edmundson, 'Beehunter Creek - 856', watercolor 8 x 10 inches.  $190, unframed.

©Robin Edmundson, 'Beehunter Creek', pencil study, 4 x 6 inches. 

I have a couple more paintings of this scene already in the works and I'll post them as they're done. 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Color - Big Color

 ©Robin Edmundson, 'Dark Red Tree', watercolor, 16 x 20 inches.   $475, unframed. 

[Affiliate links below]

I discovered the art of Richard Mayhew recently.  It was one of those totally serendipitous things where something caught my eye and then I did a little research and quickly found myself falling down a rabbit hole of brilliant color and landscapes that break all the rules.   'Transcendence' is open in my studio all the time now. 

It dovetailed nicely into the study of Wolf Kahn's work which I'm doing now, too.  I love reading what he has to say about his work and his process.  He's another rule breaker, in love with color.  

As I was playing with the ideas they presented, I realized that for me the trick will be how to think about the light first, then let loose with the color.  I have a lot of work to do. I worked on this piece for a couple of weeks, a bit here, a bit there, a lot there.  I left it up in the studio for a while, not really knowing what to do with it.  Then Claire came in and said, 'I love it.  It's done.'  

I'll be playing with these ideas more.  

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Winter Woods

 ©Robin Edmundson, 'Winter Woods', watercolor, 8 x 11.5 inches.   $225, unframed.  

I have the tremendous pleasure of working with Angela Fehr as her director of operations and part of my job is to spend time in her online community.  The membership focus is to become heart-led in your creative practice; to work on mindset as much as technique; and to learn to enjoy the whole creative process in a way that allows you to become your own favorite artist.  It is truly a joy to spend time there every day. 

Last month, one of the lovely members of our online community posted a reference photo and told everyone to paint it their way.   [Thank you, Deborah Ropp!]  The painting above is my version - leaning more toward a southern Indiana woods, than a northern woods.   [Yeah, it's what I know.]  

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