Sunday, January 12, 2020

Studying Composition

Studying Richard McKinley's book:  'The Landscape Paintings of Richard McKinley'

Every serious artist that I know spends time looking at other artists' work, studying technique, composition and design and trying new things.   Lately, I've undertaken a study of composition, based on what I've learned from Ian Roberts' book 'Mastering Composition'.  It's one of my all time favorite art instruction books and I keep coming back to it. 

One of Ian's suggestions is to study a piece and do a little composition sketch of what's going on in it.  I've been studying dozens of artists and looking at hundreds of paintings, doing these little sketches of the paintings I like best. 

In the pic above you can see my little sketch of a piece by Richard McKinley in red sharpie on the top left.   This page also happened to give Richard's own working sketches as well. 

As I do this, over and over and over, to paintings that are pleasing to me, I am seeing patterns that help me think about my own work.  Since I am able to abstract a visual pattern, I can then plug in the subjects that I am interested in painting, knowing that the structure under the whole thing is a visually pleasing one.

Here's an example of how I use these.   This is a painting by Geoff Kersey.   My sketch is to the right [red sharpie]. 

painting:  Geoff Kersey

I can take that same basic structure and put my own spin on it, like I did in this practice piece I did for #paintrainforAustralia [Instagram]. 

© Robin Edmundson, 'Paint Rain for Australia',  9 x 12 inches. 

I'm hoping that this intensive study of composition will allow me to really internalize this skill so that it is unconscious. If I'm not worrying about composition, then I can focus on technique or color or subject or something else. 

What new skill have you been studying lately?

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Twilight Moonrise

© Robin Edmundson, 'Twilight Moonrise', watercolor, 14 x 10 inches.
Framed & matted to 16 x 20 inches.  $375

We've been doing a lot of work on the house and the work doesn't stop just because the sun goes down.   One evening, as the twilight was gathering, I looked up out of the hole where I was helping dig a crawlspace and saw the Beaver moon rising - the sky still light enough to show a bit of color where the field grasses and brush were silhouetted against the moon.

It was a nice way to take a break from the work and I spent some quiet time just watching.

And then I spent a few weeks playing with color and texture trying to capture the moment.  It is likely I will revisit this composition a few times, but I love the leaves and twigs over the face of the moon in this one.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Pop-Up Exhibit! Bloomington, Indiana - Courthouse Square

If you would like to see most of my winter themed work in person, hop on down to the square in Bloomington, Indiana to see eight of my winter pieces in the window next to Darn Good Soup [at 107 N. College Avenue].   The display should be up for the next few weeks.

Here is a quick preview video, courtesy of my daughter who stopped by to take a look last week.  [Sorry about the traffic noise]

If you get a chance to see the exhibit, drop me a line to tell me which was your favorite.

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

'Not Far Afield' Exhibit Ending - The Vault at Gallery Mortgage, Bloomington, Indiana

© Robin Edmundson, 'Leonard's Barn', watercolor, 10 x 14 inches.  NFS

On December 3, I'll be taking down the exhibit that is currently hanging at the Vault at Gallery Mortgage in Bloomington, Indiana.   [121 E. 6th St.]  I have been so grateful for the wonderful people who manage the space and invited me to show there.  John La Bella is a kind and gracious host.

It's a beautiful space, intimate enough not to get lost, but large enough to get some distance as you look at each piece.  I hope you get a chance to see the show one last time before it comes down.

Impression - Fall Day

©Robin Edmundson, 'Impression - Fall Day', watercolor, 12 x 16 inches. 
Unframed $300

In 1873, Claude Monet painted a sunrise scene that he titled, 'Impression-Sunrise'.  The critics hated it.  It was the painting that gave the Impressionist movement its name.

His painting has always been a favorite of mine.  I love its subtleties.  He didn't try to say it all.  He simplified.  He made mood more important than accuracy. 

I pull up photos of the painting every so often to study his choices.  What he left out.  What he put in.  The colors he didn't use.  The colors he did use.  Where his focal point is.  Where the lines are.  How he communicated space and atmosphere. 

And then I close my eyes and let my mind's eye take me to a scene I've observed recently around here.  I focus on the feeling, the space, the atmosphere.  I exaggerate the colors.  I play with texture. I use a brush in a new way.  I practice the all-powerful Value.

The piece above is the latest one I've been working on.   I painted the initial washes, then let it sit for a few days, then decided how to emphasize the focal points and how to bridge them.  I added texture, then more, then more. 

And I stopped before it was an overworked mess.   I'm still practicing that. 

I could crop it into a square - and it would be beautiful - but it hasn't decided if it wants to be cropped or not and I'm kind of loving the greens on the far right.

I love that I managed to communicate [and then preserve] the impression of the day.  The bright colors, the clear air, the leaves falling.  This is the kind of creative practice that I love.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Frost Stops at the Edge of the Woods

©Robin Edmundson, 'Frost Stops at the Edge of the Woods', watercolor, 11 x 16 inches.
Framed to 16 x 20 inches.  $395.

Our first few fall frosts are lovely blankets of sparkle that always stop just at the edge of the woods. The fields are white with a faint undertone of greens and the woods sparkle with fall color. 

At first glance in this piece, the temptation is to wonder why the trees have been cut off at the tops, but this piece isn't about the trees.  

This piece is about the transition space at the at the edge of the woods, where the leaves still cling to the trees and the temperatures stay a little warmer.  It's about what's happening at the feet of the trees. That's where the magic is happening.

I love the edge of the woods. We so seldom look there. We look at the trees, at the grass, at the frosty field, but we rarely look at that space where the frost ends because the warmth of the woods held it back. I love that space.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Frostbitten Leaves

©Robin Edmundson, 'Frostbitten Leaves', watercolor, 16 x 20 inches. 
Framed to 20 x 24 inches. $595

On very cold days, while the blue shadows linger, the oranges of oak leaves glow through the heavy frost and light snowfall.  I love that shifting light, that combination of exposure and concealment. 

I've been practicing meeting myself at the paper.  Breathing, working slowly, watching the paint and working with it rather than forcing it to do what I think it should.

The truth is, I have control issues. I am fully aware that I'm a control freak.   One of the reasons I chose watercolor is that it is a life lesson for me.   It does what it wants.  I have to learn to work with it instead of controlling it.  This is really good for me. 

I stick with watercolor because I like the way it makes my brain feel.  Less control, more collaboration.  Less forcing, more interaction.   So I meet myself at the paper and breathe and work one step at a time and then pause until the paint tells me what my next options are. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Ekphrasis IV - So much fun!

I was so very happy to participate in this year's Ekphrasis IV event at the Venue in Bloomington, Indiana on October 20.   Nine painters and nine poets came together to share their inspirations. I met some wonderful people and heard many inspiring stories from them.   Art is often a solitary thing and it was good for my soul to hear other artists talk about their process and inspiration. 

It worked like this:  Artists were invited to deliver a painting to the gallery a few weeks in advance and then the poets were invited to come in and select the painting that sparked a poem for them.  Once a painting was selected, the poet had a few weeks to write, then on the night, we came together to hear what inspired the painting and to hear the poem inspired by the painting.

The painter spoke first about what inspired the painting - and this was the first time the poet heard the story behind the piece - and then the poet read a couple of poems to allow the audience to become familiar with his/her voice, finally reading the poem inspired by the painting.

There aren't words to explain how deeply this event touched me.  Something about the collaboration between artists, the known, the unknown, the magic of color, form and words.

I love words.  I am a certified, card-carrying linguist.  I have a Ph.D. in linguistics with a focus on conversational analysis and pragmatics.  For many years, words were my bread and butter.  It was wonderful to come back around to the art of words and hear some of the most talented wordsmiths in our area recite their work.

It was also gratifying to hear other artists talk about their process and to find that the ups and downs and quirks of process are common to many of us.   I am new enough to art - and it was such a departure from my old career - that there has been a part of me that was afraid I 'was doing it wrong'.  It's a comfort to know that I'm not.  Process is just process and the goal is to keep cycling through it.

This event is held every fall at the Venue [114 S. Grant St, Bloomington, Indiana].  I am looking forward to the next one. 

p.s.   I was paired with Nathan Schmidt, a poet grad student in the Indiana University English Department.  [He had to leave before the photo was taken].  I thoroughly enjoyed explaining my inspiration and then listening to his poem and then hearing how it came about.

© Robin Edmundson, 'Goose Pond #530', watercolor, 10 x 14 inches.  $375
Nathan's poem discussed What if Frank Lloyd Wright looked out his window from his studio and this was his view? 

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