Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

Watercolor Advice

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

I get a lot of people asking for my advice on watercolor painting. The majority of this text was written in March 2011, and I’ve been sitting on it, because, well, I don’t feel like an authority on the matter. But I’ve been getting inquiries, so here’s what I have. I hope it helps.

Here is my most basic of basic advice for people painting with watercolors:

If the painting is bad, do something to it. If the painting is not bad, leave it.

Let me elaborate. You can’t force watercolors to be “good.” You’re dealing with bad and not bad. “Good” is achieved through practice. Yes, I know it’s cliché to say. It’s still true. Through creating a multitude of watercolors, eventually your ability will show. It’s practice.

Watercolors are intuitive. They’re a dance with physics: you’re playing with the surface tension of the water and how much pigment that’s in each drop. It’s difficult to reverse any marks; in fact, it’s better to not even try. The balance of water to pigment is purely experimental and experiential; eventually you’ll be able to tell when your brush has too much water or too much pigment. And the ratio is strictly to your choosing. There isn’t a right or wrong, just what you desire each mark to be. And if the mark doesn’t do it, then that’s that.

It’s an irreversible process. Once you’ve done something, it’s done. You must accept it. You must move on. So there’s the bad and the not bad. “Good” will come. If it’s bad, then it doesn’t matter if you keep working on it. If it’s not bad, it’s probably better to leave it and go on to a new painting. I think the number one thing that’s important in watercolor paintings is for them to not look overworked. You need to trust yourself. The water will do it’s own thing, and you’ve got to let it do it. It’s not a fight; it’s a dance. You must learn acceptance.

At this point in time, I have done so many paintings, I know what each brush I own will do, how each color will look when mixed with what, how much water to use, when it’s the right time to blot, and on and on. They aren’t real things I’ve achieved, exactly; they’re what feels right to me. And I’m not sure if I really know these things at all, or if I’ve gotten really good at being okay with whatever happens on the page.

You also have to be fearless. Who knows if that purple will look weird until you try it? It could be great!

Watercolors are a precious medium because you can’t retract. I think it’s a healthy mental exercise for anyone. There isn’t an undo. Every mark will leave residue, no matter how much you try to blot at it. Painting with watercolors is an exercise in trust. No hang-ups. Be fearless. Pick up the brush and go at it. And even if it’s bad, you can paint another one… and another one… and another one…

“The Island,” Inspiration and Process

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

“I thought I had come to the island to wrest control of my life back from the woman who had sabotaged it. But I was wrong. My mother was still writing my plot.”Island by Jane Rogers

“The Island” is my new screenprint, inspired by Jane Rogers’ novel Island. The novel is narrated by the character Nikki Black, and without getting into a full critique of the book, it’s about Nikki not only seeing the world through a distorted, revenge-bent lens, but as a reader you begin to believe her. You get sucked into her way of seeing the world, to the point that her biological mother, who gave Nikki up for adoption when she was an infant and never had contact with her, is the evil, manipulative puppet master of every disaster in Nikki’s life, from her boyfriends dumping her to bad weather. You begin to trust every defense of Nikki’s moods and action, to the point that realistic perspective is completely lost as a reader, as Nikki herself loses reality entirely in the novel.

My screenprint is inspired by not only the environment of the book, which is an isolated island off the coast of Scotland, but the events. Nikki, in her own mind, is victimized incessantly. The waves in the screenprint are not only made of water but fire, crashing into the island with an incredible, completely unrealistic ferocity. I wanted to create a single image that described the entire experience of reading the novel.


I read Island back in June in a fervent four days, and minutes after I finished I drew the first draft of the image that would become the screenprint:


Five-Horned Stag Screenprint, Process!

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

I’ve recently finished my latest project, a CMYK screenprint of a five-horned stag! The print is available for purchase at my store (link). This post is a step-by-step on the process of its creation.

For the last few months I’ve been casually reading various textbooks on Arthurian Legends. Roger Sherman Loomis’ Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance lays out the history of the legends, many of which are based on ancient gods. In Chapter XIV, Merlin the Shapeshifter: “… we have in Mryddin a deranged god whose special domain was poetry and prophecy.” I found the concept of poetry and prophecy being entwined to be extremely enticing. That art can represent, nay, predict the future. I knew I had to create some sort of portrait for Mryddin, who later becomes Merlin in the legends.

Later in this chapter is the following:

A five-horned stag! Now that the imagery was chosen, it’s on.

Click to read the rest!