What do you do when your jilting whore muse is on the run again?
(I usually sulk in my thinking chair and ponder the blueness of my walls while awaiting her sweet return. but what I should do is….)
Turn to education and practice until Prometheus brings fire back to the people. Sometimes the most courageous act is simply to return to the table and insist on making SOMETHING.
Pick a subject you know, now is not the time to challenge your poor confused ego. In this case, I chose a photograph of something pretty and easy to understand so I can focus on the paint. With sound reference, a 4″ x 6″ piece of plate bristol (small mistakes are easy to sweep under the rug) and “The Book of Sorolla” (it’s important to have “directive” reference, something that looks like what you would like to accomplish if you didn’t have your head up your A**)
After penciling in a loose sketch I cover the entire surface with a wash of Zinc White Gouache. The consistency of which should be something like heavy cream. I dry it completely with my heat gun before throwing down my first color wash of Yellow Ochre and Cadmium Red.
You can see the white gouache will reactivate when you add washes, that’s OK, it’s all part of the madness. If you wanna get all misty and ethereal you can add a little more gouache to your colors.
I start dabbing in local colors and a few darks. I’m not to concerned with highlights or shadows yet, I can put those in later. With the white Gouache under coat I can lift out my highlights, so it’s sort of a subtractive way of painting you won’t usually see with watercolor. Also, because of the gouache, I can add form shadows later and blend by feathering them in, so I am not worried about hard edges and blooms either.
Something I’ve learned from workshops and watching artists like Mel Stabin, Charles Reid, and Felipe Echevarria paint, is that a painting never really looks like a painting until it’s done. That is to say, you have this idea that things should look “good” as you go, but really it’s a damn mess for a long, long time, until it’s not a mess anymore. So get comfortable with disaster and you will get closer to something worth looking at.
Here, you can see how I’ve started to add white gouache to my colors, blend and retouch in places with a wet brush. It’s a constant push and pull, it takes patience and a confident stroke. Noodle too long and you’ll get a muddy, over worked, “point of no return” mess. But that’s OK too, because after you fail you are one failure closer to a success. So keep trying (yeah, easy to say now, what was that crap I said about my thinking chair? riiiight ).
Now, we all have our favorite cheesy techniques we do as a “finishing touch”, and I have several. But this one works especially nice with the gouache under painting. I spatter just a few drops of clean water in the area I want (in this case the very bottom of the picture). Let it sit for a while, you’ll see the paint start to separate a little, now you can either dab it with a dry paper towel to get the “spots” or you can do a directional wipe to get some “smear” light effect, sort of like that stupid “lens flare” we all love to abuse in photo shop (right? right).
Here are a few more 6″ x 4″ sketches I’ve done with the same technique.
This one was 4″ x 6″ but the bottom got so muddy and over worked I cropped what was salvageable. Turns out, it is a way better composition anyway. See, sometimes we can live in the garden of “happy mistakes” with Mr. Bob Ross.
This one I tried a little Pen and ink in there too, meh, why not?
Felipe Echevarria has a really great demo here, check it out.
I’ve painted with Mel Stabin a while now, and he always delivers some encouraging quotes from varying sources. A few of my favorites are:
“Screw it, just do it.”
“Intuition is a direct effect of prolonged tuition”
“If a fish swims evocatively enough, it alone can depict a river”
“Exaggerate the essential and leave the obvious vague”
“Fall 7 times, stand up 8”
“If you clean it up, get analytical, all the subtle joy and emotion you felt in the first place goes flying out the window” (Andrew Wyeth)
“One’s art goes as far and as deep as one’s love goes” (Andrew Wyeth)
Don’t worry, your muse will come back, she always does, and when she returns be sure and tell her…
Did you find this demo helpful? Leave a comment or question.