People often ask how I create my watercolors. Next time I perform this process I will make a video but here is a description in the meantime.
I cover the floor with as many pieces of high quality watercolor paper that I have room for. I thoroughly wet the paper(s) with water by either using a spray bottle or large 4″ brush. This wetting is a throwback to a time when I soaked paper for printmaking. Next, I mix the colors I that feel or look good to me at the time. No planning, but I do select color based on how I am feeling at the time. I use the tools at hand, literally my own hands work the large washes along with huge mop brushes, but there are fingerprints, and a sleeve dragged (possibly) through the work during the original throwdown of paint onto paper. The brush does a loose dance and my fingertips direct the magic. I allow the wind, sand, bark or other fragments of the life from Gaia come into the work. Mother Earth has her hand in the painting as she allows a leaf to settle or insect to walk across the paper. Often I find objects or materials to use as resists. Some resists are added supplies from the kitchen–often an experiment and sometimes products that I have used before. Salt is a common additive, but oats might be chosen instead.
I allow the paint to pool in deep rich colors or pale watery shades. Then I leave. I rest and let my creations solidify. Usually, I sleep and dream about what is brewing on the paper, my dreams are strongly connected to the work at hand. I have contemplated how much my dreams direct the paint but it is speculation. My imagination though is given wings to soar from the dreams which in turn helps the creation move further along. Sometimes, at a point of partial drying I check back and add more pigments, squeezing the drops out of the brush and allowing them to fall, gravity does the work. Although I often work in series, every piece has its own method, its own manner of coming into being even though they are pointed simultaneously. They are living creatures that continue to thrive under my guidance. It is an intuitive process. I feel connected to the work and allow the paintings to emerge–letting the melange of images come forward and speak out. But its only the beginning. They need time, to flower, to open: to be interpreted further. After all the paintings are dry they are stacked and weighed to keep them flat until I am ready to proceed with adding ink. In Part 2 I will discuss the next layer – Inkwork.
Regarding Sherlock Holmes and his ignorance of Copernican theory, “What the deuce is [the solar system] to me?” he exclaims to Watson in A Study in Scarlet. “You say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.” And now that he knows that fact? “I shall do my best to forget it,” he promises.
My art is mine, its not inspired by anything in particular or anyone. Simple concept or it should be. Well just try that on in the modern world. There are labels slung at the work, me and the style. Comparisons are made with no regard to my thoughts or feelings. I prefer the enigma that naturally exists in the creation and the process. I don’t intend to create and make statements of any kind. I’m not that pretentious. I wonder who really cares about my opinion…and do I actually care to use my precious work as a tool to provide statements to the public? If you’re a long standing friend we may find ourselves discussing it but otherwise I’m likely to say a little when queried about the art I make.
The reference to Sherlock Holmes? I read Conan Doyle in my youth and the realization of what Holmes referred to in the Copernicus statement stuck with me. What do I need to know–to shape my life as I want it to be….and what do I need to forget? I don’t want to know about the art that came before me or even really of what is being created right now. Keeping it simple, I have little need to know about artists, it impedes my progress, infiltrates my brain and I fight to keep it out. I’ve been told that I’m wrong, that if I had gone to art school or college I would know that I should build on the structure of artist who created before me. Now I have to forget that too! I met Ian Frazier several times and he told me he has had a similar experience. He said the internet contains so much information its difficult to filter when doing research for his writing. I explained my Holmes theory to him and he chuckled and nodded his head.
To all who know me, please stop telling me to change my mind on this subject. I paid dearly to avoid art school. I consider myself an iconoclast and being institutionalized doesn’t work for me. While working low paying full time jobs, I painted during my precious time off. Not having knowledge of art history doesn’t make me not bright. Figuring out processes by experimentation doesn’t make my work unsophisticated. It does make me an outsider for the most part. What I didn’t get by going to college…I struggled, worked hard and experimented a lot. I found out that I am an innovator, a risk taker and improvise on every piece I make. I’m happy with my work and proud of what I do. I am pleased and humbled every time someone acquires a piece. I’m impressed with those who collect my art, as they are an extraordinary group of people.
I soak watercolor paper in a tub of cool clean water for 2-3 minutes, remove the paper and press between 2 clean bath towels. Working on a flat surface with large squirrel mop brush I begin with loose watercolor washes. I do not work the a lot, but I continue to add and push the paint with either brushes or my fingers. This is an integral part of the work for me, once dried the fingerprints are like landmarks. Rarely I will use a blotter, but occasionally I will do so with a rough rag to create texture. Additionally, I use found objects placed in the paint and left to dry so as to draw paint to those areas. Other times, I might use harmless natural resists like castile soap, oatmeal or salt to obtain depth in the work.
At this point I usually allow the work to dry. Once dry, I can re-wet and add more paint and texture or move on to ink in the large areas. Inking is done with smaller brushes and pens. There is no planning or completion of inking at this time, the piece is open to re-working or starting collage in an inked area or adding paint. The inking is the mind engaging part where I can get lost for hours, allowing ideas to form, transcending the hum-drum-slow-rattle brain chatter and get some peace.
resists – oatmeal, salt of different sizes, wax beads, other objects such as bolts/nuts, or threads, leaves etc.
I start by setting up the colors I plan to use on the paintings. I arrange them on the palette where there is room, and always add a dab of white gauche. I keep a set of pan type watercolors also nearby.
Next I start wetting all the paper on the blocks with a soaking wet sponge, or spraying them until fairly soaked.
Then I begin the process of painting a large extremely pale wash that will break the surface of the paper visually. I bring in heavier layers of color, sometimes thick in pools and drop in my resists.
After that, I use smaller finer brushes size 8 or 10 and get some more distinct lines or shapes set in. Or I use a large squirrel oval dry brush or scumble in some textured areas.
And now…we wait for them to dry. Depending on the day and the amount of water used, it could take hours or overnight. Once I pinned large single sheets of Arches paper out on the balcony and the wind kicked up and took them away. I drove around my neighborhood searching and found them…wrapped around trees and fence-posts.
There is a color that almost imperceptible in the night sky.It is more blue than black, more violet than blue.Clear skies make it have a deep pile carpet-like feel.Hazy nights have a vapor that lingers, celestials steadfastly riding amid the mist.
As easy as it might seem I am not able to easily reproduce this color in paintings, I can get close, but the luminous clarity is always just an edge away. The natural world is bewildering.