Watercolor Process – The Birth

“Iron Dragon” from the Reef Series

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.

Phantasmagoric or Psychedelic? I say Wild!

Pods 51

Phantasmagoric or Psychedelic?  People are intrigued by my art and ask me if I do psychedelics. I explain: as a child I made art similar to this, less refined because my tools were different: crayons, felt tip pens, construction paper. I adored colors that had impact and vibrated, there was no direction, my mother let us explore and no one told me do or don’t do it this way. So I let the colors come into being together like living objects. Wild!

I continued to make art the same way and did not go to college for art. I disliked school. I did not want to be contained. From the age of 4 I refused to go, plead and begged not to be sent to a place that had the sticky odors of too many people and cafeteria foods. I had little understanding of what we were doing there. The aesthetic was dismal: it was cold and the light was harsh, the windows were too high to see out of, the desks were ugly metal grey-blue legs with beige plastic formica tops that lifted up and were pitted with the marks of the previous students. The rooms were not colorless, worse yet, they were badly colored, sickly shades of greens and tans, dull peaches and obscure reds. I cannot imagine what kind of people engineered such a hideous stinky place. School left an indelible mark on me and is responsible for my becoming an iconoclast. I refused to go to college for art because I knew I would be forced to bend to the will of commercialism.

Creating the art however had all the appeal – I would simply make it – I was the engineer of my visions and dreams. Without the prodding and lecturing of the teachers I would remain free. As an adult in my thirties I finally went to college for computer science. I was old enough at that point to be settled and confident that I would retain my sense of self throughout the process. Later, in my mid-forties I took a few basic art classes. One of my professors championed my own art when he saw my portfolio. That made my decision to forget a degree in art–and I just continued my own methods.

As an artist, I consider myself an outsider, self-taught and making art according to my standard. A Wild Artist is what I call myself. Wildish: free, lush, luxuriant, organic, extravagant, primeval. The underpaintings are turbulent and loose, free of conformity, I paint with my hands and use anything at hand to distribute the color. Then come the layers. The lines of ink, more paint, more, more more. People have said, how can you be an outsider, you are so skilled and the work is so refined. They don’t see the whole process–and I am skilled. Dexterity, spatial skills, innate sense of color and balance. I cannot tell you how or why I know how to create what I do. I don’t actually care. The Art Speaks for itself. The artist is Self-taught. Driven. Compelled to create. Its non-stop–when I am forced by life to do ordinary tasks, drive or do the laundry, I wish I was painting or drawing–and use many spare moments to scratch a few lines. Many who know me, patiently overlook my tendency to draw while we talk or eat dinner. Its not that I am bored at dinner so much as I am compelled to make art. People have asked, do you have a science background. I do not. These images come from the ether, my imagination, my hands and my heart. Its untamed, yet its refined at the same time. I say its Wild!

Born This Way

Corlwelsetter unfettered under a screabre dome. Watercolor/Ink 7″ x 10″

When I find information I share it with fellow artists. After doing this repeatedly, I get a lot of interesting reactions from people: don’t give too much information away, don’t share all your knowledge–other people will get ahead of you, don’t be so kind or nice because people are out to get you, they will take advantage of you—any and all of these statements may be true.

But I don’t care. I will continue to do what I do in spite of that. My best advice to all artists: stop concealing information and help other artists. We can all succeed if we work together and help one another. Do favors for other artists, give your best advice, talk up your fellow artists, share a venue you think would be good for them, help them when they need it most. I have friends that help one another pick up their work from exhibits, teach framing techniques, or send each other information about calls for artists. It cannot be all about the money—we all need to make a living, but making art comes from an internal desire to make something. We are born this way; to create. And the gifts we give can come back many times over—and for the few that don’t return the favors…they have a need to be the way they are. Forgive them and move on.

Umi

Ishmael Street – a friend and poet in Allentown, Pa shared this work with me. I feel that with Earth Day right around the corner, his timing is so very appropriate. Ishmael has an uncanny sense of timing–he shares the right poem to the right people at the right time. Or perhaps his poems are like the threads of our culture that we can pick them up and wear them like radiant garments. 

In Japanese UMI means Ocean

Drowning myself in the mystery of the ocean.

Magnetizing by the waves currents..

Inhaling the ocean perfume.

Drenching in the depth of the ocean precious

Nutrients and jewels.

Craving its roughness

Needing its salinity

Wanting its purity

Enamoring by the beauty of its tide and

Nakedness which illuminates and arouse

The sky.

To read more by Ishmael his poems can be found here – http://thelovejonesexperience.com/Poetic_Libations.html

Do You Know Your Worth?

 

Baroque Love Glisters Molten Gold 9″ x 12″ Watercolor/Ink

A friend and poet Ishmael Street performed this piece at http://www.thebrewworks.com/allentown-brewworks/ Ishmael, thank you for sharing your words and intellect with us. The night was an ending to a day I don’t want to relive–but hearing your voice speak those words changed how I see the world. Ishmael – I put this piece up for you in return for your generosity. It is a watercolor I painted called Baroque Love.

UNTITLED by Ishmael Street

Do you know your worth?
Are you an Earthly Queen or
Eternal Goddess?
See a Goddess knows she more worthy than
The sun and moon
She is never subdue
She is worth everything
She is the universe and the stars
Are her children
Love is she and she is the supplier of
Unlimited love
She is never alone
She is exist for eternity
Do you know your worth?
Are you an Earthly Queen or
Eternal Goddess?
A queen know she is royalty, knows she should be
Treated as royalty
She holds this title of queen at birth
Her worth is determined by how she treats others
She knows can’t make everyone happy but
She must rely on others for the longevity in her
Kingdom
She holds power in her own kingdom and she may
Reign over her kingdom for only a short while
Do you know your worth?
Are you an Earthly Queen or
Eternal Goddess?
Maybe Neither
Maybe just a child of God
Needing a label a crown to define your
Worth told by others who looks into a broken
Mirror every morning calling it
Self esteem
So let your light shine
Liberate from your fear
Revolt against your insecurities
Then your presence will liberate others.

How I Paint

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.