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!

Free Labor?

Hands in Cave

A few days ago, artist Gregory Coates shared a wall post on Facebook by Takos Boikat about how artists should be paid. I shared it out on Facebook– and of course I champion the cause. I saw a few reactions to it on Facebook from artists about working for free–how often they are asked to do something in the name of getting exposure, or a famous artist/person will bestow a favor later. Often later never comes around, or the exposure turns out to be little if anything that really drives a career. I have had fellow artists ask me to help them find artists to work for free for them—or work for sub-standard wages. And sadly, I cannot count the number of fellow artists who tell me they work for very little or free.

Gregory’s post is very timely. A society must value the sensitive creative people in the culture—the ones who create are the ones with the ideas, the real drivers of culture and how the future will play out rests on the shoulders of the artists. It is a heavy burden. Risk takers, inventors, social engineers, visionaries, and the creators, this is what makes us extraordinary. Not always knowing the outcome of what we do, we take up the challenge and forge new paths, new ways of seeing, hearing and feeling. 

The caves show work thousands of years old—the work of artists. There are arguments that the work might be spiritual—but we cannot know if the paintings were done for pure joy or for shamanic purposes. Whatever purpose the painters had no longer matters, what does matter is that they left images for everyone to see. Artists matter to society–lets reward them for their labor.