The paintings that I had been working on in tandem — one on paper (left) and one on a panel surface specifically manufactured for watercolorists (right) — were done earlier last month (11/2013.)
Here they are side by side: “Wheel within a Wheel 98 and 99.” Both are the same size 22 in x 30 in.
While I worked on these paintings, I posted an ongoing chronicle of their development on Facebook and enjoyed hearing from fellow artists through this creative journey. With their permission granted, I can share some of their insights in this post. Andrew Christofides mentioned a similarity between the work of Hilma Af Klint and my own painting. She is an artist I had been made aware of earlier by another artist in a workshop. My interest in art history was piqued and following Andrew’s comment, I made a concerted effort to learn a little more about her. She addressed both organic and geometric forms and design concepts through her paintings.
My first insight while working on this project was the change in the meditative quality of my painting process. I was faced with the reality that this new surface did not respond to the play of water with my paintbrush in the same manner as I had been attuned to work with in my more habituated setup as a watercolorist working with paper. This resulted in a bit of a bumpy road — the complete removal of sections of my artwork. Since my focus was on the effort to master the surface, the actual design and composition began to suffer. Some artists on Facebook, rightly pointed out that they liked what I had removed; and it was good to have this insight as well (ex post facto,) since I sometimes do wonder what the road not taken with an artwork could have been… Something that the artist Luis Cunha pointed out, when he questioned my manner of perceiving this crucial crossroads with the changes made to the painting’s design.
The painting’s mode of flow was much more like that of an acrylic painter, with more brush strokes and fewer washes. I found that as I painted wet on wet, I would use a dry brush after these initial washes to smooth over the surface in order to create the visual effect of a watercolorist’s wash on the wet paint on the panel surface. This “trick” solved some of the patchiness that was evident in areas of my painting at the beginning. Over the course of working with this panel, I developed an affinity for the patchiness “effect” and started to integrate it as a compositional element.
Thus, I began to flow with the medium and to enter into a meditative process in my work as a painter, and this was a welcomed transition. This was an especially important breakthrough for me as a painter, to develop new techniques through a better understanding of this new material.
There was a reflection on this exact aspect of an artist’s work that I will share, since it expresses so beautifully the importance that for some of us (as artists and/or any other field for that matter) give to developing a meditative understanding of our work.
“For a craftsman, it is important to gather and use the materials lovingly, and this attitude allows the materials and the technique to teach one their ways. Along with the inner attitudes, the art of waiting needs to be cultivated. Silence is a tool of the intuitive realm, the vehicle of inspiration, just as readiness is the vehicle of physical techniques. Standing in readiness for any possibility allows recognition of outer conditions that might serve one’s deeper intent. Recognition is the ambassador of seeing.
Nothing is truly dead, even within the various levels of earth substance; stones simply breathe too quietly and slowly for their breath to be perceptible. In a craft, it is often the attitude of the individual working with the material–not the materials themselves–that is really dead or comatose. Can fires be kindled under these cold attitudes to enliven the working process, and to impart depth and warmth to it?
Through receptivity and communion, one can open to a higher consciousness, remembering that this quiet inner attention is a most precious energy which can be used throughout the total process. Recording the light of the outer subject can be linked with gaining access to one’s inner light.”
–Paul Caponigro, “Writing with Light,” the photographer as silversmith, an excerpt featured in PARABOLA, Volume XVI, No. 3 “Craft,” 1991.http://bit.ly/1dPnvkV
The process of learning and becoming familiar with the materials of a craft as a means to develop new methods and techniques is best fostered in a quiet space. Elizabeth Brandt another fellow artist on Facebook commented that she works in silence with a focus on the study of the materials of her craft.
I can happily conclude that I am starting to love the panels! I can manipulate the surface to my heart’s content and it weathers these alterations beautifully! As much as I adore Arches watercolor paper, this level of manipulation would be a hardship and would tear into the surface. However, during my troubleshooting stage, I located Arches paper mounted on a board surface, and it was great to work on! After so many years of working with paper, I can see that it is still my favorite and continues to be a source of joy to paint on!