Recently I have been exploring how to use different art media to cross-pollinate visual ideas. Across the ages, of course, artists have developed sketches in one medium (whether with a drawing or a watercolor) to create large-scale compositions in their “formal” painting medium (i.e., oil paint).
Today’s art environment offers a wealth of options for working up compositions and ideas. At the same time, I also see artists “staying in their lanes” and ONLY working in a single medium (such as watercolor or acrylic or oil).
I love the mental challenge of working in different media. When I work in watercolor, I use a different method (starting with lighter tones, then adding darks). Acrylics and oils, on the other hand, start with darks and add lights last.
Another medium I have ventured into is block printing, thanks to some workshops offered by Molly Hashimoto at the WInslow Art Center. Molly, an accomplished nature artist, works in watercolor, block-printing, and etching. She’ll sometimes take the same idea and render it in all three media.
Inspired in part by her methodologies, I used the same starting point (from a photo I took of Ooms Conservation Area in Chatham, NY), and did a very small color study in gouache (shown above).
This guided me in doing the (somewhat larger) watercolor painting:
Watercolor (9 x 12″)
Finally, the same composition was used in the background for a hand-colored block print of a Mallard pair:
I live in a very rural area, surrounded by small, family-run farms. Many of my neighbors also keep cows, so I am always driving by cows (and oftentimes groups of cows) when I go anywhere.
I ventured into painting them during an online workshop with Patti Mollica last year, where we ventured into a variety of genres. And I discovered what great painting subjects cows can be.
There are several reasons for this:
a) They engage you the viewer with their own curiosities. When you photograph them or simply stand and look at them from, they directly meet your gaze. “What are you looking at?” they seem to say (and not always in the mildest of manners.)
b) They have these great, big masses, which make for great shapes in paintings. Whether painted alone or in groups, cows take up a lot of surface area.
c) And a cow can really hold a pose.
Acrylic (9 x 12″)
Geese rule the road – they do. These domestic geese at a local farm are always crossing or hanging out near, or on the road. Once I couldn’t get them to hurry their crossing so I made the mistake of getting out of my car to “encourage” them on their way, and they took terrible offense. As in, turned and chased me back to my car.
So, now I respect them – greatly. And love those long necks.
As I’ve ventured out this summer for sketching is that there is so much activity happening in miniature. You just have to stand still and look.
Like the butterfly above, which alighted on some echinacea as I was photographing my friend Marilyn’s beautiful garden this month. Marilyn, a landscape gardener, modeled after Monet’s garden, takes a lot of water (she and her husband put in a new well to accommodate its needs) and attracts a wide variety of winged creatures: butterflies, bees, moths, and hummingbirds.
Ordinarily, my landscapes are of vistas and wider views, but I realize there are a lot of much tinier worlds waiting to be painted as a way of being appreciated.
In Spring in my area, the flora and fauna emerge with equal ferocity.
Going for walks has become difficult because of bear sightings everywhere. Living in the woods as I do, I have taken to fewer wooded walks and more cautious
Nevertheless, the diversity of nature available to me even from my porch or a walk onto the lawn outside our house is staggering.
The doe above and her relatives kept popping up wherever I looked -first in the long, young ferns along our road, then again and again the garden down by our pond.
A few days later, I found this gorgeous Luna Moth lingering on the log siding outside our porch door. It rested there for a number of hours, then disappeared during the night. Very rare, and exquisitely beautiful.
Watercolor sketch of a Luna Mot