Catching You Up to the Goings On – Winter 2011, My struggle, A plant

So, here’s the story.  Its winter. I have finished a long series where I had a determined subject everyday.  That took the relief off.  Now, I was mostly….”blerg.”   Winter in New England (that’s where I stare out the window) is beautiful.  BUT, it’s change.  What to paint has been a problem….or a haunting of mine.  Hmm. 

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” –Socrates

I like to remember these wise words from Socrates because it reminds me that I get hints.  What makes my eyes light up and my mouth smile, my laughter laugh, tells me something.  It does not happen when I look at everything.  Shouldn’t I pay attention when it does?  This is the reaction I look for when finding a new subject.  That being said, there is also another theory. 

“Inspiration is for amateurs.” –I heard David Hockney say this but it maybe came from elsewhere.

I know one thing for sure.  When nothing is delighting me, I still have to work.  SO, in diligently disciplined fashion, I first attempted a winter scene. 

 Hmm.  I overworked it.  Didn’t like it.  And know it didn’t capture that thing that winter has that’s so beautiful.  So I walked away utterly annoyed with myself.  I gave myself enough time that I noticed something.  I liked the orange blurrs.  I liked the stripey shadows and their varying intensities and I didn’t like how my trees looked short, and that I missed the whole beauty of making the object in the front more bold, and gently fading the color of the trees as they recede.  This is why people say to keep working–you may not produce anything “good” but it’ll tell you SOMEthing.

Armed with my new found knowledge, I tried again.

Sticking with the winter theme, I began a very delicate approach to my trees.  Bolder in the front, fading as they recede.  I was careful about which trees I picked (there are a lot of them).  I liked the first few marks so much and had so much fear in overworking again, that I walked away. 

And left it.  Maybe i’d work on it more.


I didnt know that I wouldnt touch the winter scene again until after I butchered my next project.  Portraits.  I love portraits.  I went back to portraits because a friend of mine had posted a newly created self-portrait on Facebook (  I loved it.  I then browsed through her profile pics (as you do) and saw one that I thought had an artistic quality.  WELL. I never ever paint from photographs because I have a huge problem with that (which i’ll explain another time) but at times I like to make sure my own stubborness is there for a reason.  Well, I worked on a portrait from this photo using watercolor for two weeks and it is a mush of goosh.  I don’t like to give up on my babies so I may continue working on it later.  For now, it’s hidden so I dont have to look at it.  UGH, no more portraits for a while.  Maybe this is a bad idea, but its what i’m going with. 

Sticking with the discipline any upstanding full-time artist needs in order to continue, I moped over to the couch, grabbed a blanket, snuggled up, and turned on the movie RED.  

It’s funny how the world continues spinning when you want it to stop.

My sister called.  She’s an artist too.  I complained.  A lot.  “You need to do something you havent done before.”  She recommended a new medium, maybe going back to oils (i’ve been working in watercolor for a bit over a year now).  I shot these down for reasons like “My studio is in the dining room and I am way to messy to be using oils in there.”  She told me a story about her time at RISD when she and her friends used to swap ideas.  She reminded me to play. 

As she was talking, I knew exactly what I would do next.  Sort of.  Exactly, sort of. 

There was a plant in front of my moping self on the couch.  It’s large.  Something about it’s shape drew me in.  I picked up my sketchbook, a green pen (Micron), let myself be as loose as I could be that day (which wasnt too too loose, but walk with me here). 

At first, the sketch was the point of the whole thing.

Next, I thought about tracing it so that I could transfer it to watercolor paper and play with the image as many times as my little heart desired.  I did this.   There was too much unused, lonely white space at the top.  I solved this by taking the plant image and flipping it (upside down and mirror like) on top of the first image.  This created a symmetrical designy design.  Then, I painted it in. I painted the positive space (the object–in this case the plant leaves)  I liked it.  It was more designy than I usually do, but I liked it.  Sometimes you just have to go with it. 

Next I tried to find another object to loosely sketch, trace, and watercolor.  This time I used the legs of a chair and it’s shadows.  When I traced the image and transferred it, this time I flipped the image four times around the page in order to get a very geometric pattern going.  Added color.  The result reminded me of the artist Egon Schiele.  Geometry wasn’t floating my boat so much, so I backed up.

I tried the plant again.  Trace, color.  Symmetry.  This time I played with negative space.  Naples yellow. Hmm.  Shapes began to pop up.  I left some.  Hmm. 

I have since made two more traces, alternating the pattern a bit more by the way I traced it or by color.

That is where I am today.  I’d like to go work on them more.  Today i’ve been thinking about light and shadow and maybe making a new trace to play with that.  Ooooh fun.  Experimenting is delightful. 

I don’t know what will happen with these.  I don’t care.  As long as i’m not bored yet, I will keep going. 

Come with me, will ya?

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