Things learned and a few abstractions

Abstract 1
Abstract 1

Last week I lived beyond cell phone and internet reach as I  attended a week long workshop taught by watercolorist Ted Nuttall. As I expected, I learned so much (yes, the back of my head blew off a couple times!). Let me share just a few of the most important concepts I took away from this wonderful experience..

1. Slow down. No, I mean s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. I spent a lot of time thinking about my next brush stroke. Where should it go? What color should it be? How would it react with the other colors already on the paper? When I finally acted, it was with intention rather than panicked splashiness.

Abstract 2
Abstract 2

2. Think abstractly. This was probably the single most important concept I tried to internalize. I’ve been unhappy with my work lately, finding it a bit flat, and lacking the broken color and fine edges that make my head ring with internal music. By concentrating on making each small passage its own tiny abstract painting, (that of course, relates to the whole image) I was able to add interest and visual variety to otherwise flat passages.

Abstract 3
Abstract 3

3. Think color. I tend to get stuck in one single color: orangey-red flesh tone. But that’s not what a person looks like. Skin tones are made up of many different hues and chromas. By varying color, saturation, and value, the painting is not only more exciting, but more like life. So I went (a little) crazy with color, using combinations I don’t normally choose.

Abstract 4
Abstract 4

4. Be uncomfortable. I made a decision that every brush stroke I put down would make me uncomfortable. I not only walked a watercolor tight rope, but I bounced a bit on the artistic high wire.  Sometimes my brushstrokes set me teetering and wheeling, but after a bit of nail biting (and whining), I regained my balance and continued  painting. You know what? Those seemingly near disasters turned out to be the best parts of the painting.

My workshop painting is still not quite finished, so I’ll not post it yet, but I’ve cropped a few of the tiny abstract paintings that make up the whole. I find them quite lovely all by themselves.

Of into the wild blue yonder

This week I’m off to a Ted Nuttall workshop at Kowana Valley Folk School. The last time I attended one of his workshops, it was a sea change for me. I know I shouldn’t apply expectations, but I’m hoping for another big jump during this workshop. We shall see.

I like to have goals, though. They focus me and keep me from straying off along a thousand different paths. I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals for this workshop.

  1. There is tightness—a constriction—about my work that I’d like to loosen. It’s the seeming freedom in Ted’s work that I admire, although he told us at the last workshop that every dib and daub of paint is placed carefully and deliberately. But I think it must be a freedom in his way of thinking that allows for those spot-on “sloppy dots.”
  2. I also admire his color sensibility, and although I’m not sure how someone can teach that in a week, I’m hoping to gain some insights.

I know that I need to keep myself open to whatever knowledge blows my way. Sometimes it’s the errant zephyrs of knowledge that make the most impact. But I’m going to try to follow my path as best I can.