Saturday, December 4, 2010


I am returning to experiments in value, as well as the effects of light art various times of the day, in order to add more life to my work. The painting above (4.75" x 6.75" on Arches 140# cold pressed paper) was done entirely with Sepia. I worked from a photograph that I had altered in Photoshop from color to black and white in order to reveal the values and tones. It is not always easy or convenient to work directly from nature, so for now I am working from photos for practice.

Additionally, I have ordered a few books on watercolor technique to see if I can teach this old dog some new tricks. I would like to not only do bird portraits, which I enjoy very much, but also pictures that show birds in their natural environments, going about their business, doing what birds do. That will require that I learn to render foliage, trees, and water in a way that suggests realism without actually falling into the trap of extreme detail, which is not really my cup of tea style-wise.

I admire the work of such wildlife artists as Robert Bateman, but I will leave the technique of showing every detail to those like him that are more facile at it--and interested in doing so. I believe that style has merit and value, but I love the idea of suggesting things  and still making them seem real.

Today I spent a large chunk of the day reading some books on Winslow Homer I got from the UCLA Arts Library. One in particular is very interesting and instructive: Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light by Martha Tedeschi, et al, published by The Art Institute of Chicago. In it, they describe Homer's working methods,   the colors he used, and the various techniques he used to portray his subjects so beautifully. The art experts provide technical commentaries on a range of different aspects, including paper, pigments and lightfastness, and techniques Homer used such as scraping out color, spattering, and resist.

Homer has always been one of my very favorite artists. His rendering of light, and the effects of light, in the natural world is without equal.  One writer put it most eloquently:

"The wonder we feel standing in front of one of Homer's watercolors has little to do with painterly pyrotechnics, but instead come from their capacity to conjure the natural with unprecedented truth and vividness."

Homer was a keen observer of nature and an avid student of color theory and optics (the effect of light at various times of the day and different seasons). He had the

"ability to to evoke a sense of truth in watercolors--the true breath of life...the glint of actual sunshine, the smell of mother-earth. It had everything to do with his dedicated examination of the relationship between color, light, and water, the three principal ingredients of watercolor. These elements were both is medium and very often his subject matter." (Tedeschi)

With this in mind, I sign off now to go paint!


Tabor said...

Painting like good photography and good writing captures the essence of the subject without including every detail, at least that is my opinion. You have mastered some mystery in this sepia.

Urban Wild said...

Thanks very much. And an interesting idea--I think you are right. One must allow the viewer some use of their imagination!