STAN07  In his own words…

“I remember, when I must have been quite young, watching my older brother Greg draw. He was good. In the third grade our teacher taught us perspective, how to make a road go back and disappear into the mountains. I never forgot how to do that. When I was seven or eight years old, our family took a trip to Wisconsin to visit a friend of my Dads. He was a professional watercolorist. I remember the drive through the woods, walking up to his front door, through the entry, looking up at the walls as soon as I entered the house. I wanted to see his paintings. Randy Penner. I’ll never forget that name or that trip and the influence it had on me.

“In Junior High I took some art, mechanical drawing and enjoyed it. I wrote a career paper on becoming an artist but never really thought that it was possible. In college I decided to major in physical education since I considered an art major unrealistic. The second year I switched to a commercial art major since the community college had a good graphics program. It was during the three years of training to become a commercial artist that I took watercolor. My first watercolor class I got a “C”. The worst grade I had ever received in any art class. I was required to take it again the following year and it went much better. Not only did I get an “A”, but I fell in love with it. I started selling my paintings before I graduated for as little as $2. In the fall of 1973 I had made a decision to try to make a living as a full time, professional watercolorist and have managed to do that now for more than thirty years.”

Stan Miller

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“Venice Calm”, watercolour, Stan Miller, AWS (sold)

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“Sunday Morning Snow” , Stan Miller
watercolour 18″ x 24″  (sold)

I have learned some important fundamentals by watching Stan Miller’s presentations on YouTube.  There are a cartload of painters offering ‘tips’ and ‘tricks’ on how to ‘do’ watercolours on YouTube, and while I do not always wish to pursue instruction beyond what the medium itself teaches me through trial and error, there are areas where I absolutely require help.

Searching for help regarding composition can be frustrating and fruitless.  That is because not every painter’s views on the subject resonate.  Gut feeling is something I have come to trust when it comes to watercolour, and many instructional videos on YouTube don’t ring true to my own personal approach.  That is not to say these videos won’t ring true to someone else’s taste and fulfil their ‘gut feeling’.

Stan Miller is plain spoken, down to earth and sensible about how he goes about painting.  There’s very little ‘artiness’ about the man.  Yet, what he accomplishes on paper is, to my eyes, lovely and true and a delight to the senses.

Here is his helpful short video on how to logically and sensibly approach the difficult area of composition–something I forever struggle with–which you might find helpful also.

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breakers

July 22, 2015

The depicting of waves in watercolour is particularly challenging when one has decided on being a ‘purist’ by refraining from both opaque white and masking fluid.  Personally speaking, masking fluid has become so offensive in terms of smell (its natural thinner, in case anyone wonders, is ammonia, which is why it smells so awful–but a little ammonia will indeed thin thickened masking fluid, if stirred in slowly), and damaging brushes (even when dipping them in soapy water first), and causing the hardest of edges when removed, that it’s rarely a choice for me.  It does make for quite lovely snow squalls when flicked from a stiff toothbrush, I must say–and great fun, too.

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‘Third Beach, Vancouver’, watercolour, painted on location, 35.5cm x 23cm (14″ x 9″), Arches Hot Press 140lb. Paper

Breaking waves challenge any student of watercolour (and every single person working in this medium will forever be a student) because of having to leave paper white for crest foam, swash, and the receding backwash effects.  This, coupled with understanding which part of the wave receives more or less pigment, not to mention the change of pigmentation if backwash is curling up and drawing in sand at the same time, comes the added realisation that sky is being reflected off top surfaces the further from shore one looks.

There truly is nothing for it but to get right into the actual physics of spilling, surging, plunging, and collapsing breakers, each of which exhibits its own characteristic properties–ones our eyes are very accustomed to and therefore recognize in a flash when viewing surf–properties a viewer expects to be reproduced in paintings (if the painting is trying to conform to the challenges of representational art, that is).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_wave  Drawing each of these examples over and over again makes wave action less of a mystery and eventually becomes familiar and far less challenging.  However, a single line of waves is always backed by more, multiplying the visual dynamics, adding to the confusion of having to depict row upon row of breakers.  Where does foam end and the gathering wave behind it start?  For this, it is very instructive to carefully observe photographs and again draw over and over how this actually does look.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_wave)  Only then, personally speaking, do I find painting on location not as daunting, for stopped action is easier to analyze than sitting in front of actual pounding surf.

Painting water is a dedicated pursuit all of its own.  There is a painting friend of mine who includes water in every single piece he does because he is dedicated to the depiction of water, whether in the form of rain, surf, river, lake, stream, waterfall, because in each case there is a lifetime’s worth of challenge.

first tries

July 20, 2015

At age thirteen, in 1960, there was a book at the public library on ‘how to paint’ in watercolour.  In those years we lived in Rochester, New York (the home of Eastman Kodak and famous for its Lilac Festival), and ‘art class’ had been a favourite because of Miss Wright.

Miss Wright (Cecile) had a long wooden table covered in Mason jars filled with tempera paint of what seemed to be every colour known to humankind.  There were those wooden medical tongue depressors in each jar for stirring, and the rank smell of that paint probably still resides somewhere on our persons.  In the back room she had dozens of file folders filled with magazine clippings of any subject we wished to study in order to do our work–trees, flowers, mountains, old people, young people, dogs, cats, chipmunks, birds and on and on and on.

There was no real structure to that 45 min. period, insofar as we simply went to the back room and retrieved whichever folder was of interest that day and put on our smocks (my father’s old shirt), dribbled our paint selections onto an old plate and went to town.  Miss Wright was strict and had her long greying hair wound round tightly atop her nobly-held head, through which she always thrust her pencil.  She was strict about a few things, including making sure that if a street lamp or person or fence post were in front of a tree branch, we had to be sure to make the rest of the branch extend beyond the object (“otherwise it looks like the lamp post chopped it off!”, she’d say, grabbing our brush and doing it herself. “See??”).

To this day I have always followed this advice.  No lamp posts ever chop off branches.

In the ‘how to paint’ book were step-by-step instructions of how to do a finished painting, complete with step-by-step illustrations.  All I had available were those paints in round pans housed in a black metal rectangle of a box, which every child in America at some point found thrust into a Christmas stocking (not what the book recommended).

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watercolour study, some kind of spiral-pad watercolour paper, 18cm x 28cm (7″ x 11″)

Beginning with the drawing (not as difficult a subject as the others available), the first task was the sky.  It was an absolute fascination discovering how a wetted area would feather into sort-of ‘instant’ clouds.  That alone had me sold.  Learning from the author that more distant objects required less paint and more water was very helpful.  And so was adding more detail as the paper dried, saving the finest detail for when it had dried completely.

And the most helpful thing was learning that a single Kleenex solved a lot of problems. What it didn’t teach me was when it was a good time to stop fussing and ‘perfecting’ (another word for ‘ruining’), which I’ve still not quite managed to learn.

The rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) is a small hummingbird, about 8 cm (3.1 in) long with a long, straight and very slender bill. These birds are known for their incredible flight skills.  Some are known to fly 2,000 mi (3,200 km) during their migratory transits.

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Rufus & Allen’s Hummingbird miniatures, approx. 3.8cm x 5cm (1.5″ x 2″), Arches Hot Press 140 lb. paper

The adult male has a white breast, rufous face, upper-parts, flanks and tail and an iridescent orange-red throat patch or gorget. Some males have some green on back and/or crown. The female has green upper-parts with some white, some iridescent orange feathers in the center of the throat, and a dark tail with white tips and rufous base. Their breeding habitat is open areas and forest edges in western North America from southern Alaska to California. This bird nests further north than any other hummingbird.

The female is slightly larger than the male. Females and the rare green-backed males are extremely difficult to differentiate from Allen’s hummingbird.  (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rufous_hummingbird)

[In the photo above, the pre-dawn light produced a less-than-sharp picture. Photography is an artform unto itself.  This is a digital image produced by a Kodak Brownie-type picture taker.]

atlantic puffin

July 13, 2015

The Atlantic Puffin is the only puffin native to the Atlantic Ocean and  breeds in Iceland, Norway, Greenland,Newfoundland and many North Atlantic islands, and as far south as Maine in the west and the British Isles in the east. The Atlantic puffin has a large population and a wide range. It is not considered to be endangered although there may be local declines in numbers. On land, it has the typical upright stance of an Auk. . .

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The Little Auk (Alle alle), is a tiny seabird, around the size of a starling

At sea, Atlantic Puffins swim on the surface and feed mainly on small fish, which they catch by diving underwater, using their wings for propulsion.

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‘Atlantic Puffin’, watercolour miniature, 12.5cm x 17cm,         (5″ x 6.5″), Arches Hot Press 140 lb. Paper                                           

The Atlantic puffin spends the autumn and winter in the open ocean of the cold northern seas and returns to coastal areas at the start of the breeding season in late spring. It nests in clifftop colonies, digging a burrow in which a single white egg is laid. The chick mostly feeds on whole fish and grows rapidly. After about six weeks it is fully fledged and makes its way at night to the sea. It swims away from the shore and does not return to land for several years. (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_puffin)

(reference photo for painting from:  Rolf Stange…www.spitzbergen-svalbard.com)

…..carabao

July 11, 2015

MY PARTNER RAUL is from The Philippines, and we’ve been together now 12 years, married (with my sister officiating) in 2008.  We met online in 2003, and a month later I flew to Manila where he met me at Aquino International Airport.  My sponsorship of him as my ‘conjugal partner’ brought him here in 2007, and Raul is now an LPN, whose specialty area is Geriatrics.

The small Barangay of San Jose, Plaridel, Bulacan, features rice fields whose rhythms set the tone for the annual life cycle of villagers and livestock, including the stolid and dependable beast of burden, the Carabao.

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“Bulacan Dawn”, watercolour, 43cm x 74cm (17″ x 29″), Arches Cold Press Paper 140 lb

Water buffaloes are well adapted to a hot and humid climate. Water availability is of high importance in hot climates since they need wallows, rivers or splashing water in order to reduce the heat load and thermal stress. They thrive on many aquatic plants and in time of flood will graze submerged, raising their heads above the water and carrying quantities of edible plants. They eat reeds, giant reeds, bulrush, sedges, water hyacinth and marsh grasses. (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carabao)

There is something so completely humbling about how humans are graced with the educational presence of massively-strong animals whose disposition is nonetheless docile, coupled with a willingness to be put to work with little being asked in return.  My three stays in The Philippines of some 6 weeks each, allowed me to learn from the perfect symbiosis of rice worker and carabao, whose calm partnership in the tending of the greenest of green fields was both reassuring and a powerful living metaphor.


			

…..draw a bird day

July 8, 2015

Kwakiutl First Nation is a First Nations government based on northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, focused on the community of Port Hardy, British Columbia in the Queen Charlotte Strait region.

A Kwakiutl Native legend has it that the eagle once had very poor eyesight. Because it could fly to the highest treetops, however, a Chief asked the eagle to watch for invading canoes. Anxious to assist, the eagle convinced the slug, which in those days had excellent vision, to trade eyes temporarily.

The slug agreed, but when the eagle’s sentinel duties were finished, the eagle refused to trade back eyes. Thus, goes the legend, not only is the eagle’s sharp vision accounted for, but also the slowness of the slug.

source: [http://www.baldeagleinfo.com/eagle/eagle-myths.html]

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‘Golden Eagle’, watercolour, 9cm x 14cm (3.5″ x 5.5″), Arches 140 lb. Hot Press Paper

Laura, over at www.createarteveryday.com announced a challenge to draw birds today.  And ‘Monday,Tuesday,Wednesday’ ‘s contribution was The Nevada State Bird, the magnificent Mountain Bluebird.  Kirk’s contribution is The Baltimore Oriole, another gorgeous bird.

inspiration galore!

July 6, 2015

THERE ARE TODAY few watercolourists with the mastery, control, spontaneity and lyrical grace of Joseph Zbukvic, an Australian painter who emigrated from Zagreb in 1970, and took up watercolour in his adopted country.

He is among a handful of true masters of classical watercolour technique, due to an ability to transform veritably any subject into visual poetic language.

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Adroit and seemingly effortless whether out on location or in the studio, Joseph Zbukvic’s handling and style builds on a foundation of an accurate, yet freely-rendered underdrawing, the suggestion of detail, a flawless sense of both composition and values, sparing yet daring choices, brought off with efficiency and dashed-off finishing touches of highlighting contrast.

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H20  COLOR, 9/3/01, 5:26 PM,  8C, 8000x6290 (0+1730), 100%, low contrast 8,  1/20 s, R74.5, G49.4, B62.1

flags and awnings 28 x 16.5

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This calibre of painting keeps any student of the medium of watercolour inspired and wanting to stretch and keep striving.  It is a wonderful thing to see how high the watercolour bar can be set!

http://www.josephzbukvic.com/

blue moon

July 4, 2015

Because watercolour basically amounts to taking white paper and staining it with various colours by way of a brush and water-activated pigments, the possibility of texture using a buildup of paint, gesso, gel medium and other ‘helps’ available to painters in acrylic and oil just isn’t there.  IOW, in classic watercolour technique the word ‘impasto’ doesn’t exist.

Some painters get around this disadvantage by way of collage, and apply watercolour to glued on tissue and similar textural material…..

forest forager by shari hills,  “Forest Forager”, watercolour and collage by Shari Hills, source: httpwww.drawntothevalley.co.ukartistsdetailshari-hills

Here, the painter, Sheri (Colours by Sheri), used ‘delicate papers’ as a glued foundation to provide textures which then received watercolour paint to complete the effect.  On her site she describes how she also has used organic leaf material at times.

Winters Chill 12 x 9 Watercolours Collage Mixed Media Original -

“Winter’s Chill”, watercolour collage, Colours by Sheri, source: httpwww.coloursbysheri.comcurrent-series.html#sthash.aUBXtd8f.dpuf

If this method is used, painters are required to identify their medium as ‘collage’, or ‘watercolour collage’ if entering the piece in an exhibition or juried show.  Such work falls outside the accepted boundaries of what constitutes a ‘watercolour’.

In order to remain within the rather strict boundaries painters cannot have more than one third be of another medium or it then becomes a ‘mixed media’ work or ‘collage’ or ‘gauche’.   Gauche is watercolour which uses white tempera paint, and thus is opaque, not transparent. Of course, that is perfectly well and good.  Every painter does as (s)he is led to do.

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‘Moonrise’, watercolour on art board, 19cm x 24cm, (7.5″ x 9.5″)

Personally, like writers who enjoy the challenge of staying within the bounds of iambic pentameter and composing 14 line sonnets, being ‘confined’ to the rather strict parameters of traditional watercolour is rewarding.  These protocols include reserving paper to serve as white in a painting (such as the moon in the above example) — and the white of the paper is what brings life to the pigments laid over it.   And it means having to discover ways of creating texture which, in the end, remains just an illusion.

IT IS HEARTENING to read the comments lavished on me for this little project, and to see no one asking me ‘why bookmarks when we have Kindle Readers?’

heh heh….I do own one.  And I do have a Google Reader app loaded onto my cell phone. And yes, I do occasionally (like at the dentist’s) have need to continue reading the free download of the 19th C. contemporary of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins’ “The Guilty River” (a mystery).

And, because I didn’t want to undergo surgery for a crushed rib cage attempting to read the kazillion-page ‘War and Peace’ in bed, I did read that on my Kindle.

HOWEVER, reading ‘War and Peace’ on a Kindle, though less cumbersome, brings no satisfaction whatsoever when, many grey hairs later, one finishes it.  Why?  Because those kazillion pages simply vanish into thin air.  You don’t get the ego satisfaction of hefting the giant tome onto a bookshelf and nodding at it whenever going by, thinking, “I read that — the whole damn thing — every damn page of it.”

LIKEWISE,  young misses into the third week of dating a diehard Kindle devotee–invited to the apartment for coffee, waiting for it to be served–don’t get to peruse the bookshelves to get a good glimpse as to what this person is REALLY like.

THE CLINCHER FOR ME was when Kindle and Google started charging as much for their so-called cloud download of electronic nothingness, as a bookstore does for an actual, substantial, lap-filling, real-and-in-your-hands, BOOK.  Uh-uh.  If I’m gonna pay $20 for a book?  I WANT A BOOK.

THUS, the bookmark DIY project.  Because there are still alot of I-want-something-for-my-money book readers like me, who see Kindle as the garment of the Emperor.  So if a kindred spirit is going to have to pay $20+ regardless, not only do they want a real book, they’d enjoy receiving a bookmark gift to go with it.

So let’s finish it up…..

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….the remains of the painting reject get chopped into pieces, the largest one measuring wider than 2 widths of the bookmark, because it is going to serve as a sleeve holder…..the smaller piece will become the gift giver’s  “To:/From:” tag

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….the larger piece gets chopped down further, with the top part cut on the bias, and glue applied to the side and bottom edges.  This is then folded shut, and placed under a flat, heavy weight (I recommend ‘War and Peace’, snigger)….

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….meanwhile, start your tassel by winding your choice of yarn(s) around the width of two fingers, thereby choosing how big or small you want the finished tassel to be….

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…..thread the tassel loop through with a length of remaining yarn…..

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….there are a few ways to handle the rest of this, and I prefer tying a simple knot and then adding a touch of glue to keep from having to knot it twice, thus making it too bulky-looking….

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…..wrap a length of yarn below the knotted top to serve as the tassel’s ‘noose’, and secure that with another dab of glue, setting it all aside till the glue has soaked in and dried clear….

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….the frayed ends are trimmed from the knot and the noosed yarn, then the looped bottom is sliced completely across to create the tassel…..

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…..the gift sleeve is removed when dry and a complimentary-sized gift card/tag is glued to the front of it…..

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….the completed bookmark, with tassel is inserted into the gift sleeve, accompanied (in this case) with a business card, ready for display and selling…

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