Cloud Studies

July 21, 2020

Sometimes there’s a need to trample on whole bunches of internal dos and don’ts, accumulated over years of anal retentive watercolour practices.

‘Don’t premix washes–glaze one pigment over another right on the paper’; ‘Don’t soak the paper in the bathtub and then stretch it on a stretcher–it removes the lovely sizing’; ‘Don’t get obsessed with detail–be expressive’; ‘Don’t use opaque white’; ‘Don’t use so much masking fluid’; ‘Don’t be so timid’; ‘Don’t paint today–you aren’t centred’.

Lordy. I went to the sink, grabbed a kitchen sponge and some dollar store poster board.

“Approaching Storm”, 8″ x 10″, watercolour, by Lance Weisser, white poster board

For all who might be equally plagued by a mental build-up of watercolour dos and don’ts, have a look at this example of watercolour exploration and artistic daring:

Just as choosing to place one’s subject matter in front of bright sky produces remarkable effects as in the work of Joseph Zbukvic, so also can equally-remarkable effects be achieved when making the sky itself the subject.

An almost unparalleled master is a lesser known watercolourist than the celebrated J. Zbukvic, but a truly exquisite painter of both sea and sky, the Russian Sergey Temerev:

‘The Salty Wind, the Flowing Light’, Sergey Temerev
Sea and Sky watercolour by Sergey Temerev
‘Under the Vault of Shining Heavens’ by Sergey Temerev

Here is a video of him at work:

A Sergey Temerev workshop

Now, those are clouds.

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

venicecalmlg30

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

sundaymorning600

“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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