Building on failure
In 1993, when I took my first watercolor painting class at
the Memorial Art Gallery, we all wondered how long it would take to get good at
this. The teacher, local artist Wendy Gwirtzman, told us our discard pile might
be way over our heads before we felt satisfied with our work.
words, maybe never.
persevered, had some successes, won some prizes. But lately I’ve been in a
terrible slump, painting almost every day but feeling like I have no idea what
I’m doing, making rookie mistakes, covering pristine watercolor paper with mud.
On the plus side: The discard pile keeps getting taller.
wonder what I’m talking about, take a look at What’s Wrong with this Picture?, which accompanies this post. I’ve
struggled with this thing for several months, no kidding, and at this point I
believe any future it has lies in the recycling bin. If you have any helpful
comments, please send them along. (I’m open to cutting and saving bits and
pieces – always a possibility with watercolor.)
revisiting past projects might be a way to jump start my creative battery. First
I dug through my “works in progress” drawer and immediately moved a bunch of
these to that growing discard pile. I realized that some projects have been
sitting around for more than two decades. I’ve long forgotten the inspiration.
I moved a
couple to the top of the “possible” pile; one is currently in the active
category. I’m hopeful; perhaps I now have the skills to complete it.
opened a dusty portfolio of paintings that I had once considered complete but
had never framed. One in particular seemed, well, pretty nice. It’s a
watercolor on rice paper, a technique we experimented with in one of Wendy’s
classes years ago. The rice paper is glued onto heavy (300 pound) watercolor
paper and the picture is painted on top. Fine detail is not possible, but you
can get a pleasant misty, dreamy affect. I did a little more work on it, and
the result is One Pine Day, which
accompanies this post. It’s now attractively matted, framed and hanging at the
Main Street Artists gallery/studio.
likes it, and several friends had kind comments, which made me feel better. I
am not ready to throw away my paints and brushes! Ever the optimist, I’m sure my next attempt will be better,
maybe even sort of good. In any case, I remind myself, for me the joy of
painting is the process, not necessarily the result.
. . .
– Kathy Lindsley
Snow Cone, watercolor
One Pine Day, watercolor
painted a small wooden Christmas star that a studio associate gave me and had
another associate inscribe the word “Imagine” on the front. I’ve been looking at this word for a few
weeks now and thought of what an impact this word had on me. I began to
visualize what those individual letters meant as far as my artwork was
I=image: “To form a mental image and then support it.”
M=meaning: “That which is actually expressed or
A=action: “An act that one consciously wills or acts
G=give: “To set forth or show without expected
I=instinct: “A natural or innate impulse to action.”
N=natural: “Growing spontaneously.”
E=effect: “Power to produce results.”
produced many paintings but never really reflected on the process of how
everything moves forward from the onset of creating the painting until I saw
this word. What is the first thing you do, or should do, prior to putting paint
on paper? You investigate and form a mental image of the piece you want to paint and then support it with a brief sketch. You then take the image and actually bring meaning or life to it. Then consciouslyact on it by placing that concept on paper or canvas. You create
your image and finish it without expected compensation (to
receive compensation of course would be appreciated!).
always had a naturalimpulseto action when I paint an image
that has great meaning for me – such a memorable vacation photo, a place of
beauty I have visited, etc. Those paintings come easier for me because of that
deep meaning and wonder about them. And
because of continuously urging myself to do better I begin to grow spontaneously without given
thought. Thus the power to produce better results is done without hesitation.
I am continuously
inspired and supported every day by my Main Street Artists studio mates. Their
supportive words give me strength and the drive to go forward.
– Gabriele Lodder
We are entering the holiday
season with all its hustle and bustle. We are all busy in the studio preparing
for the Hungerford’s holiday hours. As I type this my studio mates are
decorating with all the bright and shiny things. I am not immune.
We know our Saturdays will be
here spending time with our customers and visitors. It’s always fun to meet new
people and visit with old friends. I truly enjoy meeting people that are
discovering the Hungerford for the first time. We’ve been talking a lot about
this lately. The Hungerford is one of those unique places where you can buy a
gift for someone that is handmade and will hold special meaning to the
receiver. Most of us will do work on commission but at this point if you want a
holiday gift it will have to come off the wall. We have plenty to choose from.
It is especially satisfying when our art speaks to someone in a way that makes
them want to take it home or give it as a gift.
It may be busy but, thankfully,
I have my painting that helps to center me. I am trying to paint through all
the craziness that is starting to descend. I still have four paintings in
various stages of progress. There is something very calming about tuning out
the real world and applying color to canvas. It’s meditative. It is calming.
I hope that you can find a
peaceful centering spot in the midst of all the celebration. I hope that you
will join us at the Hungerford for your holiday shopping. Most of all, I hope
that you enjoy your holiday season with family and friends.
Happy New Year.
– Christine D. Norris
“How it is that
animals understand things I do not know, but it is certain that they do
understand. Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and
everything in the world understands it. Perhaps there is a soul hidden in
everything and it can always speak, without even making a sound, to another
soul.” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett
paint portraits. As in painting a human being, painting an animal brings the
same challenges and joy to me. The more closely I look at animals, watch them,
study them and photograph them I realize that they portray many of the same
characteristics that we humans do – and
usually with much more compassion for others.
For the past few years I have been
building a body of work of animal portraits. Whenever I am in a new area I seek
out their local zoo or, in the case of Raleigh, NC, where I have family, a
research center. There is much objection out there to zoos and while I fully
understand the zoo naysayers’ views, I also know that many of these animals
were born in captivity and most likely would not survive in the wild. Some zoo
habitats are better than others, and seem more humane while others do make me
cringe. There have been instances when I can see sadness, frustration in the
animal’s eyes but at times, and more often than not, I do see curiosity,
intelligence and contentment. My goal is to portray the emotions I see and to
represent the majesty of the animal as best as I can.
To date I have visited zoos in
Portland, OR, Denver, CO, Rochester, NY, New York City and Asheboro, NC. My latest adventure was to
the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC. The
Duke Lemur Center does non-invasive research with their population of several
hundred lemurs of different breeds. Most of us are most familiar with ring-tailed
lemurs but there are other breeds. Their goal is to learn ways to keep lemurs
from becoming extinct as they are well on their way to doing so. I urge you to
check out the Duke Lemur Center and see for yourself the good that they
While visiting the center back in
June I was able to take their “walking with the lemurs” tour and it was
fascinating. Here we were out amongst the lemurs and I was able to get some
amazing photographs for future reference for paintings. I would highly
recommend this tour if you ever get the chance. It is worth every penny!
I hope you will stop by our studio
at the Hungerford, 1115 E. Main St., Rochester, NY, any First Friday (5-9 p.m.)
or Second Saturday (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) to see what animal I am painting. I would
love to talk to you about them. Commissions welcomed!
There is always something to see and
talk about with one of us, The Main Street Artists. We all love to share what we are doing. If you
want to stop by during the week call 585-233-5645 first to make sure I am there
and I would be happy to show you around our two studio spaces.
– Suzi Zefting-Kuhn
Prints are available of most originals.
Watercolor, my preferred medium, likes to be
so, I’m always looking for new ways to loosen up, stay fresh and become more
intuitive in my painting, Recently, I’ve been playing around with a technique I
discovered in a terrific book, Experimental
Landscapes in Watercolour
by British artist and author Ann Blockley (http://annblockley.com/
basic technique is quite simple: Find some interesting leaves, twigs or other
plant material. Place a piece of watercolor paper on a bed of paper towels.
Spread some rich, juicy paint on the paper (all over, or just in particular
areas). Press the plant material into the wet paint. Top with a sheet of
plastic wrap or wax paper (crinkled up, if you like). Top with a piece of
Plexiglas. Put something on top – like heavy books – to press it down. Wait for
a few hours (the paper doesn’t have to be completely dry).
you lift everything off, the paper will hold some interesting textures and
impressions. It’s really impossible to predict – or control – exactly what
you’ll get. I love that!
the paint has dried completely, you decide how to proceed. This is where you
put your imagination to work. What do you see? Where can this go? You could draw
and paint a composition, or complete the painting freehand, finding shapes as you
go. It could move in a completely abstract direction, or you could find a
landscape, a still life, maybe even a portrait. I don’t want to try to be too
literal, though. I love the fantastical, impressionistic feeling this method
for what to use, here’s a tip: Sturdy, waxy leaves work really well. Small
twigs, stems and seeds are good. In the accompanying paintings, you’ll see
ferns, which are wonderful. The foreground leaves in In the Pink are sweet woodruff, (my favorite ground cover). The background
textures in all three paintings comes from crinkled wax paper and plastic wrap.
You can also try cheesecloth, net, gauze, lace, etc.
when I’m out in the garden or off on a hike, I’m looking for textures and
shapes that I can try in a painting.
seeing the world in new and wonderful ways. And that is the great gift that art
brings to us all, always.
– Kathy Lindsley