“Do not think that I have stopped painting, for at any moment, I am liable to paint a good picture.” – Winslow Homer
With just a quick look at the home page for this blog one can see how immersed I had become teaching visual art in a 1:1 iPad school, developing learning experiences in digital art, animation, 3D design, and so on, balanced with hands-on experiences in clay and paint. My students were fortunate to have had art class in every grade since kindergarten, often with a focus on drawing and painting, so that when they got to fifth grade and were issued iPads, creating on them was new and different, engaging many reluctant students who had already decided they weren’t “good at art”.
While I worked hard to form the curriculum, I spent so much time developing my own craft on devices that I had little time left over for traditional art making. My time spent painting or drawing in school would suffice for my own hands on art making except for pottery making, which I have focused on for the past five years or so in my summer studio. Because it is a summer studio, I would work with clay in summer and glaze the finished work during the winter. Last year I glazed and fired everything by late fall, which freed me up creatively to paint during the winter.
For the past few years, my painting experiences were limited to small sketches with pan watercolors, especially when traveling.
My most recent sustained focus on painting followed a trip to Haiti in 2018, which inspired me to make four larger paintings (12 x 18) of people on the move:
These paintings were done in 2018, so it had been a few years since I’d made any real effort to paint. During the first winter of the pandemic, while teaching remotely, I did a paint-by-number of Mona Lisa, believe it or not, as a stress buster from long days of screen time and prepping course content. My mother was staying with us then, also, and the hour a day or so in my studio provided a wonderful respite from a crowded house and routine when I wasn’t capable of more creative work.
Last winter, while on semester break from my work with art education students at Mass Art, I decided to devote my creative energy to watercolor painting. As a little boost, I enrolled myself in an online one-week workshop with Mass Art’s Irena Roman, a brilliant watercolorist who uses the pour technique in her work. The course started on January 3. In order to prepare for the class, I broke out the tubes of watercolors I hadn’t used in a few years. Straight out of the chute and for the sake of familiarity, I decided to paint the frequent subjects of my photographs – backyard birds.
I was so rusty! It was a good place to start because it motivated me to give myself fully to the techniques Irena shared. She had us start by using liquid mask randomly over the surface of prepared watercolor paper. Next we mixed some colors in little cups and poured them over the surface, adding some splatter in places for good measure.
The photo above shows the early process including the pencil marks once I decided on imaging to add. And here is the finished piece:
I’m usually pretty tight with my imaging, so this experience was a great way to loosen up. I appreciated the exercise. From there we had choice as to what to paint except for one assignment to paint from one of the supplied photos. I chose the porcelain enamel pans below because I have quite a collection of them myself that I use for patio container plantings.
Throughout the week between the introduction on Monday and the critique on Friday, I painted daily, enjoying both the new technique and long sessions of studio time. Dead winter in Massachusetts never felt so good.
Working from my own photos of birds, I continued to paint using the pour technique. The pieces below are about 12 X 18:
And then began to paint from photos of Power Line Park because they were so fresh in my mind and we had spent so much time there. These are also about 12 x 18.
And in the dead of winter, a blooming hibiscus never felt so fresh:
By now I was painting almost daily and was once again comfortable with the medium. Using photoshop, I pieced together some images of bluebirds in flight I had taken at Power Line Park. So here I was again using technology to make sense of image arrangement. This is the same painting as the one at the top of this post:
From here I decided to go big, to take small slices of life and paint them largely, at 18 x 22. I loved finding the detail that forms the larger image.
All of a sudden it was the end of March. Winter had passed. It was spring again! Time for thinking about gardens, backyard birds, outside time, and opening the summer clay studio. I made one last large painting in celebration of the season.
As I write this post in mid-August and look back at the work I produced from January through April, I can’t help but to be optimistic for the upcoming winter weather, which many of us in New England dread. When I close up the clay studio in October I’ll pick up my paints again knowing no matter how cold it is outside, I’ll find warmth in the studio adding color to my days.