Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New watercolor underpainting

27"x37.5"watercolor underpainting on Art Spectrum supertooth

Are you intimidated when beginning a new BIG painting?
I am. It's weird. Plein air work and small stuff (24"x 24"and smaller) are like water off a duck; comfortable and they just roll off. Yeah, not all are good, but intimidating, no. There's a threshold where it changes.
For weeks I have planned this painting in my head. Made a series of plein air works, visited the museum for inspiration and thought. Yesterday the notans and sketches were finally made. This morning I charged myself up to begin the challenge. With all art business finished yesterday, I had a good night's sleep (imperative), small walk, a soy chai and a clear head; now I was ready to begin at 7:30 am. It's like gearing up for an athletic event!!!!!
Freeze. Think. Freeze. Think. Finally the brush touched the paper and from there things flowed. The wall had been jumped. Now I will let it dry and re-flatten it. Tomorrow I will meet the next wall when pastel are applied. After the first stroke is down it is free sailing.

Why is it like this?
Does anyone else experience such intimidation?


Melinda said...

Very well written, Loriann. I think you've explained quite well that we get comfortable with a particular format and changing it triggers an internal, subconscious dialog between our left and right brains! But, once brush touches paper/canvas, the right brain knows what to do and the left quiets down, sometimes offering technical advice.

Is this what you're experiencing?

This is a spectacular watercolor, btw. This would be where I would freeze up and ask whether it is done. Just wow!

Double "D" said...

I agree with Melinda,
This would make a gorgeous watercolor painting
as is. What type of paper is Art Spectrum supertooth and what kind of watercolor did you use. Curious minds want to know.

I wish I could handle pastel as well as you handle watercolor. Amazing.

loriann said...

Hi Melinda and Doug, Thank you both for your comments! I will address each separately.

Melinda, I think you are right about the subconscious dialog...I never thought of it that way. I do wonder how can size make that much difference? Is it the fact the cost of materials skyrockets when we go big? Or that the stroke is so different? What took one stroke on the small surface now is a more sophisticated blending of many strokes. Or is the thinking different? Do we analyze differently? Or a mix of all and that is the running dialog?

I think I just can I manage all that space and make it sing???? Then the ego comes in...ouch! Does any of that make sense?

Thanks about the watercolor...sometimes it's almost like a curse when it looks good cuz then I am more tentative. Or maybe that's a blessing, since then I tiptoe into the painting. hmmmmm

Thank you. it means a lot coming from you, a very accomplished watercolorist.
Art spectrum supertooth is a pastel paper...but I do believe art spectrum makes it by coating a watercolor rag paper with thick grit. I usually paint on Uart, but lately I have been wanting WHITE and Uart is a light tan. I want the luminousity. I really know so little about watercolor. I was an oil painter before I painted with pastels so I use my oil brushes when I watercolor. My paints are holbein, windsor newton and recently I bought some david smiths. What do you use? Any tips?

You are too kind:-)

Happy painting Melinda and Doug. You are both amazing landscape painters who I look to for inspiration.


Casey Klahn said...

This underpainting is so successful, I can't imagine any problems for you. But I agree with the subjective issues part.

I choose Wallis for big white sanded surfaces, BTW.

Karen said...

I feel like that sometimes even with the small stuff. But I think you're right one with the description of freeze, think, freeze, think. Get over one wall, and there is another. I think it happens if we're constantly pushing ourselves and striving to learn. It's more difficult, sure, but way more rewarding in the end.

brian eppley said...

hey Loriann.
Frankly, I'm excited when approaching big work... all work for that matter. When I'm doing the new big stuff the technique is the same. I just have to increase the size of all my equipment. There seems to be a temptation for more detail but I leave it out just as I do with the smaller ones. The painting may be best viewed from even further away but the energy is still there.
I think big plein air work can produce an anxiety due to the changing light and size of canvas to cover. I switched to an 8" knife and huge volumes of paint to apply rapidly. It's all geared to our developement as painters.The reference to a sporting event is accurate. I might just wear my heart monitor one day and see the results. I know it's elevated.

This underpainting is stellar and I can't wait to see where it goes.

loriann said...

Hi Casey! Thank you about the underpainting. And yes I struggle too. Always good to hear from you.

Hi Karen,It's good to hear a fellow artist has similar issues..weird, huh? The pushing really is the fun part no matter how hard. When we come close to reaching that elusive goal of becoming one with the painting it can be amazing! Love your new green work!

Hi Brian, Amazing, no Lucky you. I agree it is very exciting..but that big space always makes me say, "shoot, can I do it?" Tell me what happens when you wear your heart monitor...Enjoy!

Double "D" said...


I could give you tips on the watercolor process and the techniques used, but I would never suggest anything different for you. The combination of the paper you use and the interesting use of oil brushes in your washes should never be changed. Your success with this approach can not be duplicated with any other method. Don't change a thing. It's inspiring for me just to look at them and marvel at the success you have.

I think your choices of watercolor brands are consistent with mine. Winsor Newton is my primary source. I've tried Da Vinci, and occasionally use colors from Sennelier for certain shades of blue and green that aren't available from Winsor. That's it for colors. As for paper, I use Arches cold press and hot press in different sizes. I also use Fabriano in different finishes. Beyond that I don't stray far.
Brushes are anywhere from ultra cheap craft brushes to expensive squirrel hair and others.
I find that the new synthetic brushes are as good as any. Colors are basic, to avoid confusion. If a palette has 24 color wells I end up filling them all.
Big mistake, it's just a waste of color and expense.
I use cad yellow, alizarin crimson, french ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, burnt sienna, raw sienna and occasionally quinacradone gold and red.
I'm sure I probably cheat other colors in there but these are the basics.

Right now, I think I'm going to drag out my old oil brushes and try some different paper. I'm sure I won't have your success. As I said before, don't change a thing. I'm very pleased we've crossed paths. I enjoy your blog immensely.

Best regards, Doug

loriann said...

Thanks Doug! You are too kind! I have a basic watercolor palette too...a warm and color yellow, red and blue with burnt sienna and paynes grey added. I wonder how those papers you mentions would take pastel. hmmmm.
I appreciate all your input.
Happy painting, Loriann

Melinda said...

You've brought up very good points, all valid. I do think that the cost of materials can affect approach, but mostly our right brains don't care about money, true? I think you've hit on another important factor. We are in a dance with our materials AND the image that has inspired us. So, scale and its corresponding brushstrokes must change in response to the size of a work. Yes, I think, too, that our analysis does change as a result. But, that's a good thing. And, once you work in a larger format, you become comfortable with that, finding it difficult sometimes to return to a small substrate.

Either way, you are a wonderful watercolorist and pastel artist!!

Jala Pfaff said...

This is so pretty.

It's so funny to see your blog post here about being intimidated about starting a large painting, because the biggest canvas I've ever attempted (which I just began work on last night, finally) has been propped in my studio staring at me for about a month, intimidating the hell out of me. :)