I had my weekly Ridgewood Community School watercolor class tonight and wanted to share my demo and a lesson on brushstroke economy.
Today's lesson was focused on John Singer Sargent. I've studied a lot about Sargent and I'm always impressed with how efficiently he worked. We talked in class tonight about midtones (also called halftones) and we discussed the idea of brushstroke economy. Sargent was a master of midtones and he wrote "You must classify the values...If you begin with the middle-tone and work up to the lights and down towards the darks -- so that you deal last with your highest lights and darkest darks -- you avoid false accents."
Now to discuss brushstroke economy; I think this is one of the most important lessons in all of painting, but especially for watercolor painting. I first learned about this idea in college in a class with Patrick Connors. I loved Professor Connors' class because he emphasized traditional techniques. He told us about Frans Hals (1582 - 1666) and how he would lay down a brushstroke and leave it. This lesson was taught to Sargent by his teacher, Carolus Duran (1837 - 1917) as well. This goes well with midtones because you can lay down a broad midtone and then start sculpting the form with singular brushstrokes au premier coup (on the first try).
A lot of translations of au premier coup that I've seen have related it to alla prima, but they're different according to what I've read in the book, The Painter in Oil by Daniel Burleigh Parkhurst. Parkhurst writes that au premier coup means to lay down a brushstroke and then leave it and to build up the brushstrokes in a mosaic fashion. Alla prima only means that the painting is completed in a single sitting, but au premier coup isn't necessarily in one sitting.
That's my lesson for today, have a good week everyone.
For my brother's birthday, I got him this make your own hot sauce kit from Gardener's Supply Co. I had some fun adding calligraphy on the bottle labels. I'm trying to get better at calligraphy and I'm enjoying the slow concentration that it requires. I also like it because I find it very relaxing. I'm not knowledgeable about the techniques of calligraphy but maybe I'll learn about it and take a class one day.
I recently discovered this youtube channel all about traditional Japanese crafts. Each video is pretty short and they're translated into English which is awesome. If you're a fan of crafts and highly skilled artisans, then check out this channel. It's super inspiring.
I put the final touches on this self portrait a few hours ago. This is one of those paintings where I look at it and kind of don't know how I did it. It almost feels like I go on autopilot and just channel directions while I'm working. I think maybe I'm so concentrated that I almost enter a trance while I'm working. It was just me, the mirror and the painting.
So I'm proud to say this painting is done. It's so tough to say when a painting is done. I personally feel like it's one of the most difficult decisions in all of art making. I wish I had some wisdom to share about finishing a painting, but I don't. It's tough because I never want to over-work a piece, but I do want to effectively capture the spirit of whatever I'm trying to paint.
I've been getting better recently because I've been concentrating really hard while I work. I think getting better at painting really means getting better at seeing. Seeing both the details and the larger picture and having the skill to effectively translate that to the canvas. Another thing that was difficult about this painting which I didn't really realize when I set up was that my face was in shadow. I didn't realize this until my friend Asem pointed it out and I'm glad that I didn't think about it because maybe I would have psyched myself out about it.
I'm including a picture of a self portrait that I did when I was 19, so 10 years ago. It's crazy to see the change, but I still recognize my style which I never want to lose. I think I'm going to do a portrait of my Dad next so I'll share that whenever I start it.