Really excited to be underway on my first commissioned portrait of 2019. It's a memorial portrait so I'm doing the best to capture a spirit of life and energy in the portrait. Really inspired by John Singer Sargent's portrait of Mr. and Mrs. John White Field. The size is 24" X 20", which is nice because it's not too small; I don't like painting small. Stay tuned to see it progress!
I've been painting a lot of watercolors recently and have been using a wide range of paints. I've tried Jack Richeson Watercolor Sets, Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors, among others. I always found that the watercolors felt too opaque even when I did light washes of color. I knew something was just wrong with the way the paint was handling. I thought it was my own way of using the paint, but then I discovered Winsor & Newton's Professional Watercolor Pan Sets.
I had read that John Singer Sargent used Winsor & Newton pan watercolors, which prompted me to buy myself a set of half pan professional watercolors for Christmas. One of my first watercolor sets was a really small W&N set of 8 or so colors way back when I was an early teenager, but most of my watercolors lately have been painted using a Jack Richeson pan set.
The beauty of the W&N pan set is that the colors are light and transparent. They have a certain airy quality to them that I haven't found in other companies. The colors are very rich, even after they dry; I've noticed some other watercolors dry with a very chalky look to them.
Of course, with any art supply, it won't automatically make you a master painter. But it does really help to find materials that work for you. I want to emphasis that last part by saying that you should test out a bunch of different paints because you might not like this set, but you'll only find that out by painting.
Paintings below were painted using the W&N 24 color half pan set
*This is not a paid endorsement for Winsor & Newton. I am writing this as a fan of their watercolor pan sets.
I finally feel like I found the proper term for how I feel about my own art and life. The term I was looking for is Wabi-sabi, which is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death (transience). I had heard the term before, but I'm discovering that my outlook on life and art relates directly with Wabi-sabi. Before I investigated this, I wrote a blog post relating the idea of the imperfect to the process of signing a painting.
I also feel that the artwork I admire relates strongly to the idea of the imperfect and fleeting moments. Especially the art of Sorolla, whom I still love. And the watercolor paintings of John Singer Sargent have been inspiring my own pursuit of watercolor painting. Watercolor itself as a medium has a lot of ties with Wabi-sabi.
I'm finding a lot of comfort with the idea of finding beauty in the cycle of life, especially with recent events in my life.
This video relates to a lot of the same ideas.
I think every artist knows the feeling of overworking a painting or a drawing. And this is something that I've wanted to write about for a while because I think it's the difference between professional work and amateur.
If you like the freshness of the work by artists like John Singer Sargent and Sorolla, then I'm going to share some of my own insight about how to avoid overworking a painting.
1. It's better to leave a painting slightly unfinished, instead of working something to death. The painting will look worse if you get finicky with the color and overall painting. It will lose the freshness and spontaneity that you want.
2. Stay far away from your subject! What I mean by this is to not get too close to whatever you're painting. This is easier when you're painting from life, but if you're using photos on your computer or phone, then DON'T ZOOM IN. I know it's tempting to zoom in and see every detail, but trust me when I say that it will only make it harder to paint. Details in a painting are always secondary to the larger value structure and composition.
3. Don't mess with it. This is always easier said than done, but you must learn to leave the painting alone. This is especially true when you're working with watercolor because watercolor painting is very fragile. Never use two strokes, when one stroke will suffice.
So this is what I've been thinking a lot about recently, and I hope that it helps shed some light on this really important topic. Remember to keep painting, keep practicing and have fun!