As summer 2021 approached, the kids’ extracurricular activities started back in person. One of those activities is rock band for my oldest daughter. It’s also the longest wait time for me – two hours. I usually read while I'm waiting but this time, since the weather was so nice, I decided to use the time to learn some traditional watercolor painting techniques. I made myself a little en plein air box, packed a bag with paper, and was ready to start.
Ever since my kids could hold a paint brush, we've practiced wet-on-wet watercolor painting. In the Waldorf tradition, wet-on-wet technique is taught to young children to give them an experience of color with no form. The process allows them to feel the effects of color and experience the color’s quality. It's a fluid and dreamy technique that produces lovely results. I love this technique and teach it within my community.
After 17 years of teaching wet-on-wet technique, I've got some knowledge, but with traditional watercolor technique - not so much. I have friends who paint in watercolors and their work is always so beautiful. I really wanted to learn. So, I bought a book, gathered up my little en plain art box, and spent the summer practicing watercolor painting. I had a blast and created all kinds of paintings. Everything from animals to landscapes, and abstract pieces too. I learned quickly that I hand major flaw in my thinking about watercolors. I thought painting water would be easier with watercolors - it is not!
Watercolors became for me a wonderful way to experiment and try out new ideas. I also love the portability and being able to paint outside. Possible with oil paints but not very practical. I also loved combining watercolors, inks and colored pencil - allowing me to try all kinds of combinations of realism and abstraction.
Then there are acrylics. Acrylics and I have never gotten along. In fact, I had a serious disdain for acrylics. Though every other artist I know paints beautifully in acrylics and they have been encouraging me to try. Acrylics are not oils, obviously, and they don't behave like anything that I am familiar with. In the past, I've tried painting in acrylics with minimal success. The frustration level was just off the charts!
I know an artist who paints in acrylics using the miche technique. The same technique I learned in Europe but with oils. I have stared at her paintings trying to figure out how she creates such wonderful work. After staring for many hours and thinking I had somewhat of a clue, I started the Lennon piece.
After a few sittings, my frustration level was sky high. To get the acrylics to do what I wanted them to do I had to add tons of medium, making the paint so transparent that it would have taken me a hundred years to build up enough layers to make an image. When I used less medium, the paint dried before I could do anything. I couldn’t stand it anymore! I wanted to gesso over the whole thing but for some reason I didn't.
I had painted my children’s rooms using a technique called lazure. I had also experimented with veil painting. Both are based in the Waldorf tradition and the work of Rudolph Steiner and both are layering techniques. The mische technique is also a layering technique using oil glazing over a water based tempra creating optical grays and other amazing effects. I was familiar with all of these techniques and I just wasn't happening with the acrylics.
Then, one morning last week I woke up with a vision and believed that I saw what needed to be done. I marched into the studio and started. I guess I needed years of angst first before I relaxed into the acrylics and stopped fighting them. When I finally relaxed, I literally sat down and finished the Lennon piece within a few hours. Painting is like that, you have to relax and trust that your hands, your materials, and the creator in you will merge beautifully. Fight any of those and you get mud!
Oil painting will always be my first love and I don’t see that ever changing. Though now I have other mediums at my disposal that I’m feeling confident with. I’m pleased and excited to have opened these doors for myself and looking forward to more play in the studio.
This is the third post of a six part series sharing the body of of work I have created over the last two years and my journey leading up to my solo show:
Opening April 8, 2022
Assemblage Contemporary Craftsman Gallery
306 S. Main Street, Suite 106