Well, final might be a bit strong. This is the final set of paintings from a single critique night, a night that included 33 paintings, of which I have been able to show only a few. And September is approaching, which means another critique night is looming — it’s time to wrap this one up.
Jerry Dickason is off to Europe any day now and, in order to be able to paint on his journey, has been using watercolor rather than oils. What interests me is how he is using the strengths he already has with the ever-so-challenging mode of watercolor.
I recognized this tree immediately. It’s an oak tree on Sauvies Island, and, by consensus, the group finds oak trees difficult to capture. I myself can testify to a personal failure in this regard. Jerry’s use of a monochromatic palette here, a palette he is extremely skilled with, allowed him to backlight the tree ever so subtly.
His new-found skill this month seemed to be in using the white of the watercolor paper as part of the palette. (In a watercolor class I once took, artist/instructor Bob Naito begged me to “use the white”; it took me a full ten weeks to figure out what he meant by “use.” And I’m not sure I ever actually applied what I had figured out. Jerry’s a much faster learner.)
One of Jerry’s methods of teaching himself involves copying paintings from the old masters of watercolor. I didn’t include any of his copies here, but the lessons he’s learning from that process, particularly in his skies, is apparent. This stretching from a known and thus comfortable medium to a different, more difficult to manipulate material, will almost certainly impact Jerry’s paintings when he returns to oils.
His complaint, that watercolors are too slow to dry to readily add detail was met with some interesting suggestions from the group. The best one was that he might turn to alcohol as his solvent; if the substance were a good white wine (or, perhaps, vodka), we agreed it could add warmth and cheer to the experience — if not necessarily the painting. He’s thinking about it.
I got to show some of my St. Johns Bridge paintings to the group that critique night. They were kind but a bit dubious. One of my hard-earned lessons about critiques is that if people in the group are bothered, even if they can’t quite describe what’s bugging them, something is likely to be off. I don’t think anyone quite put his or her finger on the problem that evening, but the next day, I did. As I was standing in front of the painting, I suddenly saw one of those bang-in-the-face errors of depiction; my suspicion is that the group imagined that this error (and it was an error) was just more of my wacky takes on urban scenes. Nope, in this case, I fouled up. So I immediately corrected the painting, rephotographed it, and deleted the old photos.
There’s a real advantage in owning the blog — I get to use the revised drafts of my work, having the group’s comments to use as guides.
“June Underwood, St. Johns Bridge 2, 16 x 12″, oil
St. Johns Bridge (James Johns didn’t use an apostrophe in his name), goes directly over the top of Cathedral Park; the Park spans both sides of the eastern base and roadbed of the suspension structure. The Park is well-groomed, heavily foliaged, and has huge trees as well as large lawns. Most of the Bridge views, except at the water’s edge, are partial bits, what I call “Zen Views.”* Zen views always make you desire more, but also insist you more fully appreciate the parts you have available. The panorama I’m painting, working on-site from the waterfront, is a picture window view. But these paintings are a couple of Zen views from the Park’s lawns. I’m hoping to do a few more before I close out this series. –June
*The phrase “Zen View” comes from Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language, a book every household should own and peruse over time. “Zen View” occupies a separate section (# 134) and is illustrated by a painting. I can’t resist quoting: “The view of the distant sea is so restrained that it stays alive forever.”