Friday, August 22, 2014

Mixed Media Explorations

Mixed Media

Ink, Watercolor, Collage

One of the wonderful benefits of teaching is that I look for all sorts of ways to explain/show my students the concepts I'm trying to teach. And because of that I'm always exploring and that informs my own work even if it was not the goal. Several years ago I was asked to teach a 3 day workshop and needed to come up with a good final project. Day one was subject matter exploration, composition and drawing in ink;  day two added watercolor to the ink drawing and for the final day we added stained paper collage. 

Day One
Sharpie & watercolor wash 
 That beginning day we worked with all sorts of subject matter in sketchbooks. Sometimes the watercolor wash was added after the drawing was done and sometimes it was done before. In this instance,  I used a vertical subject matter in a horizontal format with monochromatic color. That rectangle is 7"x10", which is the same proportion as a full sheet watercolor paper. This way if you want it to translate to that size, you have begun in the same shape. 
By using sharpie, you can't be too careful with details. The goal was to try several different formats, color schemes, etc.

 Day Two

Watercolor Underpainting - Ink Brush Drawing
The watercolor underpainting was done prior to the drawing since the ink brush I was using was water-soluble. I wanted to use this brush since the addition of water creates different values, thereby making it a simpler exercise.  Of course it could be done is many different ways and we talked about that, but to get the concept and purpose across, I wanted the initial painting to be done as simply as possible. 

Day Three
Stained Washi - Ink Brush Drawing
On the final day, we spent sometime in the morning staining rice paper or washi with our watercolors. While that dried, the plan for the drawing could be done. I usually do not draw with pencil first since that is my preference but several students did that as a first step. 
The stained papers were torn is the sizes and shapes according to each painter and then affixed to the heavy watercolor paper with acrylic matte medium. After that has completely dried, the ink drawing was added and water used to create tone.  I have purposely left this step unfinished as an example for my students.  Our eyes do such a good job of completing line, that it would be interesting to see just how much you could leave out and still have a good readable image.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Watercolor Musings: Necessity becomes the Prompt and Leads to a New Wa...

Watercolor Musings: Necessity becomes the Prompt and Leads to a New Wa...: A number of years ago, just after New Years Day, I decided I needed a unique image for a window display in the gallery, one specifically for...

Necessity becomes the Prompt and Leads to a New Way to Work

A number of years ago, just after New Years Day, I decided I needed a unique image for a window display in the gallery, one specifically for Valentine's Day. I had been doing some watercolor collage which included drawing, watercolor and stained paper collage after taking an inspirational workshop from Jerry Brommer. We had gathered all sorts of collage materials which would be a support for the image in the top third of the page. I found it a creative use of the ephemera collected on trips and sketching days and had done several paintings using this interesting combination. One is even the subject of a previous blog entitled "Everything But the Kitchen Sink," written in August 2010. I wanted to attack this new project in a different way so I made a list of what I wanted to include: the aforementioned materials, a heart shape used in an abstract way, images of my town of Orange, California and finally little bits of historical notations to add interest.

I chose a square for the format for no other reason than that I like designing in that shape. Then I made what I came to refer to as "postcards" within the page - various shapes of squares and rectangles that would be openings for small paintings of the historic plaza area.

Loving Orange
I drew the contours of the wee watercolors in lightly with a pencil and then added the large heart shape in the background. Then came the collaged bits of watercolor stained rice paper which was affixed with matte medium - I was careful to keep the medium away from the opening for the images. Also added were photos from maps of the area, pictures of oranges and roses which are the city flower. Then came the small paintings which were of various views of the plaza square which is the center of the historic district. Some of the collaged found papers were veiled with transparent rice papers and others masked by the addition of drawings using white gouache. Finally I added little bits of history by writing on a sheet of typewriter correction paper which had been given to me by an artist friend. I used every inch of that sheet and carefully! I recently found a white pen which works since typewriter correction paper has been impossible to find.

When I began I had no idea how this would turn out but knew that it would be a pleasure to find out. This is a good example of working on a "problem" rather than setting out to do a "wonderful painting." Setting a limited goal and working toward that end has always been a better way to work for me. I'm concentrating on the problem at hand rather than the final product. You might ask if I'd set myself a lofty goal by wanting something to put in the window and that would be a fair question. However I knew if it didn't work I could always do it again and or if it really tanked, I just wouldn't put it up. That desire to have something specifically for Valentine's Day turned out to be the prompt that opened up a new way to use mixed media and most especially it was such fun to do!

Friday, June 20, 2014


Recently I hosted a plein aire watercolor workshop taught by Frank Eber where at least two of the participants began location painting for the first time. For all the many advantages of painting outdoors there are equal challenges, especially at the beginning. Students are so hard on themselves than I always try to find ways to make them more comfortable. It was time to tell the story of my “crash and burn” plein aire week many years ago.

My children were 2, 3 and 9 that week in early July when I painted with Rex Brandt in Corona del Mar. I had painted on location in college and when I taught but it had been a good while since I had done so. I hired two sisters to baby sit who favorites of my children and I’m not sure they even said goodbye when I left. The week went like this: up, breakfast for the kids, have lunch ready for the sitters to prepare, go to the workshop, come home and fix dinner, fall into bed and begin all over again. During the day, I kept giving myself pep talks but the other painters were SO good. On the last day of the workshop our assignment was different. It was July 3rd and we were to go to the Dory Fleet in Newport Beach, get sketches and color notes and return to the Brandt studio and do the painting. Then all the paintings would be put on the wall for a final critique.

Mendocino done on location years after this story

It was Friday, the day before Independence Day and by the time I got to the area, the parking was virtually nonexistent. I finally found a 20-minute spot and raced to the pier. I got sketches in my hardbound dark green sketchbook and got to my car as fast as I could – put my sketchbook on the roof of the dark green car and loaded the rest of my gear in the back.

When I got back to the studio I was missing my sketchbook. I remembered where I last had put it so I got back in my car, returned to the pier area and scoured the area as best I could. No sketchbook.

I think it would be fair to say I slunk back to the studio. I was exhausted from my home schedule as well as the week. My fatigue was as much from all the new experiences as the natural tiredness that comes from being outdoors all day. So, I had no sketchbook from which to work and therefore I would have no painting to put up.

There was only one thing to do. I holed up in one of the bathrooms and cried. And cried and cried. There was a knocking at the door so I wiped my face and opened the door slightly. It was one of the painters who wanted to know what was wrong. So I spilled it all out and she was so kind and encouraging. First of all, no one would know if I didn’t put anything up. Secondly she said I needed to join Peg Sheppard’s weekly workshop. She promised it would be wonderful.

You know, she was right. No one knew. I sat through the critique and learned a lot. And I joined that group of fabulous painters every Thursday for a number of years. When we didn’t have painting classes it changed to critique days and at least once a year we would all contribute to the lunch banquet that was spectacular. Had I not had such a horrible day, I would never had met this inspiring teacher and a group of talented, interesting, compatible, wonderful painters. Sometimes very awful, bad days have a silver lining!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Banding Together - It's a Good Thing!

We are know that "banding together" and "forming groups" can be very beneficial in people. It is also very helpful when you have isolated elements in a sketchbook page. In the following two examples it is very clear how this works to unify drawing done at different times or under circumstances that do not allow you to move items to your pleasure.

Judy's Rant
The scattered page was created when during a long awaited 3 day sketching trip with my painting buddy, Brenda Swenson, where we encountered rain, rain and more rain. We painted outdoors rarely, most often finding places to do what we love but indoors or in-car. NOT my favorite places to paint. She warned me that she was taking me to a place I wouldn't like and so she did - to a big shopping mall! The sketches of shoppers were captured as people moved in and out of tables and I added signage when I couldn't get more people. I don't usually go back and fiddle with these sorts of sketches but I've been going through some journals and adding bits here and there and looking at them as design problems. The top page brings back all sorts of memories but I didn't like it as a sketch. Recently I took another look and decided to add a band behind the central portion of the figures to link them together to make a unified page. After drawing the top and bottom lines, I had to look at the page and the colors used so I didn't repeat a color and thereby making that image disappear. Like colors and like values, whatever color, make objects recede in importance.

Painting in the Car

Recently I taught a workshop on Watercolor Journals. On second morning of the 2-day workshop I invited anyone who wanted to join me to meet at The Filling Station, a cafe across the street from the studio. A asked that they bring a pen and journal and find something interesting to draw and later paint. We met early and the 9 of us were perhaps the quietest group they have ever had. Since so many were drawing, no objects were gathered and I ended up with too many isolated elements - again. Banding to the rescue. I chose the pattern of the tablecloth as a background to both animate the page and unify all the elements.

The Filling Station

In the top one, I had just added the background checkered band when I realized I wanted more color and somehow incorporate the name of the restaurant. The name was easy since my checks had the right number of spaces. For the color band above the checks, red was out since the stripe would cross 2 other red items. I chose the burnt orange since it repeated the sauce color in the middle. But look carefully at the shadow areas beneath the bottles in the top one. Then look at the finished piece - I added no more color to those shadows but the orange in them suddenly is more noticeable. Repetition of color is important and this is a good example. I also changed the area to the right of the date. In the journal that date was too far to the left. I didn't like it at all but there it was. I solved that by adding "Yum!" Probem solved.

So...if you have a page where you need to gather the subject matter and make it more cohesive, try a band. It needn't be a straight band as in these two examples. It can meander just as well. And the best lesson is that you can paint and draw in all sorts of unusual places. Keep a small journal close at hand. That's all you need to keep you occupied and happy. I can't be grumpy if I'm working in a journal no matter the circumstance.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Watercolor Musings: Just What May An Artist Use as Inspiration?

Watercolor Musings: Just What May An Artist Use as Inspiration?: Praha (Prague) - ink brush and watercolor by Judy Schroeder - This is a good example of "suffering" for art. I waited for the ta...

Just What May An Artist Use as Inspiration?

Praha (Prague) - ink brush and watercolor by Judy Schroeder - This is a good example of "suffering" for art. I waited for the table and chair at the gelato shop to be open so I could get this view. Naturally I HAD to buy a gelato! Fair is fair.

Oftentimes when I stop for a lunch break at the gallery, I grab a book off the shelf and treat myself to reading about other artists and their work. Today I was reading Composition for the Painter by Frank Webb – a very good book by the way. I bought the book when I met him at an art association several years ago when he was the guest demonstrator. He had several paintings for purchase and I noticed that they all seemed to be various versions of a very few subjects. He spoke about his designs used for the demos and while he didn’t call them patterns that is my memory.

I surmised that this sought after artist is a very smart man; by using a few familiar subjects he could be free to easily comment while demonstrating for groups. Recently I have begun to think that Webb just might have another reason for his use of limited subject matter.

When painters have perfected their craft and are fully engaged in their work with hand, eye and heart, they have spent years and many, many hours finding their own personal shorthand to express their unique view of the world. Since I host workshops, I see the generosity of several painters who share this hard won knowledge with their students. Some even break down the painting process into “bite-sized” chunks, showing the group their step-by-step way of constructing a painting.

Therein lies the rub. Students, who naturally want the fast track to artistic competence, sometimes take that generosity for granted. They think that since they “painted” the workshop exercise, it is theirs. Let’s just break that down – the subject matter, composition, color scheme, emphasis – all are from the imagination of their teacher. If the work is signed at all, it should say something like – Jane Doe, after Teacher Smith. And it should not go any farther than their own walls, certainly not be entered in shows or in any other way presented as original work. Artist Tom Fong has a wonderful way to say this, “Don’t steal your teachers thunder!”

Tom could well have added, “Don’t infringe on your teacher’s copyright.” Beware, this is legal territory. If a student submits work as their own, and it is obviously taken from a workshop or copied from another source so much so that it is clearly the inspiration of another painter, the student can be held liable, however innocent their intent. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. This also pertains to the use of photographs without the express permission of the photographer. Yes, it is another medium but that doesn’t matter. The intellectual property has been used.

This subject has been coming up more and more often recently. Work on the web is so easily gathered without thought of asking permission. Posting images is so easy that hasty, thoughtless actions can come back and bite you if the work is shown without permission and attribution.

A good friend has even had her paintings copied verbatim, albeit not so skillfully, and presented to her as a “gift.” It is not a compliment to be copied, period. The student means well but please know that teachers are thrilled by work that is original and shows work and thought and progress. The way to competence as a painter is the way of all disciplines, by way of study and application of time and energy.

So now you see why I suspect that Frank Webb limits his demonstration subjects. It makes it very unlikely that others will copy his work since his demo pieces are few and well known. He’s really doing a service to both the novice painter and the hard working art associations. Work presented for judging should be original, unique and the property of the artist submitting the work alone.

Be confident of your own artistic vision. You may not be there yet, but rest assured, you will be. And when you get to that place? You will have new and more complex goals and that’s why you will become better than you ever thought possible!

Thanks for the listen, Judy

PS There are many informative sites on the web that explain the copyright laws clearly. It’s interesting reading!