Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I used to paint...

My pal Mary (whom I have never met but only know via email) has retired and taken up watercolor. I think she is very brave. I have painted watercolors in my past and have a brand new set or two of them in my art-supply collection, but they have magic powers of inducing panic in me, so I stay clear of them. The closest I get is watered-down acrylics, which when dry, can be painted over without disturbing the initial layer of paint.
That's not a great recommendation for using them, but that's why they are safer to me, artwise. And you can draw over them when dry ( which is very fast) with paint pens and inks etc. and they won't gunk up anything.

I really like oil paints best, as they are pretty much fool proof, and I am the fool who proves that one. The detail of the garlic above is done in oil.

Why I bring this up, is that Brave Mary sent me a picture of her first watercolor, and it got my juices flowing. And I just got a check from the gallery for selling one of my paintings and that got my attention too.

So what is holding me back? I have a cranium full of excuses which must be overcome. One of them is lighting. Whine whine whine. My studio is bright, but not bright enough so I use spotlights on the still life set ups and they all look like they are SPOTLIGHTED.
Stupid, I know.
I have a solution, but it feels wrong. The 'posters' above are still lifes that I photographed up in my old well lit studio. I took the photos into Photoshop and made painterly adjustments and printed those out and then made the paintings look like the Photoshopped versions of the original still life. So I could do that again, if I want. But there's that voice inside that says "That's not how real painters work". That gets me every time.

So when I muster up the courage, which could be soon, I am going to try to paint without a spotlight on the setup and just one on the canvas, and see if I can make it work. Sounds simple enough right?

But here's the thing. One paints the light, the shadows and the highlights. What if those are subtle, which they will be without a blazing spotlight?

I quibble. Even I am bored with this thinking. Grrrr.


  1. Anonymous8:30 AM

    It's the value contrasts that excite us, the viewer. Please make sure that you have all the values, even if it is subtle.
    Perhaps try spotlights, but with cheesecloth or other cloth over them, to soften the light?
    -Connie in AL (who has one of your paintings)

  2. Zieknits8:40 AM

    How about this for an exercise?

    First, turn off (or at least muffle)your inner critic. Then, try giving yourself permission to focus less on painting what's actually there, on recording what you see. Instead, allow yourself to focus more on how the subject makes you FEEL. If that works, maybe finding (and recording) the exact-perfect lighting will be less of a stumbling block/priority?

    Does that make any sense? If not, discard. :))

  3. Get yourself one of those pairs of glasses with the red lenses... that will help you see value whatever the lighting shows.

    Good luck!!

  4. Your last three posts have been about knitting, quilting and painting. That's the fastest I've seen you bounce around in the 5+ years I've been reading your blog. I understand your doubts, but really... you are so incredibly talented, adept and inspired in each of these mediums. When you are ready, I will be eager to see what you've created.

  5. Only in our own heads is someone elses way of doing something "more real" than ours. Just be Mel and do your stuff the way that works for you. Love everything you do and share with us.

  6. Anonymous11:39 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. what Deborah B said. I have whiplash.

  8. I, too, have a beautiful set of new watercolor paints, and some lovely brushes, paper, and even instruction books. And I'm terrified to use them. Maybe we need a pact. :)

    Can you shine your spotlights on the ceiling, to diffuse the light a little bit?

    It's OK if it's not perfect! Can you go at it just to "have fun" with the paint? What about painting a big intentional mess first?

    Yeah. Like I know what I'm talking about. THANKS for sharing!

  9. I don't know about you but the pictures of the 'posters' did not show up on my I fixed them.

  10. And what's wrong with painting them like there's a spotlight on them? Only a painting teacher would care. Melody , you're paintings and knitting and quilting and everything else you do is wonderful. Nay, fair damsel, they are extraordinary! Hey, I live on the other side of the world and check in daily to see what you've been creating, because there is no-one else who does what you do as well as you do it. Just paint Melody, and tell the voice in your head it's wrong.
    Sending you a hug.

    Lucy, who also has one of your paintings

  11. Anonymous5:16 PM


    Your work has always amazed me...I saw your designer Ravelry page and was blown away!

    Watercolor is very difficult, especially when you are learning it the same time you are learning how to draw. I'm still at it, and very often produce horrendous paintings, but It's the process of learning and creating I'm addicted to. Thanks for mentioning me (you remembered!)


    Mary Manahan

  12. On my blog, I wrote a little tutorial on working with watercolor which will make it a lot easier! You paint such wonderful paintings.
    Why not try this technique?

  13. Tell that little voice in your head to get lost. You are an amazingly talented lady, and however you choose to do your painting is the "right" way!

  14. Anonymous7:32 PM

    Hey there! Sounds like you need some impetus to get you painting again? Maybe you should give your self a challenge that forces you to work over that hump and takes head on your lighting, set up a still life and paint it in several different lighting schemes. Maybe repeating it trying out different lighting possibilities will make you figure out what it is you want to do with your painting...

    Of course, feel free to pay no attention to my suggestion. I just know that sometimes giving myself a deadline, or set of rules (a size or color scheme...) become quite freeing!


So nice of you to drop by. I love your comments, and if you would really like a reply, please email me at fibermania at g mail dot com