Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Juror's Observations

I've just completed juroring Watermedia XVI, a biennial exhibition sponsored by the Pike Peak Watercolor Society. After selecting 80 paintings from a field of over 380 works, I'd like to make some observations on the process.

Artists entering the exhibition ranged from Dolphin Fellows of the American Watercolor Society to newcomers to watermedia. Most states and six foreign countries were represented. In order to be more inclusive, I selected no more than one painting from an artist (artists could enter up to three works and several artists entered three strong works). Submissions were via slide or digital image.

My method of selection was to evaluate each painting on four criteria:

1. Technique
2. Design
3. Content
4. Originality

Design and originality were the main qualifiers. Most entries had sound technique and something to say. Original thought was at a premium, but some good examples were entered. Design was strong on at least half of the entries, so it was a matter of being demanding on many of the borderline paintings. As Ed Whitney used to say, "In watercolor a placement differential of 1/4" can promote or demote". (He was extremely picky, in my opinion.)
One major concern was the large number of poorly photographed paintings. Artists can help themselves immensely by putting more energy into photographing their work. I've judged several shows where the quality of the image was crucial to being accepted into the exhibition. So, if you're serious about getting work selected, make the effort. A good entry should be in sharp focus, have the correct tone (not too dark or too light) and show only the image (no mat, frame or background). Digital entries should be set at the appropriate resolution as required by the exhibition prospectus. If it says, "No larger than 1200 pixels on the longest side", then pay attention to that requirement. Photography problems like keystoneing and angled or skewed images must be avoided. Appropriate lighting is important for displaying the colors correctly in your painting. Failure to pay attention to these things makes the evaluation of your work difficult. Hence, a judge is more likely to pass on it. Remember that you're competing with other artists who are serious about getting into shows and are doing an excellent job of photographing their work. To learn more about photographing watercolors, check my Summer 2009 newsletter at my website: It will be posted in mid-June.

This coming weekend, I'll be in Westcliffe, CO at the foot of the Sangres de Christo Range (the highest and longest range in the Rocky Mountains) for a landscape painting workshop titled"Springtime in the Sangres".
ps. the photo has nothing to do with the show, I just like my irises!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Working from Photo References

Photos can be a great time saver in the developing realistic paintings. However,they can present many problems:too much information,key stoning,black shadows,false colors,distortion of scale,and compositional problems. I can often tell when an artist is a slave to the photograph. One or more of the preceding problems will be evident, and the painter will say,"but this is how it looked".
One should think of the photo reference as a springboard to a painting that will eclipse it. Some solutions I use are: One shoot images with a 90 MM lens for scale.Take more than one shot with varied F stops for value variation. Simplify information (trace subject on parchment,next trace the tracing.Repeat until you have the essence).Check all vertical and horizontal lines against the edges of you paper to catch key stoning .Move or introduce objects to the best positions in the compositions. Finaly express yourself with unique colors,textures,edges,tones.etc.
One method I like is to paint an abstract under painting. Finish the work with complementary colors of the under painting. The marina painting above is an example.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Reef Fossils,Combined media on paper mounted on canvas

Combined media on paper,mounted on canvas.
These are really fun! I use this method for many abstracts paintings,also. First, mono print a mix of acrylic modeling paste and gel medium on Fabriano 140 lb rough artistico to create bone like textures. Continue painting wet in wet over the paper with acrylics,watercolor, and India inks to revel forms. Opaque colors are used to paint around fossil forms. Lastly emphasize bone textures by sanding the high spots. Mount on gallery wrapped canvas using acrylic gel medium as a glue. Spray with a fixative,then varnish. Let your imagination go,be inventive. My college students love this way of working. They come up great variations on this theme.