Painting works upon our sense of discovery. As my 2 year old granddaughter, Iris, water-colored she told me she was making a unicorn. As Iris surveyed her work she discovered it was not a unicorn. It was a “blue rocket ship”. She exhibited no frustration at the absence of a unicorn, instead; she admired her lozenge shape with furry edges which suggested a rocket ship. Filled with this discovery and confidence in her skills she said next she would make a pink rocket ship.
Finding a field of paint that suggests a memory of water follows a similar path. I freely apply paint after visually digesting a series of photographs of water surfaces. I use a 6” squeegee and an 8” soft wash brush to gently discover varieties of patterns in loose oil paint. The patterns I tease out of the paint allude to watery reflections and translucence. My confidence in my skill-set set me to making my pink rocket ship, in other words, finding correspondence between my intention and my paint. The abstract patterns I discovered sparkled because I painted on brushed silver anodized aluminum. My abstract patterns follow rules of linear perspective, degrading edge acuity over distance and degrading acuity with sub-surface matter. I allow reds and yellow a greater role in the forward areas and shift to blues and blue greens to the back. There is no horizon but, there is engineered space (see example 1).
In other images I will again play with reflectance. William Merritt Chase, American Impressionist and teacher to many future American modernists, also explored finding reflections amidst abstract patterns. I have two examples here, example 2, a pastel and, example 3 an oil. In each case Chase has allowed the loose and fractured reflective property of moving water to free him from tidy realism. Chase’s water surfaces undulate and shimmy with abstractions from the moving forms found in reflecting water. The pastel (example 2) is a more finished image. Its edges are sharper with more legibility in subjects above the water than the more blended imagery found in the water’s surface. The oil sketch (example 3) has a relaxed impromptu quality. The water, the landscape and the figures all are less defined than the pastel. This harmony of diffused focus allows us to find a unified image and easy access to multiple hypotheses.
A century later, Bruce McGrew would further abstract the subject of water in his watercolors (example 4 from Scotland.) McGrew exploits bleeding washes and forms in his watercolors. They contribute to atmosphere and motion while the shapes with lined edges give the viewer mental anchorage with more legible clues.
I have two further examples of abstracting elements in nature but, through harder edged shapes. Example 5 demonstrates the first step in an image of interweaving textures and reflecting water. Example 6 demonstrates the 2nd step. Here you see the tangle of straw wending back into the image relying on illusions of space through linear perspective (diminishing scaled shapes) and color recession. Larger shapes get smaller and more vivid colors lose their intensity.
In another example (example 7), I have a more intimate view of a watery surface. Here I found patterns of semi submerged leaf matter, submerged matter and reflecting water to generate a sparkling field capable of provoking a variety of hypotheses.
Let me extend an invitation to visit an exhibition of my works at Susan Powell Fine Art in Madison, Ct. open Tuesdays through Saturday 11 to 5. The Exhibit will be up through June 18th.
If you still have interest in my workshops in Spain, Sun Valley Idaho, or Newburyport, Massachusetts then please visit my website (Classes & Events) for further details. I have space for you and a promise of a great adventure painting together.