TITLE: Spring Flowers – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″
To see a framed version of this painting or to learn more, please click image.
ABOUT … Spring Flowers
Step 1 – THE BEGINNING
STEP 2 – SHARING AND ADJUSTING
STEP 3 – THE CONCLUSION
STEP 4 – APPRECIATION
STEP 1 – THE BEGINNING
Spring Flowers begins as a class demonstration on a 140 pound, half-sheet of cold-press, watercolor paper. The initial goal is to create a nonobjective painting. It will be a layered, wet on dry watercolor. As such, there is no preliminary value sketch for a guide, nor is there any thought given to subject matter.
However, there is the thought of a basic composition, consisting of a large, medium value shape over a light background, with dark accents. Beyond that there no preliminary plan other than to explore the glories of expressive watercolor marks on paper.
The above approach will most certainly require some degree of mental shape, value, and color planning, as Spring Flowers evolves. This might be thought of as composing “by the seat of one’s pants.” Another term may well be “High Risk, Low Gain,” but possibly “High Gain,” not normally recommended as a wise plan of attack, especially with regard to watercolor’s elusive and sometimes fickle character.
A flat, three-inch brush is used to apply the first layers of light and mid-value color while being careful to save some whites. The paint is encouraged to mingle, bleed, splash, and drip both on its own, as well as with a bit of guided help. This method is repeated several times, one layer over the other while patiently waiting for each layer to become bone dry before proceeding to the next layer.
I look to create entertaining overlapping shapes consisting of various sizes, colors, and value, while encouraging both soft and hard edges. As Spring Flowers develops, additional brushes are introduced, mostly of the flat, two, and one inch variety. During the final stages, a small Webb Liner, and the typical, pointed, round brush are employed as well
STEP 2 – SHARING AND ADJUSTING
At some point there remains a large white area in the lower, middle of the painting. This unique shape seems to suggest a vase or some type of container. That coupled with the arrangement of bright, colorful shapes is in keeping with the development of a floral arrangement, i.e., Spring Flowers. This is the point the painting evolves from non-objective into abstract. No problem, I often welcome what I think of as the painting “speaking” to me, and suggesting changes that one might be wise to consider.
These days I am more interested in the point at which communication between painter and painting takes place, than I am in having total control over the final outcome. I am not opposed to “listening” to a paining; to essentially share the process rather than dominate it.… Therefore this is the opportune time to decide to explore the suggestion of Spring Flowers as a floral statement.
Now it is a matter of evaluation, of considering and adjusting shape, value, and color. This evaluation is followed by s series of rapid, calligraphic marks directly on the paper surface with a permanent, lightfast black ink marker. The line work is often intentionally out of register, and is intended to further clarify and define various aspects within Spring Flowers, such as the aforementioned shape, value, and color.
When referring to the term, calligraphic, I think of it as the art of defining shapes in a loose, expressive, harmonious, and skillful manner. Whether this goal is accomplished is up to the each viewer to decide.
Unfortunately, the large white shape ends up in middle of the composition. Usually, one might prefer an informal approach over a formal one, but each to his own preference. I become aware too, that this means the measures between the left of the vase and the right are relatively equal, thus the formal concept. However, the design of the vase-like shape and the addition of a dark vase shape to the left, and a smaller vase to the right gives, I believe enough visual enjoyment to Spring Flowers, as to overcome a boring, static appearance.
What remains is further evaluation and adjustment to shapes, values, and color. Some times this all comes very quickly, and directly. At other times the adjustments require a more lengthy process. I have come to understand the importance of trying to avoid rushing to judgement, to allow myself time to enjoy , and to further consider the process.
Often, I like to let a painting sit—in a critique frame—propped up in a corner of my studio so I can contemplate its development as I go about the other business of the day. I suppose the truth of the matter is some paintings come easily, quickly, while others demand a bit more time to “percolate.” In time, one learns there is little need to rush things.
STEP 3, THE CONCLUSION
Despite appearance, Spring Flowers—start to finish—is completed over a six week period. However, within that time frame, actual work is accomplished in relatively short spurts of painting activity spread over about five days. Obviously, other paintings were created in between the start and finish of this particular painting.
At the point I feel Spring Flowers is complete, I sign it, and place it in the critique frame looking forward to a few days of self satisfaction. However, the next morning I am somewhat surprised to see further room for improvement. Now the question is the old, “Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” routine. Does this watercolor really need improving? In attempts to improve, might I over do the process and come up with an overworked, ponderous painting? I decide to continue working on it.
The original painting is seen below, the final, reworked painting is seen above. Can you see the difference between the two stages? Frankly, I’ve been doing this long enough to know viewers will have differing opinions as to which stage is best. Whatever the outcome its time to move on.
STEP 4 – APPRECIATION
I often think of a quote by the late, Milford Zones, who wrote, “All art, if it is art at all is abstract.” Then too, there is the Mary Corita Kent quote, “There is no mistake, no right, no wrong, only make.” And finally, to paraphrase Frank Webb, art is to be appreciated, not judged; good advice for all.
With this in mind, what is it that I appreciate about Spring Flowers? I appreciate its deceptively simple, spontaneous appearance (including its warts).
I like the ambiguity in the work. Is the white vase meant to appear round or flat, clear or opaque? Does the form of the vase really matter? I think not. In this instance, it is the shape that matters, not the form. Is the smaller, vase to the right of the main vase sitting in front of, ahead of, or beside the main vase? I am pleased that the dark vase to the left is set back by the use of overlapping planes.
I enjoy the rakish, upward oblique at the top of the vase. I am also attracted to the color treatment of the main, red flower form to the top-left of the vase. Then there is the three patches of bright, red color that dominates the like number of detached flower forms. They create an implied, concave line, much like the line that is suggested by the ends of the fingers of a person’s outstretched hand.
The way the values, and color of the flower forms (upper right of the white vase) have been adjusted to merge with the background seems appealing, and helps to push forward the rest of the forms.. I like that the work is not overly detailed, leaving areas to be filled in by each viewer’s imagination. All in all, this painting—at time of post—leaves me in an emotionally happy state of mind.
Okay, enough of this. Kudos to anyone who stays interested long enough to get to this point in the post (grin). As my wife reminds me from time to time, “Woody, you need an editor.”
SPRING FLOWERS SUMMARY
Allow me to sum up by adding a bit to the Milford Zornes thought: All art, if it is art at all is abstract. I might add the phrase, and therefore flawed. Might I be so bold as to suggest there has not existed, does not exist, nor will there ever exist, a true work of art that is without one or more flaws, or—as some might say,“warts.” Perhaps this is a key to how art can help our attempt to better understand—and adjust—to the human condition.
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