Day 4 ~ Watercolor Self-tutoring

Got to play some more yesterday. Had to throw away two to get here. Amazing how much you can lose the groove in a week.

This one is done with paint, graphite, and fountain pen. Again using cards and paper towels and some canning paraffin – things that didn’t come from the art supply store. I seem to get better results with unconventional materials.

Watercolor Tutor

First success

I’ve been teaching myself some things about watercolor. It’s harder than it looks. That was the easiest part to learn.

The hardest part to learn – which took me until the third day, and half pad of paper – is like many things you can ruin a good thing by overthinking it.

Next after overthinking, is just knowing when to quit. Surest way to ruin something halfway decent is to keep messing with it when it’s done.

This started a couple of weeks ago. While waiting for some cheap paints and paper to arrive, I played around with a digital stylus on a tablet. That has been fun, and I learned a lot from it. Essentially, it lets me use a photo for reference, picking up color from the image to load in the stylus, then you paint over the photo on a new layer. With all my experience editing photos with digital tools I got the hang of that pretty quick, and like the results – enough that I’ll keep doing that. It’s quick and fun.

Stylus and tablet rendering of anchoring out inside Smith Island, just after sundown.

When I finally got analog materials, I wasn’t surprised to learn that working with those is a whole lot different. And a whole lot harder. My first attempts were, to my eye, overworked and overthought. This was the best of that batch:

I couldn’t seem to disconnect my brain from my hands, and it was pretty obvious my brain didn’t know what the heck was going on. Today, I finally gave up on “trying” and just did a handful of mindless experiments, letting the brush and paper lead. That started to show promise. Not only less frustrating, but less effort, and the results are better.

One of the quick exercises.

This let me realize that, when it comes to visual art, at least, breaking the rules is better than following them. The painting at the top of the page was done less with actual paint brushes. Instead, I used a combination of credit card, spray bottle, toothpick, paper towel, crappy glue chip brush, fountain pen, and yes, a watercolor paintbrush or two.

I hope to try more of this soon, and hope to remember to forget what my brain tells me.

Circle, Circle Back

Finished pieces in the shop.

T finished up 38 pieces of art for a show that opens Friday. We delivered everything on Sunday. It’s a really great body of work that’s been underway for most of the past six months. She was quite the dynamo in a fit of creative fervor.

I’ll post more updates here of the opening and the final gallery space over the coming weeks.

Here’s a blog post she just published of some background. Since the onset of COVID, when we had a lot of time and nowhere to go, she cut nearly 10,000 circles of paper. By hand. Some of those are now included in four pieces in the show.

We had a nice trip over the mountain to Staunton, one of our favorite nearby towns. And a very nice gallery space, too. They’ve posted info about the show here, featuring some of T’s work in the poster:

The gallery space, ready for hanging.
Lunchspot in Staunton

Salt Marshes of Mathews

direct YouTube link:

A nice reprieve from the middle of winter. This is 20+ minutes of sites and sounds from the salt marshes of Mathews County, Virginia. A week on a remote barrier island in the Chesapeake Bay. Over the holidays I had time to go back and review it.

We spent a lot of time kayaking through the shallow winding creeks, often just drifting with the current.

It’s long, so give yourself some time, and good audio – much of this is just the natural sounds of birds and beaches.

The odd noises starting at 12:00 are Clapper Rails. They’re really shy, I’ve never seen one up close, but one stepped out of the grass for a closeup, not realizing we were standing above it on the dock.

Birds seen and/or heard in the video:

  • Black Scoter
  • Sandpiper
  • Clapper Rail
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Boat-tailed Grackle
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron

At night, there were Great Horned Owls, in the mornings Loons.

Falling Stars

The past two nights have been clear for watching the Geminids meteor shower. Last night was great, with lots of bright ones coming in rapid succession. The kind that make you catch your breath.

Tonight was far less dramatic, but also less frigid, so I took a chair and sat out in the back field until my feet got numb. All the best ones seemed to fall outside the camera frame, opposite where I had it pointed. No matter, I was there for the show. But did get one nice shot when distant car lights swept the tree line, with one faint star trail just visible.

One should need fewer reasons to sit quietly in the dark, gazing up into the night sky.

Crossing Over

The outboard on the skiff died, the one that ferries us over. Her father, the waterman, boat builder, sawmiller, got it running again.

“Go on over,” he said around a cigarette, “if you get stuck I’ll come get ya. “

She took our old friends across the marsh. I followed behind, paddling against the breeze that rattled through the sawgrass