Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Seven

Last week, one of my morning students brought in a brochure from an exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy. The headliner of the show was Giorgio De Chirico, known as the originator of ‘metaphysical painting’. De Chirico had a great influence on the young Giorgio Morandi, who is an artist I’ve always admired. You can learn more about the artists and the exhibiton at http://www.dechiricoafirenze.it/index.jsp.

The checkerboard is often seen in De Chirico’s work. I’d been thinking of using some glass bottles in this week’s still-life so I placed them on my checkerboard with a book and pulled it all together with some dried roses I’ve been keeping. The undraped wooden table contributed to the austere look. The metaphysical paintings have a dream-like and enigmatic look to them.

The two bottle demonstrations were done in one shot. I left paper-white for the lightest lights and started each with a light wash. I added darker values while everything was still wet. Once dry, I didn’t touch them again. The cork in the blue bottle was painted separately, of course. The dried roses were painted in two steps, also using a fair bit of paper-white. The second step involved the smaller and darker marks.

I encourage my students to do a compositional thumbnail study prior to painting. This planning usually pays off but a funny thing happened yesterday. One of my morning students, Pat Leary, didn’t seem very confident about her watercolour painting in progress. She said that she had no plan whatsoever and didn’t know where the painting was going to go. I asked to see her thumbnail sketch.

I could see what she meant. Her sketch was fine but she hadn’t really considered the rectangle of her composition.

As is often the case, her work in progress looked a lot better to me than it did to her. I suggested that she not worry about her lack of a plan and concentrate on her process. Once she had completed her initial washes throughout the piece I asked her to stand it up and step back for a look. Sometimes, we have to relinquish some of our control and planning and allow the painting to tell us what it wants. An art school mentor of mine taught me to ‘listen’ to my work rather than just dictate what I wanted it to be. I also remind the students that critique is at the end of the class and not midway through the painting. Pat stepped back from the piece several times as she continued to develop it.

Still-Life by Pat Leary

Something special began to emerge and that posed a new problem. When to stop? Many students just keep painting until time runs out. They don’t step back from their work and the decisions they make aren’t as effective as they might be.

Pat did a brave thing. She stopped painting. I admit I strongly encouraged her to leave it alone.

Several nice watercolours were produced in the Tuesday classes. I don’t like to think of Pat’s piece being better or worse than the others but it had something special about the light she had captured; a bit of magic. She may not have had a plan but a good process and lots of stepping back produced a successful result.

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One Response to “Tuesday Watercolour Class – Week Seven”

  1. lindahalcombfineart Says:

    I like the very dark and very light parts of the background and the greenish shadows kind of lead you through the painting. The background was very brave!

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