Last week I learned that water can see. Who knew?! That was just one of the hundreds of tips Julie Gilbert Pollard gave in her workshop in Panama City Beach, Florida, “Wet and Wild: Painting Vibrant Water Scenes in Brilliant Color”. This tip came on the first day, when we were working on reflections. In other words, Julie said, “Water reflects as if you were looking at the scene from its vantage point.” To illustrate, if a dead tree is angled out over the water sideways to the viewer, the reflection is a reverse mirror image, the same size and directly underneath the tree, in reverse angle. But if the tree is angled towards the viewer, the tree above the water will appear shorter due to foreshortening, but the reflection will be much longer in proportion, because the water is “seeing” the tree from underneath.
So I look at reflections differently now. I look at color and shapes differently too. Everything is more colorful since that workshop, and I am seeing much better. I find this is always the case after any period of immersion in art, that I see better and am more aware of colors and shapes. One of the other participants in the workshop said that one of the few things you get better at as you age, is art. I laughed, but I understand that statement.
We worked in the classroom, from sample photographs Julie provided which illustrated the concepts and techniques she was teaching. She used the first four chapters of her Adventurous Oils, a Workbook Companion to Brilliant Color as well as several hand-outs. It was a treat being taught by someone who understands how artists learn, who was able to paint and talk at the same time (no small feat, integrating both the left and right brain at the same time!), and who was able to provide constructive assistance as we worked on our various pieces. And the participants were a happy bunch, the paint-mixing and experimentation punctuated with their softly-spoken stories to their table-mate and their laughter. My own table-mate, Faye Gibson, owner of Meacham Howell Design, also was using oil paint; the rest were painting with watercolor. Since the instructor was giving demonstrations in both watercolor and in oil painting, I brought in a 6-color Walmart watercolor set and made a watercolor painting and then painted an oil painting the second day when we were studying waves, shown at left. The watercolor painting was snatched up by a good friend of mine as soon as I posted it on Facebook.
The third day we studied cascading water. Julie teaches cascading water as if it were a gathered skirt of a wedding dress, with the initial drop being the waist and flowing skirt, followed by a ruffle of white where it splashes down on the pond below, with a “train of lace” surrounding the splash on the flat pond. I painted my first palette knife painting that day. Clean-up is much easier at the end of a knife painting — all you have to clean is the knife!
The fourth and fifth days we were supposed to finish the paintings we had started the first 3 days, but I had already finished mine and painted a second one each day too. Plein air painting has made me pretty quick. So the fourth day I cut a few flowers off the crepe myrtle bush in the parking lot, and put them in a pitcher of water on my desk, thinking I would learn to paint the pitcher full of water. But the flowers fascinated me, so I painted them primarily, with only a suggestion of the pitcher underneath. Our technique for the day was negative painting, where you paint the negative space surrounding the form. My efforts taught me the techniques, but made the painting very twiggy, so the following day I painted out most of the twigs and branches, and it became flowers again.
On the final day, the technique assignment was to paint a scene in pure color, using colors straight out of the tube, or pre-mixed, using colors for their inherent light-dark values instead of as color. I again painted with a palette knife, using the wave photos for reference. Anywhere there were dark values in the painting, I used ultramarine blue, violet, and reds, and cobalt green, lavender, and orange for the middle values, and orange and yellow for the lighter values, with white for the froth. The idea was that if you took away the color, the painting would read correctly as a black-white-gray value study. So I took a photograph of my painting, and then de-saturated it to remove the color, and was pleasantly surprised that indeed, it looks “right” as a value study.
To top off the workshop, there was a drawing for one of the instructor’s paintings, and I won it! Icing on the cake!