25 Mar 2010

The click

It’s one of the most satisfying moments in the process of learning something new; that moment when something clicks in your brain, and things that were confusing and hard suddenly become simple and easy. Like art, it’s difficult to define, but I know it when it happens. You probably do too.

I’m having a bit of a break though watercolour week, thanks largely to the books of Mel Stabin. I learned this week the power of the midtone, which is cake, apparently, while lights and darks are the icing. I also learned to see the world a little differently, connect smaller shapes of the same value together, and to simplify. Most importantly, I learned the power of the value sketch, a single colour, quickly executed panting that helps you plan where those all important mid tones should be, and fit the darks and lights around them. Although this painting took an hour, instead of the recommended five minutes, it nevertheless taught me a great deal about how value is used to make a painting work. Thank you, Mel.

On my own, I learned to be a little more fearless, and to experiment, play with my materials, and just see what happens. It’s only paint, afterall. If you like, you can mentally substitute “yarn” where ever you see the word “paint” here. These are lessons I learned in knitting first, but this week I applied them to painting for the first time.

For today’s class I decided to work from a photo I took at a fish market in Italy. There’s not much to show yet, as the class starts in an hour. I decided to work my value sketch on 140lb Daler Rowney Aquarelle, which is inexpensive paper, not the best, but has a good tooth and is perfectly suitable for this purpose.

Where I experimented this morning was with the stretching of Aquarelle paper. Having worked the sketch first using a 2B pencil, I wasn’t sure whether I could immerse it in water without losing the sketch. Seeing as it’s only paper, I decided to give it a try. Guess what? It turns out you can actually sketch first, and stretch later.

Once the value sketch is complete, I’ll move on to the full colour painting, my first ever using a full half sheet of Saunders Waterford Not, which has less of a tooth than the Aquarelle, but still enough texture to grab the paint and help me create fishy scales. I like the sketch for this one even better than I do the one for the value sketch. It’s nice and loose. I’ll post that image later, after I’ve put a little paint on it.

This has been a good week for painting.

Posted on March 25, in Blog


  1. dietdog wrote:

    I’m so pleased to hear that the painting is going well – hopefully it is something you can do that will allow you to heal physically while keeping you mentally stimulated.

    Can’t wait, though, until your podcast is back.

    Posted on 3.25.10 ·
  2. Sarah wrote:

    Yay for plateau-jumping! I had a good week, watercolor-wise, last week, where I learned that I can indeed do that dabs-of-color to depict crumpled fabric. (See blog post entitled “Gulf Wars 2010 recap”.) I love watching your progress – keep posting!

    Posted on 3.25.10 ·
  3. LaurieM wrote:

    Whaaaaa!!! I’m so impressed!!! That value painting of Italy is really great. I’ll tell you honestly, at first I thought it was a professional painter’s image that you were showing as an example. But no, it’s your own work! Kudos for perseverance and achieving the click moment.

    Posted on 3.25.10 ·
  4. Grace wrote:

    So when we can we expect invitations to your first public showing of your art work? I’m impressed and, like LaurieM at first believed the painting of Italy was an example. Very nice!
    How is the shoulder going? Hubby had the same problem last year and did a “wall climb” with his arm, charting his progress on a hidden part of the bathroom wall. Every few days he’d reach up and mark just how high he could reach. Now that he’s healed only the marks remain, soon to be painted over.

    Posted on 3.25.10 ·
  5. Vickie wrote:

    WOW! I would buy your painting. I thought perhaps you were showing an example of what might be attained! But, NO, it’s yours! WOW again!

    Posted on 3.25.10 ·
  6. Hi Grace,

    Thanks for stopping by. Love the “wall climb” idea! I gauge the progress of my recovery by how far up my back I can reach with my right arm, and Tonia has jokingly offered that we should draw a line across my back with permanent marker, to better chart my daily progress. 😉

    As for the public exhibition, never say never, but my goal is simply to be able to paint the world I see around me, and to continue learning and improving, until the end of my days.

    Posted on 3.25.10 ·
  7. Rebecca wrote:

    Brenda, I know what you mean about the “click” — a few years ago, I studied watercolor for four months (enough to know that I didn’t then have the time the craft demanded) and I got close enough to see how really, really rewarding it could be. Now if you’d just take up the flute, you’d be living all my creative fantasies. You rock!

    Posted on 3.25.10 ·
  8. LoriAngela wrote:

    I really love that painting. It is such a break from your flowers. Is that what I want to paint? How is it that now I want to paint? My friend said I should lurk in galleries and really spend time with paintings. Your blog is so annoyingly encouraging.

    Posted on 3.26.10 ·
  9. Gorgeous! I *really* need to get to Italy! 🙂

    Posted on 3.27.10 ·
  10. Lisa in TN wrote:

    your talent and inner beauty continues appear in multiple ways! Continue on this journey of growth and keep the communication coming;)

    Posted on 3.28.10 ·
  11. Naoko wrote:

    Wow–thanks for the inspiration. I just heard your podcast from a few months ago, when you were saying: I’m a beginner/I suck at this. That being proficient at knitting doesn’t equal being proficient at everything artistic/crafty. I’ve always wanted to be a proficient painter, and I’m a proficient knitter. Now you’ve shown me that it is indeed possible with some perseverance! Great work; I am impressed.

    Posted on 3.29.10 ·
  12. joanna wrote:

    Brenda, Greetings from Colorado!
    Though I miss your podcast, I love reading your blog and keeping up with what’s new with you. Your painting is so good. You’ve every reason to be super-proud.
    Just noticed your recommendation for audio book The Help> I am just about to start it.
    Been meaning to mention The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society as a great audio book. It would have been perfect for your “Make Do and Mend” podcasts. So well read and a wonderful story.
    Be well.

    Posted on 4.2.10 ·

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