If I knew what would happen, I wouldn’t bother trying.
|The float, by Carol L. Douglas. Same subject as yesterday.|
Today is my 38th wedding anniversary; Wednesday was my granddaughter’s third birthday. I knew I’d miss these milestone events when I signed up for this residency, but had convinced myself that in the world of Skype and Snapchat, physical presence didn’t matter. It does.
I’m reminded that my grandmother came to this country expecting to never see her homeland or family again. Despite our national myths of intrepid independence, we are a nation built on homesickness.
|Even the umbrella can't save this painting from the rain.|
My intention in this residency is two-fold: to explore the intersection of water, land and mankind, and to do some really big plein air landscapes in oils and watercolor. In the world of art, oil and water definitely do not mix; together they can create an archival disaster. So, being a concrete thinker, I plan to alternate them. Wednesday was an oil-painting day, Thursday was a watercolor day.
Rachel Alexandrou, the gardener-in-residence here, told me it would rain at 12:30. She was accurate to the minute. I hunkered down in my car, my salad on my lap, and watched the storm cross Damariscotta Lake. Excess humidity of any kind is tough on conventional watercolor paper. It turns out that it’s not good for Yupo, either.
|A droopy, dreary day from within my car.|
Yupo is a synthetic plastic substrate: cool, slick and contemporary. It’s the antithesis of organic. I like the way it takes watercolor, and its luminosity. However, it can be a jerk on a wet day. Water pools on the surface, and the paint is much more inclined to granulate than it does on paper.
Combined with intermittent rain, this made for nasty clumps of dark particles floating on the surface. The culprit appears to be what I thought was quinacridone violet. That’s not possible; that color isn’t granular at all. I have an imposter on my palette. I wonder what it is.
|I switched to a quinacridone gold by QoR; it is clearer and brighter than whatever was on my palette.|
I expected technical problems this first day, and I got them. My full-sheet drawing board, improvised from a folding presentation board, is too large for my swivel head easel. I don’t have my large brushes; they’re still in England.
There is a subtle change that happens when you finally relax and paint. You stop fussing at your materials and start translating what you see. I did eventually get there, or almost there. I hashed out a painting that’s mediocre in its drawing, rather muddy in its color, but interesting in its scribing. The beauty of Yupo is that it makes watercolor behave like no other paint.
What’s the end goal of this see-saw rotation of materials? If I knew what would happen, I wouldn’t bother trying. In this sense, experimentation with artist’s materials is vastly unscientific. We simply mix things up and watch. One in a hundred times it works, and when that happens, it's magical.