Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ripping Paper

"Work Kit"
24" x 24" Found Paper on Canvas"

"Point of View"
24" x 24" Found Paper on Canvas
In October, I created a pair of collages, "Geisha" anticipating my trip to Japan later in the month. I completed "Work Kit" first, stylizing my design. "Point of View" was done second. I was challenged to create the traditional white makeup while suggesting planes on the face and neck.

My artist friend Joan and I plan one art-related vacation a year. This year, Joan came to California and stayed with us in October. The Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society sponsored a workshop by Derek Gores, who had previously taught a collage workshop in 2012. I took that workshop and found paper collage became a favored medium. I was happy to retake the workshop, as did a couple other artists, to continue building my skill. Derek is an accomplished, energetic young artist and an excellent teacher.

Part of the success of the paper collage depends upon a range of values, to model forms and create transitions to soften and vary edges. This is done using papers of varying tones and shades of color. Another way is to use text.  If you view some of my other collages, you will see text creates the planes of the face. Now that I had a few years experience on my own, I could focus on the finer points of Derek's demos and lessons. During critique he said he loved the text next to the eye in "Work Kit." On "Point of View" he was taken with the china plates in the upper right quadrent.  Making the background interesting is all part of the package.

Derek calls his work "Fearless Play" and creating the art is a unique challenge. I love finding interesting papers and then creating a way to use them. Also, I cannot exactly plan how the piece is going to come together. Each piece influences the choice of other pieces. There is a randomness in how the image emerges and I could never create an original copy.

There are several guidelines to creating interesting work. The first is to tear the paper so that there are some interesting edges that contrast with the hard edges found in the magazine or memento. The second is to find the edges within the paper. In "Work Kit on the upper left side, you will see a women in a long dress forms the hairline near the red ribbon. There is also a window in the forehead. The woman was standing in front of a window and I liked the unexpected element in her face. The third is to vary the edges so the image doesn't just looked glued onto the canvas. The fourth is create interesting backgrounds. If you want to enhance your understanding, study Derek's art.

I have always been drawn to geometrics and shape, a reflection of the family engineering gene. Thus my backgrounds are somewhat grid-like, though I like to interrupt the grid with an occasional diagonal, as you see in "Work Kit" in the darker values next to the head on the right quadrant. The kimono is pure fantasy. I wanted a red, black, and white scheme.  When I found a magazine sheet with wrought iron fencing, I had aha moment for the trim. I felt it said "Japan.

We went to Japan on October 29 for a bit over two weeks. While in Kyoto we learned that geisha's still entertain in a theater district that was fairly close to our hotel. However, all the geishas we saw were visitors, especially from China, who went to shops near the shrines and temples to be dressed as geishas for the day. They did not, however, wear the white makeup. Their kimonos were colorful prints. Our guide explained that most Japanese women who wear kimonos select much more subdued designs, and wear their kimonos only to special events. The real kimonos usually sell for  thousands of dollars. So there are geisha's, but I did not likely see any real ones.

I will write next about the Japan trip, complete with travel sketches.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Stephen Quiller Workshop at the 4UR Ranch

"Nature's Confetti"
19" x 14" Watercolor

"Trout Fishing at the 4UR Ranch"
19" x 14" Watercolor
"Nature's Beauty"
12" x 15" Watercolor
After travel to Colorado and Japan, an October visit from a good friend, and two workshops, I am back to blogging about three art adventures. Here goes with the Steven Quiller plein air workshop at the 4UR Ranch in Creede, CO, Steven's home town. I attended with friend Jeannie from the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society, and the whole experience was just so special. Jeannie and I found that we were very compatible travel companions. 
The ranch was so much more than I expected -- a Cordon Bleu trained chef gave us beautiful meals; the ranch has breathtaking scenery; we could take advantage of horseback riding, swimming, fly fishing, and hiking trails; though we were mostly busy painting); we were also treated to two meals cooked on the chuck wagon hauled into the mountains; and the accommodations were superb. I loved this dude ranch that has hosted the likes of Presidents, John Wayne, and Walt Disney. Steven gives two workshops a year at the ranch. We had an interesting range of temps, from low 20s early in the day to 70s by afternoon, mostly clear skies, and just a bit of rain a couple days.
A frosty scene from our porch on our first Colorado morning
Steven gave us our money's worth. In addition to working from 9 am to 5 pm, he hosted several evening sessions. Everyday we painted at a different location in the San Juan mountains: by the Rio Grande, by a trout lake, and amidst spectacular fall colors. Steven would demonstrate his approach, and then we selected our subject and painted. At the end of the day, we returned to a workshop area at the ranch where Stephen did a critique of the day's work.  
When I finished the week, I felt like all my paintings were pretty mediocre as I was pushing myself to try new approaches to watercolor. However, after going back to the paintings a week later, I decided to do a bit of work and apply Steven's critique suggestions to three of them. I was then satisfied with my results.
"Fall Confetti" was done on the morning of our second day when we went high in the mountains on an unpaved ranch road to a spot Steven had previously selected. Steven is a color expert and has written several books on the subject. He always emphasizes that the greyed colors and neutrals are what make the pure color pop. His suggestion was to use pure acrylic to add in the dots of falling leaves. The name came from a statement by Angie, our carpool driver in her large SUV -- she gazed at all the fallen leaves and stated they were nature's confetti. That day we had to return to the ranch workshop area and finish our paintings due to rain.
Painting fall color before the rain
The third day was spent at a beautiful trout pond backed by spectacular scenery. Steven arranged from two of the ranch hands to do some fly fishing while we sketched and photographed them. I worked one of images of the two fisherman into "Trout Fishing at the 4UR Ranch." The fourth day we painted along the Rio Grande, which runs past the trout pond. Steven arranged for a wrangler and one of the horses, Navajo to do some posing for us  along the river. I have not yet gone back to that painting.
The final day we went even higher in the mountains, roughly 10,000 foot level to paint an area of nature that was both affected by a fire a few years ago and by a beattle blight in the evergreens. The area is called Station 10 for the purposes of trout fisherman. The result is quite spectacular with the colorful aspens against the burn and the deep magenta and purples of the blight. It was extremely cold that morning, and I wore 4 layers, including a light down jacket. Later I would shed a jacket and flannel shirt as the day warmed nicely for the fish fry done on location by the chef.

Attentive artists at Station 10
Steven demos at Station 10
On Thursday evening, we had a voluntary visit to the Quiller Gallery in Creede and the local historic theater where Steven recently installed a gorgeous 4 panel mural. Part of the gallery is devoted to his "Beauty in the Burn" series done in paintings and monoprints. The "burn" refers to the devastating fire, a small bit of which we painted on Friday.

On Friday night, we were invited by Steven and his wife Marta to their home for a delicious catered dinner. They graciously allowed us to view Steven's paintings throughout the house. Steven gave us a tour of his splendid studio, which we entered into the top level office retreat and descended into the working studio. Spectacular views of the Rio Grande that flows below them and the mountains across the valley were icing on the cake. Steven said the view paid for the studio as he has painted it many times in all seasons and weather.

Mary, Steven, and Jeannie behind the studio
The following day, Jeannie and I toured the area by car, seeing the remains of the old mines that built Creede in their day. A day-long scenic drive back to the Denver area completed this art adventure. We flew home the next day.