Friday, August 9, 2013

A Visiting Celebrity

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting award-winning Carrie Waller in my studio!  Up until now, Carrie and I have just been Facebook friends (over and over, I must say I LOVE the networking that's possible for artists in today's world).  Carrie and I have been admiring each other's watercolors for a while.  When I read that she was going to be traveling from her home studio to Summerville, SC to visit family (!), I invited her to come paint with me for the day!  We chose a day when Anne, the artist that I mentor, would already be here with me.  And Patty, another artist who has studied with me in the past, was in town as well so she got the invite too!  We painted together for 5 hours.

From left:  Anne, Patty, me and Carrie Waller!
As our day went by, I noticed a marked difference between how Carrie tackles her paintings, and how I currently do.  Carrie starts in one area of her painting and brings it to an almost completed state before moving on to the next section.  She says that, by working in this way, she can determine early on if she's got the right formula to successfully complete the rest of the painting.  You can see in this example, how stunning that looks.  Carrie's a master at what she does!

Watercolor Work-in-Progress by Carrie Waller.
This is the painting she was working on yesterday!
These are glass orbs, filled with roses, suspended from overhead.
See Carrie's blog HERE.
I actually used to paint like this when I first started 30 years ago (painting one section at a time).   Once I started teaching though, I realized that my students ran into trouble when they used this method, for 2 reasons:

1.  At some point in the painting, my beginning students would want to interject some color that was not elsewhere in the painting.  It broke down the harmony of the finished piece.

2.  My students sometimes placed too much emphasis on the start of the piece (they'd start in a less important area so that they could "work up" their nerve for the focal area), and then by the time they got to the actual focal area, they lost that spark they started with and the overall painting suffered.

I never actually thought about this, but I guess that's how and why I developed my current style of painting (and teaching).  I start with an overall wash that sets the tone for the painting.  I decide ahead of time which colors I want to include in the painting, and they get used early on in thin washes (layers) over my drawing.  This immediately unifies my painting's "look".  The first layers then have a chance to glow through the subsequent transparent paint layers.  Here's a step by step of "The Swimming Hole" to illustrate what I mean:

This is my first wash, painted over my pencil sketch.  You can see some masking being used.

I start to paint a second layer, and continue like this over the whole painting.

This is pretty much what the second layer gives me.  Some areas have a third layer already added in this photo.  (Note: Some of the colors might look lighter because I photographed them on a different day in different lighting...)

"The Swimming Hole" (watercolor 22x30) by Helen K Beacham
In a Private Collection.
A special thank you to Carrie Waller for coming by!  I look forward to a future painting session, Carrie!

Come with me (Helen K. Beacham) and Kelly Medford to paint Venice this October...

Click HERE for details!