I drew this image in 2018 on four 11″ x 14″ sheets of drawing paper and I’ve wanted to redraw this for a while on a single surface. It recently dawned on me that I could use xuan paper which is the perfect size.
It was also a good chance for me to practice line work with a Chinese brush, which was a lot of fun, as the color and weight of the paper makes the drawing feel delicate and vintage while the quality of line from a brush is more varied and every now and then allows for the texture of the surface to show through.
I started Flowers II in 2018. I didn’t like how I painted the flowers, initially, so I did some editing. Then, when I was [overwhelmingly] happy with the flowers, I wasn’t sure how to paint the vases. I was a wee bit nervous about getting the colors wrong so I decided to put it off to the side and wait for myself to calm down.
For a brief moment in 2019, I had the idea of painting the vases in monochrome, specifically, with Lipton Tea.
I first made a master copy of the outline of the flowers and vases. I then planned out which parts would have how many layers of tea. The more layers the darker. I used Frog tape to cover the areas that would be lighter than other areas and then removed the Frog tape one set of areas at a time, as I applied more and more washes of tea.
I may have given certain areas a bit too much tea because a part of the surface, at the bottom, has spots. Moreover, with so much tea, the Frog tape let some of the tea seep under the edges so the lines it created weren’t very clean.
I want to say that helped take the pressure off of not “ruining” the work, but I still wasn’t sure how to do what I did for the flowers as I might for the vases.
This last week, I finally said F*** it and stuck to the most obvious choices. (I had to let go of the ambition to go beyond what I was already doing and to just complete what I’ve started.)
I first aimed to make it look like the original, so the only change would’ve been the flowers. But, using watercolor pencils, I couldn’t find the right combination of colors to have the same color scheme. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t thinking about the wash I’d made with the tea. It goes very well with the red of the flowers but it also makes the entire color scheme more somber or “rustic.” (The original Flowers II has no wash so the background is bright white and the color scheme is bright and cheerful.)
Going through so many sketches, I could also see the benefit of having a lighter hand. (It’s more delicate and makes the vases more of a supporting element for the flowers.) I decided to use each color twice, making it either lighter and more transparent or darker and more opaque.
To make it lighter, I applied the pencil lightly over the surface and then wet the brush without dabbing it (much) to give the area a wash, and then dabbed the area dry with a towel. To make it darker, I applied the pencil more heavily. I also wet the brush and then swiped it across a dry towel before applying it to the area.
Once I had an idea of what the colors would be for a single vase, I used the carbon copy I made in 2018 to produce the outlines for a study that included all the vases.
I used the following colors from a set of 72 watercolor pencils by Arteza: Lime Green (a600), Pear Green (a603), Shamrock Green (a605) and Fern Green (a612).
There’s a small part of me that wants to color in the centers of the flowers on the top row to follow through with what I was doing with the tea. But … It might make the work a little off balance and make me inclined to add a leaf on the left side. Or I may be over thinking it and should just be happy with what I have.
I was thinking mostly of Joan Miro’s The Poetess and other similar works. But I’ve been browsing Saatchi’s website and, clicking on the subsequent ads that show up in my hotmail account, I discovered Ebru Acar Taralp, who has a style that seems to be very similar to what I’m doing with Flowers II (and Trees). There’s also green composition by Rafa Mateo.
I want to say I’ve seen a couple of other artists making it a part of what they’re doing, but I don’t remember their names. Well, all this to say, It must be a thing.
Savoring those proverbial 10,000 hours.* Below are the first four prompts for Inktober.
1) Fish or specifically a sheepshead fish, which — fun fact — has human teeth.
*Okay it’s not from a proverb but from this guy in 1991… and I’m using it more as a metaphor than as a literal goal.
2) Wisp — I had to be careful not to do more automatic drawing (because it’s too easy) and the first thing I thought of was smoke. So I googled “smoke” and got a really good image from National Geographic
3) Bulky and (4) Radio are also based on images I found online.
Not much to note except that I was using a micron pen on pages from a paperblanks journal (120 gsm) and there was no bleed through… which might seem like an all around pro (as opposed to con) but it also does not go on smooth when you are coloring in large blocks of color. (See (4) Radio) It can also be erased or get faded by simply running an eraser over it, so I think it has a way of sitting on top of the page more than other pens.
Getting back to the 10,000 hour rule. It was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers (2008), which looks at how certain individuals who have reached high levels of success.
It has sold as well as it has because, I believe, we like to think of how far human beings can go. We like to look at our own ingenuity. Outliers also tries to de-mystify the idea of “genius.” Or the idea that one is born with one’s abilities to reach the level of grand master in chess, for example. There are many other factors that play a role in one’s success than natural aptitude.
My take away:
There’s an emphasis on “deliberate practice.” Meaning the more efficient you are in your studies, the further you will progress in the same amount of time.
There’s a Ted Talk that comes to mind: The Habits of Effective Artists by Andrew Price. He mentions Mozart and Beethoven and how the greater volume of works each produced in a five year period, the greater the odds of one creating a “hit.” Instead of spending so much time one one work, from which you’ve learned nearly all you can from the process of creating that one work, you should allow yourself to move on to another work, for the sake of expediting the development of one’s skills.
Price also talks about how art classes and online tutorials had helped him. You can work on your own stuff, waiting for your own epiphany. But what if you get stuck while trying to complete something of your own and all it takes is somebody pointing out to you a solution to a rudimentary problem?
Personally, I may be getting ahead of myself in some of the works I’ve been trying to complete. It’s humbling, but it may be as simple as developing a better eye for perspective.