Thursday, October 14, 2010

My First Painting, The Micro Gallery Show and Blog, the Artist's Dilemma and Apologies for a Big Barf of a Post

I apologize for this big mish-mash of a post. Normally I try to keep my posts to just one topic but this one is a jumbled mess of different thoughts....hopefully some of them are interesting. Or just look at the picture.

So I "finished" my first watercolor a few weeks ago. A big part of what makes watercolor color vibrant is your eye seeing the light hit the paper behind the paint and bounce back towards you...that's why watercolors can look so luminous. Scanning a watercolor isn't exactly the best way to reproduce what it looks like in person. That said, here's a scan.

If you click on it, you actually get a version that's much bigger than the original. In person it's pretty small (3 and a half by 5 and a half inches) because it's for the upcoming show at Gallery Nucleus titled "The Super Big Micro Show". All the pieces done for the show need to be less than 6 by 6 inches. Here's a link to the page about the show and there is a blog here about the Micro Gallery and its origins as a fundraising art show amongst the story and VisDev artists at Disney.

I haven't been a very big participant in any of the past Disney shows, because I have been pretty busy working on "Tangled" with minimal free time during most of the Micro show's existence, and also because I didn't know how to use any kind of traditional colored media very well, so that limited my ability to produce any kind of colorful art piece. Most of my contributions have been pen and ink drawings with crayons for color (yep.....crayons). So I've been using this upcoming Gallery show to force myself to learn how to use watercolor.

I have to say I'm not exactly happy with my results but also not totally sure what I would change about it, so I'm going to call it finished (or "finished") and move onto another painting. I painted several different versions of it and learned a lot with each one, but I don't think continuing to repaint new versions will teach me anything else so I guess it's time to call it "done". I am sure that when I look back at it in a few months I will see all sorts of things that should have been done differently and I will be embarrassed that I ever even posted it here...which is the eternal dilemma that I always face, and I assume every artist does: even when I am happy with the end results of my work, I know that I will look at it again in the future and see mistakes that I didn't see before, because I have improved as an artist since I did the piece. It's a double-edged sword because it's always great to know that you are constantly improving. After all, if I always looked at past work and thought it was still as good as I could do, then I wouldn't really be getting better over time. But that also means that when I actually like something I've just finished, I know someday I will look back at it with a more critical eye and find it wanting.

Then again I can't say I've ever really been "satisfied" with anything I've done, period.

The good thing about working at a studio with deadlines and pressure is that it forces you to finish things. They're never as great as you want them to be but if I didn't have deadlines I would never finish anything...I would polish everything and keep re-doing it until it was completely overworked and had no energy or sincerity to it at all.

Deadlines and pressure get a bad rap. Many artists seem to resent them and think that, without them, we would all be sitting around totally relaxed and oozing out beautiful works all the time and be completely happy, fulfilled and stress-free beings...I think some people believe that in a perfect world, we would all just relax and focus on our "art" rather than being bothered and distracted by pressure and schedules.

I have to be honest and say that I know myself well enough to say that I would probably never produce much of anything without deadlines. I need goals and deadlines to get motivated most of the time. For example, I've wanted to learn how to watercolor for years, but it wasn't until this upcoming show that I actually got myself to make it a priority. Another good thing about deadlines forcing you to work at high speed is that it can give your work an energy and spontaneity that it wouldn't have otherwise.

One of the best and worst things about being a story artist is that you have to churn out a high volume of drawings constantly and they are forever being thrown out and replaced as fast as you can do them - all in the service of finding the best story, the best characters and the best ideas that you can find. It teaches you to not be married to ideas or drawings and to constantly search and reach for a better idea or drawing, and no matter how much you might like a drawing or idea today, you know there will always be a better solution to be found tomorrow, or next week, or next month.

I find also, in picking subjects to paint, that I don't really gravitate towards landscapes or environments which seem to be the traditional subject you might think of when someone says "watercolor". For some reason I like characters and I like paintings that "tell a story" - that have some sense of tension, of something that just happened or is about to happen or will happen someday. I like unresolved tension and characters that have plans that haven't come to fruition yet and the conflict you can get from those type of situations. I really like and admire the way some watercolor artists can capture a certain landscape or a certain sense of light and shadow but I just don't have any interest in painting those kinds of subjects. And with all the difficulties and frustrations we face as artists trying to learn our craft, it's always smart to at least pick a subject to draw or illustrate or write about that we actually have interest in and that we find entertaining. If it's something that we'll stay interested in then we'll have a better chance of sticking with it when that first burst of enthusiasm and excitement wears off and it gets frustrating (which it always does).

Anyway, I know it's not a very spectacular example of a painting, but the real point of even doing it was to learn something, and in that sense it was a success. I learned a lot painting my first watercolor, and sometime I will talk about that more in depth.

There are a lot of amazing artists contributing to the upcoming Gallery Nucleus Show and I can't wait to see what they all do. If you live in the LA area maybe I'll see you at the Dec. 11th opening!


Tammy said...

How does one even find out about these shows with enough time to make a submission!
Killin me: Your doing it.

tiffannysketchbook said...

I'm so excited that you started watercoloring!! that's awesome especially for your first! congrats. :) looking forward to hearing about more of your watercolor journey, being a watercolorist myself!

pbcbstudios said...

Is that guy gonna STAB that kid?


Quentin Lebegue said...

Nice watercolor, very appealing, and I love the colors you used !

I'd love to see more of them !

Jeremy Spears said...

whoa Mark, this is pretty sweet man! Your doing amazing watercolor work for it being your first time out. Can't wait to see this in the show!!!

Don Cox said...

I'm puzzled by all this. How could you learn to draw that well, yet you say you have never used paint? Didn't you have paints when you were a kid? No colouring books to get you started?

Anyway, you seem to be making heavy weather of it. A painting is a coloured drawing. The people who have trouble with paint are the ones who can't draw.

One tip - do as little mixing as possible. Mixing always makes colours dirtier.

David R said...

Let me tell you what I think works based on your previous posts -

You've obviously used a limited palate of two contrasting colors: yellow and purple. That really works well.

The part I think you might be feeling some ambivalence towards is the bad guy. His color comes from a different palate, and doesn't seem is integrated into the picture.

Is that a good practical application of the lessons?

markjens said...

Wow, sorry I cannot offer artistic criticism, mine is more of the praise type. I like the watercolor very much, and I like the contrast of the palates. Congrats on the new medium, I hope you got some joy from this rather than it being one more plate spinning up there. Good work! I agree about the deadlines thing - most of the artistic types that I know NEED deadlines, or they'd never finish! P.S. I am one of them. Great job!

mark kennedy said...

Tammy-Sorry to be killing you! Actually, I think the show is only open to story and Visdev artists from Pixar, DreamWorks and Disney...sorry for the confusion.

Tiffany - great, thanks so much! More to come, keep commenting!

Briggsy - hmmmm, yes, I see that, but like I said you gotta paint what you like to paint. I guess I'm as messed up as you already thought....

Quentin - thanks so much, glad you liked it!

Jeremy - thanks a ton...just trying to live up to everyone's high standard!

Don - not really, I didn't draw much as a kid, let alone paint. And if I'm going to try to learn how to paint, then I want to be able to paint like Rembrandt, Mary Blair and Norman Rockwell....I want to learn all there is to know about it (or as much as I can). I don't want to just put down colors on my drawings....that I can already do, yes. Does that make sense?

David R - thanks for the thought. Yes, I was trying to make it mostly yellow and purple. But the "bad guy" is also mixed from those same colors so he is (to me) unified with the palette. So I think he fits in okay...but I see what you're saying. Thanks for the comment.

markjens - yes, thank you for owning up to being the same way!!! I totally need those deadlines. Thanks for the comment!

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