Monday, 26 January 2009

Familiarity

Wavemechanics 365: 22I remember my very first painting of water. It was a view of the Thames out of the studio window (my mentor's studio) looking towards the under-construction Millenium Dome. It was AWFUL. Because I'd never tried to paint water and I was painting what I thought I saw - a big stretch of blue-green.

So it took me a while to move away from things on the water (boats, piers, bridges, etc) to painting the water. The method was twofold: learning to paint what I actually saw (rather than what I thought I saw) and actually sketching the water from life a lot.

Even now, I have to paint abstractly from coast trips I've actually taken. I paint where I've been, it's hard to paint from imagination though possible from memory to an extent. Painting from memory comes from familiarity - the more you've painted or sketched something the more mental reference material you have to draw on. But you still have to refresh the material every so often, the more often the better.

Though the sea is my love for now, I still enjoy the Thames River, and still always find something new from watching it. Ripples and waves are still a bit of an enigma, there's always room for improvement. And as you know the crashing sea waves boggled my creative mind over on Portland Island!

Something I started back in December is a 365 project, the popular "daily photo" activity on Flickr where people challenge themselves to take a photo everyday! (some choose self portraits, some random photos, some the same object every day) Mine was the surface of the Thames: Wavemechanics 365. Now I will admit straight off that I started the project before considering that I can't take my river with me if I leave town for a few days! haha! On that note, my 365 is probably going to end up a bit more like a 300.



But here's the fun part! I'm noticing completely new things. Seeing the river every day makes the tides so much more obvious. Colours changing with the sky and wind. Stuff floating by or not. Effects of boats. So I feel like I'm still learning.

And it's for you too. I decided when I started the project to make all the images Creative Commons copyright. You can use them, draw from them, jog your memory, or use them for elements in a larger work. So hopefully by the end of the year it will be a great reference library of water shots.

You can keep up with the images

So how does everyone else practice their water? I know a few of us draw local spots, like Lindsay and Vivien but what about straight studio work? Or perhaps you're too distant to get a real view every day? What's your technique to stay familiar with your subject?
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10 comments:

Katherine Tyrrell said...

My first real practice has come from starting the Ecology Park Pond project

I thought I knew about water before but I'm finding that staring at it for longer and taking lots of photos means I'm studying it a lot more and finding I'm seeing a lot more as a result.

Plus I'm being diverted by the birds who swim in it - but that's a whole different subject!

Gesa said...

A great post, Tina - the slide show is looking very good too: I was curious about the diversity you'd get with the wave mechanics project and it is fascinating. I very much agree with the familiarity: it's a tension between knowing stuff, and actually still looking, listening, etc. very carefully for all the stuff that unsettles the familiar.
Thanks for this post!

Jeanette said...

Watermarks has become the turning point for me in examining water and its relationship to the land and life.

Familiarity with your subject can let memory play a part in some paintings but familiarity can also slip over into complacency. I live literally on the sea and while it fascinates me, until now, I haven't really explored it.

I think your daily photo project is wonderful and I can see how it gives you a much stronger view of water and its movements. I love that you're sharing it with others too. Thank you for that.

I've considered something similar in terms of photographing the ocean from a single point, at a similar time each day to study light and ocean movement, tides, etc. I just need to be dedicated enough to get off the mainstream of traffic each morning and do it!

Lindsay said...

Tina, I know I must have read the creative commons part earlier but today it suddenly hit me that I'd love to do something with one or two photos of yours. Inspiration building on inspiration! This is a rich project and I'm enjoying seeing the images pile up.

The rivers nearer to Chicago all carry a very high silt load (pollution and illegal dumping) and are very muddy looking. It was an eye opener to go further out North and West of the city to paddle rivers that were clear to the bottom. All this to say that sometimes I really have to focus on only part of the river experience. I very much like how you abstract your surfaces into those jewel tones.

vivien said...

A really good post and you've said exactly what I believe about the necessity of looking, looking and looking again through changing light and tides and the fact that this builds into your memory. Painting or sketching what you see not what you think is there :>)

I get to the coast when I can to refresh the memories and gather lots of sketches. Preferably Cornwall 300/320 miles or somewhere with wild, clear beautiful seas and light

- failing that the Norfolk coast is nearer at 100miles with its dunes and saltmarshes, murkier water and different light.

I love painting the same beach from the same place - different weather, time, light, season, tide - and the whole ambience, wave dynamic and colour is so different.

Locally I'm going to revisit Aylestone Meadows frequently - not daily though :>)

I like your wave mechanics series and can imagine these leading to some interesting paintings.

Some years ago when I was sketching at Aylestone Meadows a grass snake came swimming down the canal and slithered out beside me - I was quite still sketching so it totally ignored me and went on its leisurely way - I bet there are some in your eco park Katherine.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Well my only real excitement so far has been the heron! I was sooooooo close and he was sooooooo big.

Apparently it has dragon flies in the summer which have returned after a long absence

Bear in mind I'm less than two miles east of the City of London!

Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Tina, Wonderful! And, generous!
I thank all of you 'WaterWomen' for creating Watermarks. It has helped me to focus on my own love of water patterns. My love for 'waterbirds' has been strong for quite a few years. Now, Watermarks is helping me take the next step with my creative output.
Thanks for sharing and thanks for the push :)

Tina Mammoser said...

Katherine - I now imagine you sketching, getting distracted and going "oh oh a bird!" haha!

And Jeanette you're so right about complacency. I think that's why I chose the Thames for photographing. I see it almost every day, but never *really* look at it. I'm hoping to explore a bit further too - after a couple weeks I realised there was a stairway under the power station pier so now I go down to the water edge. More recently I decided to try and bring the SLR to get better detail. It'll be fun, though I've been slacking off in January. I just blame the month. ;)

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Have you got a copy of the tide tables for the Thames?

You could walk under the Thames and maybe photograph it from the slipway at the rowing club near Island Gardens. I walked right out one day last summer when it was very low tide and got very close to the water - and it was really weird to think that the water would be several feet above my head at full tide!

annie said...

Of course we'd all prefer to stand in front of water, ourselves, to explore and paint it, but since we can't always do that, that Creative Commons Copyright is very generous of you, and I know the rest of us will benefit from it. Thank you.
annie