Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Making waves

Waves I 5 x 10 watercolour

The ocean's surface is a magical place that shifts constantly, changes colour at the will of a cloud or sun and can be calm or wild. That moving surface that becomes one is fascinating and open to so much interpretation. So much of my work has been tight and controlled to date, but I've found that painting water forces me to loosen up and it almost happens without much direction from me. However fine detail still draws me in and makes me want to create the realistic surface that water provides. Its tangible, yet slips through your hand becoming formless. Light, wind and tides give it shape, but it remains shapeless.

For some time I have been drawn to the work of Vija Celmins and have spent a long time studying her intensely detailed work of ocean, sky and earth. I wanted to create a piece that explores the ocean surface in detail, rather like the work of Celmins.

In the late 1960s, Celmins started working mostly with a graphite pencil. Her subjects became increasingly selective until her work became almost entirely images of the surface of the ocean, night skies, and the surface of the desert, with small stones and pebbles rendered in great detail.

Waves II 5 x 10 watercolour

Celmins received international attention early in her career for her renditions of natural scenes, often painted from photographs lacking a point of reference, horizon, or discernible depth of field. These attempts at the ocean surface aren't detailed as in Celmins work, but her influence and the appeal is there for me to continue to develop a more detailed surface.

I want to take that almost abstract section of water and make it come alive. I know that this level of realism may not be feasible on a large scale, such as a full sheet because of the time commitment it would involve, so I may try with smaller studies at first to see if the process makes me entirely crazy or not. I want to try mixed media and paint the ocean's surface on a larger scale, perhaps a full sheet of watercolour paper. Maybe a watercolour base and coloured pencil to pull out details.

This interview with Vija Celmins gives an insight into her vision and her work. I love her reality of outlook on the process of making art.


muddy red shoes said...

well that process would make me crazy for sure, altho I love the spider webs, the rest of her work was a bit depressing, lack of colour. Am I right in thinking that the two watercolours are yours? I liked them, colours are important to me. But, again, what an interesting post, this is great, lots of interesting artists to look at.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I can see how that would immediately appeal to you Jeanette

I'd recommend looking at past work by Robert Jones - he's paints in (guess!) Cornwall. He also paints the sea and exhibits in the same gallery that Sarah has just joined (I think).

He used to do paintings which involved coloured pencil over acrylic (I think) which were absolutely fascinating. From a distance it was if he'd got all the detail of the sea in terms of the waves - very much as in Vija Celmins work - and then up close you'd find it was a complex web of individual pencil strokes in different colours (like John Smolko's work) which activated the surface and drew you in.

I could look at one for hours. Unfortunately I couldn't afford to buy one at the time - but I do have a catalogue of his work somewhere.

I've had it in my head ever since - that intriguing balance between realism and total abstraction - and all done with a coloured pencil!

muddy red shoes said...

Yes Robert is in the same gallery as I am, and if you go to take a look at his work also check out Paul Lewin, he uses the clay from old mine workings to draw with. Lovely stuff.

Jeanette said...

Sarah, I'm a detail freak, so her drawings appealed to me a lot purely for the draftsmanship of them. I love realism, but am exploring looser painting styles. However the pull to detail is always there.

Yes, the watercolours are mine. I am playing with paint and ocean surfaces and enjoying the process.

I'll check out Robert Jones Katherine. There are so many different artists with so many different techniques. Its nice to look at them all, even better in person, and then see what I come up with myself.

Anonymous said...

Two lovely paintings Jeanette, especially the second one, where you still have detail, as well as a nice mixture of hard edges and lost eddges, (love that part right there at the surface of the water), giving a looseness to your painting.

vivien said...

it was fascinating to listen to thought processes about work so different from my own - her work doesn't appeal to me but I can see the element that would appeal to you. I like to hear people speak passionately about very different approaches.

I like Paul Lewins work very much

and 2 nice paintings Jeanette :>)

Lindsay said...

Very interesting post. It's always rich to hear a point of view that's different from my own.

Your waves are beautiful. They remind me of the vacation we took in northern Michigan. From the vantage point of a swimmer, I kept trying to see these very shapes in the water. You've captured them beautifully.

Jeanette said...

Thanks Ronelle. I'm having fun trying for wave shapes and would like to try an almost abstract piece of just the water without any reference point of sky or land.

Vivien, there are so many artists doing so many beautiful pieces with water in them. There are a thousand ideas in my head, some days I nearly go off the road gazing at bits of water or reflected light on the water.

Lindsay, I love the shapes that waves make and I love the detail in them. My base is in realism so these forays into looser paintings is fascinating. However, the pull back to realism in others work always makes me look twice.

Trevor Lingard said...

Hello Janette
lovely watercolours. A rather difficult subject I find, but you have captured the movement in these.
Quite moody I think.