--Publilius Syrus quotes (Roman author, 1st century B.C.)
When trying to paint water I find the key for me is variety - using a lot of different mediums and ways to look at it. It's easy to get stuck in the same technique and not progress, wondering why you can't push yourself, or why this painting or this water seems different from the rest? It's a rut! Using a lot of different tools all contributes to the end result of my soft color field water paintings.
At the moment I'm working on a series of water surface paintings for a Venice exhibition, a bit of a change from my sea horizons. This means really focusing on the patterns and light on the water itself.
My studies are currently laid out on the floor, different sketches and practices that go back to last September in preparation for this new work. Only now that I have them laid out do I realise how many different approaches I've tried!
The large largest sketch (one of dozens) is a more literal charcoal line drawing of ripples. This kind of study had me looking really closely at the detail! The lines and how they met, where they travelled, the strange shapes they made that were completely unintuitive.
After that I used my pastels on smaller paper - the bottom right green study - to do some colour studies, just exploring the areas of soft light. This reminded me that to get the light I wanted I needed to focus again on my glazes and layers of pure colour.
Finally, I've been working on 100 small acrylic paintings on paper. A friend actually gave me some offcuts of wonderful watercolour paper that was great for working with acrylic with a watercolour approach. These brought home how the combination of what I learned doing the charcoal and the pastel could come together. I used the drawings of ripples first to put down a structure and underpaintings, then glazes over it with larger areas and washes of colour to bring out the light. This end lesson I could apply to the large canvases.
(for the Venice Exhibition, Blackheath Gallery March 2011)
None of these alone would have given me the tools for getting my new large paintings right. Each medium showed me something different about the water, because water is such a myriad of things: light and dark, surface and depth, flat and textured.