Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!

When I took watercolor classes in college, the professor had us use Craftint liquid dyes, which were similar to Dr. Ph. Martin's original watercolors. The advantage to them was that they were easy to use -- there were no variations in handling properties to contend with -- and they were brilliant. However, if you wanted your paintings to last more than a few months, you would have had to put them in a folder in a drawer in a darkened room and only viewed them at midnight during a new moon. Every single one of my paintings faded into near-total obscurity on the wall within six months.

So when I returned to watercolor after a long hiatus, the world of tube pigments was totally new to me. I have to admit that I went a little crazy during the testing and trial period, filling sheet after sheet of watercolor paper with little squares of color -- color straight from the tube, color in various mixtures, comparisons of brands, tests for lightfastness.

just a few of my color tests

I saved all these samples and referred to them often in the first few years. The result is that I feel totally comfortable with my choices of paints and can mix just about any color with confidence. Call me an art nerd, but it works for me!!

And now a very personal note:

Today is my 25th anniversary -- married to a guy who is secure enough in his identity to walk all the way home from downtown carrying a bright pink shopping bag after picking up some shampoo for me at the local beauty supply store today!! So glad we met all those years ago, Señor Terremoto!! You're a gem!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Off and running...

Brush-Paper-Water, the new blog showcasing watercolor, starts off with the work of Robin Purcell this week. Robin found me through Pablo Villicana Lara's blog and challenged me to start a group blog. I wanted something with a little wider scope, so I decided on a hosted blog format. Each week, I'll be featuring a different artist working primarily in transparent watercolor. So either bookmark the site and stop back regularly, or subscribe to an email update. My hope is to treat you to a broad sampling of this vibrant medium.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My holiday companion...

When my grandmother got married and set up her own home back in the early 1900s, she took a cutting of her family's Christmas cactus. She nurtured that plant all of her life and one of the rites of passage as her grandchildren grew up and moved into their own homes was a starter plant from Grandma. My plant has been through several divisions over the years but has been in its current pot for at least 20 years. It now measures 54" from side to side. It thrives on my unheated porch here in the San Francisco area -- getting filtered sun in the summer and sunny days and cool nights in the winter. I tend to it somewhat absent-mindedly, giving it a mild dose of all-purpose fertilizer every time I water it and an annual "bath" to wash off the dust and pollen that collects during the warmer months.

For this, I am rewarded every year with a profusion of blooms starting right around Christmas. This year, the first of the elegant magenta flowers appeared about a week before Christmas and will cover the plant in the next week or so. Blooming will continue for at least a month.

It's a lovely memory of my grandmother.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It is better to give than to receive...

As the holidays approach, our thoughts turn to gifts for friends and family. Most of us have everything we need, and the task of finding "the perfect gift" for someone can be exhausting. Maybe we should think outside the box!!

Señor Terremoto and I are blessed with enough to eat every day. For those who are struggling, the food banks are a life-saver -- literally! But the current economic conditions are seriously affecting donations to food banks and impairing their ability to serve the increasing number of people who need their help. So when I read in the paper this morning that some large Silicon Valley companies were foregoing their holiday parties this year and donating the monies they saved to the local food bank, it set me to thinking: What if I put a link to the food bank on my blog to raise awareness and encourage individuals to donate too? My blog is limited in its reach, but maybe the folks who read my blog will pass this idea along, and so on and so on, and together we can reach a much larger audience.

If you live in the California counties of Santa Clara or San Mateo, clicking on this link will take you to the local Second Harvest Food Bank website, where you can donate in a number of ways, including online. You can choose to purchase specific foods or make a secure cash donation (via credit card). What could be easier?

And if you live elsewhere, the Feeding America network (formerly America's Second Harvest) has affiliates all over the country. You just enter your zip code in their Food Bank Locator to find the nearest food bank.

Happy Holidays!!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pleasant surprise

"Una Tuna"
16" x 16"
watercolor & gouache

Una Tuna is the other painting accepted into the Triton Museum's Statewide Watercolor Exhibit. When I got to the reception tonight, I was pleased and surprised to discover it had received an Honorable Mention! This piece is one of several I created after spending a day with Señor Terremoto at the Luther Burbank Gardens in Santa Rosa, CA, where they have what is probably the largest patch of prickly pear in captivity!! Although my initial scheme for this painting had to be abandoned, I'm very happy with the final outcome.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Art reception this Friday...

"Morning Glorious"
15" x 18"

It's my good fortune to have two paintings -- "Morning Glorious" and "Una Tuna" -- hanging in the upcoming show at the Triton Museum in Santa Clara, CA. What started as a biennial watercolor exhibition has, in recent years, morphed into a cyclical series of statewide competitions -- rotating between all painting media, pastels, and watercolors. This is the year for watercolor and the competition was stiff. The juror -- Scott Shields, Ph.D., the Associate Director and Chief Curator at the Crocker Museum in Sacramento, CA -- selected just 56 paintings from nearly 800 entries. It's an honor to be included in the show.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, this is your invitation to join me at the reception this Friday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. The museum is located at 1505 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara. Hope to see you there!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Yesterday's post was the first in way too long. But I haven't been snoozing. On the contrary, it's been a very productive couple of months. First off, I finally accomplished a long overdue studio cleanup. I jettisoned some supplies that have been cluttering up the landscape, both literally and figuratively; I got the bookkeeping up to date; I sorted through the idea file and cleaned that up a bit; and I took inventory of a drawer full of half-finished pieces that I want to complete. Perhaps most important, I came to a decision that simplifies my life and gives me a huge boost of energy -- to focus on watercolor (with a collage or two thrown in now and then) and stop playing around with every painting medium that comes into my field of view. I like to try new things, but over the last two years, I found myself getting so scattered that I couldn't see where I was going.

Watercolor has been my favorite medium since I first put brush to paper. As happy as I was with my finished acrylic paintings last spring, the process of creating them was not one I enjoyed. And oils in any form trigger my chemical sensitivities, so that's definitely not an option. But beyond the physical reasons to stick with watercolor, I came to realize that my recent successes were a message from the universe to stay on the path. It's good to know where you stand.

Ever since I started painting seriously, I've put paintings away for some period of time because I get stuck and can't see how to proceed. I periodically revisit each one and think about how to resolve whatever problem caused me to banish it, knowing that I'll eventually come up with a solution. Last year seems to have produced a bumper crop of these goodies. Here's a peek at one of the pieces I pulled out of the "works in progress" drawer today:

The Eyes Have It (detail)

The weird blobs that appear on the surface are masking fluid. I have always disregarded the instructions to remove masking fluid in a very short time, with only one really awful experience as a result. And I started using Incredible White Mask a few years ago and have been very pleased with how easily it came off (as long as it was reasonably fresh when applied). I probably should throw in a disclaimer here along the lines of "don't try this at home" so I don't have a bunch of ticked-off watercolorists emailing me with threats of bodily harm!! My studio stays at a very even temperature because I need to use an air conditioner for my allergy problems. Heat will cause masking fluid to set into the paper: if a painting is exposed to heat or sun, you'll never get the masking off.

Monday, December 1, 2008

First challenge!!

In one of those lovely accidents of the universe, I met another watercolorist on Brushspace shortly after I'd signed up. We started emailing and it turned out that Pablo lived not-so-far-away and had a fabulous solo show that I went to see in late October. So when he proposed a painting challenge last month, I jumped in. We wanted to showcase watercolor -- a medium that too often gets short shrift in the art world -- and have some fun along the way. We settled on a small format with a theme of "something from the kitchen" for this first challenge:

"Sliced with Salt"
Chris Beck
watercolor & gouache, 6" x 6"

"This Little Piggy Went to Market"
Pablo Villicana Lara
watercolor, 10" x 8"