View Full Version : a couple poor attempts, posted by request

03-17-2005, 10:34 AM
carol: post your works! do it! we'll be kind, promise.Arrrgh! No one reads my sig! Promise not to be kind; to be exact and precise about why it stopped working when I did certain things, then I'll post. ;)

Okay, I'll post. But PLEASE don't add to my confusion with 'kindness.' I've always been almost entirely self-directed, even in abstract doodling with color. I've lost that now as painter, maybe because I'm trying to learn 'serious art' stuff like composition. Or maybe because I need help to integrate the head stuff I learned with looking at my own work, but people are being 'kind.' Does anyone else find asking for help, or these beginning steps towards collaboration, are making it harder to judge your own work?

I'd be willing to trade some inner certainty for some straight advice, though, even if that's what's happening to me (i.e., the outsider artist is being socialized artistically).

The first one is very small, about 5.5"x7.5" and I really don't like the row of bugs. I was trying to have a dominance of line :rolleyes: -- doesn't work for me. It might be called "life."

The second one is about twice that size, about 7.5"x11"; originally it was to be 'celebration' but it isn't now. (It can't have that title, I'll need it for something else someday!) This one was going well until I put that grid thing over on the right, and then added the mixed green symbol under it and then echoed that color on top of the yellow on the upper left corner. All those completely killed any depth that was going on.

I still kinda like the way I was able to 'bracket' the streak of perm. rose within the phthalos (that was an experiment; I'd read about how black lines separating disparate colors in geometrics let them work together). And, I think my joyous little abstract figures work, and echoing them with tree shapes sorta works (needs one more repetition with variation, I think, which I haven't come up with yet).

I'm not really empathic; often get flustered in the presence of other bodies. But I am extraordinarily sensitive to language (and written language is more transparent to me), so please don't be kind! It entirely throws off my judgment (as well as making me very uneasy).

03-17-2005, 10:43 AM
i shall try not to be kind, tho it goes against my nature. i always do try to find a positive.

that being said, know that i mean the positive stuff. it's not just exposition. i really love the tree forms in the second work. partial trees, partial reaching figures.

otherwise, i'm having a hard time getting a handle on these. i can't tell if they're meant to be abstracted landscapes or just pure abstract. i guess it's the medium, but i find these somehow too airy and lacking in contrast. i know you've mentioned before in another thread about your relationship with contrast. :D these all seem to be of the same basic tonal quality, which makes it lack a sense of any real depth or dimension to me. now, this could have been your goal...but i can't find any contextual clues in the paintings to lead me either to or away from that conclusion.

thanks for sharing your work, though!

03-17-2005, 11:26 AM
When I was teaching studio art(the basic high school art course, in the new york public schools) I did a lesson using watercolors. I first demonstrated different watercolor techniques, wet on wet, resist, salt, dry brush etc... I than had the students experiment for a couple of days using small pieces of paper about 4"x6" or 5"x7". They experimented with the different techniques and did about ten paintings a piece. This was a great project because at the end of the year if one of their other projects wasn't chosen for the art exhibit I would mat one of their watercolor experimental paintings to include in the show. I would say that just about everyone had at least one wonderful abstract out of their ten.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I have seen thousands of these little watercolor type abstracts and I'm sure if you keep going with them you are bound to do a great one. These two here just aren't it, sorry just imo. As Amanda said they lack depth due to low contrast. You might want to experiment with some more layering of these transparent colors. It's also fun to take these little paintings and cut them up to use in collages.

I have to say one nice thing, sorry. I like the lower right corner of the second painting. I see a complete little landscape here that works. I would crop it and frame it. :)

PS I just reread your post. I think you are being way to textbooky with your approach. Relax, play, have fun don't hold to much stock in one painting. Create from the heart, analyze later.

I hope I was constructive. Thank you for sharing your work.

03-17-2005, 11:48 AM
You're attempting to build the Taj Mahal before you've learned how to mix cement.

Begin..........at the beginning.

03-17-2005, 11:54 AM
Hi Carol,

I have to agree with Amanda, and when I looked at it, prior to reading her post, I would have said it this way. I don't know why, but all the white space doesn't sit right with me. Her post figured out the why for me. Needs more contrast to provide clues as to distance/spacetial relationships.

Also, in the second my eye has trouble conecting the upper diagonal half to the lower diagonal half. I enter the piece following that long and lovely flowing blue line, but it takes me out of the piece and it is hard to find a way back into the lower half. It reads like a separate piece to me. I agree with the second post that there is a lovely little abstracted landscape in it. I do like that landscape very much.

Finally in the first piece, I find the very bottom orange part very intriguing. There is lots of texture and nuiance here to keep my attention, but again it doesn't seem to fit with the stuff above the bugs. The mountain (it looks like a mountain to me :D ) in the upper portion needs ...well, I'm not sure. Its so white that it feels to me like you decided to abandon it...so I guess I'm saying that to me it seems like it needs more detail or darker contrast or something else. Sorry, guess that is not so helpful.

There is a lot I like about these, just in general don't think all these wonderful little details hang together.

Hope that was helpful. If not just ignore me. :D


03-17-2005, 12:53 PM
Amanda: yup, they're a mess; though, I, too, like the reaching figures. :) Of course, I used to do extremely similar reaching figures (even same color, usually) 20 years ago, in gouache (which is so much easier for abstracts because it is not transparent, so the colored shapes one creates can be the impetus for subsequent ones. One must somehow plan more in transparent w/c! Hard, if one is still clueless regarding how abstract really works).

Bepos: Yes, abstracts are easy if one just plays with the paint (esp. with gouache!), but those are exercises, rather than any sort of intentional painting, aren't they? Or maybe 'experimental' is the word. Anyway, the textbook stuff is still relatively new (it's just a couple years now since I first read Tony Couch's "Keys to Successful Painting" and got some inkling of what visual art actually is about). That's now thoroughly inside my (relatively old) head; my current goal is to get it from my head to somewhere closer to my arm/hand/fingers. Still no integration, although I'm okay (I think) in representational landscapes. If this makes any sense: I don't want to do what I can do now, I want to do what I intend to do. I don't need positive reinforcement, I do still lack understanding of how to make abstract art that says what I'm trying to express. :)

Mame: Thanks, please let me make sure I know what you're saying: Here's links to a few of the (shudder ;) ) realistic works in which I've been practicing what I've learned of watercolor techniques, how to mix colors, etc. elsewhere. (Three pix: http://wetcanvas.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2621548&postcount=1, one from about 11 months ago -- this actually sold, after I did a tiny bit more on it to blue the sky, for $40!, to a fellow resident of independent living center where I used to live/work http://wetcanvas.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=117395&stc=1, and recent, but bad scan -- IRL, the colors of the sky are subtle and gorgeous: http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/26-Feb-2005/36783-wde-jamie.jpg).

I think I know how to use watercolor -- I just have no idea how to use it to make abstract paintings, not even the way I used to use gouache to make abstract doodles. These paintings were an attempt to turn back the clock and just do what I used to be able to do with gouache. Can't even do that now; perhaps I'm not naive enough anymore.

So, does your comment mean: start at the beginning of abstracting? If so, where is that, exactly? Draw intersecting circles like Venn diagrams? :confused: Or, having seen the representational stuff, do you think I still don't know how to do a wash, mix colors, control edges; should still be working on watercolor techniques? Or drawing?

Debby: Thanks, I'm sure contrast is a big part of my problem, although the second one really had far more depth before I started removing white space :confused: . Should have mentioned the upper one is probably to do with dunes (the mountain) and sea pool kinds of places. :D

03-17-2005, 01:21 PM
Bepos: Yes, abstracts are easy if one just plays with the paint (esp. with gouache!), but those are exercises, rather than any sort of intentional painting, aren't they? Or maybe 'experimental' is the word. .D


Don't underestimate the power of play. Also, I would think that any time you deliberately put brush to paper/canvas you are painting intentionally. :rolleyes: Oh yes, and I never said abstracts were easy.

03-17-2005, 01:31 PM
Debby: Thanks, I'm sure contrast is a big part of my problem, although the second one really had far more depth before I started removing white space :confused: . Should have mentioned the upper one is probably to do with dunes (the mountain) and sea pool kinds of places. :D

welcome :D I don't think I'm very comfortable or confident enough with skills in general to give critiques. But I'm all for honest helpful feedback, else how do we improve? Right? ;) So thank you for listening to my thoughts.

dunes...ok, that makes more sense :D

Do you think you will work on these anymore or just do new ones?


03-17-2005, 01:32 PM
Perhaps I spoke a bit too soon (what else is new :rolleyes: )

Perhaps it's a matter of - not tumbling YET into it whole hog - but thinking in terms of ABSTRACTING. Gradually ABSTRACTING for example "tree" or your church composition.

Plus, get a handle on color. How it works, what it does, temperature, values, opaque/transparent, etc. (a lifetime might scratch the suface)

And for the life of me I don't know why folks start the road to art stardom with watercolor. It is THE most difficult medium to master. Mess around with poster paint and pastels and crayons and acrylic first.

03-17-2005, 01:41 PM
FriendCarol – I appreciate that you state very clearly that you do not want kindness but truth – it makes things much easier because then we have total permission to be honest without worrying about hurting you. :)

So having said all that here’s my two cents (hopefully without repeating others words).

One the first piece the purple spots on the furthest hill don’t seem necessary to the composition – the color is good so you could keep the purple if you wanted, perhaps at the base of the hill. I kind of like the bugs actually but never would have understood the piece was about dominance if you hadn’t said it. That turquoise hill in the middle of the picture is excellent – the honey pot of the piece and I like the path going over it also. But the path does weird things just past the turquoise hill it doesn’t follow the lay of the land as I read it. Over all it’s a nice piece with a good feel.

The second piece has beautiful colors and varying watercolor techniques which is interesting but the top of the painting is too heavy for the bottom more ethereal part of the painting – unless it’s a statement about ‘the sky is falling’ or something along those lines. The trees are the honey pot in this piece and done very cleanly and with exactitude. The net and the two green squiggles below seem to go in a different painting. Although I really do like the net and would like to see it appear again in another piece. A cropped version of this piece focusing on the trees would seem appropriate.

03-17-2005, 01:42 PM
so you posted, see? not that horrible after all...

what i see is someone who is struggling to break free of "landscape mode"... you still want to try to make a "scene" out of these -or- have started with a scene and added attempts at abstract. A suggestion would be to take these and turn them over and use a knife to cut them into 3 pieces vertically. That changes the orientation of your world from landscape to 3 nice strong verticals. Plus, it will show you what true abstraction is, in the sense that it will remove any references to "scene" and instead become "thought" or more of an abstract idea. Also, paint bolder at first. These look far too tenative, like you were scared. PLOW ahead into it with dark colors... you can always tone down later. These are experiments even tho you know how to paint in watercolor. Think of them as throw-aways, just lessons... you'll paint your masterpieces later. You can't start out with great art in any genre, nobody does.

Another idea: use a big, nasty brush with pure solid black and do completely crazy shapes for about an hour on throw away paper.... there comes a point in time where your own language will come thru for you, trust me. Use a LOT of paint at first... nobody has to see these. throw them away but maybe save your favorite one. I used to use this lesson a lot with students and it really helps break you free of recognizeable objects and scenes and moves you better into the abstracted world, if that's where you want to go.

I find that when starting timid, it is always harder to force the flow upwards instead of starting bold which is easy to tone down.

03-17-2005, 01:50 PM
Hmmm, my crit is not helpful - it pulls you back into realism more and away from abstractionism which is where you wanted to go.
Go with the advice to loosen up, play, experiment and slosh paint around - it will take you further at this juncture than fine tuning will when you've not got your feet truly wet in abstractionism yet.

03-17-2005, 02:53 PM
bepos -- I used to play with colored water (on paper) just as a form of meditation/relaxation more than anything else. Maybe once a year I'd go to Central Park and paint something (rather poorly) landscapish, but I knew I didn't know how to do that -- it was just for the fun of the looking/seeing. (I used to call that warm, sunny day my 'Celebrate Spring' holiday. The 'Celebrate Fall' holiday fell on whatever cool rainy day occurred after September when I was free, and was observed with teapot, book, and cozy 'throw' near a window somewhere. :) ) So really, my early 'painting' was anything but intentional, in every sense; after I was done (can't remember how I knew I was done!), I'd look at it and it somehow hung together... But now I want to start, not end, with the 'concept.' Maybe I think unintentional abstracts are easy (in gouache); what I want to do is certainly not!

Debby -- definitely new ones! It's the nature of the medium, really. I'm still at the part where I have an idea and wonder how on earth do I start to express that abstractly? Certainly can't even start, on paper already colored, with transparent w/c!

Mame -- I'll never be an art star! (I doubt I'll ever even be a truly visual person.) Would like to be able to express abstractly, though. I do understand it's probably easier with other media, and I've been thinking about returning to gouache for awhile. (Maybe a decent strategy would be to 'keep my hand in' with some representational stuff in transparent w/c, like the WDE's, but use gouache for exploring abstracting.)
A few weeks ago, I wandered into this forum hoping I might be ready to start abstracting from forms. A first attempt was that orange -- nope, still too big a step for me! I know so little about abstraction. I could try idealizing/simplifying a landscape I've done previously, but then context puzzles me, and geometric (as opposed to organic) shapes don't speak to me.
Color -- I've finished half of the Kandinksy (Concerning the Spiritual in Art), so I'm about ready to tackle the second part -- color. Maybe in a few days -- it's supposed to warm up again Saturday, too, so I'll try again with something then.
It's true w/c is very hard, but it's the only thing I like! I hate pastels, don't think I'd like poster paints (even if I had money to go buy some, and were mysteriously able to get to a store to get them), hate crayons more than pastels (had a box for potential visiting children; gave it to local children when I moved here). Arthritis only makes this preference even more definite! Brush and sponge and colored water are intrinsically 'my art'; nothing else is. I'm kinda stuck working out of who I am; that's where the impulse ("inner need"?) comes from, after all.

Song -- Thanks. :) The piece isn't really 'about' dominance; I was trying to make sure it had dominance (principle of design) with regard to direction/line (element of design). It's a head-thing about art I've been reading about and am now trying to assimilate in my own work.

It'sallart -- Im not sure you realize I did post some very old stuff of mine (and link to less old stuff, not very good, though) earlier, the first day or two I started visiting this forum. I'm not afraid to post, just think it's not worth anyone's time yet, for the most part! (Though I sure need critiques, so it's worth my time. Maybe I'll post stuff here every 2 weeks, just to check if I'm making any progress or going backwards!) I don't have any black, but I could mix up some perm AC + Winsor green to make some. (Why black, when values are meaningless to me? Force me to look at shape more?)

I'll cut up the bigger one vertically and use the backs, as you suggested, although this particular w/c paper has very distinctive backs and fronts. :)
I generally start with a definite splodge of color somewhere, not really timid; size of brush depends on the size of paper. I love my Escoda #14 sable round (biggest I could afford so far), and will use it anywhere I can; where it won't fit well, I'll use my Escoda #8 round. But I do have a 1" flat synthetic I almost never use anymore... I can also use my sponges (when it's a bit warmer in here; cold water on cold hands is really nasty with my arthritis).

Thanks very much, everyone. I really am as 'at sea' (when it comes to doing any abstraction myself) as I seem to be, and your critiques are all very helpful. If anything ever clicks for me with (doing) abstract art, I'm sure it will be with the help of you good people. :)

03-17-2005, 02:56 PM
Carol: Thanks for posting these. I really have nothing new to add to the commentary already here. Just wanted to throw in my support. I like your landscape work. Liked Itsallart's suggestions to help eliminate the restraints of realism, if you truly want to play with abstraction. Obviously, it ain't for everyone. Close your eyes, look into the sun and imagine the colors seeping onto the page. I told my wife and a friend to do this, so she could see what I see. Sadly, they saw nothing. I see colors and shapes - Rothko type stuff. Let's see more as it comes to you.

03-17-2005, 03:53 PM
NOOOooooo...... don't use the backs, cut it up and LOOK at the front... see how what you've painted is abstracted when there's no reference to "landscape" anymore...

LOL... yur cracking me up...

03-17-2005, 05:57 PM
Well...since you've had enough people being 'unkind' (and I have no more cruelties to add (I mean what CAN you do to someone whose toe/finger nails have already been plied out?!?!))--you shouldn't mind me just having some fun, then.

No. 1. The spectators at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade began to figure out the UFO wasn't some new remote controlled balloon as they'd been led to believe when it started dropping larvae in the streets...(which, in actuality, would explain the strange behaviour of backwoods people from the Blue Ridge Mountains...).

No. 2. The day the rainbow did acid and practiced over air basket weaving (or wait...was that me?!).

03-17-2005, 06:12 PM
LOL! Okay, It'sallart, I got it now. LOOK at my work (having cut it apart). Paint (in black) on some other paper. A nice man sent me lots of Stonehenge paper once, which is not suitable for the type of 'representational' paintings I do, but should be very good for messing around with 'black' shapes.

d-head, thanks for the support. I will post another time, really!

Tam, the work is not me. It's not me. I'd like me to get onto the paper, but I'm really not there! So, I'm not hurting at all, see? LOL One of the few advantages of being a person like me is that I'm naturally very detached; not terrifically ego-invested in stuff I produce. Not even with poetry, really, since although I am 'in' that, I also have reasonable judgment. Meaning, when others don't like them, I just figure that's their bad taste/lack of understanding! :evil: (So far, no one has not liked them, but some people say weird things about my word choices. They want 'pretty' and I don't do 'pretty,' or soft, very often!)

My attempts at visual art abstraction are really bad these days! I KNOW that, and I appreciate it when others try to help me see why, or give me clues about where to go next. Because I'm really not getting it for myself yet. (But I will, with help. I think I've become educable!)

P.S. Love the 'rainbow on acid' weaving baskets! LOL Great stories!

03-17-2005, 06:18 PM
Tam, the work is not me. It's not me.

It's alright, Carol...denial is a large part of the transformation from realism to abstract. We understand. It's alright. You're among friends...:cool:

(It's the missing toe/fingernails...causes it EVERY time, d*mmit!! I keep telling them NOT to do that!!!)

Rule no. one for me -- it's fun and enjoyable...for the most part (i mean there is that annoying cleaning up, etc.). You're right, though, about what others think. People are going to see differently and sometimes you're on your own with a piece of art. I admire an artist more if they stand firm with something they believe than to alter it for everyone else. Then again, it comes back to WHY you did it to begin with, e.g. - FOR input and guidance or to merely share...

Actually, I think there's great potential in both...I hope you still have them when I visit. :cool:

Don Berendsen
03-17-2005, 08:10 PM
Hi Carol,

The 'poor attempts' are the ones you don't make! Thanks for sharing your work. When I first looked at them what came to mind are some of the things others have mentioned. Work more freely and intuitively, just play and explore, then evaluate it yourself. Sharing the results is fine but realize it may be difficult to get specific useful feedback at this point. Just let your new voice develop.

As you know already, I don't think that you should concern yourself with value, and unless it happens to appeal to you spontaneously there's no need to try working with black. But painting without strong value relationships presents a special challenge. Unless one substitutes strong shapes, colour intensity, areas of complementary colour or other strong contrasts the work often can lack 'substance'. You can see a lot of this at any amateur watercolour society show. Of course one doesn't have to have any of those things either, Monet did quite well without any of that.

So I would suggest you also study colour. Johannes Itten's "The Art of Color" is very good. Learn your personal colour palette and what colour relationships you find meaningful, and do exercises to get fluent in expressing them.

Since you're attracted to watercolour, you might experiment with some of the pigments which granulate and combinations of a granulating pigment and a transparent staining one which can introduce textures which can add another design element. There's a lot watercolour can offer you, check out "How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself" by Nita Engle for some possibilities.

As you play and experiment note what resonates for you and how you got it. Doing a lot of this directed play will increase the flows in the channels of expression and add to your repetoire of design elements. Then when you are motivated to do a painting I think you'll find there's a much wider and deeper visual vocabulary to use in expressing yourself.

Develop what you see as your strengths, what attracts you.



03-17-2005, 08:23 PM
Hi Carol! First, let me say that I am ALWAYS hesitant about critiquing anyone else's work because I feel I have no business telling another artist how to create their art. I may not understand it or like but that's my problem, not theirs. :)

That said, I'll give my 2 cents. What I see here is a lot of tentativeness (is that a word? :confused: ) and hesitation. Personally, I think you need to really let loose and just let the colors and forms flow. Be generous with the paint, saturate the colors, get some darker values in there as someone else suggested. Play a little. Abstracts are definitely NOT easy--I shift back and forth from realism to abstract and I definitely struggle more with the former. But in both instances, I find the less I worry about what I'm doing and "try" to make it right, the more likely I am to end up with something I'm happy with.

Happy painting! :wave:

03-17-2005, 09:23 PM
Thanks, Don & Anne! I'm trying to remember which sedimentary pigments I allowed onto my palette, if any... I may have only included a few flocculating and granulating pigments (manganese blue hue, FUM, perm. AC in masstone, ummm). The W/N earth colors I permit (raw umber, there for portrait/figure stuff with dark skin; burnt sienna for almost everything) are actually very smooth, mostly trans iron oxide formulations. Some of my gouache pans were/are sedimentary (I didn't know that when I worked with them, was just annoyed I had to keep stirring while I painted, but in hindsight I see it :D ). Might have to do more palette changes (or additions) with the transparent pigments I use.

I'm going to see if the library has that Nita Engle book (I read another she wrote, but haven't seen that one), or can get it for me. And I've heard of the Itten book a few times now; I'll try to find it.

When I worked with gouache, I had very pronounced tastes in color. Of the 24 pans, in a set which I bought many times in my life (before I started seriously studying art 2 years ago), some pans would be almost entirely used while others would be untouched.

In fact, in the pieces I just posted, one way I was trying to recover what I used to do was to reconstitute those colors, using transparent w/c -- turquoise with the mixed phthalo's, and vermilion the quin red with transparent yellow. I vacillated between mixing, and 'optical mixing,' not sure which I wanted or liked. But I wasn't taking advantage of texture, that's true... One thing I discovered is I need a trip to a dollar store so I can store my ('primary') mixed colors; that should help address the issue which manifested itself as 'hesitancy' in these. :)

Tam, I already divided the larger one horizontally into 3, and they look MUCH better! LOL You can see them (tryptych?) when you visit. :D I'm not going to adopt this as a usual working method, however! LOL I may try working in portrait format for awhile, though, because it's certainly true I do all my abstracts as if they were landscapes. Probably will help a bit just to avoid that!

Gonna go look at some real abstracts now. :)

Don Berendsen
03-17-2005, 10:10 PM
.. I may have only included a few flocculating and granulating pigments (manganese blue hue, FUM, perm. AC in masstone, ummm). The W/N earth colors I permit (raw umber, there for portrait/figure stuff with dark skin; burnt sienna for almost everything) are actually very smooth, mostly trans iron oxide formulations.

W&N 'Burnt Sienna' is a very poor substitute for the genuine. Try MaimeriBlu. It's genuine, beautiful hue, granulates, lifts nicely, etc. The iron oxides don't compare to the real thing in the way they handle.

I'm guessing the Perm. AC is also W&N. If so it's a quinacridone and doesn't give texture.

The W&N Manganese Blue Hue won't granulate like the genuine at all, however I believe the pigment is being phased out so there may not be a substitute. MaimeriBlu has a genuine Cerulean Blue which granulates but of course the hue is different from Manganese Blue. There are other genuine ones if MaimeriBlu isn't readily available.

Cobalt Violet, Manganese Violet, Cobalt Rose, all granulate nicely and have attractive hues.

I just mentioned the granulation as a way of adding another dimension if textures appeal to you. Follow you what interests you and possibilities will open up automatically.