Friday, January 4, 2013

Winter Solstice (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 3)

Winter Solstice,  Watercolor on Arches 140# Rough Paper, 5"h x 7"w, 2013 #3


You know it is not your day when you wipe out the third painting in a roll from your paper/canvas -- and today just seems to be one of these days. I started out trying out complete some landscape paintings I've started last year, but end up trashing them by fiddling too much. Frustrated, I took a "Mr. Clean" eraser sponge and wiped everything down to a ghost image on white paper, and started over. Buy the time I did my third wipes the touch Arches paper is showing signs of fatigue -- and I know it is a good time to stop: when your Arches paper is tired of your abusive sponge, it is a sign that the day is really not going right for you as a painter.

So, after some chores (depositing painting to a gallery, taking my car to a tire repair show to take out that old nail that has caused leaking for the past three months, and filling out application form for a new round of art fairs -- i.e. delaying starting a new as much as I can), I finally sat down and decide to face my daemon. I took a small piece of paper and did this simple snowy scene just to practice all the basics of painting wet into wet -- surface moisture level on the paper, pigment density in the brush, timing. As simple as the image may look as a finished painting, I was reminded yet again how unpredictable a wet-in-wet process can be, and how watercolor can have a mind of its own. It took me two practice runs and a wipe-out (again) to finally land on one that does not look overly fuzzy or fiddled to death, and a better three hours have passed before I realized.

(Just for fun -- here's one of the trial versions that hasn't gone quite right...)

Winter Solstice (Version 2), 
Watercolor on Arches 140# Rough Paper, 6"h x 8"w, 2013 #4

I was truly humbled by the experience and any notion that I have acquired some sort of control over this medium has by now totally gone -- and I was reminded that how quickly skills acquired previously through intense practice can go rusty if I do not practice them diligently. And surely enough, in my recent rendering of flowers I have start to get a bit too obsessed with getting the results look exactly like I have envisioned them to be, and not doing as many wet-into-wet sessions as I used to. So here I am, almost back to square one, learning everything again -- I guess that is exactly the point of these daily exercises: to force you to look into the things you have neglected and skills that you have once owned then lost, and pick them up by practicing them daily.

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:


  1. i'm so enjoying my beautiful calendar and the stunning work on each page. and you're so right. if we don't flex our muscles, whatever their function or location, they do atrophy, although your work doesn't reflect that to me.

    happy new year and much creative success arena

  2. Dear Arena, you are definitely too harsh on yourself and your paintings. Both versions looked very fresh and nice to me, until I started examining them in minute detail. You said it right that you try to get the exact result you imagined. Maybe try to give up some control and just enjoy the process!

  3. I think these are gorgeous! Such strong images! I know you are used to doing beautifully detailed realism so it probably is difficult for you to allow yourself to do these more spontaneous paintings. But, they are truly fresh and wonderful!

  4. Thank you Suzanne, Blaga and Kathleen for your kind encouragements! In my new year's resolutions I mentioned that I want to paint looser and more landscape this year, and this challenge has proven really a great incentive for me to actually do what I have been wanting to for a while! Now I just hope I can go out and paint plein air more often, but that has been difficult these days! I think we've been having the coldest winter here in SF since I moved to California...

  5. I'm enjoying your landscapes. Simple and strong. Very nice. Thanks

  6. Thank you for your kind words, Kevin.


Thank you so much for taking time visiting and commenting on my blog! Your feedback and encouragements are things that keep me going with I am feeling down or frustrated... I will try my best to reply to every comment ASAP but sometimes life gets in the way and I am a bit slow in my response. I would like to apologize if that happens...

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