Thursday, March 31, 2011

Work in Progress 4 (Finished?)

     I have reached the can't-stand-to-look-at-it-anymore stage, so I'm declaring it finished, at least for now. Maybe someday I'll go back and redo it, maybe in another medium besides watercolor. I could see this subject in pastel or acrylic.
     If anyone cares, the pigments used were Prussian blue, cobalt blue, Winsor yellow, hansa yellow, brown madder, and poppy red.
     If I don't sound enthused, it's because I'm not. It's rare for an artist to not find something to criticize in their own work. (I've heard that Leonardo da Vinci worked on the Mona Lisa seventeen years!) And right now my inner critic is pointing out all the areas that are overworked, ill-composed, poorly rendered, etc. You, on the other hand, are probably looking at it and thinking, "What, is she crazy? I wish I could paint like that!" But you are seeing it as it IS, not as it SHOULD BE. So which of us is right? Let me know.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


     I take it back. When I composed and previewed the previous blog, there was a comment link at the bottom. But when I actually published it, POOF!
     Well, if you click on the little link that says "0 Comments," you'll get a pop-up comment window. (Sigh)

Yes, I want your comments!

     I've received a couple emails from friends who tell me they weren't able to comment on my blog. Evidently, I fiddled too much with the layout and must have screwed something up. For whatever reason, the comment box vanished. I think I've managed to get it back now. Let me know if you have trouble.
     And BTW, any other suggestions you might have to improve this blog will be gratefully considered. I'm SO new at this.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Work in Progress 3

     Every painting goes through an "ugly stage," at least in the mind of the artist.  The upper left corner of this one is definitely in that stage. I can't figure out how to deal with those d**n lacy ferns. I didn't like them as vague suggestions, and I like them even less as detailed images.
     I like the hints of orange I worked into the leaves on the right, but that color really needs to be carried over to the other parts of the painting...but how?
     It looks like I'll have to sleep on the problem and see if something occurs to me. This painting may be headed for my kitchen sprayer in the morning! (See previous blog "My latest painting" if you don't get the reference.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Work in Progress 2

     I'm feeling a bit better about this one today.
     I've discovered that Prussian Blue and Brown Madder make a nice black that can easily go either warm or cool by altering the proportions just a little. Add a little lemony yellow (in this case Winsor Yellow) and it becomes a very dark green.
     I started this painting because of a challenge in an online watercolor group -- to do a green painting without using green paint. But this is turning out overwhelming green. I need to pull in more warmth. Maybe I'll let the darks go more brownish red than I've done so far and see how that works.
     My other concern is that, when I did the initial underpainting, I lost all of the whites. Truthfully, there are no whites in my reference photo, but I may have to do some scrubbing or use some opaque white at the end, just to relieve my eye from all this yellow and green.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Work in Progress

I've barely begun this painting. This is mostly underpainting, and there are many, many layers to go. But at least I got into the studio today!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Let your light shine!

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world.  There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." --Marianne Williamson
          Somewhere along the line, I developed the habit of responding to compliments with, "Thank you, but..." followed by a list of all the flaws in my accomplishment, or claims that I was just lucky, or my surprise that it turned out so well. One time a friend complimented me on something during a phone call, and I brushed it off. After I hung up the phone, I realized that I had so thoroughly dismissed his praise that I couldn't even remember what he had said!
          Enough! I made up my mind to answer all future compliments with a smile and a simple Thank You.
          For the most part, I remember.
          What started me on this self-destructive path? Simply, I wanted to be accepted by my school friends. I wanted to be one of them, and out-shining them did not seem to be a good way to accomplish that.  As the author says, I was "playing small" so others wouldn't "feel insecure" around me. The trouble is, after a few years of concerted self-deprecation, I believed what I was saying.
          Not good.
          This business of displaying our artistic "children" to the world is a complicated one. Too many artists have stacks of paintings, stories, sculptures, musical compositions, etc., hidden away somewhere, because they're "not good enough" to show publicly. It's not false modesty; it's genuine fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of ridicule. Fear of criticism. And, yes, fear of inadequacy. Hiding our light under the proverbial basket is our fragile Ego's way of trying to protect us.
          The trouble is, I believe we are here "to make manifest the glory of God that is within us." Hiding our talents, no matter how small we believe them to be, cannot be what God had in mind.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My latest painting

White Petunias (c) 2011 Susan Bertke, watercolor 14x10"
I struggled with this painting off and on for a couple of months. Really. It was an exercise in trial and error. Lots of error. Several times I had to resort to my kitchen sink cure: take the painting to the kitchen sink, turn on the water full blast, and hit the trouble spots with the sprayer.
Isn't it strange that I've never seen that particular technique in any of the art books I've read?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Start at the Beginning

Back in the 1970s I took my first watercolor class. The instructor was Roger Middleswart (1916-1994), a truly excellent teacher for beginners. Watercolor is a technique-intensive medium. It can be very frustrating for a beginning painter. But Roger began with the basics, and each class built on the previous one and demonstrated increasingly complex subjects. For the first seven weeks we dutifully copied his paintings. At the eighth class we were free to paint our own subject. 

I painted "Forest Meditation." 

It was the first painting I ever did that I really felt proud of, the first that came out just the way I envisioned it. So here it is for the world to see.