...or the search for Child-Like Wonder

It has been 33 years since I first tried watercolor painting.  My first attempts were in an Art Classes taught by the wonderful Vernon Nye at Walla Walla University.  His style was the loose, lovely brushing on of color leaving behind little white flecks that magically turned into the foam on a wave, or the glitter of rain on the grass.  I could never manage that traditional style of watercolor in spite of diligent practice.  Later, when I first started making illustrations for my children, I used watercolors to fill in the little fairies and mermaids they begged me to draw.  With young children around, you need something that dries quickly and doesn’t make a mess.  Over the years, I taught myself to shade and layer the paint to complete my tightly controlled, ink outlined, manically detailed illustrations. I have dabbled in a variety of subjects and methods.  I have produced misty ocean scenes and colorful paintings of leaves.  I’ve sidetracked into pastel flowers and saber-toothed lions.  Recently, I have been studying pencil drawings and how to use the various densities to the best advantage.  But my first love has summoned me back at last.

It all began with a photo of my great-niece, posted on facebook by my brother.  The pose was quite adorable.  I knew I wanted to paint a little fairy with that pose, and I have always wanted to use flowers as dresses on fairies.  I began to search for the perfect flower.  Of course, I looked for flowers that hang down in nature so I wouldn’t be turning a flower upside down.  That would not mesh well with my OCD tendencies.  I found the most beautifully colored trumpet flower that faded from greenish yellow to pink at the edge.  I used the little leaf collar at the top of the flower for her hat and added little fairy toes peeking out at the bottom.  Next, I made an attempt at a background.  I had recently seen a lovely demonstration on Jody Bergsma’s Blog about adding a background for a hummingbird painting using the salt technique.  I have used salt before, but not as extensively as I planned to this time.  I had to determine the color scheme for my background, so I drew out a color wheel and plotted the yellow, greenish yellow, red and orange that I had already used.  The colors in the remaining quadrant were blue and purplish-blue, which was exactly what I hoped to use.  In the past I have always just picked colors I liked and they have usually made very pleasing color combinations.  This time I wanted to be sure I wasn’t cause disharmony.  I have 2 purples in my palette, one a very violet tone and one more in the blue range.  If I hadn’t drawn it out and seen how it corresponded on the color wheel, I might have used the wrong one.  Also, I had used a bit of bluish green which was not in the right hue to match my scheme, so I washed over it with a more olive shade.  As soon as I changed a few bits of grass to the new green, it just made me smile.  I could really see the color harmony working then.  It’s interesting how a wrong color can jar your senses without you being able to identify what’s wrong.  In Jody Bergsma’s demonstration, she breaks up the background with grasses and leaves so there aren’t huge chunks that need to be worked at the same time.  Wetting the paper in large areas and manipulating the colors AND having time to put on the salt exactly where you want it is not easy.  I worked around the fairy and placed a glowing sun just behind her with a few streaks of yellow.  All the points of blending one section to the next worked beautifully and the resulting painting is all I hoped it would be. 

I’m totally excited and anxious to do another flower fairy.  I think the next fairy dress shall be a fushia blossom.  Making paintings that are cheerful and happy is a lovely feeling.  I’m happy to be back to my roots.  To the beginnings of my watercolor career and even recapturing my childish delight with the magic that can be found in the world if you know where and HOW to look for it.  I hope I never lose that sense of child-like wonder.

on 01/11/12
Posted on 11/01 at 02:00 PM
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