We’ve been working with color in my class at Oregon Society of Artists these last few weeks, and a couple of weeks ago, I demonstrated using a limited palette, randomly selected.
The idea for this lesson came from a facebook post by fellow artist Aimee Erickson called the #randomtubechallenge. If you click on the # link it will show you what some other artists have done with this concept. I asked students to select the limited palette of three colors randomly: they blindly chose Raw Umber, Vermillion and Quinacridone Violet. These plus black and white would be my palette for this work.
This is opposite of the way I usually work: I normally choose colors appropriate for expressing the mood or idea I have in mind. The exercise began with me having nothing in mind – a sure recipe for trouble!
As I worked with the color though, it started to remind me of autumn tilling of the fields. So that gave me a foothold to begin to help shape the painting.
You can see here, that though quinacridone violet is much cooler than the umber and red, I’ve pushed it to be a warmer dark by mixing it with the other colors. This makes the painting more about value relationships. I’ve also got a lot of line work, already, so that is another reason I chose not to push the color in this painting.
as the work looked at the end of class
I worked a bit more at home, first adding some black for more contrast:
Limited palette with the addition of black
Finally I decided to add a bit of white to up the contrast even more. Using High Flow Acrylic with the dip pen, I was able to add some fine line and mark-making. I hope you can see the attempt at an ‘S’ shaped design, and the way my darks and lights lead you through the painting.
Final image: “Autumn Tilling” mixed watermedia ©Ruth Armitage 22×15″
Comments are welcome! I first wrote about this painting in my newsletter. You can subscribe here!
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Happy 50th Anniversary to the Watercolor Society of Oregon
This past weekend I spent three heavenly days at the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s 50th Anniversary. The exhibition and convention were held at the Oregon Garden Resort in beautiful Silverton, Oregon. Set in the rolling green hills of the mid-Willamette Valley, this gem continues to grow and change. Each time I visit, I notice new plants, artwork, water features and more.
But our main focus was on art. We listened to lectures, watched demonstrations, tried new products, made new art friends and strengthened old. We looked back at the history and the people that built our organization. Founders, board members, participants and jurors were all honored. The show was spectacular, juried by notable Michigan artist Kathleen Conover.
Kathleen Conover and Ruth Armitage
My Work Won an Award!
Thanks to Kathleen for the nice award! I was in the top ten at number 6!
My Award Winning Painting – “Camassia”
Oh Boy…. Another Rejection
I presented a lecture titled “Oh Boy, Another Rejection” and received so many heartwarming comments. A couple of folks asked me to post my slides. Keep in mind, the lecture is much more than a sum of the slides, but if you attended and missed a few things in your notes, click here!
Other Weekend Events
I really enjoyed the critiques by our juror, Kathleen Conover, as well as a demonstration by Judy Morris and a lecture by Michael Schlicting. But the best times of the convention were those down times, just visiting with artist friends from all over the state. We spent a lot of time remembering those who gave tirelessly to our organization, those who have passed or can no longer attend, and where we’ve been as a group. We also spent some time planning for the future and welcoming new members and taking in the beauty around us.
Judy Morris Demo
Michael Schlicting – on Sports and Art
I hope if you are close, you’ll take time to visit the Oregon Garden Resort Hotel. The paintings are on view throughout the month in the hallways of the hotel and the exhibit is free to attend. The 20 award winning paintings will travel the state for the following 6 months. I’ll keep the schedule updated on my Events page!
And if you’re a painter in Water Media, I’d encourage you to join us for our next convention, which will be held in October in Oregon City. There is more information on becoming a member at our website: WatercolorSocietyofOregon.com
“Barn Interior” 8″x8″ Acrylic on Paper $95 ©Ruth Armitage
My Art Means….
Talking about what art means can be a slippery business. Each work of art has two lives: a public life and a private life. When an artist puts the work out for public viewing, whether online or in person, the work automatically gains the meanings that viewers receive from it.
One of the reasons I enjoy writing a blog is that it allows me to share some of the private meanings that I put into the artwork. I think viewers appreciate having the behind the scenes view into what the art means. I even noticed this in my recent workshop with Skip Lawrence. During the critique discussion of one of my paintings, he discovered that elements of the painting were inspired by specific memories, and admitted that this knowledge made him appreciate the work more.
Often one can discover clues to the artist’s intent by looking at the title of a specific work. For example, the rather dark painting at right, “Barn Interior” might make more sense when seen with its title. Perhaps the title might help you imagine soft, warm lighting with mystery, dust motes, straw, gaps in the siding and all the rest of the smells and sounds of an old barn. (I hope so!)
“Fog” ©Ruth Armitage, 8″x8″ Acrylic on Paper
Fog, another painting I worked on in Santa Barbara has a very different, specific feeling. The colors are very close in intensity… all fairly muted. How does this fit the subject (Fog?)
One pitfall that viewers can often encounter when viewing abstract art is the “Rorschach Test” phenomenon. I HATE it when viewers feel obligated to find realistic images in an abstraction. I would much rather have a viewer tell me what they feel. Here are some actual comments that I received from viewers about the painting below, titled “Heat.”
- “Moody & Broody”
- “Very Expressive”
- “This is Moving to me”
- “Love This”
- “Brings to Mind the Fires we get in Southern CA”
- “Reminds me of a raft trip through a burning forest”
Which of the comments do you think I was excited to hear? Which one stands out as not applicable? “Discovering” an object within the painting that does not relate to the title is not the best way to appreciate the work. If one does see subject matter in an abstract painting, best to keep it to oneself.
“Heat” ©Ruth Armitage 10″x15″ Acrylic on Paper, $135
I don’t mean to imply that an abstract work is not successful if the viewer does not understand the artist’s intent. On the contrary, I feel that the meaning of a painting can be one thing to the artist, and something different to the viewer. Although I had a specific memory in mind that inspired the painting “Heat,” I purposely chose a more general title.
Instead of calling it “Campfire” “Forest Fire” or “Fireside” I simply chose the title “Heat” to allow viewers to bring their own experience of fire to the interpretation of the painting. It could also imply emotional heat, both positive and negative. Leaving the title fairly general allowed viewers to imagine all sorts of content of their own.
What kind of interpretations do you make from the three paintings in this post? How important are titles to you in viewing abstract artwork? I love receiving your comments!
Join me this weekend for the opening reception of the Watercolor Society of Oregon’s 50th Anniversary. I will be in attendance as the public and artists view 80 paintings, selected from artists throughout the state by Michigan artist Kathleen Conover. The show runs April 9th through May 23rd, 2016 at the Oregon Garden Resort in Silverton, Oregon.
My painting, below, was inspired by a meadow of spring wildflowers called Camassia. They are a brilliant blue, and often cluster in oak Savannah’s. This particular field is part of Bush’s Pasture Park in Salem, Oregon. Let me know what you think!
“Camassia” ©Ruth Armitage 2015, Mixed Watermedia 11″x15″
Lambs in the Sunshine
I received the best compliment for an artist this morning. A friend was visiting the farm to do a photoshoot with our new lambs, and had not seen my studio before. After we watched the frolicking of the new babies, we took a peek at my messy, messy studio and I showed her some of the work I did in the Skip Lawrence workshop in Santa Barbara.
Two of the images she viewed are related. The first, “Last Day”, was an experiment in using a more structured, balanced, sharp edged shape composition. When I finished this painting, I felt as if the entire time I worked on it, I was wearing a girdle.
“Last Day” Acrylic and Collage on paper 22×30″ ©Ruth Armitage
I still liked the idea of the round shape, the balanced composition, and the movement of color from top to bottom, left to right. So I tried a second painting with more of my normal looseness, a more subdued palette, and similar shape elements and division of space. Here is the resulting painting:
Last Day II, Acrylic on Paper, 22×30 ©Ruth Armitage
The best compliment, one I will treasure, is that the second painting looks exactly like my work, while the first painting looks like someone else did it. It is always such a welcome compliment to hear that your work has a recognizable style. I’ve written about this before, but it is always so gratifying, so I thought I would mention it again! Here is my original post about 7 Compliments Guaranteed to Make Any Artist Swoon… one that continues to draw readers every day.
Artists, what is the best compliment you’ve ever received? Viewers, what similarities do you see in these two works? Which do you prefer? I love getting your comments.