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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Necessary Exile – New Abstract Water-media Painting
©Ruth Armitage 2016, Watercolor and Acrylic on Paper, 30×22″
I have a new abstract work, fresh from the studio, to share. It was a long process to birth this painting, over a month and a half. I attribute that to the difficulty of re-entering the studio after a break for the holidays.
The painting began with experimenting with some new colors provided to me by Qor Watercolors. These paints are made by Golden and are very intensely pigmented. I wanted to test how the colors performed alongside some of my favorites on the palette. I am happy to say that they are a joy to work with! As I continued with the painting, though, the subject began to occupy all my thoughts.
The idea behind the painting had been brewing for a long time… I wanted to make a painting based on the idea of being forced to leave a place one considers home. My reasons for choosing this subject relate to both my personal struggles and to the conditions of so many refugees in the world today.
“We learn, grow and become compassionate and generous as much through exile as homecoming, as much through loss as gain, as much through giving things away as in receiving what we believe to be our due.”
Near the end of the process, I decided to subdue much of the far left side and a large shape across the center with white acrylic spray paint by Liquitex. I love how it softly veils the shapes beneath it and subdues the colors.
I’m interested to hear how you ‘read’ the painting. Leave me a comment!
Do you believe in your work?
I’ve been asked to write about “Night Walk”, a painting that recently made the cut into the American Watercolor Society’s International Exhibition in New York City.
“Night Walk” ©Ruth Armitage 2014, Watercolor on paper 30″x22″
A bit of background for the un-initiated: in an international, juried show like AWS, one sends a digital image, plus an entry fee, and a panel of 5 judges review thousands of entries to select a show of between 100-150 paintings from all over the world. Once the show has been through preliminary selections, the original works are shipped to the venue, and awards are selected, in this case by a different panel of judges.
GIANT DISCLAIMER: My hunch is that my friend asked me to write this post so she could glean my ‘secret’ to success. The secret is: there is no secret. The only way to success is through repeated ‘failures’ or rejections. I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
So far, my favorite Chapter is titled “Persistence.” If there is one key to succeeding here, that would be it!
Gilbert writes about “The patron goddess of creativity” and how she “can make really weird decisions about who gets her money.” “In short, she may show up for you, or she may not. Probably best, then, if you don’t count on her, or attach your definition of personal happiness to her whims.” This is how I look at it, and how I was able to write “Rejected Again, Hooray.”
I’ve been working to gain entry to this show for about 15 years. It is a tough nut to crack, and I’m not sure I have a lot of light to shed on how to do it. I think a lot of it is luck… Of course luck often finds me hard at work! But for what it is worth, here are my observations.
- Believe in your work – this particular painting was rejected from the AWS show last year… I still thought it was among my best work and decided to submit it again… This time it was accepted!
- Gain exposure by entering other high visibility shows – if the panel of judges have seen your work before and been suitably impressed, they are more likely to recognize your piece. This piece had been in a national show and won an award.
- Save your best work for the most competitive venues.
- Strong contrasts and Unity are big selling points – This painting has both.
- Thoughtful design choices – this painting utilizes a z shaped design, and shape repetition.
- Look for areas of complexity and areas of simplicity – this painting has both.
- Listen to what peers say when they view your work. In this case, a respected friend said she couldn’t stop thinking about the painting, couldn’t get it out of her head. Another friend identified it as a quantum leap in my work.
- I think there is something to be said for letting the ‘Hand of the Artist’ show… The gestural line work in this piece definitely qualifies, and contrasts with the more regular, geometric patterns.
- I can’t stress enough that belief in oneself is the key- even when this piece was “Rejected Again” I still liked it and believed in it. Be persistent.
- Go with your gut!
Another reason to believe in your work is that the perfect buyer for a painting might not surface immediately. Often it takes years for an artwork to find its forever home. In the meantime, it is easy for us as creators to feel doubt and insecurity creep in, regardless of the quality of the work, or how we viewed it when we first completed it.
This can be one of the most difficult parts of being an artist: being an objective viewer of one’s own work. Where does it fit within the body of work? Which opinions or critiques does one listen to? Ultimately, the artist must listen to their own instincts most strongly.
I’ll leave you with the words of Honore’ de Balzac:
“All happiness depends on courage and work.”
“Dust Devils” Oil & Wax on Panel 36×48″ ©Ruth Armitage 2015
I’m proud to unveil this new painting, inspired by summer winds kicking up dust & chaff in the fields during harvest. I’ll also be teaching a class for Sitka this weekend at Hoyt Arboretum – Oil & Cold Wax. I’m looking forward to sharing this yummy process.
Join me to view this work and two more of mine in person – they’re always better in person! The quality of this show always overwhelms me, with over 400 works in a variety of media from more than 140 Northwest artists. You’ll find sculpture, ceramics, paintings, metalwork, glass, fiber arts, book arts and prints to delight your senses and add culture and style to your home or office.
This public Exhibit and Sale benefits artists and artists residencies at the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology on the Oregon Coast.
Attend free lectures and artist talks and learn what makes Northwest art unique. Find a list of participating artists here.
Saturday & Sunday, November 7 & 8th, 2015, 10-4
Miller Hall, World Forestry Center – Portland, Oregon
Party with the Artists, Friday, November 6, 5-10 pm
Tickets and more information available here
The Sitka Art Invitational celebrates artwork inspired by the natural world and complements the learning and art making that happens at Sitka during workshop and residency programs. The exhibit piques the interests of all types of art enthusiasts: makers, students, buyers and devotees. The show happens annually in Portland to help reach a larger audience than is possible on the coast. This event is an opportunity to connect with the Sitka community and build awareness for workshop and residency programs.
Most (but not all) of the Invitational artists have a connection to Sitka, as past Artists-in-Residence, teachers or students. Sitka shares art sales 50/50 in partnership with the artists. Because artists share in the proceeds, they bring their best work, making this exhibit an exceptional collection of high quality art pieces.
Sitka’s 2014 payments to artists:
- $37,831 from the Sitka Art Invitational artist commissions
- $69,657 paid to instructors in summer Workshop tuition
- $23,750 in stipends for artists through special programs like the Jordan Schnitzer Printmaking Residency, the Recorder Residency, and the Ford Family Foundation Golden Spot stipends for visual artists.
Please come see the ‘Dust Devils’ in the show and bring a friend, or two!