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Thursday, November 19, 2015

What Were You Thinking?!! Inside a Painter's Mind

'Deeply into the Meadow'          16x20          pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available  $250
Did you ever wonder what on earth goes on inside the mind of the artist as they paint?  What does an artist think about? How do they decide what colors to use and what marks to make? Do they have some kind of inner dialog? What do they talk about in there??

When I paint I usually have some kind of inner dialog. I talk through my decisions and choices especially at the start and finish of a painting. Often in the middle stages I can loose track of my thoughts and work more intuitively.....IF I have planned well and know my direction.

Today I thought it would be fun to share my thought process for this painting. I want to share with you what in the world I was thinking!  I hope you enjoy my inner dialog.

plans for the painting 
This painting was a demo done for my recent workshop in Beatrice Nebraska. The demo was to show how I do a watercolor underpainting for a pastel.  Before I left for the workshop I prepared for the demo by making a plan for the painting. Here is what I thought about for the planning stage:

  • I chose my reference photo to suit the technique I wanted to share. I know that a drippy and serendipitous  watercolor underpainting would suit the subject which was a tangle of weeds and wildflowers.
  • I did a quick black and white value thumbnail with markers. I used 4 values to simplify the subject and create a strong base for the painting. The dark shape is invented to suggest a pathway into the painting and to provide something for the flowers to hang onto.
  • I selected my color palette. I actually cheated sort of.....I wanted to pack as lightly as possible so I planned to have all of my demos utilize the same limited palette. This scene was easily adapted to this palette of colors. To make sure it would work I did a small color study. I liked the results so my plan was in place.
  • I also prepared the paper for the demo and packed my watercolors and brushes. I chose white paper (pastel premiere) to exploit the transparency of the watercolor. 

small color study......2.5 x 3.5 inches    $35

quick black and white thumbnail
 The actual painting went quickly because of the time and thought I put into the plan. It allowed me to verbalize out loud my thoughts as the painting developed. I don't have progress shots but I will share some of the key things that I thought about as I painted.

  • I used Cretacolor Aqua Briques for the underpainting. I knew I wanted to make the underpainting as dark, rich and vibrant as I possible could so I began with painting in the dark shapes.
  • My goal was to preserve as much of the watercolor as possible so I approached the painting with a very light touch. I built up the dark areas first.
  • In many areas I preserved the watercolor by whispering pastel in the same color and value as the underpainitng. The sky is an example. If you look closely there is only a thin layer of blue pastel over a blue watercolor underpainting. 
  • The placement of the flowers.....I put the largest flowers in place in the initial drawing and underpainting. But many of the smaller flower shapes are added as the painting develops. I don't really plan them rather I 'feel' them. I place them where I think they will best fit the flow and movement of the eye. I trust my intuition. (sometimes I am wrong and then I brush out and try again)
  • Color...I was working with a limited palette that I had to make work. I only thought about keeping the values in the right place and not breaking up the value masses too much. The limited palette is actually quite liberating. I am able to play with marks rather than worry about color. I used both light marks and heavy marks to add variety and interest.
  • I wanted to move the limited color around so I decided to add some blue marks to the flowers thus connecting the blue of the sky into the meadow. 

adding a spot of blue 

interesting texture created by a change in mark making

Allowing the watercolor to show
So that's what I was thinking about! What do you think about when you paint?

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