Let the edges move

Warning: This is a PG13 post.

This weekend I went to the Watercolor Society of Oregon‘s Spring Convention in Florence, Oregon. I was lucky enough that my painting “Should the turkey cross the road?” was selected for inclusion in the show by esteemed juror  Fran Larsen, but I usually try to go the the conventions, regardless of whether I get in or not, because it’s an opportunity to be around other artists and get exposed to new ideas and techniques.


My family has always had property around Lincoln City, so I have never explored other parts of the Oregon Coast. Florence is in the southern-most part of the “Central Coast” (if that makes sense) and sits on the mouth of the Siulsaw River. The area is most famous for the massive sand dunes and truly gorgeous.

I was lucky enough to be able to arrive in town Thursday evening. My friend, Sandra Pearce, and I had rented a little condo in downtown and she joined me Friday for some downtown exploring and sketching.

Sandra and I admire the flowering apple trees while strolling along the Friday night gallery walk.

As with any good story, there were a few adventures. Friday, before Sandra arrived, I went down the Siuslaw to do a little birding. While stopping here…

… I forgot that my car battery wasn’t in great shape and left my lights on while I admired a golden-crowned kinglet. AAA was called and I had to swing by Les Schwab for a new battery.

Also, while Thursday and Friday had gorgeous weather, Saturday’s weather can best be summed up with this photo.

I hadn’t signed up for any paint-outs, but Sandra wasn’t so lucky.

So, what did I sign up for?

Two Nudes with Tattoos by Alexandra Eyer and Pat Renner

A few years ago I took a figure painting class with Alexandra and Pat and I enjoyed it immensely. I have been looking for a chance to paint with them again, so I signed up for this class, though (to be frank) this is the first time I’ve ever done true “life drawing” (i.e. drawing and painting nudes.)

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t a big deal. I was more worried about getting proportions right and capturing the mood.

It was disappointing to only have and hour and a half in this class, because there was SO much more I wanted to explore. The models requested no photographs, so I’ll have to use these to go back to the topic. The model I worked on had a really  lovely golden skin tone that was a lot of fun to work on. She also had interesting lips and the best habit of tilting her head and showing the underside of her chin (not captured).

Bold Colors, Bold Shapes with Sally Bills Bailey

I had also previously taken a class with Sally, but haven’t had a chance to do anything with the ideas. I’ll admit I didn’t listen as hard as the first time, but I really worked on her ideas: using paint in an opaque manner, simplifying shapes, and not getting stuck into a particular color scheme but using color to  describe.

About this time, I should mention the the tricky vendors at the convention MADE me buy this, which I used throughout the day, but particularly on the last painting.

Watercolor markers

iPhone 101 for Artists with Elizabeth Zimmerman

My next class was with talented fellow equine artist Elizabeth Zimmerman. This class was pretty technical and involved playing with my cell phone, which isn’t great for producing interesting pictures to put in a blog.

Juror’s Afternoon Critique with Fran Larsen

I always try to  put in an image in the critique; I figure if I don’t try to find out what people thing, I’ll never learn anything. While I tell myself I’m braced for anything, the truth is critiques can be a pretty intense experience (see this former post.)

I submitted this image which still has a couple of tweaks I think it needs.

But what I was really interested in was if it was “enough.” I left out a lot of detail, which is a real stretch for me. I feel like I got what was important, but was it enough? I should also mention, this painting was not selected (i.e. rejected) for the Emerald Art Center Exhibition next month.

Juror critiques can be something of a mixed bag as far as getting anything useful. I’ve had juror’s say things as simple as “I like it” (not helpful) and move on to making fun of everything but my parentage (also unhelpful as well as rude.) Most jurors go out of their way to be encouraging and find something positive to say; this can be an ego boost, but sometimes you go home without an idea of what to do next.

Ms. Larsen was one of the most blunt jurors I’ve had. While she did not rip people’s paintings apart, she was very direct in saying things like, “You  need to do a better job applying paint consistently” and “It’s monumentally boring.” She was very clear that she expected the artists to push themselves out of the realism box and into the arena of making art. I know she hurt at least one person’s feelings because the artist was sitting in back of me and she was outraged. I’m not sure I would have done better.

So when my turn came up, I thought I was prepared. I asked Sandra to help me listen. Imagine my shock on hearing this: “This painter has guts. The horse incarnate.” Ms. Larsen paused. “You might want to talk a little more about the tack, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. Maybe another painting. Think about going big.”

Wow.

So, here’s the moral of the story: One juror rejects, another compliments.

In the words of my favorite song, “You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.”

I skipped the banquet (I’m an antisocial, cranky human. I have accepted this and I’m not doing the banquet anymore) and went back to the condo to decompress.

Juror Fran Larsen’s Lecture Demo

Sunday morning was the WSO business meeting followed by Ms. Larsen’s Lecture. Most jurors do a demo, but my impression is that Ms. Larsen is getting a little older and that would have been too much.

Her lecture was a take on an art history lecture, focusing on modern art (late 19th century to the 1950’s) and how as artists we have an obligation to push beyond photo realism and into something that is unique to the artist. It was a good lecture, but perhaps not great. It did leave me something to think about as well as some ideas to explore.

It was a good weekend and I’m excited to get back to the studio. I’m going to frame this quote I picked up from Ms. Larsen: “Let the edges sing.”

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