Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Teapot and a Fish

5" x 7" Watercolor on 140 lb Fabriano Artistico extra white hot press paper

This watercolor painting is based upon a photograph by Edwina Jill Mordasky, affectionately known by all those who love her in the online world (including me) as Winna. Her photo is here, and it so utterly captivated me that I immediately wanted to paint it. Winna graciously gave me permission.

Her photo is an object of beauty I think. Maybe it is all of those wonderful negative shapes, the brightness, the color that attracted me - but that would be trying to put a rational analysis to my innate reaction.

Thinking about it, maybe it is just the teapot and the fish. Possible reasons:

1. I drink tea. (But I don't fish.) But I eat fish.

2. Maybe it's a memory from my childhood, and Dr. Seuss:

"You SHOULD NOT be here
When our mother is not.
You get out of this house!"
Said the fish in the pot.

Then again, this is a wooden fish - it must be, right?

3. Maybe it is nostalgia. When my wife and I were engaged she was responsibly selecting items for the bridal registry - silverware, china. I insisted on only one thing, a foot-long wooden fish. My brother bought me that fish for my wedding.  He painted its lips bright red.  I was delighted.  Needless to say the fish was never displayed in my house.  That my wife could control.  The fishlips were wiped clean and it was at my in-laws for a while. I don't know what happened after that. Maybe it just swam away..

Enough analysis.

For a watercolorist, I am a closet oil painter I think. Watercolorists refer to "overworking", but often when I look at their work, I can't fathom what they mean. Other watercolorists brag that they use hundreds of layers and still keep things light. I've created a rather heavy look for a watercolor I guess.  I insist, though, that this piece is not overworked.  Underpaid, perhaps.

So thank you Winna, thank you fish. Thank you teapot in a dish.

OK, there is no dish.

So much for analysis.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Ink and watercolor in large moleskine

You know what to expect when you enter a doctor's waiting room, right? You will see patients sitting in chairs, sometimes with their spouses. Many of the patients will be thumbing through magazines. If the room is not too crowded, the patients will have discreetly left empty chairs between them.

Only couples will sit together. Sometimes the couples will whisper, but mostly they will remain silent, thumbing through their magazines. Patients will never speak to one another though, and for that reason it is very quiet.

You will walk to the window which is closed and sign the sheet on the clipboard on the shelf with the attached pen. You will then turn to the magazine rack and select a magazine that is of little more than vague interest to you. You will look for a chair that is at least a seat away from everyone else. Finally you will sit and quietly thumb through your magazine. You will not even whisper unless you are with your spouse, and even then, only occasionally.

Unless you are in Miami.  I have a wonderful old-time Cuban doctor. When I walk into his waiting room for the occasional checkup it is like stepping into Cheers, although nobody knows my name. When I enter everyone looks up, and says the Spanish version of "Hey!" It is as though they have been waiting for me all morning. I sit with my magazine, but don't read it. I am too busy watching complete strangers bouncing from chair to chair, conversing enthusiastically. One gentleman comes to me and starts gesticulating. When I shrug he asks cheerfully, "What,you don't speak Spanish?!" So he talks to me in English for a few sentences, but I'm not nearly as interesting as those ebullient Hispanics that fill the rest of the room, and soon I am left to watch, my eyes wide.

Did I ever tell you that I love Miami?

I have lived in Miami for 26 years. Yeah, yeah, I should have learned Spanish by now, but I haven't. But I kind of like being the outsider looking in.

The other day I was at Balado Tire, getting my brakes fixed. I sat to wait. The cheerful round-faced manager behind the counter conversed with everyone. Folks - strangers - bounced from chair to chair conversing. They would find their talking partner and strike up a conversation. One man came to me, and then walked away when he got no response. No matter. I am an artist. I love being separate. Another man hung out at the counter. Why? I don't know. Every now and then he would talk to the round-faced man, but mostly he was just waiting. When the round-faced tire guy wasn't cheerfully offering everyone cafe' con leche, I was sketching the man at the counter, and that is my sketch above.

We were in an open waiting area next to the bays, all facing a parking lot.  While I was there, an old bent Cuban man walked by, pulling a wagon piled high with mangos.  He yelled something to the group of us, which I suppose was, "Hey guys, any of you wanna buy some mangos?"  He got no takers.  But as he walked by the second bay, one of the workers threw down a tire, pulled out a wad of bills and bought a bunch of the fruit.  I guess that old man knew what he was doing.

Ink and watercolor in small moleskine

My wife and I both wear glasses.  That is a good thing.  The waiting room at the ophthalmologist's office is of the boring dismal type and too small for me to discreetly draw anyone.  So every year my wife and I will set our appointments together, and she will go in first.  I will stay in the car and look for something to sketch or paint.  I was extra lucky this year, because parked on the street was this tractor, waiting.  Waiting for a driver, I suppose.  But also waiting for me to draw her.  While I was waiting for my appointment.

Watercolor, 2-1/2" x 3-1/2"

I am in the middle of a still life. Some watercolor painters paint thin washes and - voila - they are done. That has never been the case for me. I have always layered or mixed or glazed or who knows what, even from the beginning when I knew even less about what I was doing than I know now. I am waiting for the still life to finish, because it is taking a good long time. Not that the process isn't wonderful, mind you, like reading a good book that you don't want to end.

Sometimes I watch (listen) to documentaries when I paint, and while carefully painting this still life I saw a film about a painter who is wonderfully, skillfully sloppy. He would sometimes paint outlines of faces on seemingly random swaths of color. I was absorbing this information when I glanced at the scrap of watercolor paper that I was using to test colors before laying them on the still life. I ran and got a scissors and cut out the most promising section, ACEO size, and painted the face in the span of a minute or two, and voila! (See, I can voila too.)  But mostly I have to wait.