|Whimbrel at 2-Mile Landing. Original Moku Hanga by Ken Januski. Copyright 2021.|
|Whimbrel at 2-Mile Landing. Original Moku Hanga by Ken Januski. Copyright 2021.|
|Working proof on moku hanga of Whimbrel at 2-Mile Landing. Copyright 2021 by Ken Januski.|
When I started I just grabbed some paper that was lying around, not even sure if it was printmaking paper. Only as I was printing did I happen to see an Arches watermark. Eventually I'll print on a different paper but this one has been fine for proofing.
After I'd done block six I believe, the dark green block I still had only areas of flat color. Something inme wanted to scream. Though flat color, with possible grading through bokashi, and with some complex but regular pattern are part of traditional moku hanga I needed something different. That's been true in most of my moku hanga. I just am not comfortable with all that flat color. So I carved into much of that green block, creating quite a lot of pattern, movement, etc. I think it was just what the print needed. I did the same to a lesser extent with the last block, the brown one, though that one I had planned at least a little variation on.
So there you have it: a work in progress. As with most of my work it is an ongoing dance between simple and complex. Stayed tuned to see where the dance ends.
|Whimbrel at 2 Mile Landing. 9x12 acrylic painting. Copyright 2020 by Ken Januski|
I have had a number of "successes" and a number of "failures" in my artistic career. I put quotes around the terms to indicate that there is a bit of artificiality in them. For instance I have been in a number of competitive art shows in my career and I have been rejected from quite a few as well. I have gotten some likes on Facebook, a very low standard of appreciation I know, and I think a much greater number of non-responses. I have sold some work, often looking quite different from one another, but I haven't sold anywhere near as much work as I'd like.
Sometimes these are more meaningful to me than others, for instance I'm always quite happy to have my work accepted into the annual exhibit of The Society of Wildlife Artists because I think so much of the work that I'm showing with. I've been excited to get into some competitive shows when I was an abstract artist often to find that I wasn't at all happy with the work that hung beside mine. But I also realized early on that competitive shows are often the end result of competing tastes on the part of judges or other 'stakeholders' and that the show reflects it. Often they are odd hodgepodges. Again I think that this is not the case with 'The Natural Eye,' and that's why I'm always happy to be in it. I used to be somewhat depressed not to get into another competitive show that I applied to frequently. But I always got the catalog of the show. And finally, after quite a few years, I finally said to myself: "This is silly. I don't LIKE most of the art in the show." And a year or two after that I stopped submitting work.
My end of submissions isn't necessarily a critique of the show but it is an understanding of myself by myself. I'm far better off creating art that I like and only trying to exhibit it at shows I'd be happy to be in. What's the point of trying to get into a show, even a prestigious one, if you don't like most of the art in it? In the same vein what's the point of trying to gain entry to various galleries or associations if you don't appreciate the work of most of the other artists involved?
To make a long story short at some point I decided I really have to make sure I'm the judge who counts most. What do I think of my work?!
And that leads me to my most recent painting at top. I like it!
I have been reading Tolstoy's Anna Karenina over the last month or so. In it there is an artist, Mikhailov. I'm not really sure of why he's there but what struck me is a section where he expects very little from the people who come to look at his paintings, then begins to think much more of them when they say something that might possibly be interpreted as positive. Tolstoy I think is criticizing him but I think the scene might also ring true for many artists. As soon as someone says they like your work, or purchases it, you tend to see them and your work in a slightly better light.
I'm reminded of that by the watercolor painting I did of two Whimbel pictured below.
|Two Whimbrel at 2 Mile Landing. 12x16 watercolor. Copyright 2020 by Ken Januski|
|Whimbrel at 2 Mile Landing. 11x14 inch sumi brush pen and crayon drawing. Copyright 2020 by Ken Januski|
|Whimbrel Studies. Sumi Brush Pen. Copyright 2019 by Ken Januski|
|Whimbrel at 2 Mile Landing. Sumi brush pen field sketch. Copyright 2019 by Ken Januski.|
|Female Black-throated Blue Warbler Feeding on Devil's Walkingstick. Original Moku Hang by Ken Januski. Copyright 2020|
|Leaping Female Black-throated Blue Warbler. Pencil sketch by Ken Januski. Copyright 2020|
I did a lot of figure drawing in my distant past, about 3 hours a night, 3-4 days a week for a year or more, followed by additional classes in graduate school that often included figure drawing. I loved figure drawing, though I particularly loved quicker poses. I'm not sure how fond I would have been of 1 hour plus poses. What I loved was trying to capture both movement AND a sense of weight and how it was distributed. No I don't mean how heavy a model might be. I mean an almost physical empathetic knowledge of whether there is a lot of weight on one leg, very little on another, a great stretch in one area of the body, perhaps with a contraction in another part of the body, etc., etc. I don't think this can be easily explained. You either look at a drawing and get that feeling of where the weight and movement is, or you don't, assuming of course that the artist captured it. Most of all I think it is a matter of physical empathy.
I've noticed this in the drawing of others, and also sculpture where it seems even more noticeable, with various subjects, people, horses, hippos, birds, etc. But with birds in particular there is one new element: loft, that physical sense of weight that you can sometimes see and feel when something is moving above the earth, sometimes 100s of feet, sometimes just a few feet as in the female Black-throated Blue Warbler above.
I was reminded a bit of this when I watched part of a so-so show on Rembrandt on tv last night. One early painting showed a hand that seemed to be lying lightly on whatever. But there was a definite sense of lightness. It wasn't a dead lobster, heavy as could be. It had the sensation of lightness. This in turn reminded me of seeing something similar in a hand by Giotto, probably a Madonna and child, seen at the Uffizi in Florence many years ago. Some of the best artists capture the weight of limbs as they portray them. Sometimes they are light but other times you get the sense of real weight bearing down into the ground.
Of course with birds the sense of weight is just different, at least if they're in flight. I have to confess that I've never flown, at least under my own power. Neither has any human as far as I know. And yet I think we can still feel the sense of soaring in a soaring hawk. Though humans have no real experience of flying or floating many can still 'feel' what it is like.
I know artists who can capture the sense of flight in birds while drawing them from life. I can't do that. Perhaps I could if I tried harder and had more experience with seeing birds in flight, particularly soaring raptors. But if pressed I think I could do a sketch with some sense of reality.
That is not the case with birds that leap into the air, mainly to pick off something to eat. This is a much less seen phenomenon than birds soaring. If it were much more common perhaps I would even try it from life. But the fact is often I don't even know it is happening. I only realize it because I take photos and some of them show the movement. So for instance with this female Black-throated Blue Warbler feeding on the berries of Devil's Walkingstick I really couldn't see what she was doing, even when looking throughout my high quality binoculars. Only the photos I took showed it.
So I'm faced with a dilemma. Do I want to paint or print a subject that requires photos? I really don't like art that shows a heavy reliance on photos. I'll admit that this could just be a matter of taste, which can be very personal and change from person to person. Nonetheless I really don't like such art. Too many well delineated ripples in water will drive me screaming from the room! Most often they can only be done by using photos. Humans don't see that way.
So deciding to use a photo of a bird leaping up into the air was hard for me. Not only will any art I do based on it look like it came from a photo but it might also look quite cliched: Bird In Flight. Nonetheless I decided to go ahead and use this as a subject. I did so because I think it's fascinating to see birds in flight. And I wanted to try to capture it.
As I was working on some of my recent acrylic paintings I kept noticing the sketch I'd done weeks previously of the Black-throated Blue. I guess you could say it just kept calling to me. Finally I decided to return to moku hanga using it as a subject. At top you see the finished result. There are two slightly different versions, one in a edition of 9, and the one pictured here in an edition of 8.
|Three Chipping Sparrows at Houston Meadow. 9x12 Acrylic Painting by Ken Januski. Copyright @2020 by Ken Januski.|
I have loved seeing it again but for a different reason than many might think. It reminded me that most if not all people, especially artists, probably have formative periods where the influences of those times stick with them more than any other later influences. I have no appreciation at all of Pop(actually included in this film), Minimalism, photographic appropriation, and any of the myriad art fads/movements that have occurred over the last 50 years or more whose names I probably don't even know.
I used to always be puzzled when I read that some of my favorite artists didn't go to museums or more particularly to galleries as they got older. They seemed to lose interest in newer art. Now that I'm older I understand this better. Though there may be new art, that does not necessarily make it compelling new art. It may seem to an older artist not all that much different than various types of art he has seen in his lifetime. I recently read Matisse's take on this in the second volume I believe of Hilary Spurling's biography. He didn't criticize newer art, as I'm much more likely to do, but just said that was the nature of the world, that youth always needed to find its own 'new' way. That makes sense to me. He didn't criticize newer art. He just wasn't particularly interested in it.
All of which means I think that many artists still seem anchored by their formative period, just as supposedly James Joyce was by his Christianity. He might reject it but it remained influential even as he got older. That's what I've realized as I have re-watched Painters Painting.
The things I thought about, or maybe just felt, when I was a young artist still are with me in one way or another. So when Frank Stella, probably the fastest talking artist I've ever heard, talks about his desire to remove any sense of space, of depth, of reference to the real world in his paintings of the the time of the film it rings a bell. That's what I wanted to do in the late 70s. There just seemed to be something too quaint, cute, sentimental about including any type of subject matter. Eventually, quite obviously to anyone who knows my work, I changed my mind. But it was a goal that affected me and hundreds if not thousands or hundreds of thousands of artists at one time.
So that is what is so fascinating about this film. It's not spin. And though there are segments with art critics and gallery owners and even some collectors the film is primarily the artists, mainly painters, talking. And you feel that they are absolutely sincere. This is what they thought and felt deeply as they made their art. It's not often you get to see something like this. Even if you hate their art, and I definitely don't, I think many people who see the film will be taken by their passion and perhaps begin to see their art freshly.
On the other hand, even if they're impressed by their sincerity, they might still wonder why in the world anyone would want to remove any reference to the visible world from their work. And I can't explain it myself. But it was something that I definitely felt. And I don't believe it was because I learned this in school or in any other way. I just seem to have absorbed it from somewhere, just like many people just seem incapable of listening to classical music right now. It 'seems' irrelevant, though of course it's not.
I really didn't know much about de Antonio, the director. But I just learned that he was fairly leftist and mainly did political films. Supposedly the FBI had a large file on him. But in my recent viewing I happened to notice a couple of things I hadn't before. Like when one of the artists, I think Kenneth Noland or maybe Morris Louis, says that he realizes his work is only for very rich people with sophisticated taste. Of when de Antonio quizzes Leo Castelli about how much he makes, about the whole monetary aspect of the art business. It's just something I noticed in passing. But it made me wonder if underneath it the director didn't have some questions about who was actually buying and appreciating the work. At one point someone, perhaps Castelli, talks about the competitive aspect of collecting, where one rich person wants to keep up with another rich collector. And thus art stars are born. Though they are talented, perhaps even great artists, they're also part of something that is driven by the egos of certain rich collectors.
So I've thoroughly enjoyed the film. But it also makes me think about how hard it was for me to go into 'wildlife art.' It must represent everything that Stella was trying to get rid of at the time. It's still pretty much not taken seriously by galleries other than those that specialize in it.
But one thing I've realized over the years and that this film inadvertently affirms is that the art world is thoroughly affected by fashion. What is popular, what is new, what is obviously the next step in the development of art, really isn't. Fads and trends come and go. You might have a harder time selling something that isn't currently fashionable, or you might not get it into the most prestigious galleries but it is still art and it might very well be far better art than that that is in the galleries. There is a lot of fiction in the art world, especially the art world of rich collectors.
In revisiting my theoretical past as an artist, so to speak, it's been enlightening. It was a hard decision to go from large abstract paintings to much smaller art based on nature and wildlife. But I've never regretted it. It seems foolish to me now to want to exclude the outside world, especially the natural world, from my art. But I'm still affected by the tastes I had so many years ago. It's still hard for me to allow much if any atmospheric space in my work. I still like it to be somewhat flat, somewhat like the work of Stuart Davis in coming out at the viewer rather than receding into space. I won't go on about this. But it has been interesting to revisit the art that was so important to me at one time.
And I'm sure it still has had some affect on my newest painting, the three chipping sparrows at top.
|Pencil Sketches of Blue-headed Vireo. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski|
|Sumi Brush Pen Field Sketches of Great Blue Heron. Copyright 2020 by Ken Januski|
|Sumi Brush Pen Field Sketches of Great Blue Heron. Copyright 2020 by Ken Januski|
|Sumi Brush Pen Field Sketches of Wilson's Snipe. Copyright 2020 by Ken Januski|
|Sumi Brush Pen Field Sketches of Wilson's Snipe. Copyright 2020 by Ken Januski|
|Sumi Brush Pen Field Sketches of Wilson's Snipe. Copyright 2020 by Ken Januski|
|Pencil Sketches of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski|
I've been thinking about writing about the annual exhibit of The Society of Wildlife Artist's, 'The Natural Eye,' for some time now. Since I've participated in it many times but am not a member I don't feel right about writing about it. On the other hand it's the one exhibit I spend a lot of effort trying to get into each year because I like the work so much. As I've said many times it's thrilling to see my work with the work of so many artists whom I admire. Though I have to say, until I and Jerene actually went to the show in London the excitement was still somewhat tempered. It's one thing to admire work online. It's quite another to be standing in front of, and surrounded by it.
I've been in a lot of shows, both group and solo, though far fewer of the latter than the former. These were almost all when I did abstract work. Once I switched to representational art, I think about 2006, I didn't really try to get into many group shows, and with the exception of 'The Natural Eye' and group shows at a local art center I belonged to I didn't get into any competitive juried shows I did apply for. I'm pretty sure why. Wildlife art is not considered serious art in the US. I feel confident saying that. Though I'm not Robert Bateman's biggest fan, the fact that, unless things have changed recently, he's never been shown in a major Canadian museum says a lot. With the possible exception of Carl Rungius I'm not sure how many major American museums have ever shown any wildlife art. I suppose some fishing scenes from Winslow Homer, a John Singer Sargent alligator and a few others. But in the 20th century and later it's just not considered real art. ( I'm ignoring any possible contemporary artists who use an ironic take on wildlife art and therefore might possibly be shown, because irony in itself discounts the subject it portrays).
I know I'm taking a while to get to the point..... The recent sketches above, some from life, others based on looking into the viewfinder of my camera to sketch from the small images of photos there show I think how far I've come in actually being able to draw birds. Though I'm sure most people will say that they agree with that much more with the pencil sketches from photos than with the sumi brush pen sketches from life. But trust me they are much better than when I started about 15 years ago.
But even if they showed twice or maybe even 10 times as much improvement as they do there would still be a big problem. How do you make a finished work of art out of a sketch? How do you make a painting? How do you make a print? How do you make either a painting or a print as ambitious as the old abstract paintings I used to do? How do you, based on these sketches, do something that both galleries and museums would be willing to show? How do you make art that is taken seriously and not just considered cute?
Just about the first thing I realized when I started drawing and painting birds, outside of how little I actually knew about what they looked like even though I'd birded for at least 20 years at that point, was that they just can't sit by themselves in the middle of a canvas. I could make a portrait like that, and did try to do so, but what was I supposed to put around the bird? Impressionistic marks that might hopefully make it look like they fit in perfectly with the bird to make a final composition? A vignette like fading into nothingness around the bird? Sad to say, I realized that I had to contend with the environment in which they lived. Sad, I say because that meant not only did I have to learn more about drawing and painting birds but I also had to learn more about drawing and painting the various environments in which they lived.
But at the same time I didn't want a lot of stultifying detail, especially something reminiscent of that based on a faithful detailed rendering of a photo. That work did and still does make me very nervous. Though some people can breathe a sense of life into it, perhaps because they actually are familiar with birds and their environment, most artists do not. One of the other things I learned very on is that I didn't at all want my work to look like that! Stultifying! After all the subject was alive, very alive and that was part of the point of even using them as a subject.
So................. that finally brings me to one of my main points. What a complete revelation it was to discover The Society of Wildlife Artists! What exciting art, all based on wildlife! This is a link to the current show, which will open on 10.28.20: https://www.mallgalleries.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/natural-eye-2020. In case it's not evident, I'm fortunate enough to be in it, and have actually pre-sold one of the unframed prints.I'm a bit used to seeing the show now, having exhibited 7-8 times over the last 10 years or so, but it is still very exciting. The link I posted shows much of the work, though of course it is without the context of a gallery so you can't see the size, texture, etc., etc. That just adds to the excitement of the show.
|Blackburnian, Canada and Black-throated GreenWarblers. 9x12 inch acrylic painting. Copyright 2020 by Ken Januski.|
Savannah Sparrow at Dixon Meadow Preserve. 9x12 inch acrylic painting. Copyright 2020 by Ken Januski.
Though I had thought I might have returned to printmaking by now I obviously have not. I think I know why. September and October so far have both been very active with migrating birds. I see them, am stimulated to portray them and/or the experience of seeing them and I have to choose a medium. Which medium seems to offer the most flexibility? Not printmaking, not watercolor, at least for me, but acrylic.
Most of my artistic background is in painting, either acrylic or oil, where I can make a major change in a nanosecond. It turns out that this is the way I feel like working right now. I want a direct way to make some sort of portrayal of what I've seen.
But I almost never want a portrait. I realized after almost my first or second bird painting that I didn't like the idea of bird portraits. Yes, there are many handsome, beautiful birds, including all of the ones above. But to portray them to me seems wrong. Too often it makes them seem cute. Nicely posed, painted in understated colors, etc., etc. I occasionally do something like this in a watercolor study, though I wouldn't argue that I do so with any great skill. But they are just studies. They aren't finished paintings and for me aren't even studies for finished paintings. Why? Because they would just look like portraits, like photos from the 19th century of your distant ancestors in photographic studios. Very stiff and unnatural!
I've never know how to portray them in a way that looks more natural, though this is a lack of both imagination and skill with particular media, e.g. oil, watercolor, printmaking, et al. Acrylic painting allows my imagination to run free. I can keep experimenting and changing until the composition seems right. It's a very direct way to work.
So that is more or less what the "painting" refers to in the title. I just keep painting trying to find the right way to make a picture of something, in this case birds that I've recently seen.
There's also the question of "finishing." I've always, and I do think always is correct, disliked paintings with high finish, particularly paintings where you can't even see any brushstrokes. This has been an ideal for some painters for many centuries. And I'm sure I can find some painters, Raphael perhaps, where the high finish doesn't bother me. But often it just is very irritating. Ingres is somewhere in between. I have to admire his work but it does leave me pretty cold. Unfortunately in wildlife art it has been de rigeur for 100s years or more as far as I can tell. And it is wildlife art that it seems most misplaced. For still life, nature morte, it might make more sense. Most of the subjects are no longer alive. Even the fruit has been plucked. But wildlife IS alive. Why paint wildlife that looks like a still life? As I've written about this many times before I won't go on. I'll just say that it is not a type of "finish" I want in my paintings.
My idea of "finish," is much closer to Matisse's, at least the Matisse who wrote early in his career that in his paintings he wanted everything in its place, where there was nothing extra and everything worked together. I think that idea has probably been prominent in my work for 40-50 years. I wouldn't argue that it's the only way to make art. And I'm sure that for some viewers it can be just as offputting as the high finish of more photographically-minded painters is to me.
So the other thing I like about painting is that also allows me to get to the type of formal finish much more quickly than any other medium. Both printmaking and watercolor generally require some planning and exclude much change and modification. It's just the nature of those media. If you have a good idea what you want to start with then they can be ideal media. And I do love to the work of others in them. I even like some of my own.
But right now I'm more interested in both formal finish, ala Matisse, and wildlife art that seems alive and not a portrait, sometimes a stultified portrait. So I continue to work in acrylic, painting and finishing.
I'm sure there will come a time when I want to translate some of that into prints.
I had hoped to write more about the upcoming Society of Wildlife Artist's 'The Natural Eye ' show in London. But I think that should be another post. For now you can see, and buy, much of the work at The Natural Eye 2020.
(I'm starting to hate the new Blogger. My html may indeed be invalid as Blogger tells me but I didn't create it, Blogger did. I'm sure that this is of no interest to readers to I'm just going to ignore it. I don't have time to babysit Blogger.)
|Two Moku Hanga Prints and One Acrylic Painting About To Be Shipped to the Mall Galleries|
I always love this show, though I've only seen it in person once, two years ago. I think my work has been in it between 6 and 8 times. As I'm somewhat rushed today, mainly with trying to get the entries shipped, I'm not going to write much more at the moment. Suffice it to say that it is the one show I am excited about applying for and getting into. Even when I don't get in it's both thrilling and inspiring to see much of the show online.
But this year three of my works will be in: two moku hanga prints, A Frenzy of Golden-crowned Kinglets and Three Shorebirds; along with an acrylic painting, Common Buckeye and American Lady. The photo shows them just before I get ready to pack them up and send them off.
I've finally finished the Stream Bluets acrylic painting, having let it sit for between 4 and 8 weeks. For me one of my great artistic fears is overworking a painting to the point that it seems lifeless. Sometimes it can take years to sense the lifelessness, possibly because after all the work of the overworking I, and probably many others, hate to admit that it didn't work. So when I started up acrylic painting again early this spring I often left paintings temporarily finished in very early states. I didn't want to overwork them.
Finally I decided that I was willing to take the chance of overworking on this painting. It's always hard to say when a work of art is done, particularly ones done in such fluid media as oil or acrylic. It's just so easy to make a few more changes. Of course it's never quite that simple. One change leads to another, etc., etc. But in this case I think I've frozen the fluidity at the best place.
To me it still looks like a painting, one concerned with shape, color, composition, etc. But it also looks like a plausible representation of a real event, damselflies in a frenzy over a stream, with many of them mating and ovipositing. To me it is more realistic than many illustrations that show much more detail. It's a very old debate between painting and illustration. But for me I think it's fairly simple. Illustration always values some sort of representational detail over something both truer to experience and more satisfying artistically, not that there isn't artistically satisfying illustration. I'm going to leave it at that since I've written about this before. The last thing I'd say is that when most people actually see such a scene in front of them I think that they experience it more the way my painting portrays it than the way most illustrations do.
|Stream Bluets at Papermill Run. Acrylic Painting. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski|
Due to Covid and lockdowns we missed much of spring migration. But now that fall migration has begin and now that I've figured out where I can bird with a fair amount of safety and few crowds I've been doing a fair amount of birding. Fortunately that has resulted in my seeing many migrants including the colorful warblers, even if some of them are not as colorful as in spring.
As usual it is often quite hard to even SEE them long enough and well enough to identify them, let alone photograph them and in particular sketch them. I think that probably the only way to successfully sketch migrating warblers from life is to find an area where you think that they might remain for more than a few minutes and then concentrate on just one or two species. If you continually are trying to identify each little flurry of movement you see you'll never get any sketching done.
But for me, especially having missed most of spring migration, it's hard to make that sacrifice. And so I've tried to both identify and photograph them but not sketch them. BUT I don't at all like trying to make art from the photographs I've made of them. I've written about this for years and so I hope I won't rehash too much of what I've already written.
But I think it is similar to what I just wrote about illustration and damselflies. There is a real danger of too much information. When you know a great deal about insects, birds or whatever you may feel a great need to show all of this knowledge in each piece of art that you make. Perhaps you feel that someone might say, oh he doesn't understand that bird because he left out the dark at the base of the primaries. Many years ago there was an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal about such art and its audience. Unfortunately it was in praise of it!!!
Art is a lively, fluid medium that I don't believe should be beholden to reality, not that anyone agrees on just what reality is. But art is one thing, science is another, knowledge is another, etc., etc. To me it is a bit like the male athletes I used to see at the outdoor swimming pool when I was a student at Berkeley. Smaller females would fly by the young male athletes in the swimming lanes, seemingly without effort. The males were all effort, all that strength, but strength directed in the wrong direction, down rather than forward. It was a sight to see. But it's also I think an example of being not using your abilities in the best manner. The males had strength but they used it wrongly. They would have been better off, at least in the pool, forgetting all about it, or at least directing it forward. The same thing happens I think with knowledge in art. It can weigh you down just as much as the strength of those male floppers, I mean swimmers.
So with all that in mind I wanted to somehow use the warblers I've seen recently as the subject of prints and/or paintings. But I just didn't want to deal with the excess information of a photo. That's when I decided that if I just looked through the small viewfinder of my camera at the photos I took the view would be small enough that I'd have to ignore details and just stick to the basics. So that's what the next four photos are. After I'd sketched them in pencil I added a small bit of watercolor. I particularly chose photos that had the birds in what to me were fairly active positions, i.e. not just sitting there as though posing.
|Pencil and watercolor sketch of Blackburnian Warbler. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski|
|Pencil and watercolor sketch of Black-throated Green Warbler. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski|
|Pencil and watercolor sketch of Tennessee Warbler. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski|
|Pencil and watercolor sketch of Chestnut-sided Warbler. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski|
After I'd done those sketches I started making compositional studies where I combined one, two or more of the warblers. At one point I decided I needed a larger warbler in the foreground. For some reason I decided to add a Canada Warbler. But since I haven't seen one recently I used a photo that is more than 10 years old, and one that also served as an early unsuccessful watercolor. After I'd done a few pencil and collage studies I added watercolor to one.
|Pencil compositional study for warblers. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski|
|Pencil and watercolor compositional study for warblers. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski|
I will probably use the color study as the basis of a painting or print. But in the meantime I've continued to bird and so see birds. Yesterday I saw both male and female Black-throated Blue Warblers. After I'd been home for awhile I decided that I'd like to do a small study of the female. This is something I used to do with much more frequency. It's both a celebration of the bird and an educational exercise, trying to get me to look closer and imprint on my memory some of the details of the bird. I'm not sure if the educational goal ever gets achieved. I'm sure I forget much of what I think I'm learning as I make the sketch. Still there is always something rewarding in doing them, assuming that I can stand to look at them once I've done(i.e., they don't always work out).
|Ballpoint pen and watercolor study of female Black-throated Blue Warbler. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski|
(Well the new Blogger continues to create more expletives than blogs. But at this point I can't worry about it and I'm sure my readers don't care either. But I have to say it reminds me of Facebook and its recent changes, made by people who seem to have never used the product.)
|American Lady and Common Buckeye. 9x12 inch acrylic painting by Ken Januski. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski|
I'm not sure how many months it's been since I stopped printing and started acrylic painting. If I weren't in the middle of using the Blogger interface to write this I'd check. And I actually am a bit curious myself since I think that change occurred some time after Covid-19 stay at home orders.
In any case I keep being tempted to return to print but that temptation is overwritten by the desire to keep painting. At top is a newly finished painting of an American Lady and Common Buckeye. It is based on photographs I took. But as you can probably see I wasn't too limited by that. At least I hope that's the case. Between covid, hot and humid, or just plain rainy weather I've spent little time in 2020 working outside. When I bought a number of pre-stretched canvases to paint on I actually envisioned working on some in our backyard. It's almost September and no such luck so far.
Because I've felt a great degree of freedom in returning to paint, and painting in acrylic I've been very tempted to move from birds to insects, just to see if a bit of freedom with them might also make for results I like. That is certainly true with the American Lady painting. I'm quite happy with it.
The Stream Blue painting was begun over and month ago, and stopped soon after, as I mentioned in my last post. I had some freshness in it and I wanted to keep it, regardless of what detail I might be losing. One thing about damselflies is that they are very small, and their primary shape, that of a toothpick, is hard to get all that excited about. It's also hard to get very painterly with. 'Hmm, which way shall I flourish the brush on this toothpick?' But after finishing the American Lady painting I decided that I wanted to see what I could do with adding some detail(which is about the only way to identify dragonflies, especially damselflies) while still keeping it a painting, not an illustration.
Below are the results so far. I should add that there was a flurry of damselflies here when I saw them, mainly a large collection of males pouncing on the few females who arrived at Papermill Run. You almost need binoculars to even notice the frenzied behavior. Without them you might think that you're just looking a calm, almost bucolic stream. I wanted to get that sense of frenzied activity in as well. For me that means that there is just going to have to be some abbreviation in the painting. Painting every single pair along with all the solo males in detail might show a lot of detail but it certainly wasn't going to represent the experience of seeing this.
So this is my attempt so far. I'm not sure how much further I'll go. I have added more detail on the two primary damselflies but I'm reluctant to do much more.
|Stream Bluets at Papermill Run. 9x12 inch acrylic painting in progress by Ken Januski. Copyright 2020 Ken Januski.|
One additional thing I've been thinking about as I look at my old prints and think about new ones is that printmaking is mainly about lines and edges. Not being a printmaker or having much training in it I'm sure more experienced printmakers will say: what about lithography, what about this or that? I think it is true that lithography comes close to painting and certainly gets away from line. If I had a printmaking studio with all the equipment for printing lithos I'd probably give it a try. I don't. The fact is that most of my printmaking, especially moku hanga, is primarily linear.
There's nothing wrong with that. And I'm certainly happy with what I've done. But as I go along painting insects and birds as I'm currently doing I can't begin to see how I can translate them into prints or moku hanga in particular.
But I've never worried about such things. Go with the artistic flow, and be thankful if you have one! For now it's Those Insects and That Paintbrush.
I just looked at this outside of Blogger. It looks like crap. Thank you Google and Blogger. I'm sorry but I don't have time at the moment to go back and try to fix all the bad HTML that the new Blogger interface so kindly forced me into using.