Saturday, June 20, 2009

Laughing Gulls in Watercolor

I'm sure I've mentioned before that my background in art is primarily abstract. It's also large! For many years my smallest paintings were 4'x6'. Most were 6'x8'. But it's been awhile since I've worked at that large size.

As I've investigated art based on birds, or earlier insects, it made more sense to start small. I was unfamiliar with both birds and insects. If I'd started working large I would have ended up with gross, untruthful, and dull generalizations. Working small has forced me to look more closely at both(the insects very closely since they were drawn under a microscope).

BUT, every once in while it can drive me nuts. I think the recent detailed watercolor pencil work pushed me to the brink. I needed the freedom of something less constricting. So today I went back to straight watercolor.

The sketch at top is a quick sketch, with a few color notes, that I did just for practice. The second version is on watercolor paper rather than sketch paper. The birds are Laughing Gulls, seen in April, 2009 just as they made their arrival in Cape May, NJ. Though they'll eventually be on every lamp post in the area, at this time they were in one of the ponds at 'The Meadows,' a great area owned by The Nature Conservancy.

I'm not big on scenic photos or paintings. But sunrise or sunset here always changes my mind. The light and color are just too beautiful.

In this case the sunset which is in back of me as I took the photo is reflected in the background of the painting, with some of it spilling out onto the gulls and water. It was a stunning sight and made the black and white of the Laughing Gulls particularly striking.

I'm stopping for today, before I do something I regret. Tomorrow I'll probably do at least some more work on it.

I should add that this still isn't a large painting. It's only 7"x10" like many of my recent paintings. It's more the free brushwork that has made it seem 'larger' to me. But it is time to start increasing the size of my watercolors. I do not yet approach them as canvases on which to orchestrate color, value, texture and light as I always did with abstract art. I'm very much missing that type of painting.


Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Very nice! Vibrant and love those brush strokes!

Ken Januski said...

Thanks Pam,

I do hope that I can continue being freer with my brushstrokes. I once took a course in Chinese brush painting where the brush stroke was incredibly important. I keep trying to keep that in mind as I continue to explore watercolor. I think some of the watercolorists I most admire really let their brushwork show.

How is your residency going? I actually didn't expect to hear from you for weeks, until it is over. Though I'm sure that there is an itch to see what's going on online. Anyway I hope that you're having a great time there!