Sunday, April 26, 2020

I Break for Curlews

Curlew and Great Cormorant at River Deben. Acrylic in progress by Ken Januski, copyright 2020.

Over the many years of this blog I've written occasionally about the sideways nature of my progress in art, or perhaps assumed progress. My point is that I often head off in a different direction and/or medium at some point. I think the reason for  this is pretty simple: I need a break, though maybe I didn't  realize  it.

I wasn't really planning on a break from my moku hanga printmaking but a notice that it was World Curlew Day prompted me to take a look at my photos of the only Curlew we've ever seen, both in England about 18 months ago. Looking at them convinced me to paint the watercolor that is further down in this post. It was a quick one so that I could get it painted on the correct day.

This is  a fairly accurate portrayal of the scene. I just moved the position of the two birds closer together so that I could get them both in the picture. I also decided, intuitively, that a vertical format seemed best. So that's why there's so much seemingly empty space at top.  It was a fortuitous accident I think.

But it also reminded me of one of the main problems  I, and as far as I know just about everyone else, have with watercolor. You really can't  change much. Much of its appeal is the sense of freshness and light. If you try to paint over what you've already painted the painting often seems turgid, muddy and stale. And I know I've seen a lot of such paintings, including many of  my own.

After I'd finished the watercolor below I still felt like I'd like  to make some changes. I'm not sure why, perhaps it was just a matter of feeling like I had more time on my hands due to staying at home due to Covid-19, but I decided to try to repaint the scene in acrylic.

Most of my artistic career has been as an abstract painter in acrylic and later oil, though as I continue with both watercolor and printmaking that statement will eventually no longer be true. I think  I still try to  paint in watercolor as though it is one of those media. Every mark is put down just to see what it looks like  and then I can change it  if  I don't like it. But  of course watercolor doesn't work that way. And neither by the way does most printmaking. I suppose the amount of pre-planning and deliberateness necessary in both could easily build up a desire to return to  a more spontaneous and forgiving medium.

So it has been enjoyable to return to a medium where I can change  things over and over and over. The painting at top is close to being done. I guess the nature of a painting that can be changed endlessly is that it possibly could  NEVER be done! But most artists I think realize that you eventually just need to move on to something new. So I don't think I'll too much more on this.

I don't know how long I'll stay with acrylic. I'm enjoying it now and have ordered new canvases and some new paint. (Finding my large jar of white completely dried out will tend to get me to order new paint  given how  important it is!!).

I think it's important to keep art enjoyable. Sometimes that means changing media, subject or who knows  what for a while. I always find that I'm happy to return to other  media, like moku hanga perhaps, when I eventually do. 
Curlew and Great Cormorant at River Deben. Watercolor by Ken Januski, copyright 2020.

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