by Robert Leedy
watercolor on Arches 140 lb. Cold Press paper
18″ x 20″
I’ve been painting a lot of still lifes this year. It’s a reflection of my teaching a handful of watercolor classes. Many of the paintings are demos that I paint in class and some are just me painting along with my students. Some are not always completed and end up in the to-be-finished pile. I try to complete them so my students can see my successes and failures. Yes, I am not perfect and I bomb on things occasionally. This keeps me grounded with my students, I believe…
This is a typical still life from my class. Sometimes I am easy and I do the fruit, flowers and teacups thing. But most of the time I like to challenge my students. I always put together still lifes as if I were going to paint them myself. And I do. Never arrange something you wouldn’t do yourself…
There are several challenges here: one is the reflective surface of the stainless steel container; another is the wine glass – not only for its many reflective surfaces but also having it in front of other objects and how it distorts things; then there are the sunglasses and the shadows they cast; and finally, the distorted patterns of the striped material. I love patterns and I love stripes. They always provide a nice visual interest to a watercolor painting.
One thing I have shared in my classes is the aid of photography in painting: I use an iPad with Retina display to not only shoot my subject with good, high resolution but to also have the ability to zoom into a a photo – into a particular area of a scene to see incredible detail. This is a handy tool to use while painting! I forgot to say the iPad is also a great viewfinder – and a large one at that!
My students keep appearing with new iPads here and there. Apple’s iPad sales have soared as a result of my class! There is a period in between my class demos and when the students begin working on their own paintings when , at any given moment, you can see tablets raised to the heavens as they capture the still life scene before them. I call them the paparazzi and give them time limits to photograph though I honestly feel I have created monsters. Even the digitally challenged who claimed technological inferiority and who seemed to be the last analog holdouts are showing up to class with brand new iPads. In the past, I have used a no-pencil exercise – forcing students to create paintings without drawing; perhaps next in line is a no-iPad / no-digital camera exercise?
I feel I am either breaking totally new ground or I am setting myself up to be the really bad example of where art instruction went awry…
The above painting,”cosas extraordinarias”, is a bit of a departure from my normal mode of painting; I was working from one area to another – instead of painting all over simultaneously. My favorite passages were the sunglasses and the stainless steel container with its reflections. I think you can normally recognize most artists’ interests and mine are evident here.
Cosas extraordinarias? Extraordinary things? ‘Extraordinary’ is a confusing word. If something is extra special, it is very special; extraordinary should mean VERY ORDINARY. OK, that’s what I have – very ordinary objects in this painting. Why did I title it in Spanish? To make it sound more special than ‘extra ordinary’.
This painting is very special despite being extraordinary…
I love celebrating the normal!