I didn't get to spend a lot of time in the gallery, because the demo was four hours, from 1-5, and the gallery was only open for five today, but I did manage two half-hour sessions in the gallery, partly on our break and partly afterwards, and snapped some photos. But first…the demo.
I went to see Eileen McCullough, a plein air watercolor artist who paints scenes of the coast from Long Beach to Laguna. I went because of this painting below that she entered in last year's Watercolor West--it reminded me so much of the painting style of the California School of watercolorists from the 1920s to '50s such as Rex Brandt, Emil Kosa, Millard Sheets, etc. (There is an excellent website that gives full biographies and examples of the work of the California School here.) It's so beautifully loose but with a definite plan of execution and a gorgeously rich color palette. I'm so glad I attended this--I learned a lot, and was amazed by her technique.
She started out as a commercial artist, designing a variety of things from a boys' t-shirt line to Christmas displays and banners for malls, all while working three days a week as a waitress to give her a baseline income. Just six years ago, with her husband's encouragement, she finally decided to make art full-time, and began selling her paintings.
She sketches and does preliminary paintings plein air, and then does the finished paintings from the spare bedroom of her house, painting the same image over and over again, from different angles, with different color schemes, until she gets a painting she likes. She works very fast--she says she paints daily from about 11 a.m. to about 5 p.m., and typically completes two full-sheet paintings each day. She is "not a sketchbook person," but makes vague sketches with markers, pencil, and monochrome paint to size/scale on location, then takes reference photos to help her complete the painting at home. She will make multiple sketches on tracing paper until she refines it to something she likes, taping it over the on-location sketch and using graphite paper to transfer it later; although she says she does less of this as she has become a more confident draw-er.
|One of the paintings she brought with her...|
She sketches and practices her line work a lot before painting. She draws quickly, almost a gesture drawing, and breaks up her lines. She doesn't like frisket or resist--she prefers to cut masking tape with an exacto to the size and shape she needs.
|The demo painting she completed while we watched...|
|The demo painting she didn't complete…which shows some of her underlying scheme.|
She believes that all the drawing over and over gives you an advantage, because at a certain point you know the image and can stop looking at your reference photo or even at your preliminary sketch and just paint the painting. She believes this process is what has made her progress from copying a realistic scene to making a painting.
There was a lot more about specific colors she likes, mixing, layering of washes, and so on, but I won't detail all that here. Let me just say it was a great experience to watch her work, and opened my eyes to some new possibilities!
|Here is the painting she entered in this year's show.|
Tomorrow…my faves from the show!