Generally speaking, my artistic style is not very loose. I like to work small and controlled. I like to stay inside the lines. And I don’t like messes. In other words, I’m pretty much the exact opposite of what an artist is ‘supposed’ to be. Heh.
Working on a smaller scale helps me keep things neat, tight, and under control. It also satisfies my ever-present need for instant gratification (lest I lose interest in what I am working on and then never finish it). Oh, and then there’s that whole I-work-in-a-teeny-tiny-studio thing.
Lately, I’ve been in kind of a slump, not just in the artistic sense, but in pretty much every aspect of my life. Living with a two-year-old has pushed the limits of my ability to control my environment. Furniture gets moved. Things get spilled. Little handprints appear on my walls. There is sand and mud and mess. All the time.
I never cease to be amazed by moms who don’t even bat an eyelash as juice boxes spill on their floors and pizza sauce smeared hands brush across their furniture. I marvel at their ability to not cringe as entire bins of building blocks spill.
I am the same way with artists. I am so impressed by those with the ability to just try things and see what happens (without worrying about making a mess or wasting materials or screwing up). I long to be one of those artists who lets their work ‘tell’ them what it wants to be, instead of using all of my energy to control the outcome.
This week, I started experimenting with some watercolor techniques that involve a certain lack of control on my part – a big step for someone who has pretty much dug herself into a rut of only using watercolor pencils (sharpened to a fine point, of course!) in order keep the colors from moving too freely. It has been interesting, if not a bit therapeutic. And, at times, it has been messy (but not too messy, since I have still been working small).
The one technique I keep going back to is creating textures with Isopropyl alcohol. It is actually fairly easy to do and can create some pretty spectacular results. It is also pretty amazing to watch. When the alcohol hits the wash, it repels the paint, which will start to snake its way around the paper, sometimes trying to flow back into the alcohol treated areas. I have actually seen paint quiver along the edges of the alcohol spots for quite a while. It really is quite fascinating.
Today, I did some quick two-color swatches and treated them with alcohol just for some color study practice. Rather than trying to control the paint, I just sort of let it run and flow however it wanted (another big step for me). The results made me very happy. I saw patterns and shapes that were new to me (with regards to my own work, at least). And I gained an appreciation for my ability to create abstract work (without having a complete nervous breakdown – heh). I also put together some unlikely color combinations that I probably would never have thought to use in my tighter style of work.
A friend has pressed me to explore this more abstract style. I wasn’t so sure about it at first, but I have found that it is a nice break from and much less stressful than my current illustrative work. So, I guess we’ll see where it goes from here.
photo : color study in watercolor + alcohol by yours truly