First day of workshop

Currently studying watercolor techniques with Karlyn Holman - today was abstract day. We worked with collage and watercolor for half the day and the other half of  the day we learned to work with alcohol inks. Having a ton of fun!


Workshop with Dianne Martia

In February, I took a painting workshop with instructor Dianne Martia at Water Street Studios in Battavia, Illinois. What a blast I had. Two full days of learning, and experimenting and playing with paint.

The workshop was in the medium, oil and cold wax. I'd taken a similar workshop a couple years ago with Lisa Pressman at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point and loved the medium immediately. Learning from a new instructor opened many doors - she featured working with oil paint from the tube, mixing it with the cold wax medium and then building up layers of color and texture withing the painting. Two of my favorite techniques from the class were working with templates and increasing textural options by adding marble dust to the medium.

Great fun! Great class! Thank you Dianne!

Below are some paintings completed in the workshop, and click here to see my full portfolio of oil and cold wax works.

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Workshop with Karlyn Holman

I've just returned from a week long workshop with Karlyn Holman in Washburn Wisconsin. This is the 4th year in a row I've attended a workshop with her. Karlyn is such an inspiring person - she's created a wonderful life for herself in the arts. She is a great artist, she teaches in her studio and in workshops all over the world, she has a thriving business in an idyllic small town - she really is a wonder.

The first class I took with Karlyn a few years ago opened my eyes. Her success has inspired me change my life and pursue fine art as a career - something I never really believed was a feasible goal until I met Karlyn. Thank you, Karlyn - you are my inspiration!

Each year, Karlyn has new techniques to teach and new directions to take us. Each year I come away with inspiration to feed my studio time, incorporating the new ideas I've learned into my own work.

Below are my finished pieces derived from the lessons we worked on last week.

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Spring further

I have continued working on the study from the previous post, "Spring Forest". I have posted both versions of the painting below for comparison.

I deepened shadows, pulled out yellows and whites and created more of a focal point with dappled light filtering through the right side of the painting. I experimented with a new medium as well - gouache - which is a water-based paint like watercolor only opaque. So I can retrieve some lights that I'd lost in the process of working out this composition. I also added a lot more details in the foreground and in the tree tops. I think it's made a very big difference to the success of this painting.

I plan to try it large scale next.

Spring Forest, study in watercolor and gouache on paper, by Chicago artist, Rochelle Weiner

Earlier version of same painting


Size counts

(Pictured above, "Roadside daffodils", watercolor painting, measures 22" x 30", framed original $800.)

For a long time I've been trying to "get big" with my paintings. If you're not familiar with watercolor paintings, it's kind of hard to work big.

First of all since the medium is watery, it makes it mostly impossible to work on an easel - the paint just runs right off. Ok, good for some effects but for the most part it's important to work flat. So, a big piece of paper can get unwieldy, not to mention it's difficult to keep your perspective on a large sheet lying flat in front of you. Best solution I've found so far is to start with a really good drawing which you complete upright on an easel and then when it's lying flat you just follow your drawing.

The second issue is that you have to work fast to make sure the color you put down doesn't dry before you get a chance to make sure you've had a chance to achieve the affect you planned. Trick here is to work big very wet, then put in the details in smaller manageable sections.

However - I love big paintings. The bigger the better. And I have the impression that gallery owners appreciate scale as well - the bigger the painting the higher the ticket price. All good. So - I keep trying to work bigger  - practice, practice, practice.

Following are two large scale paintings just finished this weekend.


Title: "Yellows", watercolor painting, measures 22" x 30", framed original $800.


Flying dreams

I've been doing a lot of sketching lately - I have been getting inspiration to do a series based on narratives that spring from my dreams. For years now I've been having dreams of flying. Sometimes I'm in a flying contraption, sometimes I'm just floating above the street, sometimes I'm really high, sometimes I'm just above the treetops. What these dreams have in common is I'm always on my own and I'm always unseen by those below.

I've read a lot of interpretations of flying dreams but my favorite is that dreams of flying indicate reaching for higher goals. Nice.

My little sketchbook is full of quick sketches and notes of ideas for this series. I finally put one on paper, see below.

Pictured above, "Dreamflight" - watercolor on Arches 140lb paper


Cray pas and watercolor? huh?

I had an idea last week - why not mix cray pas with watercolor? Oil and water could create unexpected and hopefully very cool results.

So, I tried drawing different images and lines on different kinds of paper and then painted watercolor on to it. The oily lines repelled the wet paint and retained the integrity of the lines. Dig it!

This concept allows for some really free design and color applications. Just getting started with the idea so the below are basically tests and experiments, but I have to say, I see endless possibilities!

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Masa paper - the crinkle technique

Inspired by Chinese artist, Cheng-Khee Chee, I've been experimenting with the masa paper crinkle technique. It involves soaking masa paper in water and balling it up into a crinkled mass. This step breaks the sizing in the paper and when you smooth it out it's left with a network of broken crinkle lines. When you paint into it the color seeps into the cracks enhancing the delicate lines.

Row of trees - masa paper crinkle technique

Chee did a lot of paintings of woods and trees using this technique. The cracks easily translate into tiny branches and woodsy textures.

My first try became a painting which I called "Row of trees". It's a small painting, about 8" x 10". I've already sold two prints of this painting at the Galleria, so I have decided to give it another go.

I started a large painting the other day, 31" x 21" sheet of masa paper, inspired by a beautiful blue iris garden I photographed over the weekend. From what I was reading about masa paper you can either paint on the smooth, shiny side of the paper, or on the slightly fuzzy backside. For this one I decided to go with the back as I like the texture.

I started with Ultramarine Blue for the flowers, creating the initial shapes of the composition by dropping the paint right into the very wet paper. The color fanned out beautifully, running up into the newly-created crinkles in the masa paper. Painting into wet paper is one of those techniques where you have to embrace the unexpected. You can't control where the color will go - you put it where you want it and then go with the flow.  In this case I think it's a nice start.

I kept moving, adding in lots of Aureolin Yellow and Antwerp Blue in the background, in layers of uneven color to get some modulation in tone. I added some Permanent Magenta to the flowers to give them some depth, careful to leave whites where I could. Then I left it to dry. When I came back in I started adding harder edged areas of grasses and stalks, being sure to soften them here and there. I also added more ultramarine blue to the petals to start building up definition.

It's going in a good direction, but I don't think it's quite done yet. Next step is to flatten the painting. Methods I've read about include gluing the masa to a backing sheet, flattening with a brayer as I go. I like working with the lighter weight paper though, so I think I'll try dampening it and putting a warm iron to the back side and see where that gets me. Once it's flat I'll continue adding sharper details to the foreground and a bit to the midground. I think I'll leave the back row of flowers soft to enhance depth in the final composition.

Above - my cat Finnegan was having a close look, and I think he agrees it needs more work.


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