For the month of August, I am the featured artist at the Gunnison Arts Center. I decided to do a painting demonstration for the First Friday Art Walk. Working on three subjects: a chile market in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico; a series of flamenco dancers; and a Norwegian Fiord horse, I need to decide which piece will be the subject of my demo. I choose the Fiord horse, because Gunnison hashas a strong horse culture and tradition. Additionally, I am well known for my equine paintings, so this gives my audience an insight into how I work. Studying the ink value drawing, I decide the painting’s design lends itself to the poured watercolor method. This will be a crowd pleasing technique! When the paper is wet and the paint is flowing, exciting mixtures and effects occur.
The Norwegian Fiord has a distinctive black and white mane and tail, along with a dorsal stripe running from the end of the mane to the beginning of the tail. The goal of my study is to spotlight the Fiord’s unusual and distinctive markings.
After mounting my watercolor paper on a sturdy board, I transfer my drawing to the paper and mask the areas that will remain white. When the mask is thoroughly dry, I pour the first layer using light values of permanent rose, raw sienna, and manganese blue. These pigments will be my primaries for this painting- (red, yellow, and blue). Using my drawing study, (above), as my value map, I mask the areas I want to remain light. I use both a mask pen for small areas and a mask brush for larger areas.
When the second mask is dry, the painting is ready for the medium value pour. This I will do in Gunnison at the Arts Center during the First Friday Art Walk. The colors are bright and dramatic, eliciting ooo’s and aaaah’s from the audience.
For the final dark layer, I choose to apply color loosely with a large mop brush. I mix colors wet-into-wet directly on the paper in selected areas where the Fiord’s distinctive black stripes appear.
I’m not concerned with a realistic reproduction of the horse’s markings. A camera can do that job. My objective is to celebrate the unique and instantly identifiable beauty of the Norwegian Fiord. For this purpose, I am using bright colors in darker values than previous layers. At this point, I must wait for the paint to dry thoroughly before I can remove the mask. Because it is getting late at the Arts Center, I plan to do the next steps at home.
Above Right, I begin removing all the mask layers. This is my favorite part of the process. I feel like I am unwrapping a gift as the image begins to emerge beneath the mask. With the mask removed, the hard work of pulling all the elements together to refine and resolve the painting begins. I spend as much time studying the painting as I do applying paint.