Monday, January 24, 2011

From Watercolors to Liquid Acrylics

i tend to evolve very slowly, taking tiny baby steps of change until one day i wake up and am a different person in a different place and it feels like i've just taken a quantum leap but i understand it's actually been a long, slow process. this has been the case in switching mediums from watercolors, which i've been doing religiously (no exaggeration) for 30 years, to liquid acrylics, which i started introducing to my painting 5 years ago  when i moved from eugene, OR  to santa barbara, CA.
the move itself was very humbling.  i went from being a locally famous artist with a strong following and steady sales to being a nobody in an international. cultural city known for it's vital, thriving art community of very talented and established artists. 
the first thing i realized is that the bulk of the artists here paint plein air landscapes using oils.  everywhere you go here you see that look, in part because the land is so exquisitely beautiful and the other part is that it is a tradition that began here many, many years ago.  it is integral to sanat barbara's history which is being kept alive by todays artists.  and belive me, there are tons and tons of gorgeous plein air landscapes to be found here, along with just as many if not more amateurs trying to make their way.
the second thing i realized is that due to the bright southern california sunlight, people here are reluctant to buy watercolors for two reasons; the first being the misconception that they will fade (no longer true with current pigment quality) and the second being the blinding reflective light of the glazing (glass or plexiglas) that is needed to frame the watercolor makes it difficult to see the work.
although i have had a large amount of success in both sales and recognition since arriving here i have sensed it could be even better if i could figure out a way to paint and frame using different materials.
in short i have been experimenting with numerous ways to get around this with many trials, tribulations and mini identity crises' along the way.  finally, i am able to report i have found a medium, a technique and a way to present my paintings in which they are more solid, do not need glass, have even more vibrancy, etc. etc. and boy oh boy what a difference in the response from the masses.  people are a little confused about the medium- they look like watercolors but clearly they aren't.  they're mounted on a board and coated with a gel medium for protection.  they are more present, more rich, more bold. i like to think they reflect the changes i've simultaneously been making in my inner life. 
here are some pics-  keep in mind when you see my watercolors on the web they are shot unframed so no glare, so the difference in qualty might not be as apparent until viewed in person. also i want to make a note that my frames have gotten way more upscale and custom and they are not shown either.

it's been challenging, and at times frustrating, to make these changes in my method and i've thrown away a lot of unsuccessful efforts.  but it's all part of the growth which is absolutely crucial to being an artist.  one thing i know is that there is a fine line between confident ease and getting so comfortable that you become stagnant.  you need to have enough comfort level to let the medium flow and feel secure about your technique, yet continually be striving to reach for new ways, higher levels of expression.  for now, i'm good.

1 comment:

Peter Roberts said...

Excellent work here Erin! WOW!