Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What Not to Do on an Artist Statement

When I visit an artist's site and look at their artist statement, and 80% of it is attacking other artists for not being as profound or thoughtful as that artist, says that their art will never be mistaken for trash, and then claims that their astonishingly rebellious realist art will leave them dying alone...

... I really don't care if you go through my Instagram archive and like my recent posts. Because I'm one of those other artists you're attacking. Because every artist I know, even the ones I don't like very much, are part of the group you're attacking.

I'm no more a realist than old Chinese artists, C├ęzanne, or Van Gogh were; yet you feel perfectly free to dunk on them. In your artist statement. That you actually put on your website. For other people to read.

Yeah, I really don't need you around, and that's why I blocked you on Instagram.

Yes, you sold hundreds of paintings and have hundreds of followers and so on. I literally do not care about that. I do care about whether you have anything of an open mind, and it turns out—you don't!

And no, you don't actually paint well enough that I would put up with knowing just how very little you respect other artists.

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at avajarvisart.com. If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.

Tips for Using Smaller Colored Pencil Sets

With only an 18-pencil Pablo color pencil set to hand, one can make nice art with even more limited palettes—without resorting to, say, fifteen different pencils in gradated shades.

This picture only used four pencils—the colors swatched above.

Fruit still life. The subject used three pencils, the table used another.

This was neither difficult nor over-challenging, as long as you know color theory in terms of color mixing, especially complements. The shading here was rarely achieved by only changing pressure, much less the different tones. 

The following picture used only two pencils: ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, with burnishing provided by a white pencil and a truly colorless blender:

Crashing waves from two colors.

And for those who say that skin tones can only be achieved through buying portrait pencils or pencils within skin tone ranges: this is not true either. Figuring out the right color mix can be challenging, but since every person and lighting situation brings a variety of unique shade mixes, this is the only way to capture what is actually there—whether or not you weigh value before color.

Here is a very light skin tone using only the 18-color set:

Very light skin tone achieved by careful layering of light olive, orange, yellow, and purple; then burnished with white.

Skin tones, even for a pure value study and/or dark skin, are complex. Layering is necessary to add depth—look closely at your face in a well-lit selfie, or your hand against a window. The complexity of color layering for skin is the result of subsurface scattering—layers of tissue and the light bouncing around them.

Experimentation and play are vital stages in learning to mix colors—no matter the medium. The masters of dry media in the past never depended on 100+ color sets.

In particular, mix both tertiaries (orange, violet, green) and complements (browns and grays), even if shades of each come with your set. A lime green resulting from layering yellow and green in alternation will have more depth than a single lime green pencil.

Alter how many layers of each color are in a mix. Try two, three, even more colors. Learn how to use complement logic to soften the brightness of a color.

Record your results for future reference—and with further projects you will find your personal favorite go-to mixes.

Yes, this experimentation is play and not working towards a specific finished piece—most of art is about play. This is the unseen underpinning of knowing art deeply.

How many pencils is decent for a minimal color pencil set? Above 12, usually, and below 36. Go for quality, not quantity—in other words, transparent colors that layer well. Faber-Castell Polychromos or Caran d'Ache Pablo are good to start with.

A white pencil to burnish is recommended for a final stage that lightens your base layers. A truly colorless blender (like the Caran d'Ache bright) is helpful to deepen base layer colors. Other color pencils may burnish as well, for different effects.

As well, pressure control is as vital for colored pencil as moisture control is for watercolors.

Finally, learn patience. Using colored pencils with a goal towards depth of color will always take time, whether you have 10 pencils or 1000, because layering needs care and consideration.

Excellent art takes time, no matter the medium: digital, ink, paints, pencils. Persevere through failure and effort, and you will be rewarded with knowledge and satisfaction of a job well done.

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at avajarvisart.com. If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Debunking the "Create Everyday Or You'll Never Be an Artist" Myth

March 2016 versus March 2017.

Yes, I really did that. I went from silly squiggles to art-art in a year.

I did it through applying myself rigorously—but not by doing art every day, much less for hours on end.

Every moment that is available to me to create art is rare, precious, and short. Time for creating art is not an infinite resource; far from it.

Thus every time I did art, I was hungry to explore as much as I could in so short a time. To fulfill this hunger, I had to go beyond my comfort zone every single time. Even if I fail, I learn something to put to use the next time I get to create.

The problem with scheduling large amounts of time to create art is that you lose the urgency to learn. If I knew I could paint for even just two hours a day every day, I would not be as hungry for knowledge every time. As a result, the signal-to-noise ratio of what I learn is extremely high.

This method also avoids art burnout to a large extent.

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at avajarvisart.com. If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

There Are No Magic Art Tutors

I often jokingly tell fellow art students that I go to the art school of hard knocks, where my tough-as-nails tutor does things like not allowing me to advance to watercolors until I'd created actual art with my chosen first medium (watercolor brush markers, sigh, I was so unwise), and then not allowing me to add more than just a single blue to my palette box until I could do a successful complex value study.

And after seeing how quickly I improve, people want to know how to contact my magical art tutor. I don't let them, though. I only have this tutor because I somehow proved myself to them that I had the will to learn. A strong, strong will to learn. Like, a will made out of the cores of neutron stars.

Plus my tutor's style would rub (and has rubbed) many students the wrong way.

The truth is, no tutor can ever force you to do something. You can only choose to follow your tutor's suggestions. The same applies for teachers in art schools, or art course curriculums.

There's not a tutor or art school good enough to get you to artistic heights if you don't do the work.

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at avajarvisart.com. If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

State of the Artist: August 19, 2017

Exhausted from events yesterday.

On the upside, my tutor and I discussed various directions for me to head towards, and so I have a few challenges to knock through.

One challenge is to use a Valquez-style palette. In my case, that's phthalo blue red shade (PB15), yellow ochre (PY43), and permanent brown (PBr25).

Color explorations between phthalo blue red shade, yellow ochre, and permanent brown.

All of these are colors I've found useful and love, but none are colors that are favorites among most watercolor artists.

They're among my favorites, though. I'm amused that this and my first palettes are created out of bargain-bin artist grade watercolors that nobody else seemed to want.

A tree, forest, and owl creatures in phthalo blue red shade and yellow ochre.

Sugar packet holder and creamer in phthalo blue red shade and permanent brown.

I remember falling in love with James Gurney's limited "Casein 6-Pack" palette: black, white, cobalt blue, venetian red, yellow ochre, and raw umber.

To me it's fairly clear that now, about a year later, I have my own palette of "the color of old memories" to play with.

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at avajarvisart.com. If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.

Tips to Control Watercolor

"Yunnan Grannies", my first watercolor painting, around 5" by 8".

This painting was done over a weekend in early March 2017 as a celebration of one year of pursuing art, with a single color: Phthalo Blue Red Shade. I particularly am fond of studies in blue.

I've been asked by those who find watercolors challenging how I painted "Yunnan Grannies" as my first watercolor painting.

I want to clear up a misconception, which is that what made the painting work was the paint I chose. The truth is that it doesn't matter what paint you use for a value study. In watercolors it helps if the color is transparent and staining, but with practice even this isn't necessary.

What does matter is moisture control in the following elements:

  • the brush
  • the paint mixture
  • the paper
The paint mixture ends up on your brush, which in combination with the water in the brush, results a certain viscosity. Knowing how thick the paint and water is on your brush is a key to control.

It's helpful to wick away excess moisture on your brush (a towel for a bit of extra dryness, or simply using the edge of the water container) before dipping the brush in your paint mixture. This allows for better prediction of the end result.

Now consider the paper. 

If the paper is bone-dry, the paint will not migrate far, and you may achieve sharp strokes and areas. 

If the paper is soaking wet, the paint will flow into the paper, and thus it is easier to achieve a soft wash, and especially to blend different colors in that wash.

The paper's wetness is often between these two extremes, and thus you have a range between tight control and loose washes.

How the viscosity of the paint/water on your brush interacts with the wetness of the paper is something you can practice ahead of time. Make sure to record the results and refer to them later if you need to. 

Note also that different papers will react differently, and different paints will also react differently. This is why it is best to start with just one watercolor paint.

A general principle that will help reduce the amount of experimentation you need: paint/water will flow to the driest location. 

Thus a bone-dry paper will draw in paint from the brush at all times—but a moist paper may or may not do so depending on if it is drier than the brush, or if the brush is drier.

This is the key element of control. Thus you must learn also patience: let the paper dry to the point you need it to. This may include bone dryness fairly often.

For mono-color paintings, it's also essential to learn how to compare an area of color to another to determine relative value. I did a very small thumbnail sketch to work out the major areas of value and their relevance to one another, using only pen and hatching.

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at avajarvisart.com. If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Making "Protection from Fate's Seas", Part 3

After the no-tan sketch was done, I used the sketch to base my larger watercolor pencil piece on—though not too large because, again, health issues. I intended this to be a quick value study, and it was! Surprisingly so as this was the first time I'd used watercolor pencils to do serious art of any kind.

These are Caran d'Ache Fancolor pencils, black and gray from the 12-piece set, on Strathmore 140 cold press (Visual Journal). They melt so well, although not entirely, as you can see the texture on the rocks and waves below:

It's an interesting effect and charmed me towards watercolor pencils even more.

I intended to go on to a duotone palette watercolor piece featuring a warm earth (burnt sienna) and a cold (phthalo blue red shade), and only those two colors. However, I got very ill and couldn't continue.

I still really like the way the watercolor pencil study turned out, though.

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at avajarvisart.com. If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.