Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Education through imitation.

In pretty much every endeavor I have pursued, from music, to culinary arts, to computer programming, one suggestion by the more advanced repeats itself again and again - learn from the masters.

In music it was finding people whose style I liked - great rock and jazz drummers and trying to recreate the sounds they made.  In cooking it was studying the recipes and techniques of Point, Escoffier, Keller, and others, and applying it to the much humbler dishes I was creating.  Programming, an art of its own, is a great medium for this style of learning - the open source software community basically begs people to take their work and build upon it.

So now I am learning to paint, and I figure the approach may work well here.  Not really knowing a lot about water color artists, I started browsing and stumbled upon the work of Austrian born painter Heinz Anger.  Herr Anger's site can be found here.

I really liked the way he could play with light and tone to span the spectrum between realism and an almost dreamlike state.  I decided that the first piece I would try to emulate would be his "Gelber Weinkeller."

My goal was not to copy it exactly - I wanted to try out some specific colors and techniques I had seen in other paintings.  However, what I ended up with is clearly derivative of his work, and I can take no artistic credit for what I made; it is clearly a technical exercise.

I learned several important lessons in the exercise:
  • I need to learn when to stop: I had several things looking really, really good, but then hurt things by overextending.
  • My shaky hands (I have an essential tremor, which makes me appear perpetually nervous, lol) are not made for detail work...I should stick to big sweeping landscapes, or have all detail work appear on foggy days!
  • One color does not necessarily work equally well as a shadow contrasted against two different colors.  For example, I am happy with the tree shadow on the left side wall and background trees, but not as happy with where it overlays the roof.  
  • I need to work on blending: the transition from brown dirt/path to grass is a bit too defined, I think.
Anyway, that's it, more to come soon!

I want to post a special note to congratulate two long time friends on the birth of their first child, Charlotte Grace.  I wish I was more talented and could paint and capture the beauty of this amazing newborn, but for now I can only say that I love the three of you and wish you the very best.  I can't wait to meet you, C.G. =)


  1. I'd first like to voice the pain in my heart for not being informed of this new endeavor... have we no history? *sniff*

    Second, I think this is a great first attempt. And the fact you noted over thinking your work is excellent, it means you'll develop more confidence over time. That's the hardest thing I find, being able to say, "There...done"

    The other thing I wanted to pass on is my favorite watercolor artist, John Lovett. He isn't Austrian, but Australian :) He provides a great resource for folks who want to learn and I really love his style. It's loose but deliberate and grounded in a great deal of technique and sound methodology. You might dig it:

    Nice work mang.

  2. Thanks Joe, and thanks for the link!

  3. wait till you see my horrible attempts, Joe... lol