I happily took the Long Island Railroad into Penn Station to then walk to Chelsea in NYC from my perch in Northport Long Island. This venture, on a cold winter day, was to gather in the brilliant colors and environments of the watercolor paintings created by the Artist, Joseph Raffael. These large-scale works envelop you into the tropical gardens and seaside shells which are the models and subjects of his work.
Some feature strongly defined focal points while other subjects are diffused, allowing you to meander through the tangles of flowers, leaves and stems. Koi provide the pivotal “Turning Point” between the water and air while leaving ripples which you know will be gone again in moments. Tibetan prayer flags flutter in the breeze sharing the brilliance of Koi colors. Time, movement and transience are significant subjects in these meditative paintings.
One of the methods I use to visualize my Art is to take snapshots of my models and modify them on my computer. Since I’m not a photographer I only have a small point and shoot camera that I use to take photos in my garden or in my studio.
I took this snapshot of these orange tulips using natural light in my studio
I import these snapshots onto my computer and using Photoshop I delete the backgrounds, modify the colors and otherwise play around with the image. I print the images from my Epson printers onto matte cardstock papers.
Using Photoshop on my Mac, I play around with colors and composition
Then, using Winsor Newton watercolors, I put down my first layer of paint. Once dry I used my set of Prismacolor colored pencils to draw over the watercolor.
In this Mixed Media Art work I used colored pencil over watercolor
For some reason I find this process to be very relaxing and meditative for me. If I need some calmness in my life, I can go to my studio at any time and pick up right where I left off. No fuss, no muss, no bother.
There are so many ways to create paintings. As an Artist who has been creating for over 35 years I have developed a variety of methods to arrive at my finished work. Sometimes it is interesting to get a peek behind the process, so here is one style I enjoy.
Snapshot of some Orange Tulips I used as the basis of this series of Art works
Since I’m not a photographer, I take snapshot of flowers I either buy or grow. I usually select them for color or just for form. I find myself attracted to large bold shapes rather than the more frilly inflorescences. I then decide what mediums I will work in and whether there will be one finished Art work in one or more mediums or whether the work will be part of a series.
I love creating tonal drawings so I often do a finished piece in graphite before I start a painting just because I like the feel of drawing. It also is a great way to work out values of highlights and shading.
Tonal drawing of a tulip. I use a pair of magnifying lenses which I hook onto my bifocals to help me see the details
If the work is part of a series, I need to imagine the size of each piece and the total overall impression I’m looking for. This ups the level of complexity considerably and actually makes for quite a nice challenge to my visual imagination and my technical consistency.
For a series of work I need to choose the size of each work and the size of the overall series.
I also need to create a composition that stands alone as well as works for the series.
I used my altered snapshots to help me come up with my composition in this series
My work must not only be accomplished to my own standards for each piece but it must be consistent across all the work. This can be tricky if you don’t create all the work during the same or close to the same period of time.
The Joseph Raffael show at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery at 520 West 27th St in Chelsea New York was a burst of color and soul. The show was there from November 2009 through January 10, 2010. For those of you who missed this wonderous presentation, I created a video of the show.
Visiting this show brought such a burst of the voluptuous joy of color and passion to an otherwise gray day that I was compelled to share it with others.
Joseph Raffael douses himself in his watercolors. His colors flood and pool in the most controlled display of virtuosity I’ve ever seen in this medium. Though in this show his subject matter seems to be primarily flowers, his style is the antithesis of botanical illustration.
As a matter of fact, Elisabeth, my fellow Artist friend and I gallery hopped to this show on the heels of a visit to the ASBA (American Society of Botanical Artists) show at The Horticultural Society of NY. The contrast of two exquisite art forms, both employing watercolor and using flowers as subject, was astounding.
For an extra treat, I would suggest visiting Joseph Raffael’s website and taking some time to view the meditative videos of him as he paints.
Take a moment to calm down and become immersed in the process of Art. It will make your day. It always does so for me.
My Garden and my Artwork side by side. Both require me to make aesthetic judgments about composition, scale, color, texture and style. When I’m deciding where to plant the flowers I’ve hauled home on my endless trips to the nurseries it doesn’t seem that much different to me then when I’m deciding how to compose them on a two-dimensional surface.
I think about what style I’m looking for, what colors will work together, whether the scale of the placement works for me. I think about the type of flower and texture of the leaves. I make decisions about the 3D composition of the garden much like the 2D composition decisions on a painting.
Capturing that ephemeral moment is so gratifying to me in my Fine Art. I control it, unlike my Garden which is usually out of control.
The garden adds so many additional layers of complexity since the artwork is moving in time with nature, the seasons, the elements, and time. The painting remains caught in a moment.
Brown Kraft paper bags are a wonderful subject for learning to draw. They don’t move like people do. They don’t wiggle or whine. They don’t go rotten and deteriorate like fruits and vegetables. They’re cheap and easy to find. Not only can you pack lunch into the smaller bags you can bring home your food shopping in the larger ones and as an extra bonus, you can then use them to take out the garbage.
Brown Kraft bags – wash drawing
Need I mention that when I was in school, we cut down the large grocery bags and used them as book covers to protect the textbooks that the public school system in New York City provided to us on loan. So versatile, so useful, so filled with nooks and crannies they make for a great student model.
Brown lunch bag drawing
These 4 drawings of paper bags were done while I was in the second semester of my Freshman year in the Fine Arts Program at York College, CUNY in Queens NY. They were done during a two-week period from 3/21/1976 through 3/4/1976. All the dates of the drawings are noted at the bottom of each piece. I’m very glad that I was prescient enough to not only keep my student works but also to have dated them so that I could, 30 years later, look back on them and study the progression of my classes.
Brown bag wash drawing
At the time of these drawings I had been paying attention to art for only 2 years since I had spent my Junior and Senior High School years immersed in music. I came late to art but at the time of this writing in 2007, I’ve been an active artist for over 30 years.
The mediums I was experimenting with in these drawings are plain pencil, pencil and wash and Conte crayon. I seem to be able to create volume using contrast in these pieces but I haven’t set each of the still lives up with a particular light source that is consistent throughout each piece.
The composition of each work is fairly good in relation to the page and utilizes the scale properly except perhaps the last piece. I believe the drawing would have been better served had the paper been turned horizontally.
Too late to fix the original now but as I would say in this day and age: “I’ll fix it in Photoshop.”