Friday, May 1, 2015

Get out of the studio!

I know, I know, it sounds counter-intuitive.  Artists are supposed to be IN the studio, making art.  And most of the time that's where I am.  But yesterday I ventured not just out of the studio, but out of my cozy fiber comfort zone, and I went to see the Georgia Watercolor Society's annual National Exhibition, at Atlanta's Oglethorpe University Museum of Art.  A friend who is a watercolorist went with me, and we were impressed by the beauty, the variety,  and the technical excellence of the work we saw.  We spent a solid two hours looking at and discussing the works on display.  Here, in no particular order, are just a few of the paintings that I particularly enjoyed:

Ardythe Jolliff, Me and My Shadow

 I loved the rainbow palette of this piece, the interesting shapes of the shadows, and the flat but lush lapis blue of the sea.  The gorgeous transparent clarity of watercolors is really evident here.

Christine Krupinski, Pomegranates and Grapes
This painting was astonishing for its careful realism, capturing not only the bar code stickers (!) on the pomegranates and the shadows and highlights on each grape, but also the folds and shadows of the plaid tablecloth underneath.  A real tour de force, and a lot of fun to look at.  It won Second Place.  (Apologies for the out of focus photo).

Elaine Callahan, And The Beets Go On
 The texture of these beets was so naturalistic!  And the negative spaces and shadows between the beets were just as interesting as the beets themselves.  Like the still life above, this painting reminded me that ordinary vegetables can merit a second, and a third, look, when they are rendered so sensitively.   This painting garnered an Honorable Mention.

F. Charles Sharp, Coverage May Vary
 This piece was awarded First Place.  My friend and I admired the loose handling of the paint and the way in which the artist used the white of the paper throughout the painting.  The artist's choice of subject was also fresh, even cheeky. 

Kathy Kitz, Quiet and Simple
This piece I loved because its minimal composition truly did impart a feeling of quiet and peaceful simplicity.  I am a sucker for anything with a strong horizon line.   The large yellow foreground showed some subtle variations in texture that were rewarding to discover as well.

Sue Pink, Mr. Bilbo
This piece struck me as an icon of sorts, with its central subject treated in a portrait-like manner, and the inclusion of various symbolic elements like the lettering and the circular shapes.  The mysterious symbols and subject seemed to invite meditative contemplation, much as a religious icon does.  

My photos of these works, with their small size, skewed angles (to avoid reflections) and shadows, hardly do the work justice.  I urge you to look these artists up and get a fuller picture of their talent.

Seeing this show reminded me, again, that it is so important for us working artists to get out of our own heads and our own studios and go look at other artists' work.  And especially to look at work that is outside our own medium.  It is enlightening and refreshing to consider how other artists have grappled with questions of subject, composition, value, color and texture.  And in a judged show like this one, it is thought-provoking to consider the prize-winning pieces and to ponder why those pieces might have been chosen. I always come away with new things to think about.

Unfortunately, this exhibit's run ended yesterday.  But I invite you to grab a friend and go find an exhibit near you that sounds interesting, especially if it's in a medium you're not intimately familiar with.  Look slowly and thoughtfully at what you see.  Suspend judgment for a few minutes and just let your eyes explore.  See what you can learn.  And drop me a line and tell me about it!

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