DEAR ERIC COLUMN
Do you have an issue in your development as an artist you would like Eric to address? Whether you are struggling with a particular area of your work or just a general question, Eric will share his expertise and insights to help you grow as an artist and find your own style. Much like Question of the Month, Eric will address your questions but he also encourages you to share your experiences in DEAR ERIC COLUMN. This will be published every month for 2016. (We will address one issue per month, so if you don’t see your issue addressed in the month you sent in your email, look for them in the following months. Issues will be addressed in the order they are received and for educational value.)
To participate, send your issue or question to email@example.com. Be sure to put in the subject line DEAR ERIC. Use your first name and the state or country you are living. If you prefer we not use your first name, just let us know in the email and we will only use your state or country.
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2017 DEAR ERIC COLUMN
December DEAR ERIC COLUMN
12-1-16 December (PDF)
Why is it so hard to finish a painting? I seem to have an easy time of starting, but the finishing part gives me the “shakes”.
Carol from Texas
Finishing a painting can be difficult for several reasons. Fatigue can be one. An overriding fascination with detail can be another. But I think one of the major reasons is the tendency to neglect what the painting calls for.
The construction of a painting is not unlike the building of a pyramid. The block-in stage is the easiest and most fun because it offers tremendous latitude of expression, but it also sets the style of painting to follow. As you build up the pyramid, the underlying foundation increasingly determines the subsequent stroke character. By the time you are at the finish, the baton has been passed over to the painting- it determines the last strokes. The top of the pyramid has to fit the style of painting it caps, otherwise it won’t work.
This releasing of control to the painting takes discipline, but it is necessary; otherwise you will end up with some finished paintings like I have experienced: a great finish, but it doesn’t fit the rest of the painting.
January DEAR ERIC COLUMN
1-1-17 January (PDF)
Why did you choose Venice for your 2017 foreign workshop? Gail from Chicago.
I don’t know where to begin, as Venice offers a plethora of painting material, sightseeing, and historical opportunities:
First off, Venice is just plain unbelievable- it is like a real life movie set. It is surreal. There is simply no other place like it! The visual stimuli has it all for the watercolorist: canals with water taxis and gondolas, beautiful sunsets splashing a kaleidoscope of color against Venetian façades, merchants plying their wares. The city has a quiet, yet magical, atmosphere as there are no roads, only canals.
There is no end to painting material of courtyards, markets, and of the Venetian light reflecting off the ancient architectural to the canals below just outside our motel, a beautifully remodeled four star hotel. Historically, we will relive and paint the same subject material that so many famous artists painted, such as John Singer Sargent.
The sites offer a once in a lifetime opportunity: the incredible Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs, evening concerts in St. Marks Square and St Mark’s Cathedral (what a subject to paint!), the famous Rialto Bridge. Visit the many museums to see original paintings by Titan, Tiepolo, and other famous artists, or see the contemporary paintings at the Guggenheim museum. Take a water taxi and visit the unique islands of Murano, known for its glass making, and Burano for its lace, and so much more.
The food: unbelievable Italian cuisine. Need I say more? The sights and smells of Italian culture will all come together in the unique plein air painting adventure at Venice.
February DEAR ERIC COLUMN
2-1-17 February (PDF)
Karen from Florida shared her disappointment with a batch of 140 lb cold pressed paper and continued:
…Well, I set up my easel, did my drawing, and when I put down my first stroke, the paint sat on top of the paper as if it was coated in wax. I had to “lick” the paper, as you warn us not to do, in order to get the paper to absorb the paint. Once it dried, which was very fast, there was a weird texture to the wash that looked like it had been sanded down. Someone thought perhaps the sizing had gone bad. Can that happen? Can it be prevented? Has this ever happened to you?
I wondered what a professional such as yourself would have done. Are there other brands of paper you recommend? Thank you for your help!
There have been times, though rare, when a sheet of Watercolor paper seems to have been improperly sized by the manufacturer. I can think of one time when a prominent company decided to change the formula of its sizing – I think it was because of too many complaints about it giving off an unpleasant odor when dampened. This was not problem with the quality of the paper; it was a result of bacteria in the air reacting with the sizing- and I unfortunately received a package of poorly sized paper. The retailer who sold me the paper gladly substituted another and I was happy.
Once in a while, I will receive a sheet of paper that just doesn’t seem to respond well; it may cause me to “lick” the paper unnecessarily, or it may behave like a blotter. I don’t struggle with it at all- I immediately get rid of it and pull out a new sheet. Painting is hard enough without a defective sheet of paper.
However, paper that is stored for a long time against a contaminating substance, such as cardboard, wood, or exposed to compromising elements as in a garage, can be damaged and not be as responsive as it should be. I have also seen students with pock marks on their clean washes, and I suspect lotion from their hands was transferred.
As far as a recommendation, I feel there are many great papers being manufactured. The main thing I look for is that it is archival. Traditionally “rag”, meaning that it has been made from %100 cotton, was the preferred paper. However, there are some contemporary ones that are not rag but still archival that gives beautiful results, such as Masa and Yupo.
I do, however, recommend staying away from the less expensive spiral bound watercolor tablets- they may say “archival” or “acid-free”- but will lead to inferior results. The monetary savings are not worth the frustration. So often I have seen students frustrated with their insipid paintings, only to be told they need better paper.
March DEAR ERIC COLUMN
3-1-17 March (PDF)