First steps: Spectators 30

For my first paintings, I decided to push the Spectators series a little further. They were always about maximalism in their own way, but since I had moved the series to watercolor (and therefore applied the ethereal qualities to the images), I had been restricted to smaller images due to the size limitations of available paper. Now, for the watercolorists out there, before you tell me about rolls of watercolor paper (which I have a number of), I should note that I work almost exclusively on 300 lb. paper. I really get that painting WET. I need a paper at a weight simply too heavy to roll.

Fortunately, I had some old stock Arches 300 lb. cold-press at about 42”x 60”. This will do the trick, even if I have to use the back of some sheets. It’s not the 6’ canvases, but it’s more than enough to dramatically open the angle up to accommodate larger sets of figures.

There is a risk though. Whereas the Spectator’s series in acrylic is big, sloppy, goopy, and smeary, the watercolor Spectators are more intimate, which may work better for the ethereal quality it provides. Can too much ethereal lose its other-worldliness? Is the grand gesture of a large image too overwhelming for the delicate nuance of the medium? Or, could it just be that the interplay between pattern and the figurative becomes too lopsided for the home team? I believe that typically the larger image is more inclined to expose its flatness which could certainly destroy the uniqueness of any given area to the overall, flatter, whole.

Since I do not know how this will ultimately be displayed, it’s best to keep the paper presentable in the event that it’s unappealing or just too costly to have it matted and framed. Frankly, I couldn’t afford to have this framed anyway, but better to plan ahead just in case.

So I’ve taped off the outer edge of the work area. Taping only seems to work half of the time no matter how detailed you are. When paint seeps into the border area, there’s no option but the mat. Tape and voodoo sticks, then hope.

I mapped the sheet out into a set of 6 squares by 9 squares. Just like the subject matter of spectators and the relation of the singular to the whole, I’ll be working on this one small image at a time. I had originally thought to actually grid the sheet off with white crayon so that the grid remained prominent, but had a change of heart. I don’t know why I make every choice that I do, so there it is.

The next step was to plan my white areas out on the paper. I rarely do any pencil work these days and go straight in with paint or friskit, but due to the scale of this image, I decided to be a little more cautious and mark the areas out that will be preserved for the white paper in the final painting. Due to the subject matter (large assembled crowds), I should note that without gridding the surface off, this step, and most subsequent steps, would literally be impossible. Go geometry.

Spiral 5

Spiral 5

Spiral 5, Watercolor on Arches, 22″ x 30″

Spiral 4

Spiral 4

Spiral 4, Watercolor on Arches, 22″x30″

Spiral 3

Spiral 3

Spiral 3, Watercolor on Arches, 22″x30″

These spiral images were produced last summer during my first Baltimore stay at Maryland Institute. These are the last watercolors I have produced as of this writing. I really liked them for their expressive immediacy, and may want to return to this series. At any rate, I had to pull together some of these for an upcoming show, which forced me to frame them and make them presentable. Glad I did as it reminded me of where I was at the time I made them and has motivated me to continue exploring this series.

Spiral 2

Spiral 2

Spiral 2, Watercolor on Arches, 22″ x 30″

Spiral 1

Spiral 1: B-flat

Spiral 1: B-flat, Watercolor on Paper, 42″ x 66″


This is a piece I wrapped up last week, a little different from what I’ve been working on and not something I have plans to continue into a series. This was more of an exercise and I’m glad I did it.

I started with a large sheet of polyester, about 32-ish by 40-ish, and picking a spot began scribbling a tight knit line, switching colors as I went. It was meant to be a meditative process through repetition balanced with a need for slight spontaneous variation. The paper produced a measurable goal to work within, a defined space that would slowly get filled until covered. Initially I thought this would be cool to focus and complete in a sitting. It ended up taking four days.

The repetitive lines are broken up here and there with blotches of watercolor that actually dripped from my brush while positioning myself. I left them on there as artifacts of the process. They added a little variety to the surface.

It does not translate well to the screen because it is a fairly large piece, but here’s a detail including one of the accidental blotches.

Signature Detail