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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Watercoloring Under the Influence

Porta San Donato, Lucca
Old Enough to Be Bold

Between one obligation and another, not to mention unforeseen work distractions, I haven’t been outside working for a while. What oil painting I’ve been doing has been in the studio. As the weather has gotten lovely, and the distractions fade, I’ve been making up for lost time. Watercolor pencils have allowed me to get some of my own work done while on academic travel; they’ve also made watercoloring generally feel less precious. My first plein air oil was done in Rome a couple of weeks ago, and in the last two weeks I’ve drawn and watercolored around Lucca.

I’m sure that my oscillating between art and architecture has been of mutual benefit to each; the same for watercolor and oil painting. But since my introduction to watercolor, and working out of doors generally, was in the context of my architectural studies (under the remarkable Frank Montana), and I’ve developed a body of work rendering my architectural designs (both real and theoretical), I’ve tended to see plein air watercoloring as somehow related to the literalness that rendering demands. Now, as I feel less obliged to see watercolor as an extension of architecture, and my oil painting en plein air has been done in shorter blocks of time, I feel more at liberty to paint in watercolor; a felicitous experience on the Aventine a few years ago opened me up to a Sargent-like manner without imitating him. And maybe I don’t feel as much like each plein air has to be an exhibit-able (or saleable) work. Not to mention that a judicious use of gouache has taken some of the pressure off of not being able to add lights to dark areas of color. So yesterday’s watercolor outside the walls of Lucca was deliberately a more painterly exercise than it might have been several years ago. And while I have some regrets, it was generally more fun than watercolor often was in the past. All of this is part of the upsides of getting older.

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