Returning to My Watercolor Roots

The medium of watercolor is the root – the foundation – of my painting career. It all began in the basement of my beloved late mother-in-law’s damp basement studio in central Illinois. It was the winter of 1987, and my husband and I were visiting from Minnesota. Emily Ann had gleaned over the previous 4 years that I had not participated in any art making for over 15 years. Since she was an amateur watercolor and oil painter, she decided it was time to prod that artistic vault open. It had been solidly sealed shut while I worked in corporate America.

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On the first day of our visit, Emily Ann gave me a few basic watercolor painting instructions and left me alone in her cramped painting area. She generously lent me her watercolor paints, brushes and paper, along with a reference postcard for me to attempt to copy.

carols_first_wcAfter a few hours, I surfaced from that chilly basement with the above painting. For the first time, I had experienced the pure joy of watching color flow off a brush and swim across the paper in water. Mixing color was fascinating (and frustrating!). I knew I was a duck happily swimming in water. My artistic vault now had a large crack in it.

The next day, my in-laws presented me with my first set of watercolor materials. As they say, “the rest is history,” and eons of stories. From 1989, I was dedicated to the medium of watercolor for the next 15 years. The thought of working in another medium never appealed to me until about 2000 when I started working in pastels. Then I quickly moved to oils in 2002.

Why is the title of this blog “Returning to My Watercolor Roots?”

I have been invited to deliver a program at the Pikes Peak Watercolor Society meeting this month at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs. The first challenge for me was finding my watercolor paints! Never one to toss or discard art materials (you never know when you might need them. LOL!), I had stored my paints in a location that was not crossing my memory bank. Frustrated but not deterred, I finally located them in a neat box on the top shelf of my storage closet.

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Updating My Mailing and Subscriber Lists

Hello Colorful Subscribers!

It is time for me to stream line all of you wonderful and loyal subscribers. In order to assure that the list is reliable and that you receive my colorful blog posts in a timely manner, I am re-configuring and consolidating my mailing lists.

moon and stream art

Because we are talking about streamlining, I had to include one of my paintings with a stream, don’t you think? :) “Lunar Glow,” 16 x 20 x 1.5 oil on panel Carol A. McIntyre (c)2013

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Thank you for your time and continued participation in my blogs. I look forward to hearing from you.

I love your comments and am always interested to hear of any questions you may have around the subject of color or “life as an artist,” as well as any topics you would like me to discuss.

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Watch a Custom Hand Portrait Develop

When I create a custom hand portrait painting – watch it develop here – I always begin with a thorough interview. After that initial step, I schedule a photo session. I take a photo of every conceivable angle, all the while keeping in mind what we discussed during the interview. commissioned hand portrait

I then draw 2 or 3 sketches that reflect the information I collected in the interview and approximate the final painting. The client chooses one or makes suggestions to develop the concept further. These sketches convey the hands of a chiropractor holding a model of vertebrae.

hand portrait commission

Which hands would you have chosen? It is a very personal decision, which is one reason why I love collaborating with people in transforming their inner visions onto canvas. This chiropractor wants his hands to convey his strength, his many years of experience and his ability to heal with compassion.

He chose Sketch #1, which is the one in the upper left hand corner.

Once the the color palette is decided upon, it is time to begin painting! After I have applied a few layers of gesso, which creates a semi-rough texture, I paint the underpainting colors.

custom hand portrait Next, I draw grid lines, see below, that will assist me in transferring the sketch of the doctor’s hands onto my panel. If you cannot see the grid lines, click the image for a larger view. They are more evident on the sketch visible to the left. I use charcoal to draw in the hands. custom hand portrait painting

Now the fun starts as I begin to develop the hands. I always use a blue-purple for establishing the form of the hands. Why? Because when purple and orange (most skin tones are orange based in hue) are mixed or layered, the result is a brown, not a yucky gray.

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“I am already an artist!” proclaimed the 5-year old

When Hunter’s mother was explaining to a friend that her 5-year old son wanted to be an artist, he immediately piped up and proclaimed, “I am ALREADY an artist!’ She was surprised to hear this emphatic statement and his passion about it.

Out of the mouths of babes and innocence comes authenticity and confidence. Don’t you love it?

I like this story because it made me reflect upon my first career proclamations. I know that it was not to be an artist. Most likely it was something related to an event or a professional that I had recently met or experienced such as a dancer or a teacher or a house builder.

I am an artist

Lisa, Hunter’s mother, told me this story a few days before my annual open studio event that I have every fall. She came to my studio on her own. After perusing my work and continuing our enjoyable conversation from a few days earlier, she decided she wanted to return with her son, now seven and a half years old. A couple of hours later, Lisa, Hunter, younger brother and dad all arrived.

Upon entering my studio Hunter looked up and around and stated, “This is awesome!” Wide-eyed he proceeded to look around, not just at my paintings but at many of the other studio items. He particularly liked the easel.

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Visiting Philadelphia as a Professional Artist

Soon I will be visiting Philadelphia for the first time in a couple of decades. Few people know that I grew up west of Philadelphia along the Main Line. I spent my “Wheaties” years there. In other words, ages 8-18. Then I headed back to the mid-west, where I was born, to attend Bradley University in Peoria, IL, and subsequently graduated from Indiana University with bachelor and master degrees. After Indiana, I struck out on my own for Minnesota and lived there for 26 years. Currently I reside along the Front Range of Colorado loving the weather and vistas as well as easy access to our remote mountain cabin.

Fro1954m a 7 year old’s perspective, the contrast from Iowa to Pennsylvania was a jolt. I remember my older siblings and I comparing various differences we experienced as we adjusted to our new surroundings. First, there was the funny Eastern accent. We could never quite stop laughing over the pronunciation of ‘water,’ which sounded like ‘wooddar’ to us. Then there was new vernacular to adjust to, such as: sneakers (tennis shoes), dungarees (jeans), teeter-totter (see-saw), etc., which made us scratch our heads. Of course, our new friends wanted to know about cowboys and Indians, and questioned whether we had in-door plumbing. And they could never remember we were from Iowa and not Ohio.

What the east offered that I could not have had if we had stayed in small-town Iowa, was diversity, history and cultural opportunities. For this I am forever grateful.

A train runs for over 30 miles straight west of Philadelphia to Paoli, out through the areas where we lived. (My father took this train into work every day.) Periodically, my mother would take us into the big city on this train. I loved taking the train because I could view parts of the world I could not see from a highway or a car. I also adored the rhythm of the train and the people watching.

One of my favorite places to visit in Philadelphia was the Philadelphia Art Museum. It sits majestically up on a hill towering over the Schuylkill River (Schuylkill is a great spelling-bee word). It always reminds me of a Greek-like Pantheon. visiting philadelphia as an artist We visited all of the historical sites, such as Betsy Ross’s home, Liberty Bell, and Constitution Hall. Musical events took us to see the Philadelphia Orchestra (I saw the world renowned Leonard Bernstein conduct) were also included. On one New Year’s Day we even went to the Mummers Parade. How many of you know what that is? :)

I cherish those cultural excursions and know that I have benefited from the mixture of a mid-west and eastern upbringing. This week I will be returning to Philadelphia from my 45th high school re-union. Do I dare admit to that? LOL! Fortunately, I will be staying with a high school friend who lives in downtown Philly and will not be out in the corn fields where my high school is. I am sure the corn fields are now full of homes and commercial properties.

This will be my first time visiting Philadelphia as a professional artist. There are so many places I want to explore, and we must not forget all of the flavorful ethnic eateries to inhale.

The Rodin Museum is just down the street from the Philadelphia Art Museum, and The Barnes Foundation has a new downtown location. carol mcintyre The Barnes holds one of the finest collections of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Chaim Soutine , as well as American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin and Maurice Prendergast, Old Master paintings, important examples of African sculpture and Native American ceramics, jewelry and textiles. Unfortunately, women artists are not well represented at the Barnes.

There are also exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which was the first art school that allowed women to attend life drawing classes in the 1800’s. While in high school, I took the train downtown for a summer sculpture class at the Moore College of Art & Design and will make a point to see the contemporary art exhibit that is currently on display.

With only three days to peruse the city, it will be a challenge to pick the candy I will want to taste. There are many more enriching sites beyond what I have mentioned. I hope to also visit some contemporary art galleries. It is always interesting to see how the art can vary from one region of the country to the other.

As I wander down memory lane and re-connect with old high school mates, I will be reflecting upon how these visits to Philadelphia as a youngster, impacted my journey as an artist.

if you are an artist, where would you visit in Philadelphia? How do you approach cultural areas you will soon visit? How do you decide which ones to experience?

Sew Your Own Painting Carrier & Make Life Easier!

We artists fully understand the word “schlepping” as we carry our paintings from one venue to another. Most painting carriers are too stiff or just don’t work for us for a number of different reasons.

Carrying your paintings is often a challenge because it is not easy to transport our treasures and to do so carefully. Our paintings are fragile and easily damaged.

painting carrier

When I carry my paintings in for a delivery at a show or a gallery, artists often ask me about my painting carrier – “Where did you get this?” “Can I take a photo?” “I want to make one.”

Curiosity it one of my top values. Throughout my life I have always scanned my world. Often I come upon images, objects, vistas, books, articles, etc., that catch my eye and I integrate them into my life or I share them with others. In this case, my beloved, late mother-in-law found something for me. She showed me a painting carrier that a small country library – Rolling Prairie Libraries – in central Illinois used. Back in the 1980’s this library loaned out framed prints to their patrons. She wondered if I would like to have some of their painting carriers as they were no longer offering this service. I grabbed them happily.

carrying your paintingsThey are made out of a light canvas and were getting dirty the more I used them. I also wanted different sizes. Below you can see several in my storage bin. These are of various lengths and depths though this is not obvious in the photo.

Never deterred and having sewed since I was 5 years old, I developed a pattern to sew several for schlepping my paintings. I chose different sizes that met my needs. painting carrierpainting carrier

My favorite and most frequently used carrying case is 28″deep x 36″ wide. I use a sturdy rain repellent fabric. Black and blue nylon fabric are my most commonly used fabrics.

painting carrier

Directions for Sewing Your Painting Carrier:

1. Cut out a piece of medium weight sturdy fabric approximately 56″ long by 36″.

2. With a contrasting marker, indicate the center of the fabric on the shorter ends.

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