I have been making watercolors for almost a year now.
I started by accident really. It was around my birthday and my friends Susanna and her sister Jane invited me to come to their place in Connecticut for a few days to hang out. My friend Linda came too. Jane even made me an incredible strawberry shortcake with whipped cream for my birthday cake. I finally began to relax after the grueling school year I had just had. It was a wonderful time.
Linda and Jane were cooking and Susanna and I sat in the back yard under a huge tree. There were stone steps down into the lake. We brought watercolors and spread them out on the ground. Susanna had a huge book of watercolors that she had been working on. They were marvelous to see. Very directly painted with some dry brush textures over luminous washes of color. They captured the motif of the lake but also carried the weight of the air. You could clearly see that the difference between the water and the air was just a question of a soft shift of color.
Susanna went for a swim and I started to make some paintings of my own. I have to say that I never liked watercolor and even when I had to do it in school, I was not very good at it. I had a very patient teacher, Donna Rae, who kept telling me that the medium was trying to teach me patience. I didn't know what she meant.
I soaked a bunch of paper in the lake. I could see Susanna swimming back and forth and was taken with the way she belonged to two places at the same time. The binaries kept flashing in my head: wet/dry, over/under, inside/outside and so on. I also thought a lot about the way the water was all around her and separate from the same time. I sat on the edge of the stone steps and put my legs in the water, watching the way the transparency of the water changed the color of my legs. I pulled some paper out of the water and started to paint on the wet paper.
Susanna came out of the lake and sat with me. We painted. We talked. Susanna has been a mentor to me since graduate school. I have learned more from her than I could ever say. That day, we talked about color and light. We talked about loss and losing. We talked about work and how to preserve your self and give to your students at the same time. We worked. She painted the motif in front her in luminous greys and humid yellows. I thought about the movement of a body in the water and how to shift the sense of weight in transparent waves. I remembered what Donna Rae was trying to teach me. I didn't realize I had learned.
I've made over 100 watercolors since that last time Susanna and I touched the water. I was able to show about half of them at the Hudson Opera House earlier this year. Because of its historic character, I wanted to have the pictures presented in a manner consistent with the venue. I went on a scavenger/treasure hunt for a variety vintage frames. I used some without glass so the viewer could experience the texture of the paper. I also included 4 free standing paintings in the show. One of them, you don't deserve me was from my Samsøn show years ago, but the other three were new. Their execution revealed some of the things that I had learned in the making of the water colors.