Learning to See: Breaks and Stepping Back
Sometimes, you need to take a moment to assess yourself. Working on the Albert Bierstadt “California Spring” I realized that I had become overwhelmed by the project I had undertaken, and I was making mistakes and I didn’t know what to do.
So I stepped back. I grabbed a Bob Ross video from youtube and followed along with him, teaching myself the finer points of the Clip Studio program and color mixing. I came to a couple of ah-ha moments during the hour long venture, too.
The first thing I realized was that I CAN do this. I think this is an important factor. I felt out of my league, working on something I had little practical experience in with a program that was nothing like the tools used on the painting. Part of the job of an artist is to understand what their tools are capable of and to do those studies within that limitation. I wouldn’t be able to do exactly perfect in watercolor, either, and since paint recipes have changed over the years, that would have an impact, too. So I had to let go of notions of perfection.
The second thing I noticed was that digital mixing was somewhat impractical. This actually takes from the first point: color recipes and results are different. I can find three different shades of Cobalt blue from three different brands, and they will also produce different results when mixing. The problem with digital is the array of choices I have. I can literally choose any color of blue I want. This isn’t to say digital mixing isn’t impossible (as I HAVE successfully done this) but that it really grates against my perfectionist mind. If I choose the wrong colors and don’t get the match I want, I have to choose colors again and again until I get the match. And this isn’t a temptation: it is mandatory for me. I have a hard time of letting go of minuscule details like that.
I have to work within the limits of the tools, and I have to keep my personality in mind. Since I know that I will stress myself out trying to get a perfect match because I know I have the tools to do so but just chose the wrong color palette…well I should just use the color picker and match colors that way. I have Acrylic Gouache and Watercolor to do physical mixing, so I will be hitting color mixing and color theory on two different levels. That is actually pretty cool.
The paints I have to practice with are cheap, Dollar store stuff. For the price, their are pretty decent. Since they are just for practice, I can replace them easily. Actually, despite being only a dollar (well, technically \100 but that is about the same thing) they have fairly good quality.
Despite my desire to reduce waste and pollutants, I have such a soft spot in my heart for traditional mediums. I do it more out of nostalgia than anything. Despite my frustrations with digital mixing, the skills did transfer easily to mixing my traditional paints. It was totally worth it and I plan to bounce back and forth between the two as I progress. I think that learning both traditional and digital mediums is important for an artist–not only for the skills, but for the broader range of experiences you can get.
So these studies have really returned my courage. I am going to get back to the Albert Bierstadt study. I know that I technically don’t have to do a 100% faithful study, but I think I will see how close I can get. If I take it in steps, I can get value, composition (both check-marked :) ) color, and digital technique all in one go. :)
(as a side note, the paints I used on the life studies are dead acrylic gouache. Some of the binding was lost, I have no way of making super dark colors, so I was FORCED to accept what I could get :)