My tenth acceptance in the 30th National Transparent Watercolor Society of America exhibition, held in Elmhurst, IL at the Elmhurst Art Museum earned Master status for me this year. This is a very select group of signature members who get this honor and I am very proud of this unique distinction.
painting is to be included in the 33rd Annual Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition held annually at the Foothils Art Center in Golden, CO. The exhibition opens on September 15th and runs thru November 5th, 2006.
Still another watercolor painting is to be included in the 13th Annual Maritime Art Exhibition held at the Coos Bay Art Museum in Coos Bay, OR. The exhibition will open July 21st and runs thru September 23, 2006.
Several paintings will be included
in a new book being compiled by the oldest art group in the county, Chicago
Society of Artists. This book will commemorate the groups 115 years of existence.
Sergei Bongart (1919-1985)
In 1930s, Sergei lost his mother to the great famine. His father was a member
of the elite and a champion Olympic gymnast. His father loved art and encouraged his son to study
at the famous Kiev Academy of Arts and later in Prague, Munich. But sometime in the 1940s his
father was arrested by the KGB and tortured for over six months. He died shortly after his released.
It was unknown exactly what the father died of, but Sergei died at the age of 66 from a rare inherited
Sergei immigrated to the US and established himself as a teacher operating the Sergei Bongart School of Art in Los Angeles, CA and also in Rexburg, ID. I heard about this fine artist in the 1970s while attending a luncheon at one of my neighbors. It seems a relative of the neighbor studied under Mr. Bongart in Rexburg, and my neighbors had paintings done by their relative under the tutelage of Sergei. I was very impressed with the paintings and given a book on loan about the artist.
In 1980 I read an article about Sergei in an art magazine. The article made mention that he was ill but still painting. In the article Sergei is quoted as saying ...his priorities were drawing, value, color and passion. He said, ...he liked to use three or four colors to achieve one. As in music, you could develop a chord. Instead of a one-note melody, good color should ring like a bell.
Of the many students he taught, they all have fond memories of him. He exuded energy and made you want to paint. His critiques were very harsh, and almost but surely eliminated would-be artists. He was always driving for perfection.
Donald Teague, NA
Donald Teague, NA, AWS, NAWA (1897-1991)
I remember the first time I saw a Donald Teague watercolor, and I have never forgotten that painting. It was alive with beautiful dark passages that were filled with lots of color. That painting, with title, "Facade" was selected for the Gold Medal of Honor at the American Watercolor Society. He said that on one of his many trips to Spain, he was returning to his hotel when he noticed a black silhouette created by shadows of ironwork thrown across the face of
an almost-white wall. He made a sketch of it and took a photograph of it the next morning. During the next two years he made more than 150 sketches of that wall, some of them no more than four by five inches.
When he finally settled on what was
to be the final idea, he made another sketch with a felt tip pen. In the process, he put some
figures on the balcony, and enlarging the width of the work to include another balcony
and more figures. The feeling of tension and mystery is clearly evident of Teague's fascination
with the effects of light and shade. Color is always secondary to chiaroscuro in a Teague
painting. He starts every painting with the strong dark areas first, and that this method
preserves more of the sparkle of the white paper and requires fewer middle values. Next
comes the sky, middleground, and foreground, in that order, trying to complete each
area while it is still slightly damp. He would leave his painting to dry overnight, and
put the details in the next day.
His work has always been the
subject matter that gave it a special identity, and that was its foreign subject matter.
He worked his way across Europe in his early twenties with just a sketchbook and those
sketches were the source material for his later paintings.
In 1958, Collier's ceased publication, and
Teague decided to concentrate on painting landscapes in watercolor.
Donald Teague believed that painting was a
shared communication that demanded something from the viewer. He is quoted as saying, "suggestion is
the thing. If everything is spelled out, physically perfect and completely understood by all, then the
viewer has nothing to add or participate in, and the collaboration, to a great extent, is lost."
Subtlety is evident in every Teague painting. The
watercolor medium is subtle in its nature, it comes from the artist's insistence that content is of
primary importance. He also believed that content must be completely original. He was known to have
destroyed all the quick sketches after using them to avoid repeating himself in a future painting.
For Teague, the best work comes from acute
observation, originality of approach, good solid thought, and, most importantly, an intense emotional
To Teague, painting was a form of narrative. In his own words, Teague worked "to discover something worth seeing, to call the attention of those who looked at his paintings to sights missed or unrealized." To this end, one finds in Teague's works a master's subtlety, a rare artist who sought not to overpower his audience, but rather to invite his viewers in to his compositions, to a calmer and less hurried place.
Donald Teague died in 1991.
I get a lot of questions about critiquing your own work. Here is some advice to anyone who wants to be objective about their paintings.
When I finish a painting, I love it. Then sometime later, I begin to see all the mistakes, and I wonder if I should give up painting. I sometimes ask myself, "why do I keep painting when I hate my own work?" You might he surprised to know that this perception is common to most professional artists. It usually takes one day for dissatisfaction to set in. Sometimes it takes longer for my discontentment to appear.
Why are we so critical of our own work? And why do we allow our flaws and mistakes real and imagined to stop us from doing what we love to do? It's perfectionism, pure and simple.
Perfectionism is our greatest asset, as well as our heaviest burden. The quest to be perfect drives us to produce stronger and better work. It keeps us from being complacent and lazy. However, it also makes us focus on flaws. At its worst, perfectionism immobilizes us and denies us the joy of creating art.
Consider the source
Perfectionism exists partly because being an artist is such a public vocation.
Get over it
Keeping perfectionism in check is a constant challenge for many of us. Fortunately, many artists have found productive ways to cope with the situation. I've listed a few in here for you to consider.
Focus on the journey
Painting is a craft as well as an art. Like every craft, it takes time and effort to become a master. There will be times when it feels great and times when its totally frustrating. Remember, even a master has more to learn, and learning is never comfortable. So be patient with yourself, and dont let perfectionism get in your way. Focus on the process and remember to enjoy the act of painting because then it wont matter that your paintings arent perfect.
1. Be patient with yourself
If you planted a flower and it didnt produce a flower the first year, you wouldnt yell at it, pound on it and pull it out of the ground. You would understand that growth takes time. It is the same with art. You must give yourself time to develop. If youre committed to improving your art and if you keep painting, you will get better. All you can do is your best and trust that, like the flower your art too, will grow.
2. Be honest about your own work
Most of us are honest about what doesnt work in our paintings, but we ignore what is good. Acknowledge yourself for what you accomplish in every painting, even if it was only having the courage to try another one. Being honest does not mean being complacent. You still want to push toward greater expertise, but recognize and acknowledge your progress along the way.
3. Distance yourself from your work
Allow a newly completed piece to rest for a time before you sign and frame it. Its impossible to see the work objectively when you first finish it. Your mind is still filled with your working vision of the piece. To overcome this problem, turn the piece to the wall or stick it in the closet for a few days or a few weeks. When you view it again, your perception will be much clearer.
Note: If you only value the painting and not the process, you might as well be working in a corporation. Thats the way corporations think, and its what makes creativity dry up.
4. Dont compare your art to anyone elses
You have to remind yourself that you may be good at some things but other artists may be more competent at other things. No artist is better than any other; some are simply more accomplished.
5. Find objective critics
We always have trouble judging our own work realistically, so it helps to keep at least one objective critic around. It can be another artist or simply someone with a good eye.
6. Work towards a vision
When you start a new painting, take time to think about what you want this painting to say to your viewers. After I finish the painting, if it has captured that relationship, then its successful, no matter what else does or doesnt work. In your paintings, it might be a scene, a mood or a color relationship youre trying to achieve. Try to visualize it before you begin. It will help you assess your level of success more clearly when you finish. As an alternative, make a list of the components that you think make up a good painting. It may include balanced composition, harmonious color, accurate perspective, interesting surface texture, realistic anatomy, whatever is important to you. I keep such a list handy in my studio. Then whenever you finish a painting, pull out your list and use it as a guide to objectively evaluate the painting.
7. Choose one problem at a time to solve in your art
Are you having trouble drawing rocks? Painting realistic trees? Capturing three-dimensional space? Choose one problem youre having in your own work. Read about it, study other great paintings and continue to focus primarily on that one aspect of your work until you master it.
8. Break out of your comfort zone
Don't forget that each painting is part of the process of being an artist. The work is part of a process constantly in flux and growth. Your ideas, styles and skills are always changing. Part of this growth process means trying new things. Whenever you break away from what is familiar, you will feel uncomfortable. It feels like youre doing something wrong. Keep reminding yourself it is all part of the process.
9. Enjoy the act of painting
I get great joy out of mixing colors, putting those colors onto my blank sheet of watercolor paper and watching something appear where nothing was before. That is one of the reasons I became an artist. Its not the finished picture, but the act of painting that makes the true joy. For me, the act of painting is magic and I feel privileged to be a part of that.
Watercolor and more
NOTE: Please click on the Artists Links under Resources below
for additional information on Frida Kahlo and Donald Teague.
New!!! Masking fluid that is easily removed even when dried with
a hair dryer. For years I have been using my own masking fluid for saving the whites of my paper.
I am making it available for purchase to the public. It has the ability to be thinned and
leaves no dark shadows on the edges like all other masking fluid that is available today.
Don't forget my custom slide
labels for entering competitions, jurying purposes or anything else
you need professional looking slides to make a presentation. These thin
labels fill the complete slide and will not jam a projector.
That's all for this edition of
The artists, museums, and paintings listed above have links
to view more information. Please click on the Artists
Links below under Resources. Check out the Watercolor FAQs and
Resources Links, as there is a lot of information on watercolor painting.
I hope you've found this newsletter
informative and helpful. If you have questions, please let me know. I'd
also be happy to address them in future issues! Future issues will take
a look at Sergei Bongart, and other artists.
Tell your friends! I invite and
encourage your feedback. Won't you please sign my guestbook?
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What's New Issue 5a - 8/1/09