Paintings by Dianne Mize

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Moth Four: Palette Selection

I can't just assume the palette of colors for this painting will be the same as the other three:  each piece calls for it's own combination of colors.  So here's my setup for discovering how I will begin with color:

On the left is my computer monitor; on the right, my watercolor palette.  On the big easel in the back is my sketchbook with the initial studies for the painting, and on the watercolor easel in front is the painting-to-be.  Sitting at the top is a watercolor block where I worked out the color. 

I began by responding to the colors I saw in the resource photograph on the computer monitor and from there began to intuitively explore combinations until I came up with a set of colors that feels right.  On the right side of the watercolor block is my initial exploration; on the left the colors I finally came up with and at the bottom some combinations these colors will yield.

So the palette begins with Antwerp blue, quinacridone violet and quinacridone burnt orange.  The process is slow.  I do a lot of pacing back and forth, etching the reference in my brain and moving slowing towards getting the paint slinging going.

Enjoy your Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fourth Moth Painting: Ready to Go

It is important that I'm able to clearly distinguish edges when first applying watercolor paint.  The water tends to dissolve pencil lines so that if they are not dark enough before beginning to paint, one can easily lose the intended image.  The direction of lines in this painting are crucial because they all vanish to where the left wing connects the moth's body, so this morning I spent considerable time and effort refining the drawing and darkening edges.
I'm satisfied with the preliminary drawing now.  The painting process is ready to begin.
Enjoy your Tuesday,

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Prep Work for New Painting

I bet some of you saw this coming:  I've always been fascinated with the golden section and Fibonacci numbers and all the mysteries implied in both.  This painting feels like one calling for working within the golden section principle.

I'm not one to do a lot of mathematical or scientific calculation;  it's not the math that fascinates me, but the patterns math discovers and how they continue to repeat themselves in nature.

To avoid mathematical calculation, one way to easily set up for a golden section pattern is the rule of thirds, meaning the painting gets set up by placing the image within divisions of thirds.   Here I sectioned my watercolor paper into a grid of thirds, nine blocks.
Grid placed on watercolor paper    20" x 28"
At the intersection of each vertical and horizontal line is the most visually pleasing area of the shape, very close to the golden section.  I notice in the vantage point of my photo reference that all major lines vanish where the left wing connects the moth's body.  I chose this as my center of interest, placing it at the upper left intersection.  By placing a corresponding grid over the computer monitor, I can easily see how the placement of the moth will fit into the entire page.  

Using this as my point of departure, I did a quick gesture drawing to set up the preliminary drawing on the paper.
Gesture drawing placing preliminary image on the paper.     

That's where I am right now.   Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Moth Series (So Far)

This morning I put the three moth paintings on my easel and stood back to get some notion of what this is all about.  There's no question in my mind that these paintings are connected to Howard whose death (as most of you know) was eight months ago.  Howard's lifetime hero was Homer, his works and his attitude about the heroes of these works.  

In Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey, is the account of Odysseus' encounter with Polyphemus, the Cyclops.  You know the story.  This particular moth--who chose to attach herself to my porch screen to lay her eggs before dying--is a Polyphemus, having been named for the Cyclops because of the large eye-like patterns on her wings.

Remember, I discovered while researching moths that their flight patterns follow celestial navigation and it was only after I'd set up a system using that principle to create a spiral pattern to establish a vanishing point that I was able to do a satisfactory drawing of the third painting.   

The completion of this painting is where I am at the moment while a fourth view of the same moth has now captured my attention.

I'm now doing gesture drawings, trying to discover the movement pattern of this particular view.  I'm thinking this will be the largest of all the paintings.  Each has grown progressively larger as the series has progressed. 
Perhaps I will post some of the studies tomorrow.  So many of you have emailed and commented on Facebook  about how you've enjoyed watching the third painting emerge that I've decided to share the evolving of this one as well.
Once again, stay tuned.
And enjoy your Friday.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Finale: Polyphemus Painting

I think the moth painting is finished.  In fact, there are several of the earlier phases that might have been called finished, but that's how it goes with painting.  The trick is to stop before it gets overlystated.  I like stopping slightly understating, but what seems an understatement to me might come off as an overstatement to a viewer.

Polyphemus     20" x 22"  Watercolor on Paper
I remember in an art show back in the late 60's, seeing a painting whose entire content was a handwritten message:  "Say Everything Completely."  I remember thinking, Chopin never did that, Shakespeare never did that, Rembrandt never did that.  We complete a work, then leave it to tell its audience what it's all about.  A good painting never says everything completely.

Enjoy your Saturday.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Third Phase: Polyphemus Painting

Okay, so I'll get there eventually, but there's lots of pacing the floor and eyeballing in between each set of paint strokes.  Watercolor tends to be a pain you-know-where anyway;  if you don't allow it to lead, it will go muddy and dull and the piece will look tired.  So keeping the colors spontaneous and fresh is always a part of managing the medium.

But the third phase of the painting is now in place:
Phase three of Polyphemus   Watercolor on paper
This included gradual build up of where darker areas will be plus find the color temperature that best translates how I feel about the subject.  I'm assuming that the next phase will finish the painting.  We'll see.

Have a good Thursday.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Phase Two: Polyphemus Painting

This painting is emerging more slowly than my normal pace of working.  I am now in what I think of as "the second phase,"  where, with the approach I'm using in watercolor painting, the subject gets constructed in a composition of out of focus shapes.  During this phase, the light patterns and overall temperature of colors get established.

Second phase of new moth painting        Watercolor on paper
Enjoy your Saturday.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just A Beginning

I know it's risky, but I've decided to share with you a play-by-play of the developing moth painting (watercolor).  It's risky because I want to avoid this being a demonstration painting, so many of which I've done during my teaching years.  Rather, I want it to guide me to where it wants to go.  Knowing I have an audience could affect that.  So, we'll see if this works.

First phase of watercolor painting--the underpainting
First, after studying the colors in the moth photo and coming up with a selection with which to begin the painting, I realized the palette is what I call the north-south-ease-west palette:  two sets of complementary colors.  If they are plotted opposite each other, a violet and a yellow are set in the north and south position; an orange and a blue are set in the east west position.  It's just an easy way to set up a limited palette with potential for a broad range of colors.  What catches my attention is that this directional palette emerged to do a painting set up according to the celestial navigation principal.  Okay, so I'm getting too involved here.

Perhaps, it's best to stop the chatter and get back to work.

Enjoy this Thursday,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I'm taking a risk.  I know myself well enough to know that if I talk too much about a painting while it's germinating, I tend to stall the brush-pushing part.  I want to be careful not to create expectations that might sneak into the process and distort where a painting might go.  But this time, I'm going to take that risk and to share with you something I discovered.

I've not been able to let go of the moth theme since this Polyphemus moth chose my screen porch to lay her eggs and then die.  I photographed her at least twice before that happened.  This particular viewpoint has been in the back of my mind all summer.

Drawing after drawing failed to even get close to whatever's grabbing my attention.  So on a whelm, I googled "polyphemus" and discovered that moths tend to use celestial navigation.  I had earlier noticed the pattern of striations on the moth's wings, all seeming to lean toward her head, but when I went back to take a closer look, I found that they were all leaning to a point above the head.  Linear perspective calls such a convergence a vanishing point.

Prep drawing for watercolor painting  22" x 22"
Nature uses repetitions of patterns everywhere, so just for fun, using the celestial navigation principle, I drew a sphere with lines vanishing to a single point, like the navel of an orange.  Then I drew the moth within that sphere, placeing it slightly below the navel, allow its striations to follow that point.  Joila.  I did a larger version on watercolor paper where the painting will evolve.

That's where I am now and that's why I've been so quiet.

Enjoy your Tuesday.

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's All In How We Allow Ourselves To See

You already know that every morning when it's not raining, I take my portable painting gear out to the deck and do little studies of our woods.  You'd think I'd grow tired of this:  same trees, same foliage, same time of day.  But not once has it failed to be a new experience, something new discovered about the light, about the temperature of the colors, and my painting process.

I know artists who think once you've painted a thing, it's time to move onto something else. They seem to think that the subject is a prop of some kind, giving them material to paint, but not inherently important.  I don't agree at all:  I think the subject is ours to discover, that it is within that process of discovery that we find ourselves, that we can come upon an infinite array of the universe's mysteries and uncover our relationship to them.

It's the open-endedness that continues to be intriguing.  The more we learn, the more we realize there's so much more to be learned.

Have a wonderful Friday.