October is one intense month of color studies.
I never make it. That is, I never manage to paint all that I see, as each day offers such an abundance of inspiration. But every year, my efforts yield a new harvest.
In nature as in life, everything is constantly changing; we know that, though it is not always apparent. In spring, the color of some foliage appears with a tart yellow green that evolves to a deep rusty green in the fall. This is so progressive that we hardly notice it. Not so in October, where every day is a new festival of tantalizing color combinations, unmistakably changing.
As I am currently working in a bigger format of 22 x 30 inches, each sketch will take more time than would a smaller size. So I had to proceed quite rapidly from one to the other, chasing the fleeting light and color combinations before they disappeared.
And now, while everything is still fresh in my memory, I am completing them. Doing so, I am striving ahead into new territory, though this too, is not yet noticeable.
Louise Jalbert, “The Cherry Tree in October”, 2018, Gouache on paper, 30 x 22 inches.
Louise Jalbert, “Late September in the Garden”, 2018, Sketch, Gouache on paper, 22 x 30 inches
I often dream of colors, those colors I have worked with during the day and that keep going in my mind while I sleep.
Such dreams are nice but usually vague and disappear quickly from my memory. This time, it was different: the image was vivid and so was the context. I wasn’t bathing in the yellow and green colors I am using these days, and I could clearly see myself in the act of painting.
I thought I should immediately do this painting, as close as I could, to see what it looks like in reality. The result was surprising; first, because it is very close to my dream, and second because, while I was painting it, other images associated with it came along, which connected some dots.
The first are the “”Night Paintings by American painter Lynette Lombard I had seen while visiting New York last year:
The second, and more obvious to me, is that of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, that I went to see again in Paris, a year ago. I don’t mean to compare myself to the father of Impressionism, but I do acknowledge the influence he has had on me since my college days when I discovered his art and that if his contemporaries while studying Art History.
There is much in Monet’s art that can touch and stimulate me: his absorption in the landscape, his study of colors and light, and towards the end of his life, his magnificent Water Lilies. A culmination of his life’s work, compounding everything he had learned and experienced, these powerful compositions invite us into a field of color and emotions. At a time where I am aiming to broaden the scope of my work, his example is not only impressive but certainly inspiring.
Louise Jalbert, “Dream in Blue”, 2018, Gouache on paper, 22 x 30 inches
While completing the watercolors, I mentioned my intention to start a new body of work with a change of scale.
A change of scale is one way to step into new territory, allowing new possibilities. A change of technique or subject can help too. The direction I am giving myself is to expand my work on color and space. Since I work rather intuitively, I cannot foresee exactly how things will unfold but the intention is clear.
Above is a 22 x 30 in. gouache on paper. That’s the maximum size I used in watercolor. I am aiming for 30 x 36 or 36 x 48 in. canvases, a larger format, big enough to broaden my horizons. Gouache is great for color sketching and close in rendering to the acrylics I will use on canvas.
With this comes a change of pace. I am slower because I am developing new ideas. The field of possibilities, the unknown, the challenges make me reflect deeper on what and how I want to paint in this desire for expansion.
This is a fundamental question, one that is always latent, but in a transition period, it gets a new impetus every time.
I am still working outside
as much as possible, to sharpen and deepen my color and space perception.
Louise Jalbert, “Sunset light in bushes”, 2018, Gouache on paper, 22 x 30 inches
It’s been a good week. The collector came back and chose 3 watercolors to bring as gifts when she visits family in Slovakia next week. I delivered a small drawing that was sold in July; the owner proudly showed me how it will be hung in good company.
Selling my art to people is an exchange that fosters relationships and I enjoy the interaction. The work I have done in the studio on a very personal level gains a new dimension by becoming part of somebody else’s environment. In the collector’s home, it starts another story. In the course of the last three weeks, I have completed several watercolors, and painted some new ones.
They are now photographed and ready for another exhibition. This is a good place to stretch out into another body of work.
I am thinking of a change of scale. Start with that, see what happens, and of course, keep you posted.
Louise Jalbert, “Small Branch and Foliage”, respectively no 2, no 1 and no 3, 2018, Watercolor on paper, 5 x 7 inches. No 2 and 3 sold.
Louise Jalbert, “Summer Foliage”, 2018, Watercolor on paper, 5 x 7 inches
Painting outside is a good exercise in flexibility; it allows me to warm up my skills, as we do with our body before exercise.That’s partly because it requires physical action, as I often have to move, following the change of light, of weather, or setting. Not to mention the frequent going inside and coming outside dictated by rain or shine. So while dexterity is being practiced, now is a good time to get back to some unfinished watercolors that were put aside in the fall.
Meanwhile a collector came to visit, looking for new work to buy, fueling my resolve.
Within a week or two, these watercolors will be completed. Then I will have them photographed and add the new images on my website.
And in a few more weeks, I will take the studio back inside, to gather what I have collected outside.
But not yet. Now summer is still on, and there is always plenty to do outside.
Louise Jalbert, “Different Watercolors”, 2017-2018, 7 x 11 and 10 x 15 inches, Moleskin Watercolor Sketchbook, 8.5 x 23 inches
…since I started this newsletter, and what an incredible experience this has been!
It all started with the above drawing and the desire to bring you a weekly moment of delight. It turned out to be a mutually rewarding experience, fed by your response and willingness to follow me on a journey about the meaning and process of creating art.
I am deeply grateful to each of you for being there, reading, sharing, even warmly responding. Your comments rejoiced and inspired me.
Special thanks to the very first subscribers, whose kindness allowed this to happen: dear friends Daphne Morris, Jeff Arnold and Lynn Harris, benevolent colleagues from Seth Godin’s Marketing Seminar : JR Lawhorne, Francesca Saveri, Rob Wickham and David Shirk. Cynthia Beebe generously and thoughtfully edited my written English until I could fly on my own, albeit with some grammatical twist once in a while. And finally, Guillaume Sanfaçon, webmaster irremplaçable who maintains my website.
Louise Jalbert, “The Cherry Tree, 2017, felt-marker on paper, 5 x 8 inches
The technical part is taking shape. After a few tests, two or three errands to the art store comparing and buying supplies, I am getting a handle on acrylics.
I had done acrylics before, but it had been a while and you do have to get back into practice with your tools to work with a free mind.
I find this medium rather easy and very versatile: it can thinned to do watery effect all the way to heavy textures, with fast drying times, and without worrying about cracking because the emulsion that holds the colors remains flexible.
I did this small painting above rather quickly, using very transparent colors.
Colors tend to vary in rendering from one medium to another, so you have to adjust. For example, the bluish green above was made with Phtalo green diluted with acrylic medium. In watercolor, to have this effect, I would use Viridian and water, as I would in oils but with thinner.
I am starting to see what colors and marks I can use with acrylics. I guess I am making progress.
Acrylic dries fast and hard
One of the reflexes I am getting back to is to wash brushes and plates immediately after use, because acrylic dries fast and is a powerful adherent.
Louise Jalbert, “Foliage in summer,June”, 2018, Acrylic on canvas 16 x 20 inches