P erhaps, were I able to go back to the beginning of the Century Watercolor Extravaganza, I might rename it the “Century Watercolor Challenge”. I didn’t think about what it would require to make it happen. I imagined doing quick paintings, perhaps spend an hour or an hour-and-a-half on each, but as the starting date of June 16 drew near I rethought my approach.
The entire purpose of this exercise was to get my work out to people so that they could see what I do, and ultimately to find more collectors. It was clearly in my best interest to do paintings that accurately represent
me. It became obvious that the paintings would take more time than I had planned for.
I mention this because throughout the “Extravaganza” event the question asked most of me was, “How long does it take you to do a painting”? The answer to that is that it varied widely. The quickest paintings were three hours, minimum. The most time-consuming paintings took over twelve hours. The average was around five-and-a-half hours.
It took a lot of intention to make it happen every day, and some sacrifice. (My social life evaporated like spilt sake on heated stones.) Still, I loved the entire process. It was wonderful being in touch with friends and new friends who have been so incredibly supportive and generous with their funds and their appreciation. Plus, it is fantastic to
have put a hundred paintings in their hands.
The Extravaganza endeavor was revelatory in several ways. The most useful was in the recognition that my favorite paintings are not necessarily anyone else’s favorites. For example, “Pilgrimage to Myonshin-ji” was a painting that I was really excited about. It was inspired by the Ryota haiku that accompanied the painting when it was posted. I was very pleased with the image when it was completed and felt that it would be well received. In fact, it received the least response of all the paintings. Jeff and I laughed about it. We had been so excited to post this one thinking that it would delight everyone. It was a very humourous and instructive moment. Everyone’s eye sees differently.
The benefits to the creative process were substantial. I composed many paintings in my mind before I sketched or put a brush to
paper. The compositional part of the artistic process became effortless, and I felt my creative imagination accelerate and expand. I also sharpened my technique, and my painting became faster. My hand and eye, both, became more confident.
I made a number of paintings combining sumi ink with watercolor. I have combined the two before, but generally on silk. I really liked the result on paper, and did several of them in the “Extravaganza”. The flowers and fruits that are adorned in gold and the watery night scenes using silver leaf have proven to be quite popular, and I love the way that the gold and silver light up these paintings. It is quite dramatic. I am always attracted to water, especially the sea, and I never tire of painting the Pacific; crashing waves, the turmoil of breaks and swirling tide pools. I greatly enjoyed creating stylized water paintings, dramatizing the movement of water, and infusing the waves with deep
brilliant colors. I also did paintings of wildlife and found a great interest in bringing these animals to life. Birds in flight, whales arcing out of the water, and sea turtles; there is just something that delights the heart when you see a sea turtle.
I have always felt that presentation is an important part of any endeavor. I didn’t want to simply send out a new image every day. I wanted to try to put them into some context, and decided to augment the daily post with poems and verses from the ecstatics and wise ones from many traditions. I wanted to make every communication beautiful and compelling. Sometimes I did a painting based on a poem that I particularly enjoy.
The verses, poems, and quotes that we selected were culled from a number of texts. They are not communications from the mind, but from and to the heart. Pairing the
poems with the paintings was a delightful process. Sometimes the poem was an inspiration for a painting, other times we picked a poem after the painting was completed. For example, the very first painting in the Extravaganza was "Mount Radiance". Jeff opened a book of haiku and the first poem that he encountered was Bashō's which was absolutely perfect for the painting. We felt it was a confirmation that this was a good way to go for the entire process.
A big thank you to all of my friends and collectors. Your support, interest, and communication with me gave life to this project, and to me. The exchange of energy was key. I was cloistered at my painting table, but felt connected with many people each day. I am grateful for your participation and help, and so happy about all of the connections made.