Watercolour: negative painting

Yesterday I came across this post from Sunnyfae about negative painting, a (watercolour) technique that requires to paint all around a given shape, therefore leaving the lightest areas of the canvas free. Here is one of her drawings:

I absolutely love the technique, so I looked up for Linda Kemp, the artist she mentions in her post. I found several videos on YouTube, and this one sounded great for my beginning with this new technique. Linda explains how to approach the painting in a mid-way between completely free and completely planned – by deciding the subject, colours and overall shapes before starting. The painting process will then be focused, while remaining free on local decisions (brush strokes and colour density). I like that approach and it suits me in this moment. You can browse other videos and find the one that speaks to you and invites you to try painting!

Thank you Sunnyfae for your inspiration, and do keep us posted with your progress and discoveries 🙂

Sharing inspiration #3

  1. Podcast: an episode of “Wort der Woche” (word of the week) – das Pipapo. Very short and accompanied by the transcription, it teaches you a new word in a light and funny way. Ideal for beginners!
  2. Text: the Curated list of falsehoods programmers believe in is actually for everyone, when you consider that the essential job of a software programmer is to replicate reality through a model. This list is a collection of errors and over-simplifications of these models. See for example the W3C page about handling names.
  3. Image: a motivational poster from The Latest Kate (whom I discovered in this imgur dump)

Watercolour painting: red fox

A couple weeks ago I saw a picture of a fox that invited me to make a watercolour painting. Today I stumbled upon this watercolour lesson from Laurie Wigham on John Muir Law’s blog and, after browsing the lesson’s slides, I grabbed my watercolour set, a largish pencil, my sketchbook and the watercolour pencils I have never used before, and started painting.

This is the outcome:

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I enjoyed experimenting with watercolour. I was initially worried of doing mistakes that I could not correct, but instead felt a lightness in filling large areas so fast, with a light touch of the brush, and see how I could move paint around thanks to water. I added pencil details after the paint had dried a bit, so in some areas the wet paint diluted the pencil and made very rich colours.

I’m happy with the right side of the drawing, I consider the colors right and the pencil addition quite balanced; the left side was too lightly painted and I used a lot of pencil, a bit too much. The proportions of dark and light areas on the left side are also not so similar to the picture, maybe because I started painting when I had observed the picture too quickly (especially that part).

Overall I am satisfied with this painting, it gives me a positive sensation and it motivates me to try again! I liked the speed of the paint part and the combination with pencil. The video and slides give a lot more information and techniques, so I’ll consult them in the future to pick new tips and improve. I hope I inspired you to grab a pencil and try this yourself! I’d love to hear your feedback on the post and hopefully see your own paintings 🙂

Film recommendation: “Paris, Texas”

Two days ago I watched this film at the cinema. A friend told me that it is widely available online, but I preferred to go to the cinema, for its setting and rituals: comfortable seats, great audio and video, planned timing and breaks. It is a situation where I have to decide very little and I can concentrate fully on the film.

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I have been enchanted by the colours, all along the film. Camera angles were a treat in practically every scene (I thought that the film could be stopped almost anytime and printed out on a large canvas, with wonderful results). But maybe I enjoyed the careful, slow unwinding of the characters’ stories even more than everything else. It seemed to me that some moments were not acted at all, they seemed so alive and real. I enjoyed the sensation of having enough time to understand what the characters thought, what they felt, instead of having to pick clues or devices put in place to signify an emotion, but in a way that saves film-time. I felt there was no plot, no planned outcome, and this made me feel relaxed – otherwise, when I know that the plot has to follow certain steps, I end up fixing my attention to it, afraid of missing a clue, but missing a whole bunch of other information.

It was great to watch the movie together with many other people. We chuckled, paid close attention, smiled, laughed and sighed together. It was precious to hear the buzz of conversations started right out of the doors, people flowing out in pairs or small groups, all starting a discussion about some particular scene or their impressions. There were people who didn’t like the film, and it didn’t bother me, even if I loved it a lot. There are many factors that need to be there to make you enjoy an artistic creation like a movie, not all under our control; maybe they were tired or worried about something and could not focus; maybe they didn’t like the story. Some films and books clicked for me only when I saw them again much later, with a different mindset.

For this movie, I liked the large space that the creators reserved to the spectator, to be filled with personal interpretations and empathy. There are very little hints of the opinion of the creators on the complex net of relationships among the characters, and their lives’ difficult turns. I felt that they offered that story to me, as it was, without trying to make sense of it themselves.

I’m curious to see more movies like this, and I am open to suggestions! Let me know in the comments.

Sharing inspiration #2

Second post of the series! This one features:

  1. Podcast: Sticky Notes Episode 2: Conductor FAQ – a great behind-the-scenes of a conductor’s job, training, and rehearsal work with the orchestra. It is too easy to assume that the conductor only waves a stick when the orchestra does the job of actually producing the music; Joshua Weilerstein explains how minimalist conduction at the concert is the result of great preparation work – so that the orchestra doesn’t need constant inputs anymore.
  2. Post: Zumwalt‘s Thoughtful Thursday: Personal Growth – interesting answers to  the question “Is forcing yourself to do things that are uncomfortable the only way to achieve personal growth?”. I always got the answer “of course!” but could not put that into practice, because the joy of success was nothing in comparison to the panic of being out of my comfort zone. This post reassured and motivated me a great deal.
  3. Image: the Calabash clash (ESA’s Picture of the Week, 30th of January, 2017)

Find the differences #3: taking sides

I was talking with a good friend about comfort zones, and the discussion got heated (each of us sort of got kicked out of their comfort zone 😀 ). I later thought at how we talked, and found two sentences I want to compare in this post:

  1. “It’s common that people disagree with you about something”
  2. “It’s common that people disagree with you about something, but when this happens between us, I try my best to understand your points and discuss fairly”

The first form of the sentence is the one I hear most often. What hurts me is that it is not clear if the person means that it happens with anyone, including your closest friends, partner(s), and family. I can’t resign to that!

Source: tumblr

The first sentence implies the side taken by the other person, so if it is a person close to me, they probably imply they are on my side. There are times when the other person sides with you, and some where they disagree so deeply that they can’t – and I really need to know it. Guessing would be dangerous, or unneccessarily cautious!

I see “taking sides” as deciding whether to fight someone else’s opinion, or to examine it together. I assume that parents are always on their children’s side: I mean, they try their best to examine the children’s opinions in a clear but calm fashion, rather than fighting them like dogs’ bad habits (or horse vices). I am horrified at the thought of children (of any age) not having parents “on their side”, therefore having to prepare for a mental war with them, where they actually could lose.

It is not yet about the positions about a topic – it is a promise that the discussion will not turn into a lawyer’s outwitting challenge. Both parts promise not to exploit the other’s weaknesses in speech, emotions, and coherence. I am aware that it is not the default for the majority of people I meet randomly in the city, but I want it to be a clear agreement with the people I consider close to me. To put it in positive terms: we agree on sharing our ideas in a safe environment, where issues and divergences are discussed with respect and honesty.

(Thinking about it further, it is really difficult to “be on the same side” of a person with deeply different opinions on many topics, and that makes me think that it’s unlikely that this person will ever be among my close friends; anyway, I try to extend safe discussing habits to all discussions.)

 

Jumping: the landing

One more post about the show jumping event I attended a while ago (previous ones: jumps and take-offs): landings. After the flight phase, the horse and rider have to prepare the landing. The difficulty for the rider lies in keeping balance, while allowing the horse to use its front legs in a way that the combined weight doesn’t damage its front limbs. In the fourth picture you can see the angle of the pastern, absorbing the impact – it is the less blurred part of the picture, so the stillest one. Furthermore, horses have no collar bones, so the impact of landing is received by muscles and tendons, instead of more breakable joints.

The rider changes position, from staying close to the horse’s neck during the flight phase to leaning slightly backwards, ideally on a vertical line. The rider in the fifth picture is leaning forward, maybe the horse made a big jump that was hard to follow? It sure takes a lot of practice to properly ride your horse on such jumps (thanks Scottish Rider for sharing your experiences during training!), so I prefer to celebrate the moments of good coordination 🙂

 

 

 

Sharing inspiration #1: a podcast, a post and an image

I’d like to organise the inspiring links I rake from the Internet every day, in a new series of posts named “Sharing inspiration”. To keep them short, I will post one podcast, one text post and one image. The topics are varied, but all content I link has made me think twice about something, or inspired me in many ways.

Here are the first three:

  1. Podcast: BBC 4 Arts and Ideas – “Happiness” (21mins): discussion about how unhappiness seems more decisive in one’s life, how it looks the necessary fuel a novel, and how to focus more on positive moments.
  2. Text post: emotions are valid, behaviours related to emotions are not always justified – a prompt.
  3. Picture:
Source: gayufo

Watercolour experiments

Today I wanted to test some exercises suggested by “The magic of drawing”, and I’m quite happy of the result:

 

The process was free, the shapes came out from a first random brush stroke, that suggested the subject of the small painting; a linear stroke invited more linear strokes to represent tall grass or slender trees, while curved strokes reminded me of oak trees, like the green one.

My first steps of watercolour are about learning to control the brush, so they are not anything close to reality; nevertheless, I had much fun just practising these basics.They reminded me the free canvas use by children, who are additionally learning to control their hand. It was for me a happy jump in the past, in the times where I could draw and paint without thinking about the time or the use of paper.

I hope this encourages you to try too: you only need paper (any kind is OK for the start, it only has to be a bit thick, otherwise it bends with water) and a watercolour set! Hint: shopping for these supplies is a feast on its own 🙂

“Robby Müller – Master of Light”: exhibition at Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Berlin


Yesterday I visited Robby Müller’s exhibition and decide to take all the time I needed to savour it. As the exhibition is about cinematography, the movies were aired in short excerpts, and this helped me ask: “How did Müller convey the impression of a small room? Which angles did he choose? How did he work with light?” instead of the usual “What is happening in this scene? What’s the story?”. I loved the uncommon focus on what is usually considered backstage work, whose goal is to support the narrative. It made me feel at ease, and made me appreciate those film excerpts enormously. It felt like being more than a spectator, there was a connection with the cinematographer and the director rather than with the film characters. This is the role I feel closer to myself: the informed spectator. I don’t see myself as participating in the action, nor as the naive receiver of cinema tricks and devices. I am audience, who aims to feel close to who realised the film.

One film I want to watch in its entirety is Paris, Texas, with its silences, filled up with the landscapes and the human society that lives and walks around the protagonist like a storm of busy insects. Colors and lights are incredibly dense, like in an oil painting.

Image from film-grab.com

The exhibition also included a small selection of Polaroid photos taken by Müller on his travels. They were stunning. No surprise – but it urged me to learn more about picture composition and lights, because they are more important than the technology of your camera. I am struggling with photography books, which go either too little or too much in detail, and with my inability to see my mistakes in the pictures I take. Luckily I can ask advice to a few friends who are both great photographers and good teachers!