Message from Eric

2024 Messages from Eric:

Eric shares his expertise and insights into watercolor painting to help you grow as an artist and find your own style.  He will happily address any of your questions and talk about his own experiences gained since he started on this journey over 30 years ago.

A new article is published every month. You can also sign up to receive MESSAGE FROM ERIC as part of our Artists Newsletter HERE.

If you have a question that you would like Eric to answer, just send it to wiegardtwatercolors@gmail.com with “Message from Eric” in the subject line.

January 2024

4592 From My Duck Blind, Original Watercolor Painting by Eric Wiegardt AWS-DF, NWS

HOW TO START A NEW PAINTING

To kick off the New Year let’s think about how to start a new painting. Here are a few hints that help me begin a new painting.

First and foremost, I always paint what is exciting and interesting to me. I paint with the attitude that if this is the last painting I will ever do, what shall it be? It has never made much sense to me to drudgingly paint an uninspiring subject for academic reasons. Life is too short.

Second, a prepared value study will eliminate much of the guesswork in the painting process. My studies are done quickly with a soft pencil. I allow myself only three values: lights, mid-tones and darks. This avoids the risk of the painting having a scattered look or becoming confused.

The value pattern also saved time: a five minute sketch can save me an hour of trying to salvage a poorly planned painting. Most importantly, a value study gives me confidence. It helps me develop the right attitude of boldness and directness needed in my work. With a good value study the painting will be strong…. as long as I keep focused on it!

To be continued…

Keep your brush wet,

Eric

February 2024

HOW TO START A NEW PAINTING – Part 2

Welcome back for part two on how I begin a new painting. If you missed part one you can find it on my website,  Part 1

When beginning, don’t look at a blank white piece of paper as a painting to be made. That creates too much pressure. Instead, I focus on it as a study, a problem to be solved, an emotion to be communicated.

A painting is something of value, to be admired by our peers, to put on the wall–hopefully not to match the couch! I have an idea to communicate, and if it ends up as a painting of worth, that will be a nice bonus.

This freedom of thought has not come easily for me. I have struggled with the strain and tension of appealing to the tastes of others. I try to keep in mind what a Southern Belle once told me, “Honey, you have between here and here (pointing to my ears) people living that ain’t payin’ rent. It’s time to evict them!”

Finally, the first few strokes set the tone for the rest of the painting. Attack large shapes with boldness–not necessarily with speed, but with directness and a large brush. I don’t pull my punches. I guess it is a statement to the paper that I am in charge, and if I go down in flames, it’s going with me. Don’t let it take you down! This attitude helps break the ice to creative expression.

Keep your brush wet,

Eric

March 2024

THE LIFE OF AN ARTIST

Many people think the life of an artist is full of fun and exotic adventures. Sometimes that is true but other times not at all. Let me tell you a story.

Years ago when I was just starting out doing workshops, I went to teach in Florida in December. I was looking forward to a nice break from winter in the PNW. On the first leg of my journey, I caught the puddle jumper flight from Astoria to Portland. It was such a small plane the copilot gave me the safety instructions. I was the only passenger on the flight.

Trouble started as I broke the arm off my glasses in Portland. I stuck them in my backpack to fix when I arrived in Florida. I woke up at 3:45 to catch my plane. Our original plane was stuck on the east coast due to weather, so they gave us a smaller plane. I considered myself lucky to get a seat–one of the last assigned, in the very back of the plane by the toilets. I sat next to a pilot hitching a ride home. I learned about his fascination with the screen that displays the aircraft’s speed, the temperature outside, and so on. I think watching Laverne and Shirley would have been more exciting.

Somehow my luggage ended up in Monroe, AL. I guess the airlines thought Monroe is a lot like Melbourne, Florida: they both have gators. So with my crooked glasses on, I talked to the ticket agent about getting my luggage back. Luckily I had brought my carry-on art supplies and my portfolio made it.

The sweet desk clerk at my hotel offered me toiletry items after I told her my situation. I gratefully accepted them and then she handed me a comb. I was a little afraid to look in the mirror, thinking there must have been a reason for the offer. The deodorant concerned me too, but she assured me it was not lilac scented.

You can imagine my surprise when I stepped outside, and instead of the sun drenched escape I had anticipated, there was snow on the palm trees! Apparently, they set all kinds of records during my time there.

My 80 students did very well, although a few seemed distracted. I could see it in their eyes: “How long has this guy been wearing those clothes, and why does he have his glasses strapped to his head with masking tape?”

Fortunately I was reunited with my luggage the next day. The workshop and students were wonderful. When I arrived home in Washington, it was warmer than Florida!

Keep your brush wet,

Eric

April 2024

LANDSCAPE VALUE DISTRIBUTION

Let’s explore landscape value distribution this month. Generally speaking, the landscape can be divided into four planes: sky, ground, hill and trees. In order for these planes to have identities distinct from each other, they need to be assigned a value that doesn’t infringe on the values of other planes. A shape only has meaning when there is a value shift from one shape to the next. If the ground plane is assigned the same value as the sky for example, it can be confusing because there is no visual separation between the two planes. 

The sky is most often assigned the lightest value. Second lightest value is the ground plane because it receives the full impact of the light source from overhead. Hills will be assigned the third darkest value. The hill does not receive overhead light as directly as a horizontal plane. Finally, the darkest value is reserved for verticals (trees, walls), they are in the shadow and only receive reflected light off the ground.

There are many variations of this model. For example, dusk or dawn, snow or sand and sometimes water. The important thing to remember is that in order to paint an effective realistic landscape, these value masses need to be in the right relationship to each other. However, all of this may be set aside if the artist is more conceptual and chooses to select their own value distribution. In this case, other tools, such as perspective construction, may be employed to keep the landscape planes in proper relationship. I often use a combination of both conceptual and landscape value assignments. If I’m torn between the two, the conceptual side always wins out!

For more information, check out my video on Landscape Theory. You will learn much more about these concepts and have them to refer back to whenever you need a refresher. DVD or Streaming

Keep your brush wet,

Eric

mAY 2024

ARE YOU LOST IN THE DETAILS?

Do you ever find yourself getting lost in details while painting? So focused on getting every detail perfect that you’ve lost the fun and creative flow you set out to accomplish? This has happened to me, one time it even happened while teaching a class! 

I’ve learned to conquer this painting muddle by remembering that the character of an object is carried more by careful construction of the outside edge than interior detail. Feel free to read that sentence again! Let it soak in. 

Begin a painting by carefully constructing the outer edges. Sketch the outer shape then use a simple flat wash to establish your shapes. Trust, that the outside edges will carry the character of an object. Then complete the picture using bold, fluid brush statements within the shape for a loose effect. Or you can choose to render the interior with more detail for more definition. Stay loose and have fun!

In my video, “Outside Edge Shapes” I go into much more detail and demonstrate what this all means for your painting. Seeing me demonstrate this concept makes it much easier to internalize and then practice for yourself.

Keep your brush wet,

Eric

June 2024

A CHALLENGE FROM ERIC!

“It is a good thing to copy what one sees, but it is even better to draw what one can only remember…In that way, your memories and your imagination are freed from the tyranny of nature.”  Degas

At some point in an artist’s life the question of “What is my potential?” arises. We wonder if we have reached our peak or if there is still something more we can do? Avoid getting discouraged by staying open to discovery. Strive to make exploring new forms of self-expression an integral part of your journey.

Let me suggest a tactic that may open up new possibilities: See what you can do without your reference. Try by painting from memory, or from a location sketch. This allows you to tap into your soul and bring forth your own interpretation of the world, without hindrance. Paint with raw expression, whether realism or abstraction, or anything in between. 

Painting from a photo or even in real life can become a hindrance to creative impulses. If you have received acceptance from faithfully copying photos or a model this approach will require some courage. Put thoughts of rejection aside and charge forth with new interpretations of expression that have been hidden. I have found when taking this path that I have a more intimate relationship with my painting. My instantaneous yet subtle impulses drive the process, not my photo or model. I also find at the end of the process that I “own” the painting, rather than it being an exercise in dictation and the reference owning me. I get to see what I am made of and can be pleasantly surprised, just as I think you will be too.

I would love to see your reference free art journey! Share your artwork on Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #ReferenceFreeArt. Let’s inspire each other in this exciting exploration of creativity.

Keep your brush wet,

Eric

July 2024

THINKING LEFT OR THINKING RIGHT? – Part 1

This month let’s delve into the fascinating concept of right brain vs. left brain and how it influences our artistic process. I’ve found that by staying in the zone of my subconscious impulses, the strength and integrity of my choices are far greater than if I stopped to study and analyze what I was doing. In other words, when my left brain dominates, I lose my creative impulses. 

The professional game of chess provides an example of right brain creative thinking. In chess the variables are complex and the dynamics are fluid, from an ever changing opponent. A free mind is essential to see all the variables. Nothing is static. Thinking can’t be forced here; an understanding of the entire dynamics has to be seen. Tunnel vision is not acceptable. The totality of play has to be understood, intuition is called upon. If chess isn’t your thing, this also applies to race car drivers! Drivers must “see” the whole situation. It would be dangerous to get tunnel vision, only focusing on the bumper in front of you.

As painters, we are also being challenged by a constantly fluid and dynamic set of circumstances. In an intuitive state, often called the “right brain zone”, we learn to rely on instantaneous vision and trust our immediate impulses. We can trust that the sense of emotional touch can be stronger than the sense of sight. I have learned to “feel” that a stroke is right, rather than see it. For much of my painting, I avoid looking too closely at where I’m painting; a quick glance is good enough. That glance is followed by a softening of my gaze, as I take in the totality of the painting. There is great joy in achieving a higher level of subconscious decision making!

This month practice relaxing your brain and letting your right brain free flow in creativity. Don’t stress if it’s not “perfect” just enjoy the freedom. Next month I’ll share more about how I try to stay in the subconscious zone. If you’re pleased with your art, please do share it on Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #leftbrainart. Or post it on Eric Wiegardt Workshop Artists page – HERE  I would love to see your work!

How did your painting without a reference go? Did you find it challenging, fun or impossible? My message today will help you on the path to achieving great reference free art. Keep practicing! Share your artwork on Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #ReferenceFreeArt.

Keep your brush wet,

Eric