Thursday, December 23, 2010

Getting Lax?

     Today I was working on what has been a difficult painting for me.  The subject is a dimly lit interior of a tack room.  I had invested over two full days in just the drawing, and two more days just blocking in my underpainting.  Once I proceeded to the finish work and trying to bring the painting together, I suddenly found myself in the artistic wasteland.
     The wasteland and me are old friends, so I became uptight when I felt the control starting to slip away.  This becomes a vicious cycle because what I should do is slow down, evaluate, and make well thought out painting decisions.  This seemingly simple solution somehow evades me, especially when I’ve invested so much preliminary work in the drawing.
Triangle K Tack Room
     My collector, who is a very good friend, was so excited about this painting that I wanted it to be a special painting.  Which brings me back to my original, terror-stricken, lost-in-the-damn-art-desert scenario.  I was about halfway through the painting when I started to entertain “I may have a problem” thoughts.  I felt that old familiar tension start to build, but I forced myself to stop, and with a critical eye, evaluate what could be the source of my hesitation.  You see, painting obstacles usually center around three areas:
1.  Do I have the right color?
2.  Is my color in the right place? (This alludes to the drawing).
3.  Is the tone correct? (In the painting versus my subject).
     I felt my drawing was dead on and I thought my preliminary color washes were coming along nicely.  With watercolor, one has to be careful about allowing weak washes to creep in to the finished work.  I realized I was on to something here.
     I busted out my old friend, “the gray scale”, and started taking some readings.  My timidity had gotten the best of me.  Some areas were two value steps off my subject.  In an effort to maintain uniformity in the whole painting, I had lost some critical areas that were negatively affecting my total painting.
     I beefed up my paint mixes and checked my darkest darks, and suddenly, I’m back on track.  I had gotten lax!  Moral of this story:  don’t neglect your value scale.  Keep it close and use it.  It got me back in the game, and it will work it’s magic for you, also.
     My painting turned out to be a very striking piece and I can't wait to get the frame built and show you the finished product.  Keep an eye peeled for "Triangle K Tack Room, Battle Mountain, Nevada".

All content and images © Mark Kohler Studio.


  1. You hit the mark, Mark! "He" hasn't seen it yet but he will love it. I'm tickled to know that even somebody with your abilities and talent sometimes questions what you're doing. I guess you're just as human as the rest of us! Have a great Christmas! (I'm kinda fascinated by this painting - 1) that he fell in love with this scene from Pam's video skills, and 2) how different it is from our other Kohler watercolors. I think it's destined to become something we talk and talk about.)

  2. I'm thrilled y'all like it. We're thinking about meeting after the New Year for dinner and delivering the painting. Our turn this time! Do you think there's a place near La Grange/Round Top/Belleville that will beat our last little rendezvous? It wouldn't take much!