Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cherry Blossoms For My Sister

I've never had an artwork take so long to complete!  There are thousands of photos in my art reference folders on my computer. Photos don't always get chosen for subjects of paintings.  I choose the subject based on how inspired I feel to do it well.  The focus of today's post, the cherry blossom, has been on the list for eight years or more!  While the photo reference for this painting was taken just a few months ago, the plans to paint cherry blossoms have been upended many times.  I've taken photos of this painting's progress, so join me today and I'll do a bit of storytelling at the same time.

Watercolor mixing chart for cherry blossoms artworks.
The watercolor mixing chart used for these artworks.

My sister's husband is in the Navy and their family travels a lot, as many military families know well.  I've had a desire to paint something for her for many years.  Her request was for a painting of cherry blossoms.  They've been stationed in Japan twice.  The first time was about eight or nine years ago.  She emailed me a photo of a branch with cherry blossoms.  I loved the photo and began to think through the process of capturing the scene.

Cherry blossoms photograph by L. McMahon
The first photo sent by my sister from Japan.

Taking the photo my sister had sent me,I made my sketches and began the painting but it didn't go quite right.  I was frustrated with the results.  I was puzzled with why the paint was not flowing on the paper as it normally would.  I took it personally as a reflection on my own skill.  I figured somehow I had lost the gift, the talent, the ability.  Silly and foolish, I know!  

Cherry blossoms photograph by L. McMahon
Photograph sent by my sister, spring 2016.

At that time, I was a new momma to two small children.  It was a huge struggle to find time and space for my art.  I was doubting that I could create much of anything at that point.  I missed my time spent with watercolors!  I began taking photographs as my outlet.  My little ones saw me with camera in hand everyday.  They were the subject of many photos as I recorded them enjoying childhood's milestones.  Along the way, I did pull out the watercolors for an hour here or there.  It never failed, as soon as I was set up and beginning to get going on a painting, here comes one of my kiddos.  "Ooh, I wanna paint, too," and I would reply, "well, let's get you all set up."  I'd pull out a folding table and soon they had their own brush and paints, too.  That meant I was pretty much done painting for that session but I didn't mind because I loved seeing them enjoy it like I do.

Cherry blossoms photograph by L. McMahon
Photograph sent by my sister, spring of 2016.

Now, my children aren't little anymore.  They are both teens and growing up faster than I can believe.  They still come out from time to time and join me in my art room.  They pull out the folding table and the art supplies.   They prefer acrylics and canvas now.  I don't mind.  I just love that they will come out and make their own art.  That was always the vision I had for this room.  It's a space that easily adapts to the creative project that's at hand.

Cherry blossoms, a photograph by Christy Sheeler 2016
My photograph of cherry blossoms from spring of 2016.

So now, bringing you back to the cherry blossoms and my sister.  I have saved that first photo image for nearly ten years.  Our cherry bushes bloomed last spring and I went wild photographing them for days until they fully bloomed.  My sister's family returned to the states this past summer.  They returned from Japan for the second time.  But before they made the move, she sent me more photos as the cherry blossoms were in bloom.  I ooh'd and aah'd over each one!  We chatted over messenger and I sent her photos I had taken here in our backyard.  I could feel it!  The time was finally right for accomplishing this project!

My creative space while working on these artworks.

With several sketches complete, I began transferring them to watercolor paper.  The tracing paper method has become my favorite way to work in preparing for a watercolor painting.  The watercolor paper does not get roughed up with erasing lines.  The only lines on the watercolor paper are the ones I want to be there.  In the process, I have about nine paintings to be completed.  They are different in composition and dimensions.  Four of them are still in progress now.  One is finished and ready to be shipped to my sister.

While the five paintings were in progress, she saw photos of them and she chose the one that will be hers.  It's not one of her Japanese cherry blossom photos but one of my Montana backyard cherry blossom photos.  Soon, it will be lovingly packaged with care and shipped off, and I am beyond satisfied that it all came together at last.

So, here are the photos of this artwork as it progressed from first color washes to the completed, framed artwork.  I'm not going to go into much detail here.  If you have questions, please feel free to email me or comment below.  I would be very happy to give more explanation.  I will make mention that the grayish-blue on the flower centers is masking fluid.  It helps me protect those areas until the end.  You might be wondering about that if I don't explain first.  Okay, here goes!

Today, I took off the morning for an orthodontist appointment and grocery shopping.  One child, still in braces, much longer than we'd expected...and as I drove the interstate, I was reminded that my children are growing up so fast.  The years are flying by...they won't be here, needing me much longer.  I don't want to feel bothered or inconvenienced; I will remember to feel blessed and thankful.  We are getting the hang of this mom-works-at-home thing.  It's going really well.  They are proud of me, I know.  They don't have to say a word.  I feel so fortunate!  I'm blessed by my family's support everyday.

Oh, and that first cherry blossom painting years ago... the one that was a total failure?  As it turns out, it wasn't a reflection on my ability.  It was a problem with the paper.  Just a few years ago, the same strange results occurred again.  I did some research to figure out what was happening.  The watercolor paper had lost its sizing.  The sizing is what makes the watercolor paint able to be suspended in the water and not sink directly into the paper immediately.  My paper had been stored where there were great changes in humidity and temperature.  My art room has been renovated over the years and now that problem is not likely to happen again.  That's just a little tidbit for those of you who do paint with watercolors also!

Have a fantastic weekend and I'll meet you back here again soon!  There's so much more to share but that will have to wait for another time.  Thank you for hanging out here with me today.  I hope you enjoyed your visit.  I can't tell you how much I enjoy being able to share all the creative energy flowing here and the artwork that results in the process.  I just can't help it.  When others think of me and my creativity, they must be thinking...She must make art.


She must make art.

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