Surowicz Rocks: 5.2-5.5

This is the final version of the painting from Rick Surowicz’s Podia Rocks and Water. I am genuinely proud of this painting, and very happy that I purchased this podia. The lessons I learned here are invaluable, and will easily apply to painting more than just this image. I seriously can’t recommend it enough.

This post will be a two-parter. In part 1, I’ll go through this painting. In Part 2, I’ll talk more about what I learned from Rick’s class (and why I just bought his next course, “Abandoned.”)

Part 1: This Painting

First, I’ll say I’m really happy with this one. I don’t say that. Ever. That doesn’t mean I can’t see imperfections, it means I see imperfections that I can live with. I think this painting accurately represents the best I can do right now.

The disappointing thing for me is that my success on this painting is due in large part to following a recipe from Rick. I think I can employ these strategies in my own paintings, but until I find success doing that, I won’t feel like this is a representation of my skill. This is a representation of my ability to parrot what I am taught. That’s a HUGE step forward, so I don’t want to minimize it. But it doesn’t mean I can make art like this consistently. Whether or not I can do that will depend on how well I can translate these skills into my own composition, which I am very excited to try.

I’ll do a good, bad, and ugly:

The Good

First of all – huge victory that I have so much visible in the good. I’m proud of that.

I am proud of myself for letting that reddish brown blob stay alive on the rock at the top-left. I wanted to fix it, but I didn’t. If I had, I would have ruined it. That’s a big sign of growth for me.

I like the rocks in the foreground a lot.

The reflections in the water I like for the most part, though a few are overworked. I particularly like the reflections of the leaves. There is just enough action here, just enough brushwork for them to feel accurate and painterly at the same time. I like that the painting isn’t dominated by this feel, but the feel isn’t missing either. Go me.

The leaves I like. I took my time on them, and tried to be careful with timing on when I introduced earth tones. I wanted some edges to be hard, and some to be lost. I think I achieved that.

I highlighted one tiny twig, it’s barely visible, but it’s my favorite part of this painting. (In that circle, there’s the tip of a leaf, and just a teeeeensy tiny twig. I painted this twig with confidence and swagger, and you can tell because it’s such a fine line.

There is a splash of green under the cone shaped rock. In the photo, that’s a leaf, and it’s brown. In my painting, it’s a green something. I am happy that I didn’t try to focus on it forever and really get into the nitty gritty about what the hell that thing is. It’s detritus at the base of a rock. Enough said.

I like the breadloaf rock because it was such a challenge, and I think I represented it without making it feel manmade, which is something I struggled a lot with in the value studies.

The Bad

Again, these are bad because they are morally wrong. They are sinful. They are evil. I should know better.

At the top, I have a pointy huh? on the side of that rock. Even I don’t know what it is other than a mistake that I was nervous to try to fix. It’s not a happy accident, it’s a result of not planning that part of the sketch. I’m glad I didn’t try to fix it, but that’s a glaring error for me.

The other three dots show places where I overworked the painting. I should know better. Oh well – move on.

The Ugly

The highlight on that rock at the top is completely white in the source photo, but it looked like an enormous mistake in the painting when I left it bare paper. I went in to bring it into the composition a bit, and I think I saved it, almost. Unfortunately, that face lines up with the edge of the rock beneath it, and it ends up looking like two different things – not the brightly lit face of the rock at the top-left.

I put masking fluid on this rock because I’m dumb.

The reflection on that rock down there just looks fake. And, it’s overworked.

Part 2: Podia Lessons

Walking through these lessons taught me a lot. I feel like I was stuck in a plateau for a long time, and doing these classes broke me off that plateau, and renewed my confidence that I can achieve my goals. I have a recharged passion and want to go paint more so I can continue to practice and improve.

First though, here’s my rendition from before these classes, and the version of the same painting after the classes. This level of progress in 9 days is telling of how valuable this Podia was for me.

1. Don’t Start Arguments

I mentioned this a few times, but it’s easily the most important lesson I learned, and will most easily translate to my own compositions in the future.

Before I put colors on the paper, I should introduce them to each other on the palette. If I don’t they will fight with each other on the paper as I fiddle with them trying to turn that chaos into something that represents what I’m after. If I do, they’ll meet gracefully on the paper. I want the colors to dance together, not drag each other into a mud fight.

This goes for glazing as well. I shouldn’t paint a color, hoping to “fix” it with a glaze later. I should paint the color I want in the place where I want it. If I plan on glazing, I should know what color I’ll glaze on top before I put the first wash on the paper, and I should know what color I’ll get when those that next color is glazed on top. Mixing two colors while wet will create a third color. Glazing them will result in a fourth color, not necessarily that third color that I get when mixing wet-in-wet.

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Color

There is no reason for me to be afraid of using Perinone Orange, or Phthalo Blue. Sure, these colors look like neon disasters when they are used alone, but when these are mixed with other colors I get some of the most interesting and lively neutrals. Just because a color looks garish out of the tube doesn’t mean it should be tucked away and forgotten. It means I probably shouldn’t use it straight from the tube.

3. Seriously – Stop

I should set an alarm or something on my watch when I paint to remind me to get up and walk away for a minute. Flip the painting upside down, step back. Close my eyes and listen to a song, anything but hunch over the painting and fiddle with that leaf one more time. As I paint, I get tunnel vision. I get so focused on the details that before I know it, I’m all whiskers and no cat.

If I can force myself to step away regularly, I’ll see the painting differently. I’ll see problems that I wasn’t focused on, and realize that problems which were consuming me were fixed ages ago. Sometimes, the hardest part of painting is not.

4. Stop Worrying

I don’t tend to set out to make a master-piece, so I’m not worried when I paint about creating something that will hang in a musem. I’m more interested in learning. But even with that motivation, I find myself getting anxious and frustrated with myself. I know better than to overwork a wash, but I still do it. And right before I overwork a wash, I’m eating a big bowl of Oh Shits trying to fix it before it dries. Stop. Just stop. Let the mistakes live. So you swished when you should have slashed. You are the only person alive who knows you wanted to slash, and you’re going to forget in ten minutes anyway. So, let the swish sit there undisturbed, and move on. If it’s a mistake – so be it.

5. Art is Just Science in Drag

I need to know the specifics behind what I’m doing. I need to know how light reflects off of different surfaces. I need to know that our eyes have Green, Red, and Blue cones, but not Yellow. I need to know that pink isn’t a color. That humans perceive visible light in certain ways, and that light passes through objects at different speeds, and can change color values as it reflects and refracts. I need to know that the golden ratio exists, and can be found in nature, and that there is some nagging thing in our reptilian brains that scream for it. I need to know that light waves of opposing phases will cancel out, creating a black or grey. But I don’t need to paint any of these things. I need to have a working knowledge of the things that impact the choices I make when I paint, but I shouldn’t be bound to those theories. At the end of the day, I should just paint.

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