The Painter’s Journey ~ Part III : Putting the paint brush down….

This last part of my process of painting posts deals with bringing the composition together towards its conclusion. This can be the hardest part for me. Often it is at the stage when I feel like abandoning my creation because it is not quite what my inner vision had conjured up: I get a little impatient; frustrated with the paint, or the colours, or just my own hyper-critical sense of perfection.

It is normally at this point when the all-knowing Muse leans on my shoulder and gently but firmly encourages me to keep going, even if I don’t know what I am doing. It’s often a good time to step back for a few days if you are feeling like this, too, and watch an inspiring movie or start a new book. What always helps me, without fail, is taking long walks – through tree-lined streets, in a park or wherever there is a bit of Nature to guide the creative instinct and clear the mind of clutter.

time2sketch

I rely mostly on my creative instinct when finishing a painting. When I consciously choose to open up to this intuitive aspect, it does seem to flow towards the resolution of the work. Holding the painting from a distance upside down gives a really interesting perspective, too, on design and composition elements that can be enhanced. I love also at this point to just quietly meditate on the process of filling in small details: hidden faces, creatures, patterns and spirits that inhabit this world that unfolds before me…

time goddess painting 2

time goddess painting

“Time Goddess”

sun-moon-3  sun and moon lover art
“The Sun and the Moon”

sun-moon painting 3

As many painters (and probably all artists) would agree: you have to know when to finally stop painting, and just put the paint brush down, and let it go. This moment is the sweetest, and the most troubling of the whole process: what if I just added a bit more detail there? Or some intenser colouring there? I’m not happy with her hand, should I try to change it? But inevitably, with me, something just clicks and I know that my creative journey is over with this painting. Perhaps the Muse calmly puts my hand down for me, and lets me sit back, but I know this moment is also sacred, for a new creation has been completed, and I have that inner satisfaction and peace that tells me so….

The Painter’s Journey ~ Part II : making your Muse at home

Leda Swan

This is the latest painting I am working on. I started her about a year ago, inspired by my love for the colour blue and for the mythological story of Leda and the Swan. I have probably spent an hour on her – she measures 7 x 10 inches and the paper is a gorgeous cold-pressed smooth cotton rag .

The muse cannot descend with grace if you don’t have a few elements in place to welcome her. I have discovered that using good quality watercolour paper is essential to allowing the paints (and your Muse) to mix and flow beautifully. My preferred paper as I have mentioned in a couple of other posts is the amazing Stonehenge paper which I discovered at my local art shop The Artist’s Store while living in Katoomba, Australia. I love this paper because it is smooth – it has no grain like many other watercolour papers do, so it is great to use with coloured pencils and pen for clear, sharp lines and lovely blending.

Luna moth fairy paintingLady of the Lake

The first thing I generally do is sketch out my design roughly in a soft lead pencil so that I can easily erase if necessary. Then I apply a light wash to whatever areas of the composition I want to have definite colours. Above are examples of this initial process from previous paintings (which can be found on this blog)

watercolor paintbrushes

The paint brushes I use vary between ones for acrylic and watercolor. Some of my favourite paint brushes are also the cheapest ones, but I do have some beautiful sable-haired brushes strictly for watercolour use. The fan brush to the right is great to use for blending in larger areas of colour wash with great effect and feathered delicacy. It’s good to play with each paint brush and see what it can do: I use the finest tipped brushes for drawing in lines and faces little details.

As you can see, my palette is simple: I have used this old plastic plate for years now, and just squeeze out a selection of watercolour paints, plus some chinese white, in a way that I know I will use and blend them together. My favourite watercolour tube paints are Van Gogh brand which has a large selection of beautiful colours at very good prices.

watercolor palette

Many people ask how I blend my watercolours, and the rule of thumb with this type of painting is to be very subtle when applying the paint to the paper. Watercolours by nature are transparent and have a beautiful translucency which is desirable to translate onto the paper or canvas.

luna moth fairy painting by liza paizis

Try to always keep the paper showing through to some degree, and gently layer your colours as you go along with delicate strokes, being careful never to overload the paintbrush with paint, and to use a good amount of water as you blend. I blend on both the paper and also on my palette, working from light to dark layers – so don’t start with your darkest colour first. mermaid 2

unicorn painting

Next time I will explore more about adding detail, layering and making the composition flow….

The Painter’s Journey – Part 1: Finding your painter’s hands

Recently I received a very touching email from a young painter who wanted to know more about me and my artwork. She was especially  interested and inspired by my painting technique and use of colour to express the elements portrayed in my work. Many people ask me where I learned how to paint the way I do – and the the basic answer is that I taught myself.

This will be the first of a few blog posts where I will endeavour to share my knowledge and experience painting with watercolours, acrylics, pen and ink, and maybe a few other things as well!

Unicorn painting liza paizis

Sleep of Innocence 2010

To start at the beginning of my artistic career  – I was an obsessive drawer from the age of two, and by about 4 years old I felt a very strong urge to create images from my very active child’s imagination in any way that I could; luckily my parents, being artistic themselves, encouraged and nurtured me all through my creative journey. Drawing came most naturally to me, but soon I intuitively began to experiment with colour, design and composition.

An elderly lady with whom I attended some after school art guided me to growing confidence in expressing my inner artistic vision, with the use of pattern, complimentary colours, symbolism and playfulness in art. I will always be indebted to Mrs. Smith in Johannesburg for the joy she instilled in me for the creative process that all humans inherently posses.

In grade 2 I traded a drawing I made of 2 giraffes kissing, for a chocolate bar, and from that time on I knew my art was worth something. I sold my first painting of a fairy holding a peacock when I was 15 years old, then when I was 19 I embarked on starting my own arts business, beginning with screen printed t-shirts of my fantasy drawings with unicorns, mermaids and cats. Here are the first commissions of that time:

childrens room fantasy painting

Fantasy paintings for a child’s bedroom

My style was still very linear and graphic, but later that I year I completed work for a more painterly, dreamier commission, combining the subject matter of a cat with a passion for the colour green:

GREEN CAT ~original watercolor cat painting~

Green Cat  1995

This Green Cat was done on canvas board, using a technique which I had developed in my final year at school for my art exam – a self portrait painted on stretched canvas using pen & ink, watercolor and acrylic. I found that the best way to learn to blend watercolours  was the hard way: use a very difficult surface like canvas (primed) , to develop a respect and understanding of the more watery aspects of paints and how to make them work for you. The trick is to begin with a light wash of whichever colour will be dominant in your painting, and then work over that in gentle layers as your vision unfolds.

Liza Paizis self portrait

Self Portrait 1992

Mostly, however, I was doing very intricate black and white drawings using a technical Rotring drawing pen with archival pigment ink, which are great for steady line drawing because they steadily dispense the ink through a precision point with a continual flow, making the lines even and smooth and easy to fill in.  Below are examples of this type of drawing, which were for a series of 3 commissions. I started with the faces and a rough idea in pencil of what the composition and organic shape of the composition would be, then just drew straight in ink using the process as a form of meditation. I still use this technique today, and never fully sketch my paintings or drawing out. I find it is much more authentic and spontaneous to rely on what comes naturally from one’s imagination through hand and instrument, than to relay on sketching everything out first.

imagination black and white drawing

Imagination I and II

Here is a later example of this process at work in Fairy Cat:

fairy cat

Later, well into my 30’s and living in Australia running a business Redwhisper Studio co-owned with John Robson, many customers there asked if I had been to a “Steiner” or “Waldorf” School because my artwork was so much like what the educationalist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner taught.  This was completely fascinating to me: that I had never hear of him until then, but upon further investigation I realised that my intuitive painting was very much like his artistic educational vision  – very dream-like, with bold and emotional use of colour and delicate blending of thoughts, impressions and the very colours themselves to convey the essence of the artist’s inner world.

rudolf steiner painting

Ceiling, First Goetheanum, by Rudolf Steiner

What this said to me is that everyone has innate creative ability, and those of us who choose to express it through painting need look no further than our own intuition and imagination. Of course, this does take discipline, hard work and inspiration, but the tools are there inside us, just waiting to be unlocked and used.

More on how I explored this in the next part…..Thank you so much for visiting my creative blog, and please feel free to share your own creative thoughts, I would love to learn and share with you!

Francescas Room Francesca Woodman painting by Liza Paizis

Francesca’s Room 1999