An example of an 8 page accordion folded watercolor paper (click on pictures to enlarge)
One Method for studying and remembering an experience in nature
Paint large color areas in a random arrangement upon which you arrange your focuses flowing through time from page to page. The purpose here of open color is to have a direction in your observations of nature. The two illustrations below are 6 continuous pages of an accordion watercolor book. On some later trip I will decide if this accordion sketch is complete or if I can arrange what interests me to tell a picture story.
Yesterday in the morning 26 folks of all levels of experience gathered to hear me and start their watercolors in nature. In the afternoon I had 4 or 5 women who continued on from the morning and mostly families with three to five children each. All ages working together helping each other making art a family event. This was made possible because I had two volunteers who helped me set up and conduct the logistics. I very much enjoyed the stimulation and the gratitude of everyone. We made accordion watercolor sketch books and small watercolor paintings looking out the windows at the rainy forest and rushing creek at the Fall Creek Fish Hatchery Research Center.
My tips for viewing nature through watercolor painting were: 1) The sketches were for ourselves and need not be a framed piece of art. I enjoy preserving my memories of nature experiences in a cardboard box. 2) There are many ways to go about starting. One can do an outline with pencil or pen or make a random quilt of color patches. The colors can come from what we see outdoors or from memory. Memories can be assisted by found treasurers we have collected. Then we absorb what we see outside, count and rearrange them to fit in the free colors. 3) The accordion folded sketch book is an excellent way to interpret the landscape as time passes by. The sketchbook becomes like a scroll picture story.
In retrospective I could improve on some of my responses to my talk. For example a father tried to help his youngest child find inspiration by taking him around the room to look at the pictures on the wall. The son chose to copy a poster right after I said that there were no rules on how you go about working from nature. Well, that is not completely true. Right at the start when the boy began to copy a poster, I should have stopped him and his father. The boy must have been four or five. I could have said it was wrong to copy but we can look at the art work and ask what it is he liked about it and sincerely show appreciation for the strength of work done by others his age also on display in the room. Or I could have said we all get ideas from others but when we are older some of us naturally develop to a point where our copies can be so close to the original that it is wrong for us to copy without permission from the artist.
I am very happy to have been invited back next year to teach a similar workshop.