Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Watercolor Love Affair, Confessed

I’ll be the first to admit that I get excited easily. Joy and laughter are rarely far from the surface, and there’s good reason for that. I absorb it from others, like a sponge. When I listen to someone who is passionate about his or her craft, I can feel it, and I want to celebrate that passion, that spark, that makes us all a little more interesting, a little more alive.

Betsy Dillard Stroud has that spark, and it’s not far from your reach. She recently came out with a new book that pays homage to artists that inspired, taught, and moved so many of us. In Watercolor Masters and Legends, Betsy tells us, “This book is the result of my love affair with watercolor and watermedia, the great artists I have learned from, my admiration for some of my most inventive colleagues and my desire to make something that was ‘writ in water,’ a lasting homage to not only the painters represented in the book, but to the watercolor and watermedia world itself. As artists we are aesthetic alchemists, and instead of turning objects into gold, we make the invisible visible, the ordinary extraordinary as we explore the pixilated magic and eloquence in the symbolic language of watercolor and watermedia.”

Excited yet? Here’s an excerpt from her collection, on the abstract watercolor paintings of Stan Kurth.

Watercolor painting by Stan Kurth | ArtistsNetwork.com

Coastal Anxiety #1 (watercolor, 30×22) by Stan Kurth (PIN THIS)

Artist Profile: Stan Kurth by Betsy Dillard Stroud

There’s a complex simplicity in Stan Kurth’s paintings that is both paradoxical and straightforward. As he works with multiple layers of watercolor and gesso, his provocative images emerge. Ambiguity and form coalesce into a singular, cohesive vision that holds the viewer spellbound.

As a renegade, Stan isn’t attached to any methodical way to begin or finish a painting. All of his paintings bespeak of his unique viewpoint. Stan admits that in the ‘80s he gave up on doing serious fine art and turned to graphic art. Now he is a different man who travels a more intriguing road with no boundaries or stringent methods. Stan now lives in the world of subjective art. He allows each emotion, each conscious and subconscious nudge to materialize on the surface of his painting. These nudges can be a thin line rapidly drawn with an oiler boiler of watered-down black gesso, a structured line executed with a regular crayon or a plethora of spontaneous splashed colors, unplanned, dropped or painted. Then the painting begins. Where it will go, nobody knows, not even Stan.

He asserts, ”What I like in the painting, whether it be symbols, colors or the value in the painting, I want the ambiguity and the mystery to emerge, as they are the essential elements in my work.”

Watercolor painting by Stan Kurth | ArtistsNetwork.com

In “Orange Sunshine,” Stan takes us on an exciting ride to what Robert E. Wood would call “an unexpected ending.”

Every day Stan draws in his sketchbook, and his drawings represent the masterful way he handles line and drama. There is a subtlety about Stan’s paintings that isn’t seen in the drawings, but each is equally compelling and expresses the moodiness, the ambiguity and the skill with which he draws and paints.

Watercolor underpainting by Stan Kurth | ArtistsNetwork.com

In this first stage of “Orange Sunshine,” Stan fills the surface with a wet-into-wet wash of orange and red and a grayed-down yellow, leaving scattered whites. His beginning is always a random one in which he has no plan. See the middle stages in Watercolor Masters and Legends.

“Something happens to me during each process,” Stan explains. “I’ll be working on something that doesn’t work, for example, and perhaps I’ll spill something or smear something. That’s when the magic happens.”

In real life, he describes his awakening to art and God as his ride to Damascus, a metaphor for his painting life and his spiritual life.

As a child, his aunt exposed him to art, which he says, “blew me away.” But he battled with himself. “Is this viable?” he’d ask. Thus he began his college career in pre-law and describes changing to art in his last year as a “blink” experience.

“Painting is spiritual. It is personal. I ask myself, ‘Where is this coming from?’Mine is a melancholy experience,” he says broodingly, looking off into the distance. “And it is not a step-by-step procedure.”

What he has accomplished is an aesthetic feat. Unexpected lines appear to float beneath the upper surface of the paper, and because these are barely seen, his work becomes a palimpsest of all the marks, colors and shapes he has brushed, drawn and splashed into his painting. One enters his paintings, and “not knowing” is the linchpin that draws you into his mysterious surfaces and keeps you there. The odyssey the adventurer follows in his painting, he hopes, makes “not knowing” a knowable experience. ~Betsy Dillard Stroud

Watercolor Masters and Legends features 34 interviews and features such as this, as well as 18 demonstrations and 125 diverse watercolor paintings (pre-order and reserve your copy here). “You won’t be disappointed,” Betsy tells us, “for in this book, are those who have devoted our lives to this fickle medium, so idiosyncratic and demanding. We have followed its meandering ways and loved its eccentricities, intoxicated with its ability to show us who the real master is. We gravitate toward it, trying to unravel its mystery.”

Wishing you endless passion,
Cherie
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