By: Ryan Burdzinski
An old naval barracks never looked so elegant
It’s not every day a civilian gets to roam around an old naval training base. But all throughout the San Diego area, the naval presence is strong. Nestled in Point Loma’s Liberty Station lies a beautiful state of the art 4,000 sq foot gallery dedicated exclusively to water media… the San Diego Watercolor Society.
Quick background about the organization:
The SDWS was founded in 1965, and is considered on of the top watercolor organizations in the country. The 700 member club offers a wide array of activities; monthly juried shows, workshops, demos and after school programs. The non-profit gallery is free to the public, and manned by volunteers. Visit The San Diego Watercolor Society’s website to lean more.
The woman at the front desk was very warm and inviting, I mentioned that we spotted the place while driving by and she made us feel right at home. I was able to quietly view one of the monthly juried shows while a watercolor class was being conveniently conducted in the next room. The skill level of the entrants varied greatly; from “blew me away” to “keep it up”. But overall I was impressed by the amount of entries in such a tough medium. Watercolor is one of the least forgiving media to work with- it takes a lot practice to master watercolors, and there was a lot of bravery in this room.
Great example of wetting the paper, then adding pigments and letting the bleed together. Sometimes this technique can create muddiness or grey tones, depending on the colors used. This can be used to your advantage in shadows and distant objects. (shown in the legs here)
I was drawn to this piece because of the similarity between Riles’ and my own work. She uses color and unrecognizable objects to make a composition that is pleasing to the eye.
The subject matter reminds me of the landscapes made by my first art teacher and life long friend, watercolor artist, Nicki Lanzi . This is an example of why I avoid using a pencil to draw out my watercolor compositions. Once the brush touches a pencil line, you have made what I call “graphite soup”. In art school I was taught that using black or grey gives a color piece a flat appearance. While in this case adding grey might have been intentional, my solution is to use watercolor pencils to sketch your compositions. Their lines disappear with the application of water, keeping your colors as bright as possible.
Vivid, colorful and all around strange but this remains my overall favorite piece. Looks like Smith was sketching the same apartment building and it’s balconies from different angles. While the lines may be wavy, and completely innacurate, the composition is carefully put together and executed. The dominating diagonal line draws your eye from right to left, but i believe it cuts the painting in half. This compositional element can be detrimental because that hard horizontal line is basically an arrow pointing at the painting next to yours. You want to keep the viewers stuck on your painting- even force them to form a line just to look! A trick I use in left-to-right compositions is I apply a hard vertical line on the right side. This will send the viewer’s eye bouncing back into the painting, and hopefully it will catch something else, beginning a cycle.