Inside the Artist’s Studio with E. L. Ryan: Creating a Watercolor Still-Life in 5 Steps

Hello fellow art lovers -

It’s a warm, rainy, December evening here in Ithaca; not too typical of western New York this time of year! It’s this type of inclement weather that for me, forecasts a painting night.

Welcome to the studio!

Welcome to the studio!

For my introductory post, I wanted to give you readers out there a little more than an “about the artist” spiel. So here is a quick tutorial to describe one of my favorite painting techniques; in this case, to create a simple still life in just a few steps.

I work almost solely in watercolor, a medium that folks often tell me is “the most unforgiving,” or “the hardest.” I beg to differ – I’ve had a lot of practice, no doubt, but you can turn all the “cons” of watercolor into “pros” with time, patience and technique. There are difficulties with every type of painting, sculpture, what have you. That being said, I hope that if you are interested in painting with watercolor, but intimidated to work with it, that this tutorial might give you a fresh perspective, allowing you to delve into water paint in a whole new way.

Here’s our subject:

To celebrate the seasons of both coasts, I've chosen a persimmon and a sprig of juniper.

To celebrate the seasons of both coasts, I’ve chosen a persimmon and a sprig of juniper.

STEP 1: SKETCH IT OUT
You don’t want to put a lot of detail in here. Keep in mind that this isn’t a drawing, you’re just setting up for your painting. Think light pencil strokes.

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STEP 2: THE WASH
Where is the lightest point of your subject? In this case, it’s the highlight on the persimmon. I left a couple highlights on the juniper berries as well. Everything else is darker, right? So paint everything else! Choose a neutral color, and bring your paint all the way to the edges of the paper.

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STEP 3: ESTABLISH YOUR VALUES
This step gives your subject a little body. Choose another (perhaps complementary) neutral color, and loosely block in the shadows and midtones. A lot of detail is not needed.

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STEP 4: ADD IN YOUR COLOR
Ok, now you have your subject defined. It’s time to put the color in! Add a little color into the back and foreground too. Keep your palette simple – limit yourself to just a few colors.

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STEP 5: ADD THE DARK, DETAIL, & FINISHING TOUCHES
Now that your subject is colored, you need to finish it off with the darkest value. This will make it pop! Add a little texture, color the background a bit more, etc. Voila! You have a little painting, in just 5 steps.

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ABOUT THE ARTIST

E. L. Ryan (F.K.A. Emily Falco) is an artist nationally recognized for the romantic quality portrayed in her watercolor representations of everyday perspectives. In this early stage of her career, she has lived and painted throughout New York State, from New York City through the Hudson Valley to the Adirondack Mountains and into Ithaca where she currently resides.

Ryan’s work has garnered national attention as a featured artist in American Artist Watercolor magazine, and on NBC’s Martha Stewart Live television program.  Since 2008, Ryan has continuously exhibited her work in solo, joint and group shows, including a recent solo exhibition at Cornell University. She holds a B.F.A. from The Cooper Union School of Art in New York City.

For more information please visit: http://elryanart.com

Stop by Main Street Arts to see two of E. L. Ryan’s watercolor paintings in our current exhibition, Small Works 2015 (one of which was an award winning piece!). Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by fabric sculptor & collage artist Jody MacDonald.

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Jody MacDonald: Connection is Key

Hello, my name is Jody.  Welcome to my studio!

Studio

My work space – there is a big, beautiful window where I’m standing that provides the most fantastic natural light to work by.

First, let me share a few biographical tidbits to put my work into context:

  •  When I was a child I liked to engage in role-play, often as animals and insects.
  • I attended the famed bealart program in London, ON, Canada (1986-89), double-majoring in textiles and printmaking.
  • I received my undergrad diploma from Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design (Vancouver, BC, Canada, 1996) where I focused on sculpture, performance, and installation.
  • It took me 15 years to obtain the academic credits required for my BFA in Visual Arts from Emily Carr University in Vancouver. I was only able to take one class per semester, so that’s what I did.  Never let life be an obstacle to attaining your goals!
  • In July of 2014 I moved my home and studio practice from Vancouver to Long Island City, NY.
  • I still like to engage in role-play, though now it is mostly through my artwork.

For the past 12 years I’ve been an object maker, creating textile-based, figurative sculptures and drawings that challenge concepts of identity, stereotype, social power dynamics, and the perception of “genuine” vs. “imitation”. I relish dark humor, always work in multiples, and I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to craftsmanship and detail.

Obsessive Detail

(L) Detail of a British Military Coat from Wardrobe (1755) – 3/16″ custom crafted buttons and those tiny buttonholes are functional. (R) Detail of mini skinny jeans, new work in progress – approx. 4″ wide (I did make the hangers, but the teeny clothespins were a cherished find).

A common element in my artwork that makes it readily distinguishable is the use of my face in every piece, either as a collaged component in works-on-paper or as a photo transfer on fabric in sculptural pieces.

(L) Detail from a work-on-paper in the Survival Games series. (R) Detail from Jurassic Measures, a textile sculpture from the Will The Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up? series.

There are many reasons why an artist might choose to use themselves in their work, such as convenience or legal issues. The reason I use my face? To communicate that I am imperfectly implicated in the issues that I point a critical finger at. We’re all in it together ;-)

Much of my work is created in a diminutive scale – figures stand about 20” tall and drawings are generally 15” x 22” or smaller. I do this to gently coax the viewer closer to the work where they will discover subtle details and develop an intimate connection with the piece.

Showing Scale

Head and hand of a new sculpture in progress.

Ultimately, connection is what being an artist is all about for me – making an emotional or intellectual connection with another person… oh, and making tiny things.

Although on occasion I’ve used found objects in my pieces, I make 98% of the miniature clothing and accessories you see in my artwork.

Shirt and Garters

(L) Detail of wolf figure in Chestnut Complex (Slim Shady series). (R) Detail of one of the lingerie outfits for Favorite Ways With Pheasant (Slim Shady series).

I LOVE the challenge of trying to replicate an Oxford shirt, a garter belt, a Brown Bess musket, or a canoe in 1/4 scale.

Brown Bess Musket

Detail of the Brown Bess musket from Wardrobe (1755), part of the Slim Shady series.

Canoe Interior Detail

Detail – interior of the large, 4 foot canoe from Chestnut Complex (Slim Shady series). The ribs and planking are made out of wood veneer.

There’s so much more I’d like to share with you – here are a couple of ways we can connect:

Visit my website/blog to see more of my art and learn more about my process: jodymacdonald.ca. Follow my Facebook page to see sneak peeks of works-in-progress and general art musings a couple of times per week. Thanks for visiting!

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Jody MacDonald’s artwork in our current exhibition, Small Works 2015. Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by Finger Lakes painter Kari Ganoung Ruiz.

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Kari Ganoung Ruiz: En Plein Air

I’m Kari Ganoung Ruiz, and my studio is the great outdoors!

Painting near Saranac Lake, NY August 2015. Photo by Dave Martin

Painting near Saranac Lake, NY August 2015. Photo by Dave Martin

My husband Diego Ruiz and I currently live in Union Springs, NY on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. I grew up in Interlaken, NY near the Finger Lakes National Forest, setting the stage early for my deep appreciation of the natural landscape. I was always drawing as a kid; filling up as many sketchbooks as I could get my hands on. Fortunately, many of my teachers up through high school were creative and excited about teaching and learning, no matter the subject; helping me keep my mind open to an alternate career path such as “artist”!

I attended Ashland University in Ohio, graduating in 1998 with a Bachelors of Science in Fine Art. My husband and I were married in 2000 and we decided to make the Finger Lakes Region our home; searching for a community to develop our studio. We opened Copperesque in 2007, a boutique picture framing and stained glass studio here in Union Springs .

Taughannock Falls, painted on location spring 2015. Private collection

Taughannock Falls, painted on location spring 2015. 6″x8″ Private collection

Within the last 3 years I’ve become increasingly excited about painting outside directly from life, taking part in plein air festivals throughout New York state and beyond. One of Diego’s artistic passions is stereo photography; currently working on his 5th and 6th 3D books! Both of our endeavors involve travel, so in the fall of 2014 we decided to move our shop from storefront to cyberspace to free the constraints on our time and location.

Painting near the Ventura Pier in CA during The Representational Art Conference 2015. Photo courtesy BritBrat Studio

Painting near the Ventura Pier in California during The Representational Art Conference 2015. Photo courtesy BritBrat Studio

The Lifeguard Tower, 8"x8"... the piece I was working on in the picture above!

The Lifeguard Tower, 8″x8″… the piece I was working on in the picture above!

I’m currently painting in oils and concentrating on the landscape. Many of my paintings are completed outside in one session; trying to capture more than a likeness of the place, but the essence of what made it speak to me. Studying through painting outside has taught me a great deal in the last few years about the science of the natural world. Something new is learned each plein air session, even if that something is what the air feels like right before being drenched by a sudden rainstorm!  I do have a studio in which work progresses on commissioned paintings and larger or more detailed work not easily done outside. It’s a small, upstairs room in our home where I can work in relative quiet. Painting outside in winter is an interesting challenge, and the subtle color shifts of the snow are seductive, but it’s great to have a warm studio to come back to!

Painted during the Adirondack Plein Air Festivals... one of my favorite experience painting outside this year! 11"x14", available

Painted during the Adirondack Plein Air Festival… one of my favorite experiences painting outside this year! 11″x14″, available

You can see many of my paintings at our Pop-up Gallery in Aurora, New York this December 1-31st, and always online at kariganoungruiz.com. I have also just started a blog, so please follow along on my adventures: Go Paint Outside!

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Kari Ganoung Ruiz’s paintings in our current exhibition, Small Works 2015 (including a juror’s choice award winning piece!)

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by Rochester artist Bob Conge.