Prayer:Tree is my favorite (so far) of the Prayer series. It has a warmth and a depth that the others do not have, in my opinion. However, it is only the first in a line of experimental ATCs.
This was crafted on watercolor paper, and used techniques I learned from an online workshop which Strathmore Papers hosted. The teacher is a great person and offers online tutorials for sale (as well as freebies). I highly recommend her work.
I also experimented with a layering technique that is normally used with acrylics Due to the nature of watercolor you can’t really over lay one color on top of another without it getting muddy. Even if the previous color is dry, watercolors tend to be transparent. You can layer darker colors on top of lighter, but not the other way around. So I had to keep in mind what I was crafting, in terms of composition, where the main tree was going to stand and where the bushes and leaves were going sit. Then as I built up the layers I avoided these areas with the darker colors of the tree and branches until I was ready to paint them the darker greens of the leaves. Then I lifted off the darker colors, just a touch here and there in some places, to give a feeling of sung spot higlights.
I also have a tendency to try and add very fine details. So this was practice in keeping these details to a minimum. It was difficult to be more of an impressionist and less of a perfectionist, but it paid off in the end. Working through that personal barrier, it was as much a physical feeling of walking through thick mud as it was a mental sensation of fighting against what I normally do.
One will never improve until one pushes oneself outside of one’s comfort zone.
But, Prayer: Tree started with a simple sketch. The fae-insect-dragon-creature that is seen on all of the Prayer series ATCs is a digital copy of the original sketch.
It started with a sketch I made several years ago of an insect-inspired dragon anthropomorphic creature. I found it randomly in some long-misplaced, semi-abandoned, slightly dusty sketch book. I was surprised and rather delighted at first glance, barely remembering that I had created it. It was like finding pirate treasure or the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Then the memories came back more clearly and I felt surprised at myself as, like many other artists, sometimes I doubt my skill and talents.
It isn’t until a piece has sat and “simmered” out of view for a little while that I realize how nice it actually looks. I’m more often so wrapped up in what’s wrong with a piece of work, that I have a hard time seeing the beauty that others are able to see. So when I find an old piece of artwork, I end up looking at it with fresh eyes.
It is the same advice authors are often given when trying to write a book. “Put it on a high shelf and forget about it for a few weeks or months. Then later come back an re-read it with new eyes.”
I smiled. I looked it over with “new eyes”. Although I could see the flaws inherent in it, I wasn’t as disappointed in it as I was originally. Yes, I had been very disappointed in it due to it’s flaws and the short cuts I took to hide those flaws. But now I could see the beauty in the delicate lines, the soft blended shading, the detail in the hands, and more.
Interesting how time has a way of mellowing one’s emotional reaction to a piece of personal art.
So I scanned the sketch in and it stayed in a digital format on my hard drive for another few years. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it, but I did want to color it. As much as I now liked the sketch, I wanted to see it in color. I could not decide how I wanted to do it.
Later down the line I got involved with the creation of ATCs. This gave me the outlet I needed in order to color Prayer. I created a sheet of duplicates in a graphics program and printed out several copies of the (now shrunk) original Prayer sketch as ATC sized cards on good quality watercolor paper.
I remembered what a professor in college told me about using the computer to practice my art skills – by making a print out of the sketch, I’d never “ruin” the original sketch.
Brilliant how technology can free us from many of our fears! And yes, I still have that original sketch! It’s safely tucked away in that same sketchbook.
From there I was able to share my art with my kids. I gave them a couple to color for themselves, while I worked on various different techniques on different cards. It was fun to be able to share my art and the creative process with my kids. I was amazed at the various different ways I was able to play with color ad composition.
Now some of the series are nicer then others, some are a bit muddier then I would have liked, but all of them are successful in their own ways. Each taught me something more. I was free from worry about “ruining the sketch” which set me up in a win-win situation in terms of color experimentation.
I do have an offer of creating a personal version of Prayer for others as a simple commission However, this won’t stop me from just crafting versions of this until I have “used up” my creative juices on this simple and yet effective technique of experimenting.