Whites and Blues C5 Transparent Watercolor & Time-Lapse Video

Whites and Blues (18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Whites and Blues (18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Whites and Blues (detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Whites and Blues (detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Whites and Blues (detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Whites and Blues (detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Whites and Blues (detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Whites and Blues (detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Whites and Blues (detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Whites and Blues (detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Whites and Blues (detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

Whites and Blues (detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP paper)

After taking a break from doing these incredibly complex paintings for about 20 years, I did two back-to-back. Maybe that wasn’t the best idea, as this one took just shy of 100 hours! I could’ve completed about seven of my typical paintings in that same amount of time. Like my recent Flying Colors painting, this was 18×24 inches of solid, exhaustive detail. I have a lot of other ideas for similar paintings bubbling around, but I should probably invest some time in smaller, more sellable items for a while.

As much fun as I had coming up with the idea and executing it, I was relieved to have it finished. Nearing completion of a painting with a colossal time commitment like this, I’m always afraid something will happen to it. Watercolor is a fussy medium and has a delicate surface. We had an unusual threat pop up when I was finishing this painting.

Fall here in central Michigan equates to a continual home invasion by Box Elder Bugs, Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs and Lady Bugs looking for a warm place to spend the winter. The Stink Bugs in particular have a way of sneaking into every crack and crevasse around the house. I’ve found them squeezed into my violin and mandolin cases, crammed into a latch of a bike rack and even sandwiched between the glass and LED clock of our oven. Having seen a number in my office/studio space, I was sure they would wedge their way under the protective covering and onto my painting, managing to leave a hideous stain before or after getting accidentally squished. 

Our lovable but neurotic dog is afraid of these insect trespassers and alerts us to their presence whenever one has the audacity to come within his visual range. He seems certain that they are going to cause the downfall of the civilized world… or at least what passes for civilized in our house. Unfortunately, this is only one of many canine phobias that he suffers from. In addition to being afraid of the dark, the things that strike terror in his doggie heart include hummingbirds, inflatable lawn ornaments, nativity scenes, manhole covers, sidewalk grates, deer, any object left on the back porch, an octogenarian neighbor with a walker and all dogs over 70 pounds. This might lead you to believe that he is a 15-pound, ankle-biter, “foo-foo” dog, but alas, he is a strapping 70-pound German Shepherd/ Norwegian Elkhound mix. I’d say that should be more than a match for even the most muscular and sociopathic ladybug. 

Now for the artsy talk that I typically avoid so as not to sound like some of the folks who drove me nuts in art school. Generally there was an inverse relationship between the amount of explanation about a piece and the quality of the artwork itself. Anyhow, here it is.

I’m a real fan of the mannerist painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo. I first saw his artwork gracing the cover of the album Masque by Kansas. It features a painting from 1566 called Water. The image is of an almost hypnotizing human portrait that emerges from a still life painted entirely using crabs, fish, shrimp, mollusks and other sea life. I was fascinated by how he used still life objects to create abstracted, sometimes grotesque portraits. They were realistically painted, but transformed into something else entirely when you stood back a bit. In a way that was what I was hoping to accomplish with this: to create an abstraction with color, shapes and movement of textures by using realistic representations of birds.

There were a variety of things I wanted to “play with” in this work. I find it interesting to investigate the movement in repeated patterns and shapes. I thought it would be fun to play with the colors of birds that we think of as having the same basic colors. I did this by stripping back the palette a bit through my choice of birds for the painting. Birds were picked on a few criteria: first, they had to be the right colors. I wanted birds with similar but slightly different colors and textures to juxtapose. Second, I needed to have good photos of my own to work from so I wouldn’t be relying on any outside references. Third, I wanted to compose the painting in a way that would show off the varieties of colors and textures that are very similar on the surface while rendering them so you could also detect just how different the tones actually are, so I chose birds suitable for this scheme. 

Looking at the painting, you can see how the whites of the egrets are very pure white, smooth and streaky, while the ibis’ plumage is more ruffled, the Blue Jays have more purple-pink overtones and the Tufted Titmice have warm hues. Similarly, the overall blue tones have great variety. To offset the predominance of blues and whites, I included repeating warm accent colors, with the reds beaks and faces of the ibis, oranges of the bluebirds, lores of the egrets and red eyes of the herons popping up sparingly throughout the piece.

For those counting, there are 45 birds in the painting:

  • White Ibis (4)
  • Snowy Egret (4)
  • Tricolor Heron (6)
  • Blue Jay (10)
  • Tufted Titmouse (11)
  • Eastern Bluebird (10)

Fall Sale!

Fall Sale! 10% Off Select Originals

This is the first time I’ve offered a discount on my originals, and when they’re gone, they’re gone! Visit our Etsy shop before your favorite is shipped to someone else. 

Nature Chemistry Cover Art

Over the last couple of years I’ve collaborated with Michigan State University faculty members to create cover art for a variety of different scientific journals. Most recently, I worked with Aaron L. Odom, Ph.D., to design the cover art for the September 2017 issue of Nature Chemistry.

I used Lightwave 3D to model all of the objects and render the final image for both of the covers shown here.

One of my favorites—because of my love for maps—is the cover I made for the Royal Society of Chemistry’s November 2016 issue of Chem Soc Rev, pictured below.

 

More Op Art Birds!

Common Grackle, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Common Grackle, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Common Grackle, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Common Grackle, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

Molting Juvenile Northern Cardinal, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

House Finch

House Finch, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f2.8 lens (No Photoshop)

It’s time for even more op-art* bird photos. These are Victor Vasarely-inspired designs. Like the previous images, these are straight-on photos of birds perched on an op-art bird feeder… without any Photoshop trickery. I designed this image to go with Common Grackles that were always raiding the feeder. Unfortunately, the printed artwork acted as a bit of a “Grackle Repellant,” because very few have shown up now that I’m trying to get photos. On the positive side, some of the other birds look good on this background. Previous op-art bird photos can be seen at http://blog.bohanart.com/2017/06/op-art-birds  and http://blog.bohanart.com/2017/07/opartbirds2/.

I designed this artwork using Adobe Illustrator. After printing each piece, I placed it in the backyard on a special feeder I built. It’s designed to attract birds as well as to support the artwork, which is sliced into two sections, with one positioned in front of—and the other behind—the bird. The images were taken with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens on a wirelessly triggered, tripod-mounted camera. Except for small adjustments like cropping and straightening, no Photoshop techniques were used to manipulate these photos!

* Op art, or optical art, is a form of abstract art that gives the illusion of movement by the precise use of pattern and color OR in which conflicting patterns emerge and overlap.

Flying Colors Transparent Watercolor & Time-Lapse Video

 
Flying Colors (Detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18x24 inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Flying Colors (Detail from 18×24-inch Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper)

Well, I’ll cut to the chase. This 18 x 24-inch watercolor took an incredibly long time, somewhere in the 70- to 80-hour range, and it was one of the more complex paintings I’ve ever attempted.

There isn’t a lot of margin for error with a painting like this, because every square inch is covered with exhaustive detail. I’ve done a few  works in the past similar to this one. Unless it’s a commissioned piece, when you undertake something on this scale, you’re in it for yourself. Like my crazy bird hats, the time investment alone prices the finished piece out of the range of most sane individuals. I’m not sure what that says about the sanity of the artist. Two of the other paintings like this are framed in our house; a third resides in a closet. Over the past 15 years I’ve moved to smaller, more traditional paintings of animals, allowing me to finish a greater number of paintings at a lower price point for potential buyers. For a while I’ve had the temptation to start this style again. Working on a bunch of Op Art projects got the gears turning on possible designs. I decided the time had come to investigate this style again, even if I ended up with something that wouldn’t sell.

When I was in art school, teachers seemed to celebrate post-abstract expressionism, and everything else was considered garbage. Pretty much anything that contained an animal became a lightning rod for the fine art crowd to voice their contempt. A bird might as well have been a crying clown, Elvis on velvet or dogs playing poker. On top of that, paintings and drawings done in a realistic or representational manner were quickly dismissed as “renderings” and definitely not considered fine art. At the same time, there seemed to be a high tolerance for portraits and nudes, which in my humble opinion have been “done to death.” Granted, I’ve seen so many hawk and eagle paintings (mostly bad) that I’ve only created one in the past 25 years. I typically shy away from ducks for the same reason. When designing a painting, I spend a lot of time considering composition, backgrounds, perches, colors, movement within the frame and how the viewer will work around the painting. I think all of this puts them beyond being “just” illustrations. 

Although it may not look like it, this painting was definitely inspired by Op Artists Victor Vasarely, Julian Stanczak and Carlos Cruz-Diez. They always did interesting things with color and pattern, which essentially was what I was trying to do here. In this case highly-rendered birds serve as the subject matter rather than a flat, sharp-edged application of paint. My hope was to follow a series of different repeating patterns and gradients through the painting, some moving vertically and others horizontally. There is the obvious spectrum moving across the painting, which I broke up with the Great Egrets’ white necks.

From a design standpoint it’s normal to choose odd numbers when composing, but in this case using four egrets works since they divide the saturated spectrum into five segments. In addition, the overall motion created by the group of white birds serves as a relief amidst the spectrum of birds. I think the subtle coloring on the white feathers makes the saturated colors pop more than if they just sat next to other saturated colors. In addition, each type of bird has differing patterns of black on the saturated feather colors. I chose to have the birds nestled into one visual plane, occasionally overlapping to the right as well as breaking the plane of the frame. I find it interesting to play with the shapes of the birds and design with an eye for all the wiggling explosive movements of the animals.

In the past my “Critters” paintings have primarily featured birds but have also included mammals, insects, amphibians and reptiles. This is the first one to exclusively feature birds—fifty-five complete birds, as a matter of fact, as well as a handful of partial ones. I counted complete birds as anything with an eye and a beak. For the record that equates to these numbers: Scarlet Tanager (3), Northern Cardinal (8), Baltimore Oriole (9), American Goldfinch (1), Magnolia Warbler (4), Blue-winged Warbler (1), Wilson’s Warbler (4), White-cheeked Turaco (6), Female Crested Wood Partridge (1), Indigo Bunting (9), Common Grackle (5) and Great Egret (4).

Here are the previous paintings I did in a similar style.

Critters 1 (Transparent Watercolor on Watercolor Board 18 x 24 in)

Critters 1 (Transparent Watercolor and Gouache on Watercolor Board 18 x 24 in, circa 1994)

Critters 2 (Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper 18 x 24 in)

Critters 2 (Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper 18 x 24 in, circa 1996)

Critters 3 (Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper 18 x 24 in)

Critters 3 (Transparent Watercolor on Arches 140lb HP Paper 18 x 24 in, circa 2000)