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Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Turned Away," and a Graded Wash from Left to Right Tutorial

At last, my second piece is complete, and I can’t wait to share my stories with you!  

This was one of the darkest art pieces that came into my mind when I began thinking up this series. It is also the first serious piece of art I have ever accomplished. Ironically this artwork came painstakingly slow, and with many lessons that I wish to tell. The first lesson I had to learn was empathy.

Since this piece was often in my mind, I was deeply interested in trying to understand my subject matter. There were two important questions I needed to find answers to. The first was “Why would someone turn away from the Savior?” Even those who didn't know Him would most likely either say "Oh, you do exist," or "Who might you be?" To turn your back on Him would be a completely different thing altogether. The kind of person who would do that would have to have known Him, or tried to be faithful and close to Him, but trials in life altered this man's final decision of Christ.

Through the months I pondered, read, watched and painted. I slowly became familiar with this man and his situation. I realized eventually that my original question was irrelevant. It was not important what this man did or did not, what he saw or experienced. That was not the message of this painting. In fact, when I first started this piece I felt the farthest away of emotionally understanding this man’s thoughts. Now as I write this, it is incredible how far I’ve come in less than a year, because now not only do I understand this man, I feel like I have felt this man’s pain in my own heart.

This year has brought many extremely difficult hardships, hard feelings, hard situations, and has brought my soul to tears. Yet what I marvel about the greatness of God is though we are all so complex in our thinking, and so very different in our thought patterns and why we do what we do, God understands each man and woman completely. He understands all the differences, the reasoning and experiences to make each thought so. I find that incredible considering how many people are in the world, and how interwoven and singular each tapestry of life is. This is why not only can I not pass judgment on this man who is turned away, I mourn with him, for he has every right to his pain. His torture is something that is very real in the natural man, and he has a right to feel it, despite whatever terrible circumstances had brought him to this state.

The second important question I had was “Where would Christ stand with a man who is turned away from Him?” Would Christ have His hand on his shoulder, as if to try to give comfort? Even if the man’s life is completed, and his decision of Jesus is sure? This man has hardened his heart and had waxed cold. He turned away from everything that was light, and it was an intentional decision. Would the Savior want to comfort a person who is angry with Him in the hereafter?  Would Christ have His hand stretched out even still?

How many times have I said “Where were you, God? When something happened, and I needed you, you weren’t there!” This is when I learned an important lesson of God’s endless grace.

Isaiah 49:14-16 But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

When we decide to leave the light of God, we lose the Holy Spirit and put up walls. Often we feel like He is not with us. But though we can’t feel Him, Christ was never the one who turned away from us. It was us that turned from Him. If we ever decided to come back to the light, it would be then that we realize through our darkest and loneliest hours Christ was not only right beside us, He carried us through it. 

John 3: 20-21 “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

And so it is, with the most humble of hearts, I say to you that through this art piece I learned that Christ is a constant companion. No matter what you do, no matter what you say, His love is still stretched out to you. The marks on His hands are a emblem that He felt every pain, including yours. Including mine. Every single soul on this earth. He knows you, and being the shepherd that He is, He only wishes you to allow Him to heal, and come and return to the Fold.

Psalm 55:22 “"Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

Music (of course) was involved in the process of making this art piece. I'd love to share with you two pieces of music that helped inspire my painting. You can click on the songs to hear them on youtube:

The last lesson I had to learn with this work was patience. When my second child came into the world and I was ready to paint this artwork, reality came knocking. I was going on little sleep, two babies now to attend to, and hadn’t a clue how to juggle two at once while finding free time for myself. As difficult as it was, I needed to be patient while I got acquainted with the new baby, and brand new lifestyle with two children.

Six months after baby was born, when my son finally was able to sleep through the night, I stole late hours of the night trying to figure out how to paint a graded wash from left to right (watercolor washes usually are top to bottom, for blue skies mostly). It took me not one, not two, but eight times to get the graded wash just right. I was having trouble with lines, water blossoms, and paper quality. But in brief, I was fortunate to figure out how to pull it off through many expensive heavy weight paper trials and error. For anyone who is watercolor savvy, I’d love to share this new discovery with the world. Instructions are below.

I would lastly like to thank a few people who made this painting possible. 
Christine Simmons, you are my eyes. She has a talent that can bring my visions to life, and I was able to use her photos as reference for this piece.
Thank you to Brent Alvord for showing the love of the Savior through your hands. I appreciate you being my Jesus hands, and you are a good soul and a kind friend to come and represent him in our photo sessions.
A very special thanks to David Lysenko. I deeply appreciate you being willing to portray the face of this man's sorrow and pain. You brought the spirit with you through the door of the studio, and I am so grateful that I could use you to share this message with others. Thank you for the thoughts of CS Lewis and his life being an example you kept in your heart for this piece.
And thank you to Linda D, Jana G and Heather J. for watching my babies on certain special afternoons while I was on a roll with my work. Little acts of service went a LONG way with this piece, and I am so thankful that you were around so I didn't have to stop while the paint was still wet!

With Love,

Steps to a graded wash left to right

-watercolor paper, preferably 500lb heavyweight so as not to bend easily
- B lead pencil (this is a good lead softness for watercolor paper)
-masking fluid
-bathtub or child wading pool (clean your wading pool first to make sure everything is squeaky clean for your painting.)
-viva paper towels (they’re the best for absorbing water)
-large flat brush

1-      sketch your drawing on the paper with your B pencil. 


You actually CAN use masking fluid if you want to (I have tested it and it is waterproof!), but be sure to let the masking fluid dry first before proceeding to step two. Blotting the paper to prevent the color from reaching undesired places also works if you don’t have masking fluid. 


2-  Submerge your paper in water for a good 20 minutes. You can use your bathtub, but if your paper is large, use a child’s wading pool.

3-  With your fingertips touching only the edges, gently lift your paper out of the water. Put the paper on your desk and wait until the sine of the water on the top of your paper is gone.

(See how shiny it is?)

4-  As you wait for the paper to be ready, mix your paints together to the desired colors. I mixed a puddle with little pigment and a lot of water (light color) and a puddle with a generous amount of pigment (dark color.)

5- You can use a paper towel to dab the edges of the background and the foreground, so the paint won’t bleed into places you don’t want.

6-      When the shine is gone, use a large flat brush and dip it into your light color. Gently sweep from left to right. Tilt the paper as you sweep across so you can carry the pigment to the next line down. This tilting will help the paint to move and will prevent lines. Continue until your whole background is covered in one color.


7-      Saturate your flat brush in the darker pigment, and BARELY touching the paper (don't press too hard here to prevent lines) sweep across to the desired length you wish the darker pigment to reach. Continue downward until you have painted the part of the paper you want to be darker.


8-      Lift your paper with your fingertips touching only the very edges, and tilt gently side to side, top to bottom, to move the darker pigment around in the desired area. You will drip on your table, but just wipe with your paper towels…It is better to have a friend or spouse help clean your table of drips as you use both your hands to tilt the paper.

9- Remember to continue to blot the edges of the foreground so the dark pigment doesn't blend into the light parts.


10-  Once it looks just right, leave it ALONE! But keep blotting until the paint is not bleeding anymore into undesired locations. If masking fluid is on your paper, do NOT touch the masking fluid/ remove it until a day later (or when the paper is bone dry).
Practice makes perfect!!


April said...

beautiful. you are gifted. :) love.

Tegan said...

Everytime I read about your new pieces of art, I am so moved by spirit and inspiration that goes into them. Keep up the beautiful work; you're touching many lives

Colleen E. said...

I love your artwork, but this one, along with the history, really touched me. Thanks, Laura, for sharing your story and your talent. It's really inspiring, and I hope you always paint what you feel because it's beautiful.

Jamie Handy said...

Another great one! I love seeing them!

Anna said...

So cool to see a peek into your artistic process (I know so very little about watercolors). This piece you've made hits very close to home as it describes a beloved family member and their trials. How I hope they will realize, as you have, that our Savior is ever there. Thank you, Laura, for your art.

Anonymous said...

completely beautiful painting and a beautiful explantion of it, too. So amazed at your talent. Thanks for always sharing. love to you