This morning I woke up with the theme to Marnie, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. Of all Bernard Hermann‘s music to rouse me to wakefulness, I am thankful it wasn’t the shower theme from Psycho (another Hitchcock film).  Somewhere floating in my semi-conscious state was a vague awareness of a phrase from Apocalypse Now, a film adapted in part, from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I remember the words, “the horror, the horror,” from the film, although I did not hear it in my dream.

I haven’t seen Marnie in quite a while or Apocalypse Now, in decades. The only possible reason for dreaming these thoughts is the dismal state of world affairs.

Note to self: Stop reading about current events.

Today’s experiment:

I began with my yellow time line:  the brownish Naples yellow highlighted by a brighter Bismuth yellow, laid down in ‘S’ curves. I wet the paper first in order to get a soft outline. To push the yellow toward the viewer, I painted the complementary color, purple around its convex edges.

The color red was significant in Marnie, so I created a drippy red curtain interrupted by the yellow curves.

I divided the composition with a slanted blue, oil-painted line. Within the concavity of the yellow curve, I painted Indian yellow, an orange-tinted pigment.

Finally, I drew an image of a fist within the orange section of the study. This relates to the “horror” quotation in my mind as I awakened.

Watercolor and Oil: Abstract - Dripping Red Through Yellow Time Line

9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

This study, with its saturated colors, belie its dark origins. It does not inspire thoughts of fear or horror, aside from the blood red drips. The significance of the small hand in the context of Apocalypse Now is impossible to know without seeing the film. However, the composition stands on its own without having to understand the association.

Untitled – Process

Today’s experiment:

I felt I needed some direction lately so I dipped my toe once again into some of Paul Klee’s writings. One principle that I was happy to recall was his idea that process is more important than form. Perhaps I’m wrong about this, but it helped me with today’s composition.

My process today:

I began with my yellows, which lately I have coupled with the idea of the past. The initial set of wavy yellow watercolor lines that I laid down first did not suggest any further visual marks. I decided to insert a spot of purple in a hole surrounded by lemon yellow and blue in the midst of an yellow/orange field.

The lemon yellow and yellow/orange washes combined to form some interesting low contrast forms. As you can see below, there are three dark forms within the yellow. I put in the dark square for balance.

In previous compositions in this series I had a lot of luck with contrasting colors, particularly opaque oil paint. This proved to be the next step in my process with today’s study.

I don’t have a palette for watercolors so I applied the blue oil color directly to the paper. I used a palette knife and brush to spread it around, leaving a triangular open space, again to balance the composition. I scrubbed off some of the blue and dabbed some lemon yellow in its place.

Finally, I used an india ink, fine tip pen to extend the legs of the triangle back into the picture.

Watercolor, Oil and Ink: Abstract Yellows and Blues

Untitled – Watercolor, Oil and Pen
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Something unforeseen always happens in each of my studies. In this case, I went to brush something away from the apex of the white triangle and smudged a bit of the blue into the space.  I think it works. At least it doesn’t detract.

The Time is Always Now

River of Time

I heard a very interesting metaphor about how some cultures, probably far eastern, see the passage of time. It goes something like this:

A person is sitting on a bridge over a river. The water is flowing away from him. Little paper boats come from under the bridge and float away. Those boats are moments of time. When they become visible to our observer, they are moments of the past. Before they reach the bridge, the boats are little packets of future moments.

This idea is intriguing, if not counterintuitive. I always thought, when one faces forward, one looks to the future. However, if we look at the river of time from the vantage point mentioned above, the future is approaching us, unseen.

Today’s experiment:

During one of my dreams last night, I saw an abstract form. I don’t know if it was from one of the art books or if I made it up. I began my composition with an approximation of that form: a blue disc with a red rectangle. I merged this shape with my visualization of the river of time.

I used my yellows for the river of the past and painted the future (behind the observing disc) an indistinct gray. The present instant is that place within the red field (highlighted in white) through which the river flows.

Watercolor, Oil, Gouache: Abstract of Time as a River

River of Time
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Untitled Time Piece

Today’s experiment:

I am in the midst of a series of experiments that explore visual portrayal of time. Summarizing my progress thus far: I developed a graphic that represents the passage of time based on how one’s eyes scan a photographic contact sheet; I assigned the yellow portion of the spectrum and sepia to represent time gone by; I have been using non-yellow colors (blues and reds) to represent the present.

Today I began with a streak of yellow oil paint that began with a dab on the paper straight from the tube. I spread it with a palette knife. I poured sepia ink onto clear water I painted above the curve of yellow. I tilted the paper to create some drips.

I dabbed some blue and white oil paints along the sepia drips and again used my palette knife to streak the colors.

Watercolor and Oil Paint: Abstract Piece with Yellow, Sepia and Blue

Untitled Time Piece
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I call this study “Untitled Time Piece”.  If any of you have ideas for a title of this composition, I would love to hear them.


Time Tiger

Today’s experiment:

I am still working with my color scheme and graphic I developed several posts ago (Re-Inspection of Time) about the past and how to depict it. The graphic is a zig zag or continuous ‘S’ curve, derived from the way my eyes scan an old fashioned photographic contact sheet. Of course this is the way one would read a book but for a contact sheet, the eyes take in different slices of time they move across the its sequential photos. My color scheme (sepia and yellows) is related to the stereotypical association of the color sepia with old photos and yellow with the color that everything fades to with age.

I began with zig zag strokes of yellows that blended from lemon yellow (a bit on the green side of the spectrum) to an orangey cadmium yellow to a brownish Naples yellow. I painted permanent mauve adjacent to the yellow, to provide contrast. After establishing this sawtooth-looking construction, I painted with clear water above the saw teeth and dripped in my sepia ink. As I tilted the paper, the brown ink dripped through the yellow and purple. It reminded me of stripes of a tiger.

I have had excellent luck and a lot of fun with oils for the past few days, so I thought my composition could use a bit it. I envisioned a red/white mixture merging to blue and white across the top, after flipping the paper so the origin of the sepia streaks was positioned at the bottom.

Watercolor and Oil: Abstract with Yellow Watercolors, Blue Red and White Oils

Time Tiger
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


I have been feeling a bit repetitive since I began this series.  Since I discovered my ‘time graphic’ and ‘colors of the past’, I have tried different ways of treating them visually. But I always seem to have the same starting point.  So far I have not exhausted this theme and there is always hope that it will lead to another step in development.

I just started reading a book about the Blue Four, a group of artists that included Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Alesej von Jawlensky and Lyonel Feininger.  Thumbing through the color plates I noticed that themes are repeated again and again. Sometimes the forms are reproduced in different colors, sometimes the same color scheme is used repeatedly. I take a lot of solace from this. I’m glad I am in good company chasing down a theme.

Ink, Water and Oil Time

Today’s experiment:

I had a bit of success in blending the 12 yellow pigments from my paint box, I mentioned yesterday. I began by drawing the curve of the metaphoric time line I developed in my Time’s Arrows post. At the narrow end of the curve, I began with lemon yellow (a yellow with a greenish tint) and ended on the left hand side of the paper with the orange tinted yellows. I poured sepia ink onto the still-wet, wide end of the time curve and let it merge with the yellows. I tilted the paper and the ink dripped to bottom of the paper, through my time line.

I wet the area around the yellow on the right side of the paper and applied and ink called ‘bordeaux’, hoping it would be purple enough to create a contrast. Following the same method, I applied yellow ink to the right side of the paper, surrounding the sepia.  The orange color that resulted from the merging of the yellow and bordeaux inks informed me that bordeaux was more red than purple.

I painted blue/white texture above the sepia drip line, and red/blue/white texture below, and outside the yellow of the timeline.  In addition to the color contrast, I wanted to provide a contrast with the ultra smooth texture of the watercolor and ink areas.

Watercolor, Ink and Oil Paint: Abstract, Using Time Line Metaphor

Ink, Water and Oil Time
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper


As I mentioned, I began with my timeline metaphor. The fortuitous dripping of the sepia ink physically divided the composition. I spent much time inking the area around the yellow curve with bordeaux and yellow ink, below the sepia ink line. I wanted a shock of color above the line. Although the blue oil paint is not exactly shocking, it differs significantly in color and texture from the area below the line (before I added texture around the narrow end of the yellow line).  I outlined the narrow end of the yellow line with a combination of ultramarine blue, alizarine crimson and titanium white oil paints to create a contrasting purple field. I used a palette knife to approximate the same texture as in the blue area of the composition.

This abstract composition began with the same kernel as my other compositions in this series: the representation of time past by a curved yellow/sepia line. Development beyond the kernel was governed by random events (drips) and other visual considerations (i.e., using complementary colors, etc.).

Untitled Experiment

Today’s experiment:

I began today with yellow. I deemed yellow as a color that represents the past, a topic that fascinates me. My color metaphor for the past is yellow and sepia.  I have 12 different yellows in my paint box so I tried to arrange them in order from the greenish lemon yellow to the orange-brown Naples yellow. I used a 1/2 inch flat brush to paint parallel curves of each of the yellows.

I couldn’t decide what to do next so I set the sketch aside for a while. Even after this, nothing about the composition suggested what to do next.  By rote, I surrounded the mass of yellow curves with their complementary color, purple. I changed to a blue complement to surround the orange-tinted yellows.

I thought the other edge of the yellow shapes would benefit with a red surround. A red/yellow border does not present as stark a contrast as a purple/yellow border. This was the look I wanted.

After more incubation, with the sketch out of sight. I decided I wanted some stark colors in the middle of the yellow field. I used ultramarine blue and white to paint the upper part of a curved shape; I also combined this blue with alizarin crimson to create a purple curve directly in contact with the original yellow stripes still visible. I scraped away some of the oil paint to reveal some of the watercolors I first set down on the paper.

So much for the best laid plans.

Watercolor and Oil: Abstract - Experiment with Yellows, Overwritten with Blues and Purples

Untitled Experiment
Watercolor and Oil on 9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block,



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