Saturday, August 2, 2014

Masters of Watercolor - Vol. II



Bolshoiya spasibo to Konstantin Sterkhov and the publisher Lan for this book of incredible watercolor art. Many of my best watercolor friends and heroes are included - Stanislaw Zoladz, Ong Kim Seng, Viktoria Prischedko, Sergey Temerev, Jeannie McGuire, Ted Nuttall, Eugen Kisnichan,  Xavier Swolfs, Barbara Nechis, Shirley Trevena, Linda Baker,  Iain Stewart, Samir Mondal,  my NAWA colleagues  Carol Carter, Keiko Tanabe, Mark Mehaffey,  Thomas W Schaller, and others. Not to mention the great Konstantin himself (with a fantastic painting that is in our own collection!).

I wrote the foreword:

Perhaps more than any other visual medium, watercolor has been bound by tradition, institutions, and its perceived limitations. As recently as fifty years ago, a person undertaking watercolor had the weight of the medium's history on his or her brush, unassuaged by the liberating developments such as occurred in oil painting, decades prior. Watercolorists were long-burdened by notions of what their medium should be, rather than emboldened by what it could be.

Eventually, watercolor caught up with the modern art revolution, and creativity exploded.

While the medium is still deeply rooted in, and to a degree encumbered by, its customs and perceptions, there has been a significant influx of ideas, techniques, and materials that have broadened its scope and critical acceptance. Indeed, a number of contemporary watercolor artists have expanded the repertoire to include subject matter and methods well outside of the conventional realm, sometimes on a scale previously reserved for canvases. While change and innovation often induce resistance among traditionalists and purists, the advancement of the medium depends upon trailblazers in order to survive and remain relevant.

This book, the second in a series, highlights the work of a number of artists committed to expressing a personal vision, while taking watercolor to places seldom seen. They respect what has come before without repeating it, and set an example for others aspiring to master a notoriously difficult and elusive medium.

I doubtless speak for all of the artists in my heartfelt thanks to Konstantin Sterkhov and the publisher, for providing an inside look at our backgrounds, thought processes, opinions, and creations -- a celebration of the magic we call watercolor.

*          *          *

The book is available here:  

http://ruslania.com/books/184095/masters-of-watercolors-interviews-with-watercolorists-from-classic-to-modern-art











Sunday, July 6, 2014

Parks Gallery - Idyllwild

Beach Shadows - watercolor - each approx. 9" square

These four small paintings will be on exhibit at the Parks Gallery during my workshop at Idyllwild, July 7-11.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Summer Wind - Pratique des Arts No. 114





Summer Wind is a painting I did as a demonstration for the very beautiful publication, Pratique des Arts.  I was aware of this magazine, but had never actually seen a copy until I received No. 114, with the above article. This was a logical extension to the article I wrote for Art of Watercolour last year on the subject of watercolor vs. acrylic watercolor, and the idea was to combine the mediums in a way such as to highlight their respective properties. The first layers were thrown at the paper while attached to the studio wall in order to create a spontaneous underpainting from which to build an image. This was done in acrylic watercolor so that subsequent applications would not disturb the resulting effects. I then switched to standard watercolor, taking advantage of its impermanence, should corrections be necessary. Painting watercolor on top of acrylic watercolor also creates a resist that can enhance textures. 

Merci beaucoup to the publishers for inviting me to produlace this demonstration. Though the magazine is published in French, it is so superbly put together (high quality paper, and outstanding reproductions), I think it would be of interest to any painter, even those who do not speak or read French. (moi!)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Inspirations & Technical Breakthroughs: Secrets from the Contemporary International Watercolor Masters



A big "shey-shey" to Zhou Tianya and Ruan Hoe for including me in this terrific new book. It is apparently the best selling watercolor book in China. It is aimed solely at the Chinese market, so I'm sorry to say there is no English version. 

* * *

The second volume of Inspirations & Technical Breakthroughs, Secrets from the Contemporary International Watercolor Masters, Vol. II in Chinese language by Ruan Hoe and Zhou Tianya is published by Jilin Fine Arts Press, China, in December 2013. Following the first volume, the second volume features another nine outstanding contemporary American watercolor masters: Mary Whyte, Susan Swinand, Dean Mitchell, Ted Nuttall, George James, Joseph Alleman, Carl Purcell, Peggy Zalucha and Nicholas Simmons. In the book they candidly discuss their inspirations, generously share their creative processes and show-case their exemplary work with Chinese readers.

Inspirations & Technical Breakthroughs is the product of an international collaboration. Editor Dr. Ruan Hoe, a Chinese-American watercolorist and a principal researcher at UCLA, translated and edited the text. Second editor Zhou Tianya, a well-known Chinese professional watercolor artist, member of Chinese Artist Association, signature member of NWS and AWS, curator of Shenzhen Watercolor Biennial 2013-14, originally fathered the idea and designed the entire book. As the first of its kind, the first volume was critically acclaimed in China and its first edition’s 4000 copies are almost sold out. The second volume (4000 copies) is currently being distributed to all major Chinese bookstores and also available online (paper back, 11.6”x 8.8”, 144 pages, ¥78.00RMB, approximately $12.50USD). The third volume of this title with nine artists from the United Kingdom is in the planning phase and scheduled due out in later 2015.














Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Workshops - Judging - Exhibitions






4-day workshop - San Diego Watercolor Society - San Diego, California.  January 13-16
Lecture/Demo - January 14
Contact:  workshops@sdws.org  (619) 876-455


4-day workshop - Boca Raton Museum of Art - Boca Raton, Florida. March 6-9
Lecture/Demonstration - March 5
Contact: info@bocamuseum.org (561) 392-2500


Exhibition - Wyland Galleries - Laguna Beach, California.  March 6.


4-day workshop - Virginia Watercolor Society - Lynchburg, Virginia. April 29-May2
Lecture/Demonstration - May 3
Contact: dreakin57@gmail.com


Judge: Virginia Watercolor Society 35th Juried Exhibition  


4-day workshop - Carré d'Aquarellistes - Côte d'Azur, France. May 29 - June 1. 
Contact:  teti.sandrine@neuf.fr  06 23 86 41 04


Exhibition - World Watermedia Exposition Thailand - Bangkok, Thailand. June 11- July 20.



3-day workshop - Idyllwild Arts - Idyllwild, California. July 7-9.
Contact:   heatherc@idyllwildarts.org  951-659-2171  ext. 2361

Exhibition - Parks Gallery - Idyllwild, California. July 7-11


5-day workshop - Madeline Island School of the ArtsLa Pointe, Wisconsin. September 15-19. 
Contact: misa@cheqnet.net  (715) 747-2054


Judge: World Watercolour Competition  



Exhibition - III Bienal Internacional - Caudete, Spain. October 25 - November. 15. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Virtuoso Guitar Duos Collectible Print Available




TONAR MUSIC© ISSUES A
COLLECTIBLE FINE ART
POSTER OF ITS
VIRTUOSO GUITAR DUOS  
 
Tonar  Music©  announces  the  release  of  collectible  fine  art  poster,  based  on  its  CD  release,  “Virtuoso  Guitar  Duos”  in  the  Manuel  Barrueco  Collection.

The  original  CD-­‐cover  used  a  painting  by  Nicholas  Simmons,  the  renowned  watercolor  artist.  For  the  poster,  Mr.  Simmons  superimposed  Manuel  Barrueco’s 1972  Robert  Ruck  guitar,  Barrueco’s  first  guitar  and  the  one  he  used  for  over  20  years  in  concert,  and  the  one  that  he  still  uses  for  select  recordings.

The  poster  is  available  in  two  sizes:  30  x  30  inches  (76  x  76  cm)  with  2-­‐inch  (5  cm)  border,  and  15  x  15  inches  (38  x  38  cm)  with  1.5-­‐inch  (4  cm)  border.  The  poster  is  printed  on  a  heavyweight  Epson  matte  paper,  using  archival  inks,  ready  for  framing.

The  larger  poster  is  autographed  by  Nicholas  Simmons  and  Manuel  Barrueco.



 “VGD  Poster”  is  available  on  TonarMusic.com,  which  ships  world-­‐wide.

Contact:  Asgerdur  Sigurdardottir      Orders@TonarMusic.com      Dir.  Tel:  443-­‐492-­‐9294 

Friday, June 28, 2013

New Website


Thank you to the TillerWilliam agency for getting this new website developed. Events will now be listed on this blog or my Facebook pages.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Watercolor vs. Acrylic Watercolor


The last word on this controversial subject!

In the new #11 issue of Art of Watercolour.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Tommy Bolin "Tomikazi"



This is the second TB tribute axe I designed with Tommy's brother, Johnnie Bolin, and the Dean custom shop. It's selling very well, check it out at all major music retailers or http://www.deanguitars.com/bolin_series.php.

Turn it up!

Monday, May 13, 2013

World Watercolour Competition


I'm really honored and excited to be one of the judges for this new, unprecedented exhibition taking place this year in Europe. The Art of Watercolour is sponsoring the event, and it features quite an array of prizes (including the biggest cash award in watercolor), exhibition and publishing opportunities for many, and EVERY entry that passes the first selection process will get published in a special edition of the magazine, distributed in 32 countries! 

Calling all artists!

You want to be recognized as one of the world’s greatest watercolourists! See your work in the leading art magazines and receive offers to exhibit in the top shows worldwide! Win up to $12,000 in cash! It is what all artists dream of and now this dream could become your reality.

For the past four years The Art of Watercolour, and the magazine’s French edition, L’Art de l’Aquarelle have promoted the talent of watercolour artists from all horizons into 32 different countries. We can do better. Today we are taking another step forward creating “The World Watercolour Competition”, aiming at stimulating artists worldwide and pushing the boundaries of technique, creativity and originality. There is $25,000 cash prizes to be won, no theme or size imposed and the competition is open to all artists; amateur and professional, from all nations. This competition, of four selection processes, offers the chance of a lifetime for all who participate.

THE MAIN PRIZES (this list is not conclusive and none of the prizes are accumulative):
• The Jury’s Gold Award of Excellence : $12,000 + a major Portfolio article in The Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle magazines (Acquisitive prize).
• The Jury’s Silver Award : $5,000 + a major article in The Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle magazines.
• The Jury’s Bronze Award: $3,000 + a major article in The Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle magazines.
• The Best French Artist Award : $2,000 + an article in The Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle magazines. This prize is open to French artists only.
• The best painting award for a painting valued under $1,000 : $1,000 + an article inThe Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle.
• The best amateur artist’s painting : $1,000 + an article in The Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle magazines.
• The best young artist award (open only to artists under 30 years of age) : $1,000 + an article in The Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle magazines. Total prize money (excluding all merchandising): $25,000

This exhibition has four selection processes. The first selection will be conducted by the members of the magazine’s editing team. The following three stages will all be juried by a select panel of five highly recognized international judges : Xidan Chen (Artist & President of the International Watercolour Biennial, Shanghai, China), Tony Hunt (Artist & Vice-President of the Royal Watercolour Institute, England), Jim McFarlane (Artist & President of the American Watercolour Society, USA), Janine Gallizia (Artist, Art Director of The Art of Watercolour Magazine), Nicholas Simmons (Artist, USA).
.
Notice that the top 20 artists will exhibit their two paintings in Europe's most prestigious event in Narbonne, South of France.

Monday, May 6, 2013

2013 Workshop Schedule



I had to cut back on the workshops and traveling after last year's ridiculous schedule. However,  I am going to some fantastic places -- consider joining me! 


3-day workshop - Carré d'Aquarellistes - Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France. May 8-10.
Contact: Sandrine Teti 06 23 86 41 04


3-day workshop - Idyllwild Arts - Idyllwild, California. July 8-10.
Contact: Heather Campaniott 951-659-2171, ext. 2361


5-day workshop - Art in the Mountains - Bend, Oregon. August 12-16.
Contact: Tracy Culbertson 503-930-4572


5-day workshop - Enjoy Painting Catalonia - Barcelona, Spain. September 2-6.
Contact: Angela Barbi 34-645-767-403


5-day workshop - Northeast Art Workshops - Gloucester, Massachusetts. October 7-11.
Contact: Kat Masella (978) 729-4970


3-day workshop - Art Trysts Studio - Clearwater, Florida. November 4-6.
Contact: studio@arttrysts.com 888-727-1190

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Guitar Solo



Some rock and some Bach. Turn up the volume!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Larissa Does New Math



The world's only eight-year-old who knows every Tom Lehrer song!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

New Interview

I received a very flattering interview request from an art student in Russia, with a number of unusual questions.

Dear Nicholas,

I decided to send you a letter because I’m really fascinated by your works and I’m dreaming one day to paint at least a bit as beautiful as you do. However at the moment I’m just a student at the Institute of Design, Applied Art and Humanitarian Education in Saint-Petersburg also I’m the participant of the editorial staff in our new student magazine, Про искусство. Now are working on the first issue which will be dedicated to watercolour painting. The subject of the article will be the technical aspects of watercolours which can be useful both for novices and more experienced artists.

My idea is to base the article on the review from the best and brightest watercolour artist which I know and whose works I sincerely admire. So without any hesitation I came up with your name in my head. To make the long story short here comes the request part of the letter. Could you please briefly answer the questions below basing on your experience and knowledge so we could quote your expert opinion in the article.

Thank you very much in advance for sharing your ideas and experience. I’m sure all your recommendations will be a great help and inspiration for many young artists in Russia!

Best regards from your passionate fan,
Vasilisa Sokolova

1. What are your key principles for better more consistent watercolour painting? 

That's a difficult question, and perhaps depends on the kind of artist one is, or the work one is doing. Certainly consistency will result from doing the same type of paintings in the same technique/style/handling, but I find this approach, after a while, rather boring. I'm more interested in art and artists that surprise me. I particularly like work that imparts a sense of danger, the feeling that the artist took a chance. This approach probably does not serve the interests of consistency with respect to the overall quality of the work. However, regular risk-taking is a type of consistency of its own.
 
2. What should the progression of exercises  look like to achieve the best results?

I don't know, I've never done exercises. I don't do value studies, or work out much of the painting in advance. Part of what I like about watercolor is its elusiveness and tendency to change quickly; plans don't always agree with that unpredictability, and rigidly sticking to a plan can make the work suffer. With regard to values, color, etc.,  I see all of that in my head. I know the painting will not be quite how I imagine it, but I have learned that the unexpected detours and adaptations might well be better than the original idea, anyway. 

3. What are the biggest mistakes novices make when practicing watercolours? What are the biggest misuses of time?

There are two that seem most devastating to me; one is physical, the other, mental. In my opinion, most beginners paint much too small. I think it is better to start large, as one learns to handle paint when there is a lot of paint to be handled. On a large scale the tolerances are greater, requiring less precision. More space allows the physics of the water, paint, and paper to do more interesting things. One can still learn about control and detail on a large scale. Another consideration is the option of cropping; if you crop the best section out of a small painting, you will likely have a tiny painting as a result. If you crop a large work, you can still come up with a decent-sized painting. I've noticed that starting small also builds fear in people of painting larger, a fear most never overcome in watercolor. That is unfortunate, and unnecessary. I always wanted to do paintings that could hang in big spaces with some impact. 

Size is the easy problem to fix. The more difficult problem for people in the beginning, and even for many  experienced painters, is letting go of preconceived ideas about how the work will progress and ultimately look. This is especially true in watercolor, as the medium is liable to do something unexpected. The saddest thing is when people cannot, or will not, let go of those ideas at the expense of something that might be better. There is an arrogance to this attitude that says "my idea is best." The medium has always been a better artist than I am, always doing something I wouldn't have thought of on my own.  "Listening" to the painting is crucial, and I have no aversion to changing direction. Instead of insisting on attaining what's in my head, I've come to accept what I get, and time after time that has been superior to the original intent. I think watercolor painting is like playing jazz, it's very improvisational. Over-planning a performance is not only the antithesis of improvisation, it is the death of it.
 
4. Even at the pro level, what mistakes are most common?

Expanding on this subject, that would depend on what one considers a "mistake." I see all kinds of work that I feel is a mistake before the paint ever hit the paper. Or to put it another way, something not worth doing is not worth doing well. Apart from the philosophical, actual technical or design mistakes usually announce themselves. Then, I often see work by accomplished technicians who appear to be trying to see through the eyes of another artist. That's a serious situation that cheats everyone involved -- the original, the perpetrator, and the viewer.
 
5. What are your favorite instructional books or resources on the subject? If people had to teach themselves what would you suggest they use?

There are so many good books and videos I hesitate to name any, as I'll no doubt omit something important. I suppose the best resource for teaching oneself is drawing on all of the things in one's personal experience. For me, a lot of that came from music, film, literature, photography, and, of course, studying the work of artists I admired.
 
6. If you were to train me for four weeks for a competition and had a million euros on the line, what would the training look like? What if I trained for eight weeks?

That's a fun question! Four weeks would involve rolls of huge paper, lots of paint, large brushes, and putting you through the entire range of emotions. Some people do their best work when at their at emotional extremes, others do better on an even, objective keel. Eight weeks would allow a lot more time to put the work away and take it out later to analyze with fresh eyes.
 
7. What are the biggest mistakes and myths you see in watercolour painting? What are the biggest wastes of time?

Learning too much about the materials is a mistake, in my opinion. I've noticed the people who become preoccupied with all of that are often not very good artists. I see an over-reliance on value studies and planning as largely a waste of time. Worrying about what others will think is very bad. The idea of "purist" watercolor has nothing whatsoever to do with art, so obsession with that is obviously a mistake. There is the notion that painting everyday has some inherent value, but I don't agree. I'm not saying it's bad, but painting for the sake of painting does nothing for me.
 
8. Do you know somebody who is good in watercolour painting despite being poorly gifted for it? Who is good at this who shouldn’t be?

The first question is strange. I'll just say that I see many people who have great technical skill, but in my opinion are not artists in the way that I think of artists; that is, exercising the imagination and creativity, exploring uncharted (if only for themselves) territory. Related to this might be the people who can draw but can't paint, and the reverse - those who can paint but can't draw. A curious situation that raises questions about their assumed interdependence. There are many analogies that can be drawn there, such as the example of musicians who don't really know theory and harmony, but produce great music anyway. I'm not really sure what the second question means! 

9. Who is the most unorthodox watercolourist or watercolour teacher? Why? What do you think of them?

Oh my, what a difficult question. I have been described as unorthodox, but then I see all kinds of other artists who do things that seem quite unusual to me, things I would never think about painting. Regarding teachers, I probably haven't been exposed to enough of them to be able to make comparisons. 

10. What makes you different from other artists? Who trained you or influenced you?

I was influenced early by many well-known watercolorists, most notably Valfred Thelin and Barbara Nechis, and of course people such as Sargent, Sorolla, Wyeth, Mauricio Lasansky, etc. My favorite contemporary painter is Alex Kanevksy, but I also admire Lita Cabellut, Jose Parla, and too many others to mention. If I'm different from other watermedia artists, perhaps it is my music background and general aversion to authority that somehow emerges in a way that has a certain vibe. And while I have tremendous respect for many historically great artists of the past, I have no special respect for tradition or the politics of art. Many artistic institutions are weighed down by things that address artists collectively, and I see art as purely an individual endeavor. I don't care much for team sports, I prefer to see one person out there winning or losing on his or her own abilities.


Thank you very much for your time and most of all for sharing your ideas and experience. Your letter was like a breath of fresh air for me and I'm sure my fellow students would feel the similar effect :). In fact you've managed to ruin a couple of ideas I sacredly believed in for years...
Thank you again and best regards from Vasilisa.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Summer Symphony

Summer Symphony - watercolor - image 123 x 126 cm

This painting is on its way to California. We're on our way to Bermuda and the islands for Spring Break. Bon voyage!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Rebirth



One my prized possessions, a Fender Stratocaster with about a million miles on it, has been sitting disassembled in a box for thirteen years. A new tailpiece, pickguard, wiring and electronics has brought her back to life, and I couldn't be more thrilled. A big thanks to Phil Jacoby of Philtone Guitars in Baltimore!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

After All The Violence And Double-Talk

127 x 127 cm.  watercolor

This one got destroyed, but it had a cool vibe. Another version in the pipeline, stay tuned.    

And thank you to Hot Express blog for the nice words and feature!                                                    

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Shanghai Zhujiajiao Biennial Opening


International field award winners, left to right:  Anna Ivanova, Joseph Zbukvic,
Alexander Kryushyn, Ross Paterson, Dean Mitchell, Andrew Kish (not shown: Charles Reid)

I returned to Shanghai yet again in late November to join fellow judges, award winners, and guests for the 2012 Shanghai Zhujiajiao International Watercolour Biennial opening ceremonies. Besides the excitement of the event and seeing so many incredible watercolors on display, I got a chance to meet up with many friends, colleagues, and a few artists I have admired but not met until now: Anna Ivanova, Andrew Kish, Alexander Kryushyn, Dean Mitchell, Ross Paterson, Joseph Zbukvic, and of course Jo Jo and Xidan Chen, Janine Gallizia, Tony Hunt, Ong Kim Seng, Liu Yi, and too many others to name. Most all of the big names in watercolor are represented in the show, it's quite impressive.



We were all treated with a level of hospitality and respect that has become a hallmark of this exhibition. Paid flights, five-star hotel, lavish meals, and tours. There was a fantastic day in the city, another lunch in the revolving restaurant forty floors above Shanghai, Yu Gardens, and a night on the Bund. The opening ceremonies took place outside the Zhujiajiao Cultural Center where about half of the show is hung. The other half is at the Quanhua Watercolour Gallery. Buses shuttled visitors back and forth, though I unfortunately didn't have time to make it over to the gallery.


Congratulations to the sixteen award winners - eight from the international field (six pictured above) and eight from the Chinese field (see photo below). There is a fantastic catalog available from the Biennial website:

http://www.watercolourbiennial.com/Online-Shop.html

Shey-shey to the organizers for giving me the privilege to judge this unprecedented exhibition once again. Joseph Zbukvic said it perfectly in his speech on behalf of the artists when he spoke about the famous bridge of Zhujiajiao as a metaphor, illustrating the connection between East and West via the art of watercolor. We all hope to build on that, and bring the medium to new heights of awareness and critical acceptance.