Positive and negative

I had been contemplating the equinox as a time of equality of opposites of all sorts, not just night and day, dark and light. And so the first demo of the day on Sunday was an example of painting positives on one side of the page and negatives on the other. Turns out that was a real brain twister, but just the sort of exercise that hones ones watercolor skills. And botanicals were the perfect opportunity. As I finished this little sketch I looked up and saw that in the 11:00am sky directly in front of me was a perfect half moon! equal parts light and not. Now I suspect there is no such word in the English language as “equinoxian”, but don’t you truly think there should be?

So while the student struggled with this positive negative exercise, many were clustered around these miraculous orange flowers. The pigment we needed in our palettes would have to be called “the orangest orange”.

Marilyn doing orange

And then we discovered little mushrooms in the redwood grove – mushrooms and clovers and ferns! And we used our patterned pages as a start for woodland sketches.

A very good example of an “overworked” piece, but oh so fun to do. Can you tell which if any of the shapes are actual plants glued on?

My fellow blogging buddy W.R. (Bill) Jones came up from southern California to join us for the weekend. It’s a little bit scary when you’ve only met someone on the internet and then you know they’re going to show up in person. And, I mean, what if you can’t stand each other in real life? Well, thank heaven Bill turned out to be as funny and likable in person as on the internet. And such a good sport! I mean, the guy’s an accomplished plein aire oil painter, with the most perfect easel set up I’ve ever seen (of course he’s also an engineer which always translates to the practical and useful art equipment). And he spent the weekend doing quick watercolor sketches on his lap like the rest of us! Anyway here he is, his cowboy hat upstaging his shoulders a bit, but maybe that’s just my unconscious reaction to his collossal intelligence.

Next: the equinox finale


  1. Wonderful, Susan, what a pleasure to assist indirectly (but still very directly thanks to your lively sketches and words) to your workshop in that fabulous place! I have generally no much room for envy in my life as I have a great life in the sun, but I must admit to feel some envy here, I would have loved to be with you there, your students, and Bill. Do you know that Kevin would have attended your workshop too? One day we will do it, this is for sure! But this is, I guess, what all people want who read your posts and Bill´s post about that weekend, and I suppose we wiull have to book a place at your workshop one year in advance!

    I totally love the idea of representing the equinox with positive and negative on the page. Funny is that i used this technique in some of my Eroscapes last week, but not consciously, I just did it. I guess the moon guided my hand…

    Anyway, great sketches, great entry, so much loife, so much art, so much poetry of nature, so much love… Mille mercis, ma chere Suzanne!


  2. ‘I suspect there is no such word in the English language as “equinoxian”, but don’t you truly think there should be?’

    Perhaps “equinoctial” – ‘of or happening at or near equinox’ – would do instead?

    I watched the sun setting that evening, and as the red disc of the sun neared the horizon it passsed behind a church tower that emerged from the trees that had been masking it as clearly as though it were a paper cutout. Magic.



  3. Yep, now that I’ve studied it for a bit, you have made my shoulders way to small. Also, I’m a lot taller (6’4″) and have more hair than you’ve painted here. You could do a suggestion of the full head of hair, by painting on a pony tail.

    But you just keep at that figure drawing practice, you’ll get it.


  4. You see what I mean everybody, about Bill’s intelligence? WHo needs broad shoulders when you’ve got a mind like his? But honestly Bill, you’re a fine looking man at whatever height you really are. And I like the pony tail idea, though I think the sketch would inch toward the androgenous side rather quickly. . .


  5. Well Miki, you tell me when you and Kev are coming and I’ll book a workshop then. How about the vernal equinox? No ripe grapes then, but plenty of wine and blooming plants everywhere!

    THe whole positive/negative painting technique is i think what accomplished artists do unconsciously and this creates the “lost and found edges” which integrate the subject matter to the background to effectively, and add a touch of mystery.


  6. Ah ah, now I understand what you meant by positive and negative painting… I will try tomorrow – another resolution – tomorrow will definitely be a busy day!


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