Saturday, July 11, 2015

Thomas Schaller On Watercolor Painting 

Thomas Schaller On . . .
  His Typical Working Method: About 75 percent of my work is made in the studio, but 100 percent of what I do is informed by my plein-air work. If I’m not able to complete a painting on site, I do a small sketch–not to record what the subject looks like, but rather to capture the effects of light and the mood I’ll want to convey in the final piece.
His Greatest Challenge: In the study of Buddhism, there’s the belief that the act of letting go takes more strength and courage than the effort to hold on. So, to relax, to breathe, to reduce the stress of expectation and the desire for “perfection” are my biggest challenges.
The Most Interesting Thing About the Way He Works: I never sit down. I move around constantly, and I also move my painting around a good deal. I hold it upright, tip it this way and that, and use gravity to manipulate and guide the flow of my washes for various effects. Learn more about Schaller’s watercolor painting techniques in
Thomas Schaller: Watercolor Touched By Light.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Biking the Mountains Original is Sold 

Biking The Mountains 2- 15 X 11 Watercolor. As I painted I was thinking about the Smoky Mountains. I added the distance and fog. To a new home today.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

"Listening to Your Painting" 

Thomas w. Schaller - watercolor artist March 6, 2015 · . "Listening to Your Painting" Is there a better feeling as an artist than when you find yourself lost inside the world of your painting as it unfolds in front of you? Everything seems to be happening as it should, but it’s as if you are not even painting it! Yet somehow the thing appears - as if by magic. Of course when this happens (and it does not always!) it is not magic; but it does feel magical. And it is at those times when I feel most alive - when I exist completely in the moment of creation - no worries about the past and no fear of the future. All that matters is what is happening at that very moment in the world of the painting. Then I feel beyond time and space - outside myself, and completely at peace. I am untouchable. My choices and reactions are the ones that have come from somewhere beyond thought and effort. Rather they spring from something more direct and honest, more emotive and pure. I’m always asking my groups - and myself - "not to paint whatever it is that inspires us - but rather to try to paint the inspiration itself". Fancy words, but what do they mean? Well, for me, if I am stopped in my tracks by a particular sight or scene and suddenly "feel a painting coming on”, I think it’s important to remember that the painting I will do will not be a copy of whatever that sight or scene is - but rather my interpretation, my reaction, to that sight or scene. Because if there is any art to be found, it is only there. And so with little more than my basic idea and an overall plan of shapes and values in mind, I begin. And this is where my thinking stops and my feeling takes over. I then just have to trust myself enough to let my instincts lead the way. And as I paint, I am informed - and my painting is shaped - by my emotional response to the scene that inspired me - not by the specifics of the actual scene itself. In fact, once the painting begins, the actual scene fades in importance as it is in the world of my painting that I now live entirely. Given this, I am very open to the possibility that my plan may - and will - shift as I proceed….. All paintings have a mind of their own. So its great to be able to let “mistakes” happen and decide on the fly if they are good or not. Most often, when they happen (and they will), you learn to recognize immediately that they are often “just what the painting wanted” and you see them not as mistakes, but as advantages that could have never been planned. Memory and instinct silently guide us to make choices our mind could never imagine. Learning to shut off the world, turn down the volume in your mind, and “listen to your painting” is really just another way of saying that you are learning to trust yourself and hear only your own unique artist’s voice at last. That - and your painting - very often know what is best.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Are we artists only when we paint? By Thomas W. Schaller 

Thomas W Schaller Are we artists only when we paint? As visual people, we are – in a sense - always painting. In fact, most paintings I do begin long before the brush ever touches the page. As Edward Hopper said: “Art is the outward expression of the inner life of an artist. And this inner life will result in a personal vision of the world.” And it’s in how we see and feel about the world that we are framing our future work. When just out walking, we may notice a bit of light, a hint of color, a composition of values that we never saw before. Or as the sunlight slants along a narrow street that we may have seen a thousand times, we realize; we never noticed it quite like that. Sometimes, we do a sketch, or take a quick photo. But often, we just file these impressions away somewhere in our hearts – a collection of moments. Over the years we amass a vast storeroom of moments; visual, sensory, and emotional memories - a collection we can draw upon for a lifetime. And in that collection should also be those feelings we had at the very moment we saw that light, or remembered the smell of those leaves, or the chill in the air one afternoon as the shadows inched across that road, or the talk we had that day with a neighbor or a friend. This is the stuff of Art – more than the exact specifics of what this view or that scene may actually look like. And so of myself I ask that I paint not so much the scene in front of me – but rather, how I remember, or how I feel about that scene right now. And if my painting comes even close to asking that question of the viewer, then I feel I’ve done my job. A painter paints, a writer writes, and so on it is said. That’s true enough. We only improve those skills that we practice. The only garden that grows is one that we have watered. And to be honest, I am usually not happy when I have to miss a day of painting. It is the garden I most wish to tend. But I think I need to remember how much my inner life is shaped and informed by the world around me. Taking some time to just be mindful and observant of this world – moment by moment -is critical. If I spend a little time just riding my bike, or watching people on the street, or talking with a friend, or just absorbing the sights, the sounds, the millions of angles of light that Nature provides, or just looking up and really watching the sky; all this helps to shape my unique personal vision. And back at the easel, that is at least as important a tool for the artist as any paint or brush could ever be.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

"Only Connect" by Thomas w. Schaller  

"Only Connect" “….. the prose and the poetry. Live in fragments no more.” Epigraph to the novel, Howard’s End ; 1910. E.M. Forster For this book, Forster borrowed a snippet of dialogue from one of his own characters to perfectly sum up the theme of the work . For much of his writing - and I believe his own life - was informed by the concept of “connection” - or the lack thereof . So many of his characters are in a struggle to integrate their inner lives with the outer world in which they live. And that world itself is struggling to adapt to constant transition and the evolving, cyclical nature of Time. It illustrates Forster’s fascination with the duality of Transition and Isolation. Our lives are constantly on the brink of change and exciting new discoveries - or the risk of being lost and forgotten forever. “So what has this got to do with painting?" you might be asking. For me - just about everything. In a sense, my work is a study in connection. Different values speak to one another, complementary tones are in constant dialogue, and angles - subtle or obvious lines of connection - are all central to my compositions. "Connect” is also a word heard a lot in my classes. I admit, I’m a bit obsessed with it : by the connections we have with one another , the invisible threads that bind us all in an unseen fabric that stretches across continents; one that also reaches down to Mother Earth, and then up to the very stars, and beyond. We are all part of something far more vast than ourselves. This is powerful and inspirational material for an artist and whatever stories we may wish to tell. As a painter, and a bit of an introvert, I admit that I have long struggled with my own sense of isolation and the need to connect the apparent rift between my own creative and intellectual selves - or the two opposite sides of the brain as some would have it. It’s a constant process, but I think I’ve made great strides. Yet, there are miles to go still. And that is good! But as I come to see that there really is no rift - no difference at all - just complementary parts of the same connected whole , my paintings have changed ; my relationship to others - and to the Universe we share - has changed. I have changed. And changed too are my paintings themselves; the themes, the expressions, the shapes, and values, the angles that help me try to express the changing stories I want my paintings to tell. And in the same way, this is not just a little story of my own journey - but one that I expect I share to some degree with many. As I think about all the connections there are, I feel less isolated - more happy and more free. As I paint, I am more able to become lost in the world of my painting - without a thought as to “how am I doing?” or “how do I compare?”. All that matters is the present moment in which Art is most alive. I feel no fear of the future and no regrets about the past. “Now” is all that matters. And life can be seen as just a series of “nows” - all connected, one to the other, yours and mine, forever . My wish for us all in this New Year is for more of that sense of joy and freedom in whatever we may choose to do. And as we strive to be more accepting and kind to others , we should not forget to afford ourselves that same courtesy. While we can - and should - set extremely high standards, we should also be able to forgive ourselves if we fall short. Because we will. But we will get up and try again with the knowledge that in painting - as in the rest of life - “mistakes” are sometimes the best things that can happen to us - and often - turn out not to be mistakes at all, just another connection to a new discovery - a new success.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Finding Beauty" -Thomas w. Schaller 

Thomas w. Schaller - watercolor artist December 27 at 7:28pm · . "Finding Beauty" "Everything that is beautiful is not always pretty.” This is one of the little reminders that I carry with me always as I am searching for good subjects to paint. It’s an all too easy mistake to assume that if an object or scene is not immediately captivating or visually pleasing, then it is unworthy to be painted - that there is no “art” there. This is far from the case. In truth, sometimes the most scenically perfect places may offer more to a photographer than to a painter who’s real task is to interpret - not just imitate or illustrate - what is seen. More to the point, we try to express the feelings we have based on what we see. There are paintings just as fantastic to be had from the most humble and commonplace objects on your kitchen table, to the most bleak industrial landscape, to the most glorious mountain or seaside vista. It’s all in how you choose to see them. As painters, most of us have heard the saying, “There are no bad subjects, only bad paintings”. And while that may not be off the mark, I’m actually saying something a bit different. I’m suggesting that it is not the subjects we see that are beautiful or not - rather the beauty is in how we interpret what we see, and in how we learn to look in the first place. It’s fantastic to be able to travel to exotic and far away places in search of inspiration for paintings (and I wouldn’t turn down many opportunities to do so!). But it’s good to remember also that it is not just a simple matter of a beautiful sight being “inspiring”, it is the artist that has to see - and more importantly feel - that inspiration. Then we must “find the art” in that scene and convey the story - the compelling idea or feeling that we have had - to the viewer in our work. What is truly beautiful to me in any given painting can be found not so much in the specific object or scene the artist has depicted, as in the vision and feeling displayed in the interpretation of that sight. So in a very real sense, it is not simply an amazing sight that bestows inspiration upon us, but rather the other way around. We find the inspiration within ourselves to be able to react to that scene as an artist might. We then set about shaping that reaction - that feeling of inspiration - into the work of art to result. That process is truly beautiful to me. I often ask my classes to try not to paint the subject of their paintings so much as to try to paint the light that illuminates and gives them life. Thoughts of, ideas about, and reactions to the vast array of the effects of light are consistently what causes that sense of inspiration to rise within me. I try to see the world in patterns - compositions - of dark and light. And using my case just as an example, when we can begin to look at the world around us in a different way - realizing that we are the architects of our own inspiration - then literally, good paintings can be found anywhere. Outstanding works of art are all around us, everywhere, always - just waiting to be discovered. There is very little of the real world depicted in my quick painting “Industrial Landscape in Green" that could be described as actually “beautiful” in any classic sense. Much of the painting shows little more than forgotten objects in a state of decay on a gloomy afternoon. But it was in the pattern of lights and darks, and in the almost abstract juxtaposition of forms that I found inspiration and real beauty. I wish you all lots of Beauty everywhere in 2015 - wherever you may be! Tom.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

"Just Breathe" 

Thomas w. Schaller - watercolor artist "Just Breathe" Another of my "Random Thoughts on Art" is that simple little bit of advice. Maybe it sounds obvious, but when I look back at my years as an architectural illustrator, I am surprised to recall - while trying to paint in as controlled and tight a manner as possible - when I would literally hold my breath for very long periods. My neck, my back, my shoulders were so tight, my head ached all the time. I was concentrating so hard as I painted, and I was not happy. How could I even hope to produce anything that was not also tight, joyless, over-controlled, inexpressive, and constricted? In our yoga practice, we study the incredible value of the breath - matching a relaxed , present, flow of in and out breaths with an equally alert but relaxed set of fluid movements of the body. I cannot stress enough how this practice has improved my life and my painting. Now I don't worry myself so much with final results, but I am just aware of loving the process of painting itself as it unfolds. This has allowed me to express myself in paint in a far more fluid, honest, and emotive way.

"Think Less - Feel More" 

Thomas w. Schaller - watercolor artist "Think Less - Feel More" - In my teaching - and for my own work - I keep a running list of ideas written down; bits of advice, memories, fragments of philosophy, etc. that I have loosely named "Random Thoughts on Art" . Since I'm not a big fan of rules - especially in art - where "no rules" is often the best rule - these are more "rules of thumb" or just good things to remember as I travel on. So I thought from time to time, I'd share one from my ever-evolving list here; and this is one of the first and most important for me. While it's good to think about our work, about life, about art,etc. I've found that if I think too much while trying to paint - I can be my own worst enemy. When I pick up that brush, I'd better have all my thinking done. So then, my brush can "think for me" and I can paint more directly from the heart.

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