Happy Accidents


“Howard’s Hat”,  15″ x 15″, Watercolour

There are many ways of getting a painting to resonate. Planning and executing with precision and a clear vision may be one. Another, more up my street, is protecting happy accidents along the way. (the term “Happy Accidents” being first coined by TV artist Bob Ross). We’ve all made a mark and seen a result that surprises: “Hey that looks interesting! I didn’t expect that but I like it.” When I see this, I often look to embody the effect: how can I propagate & reinforce the impact.

The Woodsman, 20" x 28", Oil on canvas

“The Woodsman”, 20″ x 28″, Oil on canvas

My painting titled “The Woodsman”, has one very strangely shaped eye. It seems to drip in the middle, preventing the eye from forming a contiguous whole. I remember leaving that mark there for most of the painting, wondering whether I should define it more completely or at least reduce the stridency of this almost random mark. But it repeats the verticals found in the beard, it could almost be a drip coming off of the hat and it certainly breaks up “reading” that eye – giving more focus to the squint in the other. When most viewers look at the painting, I am surprised to find that they don’t notice it. This “accident” is one that makes the painting!

Who knows where that mark came from. Perhaps it was subconscious. Perhaps random. But the response to that new mark is not either: it’s a connection with the painting. It’s the potential in what you see. Possibly showing a new path to explore. Painting for me is like this- a combination of conception, planning, skill and execution, but above all, an expression that comes mysteriously into the picture.

May all your accidents be happy!

This Saturday, 04 October, we explore the realm of “Happy Accidents” in our workshop: “Balancing Control and Expression – Capturing that special spark”. Details on the courses page of my website.

The Secret Life of Lines

My recent plein-air watercolour sketch "High and Dry", 10"x7"

My recent plein-air watercolour sketch “High and Dry”, 10″ x 7″

Lines are everywhere, noticed and unnoticed, a beguiling network of relationships, boundaries, connections. Looking at a Monet, we focus on the colours, the light, the painterly paint. We don’t necessarily focus on the horizon, that corner of a building or perhaps a reflection from a bridge. Whatever it may be, most paintings, certainly representational styles, rely heavily on line.

In my recent plein-air sketch (above), lines create atmosphere with tree-forms in the background and set compositional elements that help move the viewer through the picture space. The foreground is separated from the main viewing area by line and the horizontal surface of the shallow water is implied by line. Most of these elements are painted rather than drawn.

The focus of the painting is cemented with stronger and more prescriptive line work: the dead tree-root and its companion, an abandoned dock. What may not be visible in the finished painting is line work that guided the painted values, added later to better define the root structure. All this in a sketch that, although modest, could still have gone astray in so many ways. Whilst mainly atmospheric, it’s the line-work that holds it all together.

Line-work is fundamental, and this is the focus of the first of our Fall Series of workshops: Saturday, 20 November features “The Secret Life of Lines”, and we will spend the day immersed in “Drawing for Painters” as our theme. Join us for a day of integrating some sound drawing practices in your paintings. This will include some elements of layout, contouring and equally, exploring how line-work can add drama and punch to your artwork. Bring along materials for a new painting or a work-in-progress!

Check out details on the courses page of my website or just send me an email at david@davidkearn.com for more information and to book your spot!

Lines Rule, OK!