The DragonLady Speaks – Taurus Style

New Moon in TaurusMay 13, 2010 6:04 pm PDT

Taurus Inspiration: - ground your energy in Mother Earth - be cautious and reserved about money - continue or finish projects - stay at home with your family - appreciate the bounty and beauty of Mother Earth

Spotlight on Taurus Artist: The DragonLady Wickenburg, Arizona, USA

I'm a Taurean, and a watercolor artist - those two things are almost mutually exclusive as watercolor requires a lot of artistic gambling, but Taurus isn't a gambling type. We don't take big risks in any part of our lives, and art is no exception. We marry the nice guy next door that we've known forever, rather than take a chance with some dashing stranger. We start a career with one company, and stay there 'till they kick us out. We buy a house made of real bricks and real hardwoods that will stand forever, no matter how the climate may change. We love our creature comforts and surround ourselves with things we think are beautiful or important, but we don't trade stability and rock-solid performance for flash, glitter or the latest fads.

Only a water-colorist can turn a $5.00 sheet of paper into trash in less than two minutes. Watercolor pigments are often very staining, and a mistake can only be removed by scraping away the upper layer of paper. Every step of every painting has to be planned in advance. Hues used for big washes have to be pre-mixed because there's no time to mix more before the paper starts to dry and waiting too long will make streaks. Once a wash has been applied it can't be touched again until it is completely dry or it will make streaks. An accidental splash of a staining pigment like permanent magenta will ruin a beautiful expanse of ochre beach or a delicate butter-colored blossom.

Many watercolorists love the exciting, unpredictable, wild and wacky things watercolor paints do. The "happy accident" is a major element of their techniques and looked forward to. Not this Taurus! I want total control! I want precise lines, areas of flat color with no back washes or streaks and delicate transitions of color. I want a huge value range - the lightest lights, the darkest darks, and I want the highlights to be right where I put them. I won't settle for unintended splotches or scribbles.

Geologist's Breakfast - Watercolor - 9 x 12 in.

"Geologist's Breakfast" was inspired by a group of geologists who used to meet every morning in a cafe I worked at. They usually didn't eat, just drank coffee that looked like mud. Each of them carried a case filled with specimens and samples and they would share them around the table like plates of cookies. © The Dragon Lady

For me, just picking up a brush is a gamble. I spend days on my drawings, working out every detail of my composition. I draw in every detail from the largest shapes to the smallest highlights and because I won't gamble a drawing I've worked on all those hours, I trace every single line before I transfer it to my watercolor paper. If my painting is ruined, I still have a "backup copy" so I can start over.

Sometimes, I make several smaller drawings to test colors and values. I'll try these out with cheap paints or watercolor pencils to make sure my composition is going to turn out the way I want...I leave nothing to chance. I've done a lot of the work in my imagination long before I ever pick up the brush and sometimes I start losing interest in the whole project before I really get started.

After the drawing is done and the local colors have been chosen I choose my palette - usually only three or four pigments and test the color mixes I can make. Sometimes that takes a few hours while I decide whether I can make a large enough value range or mix enough variations of a color to make the painting work. A garden scene might need twenty shades of green, and I want to be sure I can mix those with my chosen palette before I start painting. So I'll make mixtures of all the pigments in different rations and paint small test swatches. Once they're dry I can compare and make changes.

But once I've begun I'm usually able to let go of all the fears and anxieties. I know that if I do make a serious mistake I can start over. So with that in mind I reach a place where I'm comfortable enough to begin. By that time most of my decisions have been made and nothing is left except the physical act of putting the paint on the paper.

When I'm finally done with the work, I'm really done. I'm able to look at it and decide if I like it or not. Either way, I'm able to let it go and move on to the next thing, and that is where my risk-taking and sense of adventure begin to show. I'm willing to take risks with my subjects. I'm willing to tackle a huge range of ideas and I know almost no boundaries or limits on what I'm willing to portray. I'm equally comfortable with very pretty pictures that everyone likes to see or dark, erotic, esoteric and troubling images that no one likes to see. My next painting may portray a pretty vase of flowers on an elderly woman's porch or a pair of dead birds being devoured by flesh-eating butterflies, or something so erotic and passionate the finished work will never leave my workspace.

My unlimited artistic freedom keeps me sane, allows me to soar, shows me new ideas and inspires me to push every boundary. It gives me the means to examine every preconception and to purge myself of outmoded or untenable opinions. I am always changing, evolving, spiraling toward a destiny I do not yet know. It doesn't bother me in the least that I'll arrive there in the same car I was driving ten years ago or wearing a sweater I bought for my honeymoon.

You can read more New Moon Artist posts by clicking on the link.

PS What I'm curious to know is how the 'DragonLady' got her name!