In Art, Release Your Pencil — Release Your Paint — Allow Your Art to Live

Last year, I went to see the incredible exhibition of the watercolors of John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and I cannot overemphasize how very much I was benefitted, especially by seeing Sargent’s watercolors. John Singer Sargent was an extremely successful portrait painter, and I have seen some of his oil paintings that, from a distance, seem to breathe realness.

But as you move closer, you realize that even in his oil paintings–even in his portrait work–Sargent allowed his brush to dance.

Sargent – Woman with Collie

When I was able to examine Sargent’s watercolors closely, I formed the opinion that he must have gained his dexterity and freshness with oil painting from his watercolor studies.

Sargent – Ena Wertheimer and Antonio Mancini

I further realized that even for John Singer Sergeant, there is a fine line, when painting with watercolor, between freedom and a mess.

Sargent – Group Siesta in a Swiss Wood

Sargent’s Group Siesta was in the Philadelphia Exhibition and from a distance, I could hardly tell what was happening in that painting. Yet, the closer I edged toward the work, the clearer the image became to me.

Here is another portrait by John Singer Sargent. Notice how the stripes of white are slashed across the page. Contrast the slabs of color in the hair to the softness of the girl’s face. Sargent painted with bravura only where he could do so and not sacrifice the delicacy that was needed in other spots.

The USS Red, White and Blue – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

I am happy to admit that Sargent’s Sailor Dress was somewhere in my brain when I painted USS Red, White, and Blue.

John Singer Sargent – Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose


Detail – Essence of a Lily – Compare how few strokes it took for Sargent to capture the essence of a lily. This is an example of capturing an impression of something, as opposed to painting it in perfect realism. In other words, this is an example of impressionism, which is one of my favorite eras of art.

Image result for stargazer lily Actual Lily


Detail – Essence of Roses

John Singer Sargent was a master painter. I admire the way that he was able to seamlessly shift from spontaneity to control.
Being able to see art first hand, and not in books, is beneficial for any painter.
Sargent – Gust of Wind
When I saw John Singer Sargent’s Watercolors first hand, they offered me the permission to play with my paints–even when playing might mean that I might fail–or not!
Image result for john singer sargent watercolors
Sargent – Egyptian Water Carriers
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