While Oil Paintings Tend to Be Novels, Good Watercolors Are Poetry

About a month ago, I began painting again. I had not really painted for years, and it help me get back into my art, I began painting several small studies of flowers–not flowers from photographs, but flowers that were alive and sitting immediately in front of me. When I am able to experience nature that is real and right there, I am moved in ways that photographs do not move me.

Last Rose of Summer – Jacki Kellum Watercolor Painting

Last Rose of Summer was one of those floral studies, and within two weeks of my having painted it, it was viewed on my website almost 900 times. After two and a half weeks on my website, Last Rose of Summer sold. At first glance, that seems surprising. The piece is ultra-simple, but as I was working on Last Rose, I began to respond to the delicate minglings of color that were happening on my paper–on their own.

Detail – Last Rose of Summer

As my work progressed, the rose became less and less important to me. In the above image, you can see that I quit painting before I had initially intended to quit painting. You can see leaves that I have sketched but have not painted. That is an example of how I have stood back from the painting, and I have allowed the painting to paint itself.

The leaves lost meaning to me as mere leaves, and I quit painting them. I became immersed in the abstraction that evolved from somewhere within the color.

In my opinion, my best paintings can be enjoyed simply as minglings of color. It doesn’t matter what image has been painted, the essential part of the painting is more of an essence than something concrete, and watercolor is a wonderful medium for capturing that lyrical essence.

“What is essential is invisible to the eye.” – The Fox from The Little Prince

In college, I was essentially paid to pursue a masters degree in English, and I focused my English studies on William Blake and on writing. Yet, I most wanted to be a painter. [It is interesting that Blake both wrote and illustrated his work and Antoine de Saint Exupery {The Little Prince} did, too.] Therefore, while in graduate school, studying English and taking the full course load [after that, any other courses were free], I also pursued a masters degree in painting. I did not complete the master’s degree in painting until several years later, but after college, all of my teaching jobs were in visual art.

Even while teaching art [visual art] in schools, I always pursued its dual nature–one of technique and one of the spirit. When I taught visual art, I always endeavored to teach the whole person and not merely the hands. To help my students think about what they were doing–on a deeper level, I asked them to write about their art. The writing helped the students channel their minds and forced them to shift into a deeper gear. I want my students to Think and to Feel and not merely to do handiwork. My intention is to cultivate the entire Arts processes. The entire package is necessary to achieve what is essential in art.

Pink Roses in Blue Delft Vase – Jacki Kellum Oil Painting

When  I paint with oils, I slash and hash and work and rework and explain. If I am not extremely careful in oil, I paint too much and lose the immediacy that I find in my watercolors. I have always said that while oil paintings tend to be novels or even essays, good watercolors are simpler. They are lyrical–they are poetry. Like poetry itself, good watercolors are distillations of the Spirit–they are Essences, and Essences resist the temptation of providing “Too Much Information.”

“What delights us in visible beauty is the invisible.” – Marie von Ebner Eschenbach