New Watercolor Painting: “Muse”

This week I’m hoping you will do me the favor of casting a vote between two versions of the final painting I just finished for an upcoming exhibit. After finishing the first version, I wasn’t completely happy with it, so when the Loveland Museum moved our turn-in deadline back a few days, I started a second version of the same composition. This painting will be my smallest piece in the show, and also my only watercolor.

I use a crazy watercolor technique which is very fun, but darn near impossible to control, so there’s really no way to get the same result twice. I typically work on two watercolor paintings at the same time anyway, partly because working on a second one keeps me from messing with the first while successive stages are drying. Usually I’ll abandon one partway through and stay with the one I feel has the most promise. I this case, I completed them both, but am unsure as to which one I like best. I can’t exhibit them both because I only have one frame prepared.

When I started the second version of “Muse,” I was happy enough with the result that I decided to photograph some successive stages of the painting, for those interested in the process. I would summarize the process by saying that the painting is composed of successive layers of very wet glazes, so that the paint literally rolls around on the watercolor board. I’m grateful to Craig Lueck and John Richardson at Hallmark Cards, for introducing me to this technique, which made watercolor enjoyable for me.

(You can see a younger me using this technique in my 4 ½ minute watercolor video on Youtube. Simply type scott freeman watercolor in the Youtube search bar. My apologies for not yet being set up to link videos on this site.)

Here’s the first version of the painting. Mollie says I should put this one in the show:

Muse 1

Following are some stages showing the development of the second version.


Below is the final result. Please let me know which painting you think should go in the show, (though I’m definitely leaning toward one of them.) Vote the first or second version. I’d be interested in your reasons if you’d care to share them:

Muse 2

The subject matter of this painting comes from one of my favorite evenings during our trip to Germany last year. After Mollie and I spent the day in the Jewish Museum in Berlin, our wonderful German hosts took us to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. Then we went for a walk and a glass of wine at the Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin’s most beautiful square, featuring domed German and French Cathedrals facing each other across the expansive plaza with the restored Konzerthaus Berlin (Berlin Concert Hall) rising up between them.

When we entered the square, the sky was beginning to turn Maxfield-Parrish-blue. The weather was still and lovely, and a street musician was playing saxophone on the square under an ornate street lamp that was just coming on. His music echoed through the square, making the moment all the more transcendent for me. To be carried away to Europe by the generosity and grace of our new international friends, and to now be in their company on such a beautiful night in one of the world’s historic cities was extraordinary. This overwhelming memory will always be with me.

Berlin-Soldier Market Platz

Street musician on Soldier Market Platz – photo by the author

On our walk to Lutter & Wegner’s Winehouse, we passed the Concert Hall with its grand stairway. Great statues framed the stairs. On one side was a lion, on the other a lioness, each mounted by a cherub playing a musical instrument. Our hosts waited patiently as I took more photos, one of which became the source for this painting. Back at our hotel, my night ended when I couldn’t sleep from excitement, and Mollie excused me to take a midnight walk in the city (recounted here.)

Scott Freeman and Mollie Walker Freeman will be presenting a two-person art exhibit themed around their Germany trip, entitled, “Zeitgeist: Paintings inspired by Germany.” The show opens with a reception at the Loveland Museum-Gallery on November 8, 2013 at 5pm, and will be on display through February 23, 2014.


20 comments on “New Watercolor Painting: “Muse”

  1. Scott they both are wonderful But I think #2 would reproduce the best if that’s ever an option.

  2. ladylinchpin says:

    I love how this evolved and how the light from above dissolves into the murky blue hues below. It has a somber, yet tranquil feeling to it. I would not go with #2 as the illuminated segments on the leg/ wing and background detract allowing raw paper to come through..

  3. Gary Alsum says:

    Hi Scott. Not enough time to read the whole post this morning but I like #2 better, at least the way it shows on my monitor. It has more pop, particularly because of the transparent nature of watercolor. to me the first version has more of the look of a photo that wasn’t exposed quite long enough. But if you go that route, I’ll take the first if you’re going to throw it out!

  4. Sue Kemnitz says:

    Both my daughter and I vote #2, what we think is the green version.


  5. Tracy Nichols says:

    They are both fantastic! I can’t see them side by side on my ipad to give a better comparison, but I have more of an emotional reaction to #2, I think, because it has stonger contrast. Either way, you’re good.

  6. They are both beautiful, but I like #1 the most–I like the mood it creates.

  7. The show opens on the 8th, not the 5th. It’s hard to really see anything close to the true color in the photos. I’m not sure either, any more which I like more.

  8. Tess Durham says:

    Gee since you asked…. #2 gets my vote. The light/dark areas are more balanced in the composition. #1 the light area in the upper left draws my attention away from the subject. Glad to see you are continuing to pursue your passions!

  9. Rod says:

    The second version has my vote. Although I like the first one as well. Given the context, the city and it’s history it seems to communicate a depth the second doesn’t.

    • Rod – Agreed! Berlin has a crazy history, and has seen a great deal of nastiness. In fact the Concert Hall where this statue sits was mostly destroyed in WW2, and is now reconstructed. The first one does have a bit of an apocalyptic feel.

  10. THANK YOU all for your feedback! It’s very helpful. Mollie, I have corrected the date – thanks for pointing out the error.

  11. Gunter says:

    i agree, mollie.

  12. Abigail Dalton says:

    The first one is the determined muse that must plow through the mundane to reach the sublime. His face is formidable and his arms more rigid as he seems to play the light right into the top left corner of the painting. The second muse is the whimsical muse that enjoys the already breaking light of inspiration, which has infused more of this composition. His face is relaxed and happy; he is playing to the music, not coaxing it. Both are fabulous, but I have to go with Molly on # 1. The tenuous light is compelling. I can identify with both muses, but there is a certain appreciation for the one that must persevere and pull inspiration from deeper places.

  13. Abigail Dalton says:

    drat, I spelled Mollie’s name wrong, sorry!

  14. Wow, Abigail – you almost made me change my mind…

  15. Jan Avery says:

    Scott– I’d have to vote for #2. I love the color– it just ‘sings’ in my mind… Very nice!

  16. Di says:

    Well, I can’t think of any “artistically endowed words” to say about these 2 compositions. However!, the second just has brighter colors (which I love). The first, of course is darker, at least on my iPad! The first angels’ face looks rather rounded (maybe slightly chubby!) Also, he is not smiling! And maybe that is because he played the wrong note on his instrument: do you see the little darker paint spatters(?) above his head? They kind of look like a little line at a 45 degree angle. It’s as if he is about to say “UH OH.” Yep, definitely no. 2 for me.

  17. Di says:

    Just an addition to the “slightly chubby” adjectives. I have nothing against his looking possibly chubby. I, myself, am chubby. Well, very chubby. Eeh…I admit that I am downright fat. So there, you have it! I have nothing against chubby faced angels or people. To do otherwise, I would be at odds with myself! ;~)

  18. Thanks for weighing in Di and Jan.
    The show is long over, and I did end up going with number 2 because I felt it was a better composition over all.Thank you for reading!

Please share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s