haute conduite


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Intro | Chap1

The Dance

The starter's pistol fires a resounding crack. The dance begins.

From just above, the daylight white glow of color corrected fluorescent bulbs spreads down like a tent with the artist inside. Scattered around are the tools of this trade. Old credit cards cut up in various ways to provide the range of edge-shapes needed to move color around just so. There are fine sable brushes of all sizes, each one having gained its own special character through use, each one's character fully known to the artist...more edge on this one, more spread on another, one for a particular highlight.

A gray decades old cylindrical plastic quart container is almost full of equally gray water. The outside of it is spattered with dashes of color long ago dried; the inside is also spattered with fresh colors that slowly melt into the surface of the gray water and turn gray themselves. Almost everything else within a radius of several feet has flecks and drips of dried watercolor, chance pointillist patterns built up from over a quarter century lying in the path of a rare creative drive. An arm's length of brilliant white paper soaked through and through with water lays flat against the slightly tilted, stiff acrylic sheet which is the easel. Across the spread of paper, glistening palm sized pools of water reflect the overhead lights. A few shimmering drops fall off the edges of the plastic.

It is just before hours. The blinds are drawn and all is quiet in the studio/gallery. An occasional low rumble wells up in the walls as a car passes along the street beside. A distinctive music plays softly in the background. It is a music that has lent a texture to this process for so long. Now is a rare moment of calm in this artist's day, but one regularly set aside and elongated in order to paint the very special pieces.

Nobody heard that starter's pistol fire, but it went off just the same. From the very moment the sheet of water was poured soaking over the paper, it was already beginning to dry. Now the race is on to complete the painting before the materials lose the eloquence found in their extreme fluidity.

To the careless observer it appears nothing much is happening. The artist's arm sweeps over the paper in a broad smooth round-house gesture. Immediately the three inch brush in hand stutters slightly and counteracts the round-house with a flicking reverse. The bristles bend gently, just graze the paper's surface, then rebound and fly away as quickly as they approached.

A closer look at the painting reveals that the deft, graceful movement has left a shining perfectly matched trail of Alizarin Crimson over the elegant Quinacridone Gold feathered on just before. The two swaths blend momentarily as the artist taps her pallet and returns with a carefully timed third stroke of Purple Madder. The multilayer of color wells up briefly and immediately begins its predicted settling into a rich permanent history of the dance being performed above it. At once transparent and chromatically deep, the colors merge in a kaleidoscopic illusion of glazing.

To the uninitiated it may appear accidental, or even magic, but this is haute conduite watercolor.

It has taken the artist, Mary Endico, a lifetime to make this look easy. What appears casual is rather like a combination physical ballet and musical jazz improvisation. It is quick, precisely timed and inventive. The whole body and spirit are engaged. The results are enduring and astonishing!

The permanence of the materials assures the original intent of the paintings may be preserved for centuries. Their bold precise strength can cause those who appreciate the work to have an observable visceral reaction. Every significant stroke of the artist's brush fulfills the contract with the enthusiast to provide art with lasting impact.

To the connoisseur this is true watercolor at its finest. The best wet on wet materials used in this way are unforgiving. One slight misstep can bring the whole process tumbling to an abrupt and muddy halt. No reworking is possible as with dry brush technique, or with the slow layering of glazed oils and acrylics, or with the scumbling of gouache, or when all three techniques are combined in mixed water-media. Even direct oil painting technique provides a chance for repair, but wet on wet watercolor is fast, brutal and final. Keeping the end-product clear, crisp and unmuddied is an awesome task. There are few masters, and Mary Endico has gone well beyond mastery to innovate a style-- haute conduite.


Intro | Chap1

Copyright 2002 Bob Fugett
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Endico Watercolor Originals, P.O. Box 31, 1386 Kings Highway, Sugar Loaf, NY 10981-0031