Thursday, March 27, 2014

Work in progress: Cupcake Tray

I made this three-tier cupcake tray for an exercise in Carla Sonheim's Watercolor Transfer Paintings online class. I was cutting out random shapes from these Avery transfer sheets (I added the watercolor and marks previously) and saw something that looked like a colorful cupcake (the one at the top of the tray was the first one I saw - you can see it in the first sheet below, on the left) - then I saw some more and kept cutting and it made me smile!

Then I decided to make a tray to hold the cupcakes and pulled out the purple/blue sheet made during a previous gelatin printing session - this was a 'waste' page where I brayered excess paint. I love the way it looks cut into strips.
This is still in progress, I'm still going to add paint and marks and finish it up.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Abstract painting "Spastic Colon" 12"x12" acrylic on board

Work in progress (or maybe it's done, I haven't decided) for Exercise 4 of Karine Swenson's online class, intro to abstract painting. 12"x12" on board, primed with gesso. I used Golden Acrylics for this.

On this piece, I keep being pulled from light to dark values. First I add light lines, then I add dark lines, then I cover them back up with gesso and add light again. My favorite part about these are the dots of color on the sides. That was made by covering everything except the exposed color with gesso. The paint underneath was still slightly wet so after brushing through it several times, the color came up into the gesso to make a lightly colored gesso. I like that part a lot.

This started off as a bright yellow swoop with some dark blue lines and light pink around it. This is several layers later. The top circle had bright orange next to yellow (like the squares) and the contrast of that bothered me - it looked too bright, too much like candy corn... So I painted over it and I might add a bit of white paint mixed with gel medium to tone down the boldness of the orange and yellow squares on the side.

Maybe this is weird, but I feel like calling it "Spastic Colon" because of the curving shape and the various 'appendages' coming off it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Intro to Abstract Painting: charcoal and color sketches

I'm taking another online class, Intro to Abstract Painting with Karine Swenson. Here are my charcoal sketches from the first exercise:
This is my favorite one of the bunch, which I did with charcoal, then erased some lines from it. I really like the texture created by the erased areas.
For the second exercise, I made these watercolor sketches:
Some are more abstract than others...
This was my favorite one. I like the dark part on the bottom left where the brush was really dry. Also, the pink part on the right, how the pigment separated out when it dried. I added some little dots with a pen.
I also really liked this one, with the dry brushed blue paint on the bottom and the payne's gray + yellow ochre on the top (and some of the lovely effects of that mix on the page), plus the dark blue drip going right to left.:
And I've played around some more with the gelatin plate. Here are some recent prints. This one was made by dripping paint on the plate then blowing it around with a straw:
 This was also made by blowing paint around with a straw. First I brayered a pretty blue/purple color on the plate, then splattered water droplets on the top. I painted two lines of silver paint then blew the paint upward across the plate. There was some pink and yellow showing through from the previous pull.
This was made by brayering on a layer of pink, then dropping some magenta and yellow paint on the surface and dripping water spots on it, blotching with a paper towel, then blowing the remaining paint around with a straw. I placed a triangle stencil over part of it, then pulled the print.
The little splotches in this one are drops of spritzed alcohol. I like the colors and the effect on the top half of this, and the bottom half isn't bad either.
I've been brayering from an acetate sheet (thick plastic). Some of the paint dries before I can wash it off. That leaves some lovely color behind:
Also, I really like the colorful marks and remnants on the newsprint on my work table:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Color Bubbles, 6"x9", acrylic painting

I love this painting. I made a series of gelli prints today, and the underpainting for this was the 'waste paper' where I brayered excess paint. I decided to paint circles on it with white paint and gessor, then go around the outside with blue paint and a bit of black. I love it!

Here are the gelli prints:
Aren't the white florets in the below lovely? They were an artifact of the gelli plate - I think there must have been some moisture on there from the last time I used it. After the paint was applied with the brayer, the dots kept spreading outward.
 This was another trash page to collect excess paint:
 The dots of white on the left side are from spritzed alcohol. I'm not sure if it's good to put alcohol on the gelli plate, but it causes some really cool effects:
 I brayered a bit of yellow over the dots after removing the dots stencil. The yellow barely shows through and I like it:
 The white splotches on the right after from alcohol spritz as well as some sea salt sprinkled on there:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Brought To You By The Letter E, 9"x9", acrylic painting. Art Idea Brainstorm exercise

I've been thinking a lot about white space lately and wanting to use it more in my art. I do tend to cover up a lot of the page, if not all, with color and marks. But I can see how white space is visually pleasing.
I made this quick five-minute painting to get an idea out of my head onto paper. I used masking tape to mask off the letter E and the lines on the right for the black 'piano keys' or whatever they are. Initially I had the idea for a yellow letter E floating above a background of something. It turned into this. So thinking about the letter E, check out all these different words that could be used as inspiration for a piece of art - these are just off the top of my head:

Eddy (like the eddies of ocean currents)
Egress (okay, now I'm really just pulling words out of nowhere - but seriously, wouldn't it be interesting to illustrate egress?)
Erstwhile (Have I been watching British period dramas or what?)
Eeek! (I'm thinking of a picture of a mouse inside it's little hideaway, tucked in bed with a piece of cheese)
Epiphany (that would be a fun one to illustrate)
Ewe (that makes me think of a song I heard as a child, goats eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy, but I thought the lyrics were 'Goes ee dotes and dose ee dotes and little lambsy divey')

Look how interesting just a short one letter brainstorm can be! You can come up with all kinds of words and images and ideas to use for art.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Create circular text in GIMP for use in a collage or painting

I wanted to make circular text for my painting, and decided to use some titles of songs I'm listening to lately. I googled "How to make circular text on Gimp" and came across this awesome tutorial - it's very easy to understand/follow. It's nice that you can pause the video step by step and follow the steps in Gimp. Plus Gimp is free!
I made this circular text - keep in mind I didn't care too much about the placement, because I knew I was going to cut it out for my painting, but the tutorial shows how to line it up or make the bottom half text go in the other direction. It also shows how to make wavy text!
I did two more and changed the text direction on the bottom half: Think about all the fun things you could do with this, and add images in the middle and change the color and put it onto a background or make it into a clear/beveled 'stamp' to add to the corner of any photo, like embossing!

Then I cut out the circles and cut holes in the middle so my underpainting could show through. Here was my underpainting before adding circles- you can see the little white outlines of possible flowers on the right side. I had painted on some pink and magenta, then used a brayer and stencils with black paint and paynes gray to stencil on some dots. Then I used the gelli plate and brayered a layer of copper color and painted white flowers on top of the copper, then pressed the paper to the plate. I wasn't too pleased with the result and decided to go in a different direction, hence the circular text.
I added the circles using a matte gel medium:
Then I decided to make three different 'flowers' out of the circles:
And used gesso to make the color in the flowers stand out from the background:
Then I painted on it for awhile and added some black pen marks to get the final painting, which I'm calling The Playlist, 9"x9", acrylic, gesso, pen and gouache.
Here are the song titles from my playlist:
We Built This City by Starship
This Is Not The End by Fieldwork
Recover by CHVRCHES
Daylight by Maroon 5
Chocolate by The 1975
Oblivion by M83 (feat Susanne Sundfor)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What IS that??? -- how to name a painting

I couldn't sleep so finally I got up to make a painting. I had the idea of some spheres, so I drew one large sphere and three smaller spheres. Then I started painting. The large sphere was green and blue, like a large earth and the three smaller spheres looked like deviled eggs perched delicately on the outer crust of the Earth.... SO I painted over the right side of the large sphere and painted several layers until I was satisfied.

I want to mention my new favorite pen, it's called a ZIG Memory System Writer- metallic colours (it must not be made in America since it has the 'u' in colors) - indeed, upon closer inspection it is made in Japan. I got it at a paper store a month ago. It has two ends of different tip sizes. This one is silver and acid-free and it lays out paint-like color in the same way as those old metallic pens that you had to shake but they would make blotches all over or not write sometimes. This one isn't like that but it paints terrifically. I recommend you run right out immediately and buy one! They come in all kinds of colors. I like the metallic one because I can make little dots and lines on top of acrylic paint and it stands out beautifully.

While I was painting I was thinking about how or why artists name their paintings. Some leave them untitled. Others create in series, and use some simple nomenclature such as Stones I, Stones II, Stones III, and so forth. Others, some whose work is clearly abstract, use interesting names that conjure images of picnics or strolls along the beach, or days spent toiling in the kitchen or worrying over a child. I rather like those titles most of the time, because it makes me wonder what the artist was thinking when they named the painting.

Usually I come up with a name that is reflective of something in the painting, or if it's purely abstract I'll call it 'Red and Blue Painting' or something. But lately I've been thinking more about assigning funky names to my paintings. For instance, a few weeks ago I got on an elevator. It stopped at a different floor, and when two more people got on, the smell of bacon wafted in after them. In that moment I had the idea to name a painting "Smells Like Bacon." Off and on over the next week the idea came into my mind, and I wondered what a painting titled "Smells Like Bacon" would look like. Would it need to actually represent real bacon? Would it need to have rays of pink if it was abstract? Would it need to have wavy lines to represent the marbled fat layers in a bacon strip? I don't think so. But would there need to be some rhyme or reason to it? I know the answer is no. It's art, so people can do what they want.

In the case of the above painting, I was thinking about what to name it while I was painting it. At first the idea came into my mind, "They Said It Would Last." That made me think about how everyone who looks at an artwork comes to the experience with their own perspective, so what a title means to someone would convey meaning in a slightly different way to each viewer, particularly the more abstract the painting and the less directly linked, pictorially speaking, the title to the painting. So naming a painting could really become part of the art or the fun! And on the other hand, an artist could use a random word generator or pick random words out of a book or the dictionary to come up with a title beforehand, then use that as inspiration to create a painting.

As I changed the painting and covered up the large sphere, I thought I should change the name of the painting to "Too Bad" or "Enough is Enough" or some other thing commenting abstractly on the process of putting more and more painting on a page. Or I could call it "I Never Did Like Deviled Eggs Anyway." Well, I never DID really like deviled eggs. But since I'm on the subject of eggs, and there is some pink in this painting, plus a few wavy lines, I'm calling it "Smells Like Bacon."

How do you name your paintings? or if not, why not?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Noon In the Beekeeper's Garden, 9"x9", plus a gelli print "Game of Checkers"

This is a painting with Golden fluid acrylics and some gouache plus turquoise and black pen.

I made this gelli plate print yesterday with the idea of two figures sitting at a table. First I brayered yellow on the whole plate, then brayered some green on the bottom half. I painted on two figures in green. I added some yellow stencilled dots at the top of the paper before pulling the print off. I like how the dots show through the yellow upper half of the print:
Then I started painting it and turned it into a checkers game. I don't like the finished piece overall, and I've thought about what bothers me so much about it. I think it's the dissonance created by the green and orange at the top, and the pink and purple at the bottom. The colors are just not pleasing to me in this juxtaposition. I do, however, really like the little checkers pieces! I also like the posture/form of the figure on the left. It reminds me of someone in deep concentration, considering the board, thinking about his next move.
And my favorite part of doing that painting was this print I pulled off the plate after pulling the original- I brayered on the excess greenish paint so as not to waste it. This is a 9"x9" piece of paper, with a 6"x6" print on it, so it looks framed nicely. I love all the little elements in it. You can see the frame of the figures (sideways) if you look closely. I like the little white splotches. This will look nice as is, framed.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Night Passage: 9"x9" acrylic painting over gelli print

I started with a gelli print: I rolled pink acrylic across the whole plate, then a magenta across the bottom, then painted two figures on with orange, pressed the paper onto the plate, and brayered some magenta onto the page as well. Then I added some trees and more details to the figures and decided to make it 'nighttime.'
I really like the idea of this, mother and daughter making their way silently in the night to some destination, with colorful robes keeping them warm.

Thinking about Art-Making: People and Faces

I don't depict people very often in my artwork, and even more rarely will I depict actual faces. I think that's because I don't feel like I really do them well, and/or I don't know how to work them into a composition in a balanced way. During my efforts to draw Marilyn Monroe's face for a painting, I said in that post that depicting faces is not a strength for me because I haven't done it enough to properly learn how.

I decided to spend a little bit of time after that trying to draw a portrait. I spent several hours on a watercolor working from a photograph. It didn't turn out as a true likeness, but the coloring pleased me and overall I liked it. I think if I spent more time on something difficult, such as faces, I would be satisfied with the result. Thinking about it reminded me of that part in Napolean Dynamite where he gives the drawing to his prom date and tells her how much time he spent shading the upper lip, and that makes me laugh.

I realized part of the problem is that I don't feel like spending more than 30 or 40 minutes on any one thing, though I HAVE been known to pour hours into a painting (I spent like 8 hours or something on the bird on a ball painting, and about that much time on the Birds Playing Go Fish painting). And I can spend a lot of time on a quilt, though it's rare that I plug in for 10 hours straight anymore - now I'll spend a few hours here and there on one until it's finished, which might take months.

I want to practice the discipline necessary to paint high-quality faces that please me or that satisfy me. There are few things worse (in art) than doing a painting where all the elements feel right except one big thing that just throws off the whole thing. I will paint it out or cut up my painting to get around that sometimes. I guess it's really not a bad thing if that happens - it's a learning point or leads to something different that I might not have considered previously.

I've seen those Youtube videos where the person draws a face in 10 minutes and makes it look very like a photograph. That's kind of cool. Even more, I appreciate some of the less 'realistic' portraits done by Cezanne, Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso (in his earlier years, though I will say some of his stuff is pretty bizarre) and Alexej von Jawlensky, like his 'Head' at the MoMA. One of my favorite Cezanne paintings is Hortense Fiquet in a Striped Skirt - look closely at the face and it's just a lovely mish-mash of bright color blocks. Matisse had the right idea - he just did whatever he wanted with color, and I have no doubt he first mastered the ability to paint people "the right way" (i.e. more realistically and less 'impressionistically'). I love so many of his paintings, with all the floral and geometric motifs and the brilliant color. But check out this Portrait of L.N. Delekorskaya, it's even more deconstructed than most of his works. This painting tells me, take risks, do what you want with color and line and shading, don't worry about it being 'realistic.' And one of my favorite artists is Maurice Prendergast - such wonderful colors and lines and people strewn about the seashore or the forest, people made of little lines of color, no attempt to distinguish faces for the most part, yet you get a feel for their posture and their attitude just by the simple lines he used.

Looking closely at these types of colorful artworks in museums teaches me that a portrait, a face, a figure or body does not need to look like a photograph to be beautiful. But sometimes what comes out of the pen or brush is something resembling a stick figure, or one of those depictions of zombies done by a 14-year old. You know what I mean - the stiff figure that looks more like a concoction of rectangles. Is that so wrong? No. But it's not what's in my head. So that's the frustrating part - not having sufficient technical skill to translate what's in my mind onto paper. (On a side note, I recently saw this picture of rectangles, David Hansen's Streetscape I, and it is fabulous.)

Another thing I realized is that I tend to paint or draw from memory or imagination, essentially 100% of the time, rather than look at something (unless I'm making a specific effort for a particular project). That means all the landscapes and still lifes (lives?) and other artwork is coming from my head, and therefore usually lacks proper dimensions and shading which might be translated better if I worked from reality. I know if I want to increase my technical skill I need to spend more time painting from what I'm seeing.

Stuck in the Pipe, 9"x9", acrylic painting: Process Post

Have you ever felt stuck? Had a blank page and a blank mind? Look something like this:
You're surrounded by all your favorite art supplies and gloriously lovely colors. But nothing comes to mind. There are several things I like to do to get ideas flowing. I'll show you the one I did for this painting. But first I'll show you my 'color card' which I made recently to catalog all my paint colors. I take it with me to the art store so I don't buy the same thing, but I also like to look at it to get color ideas. It's really easy to make - just put a dab of your paints on a thick paper, then write the color name and brand under the dab.
Now for today's painting. I picked a book randomly from my bookshelf, in this case it was "Travels with Charley" by Steinbeck. I found a page I liked - this one was talking about how one of his favorite authors would capitalize nouns. I scanned the page, then opened it in Gimp to crop it and reduce the threshold to make the letters less pronounced, then printed it and cut it out and glued it to my page, a 9"x9" piece of mixed media paper (thick and smooth like cardstock). I intentionally glued it sideways and a bit crooked:
Then I saw my piles of fabric nearby for the quilt I'm 'supposed' to be working on, and decided to cut off a scrap and glue it to the page (I used matte gel medium):
I decided to see what would happen if I brayered some paint (pink gouache) onto some leaves then pressed them onto the page:
The result wasn't too amazing, actually pretty sad, but there are some pretty little marks on there that add some interest. I also brayered on a bit of the pink paint to use up what was on the brayer. Generally I think trying random things is a good idea, because you might be pleased with the result, and if not you can paint it out:
Then I picked a color (any color) - in this case I started with orange. I usually end up using ALL the colors (one of my mottos is: When in doubt, use ALL the colors), so I just pick one to start with. I drew two circles and some lines to create visual interest:
Then I added some black lines and an overall pattern. I really like this particular pattern and it shows up now and then in my work, including this post where I used a Sun Tzu quote in the artwork, and this post, which is not exactly this pattern but a variation:
I started to add some color to the circles - a green to go with the green fabric, and some red here and there:
At that point I decided to fill in the background with different blues and greens and purples. I will also say that this image below is one of my favorites, more so than the finished painting. I want to practice leaving more white space, because I think that's visually pleasing to me. But then some other art behavior in me takes over and covers everything with color - EVERYTHING!
I kept adding color until I felt like it was 'done', and at this point I also decided I think the painting's 'right side up' is this one (which is upside down from how I was painting it, as you can see from the first place I put my signature, on the top left in this picture):
I covered up my first signature in black pen, added some more marks with black and silver pens, and signed it again on the bottom right.
I like how this turned out. Early on when I started to fill in the pattern with colors, I thought about painting over that rogue orange blob in the upper right, but I decided to keep it. Thinking about what to call the painting, I thought the blob looked like something stuck in a pipe, so I'm calling this Stuck in the Pipe. Which is apropos considering I started off this post asking what to do when you're stuck.

What do YOU do when you're stuck?