Yeah, I’m back in the garage.

 

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Two days ago I spent the day at the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago, which really gave me the itch to get on with painting. Today, I finally opened up the new set of water soluble oil paints that I’ve been planning to try. It didn’t go quite as well as I’d imagined. Half an hour into the project, I was wrestling with a cat in the bathroom, trying to remove Viridian Green from her paws. I’m glad it was the water-soluble type of oil paint because Turpenoid® probably isn’t safe for kitty to be licking off of her paws.

The next problem was that there was no brown paint in the set and brown tones are more square inches of the picture than any other color. Yes, of course I know that you can mix brown from red and green, but there wasn’t a true green either. (Viridian is a blue-green, in case you aren’t familiar.) I wasn’t having much luck coming up with brown, but I did come up with a lot of interesting grays. I’ll need to go back to the store and get a few more tubes in more basic colors.

The next problem was too much linseed oil in my glazing mixture. The blue was amazing, but it started running down into the unpainted areas and staining the white parts. (I may or may not have said a not nice word when that happened.) At that point I decided that it should lay flat to dry and I should continue working on it later.

The final problem is me. I am apparently completely unable to get near a wet canvas without sticking my fingers in the paint. With acrylics, watercolors, or gouache, that isn’t a problem. I even managed to keep my fingers out of the latex paint I used on the studio walls until it dried, but not this stuff. I need an angry doberman to guard it out there in the garage and keep me away from it until it’s dry enough to work on again.

It wasn’t all disappointment.  I do REALLY appreciate the fact that oils don’t dry out on the palette before I’m done using them.  I didn’t do much thinning with water, but when I did, it worked beautifully.  It’s weird mixing water with oil, but it works.

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No, You Aren’t Seeing Things.

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Yes, that’s a still life in black and white.  Don’t adjust you set!  (Seriously dated myself there.)  Actually it’s the under-painting — about 3/4 finished.  It’s an Old Masters technique that I read about, painting the values first to establish the form and then glazing over with color.  They used it mainly on flesh tones.

I’m trying it out on a still life… because a peach is not going to complain that I didn’t capture her likeness adequately.  Actually, if those peaches could talk, I think they’d be flattered.  No wait, I already baked them in a cobbler, so they wouldn’t say a word.  (Working from a reference photo at this point.)

I’ve got five cherries, a white pitcher and one big flower yet to go, and then I can get to the really fun part — glorious color.  This stage is getting tedious, but I’m very pleased with the results so far.  I especially like the way the wood grain in the table is turning out, and the reflection of the pitcher in the shiny wood.  (That reflection is pretty subtle at this point — probably can’t see it in this small photo.)

I think I stopped fussing with the wood grain just in time.  There is a famous art school proverb about painting:  “It takes two people to make a painting — the artist to paint it, and another person to clobber the artist over the head and stop him before he messes it up.”

 

New tool arrived from Amazon!

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So, my new drawing tool — a proportional divider (also called a scale divider) — arrived from Amazon on Friday.  It’s the X-shaped tool on the left, and it’s used for enlarging a reference photo or increasing your accuracy when drawing from life.

When new art supplies arrive in the mail, it’s just like Christmas.  I was tracking the shipment with Amazon, and I also signed up for that “Informed Delivery” service with the postal service, so I was ready to ambush the mail carrier when she arrived.  (I may or may not have startled her a bit.)

I found it to be very useful.  I am grateful to Stefan Baumann and his Youtube video for letting me know about something I didn’t even know I needed.  I may have over-used it a bit on this canvas, but it definitely helped my drawing accuracy, and probably saved me some time too.  The longer you use it the less you are supposed to need it, because it doesn’t just measure for you, but trains you to measure visually on your own.

I will also be trying out a new set of oil paints that have been sitting in my studio waiting for their first squeeze.  That’s why I’m doing a nice, simple still life — don’t want everything in one project to be new and/or challenging.  Also, I’ve heard that when you can’t decide what to paint, you should paint your lunch.  The cherries were delicious.

 

Yes, those are art supplies.

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I’m stalling on starting my next painting because I ordered a drawing tool from Amazon (more on that later), and I’m waiting for it to arrive so I can use it.  It’s somewhere between here and Salt Lake City at the moment — we obsessive types really like online tracking.  It’s the packages that we don’t need in hurry that arrive with surprising speed.  Seriously…I order toothpaste and it’s here in flash.  The fun stuff takes forever.

While I wait for my package, I’ve been adding extra layers of gesso to the canvas, and I’ve been making myself some nifty new palettes out of leftover building materials from our past home renovations.  So instead of canvas and paint, my art supplies of the day were scraps of white wall panel, a leftover sheet of window glass, Sparkle™ glass cleaner, and white duct tape.  Instead of brushes and palette knives, my tools were an ultra-fine Sharpie® marker, a power saw and a glass cutter.

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Except for slightly sharp corners (I should have sandpapered before taping), I am very happy with the results.  I’ve got two small ones I can hold while painting, and one really big one that can sit on the table next to my easel with my rinse bucket.

Credit goes to Robin Sealark’s YouTube video for the idea.  I’m SO glad to finally have that big piece of glass out of my garage.  It’s been eight years since somebody (not me) bought a piece of glass the size of the hole, and not the window frame.  I tried to unload during three or four garage sales, but no takers.  Maybe my guardian angel hid it from garage sale shoppers because the Lord knew I would need it for making palettes.

I’m also glad to have learned how to use a glass cutter.  A new skill is always a good thing.  I don’t recall where I got that tool, it was probably among the junk that was in the house when we bought it.  I’m extra glad I didn’t sell that in the garage sale.

Finished at Last!

Lessons in Portraiture

This is the latest canvas that I’ve finished — my first attempt at portraiture in thirty years:

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The only other portrait I recall painting was part of a montage and only a moderate success with a rather cartoon-ish big head and shadows that looked like mud on his face.  (Sorry about that, Dad.)  This one took me a year and a half to complete.  No, I wasn’t painting that whole time.  For most of that 18 months, she sat on the easel.  Every time I walked down the hall, there she was in the studio at the end of the hall, sitting there, judging me, mocking me.  This summer, I finally determined I would finish her… and I did.

The details:  titled Bridesmaid in Pink; acrylic on stretched canvas; 22″ x 28″; completed July 18, 2018.

Here’s the backstory.  About three years ago, I was recruited to photograph my nephew’s wedding in Ohio.  After the preparations, and the ceremony, and the reception, and the clean-up, I spotted a very tired bridesmaid resting languidly in the corner of a sofa, and caught a candid snapshot.  As I was sorting through the photos afterward, that one caught my eye.  The graininess and soft back-lighting made a lousy photo but gave it the look of one of Degas’ ballerinas, and I knew it needed to become a painting.   So, I tracked down the young lady in the photo and asked her permission, which she kindly granted.

Here’s why I should have started with something else.  I couldn’t have picked a more challenging subject matter for a first portrait.  First of all, there’s a lot of skin tones in that picture.  Not just a face — hands, arms, shoulders, and a significant portion of one leg.  The face I repainted three times.  The left arm that disappears into shadow got repainted so many times that I couldn’t paint over all the previous brushstrokes without making it look like a hairy monkey arm.  I had to resort to sandpaper to remove a few layers before I finally got it right.

I learned SO much.  Between painting sessions I read a lot of library books about art technique.  I watched a lot of YouTube videos by professional artists.  (I recommend Stefan Baumann’s and Robin Sealark’s.  They contradict each other, but they’re both right.)  I also visited a few galleries and art shows, and I got to hop a train to Chicago and spend a day at the Art Institute museum six times because my wonderful husband bought be a membership for my last birthday.   All of that study means I have lots more ideas in me ready to burst out onto paper, panel, or canvas.  It’s like being pregnant with octuplets, but without the morning sickness.

[Shameless Marketing Alert]  Some day when I’m wildly famous (and/or dead) this painting will be extra valuable.  Remember, I said it was my first real portrait.  If you’re the buyer, you could have a very valuable item someday.  Outliving me would probably help that investment.

 

New Directions

If you were a follower of this blog in the past, you may be wondering what happened to all the older stuff.  Well, it’s been deleted.  I am taking this blog, and my life in a new direction.  It is my aim to become a working artist.  That would be the opposite of a starving artist, I suppose.  Instead of musing about the creative process in general — in which I was boring myself — I will be showcasing my artwork along with the same sort of snarky commentary that my Facebook friends seem to enjoy so much.

So, keep coming back to see the finished art ready for the marketplace, to see art in progress, and to read about the adventures and misadventures surrounding it all.  I’ll let you know when I’m going to have an exhibit so you can come see my work in person, and when I’ll be entered in a show or contest, so you can vicariously participate in my successes and help me lick my wounds when those clueless judges do me wrong.

You can participate in my art too.  I am planning to let my readers occasionally vote on which direction a piece should take, or what subject matter to tackle next, or even to submit a photo to be considered for subject matter.  Because I am not above a little bribery, I am also toying with the idea of giving away some freebies — my art on a T-shirt, perhaps.  Of course the best way to participate is to purchase art.  There will be opportunity for that too!  I have to sell the stuff or I’ll run out of walls to hang it on.