Monday, September 21, 2009

You Ain't Nothin' But A....

This somewhat stoic Basset hound was a challenge on one of the Wet Canvas forums. I loved the look on his face, so "basset-ish". I decided I wanted to do a close crop of the photo, lots of graphic black lines, a complementary color scheme, and as much direct painting and as little glazing as possible.

I did a direct transfer of the photo onto black gessoed acrylic paper, the placement of lines being based on value changes. Then the lines get wiped lightly with a sponge to dull them a bit. Clinical trials have shown that staring at bright white lines on black paper can quite possibly etch the image permanently on your corneas. At least that's what it feels like while you're staring at them for any length of time.

I painted around all of the little black lines with Red Oxide, a great paint for this because it's warm, muted, and about as opaque as a brick. It will cover anything. At this point, my eyes were already beginning to cross, and I was beginning to question the sanity of this method. I suppose I could have toned the paper with Red Oxide first, then added the outlines, but a stubborn little part of my brain insists that the black lines have to be behind the rest of the paint. Common Sense wasn't able to overpower Stubborn Part. Stubborn wins...for now.

When this stage is dry, the white chalk outline is completely wiped off. This is actually a favorite stage of the painting for me; with the chalk gone, the black outlines reveal themselves, and the contrast becomes beautifully apparent. Now I know why Stubborn Part won this round.

Onward. Not only do I have to underpaint around all of the little black lines, but then I have to paint around them too. *sigh* I'll admit, it gets bit annoying, especially when you have the perfect mixture of paint on the brush, and you just want to slap it on with gleeful abandon. The larger parts, particularly the ear, allowed me to slap paint on with glee, just not with abandon.

I can certainly see this method working well in a much larger format painting. This guy is just 5" X 10", and I'm only working with a 1/2" bright brush to keep a painterly feel. If I pick up a smaller brush, I'll start getting lost in the minutiae, and I don't want to do that.

Finished painting, and I'll say I'm pretty happy with it. The process created an interesting "stained glass" look and feel to the piece, which could have been enhanced with multiple glazes. I might have to try that next time.

I haven't been able to come up with a good title for this ol' boy, so for now he's just:

"Unnamed Basset"
5" X 10"
Acrylic on Canson Acrylic paper

My Muse is throwing her support behind Stubborn Part. To adaptability, and beyond.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Zoned Out

Multitasking is not my cup of tea. I'm definitely a singular focus type of gal, particularly when it comes to art. When I have an idea in my head, it's almost like I have to get it out and down on a substrate before it poofs off into the nether reaches of my brain, never to be seen or heard from again. When I'm painting, as it is for many artists, the focus is sometimes so strong that nothing else exists besides the idea in the mind, the hand holding the brush, and the canvas. A triangle impenetrable by any outside stimuli. is (let's all say it together in hushed reverence):

"The Zone"

And I get downright cranky when things like life's little affairs, appointments, chores, and responsibilities pull me out of "The Zone".

So I'm somewhat miffed right now. I have a piece I'd really like to be working on, but there are things to see, places to do, and people to go. Or something like that. Given the time crunch, I'll simply post a quick, fun little piece done as my latest entry for Karin Jurick's Different Strokes blog.

"Chance of Sprinkles"
5" X 7"
Acrylic on Canson Montval Acrylic paper

Hate to leave, but there is much to do, and fun to be had beyond the easel.

My Muse is brewing me up a cup of calming herbal tea. To irritability, and beyond.

All from one

One of my favorite artists, Karin Jurick, holds a bi-weekly painting challenge on her Different Strokes From Different Folks blog. She posts a photo, and artists create works based on the photo, and submit it to the blog. It's so interesting to see the myriad of different crops, colors, styles, media, and each artist's personal take on a single subject, all in one convenient place. I've found artists that I really like who have submitted work to the blog. Back in June, Karin posted a pic of a plate of fresh Georgia veggies. This was my submission.

"Veg Out"
8" X 8" on Canson Montval Acrylic paper

It was a really fun exercise. I could have probably muted the shadows a bit, but I must confess that I'm obsessed with shadows and what can be done with them. Shadows are colorful. Shadows are expressive. Shadows are just plain fun to paint. Hmmmm...I can see a series somewhere in the future based just on shadows.

My Muse is checking the weather report for sunny days. To commonality, and beyond.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Notions...both physical and mental

Okay, okay, I have to admit something here. I love whimsy. Absolutely love it. I love it when you take something mundane and ordinary, and make it totally kooky and fun. I love cartoons. I love animation. I love goofy cartoon dragons. I love furniture that leans in odd ways (on purpose, of course). The comics is the first section of the Sunday paper that I read. If I had my way, I'd live here:

I do believe that the Powers That Be at the Uber-Disney-Mega-Corporate-Conglomeration would probably frown upon having a non-Toon resident in Toon Town. Seeing that I can't live there, I'd like to live in this house, or at least have our 1950's tract ranch look something like this:

but I'm sure that if I presented these plans to the zoning board, I'd be stymied by the Local Powers That Be, who have about as much imagination as a soap dish.

Since I can't (currently) reside in the Whimsical Abode of My Dreams, I have to make do with a little whimsical home decorating.

These two adorable dragons reside on top of the entertainment center. You can light an incense cone and place it inside them, so they really do exhale smoke. Well, not the guy on the left, actually...he has his hands (paws? feet? talons? What DO dragons have?) over his nose, so the smoke comes out of his ears. You get the idea.

This trio has a home on top of the piano. They don't necessarily help my piano playing, but they don't criticize either, for which I am thankful.
Didn't I say I have a thing for goofy dragons?

This loony bird keeps watch over the kitchen. Why do we have a fake bird in the kitchen, you ask? Why, because we don't want a real one in the kitchen. Or anywhere else. Seriously. There are more than enough critters in this house as it is. 'Nuff said. get the idea from this small sampling of home decor wackiness. So it naturally follows that I like and am inspired by art and artists that are a little, lets say, off the beaten path of photo realism. Not that I am knocking photorealist artists, mind you, so please save the scathing comments and appalled emails. I admire the work of many of these artists, probably moreso because I know I don't have the eye or the patience to do anything like that. I tried, and drove myself crazy when the result didn't exactly match the subject. It gave me headaches. It made my eye twitch. I think I almost gave myself a cerebral hemorrage once. It wasn't me. So a style based more on folly and lightheartedness started looking better and better, and probably wouldn't require prescription medication to get through painting a piece.

One of my absolute favorite artists is Don Tiller. He is a Washington artist who does fabulous, fun, colorful landscapes of rural and urban scenes. Look at the blue trees, and the orange fields, and the funky absolute feast for my eyes! I saw his work for the first time in The Artist's Magazine. It was one of those instances where your eyes casually move over something, then your brain suddenly sits up and takes notice, and immediately informs your eyes to go back to take a closer look. I did. I was hooked. I would love to have one of his landscapes gracing a piece of wall in my home. This is one of his works titled "Mid-season"

Another favorite artist is Daniel Ng. I first saw his work at the Old Town Art Fair in Chicago. I was drawn to his work for the same reasons I was drawn to Tiller's: the primary colors, the funk, the fun. Another element that catches my eye is the thin black lines that outline the forms giving the paintings a nice graphic quality. Another interesting feature of Ng's work, which is more apparent in his paintings of interiors, is the distorted perspective that makes it appear like you're looking at the scene through a fish eye lens. Yet another layer of whimsy! Love it! This is one of Ng's works titled "Mt. Tam"

There are many other incredible artists whose work I love and that inspire elements that I am trying to incorporate into my work. I want my art to be more colorful, more graphic, more, dare I say it again...whimsical. I'm not shooting for Over the Top Whimsy With a Capital W, but I would like to inject a little Small W whimsy. I don't think it's humanly or artistically possible to go right from doing Rigid Realism to Wild Whimsy. There has to be a 12-step program involved in there somewhere.

So...Step 1: go for a more graphic look, and boost the color a bit.

Result: a painting of my Australian Shepherd, Cheyenne, titled "Bossy Aussie" (which, if you know Aussies, you know that this is an apt description for the breed in general). It's 11 X 14, acrylic on black gessoed Ampersand Hardbord. Overall, I was pretty happy with this piece; the crop was nice and close, the colors were intensified, and it looks like her (well...mostly...if she fell into a vat of melted crayons).

I like this direction. I think I'll continue down this road.

My Muse has the GPS device out and is charting a course. To frivolity, and beyond.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Gettin' organized

One of the myriad of things I need to learn to do in all of simply take a deep breath and relax and enjoy the painting process. Far too often I have found myself sitting at my easel with an underlying smoldering sense of urgency and panic, a little voice telling me that everything I produce must be done quickly, and be a masterpiece, and if it's not, I'm kidding myself and need to chuck the easel right out of the window. Many times I started painting with little more than an idea, and nary a plan, and because of this, produced works that were suitable only for lining the bottom of a bird cage, much to the chagrin of the bird. Self-Doubt and Unreal Expectations can be an insidious little duo of parasites in an artist's mind. I needed to create an internal spray can of Mind Raid to shut said parasites up and kill them dead.

One of the ingredients in that can of Mind Raid was to develop a set of "guidelines" to follow when the urge hit to just sit down at the easel and slap paint on canvas; a way to slow myself down and actually think about what I was doing, rather than just doing it blindly and creating lots of birdcage liners. I don't necessarily follow it to the letter, it is just a set of abridged guidelines, but it has the benefit of giving the left brain something to do while the right brain is having all the fun.

  • Start with what inspires you. You. Not anyone else.
  • Identify the emotion you want to convey about the subject. Is it peaceful? funny? moody?
  • Pick the size and shape of the canvas. Or paper. Or panel. Or whatever substrate that has caught your interest at the moment.
  • Select a value theme. Light, middle, or dark toned? The selected value should occupy more than half of the image.
  • Select a color temperature. Warm or cool?
  • Select a color intensity. Bright or dull.
  • Choose a dominant color.
  • Select a color scheme. Primary. Secondary. Intermediate. Analogous. Complementary. Split complementary. Monochromatic. Complementary with discords.
  • Build a composition. Start with your inspiration, and sketch simple shapes in only three values until you find an arrangement you like. Divide the space into unequal proportions. Create movement with flowing patterns. Look for contrast opportunities.
  • Incorporate good design principles into the composition. Balance. Dominance. Unity. Harmony. Repetition. Rhythm. Gradation. Contrast.
  • Establish a format. "S" format. "L" format. Tunnel format. Triangle format. Pattern format. Asymmetrical balance. Radiating Line. etc., etc.
  • Communicate your inspiration. Choose a dominant focus.
  • Establish the center of interest (focal point).
  • Use design elements to help portray your inspiration. Line, shape, direction, size, texture, value, and color.
Take a good look. What can be exaggerated, eliminated, or enhanced?

My Muse is taking notes. To utility, and beyond.