And now for something....almost completely the same! I loaded the sketch outline of the cartoon bear into Photoshop and 'painted' it there. Painting with the mouse gets a bit tricky at times. It made me think about putting a digital graphics tablet on my "Boy I Really Wish I Could Get One But It Probably Won't Ever Happen" Christmas list.
The thing about digital painting is....it makes me wistfully wish that acrylic paints had an 'undo' button.
Time to put on the grubby clothes, lay down some newspaper, grab the acrylics and lots of paper towels. Woo-hoo! Time to fingerpaint! A childhood pastime revived for a young at heart adult. This one was sized a little larger to give me some room to spread paint digitally (finger=digit, get it? Har-har. Geez, I crack myself up sometimes.)
8" x 10"
Acrylic on illustration board
What total fun, and a great loosening-up exercise. Art for the sake of pure silliness, an endeavor after my own heart.
Hi all, I'm baaaaaaack. We've returned from our all too brief sojourn to that magical island south of the border: Cozumel.
It's an island of:
Stunningly azure waters.
Incredibly colorful coral reefs.
Abundant healthy marine life.
Amazingly beautiful sunsets.
And eye-poppingly large and tasty margaritas.
But enough of this lazing around, it's time to get back to the easel!
(Those storm clouds in the distance are the outskirts of tropical storm Alex.)
So anyway, back to the bear. I debated trying out all of your wonderful salt ideas on more watercolor bears, but repeating the salt motif felt a bit like cheating on the '100 Ways' theme. So I'll move on to something a bit different now, and use your ideas in more condiment-themed watercolors later.
I've wanted to give acrylic inks a try, and wanted to utilize a slicker surface than watercolor paper, so I opted for plate surface Bristol board. I wanted the inks to be able to move and mingle at their leisure.
Acrylic Ink Bear
Acrylic ink on Bristol board
The inks were beautifully intense, and moved like watercolors when dropped on a wet surface (as evidenced by the brown blot on his otherwise white head). I was surprised at the differences in consistency of the inks; most were the expected thin ink-ish consistency, but colors like Cerulean Blue and Azo Yellow were thicker and more opaque. The Bristol board worked beautifully, and held up well to the wet-into-wet technique. I can picture using the inks in conjunction with watercolors or with thicker acrylic paints. The possibilities are brewing.....
I approached this particular challenge with some trepidation, as I was having a hard time 'getting' the pouring process. Artists like Jean Grastorf and Roland Roycraft make it look so beautiful and easy. For me, trying to understand the process was like trying to make my brain work sideways, or trying to read a paragraph where every other letter is upside down and backwards. It's like, you sort of get it, mostly get it, but there are fuzzy intangibles that keep the picture from being clear.
"Oh, bother." as Winnie the Pooh would say. I read Jean Grastorf's book again, and armed with good information and a bewildered brain, set to work.
So here's the first step. The sketch was done on 140 lb. Canson watercolor paper, and the whites were preserved with masking fluid. For my primary colors, I used Holbein's Aureolin, Cad Red Deep, and Ultramarine Light.
This is what it looked like after the first pour. Then it's a matter of finding the areas that are the correct value, masking them off, and pouring again. Repeat until the darkest values are achieved. It's a lot of steps, and a lot of time waiting for paint and masking fluid to dry. Patience is a necessary virtue for this process, and sadly, it's something that I have in short supply.
Several masks and pours later, this was the result. Now it's time to remove the masking fluid, and see the results.
Except the masking fluid wouldn't come off. It stuck to the paper like roofing tar. I could move the gooey layer a little bit, but not remove it.
You can see my removal attempts at the top of this photo. The striations are masking fluid after being vigorously rubbed with a mask remover.
What the $%#@*! went wrong?! Was the masking fluid old?! Did I need to stir it?! Was it the wrong paper, somehow?! I didn't stretch the paper. Should I have stretched the paper?! Did it make a difference?! Maybe the paint wasn't dry enough when I put the mask on?! Maybe I really don't understand this pouring stuff!! To quote Nancy Kerrigan: "WHY?! WHY?!"
Then to my horror I realized what I had done. Remember the part about patience, and how I lack it? Well, after I applied a paint layer, to speed things up, I was using a hair dryer to dry it faster.
The dryer was set on low heat.
I had baked the masking fluid into a tarry layer of unremovable goo.
Now right about this time, I know you watercolor artists are out there shaking your heads and facepalming. Please be kind. Beginners mistake, and all that. And a lesson learned.
Some days you're the windshield, some days you're the bug. Some works are successes, some, like this one, are dismal failures. But it's only a failure in the fact that the painting itself didn't turn out quite the way I wanted it to. What's not part of the failure is trying a new artistic method and all the lessons learned therein. That part is a success. No worries, although I was really looking forward to the 'reveal' when the masking fluid was removed. I'll try this one again someday, and you can bet I won't be using a hair dryer next time.
And even though it didn't work, I say it still counts as part of the 100!
Whilst browsing art books, I came upon some paintings by watercolorist Skip Lawrence in which he defined his subjects by painting their shadows only. It was a very interesting effect, and really drew the eye into and around the paintings.
Watercolor Shadow Bear
Since our bear is basically one big blob of shadow, the fun of the effect is somewhat lost. I can see trying this again someday in the distant future when my life no longer contains a bear a day.
Another foray into the kitchen cabinets led to a colorful find.
Food Coloring Bear
Food coloring on illustration board
I wasn't sure if the food coloring would act like watercolors or acrylics. Turns out they act like watercolors.
I'm taking myself off the grid for the next few days for some R & R so I won't be able to answer comments or emails until my return. Fear not, the polar bear will be here to greet you daily. You also may see one or two accidental "time warp' posts; Blogger was having a snit fit while I was trying to schedule posts in advance and was posting them right away.
The Paper Lovefest continues. I picked up a pack of mulberry paper scraps from the local hobby store, and set to work. The bear outline was drawn on a piece of illustration board, larger this time to give me some elbow room to collage.
6" x 10"
Mulberry paper collage on illustration board
Oh.....my.....gawd. If this was any more fun it probably would be illegal. At first I was my usual persnickety self, cutting the and placing the paper pieces precisely. That didn't last long. Before it was a quarter of the way done, the paper was merrily being shredded into a sizable smorgasbord of selected scraps, and gleefully cemented onto the board with matte medium. The paper was wonderfully textured with colorful strings and bits of newsprint. The white, orange and purple papers were nicely translucent, becoming more transparent when brushed with the medium. Layers were used to create various values. In some areas, there are more than twenty layers of paper. This was a blast, and something I'll have a go at again in the future. Without this blog challenge, this is something I probably would have never attempted.
If you want to see some beautiful 'paper paintings', check out the work of Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson. She is an accomplished collage artist who creates some fabulous work. I'm particularly love her cow collage paintings, they're just to die for. Or would that be 'to moo for'?
Okay, indulge me for one more day of Conte creation. I'll move on, I promise.
Black Conte Bear
I've always liked to paint on a black background, it gives the final piece a somewhat batik-ish look, which I really like. But these have shown me the Power Of The Ground, and how much a different colored substrate can change the whole feel of the subject.
Unexpected treasures just make my day. My art supply archaeological dig in the basement closets that resulted in the dusty box of pastels also yielded a stash of nice Canson and Strathmore papers, as well as some Bristol boards. It's like putting your spring jacket on for the first time in the fall, and finding cash in the pocket.
Only one Conte pencil drawing was scheduled on my original list of one hundred ways to do this bear. Given that this is the third, I'm obviously reveling in the paper discovery.
Gray Conte Bear
Here's to relishing life's little unexpected pleasures.
I can't ride a wave of success for very long, I have this innate need to tip the boat and see what happens. Sometimes I just wind up getting wet, and sometimes I learn a thing or two from the swim. Yesterday's bear worked well, so today I rowed the boat in the opposite direction and drew him on a warm color.
Warm Conte Bear
A totally different feel, but not half bad, and I still liked the fact that I wasn't at war with the white paper.
I was feelin' a little sassy today, so I worked up my courage to try pastels again, but this time a slightly different species. I have a small set of Conte Pastel Pencils that have traveled the years and miles with me, probably from an early college drawing class. (I won't tell you how long ago that was, but here's a hint: VCRs were just becoming popular. You could get one with a corded remote at your local department store for about $500.)
For a bit of variation, I searched through the different types of paper I have tucked away, came up with a sheet of Canson Mi-Teintes in a lovely shade of slate blue, and started in.
Cool Conte Bear
Conte pencil on paper
Artists will tell you that sometimes a piece will just seem to fall onto the paper effortlessly, and this was one of those glorious times. The Conte pencils had aged gracefully, were fabulous to work with, and didn't bury me in mountains of choking dust. But it was the paper that made the difference this time. The texture held the pastel nicely, and the best part was that I didn't feel like I was fighting the white of the previous papers. The blue was such a great compliment to the bear I didn't have to gob up the entire background just to cover it up.
Ahhh. Time to crack open a celebratory Diet Coke, laze on the back porch with the dogs, and watch the rain go by.
I went on an archaeological dig of my art supplies the other day, and unearthed a small box of unused pastels. I really, really have no idea how long they've been in my possession. I don't remember buying them. I don't remember getting them as a gift. Since pastels don't seem to have an expiration date (at least I couldn't find one on the dusty box anywhere), it will be one of those little mysteries that will stew in the back of my brain forever. Maybe the "Ye Olde Rembrandte Softe Pastels" label on the box could give me a clue to their date of origin. Or maybe I'll just have them carbon dated.
Anyway, what better time to try Ye Olde Pastels? I tried to let the pastels 'do their thing' (whatever that means), but with only 12 colors and no experience at my disposal, I felt my options were a bit limited.
Soft pastels on paper
There were several interesting things I learned about pastels from this study:
I like the 'immediacy' of pastels. Pick it up, put color on paper. Nothing intermediate, like brushes and mixing paint on a palette. It's like having color practically flow from your fingertips, without having to go through all the bother of mutant genetic experimentation.
Now I understand why every time you see the palette of a pastel artist, they seem to have at least one pastel in each and every color, value and intensity that has ever been created. It's much easier, more effective, and just darn better looking to have the exact pastel you need, and put it's mark down on paper. Pastels, at least in my beginners hands, don't seem to mix well, and go to mud fairly quickly.
Dust. (*cough*) And more dust. I had heard rumors about the dust clouds that orbit pastel artists, sort of like the cloud that surrounded 'Pigpen" in the Peanuts comic strip. The amount of pastel dust quickly reached sandstorm proportions. Within a few minutes, there was more pastel dust on me and the surrounding area than there was on the paper. I made the innocent mistake of working flat, which just caused the dust to pile up in little sand dunes on the paper. The only way to remedy the situation was to pick up the paper in a flat position, move it over a paper towel, dump the sand dunes, then try to daintily remove the remnants that stubbornly clung to the paper.
I have always liked pastel art. In the right hands, there's a looseness and freshness that I find visually satisfying. I simply admired good pastel artists before (Brad Faegre is one favorite of mine), now I'm completely awed and agog of artists who handle the medium well.
Same song, second verse. The cool light seems to work better with the bear.
Cool Colored Light/Warm Neutral Shadow Bear
I really want to jump in with oodles of color at this point, but these are part of the learning curve. When Kevin Macpherson does studies like these, he uses Portland Grey Deep for his neutral shadow color, and Portland Gray Light for his neutral light color. I'm staying true to that theme when doing these, and going a step further by breaking it down into warm and cool.
Like a good recipe, we're going to start adding ingredients bit by bit. Today, let's add a little color into the mix.
Warm Color/Cool Neutral Shadow Bear
This is one exercise that Kevin Macpherson suggests to show that great gobs of color everywhere don't work well, and that neutrals can complement and intensify color notes. Of course, the trick to any good recipe is adding the right ingredients in the right proportions. These ingredients don't complement this bear recipe at all, making it something that's visually untasty. This wouldn't be the first time I've created something fairly inedible (although my dogs rejoice when I do just that in the kitchen. Who else enjoys a failed culinary experiment more than a dog?). Time to empty the pot and try some different ingredients.
Let's add one more element to our value bear: warm and cool differences. For this study, I cleaned the dust off the colored pencil collection and cleared the cobwebs from the colored pencil section of my brain. It's been awhile since I've used these. One nice thing about using the pencils is that the warm/cool differences and the values are all ready to go, no mixing required. That's one check in the advantage column for using dry media.
Colored Pencil on paper
Most of the bear is in shadow, the differences are subtle and don't photograph well, but trust me, they're there.
Now, since I have a thing for dragons AND animated movies, we're off to see "How To Train Your Dragon" before it leaves the theaters. I already have a smile on my face.
And now for the second in our "Stop Futzing And Loosen Up Already!" series. This idea was inspired by a tutorial I read on Wet Canvas, although I can't find the original post. The gist of the idea was this:
Set up a simple still life subject.
Draw three 4 X 4 inch squares on the substrate of your choice.
In the first square, create a simple line drawing of the subject.
In the second square, create the line drawing again. Now paint the drawing in grayscale using no more than 40 brushstrokes.
Create the drawing again in the third square. Paint the drawing in color, using no more than 80 brushstrokes.
Simple, fun, and educational, right? I'll skip the drawing and color parts of the tutorial, and just do the painting in grayscale. Since I'm doing a 5 X 7 study instead of a 4 X 4, I increased the usable brushstroke number from 40 to 60.
Limited Brushstroke Bear
Acrylic on paper
As far as I was concerned, as long as the brush didn't leave the paper, it counted as only one brushstroke.
Which accounts for all the long, strange, squiggly strokes.
I called it done at 58. The signature initials don't count. Hey, it's my rules. :-)
And now for something completely different. Gleaning inspiration from The Twenty Minute Challenge, I decided to test my speed brush skills. Given that these studies are small (5 X 7), a ten-minute time limit was set.
Acrylic on paper
Normally I'm a consummate paint dabbler, fussing and putzing 'til the piece is on the verge of being overworked. There's nothing like an kitchen timer ticking away at your elbow to put that little habit to rest. I used a half inch brush for the study, with one pile of white paint and one pile of black on the palette. I judged the value, mixed it slightly on the palette, then put paint to paper. The study was finished with about fifteen seconds to spare. Admittedly exhilarating, and a wonderful loosening-up exercise.
We've explored a few different media and substrates, today it's a different method of application: the palette knife (taa-daa)! This one will be a full value study so I can focus on handling rather than tone; I've never painted with palette knives before.
Let's start with a couple of values, and the chosen implements of destruction application.
The knives initially felt totally foreign and clumsy. It reminded me of my first attempt to use chopsticks at our local sushi restaurant. While my friends ate and chatted, deftly handling their chopsticks with a seemingly unconscious ease, I was focusing on my Philadelphia Roll with predatory concentration, desperately trying to assuage my hunger by getting a bite of anything to my mouth. When my chopstick-wielding hand finally cramped up completely and welded itself into the shape of a crab claw, I resorted to popping sushi into my mouth with my other hand when no one was looking. Thankfully, my chopstick finesse has greatly improved since then.
The knives became more comfortable as the study progressed, and I enjoyed dabbing, pulling and scraping the paint around. The method almost demands a thick application of paint, and I was happy to oblige.
Palette Knife Bear
Acrylic on paper
This turned out to be quite a hoot to do. I'll have to take the knives out for another spin in the future.
Yet another variation on the value theme, albeit with a much looser style this time. Sometimes it just feels good to squish blobs of paint around with abandon. I'm actually learning things from these little studies, and am now starting to understand the reasons artists will do them when planning a painting. In this example, the upper left part was painted a dark value, not completely black as has been done before. I like how that little change really shifts the focus onto the bear's face, where the full white/black contrast really draws the eye.
Acrylic on paper
I'm going to lead you off the bear path for a moment, and share with you something I found pretty spectacular. Sit back, grab a snack or a cup of coffee for this one, this is going to be one verbose post. I'll say this to start: if copious amounts of cash ever came into my possession, and I didn't have to work a 40 hour week to help keep a roof over our heads and kibble in the dog bowls, and I was able to pursue any interest that struck my fancy, then the occupation line on my business card would read "Artist/Backyard Imagineer/Stormchaser".
The 'artist' part is self-explanatory. 'Backyard Imagineers' are a legion of everyday people who endeavor to create 'Disney-esque' effects in their very own home. Google 'backyard imagineers', and you would be amazed at the home-grown creativity of these folks. So far, I have limited my Imagineering projects to Halloween props, and the limitations only come from lack of space to store the created items the other 364 days of the year. I've designed my own tombstones, some with animated effects and lighting, and have plans for more. The future goal is to have an entirely home made graveyard, with ground-hugging spooky fog and lighting effects. Nothing bloody or gory that would send the candy-craving little kiddies to therapy for the next decade, just a slightly eerie graveyard with a whimsical bent.
The 'stormchaser' title is also somewhat self explanatory. I am an avowed 'storm-aholic'. I love the feel when a thunderstorm is approaching, with the smell of rain in the air, and the electric feel of the atmosphere. We enjoy sitting out in our sunroom when a storm is passing, listening to the rain and wind and watching the lightning. Alas, our poor dogs don't share our enthusiasm, and either hide behind the couch, or retreat to the basement.
The other night was perfect for brewing thunderstorms: a warm, humid air mass being hit by a cold front. I happened to be out and about when a line of severe storms cropped up just to the south of where I was. And whaddaya know, I also happened to have my camera with me. The storms were the type where the lightning was so frequent it looked like paparazzi camera flashes at a celebrity red carpet event. I set my camera to video, and stuck it out the truck window. This is a sampling of what transpired:
Each photo is one frame of video, equal to about 1/30 of a second, so the entire series you see above took about 1/3 of a second in real time. The details would have flashed by far to quickly to be seen by the naked eye, but they show up beautifully here.
I sat there in that truck for quite a while, just watching in awe. Mother Nature sure knows how to put on one helluva spectacular show.