Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cobwebs in the Creative Attic

Egads, has it been a month since the last post?!  My apologies, dear readers.  I'd like to claim that I have been busy traveling to faraway exotic lands, or composing a opera or something, but the truth is that, were I to actually pass through an airport scanner, the results would look something like this:

This would probably be curiously described in some dust-collecting psychiatric text as something like "Unequivocal Sentient Dormancy", or "Complete Hibernation of Imaginative Oomph".  A definitive understanding of this creative malaise was proving elusive, until I stumbled upon something eye-opening while perusing one of my favorite time-sucking websites:

This particular bit of graphic hilarity was posted by 'catfacemeowmers', and I was obviously immersed in the orange area when I discovered it.  I have no idea who this person is, but the above chart seemed to provide surprising and unnerving proof that they had somehow peered into my very soul, or at least ruffled through the pages of my psyche.  I have been haplessly over-indulging on the large pieces of the pie chart, whilst ignoring the tastier smaller slices. 

Well, there's no better kick in the cobwebbed creativity than a good art challenge.

Some of the artists on Daily Paintworks are now posting challenges, and Carol Marine's One Color Per Stroke caught my eye.  Since my Imagination had been under official Couch Potato status for the past month, a warm up with a familiar subject seemed in order.

Yep, my old friend has resurfaced to help lift the malaise.  She was sketched on black gessoed paper using a white Conte pencil.

Since the color scheme will be predominantly warm, a cool turquoise underpainting was used.

When the underpainting was dry, the white pencil was wiped away, and the eye was defined.

The background was first, with each brush load of paint being modified slightly to adhere to the tenets of the challenge.

Then it was time to start defining her face.  Not falling back into the 'dabbling" habit was proving to be a struggle.

7"x8.5", acrylic on paper
©2011 Lisa Walsh

The brush strokes didn't turn out as defined as I would have liked, but simpler subject and a larger brush would most likely enhance that effect.  It did feel good to clear out the cobwebs and brush some thick paint onto paper.

Now it's time for a snack.  Followed by a nap.

Monday, February 7, 2011

There's No Business Like Snow Business (or...We're Off To See The Blizzard)

Snow is an obvious staple of a midwestern winter.  We play in it, we shovel it, we sculpt it into interesting shapes.  We marvel at the beauty of a new snowfall, and then curse it's inconvenience when we get behind the wheel of a car.  We listen to the forecasts, plan accordingly, and dutifully clean and salt our walks and driveways when colliding weather fronts dump a few inches of the powdery stuff on our domain. 

When the dire predictions of impending doom began to emerge last weekend, we peered at the foretold omens with skeptical eyes, having been taken in before by the cries of meteorological "wolf".  More than once, prophecies of disaster have turned into nothing more than a bothersome dusting of white fluff.  Adopting an "oh well, just in case" attitude, we stocked up on shovels and de-icer, and the usual staples of bread and milk (my list also includes chocolate and Diet Coke). (And maybe bacon).

Well, Mother Nature decided to more than live up to the hype this time.  Pulling out all the stops, she treated us to blinding snowfalls, howling winds, and even a side show of thunder and lightning. In the northbound lanes of the illustrious Lake Shore Drive, three accidents in short succession blocked the roadway for all who followed, bringing traffic to a standstill, and quickly entombing hundreds of commuters in snow and ice encrusted vehicles. I guarantee the stranded motorists had at least these two thoughts on their minds:
  • " How the hell am I going to get out of here??"
  • " Why the hell did I drink so much damn coffee at the office??!!"

About ten hours later, rescue finally arrived; but instead of a prince on a white horse, it was a firefighter on a snow-whitened snowmobile. All of the marooned motorists were eventually rescued, and were rewarded with days of trying to locate their towed cars in the myriad of city impound lots.

When all was said and done, we only managed to obtain the status of 'third-worst blizzard in Chicago history", missing the top mark by a scant two inches.  If it had only managed to snow another hour or two, we easily could have taken top honors.  Thankfully, we weren't required to leave the house for any reason (not that we could have anyway), and even more thankfully, the power stayed on.

The only reason the dogs weren't handed snow shovels was due to their lack of opposable thumbs.  They celebrated this biological advantage by gleefully bounding through the snow drifts as we spent hours digging ourselves out.

The blizzard-induced sequestering wasn't all for naught; I did manage to try a couple of experiments using the Sea turtle and various acrylic mediums.  They turned into disasters in and of themselves.  Here's one example:

  • Pre-calamity:

  • Post-calamity:

I really must learn not to use India inks when I have my mad Scientist hat on, I don't have the feel (and apparently the eyesight) to tell when it's completely dry.  I may have to attempt a turtle resurrection with this one, as she was coming along interestingly before the ink obliterated her facial features.  Or maybe I have just created a new species called the Swirly-Black-Headed Sea Turtle.

Yeah.  I'm going with that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


No, I didn't stay out all night and now I can't leave the house for a week.

(Actually, that sounds quite appealing right about now...)

We're talking painting grounds, that particular surface or substrate that we choose to use for our art.  This past Saturday I attended a "Gritty Grounds" workshop at Positive Strokes, our neighborhood art school and gallery.  The class was led by Sandi Bacon, the local rep for Golden Paints, and was an overview of some of the products that can be used to create textured grounds for all media.  Basically, it was a perfect excuse to have fun and splash some paint around on a cold winter day.

Did I bring my camera to the workshop?  Of course.  Did I bother to take any pictures during the paint splashing frenzy?  Of course not.  Next time, I promise.

Here are some of the results of the experiments:

This was my favorite.  A thin layer of Light Molding Paste was applied to watercolor paper, then fluid acrylic color was washed over the paste.  Once the paste was dry, the experiments began.  On the left, more paste was applied through a stencil.  In the middle, shapes were carved into the paste.  And on the right, another thin layer of paste was applied which lightly veiled the original wash.  Then more color was washed over the whole piece.  Lots of wonderful texture and color variation!

In this example, fluid acrylics were washed and applied opaquely over Coarse Molding Paste.

And here, paint was washed over paper coated with Iridescent Gold and some Glass Bead Gel.

This time, paint was washed over Absorbent Ground for Pastels (I think, can't quite remember all the grounds.  Must learn to write these things down....).  After a little washing and scratching, a layer of Glass Bead Gel was applied over the left side.

Here's a close-up, angled shot of the Glass Bead Gel.

There were a few other fun paint-flinging experiments done, but they were slightly wet, and managed to adhere themselves together by the time I got home.  All in all, a fun and informative workshop.  Now I feel the need to don my Mad Scientist gear, and go apply some of this newfound creativity to some unsuspecting subject.

Oh, and speaking of workshops, I am positively lightheaded with anticipation to be traveling to Hilton Head Island to attend a Karin Jurick workshop in November.  I promise I will take pictures at that one!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Motivation, Interrupted

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth,  I can at least thank the force of gravity for that.  It's been a simple case of being mired in the Doldrums, where any hint of a creative spark was promptly doused by a bucket full of "meh".  My Muse took a vacation, and was probably lounging on a beach somewhere with the Travelocity Gnome.

To be sure that my brain was still working, and not reduced to just a gelatinous mass whose sole purpose is to keep my skull from collapsing inward like a dying planet, I prodded a few inert neurons into life and sat down at the easel to do a little alla prima painting.

Now, I'm not an alla prima kinda gal.  I don't whip up a painting in a single sitting like a cake recipe.  I tweak.  I adjust.  I calibrate.  I fully admit that I'm powerless over my addiction to multiple layers of glazing.  But this was all about zapping dormant creativity back to life, so here goes.

The sketch was done on black gessoed paper, then a Cad Red Light underpainting was applied.

First some background....

Then on to the turtle herself....

And finally, an alla prima painting:

I had to make myself put down the brushes and back away from the easel before my trembling hand could reach for the glazing liquid.  But like the Polar Bear Series before her, I can see the potential for experimenting with various techniques with this subject.'s good to be back.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

In With The New

...oh, hi.  Didn't see you come in.  Yes, it's me here behind this stack of Christmas storage boxes.  We have successfully celebrated, caroled, and noel-ed ourselves into a stupor.  After finally having the time to pose our reluctant bunch of canines in front of the tree for their annual holiday snapshot, the trimming and detritus of  the holidays were swiftly packed, parceled, bagged and stored.  Now the abode doesn't look like a halfway house for indigent reindeer and wayward elves anymore. 

I hope your holidays were safe and sound, merry and bright, and you enjoyed the company of family and friends.  As this new year gets underway, I wish you all health and happiness, and hope all of your New Year's wishes find a way of coming true...

 ...especially the artistic ones!