There are times when I sit down and I know exactly what I am going to paint or draw. I have a definite plan, and stick with it. Other times though, I just start to put paint down… and I play.
That is what is what I’ve been doing with a piece I currently have in progress, I just felt like playing, so I took a palette knife and started to cover a canvas in gold paint and modeling paste. Then I put some back and modeling paste, then copper. I am doing a little here, a little there, and waiting for it do dry in between. I am not really trying to make it look like a recognizable object, but rather, I’m just doing what feels right, and ending up with an abstract design. Its relaxing and fun, like a game though it is a little costly to put so much modeling paste down on one canvas. Sometimes when I paint abstract like this I come up with things I really like, and other times I don’t care for the result at all, either way I had fun playing in the paint.
Here is what the piece looks like so far:
Other Projects are happening too.
The drying takes a long time when the paint is put on so thick, so I also have other projects going at the same time. One of which is that I am experimenting with oil paint. I haven’t really worked in oils, so its a learning process, and so far I don’t have anything in oils that I’ve finished. Soon though I will complete at least one oil painting and post it on here.
If you are one of those people who says, “I’d love to do art, but I’m no good at it.” Or, “I’d love to do art, but I can’t draw.” I’d like to offer you a piece of advice, be brave. Just start creating. Don’t worry about if your work is as good as the next person, just start. Explore different mediums, explore different styles, remember, there is more to art than realistic drawing, and there is more to art than just painting.
Get a book on mixed media art and start exploring the techniques, there are many, you can crumple tissue paper and glue it down to a board or canvas with acrylic medium, rub some acrylic paint on a piece of bubble wrap and then press it on top of part of your canvas to leave a design, go align and fine public domain images and cut out parts you like to arrange on your piece, glue down pieces of fabric, add in some little jewelry findings, some artificial leaves or real preserved flowers and leaves. If you have a camera go take some photos and cut them apart and add them to your piece. Just explore, rearrange things until they look pleasing to you, and only then glue them back down.
Randomly splash watercolor or ink here and there, glue down lace. Pick colors you like, or that you think will go with your decor.
Here are some videos you can watch that show some ideas and techniques you can use to create awesome art, even if you can’t draw a stick figure!
A lot of artists I know do fan art, and honestly I really like a lot of it, but I haven’t done much of it myself. Partly because I have been busy doing other things, and partly because I feel that much of it is just copying another’s work. There are exceptions of course, where the artist doesn’t directly copy the work of another, but is simply inspired by it. I always knew that if I did any kind of fan art, I would lean toward the “inspired by” type because I wouldn’t want to do a direct copy of another’s work. Well, one of my guilty pleasures is watching the Walking Dead, and one of my favorite characters on the show is Daryl Dixon, so I’ve been playing with the idea of doing a Daryl Dixon inspired piece for some time, but what? A portrait? Maybe someday, but that would end up being pretty much a copy of a photographer’s work, so no… at least not at this time.
Well, finally I played with ideas long enough, and came up with something. I decided that the wings on Daryl’s vest would be the inspiration for a piece, but I didn’t want to directly copy the exact wings. I wanted them to be close enough that a fan of the show would see the similarity, but to still be unique enough that I could feel they were actually my art, and not just a copy.
I started out by getting the largest canvas I’ve ever worked on before, it is 3 1/3 feet long and 2 1/2 feet wide, not huge for some artists, but the largest I have worked on so far.
Not Just a Regular Painting.
I primed the canvas with black gesso, and then took a pencil and sketched out the outline of how I wanted to shape the wings, but I knew I wanted this to be more than just a flat painting. For one thing, the design on Daryl’s vest is very flat looking, kind of a quilted set of wings, and I wanted mine to be similar, but not copies, what better way than to make them dimensional? So I planned on using modeling paste. Modeling paste is this stuff that is kind of like thin clay or maybe a thick painting medium. You can put it on canvas and, to an extent, sculpt with it. It isn’t thick enough to do something like a bust of someone, but you can certainly sculpt flowers, or leaves, or in this case wings.
Lots of texture.
So after sketching the shape, I started scooping on the modeling paste with a palette knife, and then using the knife to sculpt in texture and lines on the modeling paste.
I kept working in this way, in time though I saw that if I put the modeling paste on too thick, it cracked, so I put it on a little thinner, let it dry, and then did another layer. I was able to repair the cracks from that were already there by filling them in with more modeling paste. I did the bottom halves of the wings first.
Eventually I had finished two layers of modeling paste over the entire surface of both wings, and sculpted in texture with the palette knife. After that, I turned my attention to the background, I spackled back paint on thick with a palette knife, trying to mimic the texture of leather. Then, I wanted to put in silver, and tried several ways of adding it to the higher portions of the the black paint, but it just wasn’t coming out the way I wanted, so I ended up covering it with more black paint. Then I went to work on the wings again. I started adding paint to give them the kind of off-white dingy look of the wings on Daryl’s vest.
Eventually I finished with all the paint on the wings, and went back to my idea of silver. I still wanted to use silver to represent chrome, kind of a nod to the fact that Daryl is the quintessential biker, so I wanted the leather texture, and a bit of chrome. When I tried to work the silver into the background though, it kept just making the background look dusty. So, I eventually decided on a border.
So, it took weeks of work, and over $120 worth of art supplies, but I am very happy with the finished work. Right now it is hanging at the Kitsap Mall, but once its exhibition there is done, if it hasn’t sold I will post it for sale here and on Etsy, I’m asking $425 for it, which I think is a steal considering the amount of hours that went into it. Now, perhaps someone will buy it, but if not I have the perfect spot picked out for it in my home, where I will glad to display it permanently.
I will post higher quality photos of it in the future, but for now I will just say that this is one of my favorite works so far. I plan to do more textured works, next time I am thinking of using paper mache’ on the canvas so I can get even more texture and sculpting going on. I just have to figure out what my next textured work will be.
I am going to write today about the need for artistic metamorphosis, no, I am not talking about the artist’s need for personal growth. I am talking about those works the artist steps back and looks at, and thinks that the work itself needs to be transformed. I’ll explain…
Promising Beginnings before Apparent Ruin
Every artist has those works that started out with great promise, but which, during the process of creation, took a turn for the worse. You those works that started out great, and then at some point the artist steps back and thinks, “Oh… now look at that… I’ve completely ruined it.”
Most often, when this happens to me, I do one of two things. Either I’ll grab some gesso or some titanium white and paint out everything on the canvas so that I can use the canvas for something else. Or, I’ll toss the canvas into the back of a closet or cabinet, thinking, “Maybe someday I’ll I’ll figure out how to fix that, but for now I just don’t want anyone to see it!” If I choose the latter, the work usually sits in that closet or cabinet forever. It seems I never do pull them back out to rework, or almost never, sometimes there are exceptions.
The Diamond in the Pile of Coal
Occasionally, I’ll see something in the painting that I feel is worth salvaging, some element that I feel has enough potential to make it worth the extra effort of fixing the mistakes. A little diamond hidden in what is otherwise a pile of coal.
For example, there is this painting:
I started this painting during my first year of painting. I hadn’t yet learned many of the tricks to creating realism and depth in landscapes. I started with the covered bridge and did a really good job. I really liked what I saw with the bridge, especially inside the tunnel. I felt that it was really going somewhere. Then I started adding in fall trees in the foreground before I had done any background landscape, this caused the picture to look really odd in the places where you could see through the trees. So, I made the trees thicker, until you couldn’t see through them at all. This eliminated those odd looking spaces, but also gave everything but the bridge a strange one-dimensional appearance.
Not only that but I didn’t have any detail in the foreground trees. They would have looked fine off in the distance like that, but up close I felt I should have given at least a hint of definition in the leaves.
I tossed the painting in the cabinet, and left it until today. I got it out again and started looking at it. I still really liked the bridge, but now I noticed problems I hadn’t even noticed before. The road leading to the bridge seemed off, like the angle of the railings didn’t quite fit the perspective of the rest of the painting.
The Metamorphosis Begins
I decided to rework the painting, salvaging just the covered bridge, and redoing everything else.
The first step in doing that was to white out everything I wanted gone with titanium white, and then paint in the parts of the bridge that had been covered up with the leaves.
Later, I decided I needed to white out even more, and it now looks like this:
This is what the painting looks like so far. I will update as its metamorphosis continues, and we shall see if I can salvage the diamond from the coal mine, and make it into something worthy to be shown to others.
Being an Artist holds many challenges, one of which is that every season seems to demand a response from the artist. In spring we have blossoms, birds everywhere, rain showers, sun breaks, baby animals, rainbows. In summer, there are ocean side picnics, sand castles on the beach, sunsets over the ocean, children playing in the sprinkler, lazy afternoons under the tree in the yard. Then fall bursts onto the scene with its fiery colors, school buses full of children heading back to school, spooky skeletons, orange pumpkins, turkeys and pumpkin pie by the fire. Right around the corner from fall, comes winter, with its frozen ponds, snow blanketing the ground, Christmas lights, children building snowmen, dark skies, and colorfully decorated trees.
For the artist who wishes to sell their work, we must work at least one season ahead, so that our delightful scenes of blossoming branches and baby birds become available when people are just getting excited about spring and wanting to celebrate it. That means we have to remove ourselves mentally from the current season, and look to the next. In late winter we need to finish up our springtime paintings if we hope to sell them soon, rather than storing them for year before selling. Similarly, in summer when what we want to paint is the delightful scene of the beach in front of us, we also need to already be thinking about pumpkins, ghosts, brightly colored leaves, and the like. And while everyone else is celebrating the cool fall season, we need to think ahead to the snowy winter. Of course, we can also do our share of painting the current season, knowing that we most likely won’t sell that work for about a year, but that we can enjoy making it.
I tend to a mix of both, painting the scenes in front of me, while also trying to work in a few paintings that look ahead to the coming season. That means that this fall, I’ve done my share of fall images, but I’ve also been working on some winter scenes. I have two that I recently finished, which I feel would make lovely holiday gifts. They are so recently finished that I haven’t titled each of them yet, but I am calling the series my “Winter Wonderland” series. Not very original, but classic nonetheless.
Take a Walk in My Winter Wonderland
I invite you to enjoy these winter wonderland paintings for yourself. For the first one, I’ll just show you the finished product. Then for the next, I’ll let you see it unfold through photos the creation process. In this way, it will as if you are walking with through the painting as it progresses! I haven’t done a lot of winter scenes before this, so I started with a small painting, and after getting a better idea of what methods produced the results I wanted I started a second, larger painting.
Here is the first scene, it is a small painting, on 5 inches tall and 7 inches wide. I haven’t listed it in my etsy shop yet, but if anyone wants them right away, they are welcome to contact me. Sometime in the next few days, I will post the paintings on etsy.
The next work is similar, but I used a bigger canvas because I wanted to put in more detail. I didn’t just want to recreate the same scene larger though, I wanted to make a completely different scene, just using similar methods to accomplish it.
First, I painted in the sky, making loose brushstrokes, and graduating from a lot of white in one area, but getting more and more blue as I worked away from that area. Then I added trees, first a background layer of very light, faintly visible trees, then two more layers of trees getting progressively darker and more green. All of this was done wet on wet, which can be accomplished with acrylics by adding retarder medium to the paint and by working quickly.
After that backdrop was done, I let it dry. Up until this point I had been working wet on wet, so that the layers mixed slightly and didn’t have a lot definition, but at this point I wanted to let this backdrop dry, so that my next layer on the canvas could be more defined.
At this point I once again allowed everything to dry, and then moved on to the next stage.
The painting looked like it was nearing completion at this point, but I still had in mind the most detailed and upfront part of the scene.
At this point the painting was almost done, but I felt it needed more. Something to make the river stand out more from the background. I decided to use just a tiny amount of iridescent pearl on my painting, to add a bit of actual reflection to the water. Of course, in a photograph or a print, you lose some of that effect, but it makes the original even more special. You can still see some of the effect, even in a photo. I also worked on the snow a little more to make it look more “fluffy”, and added a few stars to the dusky sky.
In Part One of this story, I explained all about the Art Slam at the Kitsap Mall, and how I obtained a mannequin to decorate.
In part two I will detail the process of decorating my mannequin.
A Queen Needs a Good Head on Her Shoulders
From the moment I had seen the mannequin, and realized it had no head, I had decided that I was going to give it a paper mache, non-human head. I thought over a few different options, but in the end decided on an insect head. I knew I needed to start the head first, so the paper mache could thoroughly dry while I worked on the rest of the mannequin. I protected the mannequin’s neck with plastic wrap, because I wanted to be able to remove the head, and I made a paper mache sleeve on the neck base that I would attach the head to, allowing it to slip easily off the mannequin when desired.
Sexy, But Dangerous Art
My first thought was that it would be a dragonfly head, and that I would craft dragon fly wings for it as well. However, I started looking at closeup pictures of different insect heads, and I decided that I liked the more dangerous look of the praying mantis head. The mating habits of female mantis, devouring the male during mating, along with the mannequins clearly female, clearly meant to be alluring body shape, it all seemed to work together too well. I just had to do it. In the end though, I didn’t do a pure mantis head or dragon fly head, I ended up mixing features of both.
The Art Queen, Coming of Age isn’t Always Pretty
Of course, in its early stages, it didn’t look like an insect at all, rather it looked like a certain aspect of the human anatomy, which I’ll let you figure out for yourself.
Now, my first effort at attaching this beginning structure for the head failed miserably, I found the head on the shed floor, the neck base still attached to the mannequin, but eventually I got it to stay. Even though it was attached better the second time, I added a neck brace fashioned from an oatmeal box, the mannequin wore the neck brace whenever I wasn’t with it, to give the head more support until it dried. Plus, as I added more structure to the head, the additional facial parts also added strength and more adhesion to the neck sleeve.
This Queen Needs Her Modesty
She looked funny wearing the neck brace, even funnier, an elderly friend visited one day and was so embarrassed by her undressed state that I had to start draping a table cloth on her when I wasn’t actually working with her.
I also took a few photos without the neck brace and table cloth. The head in the following photo is completely formed, but I did add a a few more layers of paper mache over this for strength. Once those layers were done, I would move the head into the sun each day, and put it away at night. If paper mache is painted while there is any moisture left in it, the sculpture will mold and rot from the inside out. Luckily, we had a solid week of temperatures in the upper 80’s and low 90’s.
The next photo shows the paper mache work on the arms, you can also see the neck brace a little.
After all the sculpting was done, I needed to begin painting her. First I coated her all in green, I had already started on one arm before, but then decided to finish the sculpting work first.
After giving her green “skin” I started painting on her clothes, much to the relief of my elderly friend.
I continued to add further details to her outfit. I also began putting some designs on her legs, first patches of gold glitter, and then little curly cues.
While this was happening, I was also forming her wings. When the wings were almost done, I wanted to make sure the head was dry all the way through, so even though it had already been in the sun in nearly 90 degree weather for days, I decided to put it in the oven at 150 degrees for about six hours. Then after that, it spent another day in the sun before I finally started painting it.
For the eyes, I used a hexagonal hole punch and some reflective scrap booking paper to make little “tiles” to put on the eyes.
So there are some progress photos. Next, the finished piece, I decided to call her Queen of the Mantis Flies, since she was kind of a cross between a human, a mantis, and a dragonfly. I looked up “mantis fly” and they actually do look rather like a cross between a dragonfly and a mantis.
The Queen in Her Glory
If you would like to see this, and the other “artequins” in person, stop by the Kitsap Mall in Silverdale Washington, from August 8th to the 12th 2015, they’ll be on display in center court, near the Barnes and Noble. Should you be interested in purchasing her, or any of the other artequins, there will be information about a silent auction while they are on display.
It would seem that as an artist and blogger, I tend to work in waves. First, I’ll have a wave of artistic creation that so consumes my time that I have none left for blogging. Then, I’ll have a wave of consistent blog posts, during which I may dabble with this or that artistically, but not really have any intense rushes of creativity.
Lately, I’ve been in the middle of a creative storm, including one very large project that started with a trip to my local mall. One day my husband and I took a trip to the Kitsap Mall, which is around 19 miles away from our house, because we wanted to check out a little gift shop that rents out space to local artists and craftspeople. Well, we found that the little shop was a bust, at least for now, they were closing up in two weeks though the woman running the shop did tell us that they opened seasonally, and would probably have some space available around the holidays.
We started to head back to our car, when I noticed a sign in front of the mall space that used to house Forever 21. The sign said, “ART”.
Well, obviously I needed to check this out. I went in, and to make a long story short, they were giving artists space, without charge, to display their work for two weeks, and I claimed the last available space, as long as I could get back with my artwork in two hours! Well, as I said before, the mall is about 19 miles away from my house, and a return trip wasn’t really in my plans that day, but how could I pass up the chance to display my art in the mall for two weeks, free of charge. We rushed home, threw everything we would need into our van, and then rushed all the way back.
The display at the mall was awesome. Even though they weren’t selling from the shop, they allowed us to pass out contact information so people could buy from us directly, away from the mall. This eliminated the mall’s legal responsibility for collecting sales tax or reporting income tax, and shifted it on the individual artist. I did make several sales during this time, but all were from my etsy shop, I’m not sure that the mall display contributed to those sales, but it may have, since the url to my etsy shop was part of the contact information I provided at the mall.
Another thing took place at the mall also, every artist who was part of the Art Slam was given the option to take home a Mannequin to paint or decorate however they saw fit, and then donate it back for a silent auction that would raise funds to start a permanent gallery at the mall after the temporary pop up gallery closed down. Of course, the artists who were part of the Art Slam pop up gallery would be top on the list for displaying their work at the permanent one when it opened.
So, I took home a mannequin. She Started out looking like this, now in this picture one arm is removed. That is because my dog had decided to chew up the arm, the damage was minimal, but unmistakably there. I left that arm off the picture while I was trying to decide how I would fix the damage. I was already planning on doing some paper mache work on the mannequin, so I was pretty sure that I would end up using that method to fix the damage done by puppy…
Be sure to check back for part two of this post to see the progress on the mannequin, and the finished work. Or, better yet subscribe to all future posts if you want to be sure not to miss it!
I’ve often heard the saying, “Art imitates life”, and I’ve also heard the opposite stated, “Life imitates art”. However, what has been true where I’m concerned is that life does not imitate art and art does not imitate life, but rather, life intrudes on art and art on life. A constant tug of war goes on until finally one thing yields to another. Sometimes, the mundane tasks of daily life win out, and art is put aside in favor of sweeping a floor, or making dinner, or washing some dishes. Other times, art wins out and I find myself at my kitchen table, painting while ignoring the ever growing stack of dirty dishes behind me.
Seeking a Balance
Ideally of course, I’d strike a balance that gets all the chores done, makes it to the gym to work out, spends time with my husband and kids, visits with my grandchild, makes time for friends, and still gets artwork done. As of yet though, I haven’t found that balance. I come close at times, but then I get lost in a painting and fall behind of everything else.
Speaking of Getting Lost in a Painting…
Speaking of getting lost in what I’m doing, I’ve been working here and there on lots of different art, even though I haven’t posted all of it yet. For quite some time I was lost in the painting of Sphinx Dude.
The first Sphinx Dude painting came about almost by accident. I was preparing a little mini canvas for doing an abstract, and I was laying on texture with a palette knife. I set the painting aside to dry the background, and when I picked it up, my eyes saw, in the random texture patterns, a picture! I saw a Sphinx with wild curly hair, then I saw a shape like a dragon, or a seahorse coming out of the sphinx’s mouth. The abstract was forgotten as I painted in what my mind saw in the patterns.
Below is a picture of that background, can you see the Sphinx Dude?
In case you couldn’t make it out, I have another photo that I opened in MS paint, and quickly outlined what I saw. So now you can compare the two photos:
So, long story short, I had to paint this!
So with that, Sphinx Dude was born, but I had the nagging desire to further develop the concept.
Sphinx Dude Grows Up
So, I started another painting, this time, not a mini canvas, so I would be able to let Sphinx Dude develop and mature. In the process of maturing, Sphinx Dude grew wings and took on more natural coloration. I titled this second piece, “Sphinx Dude’s World”.
Both of the Sphinx Dude paintings have sold, but I have plans for a third. I am trying to decide between two possibilities for further adventures of Sphinx Dude.
Growing as an Artist
Sphinx Dude isn’t the only one who has been growing. I’ve been experimenting with different techniques and mediums in order to grow as an artist. Sphinx Dude was born out of my palette knife painting experiments. Here is another painting done completely with a palette knife, the only thing I used a brush on was the signature.
In addition to playing with palette knife techniques, I’ve been trying watercolors as well, but more on that next time.
As my regular readers know, after one particularly frustrating experience of repainting the same canvas over and over and over again before finally being satisfied with the way sky came out, I decided to do a practice painting of a sky.
I am happy to say that I feel my overall painting skills are improving as a result. This shouldn’t surprise me, after all as they say, “practice makes perfect”. Well, I’m not sure about perfect but I am finding that…
When it comes to art skills, practice makes steady improvement.
Today’s painting was based on a photo of the sky at sunrise which I took a couple of weeks ago. Photos never seem to capture the true colors of sunrises or sunsets without some post processing, so I edited this photo immediately afterward until I felt the sky in the photo looked like what I had just seen outside. It was a cell phone photo, so some details in the landscape weren’t very clear, but for my purpose it was fine.
It is interesting to note that while this is sunrise, the most colorful view was in the western sky, at least from where I stood. Of course, some towering trees blocked my view of most of the eastern sky, so that might have the problem!
I am getting better at painting sunrises and sunsets in acrylic paint.
Now, skies like this are a challenge, they are difficult to render so that they both capture the dazzling spectacle you see, and still remain believable, so that people don’t look at them and think its just fanciful embellishment.
I think this week I did better than any of the previous times I’ve tried to capture a sky with colors like this.
Now, I know it’s not a perfect duplication of the photo, but then again, I am not a camera! Excuse the glare, the paint was still wet, the kitchen light was shining down on it, and I had to get the photo so I could publish my Sunday Skies blog post on Sunday and not Monday!
While I can still some room for improvement, I can see that I’m already learning more about painting the sky.