A Portrait of the Poser as a Young Tree / mixed media

img_2184

Not to disrespect the tree, but why am I calling it a poser? The true identity of the tree is below.

This is another try at sketching  with oil paint sticks. They’re like big oily crayons, so it’s impossible to draw a skinny line or a small texture with them. They force me to draw fast and loose. One good thing about taking my oil paint sticks out to sketch in Plein air is that I don’t need to take my pallet, turpentine and brushes along. The bad thing is that I have to make do with the colors I have and can’t mix the colors as well on the paper as I would like to.

img_2182

This is an older tree of the same family. They’re called, Hitoki Falsecypress. The one I sketched is about 4 feet tall. So I’d tell the small tree,” There’s no need to feel bad about not being a real cypress tree, little poser. Some day you will be as big and respectable as your beautiful neighbor.”

Advertisements

Holly Receptors In The Brain Of Your Plein Air Artist / mixed media

img_2181

I could have titled this, “Deciduous Holly” but then the art viewer would dismiss it as just another drawing of a twisted bush. Allow me to interpret it for you.

A few years ago my daughter lived in Atlanta GA. and when I visited her one time we saw a show called “Bodies” at the Atlantic Center. These Chinese mad scientists had taken some John Doe bodies in China and dissected them in unique ways. They injected bright dye into the nervous system then eliminated all the rest of the body’s tissues so all that was left was the neon nervous system in 3D body shaped plexiglass.  They did the same thing to the blood veins. Imagine a clear body where the whole nervous system is visible. I found it a little disturbing. One display had an arm sliced across sections and spread out so you could see the bones, muscles and other guts of the arm going down the extended length of it. I thought if I had a few of those arm cross sections I could use them as coasters since they were in plexiglass and colored so nicely with no smell of death.

Coincidentally, they were running ads on TV for a pill that supposedly stopped the “nicotine receptors” in a smoker’s brain from working. If you wanted to quit smoking, you could take the pill and quit the habit / addiction of smoking. I wondered what the nicotine receptors looked like. I doubt there are really nicotine receptors in the brain at all. I guess if an artist challenged a mad scientist to show the nicotine receptors the scientist would slap a brain out of a jar of formaldehyde onto a plate and make some cuts into the gray matter and say, “There are your nicotine receptors”. Then later, I heard of opium receptors or some other bad kind of receptors in your brain. It seems like there are receptors for all kinds of things in your brain. Everyone started jumping on the brain receptor band wagon. Then there must be receptors for other things that give the brain pleasure, like eating hard shell crabs, or looking at a pretty bush in the winter.

These days, a lot of times I draw trees with bare twisted branches and it reminds me of the neural network of the brain. And when I stood in front of this bush to draw it, those holly receptors went off in my brain giving me a feeling of pleasure. The red dots on my sketch are the holly receptors. The art viewer might see the red dots as merely berries and be bored with the sketch, because that person wants to see not only a tree, but the suffering of the artist depicted in the sketch, or some story illustrated through the art. They would never know this is an illustration of the holly receptors in my brain if I didn’t tell them. This is where you, my WordPress friends, have an advantage over the other art viewers out there. Because now you know some of the things that went through my mind when I worked on this drawing, but if I frame it or use this sketch to do a painting, others won’t see the receptors.

Deciduous Holly / unfinished sketch charcoal and chalk

img_2178

This bush is a bright spot in the garden with clouds of red berries floating over twisted bare branches. The sun was out yesterday and today but it’s a little too cold both days to stand outside sketching for long. I could go back this afternoon if it warms up a little, or I could try to fake it at home with a larger piece of paper since I have this much visual information. Yesterday this bush had me confused with trying to see how the branches overlap and how they continue across the paper. I had my small sketchbook and couldn’t draw small enough to have room on the paper for the red berries, since they are hanging away from the main stems.

Today might be my last chance to sketch outside for a few days because winter precipitation is coming our way. I’d go to the arboretum and work on my painting of the Chinese Paperbush, except last winter when it was in the 35* F. range, like today, the glass on my pallet cracked in the cold. So, my two choices for today are either bundle up and take my charcoal to the botanical garden like yesterday, or stay in and sketch a model horse.

Chinese Paperbush / unfinished

img_2177

The bush will bloom soon. I saw it last year at the VA. Tech Arboretum right across the parking lot from my apartment, but I had another painting started at the time, so I planned to paint it this winter. The arboretum is convenient  now, but I’m planning on moving again. I’m excited to try capturing this pretty bush while I have the opportunity.

There’s not many people walking in the arboretum. I  took my yard sticks along and taped my paint brushes to the sticks so I could stand back and paint ala Matisse. If anyone saw me do that they might think I was crazy. It actually made it a little easier to paint that way than it was to sketch it with charcoal from a normal  distance . I felt secluded from view between trees, too.

I need to go back tomorrow if it’s sunny and work on the bush again. The light didn’t last long but it was brightly lit for an hour.

To do the background, I went to the arboretum with my paints, pallet and pallet knife and mixed the colors in Plein air then came home and painted it from memory, with my paint brushes taped to yard sticks. I really am starting to enjoy the extended brushes.

It only took a couple days for my background  to dry. This is the traditional way of painting except for the extended brushes and thick paint in the background. I used my Maroger medium today, covering the whole canvas with plain medium and painting my branches into the medium, which is called, “painting in the couch”. The medium “couches” the paint. The old masters used some variation of Maroger medium and they also painted in the couch. It makes the canvas slick, so the paint flows nicely.

If you like the smell of oil paint you will love the smell of Maroger medium. If the idea of inhaling toxic fumes scares you, then Maroger medium is not for you. It has lead when properly made but there are different recipes. The lead in the medium won’t hurt you unless you eat it. Cooking up a batch of Maroger medium indoors could poison you. I love the stuff. It’s great for painting in plein air. When I paint at home I run my can fan, which is an industrial strength air scrubber. If my hands get sticky I just stop and wash my hands. I remember hearing stories about a guy who got lead poisoning in PA. cooking Maroger medium but mainly people at the Adamstown hat factory. That’s where the saying, “mad as a hatter” came from, lead poisoning. I feel saner than ever before in my life, so, it won’t make you sick if you use it safely.

Torch Lilies / mixed media

IMG_2173

Look what’s blooming like crazy in Jan! It’s so bright I used my florescent oil paint sticks. They have a big clump of these Torch Lilies at Norfolk Botanical Garden. A gardener told me they started to show buds a month ago then last week they really opened up!

It’s so nice to stand there sketching and take in the colors on a gray day like today, and tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, so I’m glad I got this sketch today. I did the watercolor background when I got home.

dragons on silk scarf / oil paint sticks

IMG_2168

Dragon one says to dragon two, “Gurrrl, how you doin?”

Dragon two says, “I’m good. How you doin?”

Dragon one says, “I’m fine. Lets go torch that big flock of sheep.”

Dragon two says, “Lets torch the castle instead. We can get their gold.”

Dragon one says ,”Good idea. Lets go.”IMG_2170

These are the new templates I made using my concoction of corn starch and Elmers glue piped out of a cake decorating bag onto foam  core. The foam core warped as it dried. I’ll try to find something that won’t warp for my next experimental template.

Dragon Head / mixed media / abstract

IMG_2167

Playing with my new art supplies today for tomorrow I drive.

This is an experiment using oil paint sticks and gelato watercolors on watercolor paper.

My daughter likes to find new types of art supplies for me to try. I’m not sure if I was using the gelato colors the right way. A funny syringe type watercolor brush comes with the kit but I didn’t see that it connects directly to the paint. The paint comes out of the tube like a lipstick and you can draw with it on dry paper and you can brush water into it. That’s what I got from the experiment.

I’m thinking of taking some different types of paint with me, besides my regular oils, when I go back to the marsh to draw in plein air again. The oil paint sticks might work because I don’t need to take my pallet, so that’s a lighter load in my bike basket. I don’t think I’ll take my easel, just a sketchbook.

Meanwhile, I’m having fun with my modern art experiments.

Windswept Trees / oil

IMG_2166

It’s raining here today so I enjoyed staying home and finishing this painting. I did the sketch weeks ago in plein air and painted at home ala Matisse, with my paint brushes taped to yard sticks, so I was standing back from the canvas and trying to control my brushes, which don’t always go where I want them to from a yard away.

I’m not going 100% modern on this painting since I used my Maroger medium and black to make the dark green grey of the trees. But I am going more modern by using my big brushes taped to yardsticks.

At art school, long ago, they told us to use black. The old masters used it, so it works ok if you use black like they did. And more modern artists, even Manet and others of his era used black successfully.  To make a black that isn’t dead they told us to mix equal parts Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue. The Ultramarine Blue is your darkest cool color and the Burnt Umber is your darkest warm color so you get a neutral black. If you need a warm or cool gray you can mix any other color into this black. We also were taught to use gray in glazes and if you layer warm  colors over cool colors, or cool over warm, after waiting for the first glaze to dry, you don’t get muddy colors but the viewers eye mixes the colors.

Sometimes you can’t just throw away the lessons of the old masters. I like to use the best ideas from the old and the new. Painting like Matisse, with the brush taped to a yardstick is fun and freeing. I’ll get out to draw and paint  in plein air again real soon, but I got distracted by bad weather and other fun art projects to do indoors. So, I was glad to finally finish this painting after waiting weeks for the background to dry.

silk scarf painting / almost got it

IMG_2165

If I had a nice bright green oil paint stick this might work. I like the template more that the scarf. That’s ok. I’ll try again.  And my dragons: I wanted them to look scary, but they look like they’re saying, “How ya doin?”IMG_2164

I made  left and right templates so my dragons would both face up on the scarf. My daughter gave me some type of clay they called Think Putty. It’s not sticky and almost the right texture to pipe out of a cake decorating bag, so I added a lot of  Elmers glue to thin it and make it sticky. It piped nicely but was a mess to clean up since it’s not water soluble clay. I don’t know what it was made of but the glue blended in.

This method of painting on silk is like doing a rubbing. There are other ways to paint on silk that I haven’t learned, but I might try something else like dye instead of oil paint sticks and a template.

The molded plastic templates you buy in the art supply  stores give you a sharp image but my home made templates aren’t coming out with that look.

No big deal about wrecking this piece of silk.  The first pieces of silk I bought, I thought the width of the bolt would be ok for a scarf, but now I want to make 54″ scarves instead of using the 45″ width.

Then, I tried to use my folding foot on the sewing machine to make the hem on this practice piece and it didn’t work for me. The silk is slippery and I couldn’t keep it in the folding foot. I remembered long ago I made ruffled curtains and the folding foot wasn’t easy even on cotton.

I started sewing the hem by hand like the scarves imported from Thailand. It was going slowly and I decide to sew the hems by machine because my templates might not work anyway, and why spend the time hand sewing on these experiments? I’ll just straight stitch some hems.

I tried to make templates using string and glue on a board, but the string frayed at the cut edges which wasn’t what I wanted. Dragons should have points, not frayed ends. I used craft string and Elmers to glue my design on a piece of black foam core board that time. I’ll try again to make a template using something else. But the green putty is an improvement over the string.

That’s all the problems I had so far with trying to do silk painting on scarves. It’s a good thing I have a lot of patience and not easily discouraged, isn’t it? 😉

In the winter your plein air artist gets into craft projects and other kinds of art, but I’m looking forward to better weather so I can spend more time drawing and painting outdoors.

 

portraits of ladies / blind drawing exercise / mixed media

IMG_2161

A lot of contemporary artists do this blind drawing exercise so I wanted to give it a try.  I did double blind because I picked my colors blindfolded too.

Before I blindfolded myself I arranged my work table with a pile of my watercolors and a jar of water next to them, piles of oil pastels in groups of dark medium and light and a jar of terpenoid next to them, a pile of paint brushes and my paper. For my first experiment I put some watercolor on the palette which I could feel but then I couldn’t tell if my brush was going into the paint because I was blindfolded and I didn’t cheat by looking.  I stuck my finger into the paint. So, for my next experiment I picked up my random color of paint and opened the tube and dabbed it directly onto the paper in several places then dipped my brush into the water, which I could feel for.

It was fun! The first few blind paintings didn’t work at all and I wanted to keep trying. I did six and I’ll show you the two best two.

The thing I like about the one above, is the eye seems to have floated off her face to the right. IMG_2163

Her dad was a glass maker.

The funny thing about this one is, I did draw eyes nose and mouth, but they got lost somewhere and her head looks transparent.

So this is my latest attempt to be contemporary, though technically, all artists alive and working today are contemporary. But art style labels don’t always apply.

Did this exercise improve my drawing? Even though I goofed around with it most of the day, I’d say, no. It was fun, but it won’t help my drawing improve. So, what is the real point of this exercise? To make modern art easier for someone who draws and paints in an old style? If either of these looks like real contemporary art, then the exercise did that for me.

Also, sometimes if you’re working on a project and getting nowhere, you can play around one day with this blind drawing exercise and take a break from the thing that’s not going well. Then go back to the other project mentally refreshed.

No Camera Needed