Category Archives: art

Square Peg Round Hole

The life of an artistimg_1842

Hey, Look! I’m an Abstract Expressionist now!

Do you ever try to fit into a situation and you know it will never happen? That’s my inspiration, my social failure. To all my social misfit, square peg, friends out there, let me know if you ever find a square hole, because I’m still searching. Then all of us square pegs can get together and mock the round pegs. hahahahahahahaha

Meanwhile, just goofing around with this “Artist Tile Set”, Studio Series, scratch and sketch squares that my daughter got for me. It’s a card painted black over top of colors, or black on top of gold or silver. You scratch off the black. It’s a little scratchboard.

At least my daughter is popular, with over 1200 followers on Twitter. She started the cute baby animal challenge and got tweeted from zoos and aquariums all over the country and Europe. Check it out! #sarahjanethill

 

2 stained glass windows I love at the VMFA

img_1841Magnolia and Apple Blossom Window  /  Tiffanyimg_1838Jacques Gruber  /  French  /  1870 – 1936

I think I’ll steal one or both of these designs. Why should an artist put extra pressure on herself by trying to be “creative” and “original” when she could just copy something great? A lot of artists like to steal from the masters. There’s those funny books telling you how to steal like an artist. They crack me up. Then sometimes you still hear people saying, “It’s been done before.” like that’s a bad thing. I don’t get it. I go with the side of stealing a great design and making it my own. I remember our teachers at York Academy of Art told us one rule of stealing a design. Only steal the good stuff.

I can’t decide how to use one of these in my next project. I need to think it through and do a couple sketches first. Another funny contradiction you hear in the art world sometimes is, a teacher tells the students to just do it, don’t think about it. That sounds weird to me. I would have to take some kind of drug to stop from thinking.  What those teachers want is some subconscious thought to come out in the art.  They like a dream quality in art, I guess. I’m not doing that. I think there’s a reason why the subconscious is sub. It’s a bad decision maker.

These windows were well planned. That, and the great technical skill of the artists make them masterpieces.

Distelfink Walks Labyrinth

gold leaf on oil paintimg_1835

This is my 3rd experiment with masking fluid on oil paint.  I masked off the dark red border on the labyrinth and the gold leafed lines on the bird. The 24 carat gold leaf came out looking real warm on top of the dark red outline but it shows up a cool gold in my photo.

It’s a difficult, time consuming process making the masking fluid  work on oil paint. I wouldn’t recommend other artists try it. It takes a lot of prep time and patience. I’m still working out the bugs. I’m not sure if it’s showing in this photo, but you can see the weave of the canvas  through the dark red lines. If someone examines the paint closely, they’ll know I used some kind of stencil when they compare the thick textured paint to the lines.

I don’t have a lot of experience with gold leaf. It’s something I tried to do long ago and had the gold leaf all these years in my art supplies. I remember hearing you need a smooth surface for the leaf. That’s why I masked off the lines for the gold leaf. The paint can get thick and textured on the rest of the canvas, but should be smooth under the leaf.

The Distelfink is a folk art bird from PA. They mean good luck. Distelfink is PA Dutch for Thistle Finch. They’re native in Europe, not PA, but their images are all over Southeast PA.  I’ve always enjoyed drawing them. And I  enjoy the challenge of drawing geometric designs like the Greek key and Celtic knots. Making the labyrinth work out on the size I want is a math problem and takes me a while to figure out, even with the picture of a labyrinth in front of me. These are two designs I have used since I was a kid, so they’re a fall back design for my experiment.

So,  while the weather isn’t good over the winter, this is what I’m working on. My ultimate plan is to make an icon with oil paint and gold leaf, using a portrait of Edgar Alan Poe. The more practice I get, the better my chances are of success with the icon for a show in the spring at the Poe museum.

Distelfink on Hex / masking fluid on oil paint experiment #2

That was fun.
That was fun.
I'm not finished with this.
I’m not finished with these.

I can’t remember who first told me masking fluid doesn’t work on oil paint. It might have been long ago and I didn’t try it until this year. When I was shopping for a masking fluid to try, I asked the art supply store people if the more expensive Winsor Newton masking fluid is a better product than the ordinary friskit masking fluid and they said the Winsor Newton brand might be easier to lift when the paint is dry. If you leave the cheaper product on for a few days it can stick.  The guy working there asked me what kind of paper I was using. I told him I wanted to try it on canvas with oil paint. They said it doesn’t work on oil paint. I said I’m going to try it and see how it goes. If it doesn’t work, I’ll use it for something else.

I think it’s working ok on oil paint.  It was on the canvas over 2 weeks while I waited for the first layer of paint to dry. I mixed fast drying  Winsor Newton Liquin medium with my colors, but forgot to mix it with one of my glazes, and that blue took forever to dry.

This is the Distelfink on the red canvas with one layer of masking fluid and one layer of glazes.
This is the Distelfink on the red canvas with one layer of masking fluid and one layer of glazes.

I bought a deerfoot brush and dabbed the glazes on top of the masking fluid. The deerfoot is a nice brush to use for a glaze. It doesn’t entirely cover the color underneath.

That’s the blue background that took weeks to dry.

I want to paint eyes on my 2 Distelfinks then use this one on red and try another experiment. The last thing I want to try with it is putting gold leaf on the red outline of the bird.

It’s all part of my bigger plan to make an icon of Edgar Allan Poe. When I do my icon, I need an elaborate border for Poe’s portrait with oil paint and gold leaf.

So, why do they say masking fluid doesn’t work on oil paint? This isn’t too bad. If I try again,  maybe I can get the icon project to work out. I did a layer of masking fluid, a layer of glazes, then another layer of masking fluid and another layer of glazes. I had to wait  a couple weeks for it to dry and the masking fluid peeled off nicely.img_1831

This photo shows another experiment started with masking fluid on a tinted canvas. You can see the masking fluid is a little shiny on top of my charcoal sketch of flowers with 2 little distelfinks.

masking fluid on oil paint experiment

Yeah, that works. (kind of)
Yeah, that works. (kind of)

A few years ago I saw a painting by Maxfield Parrish, “Masquerade”, in Atlanta at the High Museum.  I was amazed by his technique.

Dang, this photo's not  clear.
Dang, this photo’s not clear.

All those little diamond shapes are sharp. And people think I paint tight! hahahaha  I wondered how he did it. The only thing I could guess was that he used masking fluid but people told me masking fluid doesn’t stick to oil paint. This painting was in the back of my mind for a long time. I saw a video about Parrish’s glazing technique but it didn’t discuss his technique of painting corners. The video gave me a lot to consider about glazing. I’ve been glazing with oil paint for a few years and I want to try more ways of glazing. The video also stressed Parrish’s use of varnish. I can’t use as much varnish as Parrish because it’s so strong my neighbors will smell it in their apartments too. I go outside to paint varnish but when the weather gets cold it takes a long time to dry.

Last week I planned some paintings to work on over the winter when I can’t get outside to paint as much. I bought a bottle of Winsor Newton water color masking fluid and tried it on a piece of an oil painting that I don’t like.  I drew a hex sign for my experiment because I’m PA Dutch and I’ve always liked to draw hex signs. I’m not superstitious. To me they’re a decoration. It’s fun to spin a compass around and make a perfect circle.

The PA Dutch put hex signs over the door to their barns to keep evil spirits out. Once I asked how a hex can keep out a bad spirit and was told that the spirit would think it could get into the barn through the hex sign, mistaking it for the door. It would hit it’s head on the hex sign and give up and go away. I can’t verify the PA Dutch really believe that. I’ve been away from that culture a long time. I might add that the old guy who told me that wanted to tell me everything he knew and probably wasn’t just pulling my leg. And he was very inquisitive and asked people questions about a lot of subjects.

ok, I digress. I want to try my experiment again using masking fluid on oil paint. This time, my surface will be smoother and I’ll use a ruling pen to paint my skinny lines.

This post has been here for years. Every week wordpress tells me it gets viewed but no one puts a like or comment on it. I think the stats page is lying. Updated on July 31 2020.

The Iverskaya / Mother of God

img_1824

19th century, oil on panel, silver-gilt, enamel,silk

It’s at the VMFA in the Faberge gallery.

I’m not Catholic, but this is inspiring me to do an icon. Mine won’t be religious, but an American icon. I’m planning it for the spring art show at the Poe Museum, so it needs to be Edgar Allen Poe in the icon. Yes, I need to start planning now because I’m kind of slow. hahahahah This will be something I can work on when the weather gets too cold to paint outside in a month or so.

Just yesterday, I was thinking of doing a mixed media  piece to enter in their annual call to artists for the show “Poe’s Enchanted Garden.” I was trying to decide on how to make cut out layers. I had in mind a Dada piece I love by Arp with cut outs, “Mountains Table Anchors Navel.”  I couldn’t decide, should the image of Poe be on top of the layers or underneath to be seen through the cut outs. This real icon tells me, the pic of Poe should be inside the cut out and surrounded by an ornate border with gold and sparkly jewels. Poe won’t be getting a halo though. He might look good in an Art Deco type floral design, all dripping with sad flowers in gold and jewels. Maybe I can work a raven or black cat into the design.

It will be a challenge to do a nice portrait of Poe  for my icon.

Gazebo With Fall Foliage oil

Painting in plein air is my therapy.
Painting in plein air is my therapy.

I enjoyed it so much, sitting on the thick root of an old Magnolia to work on this painting. It’s kind of a Zen thing for me.

I’d be more comfortable standing up to draw and paint, but I walked all around the gazebo and thought the best view was  more uphill from it, under the tree. A big branch was partially blocking my view so I had to move around  too see. I decided not to paint the branch that was in my way, but I also enjoyed the way the leaves glow when the sun shines through them. Have you ever noticed that? This painting wasn’t about the Magnolia, though.

If you look in the other direction from there, you can see the end of the Italian Garden, with a stone wall and roses. It smells sooooo sweet, even in the end of Oct. I’m going back to that tree next year.

What I don’t get is, why am I on this beautiful path alone?

Exquisite Corpse by Bernard Dumaine and Paulo Cunha

graphite
graphite

This is my favorite piece in the Exquisite Corpse show at Artworks.

The show opened tonight.

I met Paulo Cunha who came down from Canada. Dumaine is in France. That’s one fun thing about the Exquisite Corpse game. Artists from all over the world can collaborate. These two guys have a lot of experience working together on corpses.

The Exquisite corpse is a surrealist art game where two or more artists work on a piece and neither knows what the other has done until it’s finished. The second artist has to try to connect to what the first artist started with only an inch showing of the lines the first artist drew. It’s not easy to explain and it helps to have more than one try because it’s not always easy to do. It only works if both artists use the same medium or colors.

The show is in the skylight gallery at Artworks on 4th St. and Hull St in Richmond VA.  If you’re in the Richmond area you should check it out because there’s some crazy stuff in there!

A Spray of Goldenrod by Charles Courtney Curran

At the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk VA.
At the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk VA.

It’s a great show of American Impressionists titled “The Artist’s Garden”. I drove to Norfolk yesterday to see it. The show ends in the beginning of Sept.

It’s exciting to see old Impressionism. There’s a lot of variations in the different artist’s styles. These artists had academic training. You can see it in the beautifully drawn female figures. An artist doesn’t get this kind of results by tracing a photo. This took years of figure drawing practice.

I wanted to see if the old Impressionists used glazes, and yes, I see layers of glazes in a lot of the paintings. Modern Impressionists don’t use glazes. This painting shows a lot of variation in the way the paint was applied. Some is glazes and some parts are painted thick.

The old Impressionists didn’t have a formula. I doubt this was finished in one day. They had inspiration. They were daring and groundbreaking. Modern Impressionists are in a big hurry to finish paintings because they think it makes them look “prolific”. They have a good level of successful paintings that are marketable because they have a formula, which they might call “streamlining” a painting, or “simplifying” or something like that. That’s why all modern Impressionists work looks the same. Modern Impressionists are on some kind of art treadmill. I want to paint like this guy, Curran.

Soy Beans With Crepe Myrtles / oil

building texture with a palette knife
building texture with a palette knife

At York Academy of Art, (long ago) our teachers told us to vary the textures in our paintings. This helps make the viewer’s eye move around the canvas. Heavy texture is fun to paint and to look at, but you need a smoother texture to contrast with the heavy palette knife texture, and to give the eye a place to rest.

I painted in the couch, the way they taught us to paint at YAA, which means you put a layer of Maroger Medium on the dry canvas in the area you want to paint that day. Then paint on top of the medium with color. The paint slides so nicely on the Maroger Medium, which is what the old masters used. I have a tube of Alvi’s  Maroger Medium. It’s great to work with. Sometimes when I get home and sit back and look at my painting, I see things I want to correct. With this medium, you can just wipe the paint off without destroying the dry layers of paint underneath. Also you can thin your paint and make glazes, or go thick impasto on top of the medium.

You can use the palette knife in different ways. Use the flat side of it to spread your paint like butter, to cover a larger area. Or you can dab in thick chunks of paint with the tip of the palette knife. But the technique I use most often with the palette knife is to blob in some glazes of paint with a brush on top of the medium and scratch through the paint with the palette knife to make lines and textures.