Category Archives: experiment

alternative media for plein air sketching / watercolor pencils

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It’s fun to try different media and techniques. This is a close up of my first attempt using Aquarelle watercolor pencils, which were recommended to me by my blogging friend, Vivienne Lingard. I’m looking for something that would be easier to transport than oil paint and the supplies I need for oils. I tried oil paint sticks and they’re bright but clunky to draw with. Pastels can be heavy to take out in Plein air, but sometimes I pick a few to take along if I can guess what colors I’ll need, so I don’t have to lug my whole box of pastels down a path. There’s also a wide variety of markers I could use in plein air. And my old favorite, charcoal and chalk.img_2189

I sketched a few Chinese Paperbush flowers from memory for my watercolor pencil  experiment since I’m not finished with that painting and I want more practice drawing the flowers.

I have very little experience with watercolors, so this will take practice.

This winter weather is keeping me at home too much. I think I’ll check out the Virginia Beach Aquarium and find some bright fish to draw if they don’t object to colored pencils.

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dragons on silk scarf / oil paint sticks

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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

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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.

silk scarf painting / almost got it

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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

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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.

An experiment isn’t a failure if you learn something from it. / painting a dragon on fabric

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Failure or not? I’d appreciate any tips, as always.

I like dragons and thought it would be fun to paint one on a silk scarf since I enjoyed the scarf painting class and want to try it again. A lady in the class made her own template with a glue like product on cardboard. I couldn’t spot the same bottle at the art supply stores so I tried a couple other things which didn’t work. But that’s ok because I knew I had the wrong fabric anyway. And I didn’t know how my dragon would look painted on a scarf.IMG_2160

I went to Joanne Fabrics and they didn’t have any real silk so I bought some polyester knowing it was only an experiment. Since I couldn’t find the same product that was recommended to me for making the template, I bought a silicone product in a tube that was for adding sculptural detail to your craft projects. It was hard to squirt the silicone out of the tube, and it made peaks at the end of each line, which I later trimmed off when it dried. I thought this will never work, but I used the plate just to give it a try and this green dragon is what I got from the silicone template.IMG_2159

I also tried making a plate using Elmers glue. It’s too runny. Can you even tell that’s a dragon? I like the red on black though.

I had one bit of luck at the art supply stores. Jerry’s Artarama had some oil paint sticks in the clearance section so I got five for under $26.

So, this is what I learned: I need to redraw my dragon and try again with the right kind of glue for my template and paint it on silk. Also, you can buy real silk at The Fabric Hut in Norfolk. I got some and I’m going to try to do a tiny rolled hem like those imported silk scarves from Thailand. I never did a rolled hem so that might work or it might not, but it’s raining today so whatthehell. It would be great if I can make my own scarves to paint too. I’m not quitting till I get it right.

Mums / a pointillism experiment / oil paint

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Pointillism is a scientific style of painting. I never saw a class offered on it but I wanted to try. I read a few articles and they don’t give much information so I had to make my best guess. I’ll give you my questions and if I got it wrong please tell me.

The first thing I could get from my research was that Seurat used the paint straight out of the tube without mixing colors on the pallet. Did he thin the paint with turp or not? I guessed not. Then I saw my dots forming peaks. Did Seurat have peaks on his dots? How large are the dots supposed to be? Can the dots overlap? Can the paint mix  on the canvas when the dots overlap?

One article said Seurat had 11 colors and white. It didn’t say what the colors were. I bought a tube of veridian green  for this painting. I never buy tubes of green because I have a few yellows and a few blues so I can mix the green I need. But to try to stay true to the no mixing colors on the pallet rule, I bought the green. Then I broke the no mixing  rule when I added white to cobalt blue and then I added white to the green. I didn’t use gray because I know modern artists don’t like gray and Seurat probably never used it.IMG_2124

One of the articles said there should be an underpainting. I usually tint my canvas before I do my underpainting, but this time I did my underpainting on a white canvas.

It’s important to keep color theory in mind in pointillism. I took a class long ago in color theory and remember some things like using complimentary colors and using tints of equal value to create the visual mix of gray or the visual mixing of colors that vibrate, and how colors look different on top of other colors.

Is this experiment a success or a failure? I don’t know, but this is my first attempt at pointillism and I’ll try again some time in the future.

background for painting of lotuses / stealing ideas from Matisse

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The paint is thick so I’ll have to wait till later this week to paint the flowers. I’m not sure what Matisse’s oil painting technique was. He liked to put his paintbrush on the end of a long pole and stand way back from his canvas so I’m practicing that. It’s hard to control the brush. I think the practice is supposed to make the artist “loosen up”.

The other times I tried to paint with my brush on a yardstick I didn’t use medium. I painted on a dry tinted canvas and I’m not used to the brush having so much drag on the canvas. That, plus the brush on a stick made it a strange experience. I guessed Matisse probably didn’t paint in the couch like I was taught to do, so I didn’t use my Maroget medium. Painting in the couch is when you paint a thin layer of medium on the dry canvas and paint your colors on top of the medium. It makes a slick surface for your brush and it’s easy to use glazes or paint with thick texture. This time I decided to use my Maroget medium and paint in the couch to make it a little easier to control my brush on a stick. To use medium or not to use medium, that is the question.

I doubt if I’ll be able to stay true to any one style. There’s so many that I like and I only steal the good ideas. Plus, I don’t have all the info on Matisse’s technique. It doesn’t matter. Rules don’t apply to me.IMG_2090

These are my sketches for the lotus painting. The eight smaller papers are my pastel sketches from the Japanese garden at Norfolk botanical where I hung around on eight different days for a couple hours. The three larger papers are my enlargements of my leaf sketches done by taping a sharpie on a yardstick like Matisse. You can see my scribbles where the sharpie went off on it’s own.

Then I cut out the leaf shapes and arranged them on my canvas different ways to decide the composition. That’s something Matisse enjoyed doing. He cut shapes out of colored paper and arranged them. The arranging part is where I got hung up for a while.

I have to sketch my flowers again on tracing paper and figure out how many I can fit on the painting. I don’t want to crowd them because they’re not crowded in nature. Maybe only three on my 18 x 24 canvas. I did a lot of sketches I won’t use and will never frame but that’s ok. It isn’t about the finished piece, it’s about the process. The questions answered, the new experience, the practice. Know what I mean?

Diana Fauve / oil

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It seems a little ironic that my first subject to try fauvism is Diana because she’s the goddess of the hunt and fauve means wild animal.

Matisse said you should use color to express emotion and I thought he!!, I’m not emotional. Then I remembered the plaque at the museum said Diana represents the feminine ideals of independence and chastity so I thought about those things when I was working on it and picked colors I like to work with.IMG_2078

Yesterday when I got home from sketching at the museum I knew my sketch wasn’t right. I wanted to correct it but not go back to the museum so I taped my sketch to the wall and taped a piece of charcoal to a yardstick so I could stand back and do it again. The first try I taped a sharpie to the yardstick and that sketch looked real bad. Almost human. So I tried charcoal and got this sketch which looked better than the sketch from the museum. You can see places where my charcoal on a stick went somewhere on it’s own.

I tried two more but this one was the best so I used it for my painting. I’ll do the charcoal on a stick practice again. I’m pretty sure Matisse did it thousands of times. It’s good to stand back from what you’re working on and you can’t really focus on any certain little thing too well. It seems like you have to draw a bunch of lines and pick the one you want. IMG_2081.jpg

Here’s a few fauve portraits for you. The one on the left is Matisse, Madame Matisse. Then portrait of Matisse by Andre Derain. Then portrait of Derain by Maurice Vlaminck. On the right is portrait of Vlaminck bu Andre Derain.

It looks like your sketch doesn’t have to be 100% accurate. That’s a nice thing about fauvism. I don’t know if mine fits in with this fauvism thing but it was kind of fun and easy to do. I’ll probably do another one from a marble bust.

An interesting story about Matisse is that he cofounded an art school with some other artists but he didn’t want to be paid because he didn’t want it to be an obligation. He went on Sat. and did the critiques. He must have been a harsh critic because another teacher said it took him all week to build up the confidence of the students and on Sat. Matisse would destroy it.

On the first day of school the students were so excited to do fauvism they hung all their bright fauve paintings in the room and when Matisse came in he was mad and told them to take all that garbage down. Then he made them sketch busts! The students were not happy.

unfinished flowers / trying to paint like Matisse

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This is a strange experience, trying to paint like Matisse. Picture my paint brush taped to a yardstick and I’m standing back. My brush is out of control weaving around in the general area of my canvas. Finally I get it close to where I want it and roll it a little. I’m making blips and leaving them there. It’s an experiment and I don’t know if I’m getting it or not. But it’s a challenge too and after I finish this painting I want to try again. Have you ever tried painting with an extended brush? And if you have, do you have any tips or insights about it?

I’m breaking my training. No medium so far but I might use it on the next step. I used cadmium red and cadmium yellow for the first coat on the flowers because they’re more opaque colors. Normally I’d have started with a darker red. The paint went on thick and I usually do glazes. I’ll have to wait a few days for this to dry because I want to go over it one more time and try to do some shading and detail. The detail, if I can do it, will probably not hit the flowers where I want it to, so that will be a different thing for me.IMG_2076

This book by Time Life says Matisse has a piece of charcoal taped to bamboo. I’d like to use bamboo too. I wonder if they sell it or maybe I could find something else so I can get even farther back from my painting. I’m afraid to go out and pick some bamboo because there might be a spider in it! IMG_2074

This photo shows my sketches taped up next to my painting. I traced my sketches and rearranged them on the canvas a few times to try to make a n interesting composition. Now I need them on the wall so I can see the flowers separately.