Category Archives: experiment

my illustration for “wordless Chorus” w. song and close ups

Fall leaves caught on an updraft.

A couple weeks ago I illustrated a song for Halloween and thought it was a lot of fun so I decided to do another one and this time it was even more fun! I picked Wordless Chorus because I didn’t want to illustrate lyrics. I wanted to see if I could let the music move my hand. I tried to paint with no plan in mind and be fast and spontaneous.

The part of the song I’m illustrating starts at 3.18.

I listened to it a couple times and thought it sounds uplifting and exciting. I’t’s wild and free spirited.

First I mixed some yellow and orange and waited for the fun vocals to start. Then I quickly loaded up my palette knife with yellow and went to town! Then I waited for the part of the song I like again and repeated the process with orange.

I stopped to have a look and decided it needed some pink so I mixed up more paint, turned my paper 180* and slapped in some pink while listening to the vocals.

Then I looked closer at the texture and it reminds me of the veins on a leaf. I said, I guess it’s fall leaves in the wind.

The black background makes it look dramatic but after thinking it was a leaf abstract I wanted to see it on a blue sky, so I added the blue but tried to keep from messing up the edges and smears I made with the bright colors.

The unexpected palette knife textures are fun to look at. I’m not sure how this kind of art rates in real life, I mean is it a big waste of paint, is it worth anything, but it was fun to go wild with it and I might do another illustration of a song.

There’s a funny vein in the paint. I don’t know how I did that.

I can’t tell if this expresses the song very well or not.

Sea Oats / palette knife practice w. close ups

I tried to make mental notes of the colors I needed when I sketched this in plein air then painted it at home. The color looks good in the photo for the sea oats but the background isn’t showing up green enough and there’s a lighter area showing on the right because of a glare.

For the background I wanted to give a color and texture of pine needles. For the sea oats I wanted to make a fuzzy texture .

This photo shows some of the paint texture.

It seemed like the painting went fast on this project. I worked on it for around 5 hours, which isn’t really that fast, just fast for me, because I often have 30 or 40 hours in a painting. So I like the palette knife for that. It’s not easier than painting with a brush, just different. This was a simple experiment.

The palette knife makes the project faster because I painted right on top of my sketch. Usually I redraw my sketch and then redraw it again on the canvas. This way I saved a lot of time because I didn’t prime a canvas which is a multi step process with sanding the canvas, painting gesso on it and sanding it again then tinting the canvas. That part needs to be spread out over two days or more. This way I could jump right into painting.

It’s nice not to have to clean the brushes. That is a job.

Paper is working out to be more conservative than canvases, So the palette knife is practical on a lot of different levels.

I am using more paint than I use normally. That’s one drawback to the palette knife.

The palette knife is fun, though, so I’ll do more.

3rd palette knife painting w. closeups

I have a plan for another subject using this technique.

This is the last time I’ll use my sketches of the butterfly ginger for the palette knife painting. The next thing I’d like to try it on is the spooky battery at Ft. Monroe which I started sketching a couple years ago and put on hold on account of the weird vibes I picked up at the fort. I want to try again to finish a painting of the battery which might or might not be haunted.

Since the palette knife makes it comes out all wavy I think it might give that big imposing scary piece of architecture a more moody look. It will be all different shades of gray, some warm grays and some cool grays.

This is a negative shape for the viewer’s eye to go into and rest.

I want to try making different textures with the palette knife. For the background on this painting I used the short flat edge of the odd shaped palette knife to scrape two shades of greenish gray in a thin layer with some peaks of the dark gray tint of the canvas showing through.

This technique uses up a lot of paint.

First I squirted a blob of Viridian green on my palette. It’s dark. I added terpenoid a few drops at a time until the paint was runny. I thought my big blob of paint would be enough to paint these dark green areas but I misjudged the amount of paint I needed and had to use more.

When I mixed my lighter greens I used big blobs of paint and still didn’t have enough mixed up. When mixing colors it’s better to have too much paint mixed that to not have enough and I usually mix the right amount for what I want to paint with only a small bit left over but with the palette knife it’s harder to estimate.

The last color I used was white and I put a huge blob of it on my palette then added so much more paint that I thought it looked like I’d be wasting paint but it was exactly the right amount to finish the flowers.

Now I have to buy more paint.

2nd palette knife painting w close ups

This one came out better than my first attempt.

I did the whole thing with palette knives and split it up over two different days letting the gray green background and the light gray of the flowers dry overnight. The paint was still wet the next day but only slightly dried which helped my brighter greens and white from mixing in as much. So I did layers but I don’t know if that’s how other artists do a palette knife painting.

It was fun and I’ll do another one.

The good thing about a palette knife painting is that you don’t have to clean brushes. The bad thing is that this will take months to dry. I can put it in my outside closet where it will be out of danger.

This time I went over the background twice to add more texture.

The dark green paint was soupy and it ran off my palette knife nicely. I thinned it with terpenoid.

It reminded me of my cake decorating days.

The white paint was like soft icing.

It’s practically impossible to keep the edges sharp.

The palette knife is harder to control than a paint brush. You have to be careful how you scrape up the paint off the palette so it’s on the knife in a good position to make a blob where you want the blob. Paint goes where you don’t want it to go. Most of the time I just let it there but a couple times I scraped up a big blob that fell in a bad place.

Flower Children Dancing


watercolor and Inktense pencils







Art from my subconscious / good or bad?

I can’t tell if it’s working on any level or if it sux. Feel free to opine or critique without worrying about hurting my feelings. I don’t have any emotions toward this experiment. (and that’s the best way to approach an experiment, just try something and see what happens.) If you studied psych this might give you some insight into my subconscious brain. If you see anything, let me know, crazy or sane, doesn’t matter either.

I didn’t make plans or do sketches first. The only thing I decided was to have fun on a cloudy day when I didn’t want to go out because it was a holiday and would be crowded at the places I like to go. The other thing I decided before starting was to use yellow pink and green.

First, I spattered yellow on the paper ala Jackson Pollock to get a loose start. Then when the yellow dried I wet the paper and blobbed two pinks in around the yellow. While the paper was still wet I scribbled in some lines with the Inktense pencils. When that dried I blocked my flowers off with masking fluid and painted the background green. Then masked off the lighter green lines and went over it again with dark green.

When it’s all dry, rub off the masking fluid and VOILA!

I like this product, but opening the bottle can be frustrating.

Those dang lids where you have to press down while turning.

Once in a while I can open the bottle with no problem but sometimes I try and try until my hand gets tired and it won’t open. One time I broke a lid off a bottle of masking fluid with a wrench. That’s how bad it is.

Yesterday I got a call from a friend and she asked me what I was doing. I said trying to open this stupid bottle. She told me to run it under hot water. I said that won’t help. The lid isn’t glued shut. I can turn it. It just won’t unscrew. Again she said run it under hot water so I said ok. I ran hot water over it for a few minutes and when the bottle warmed up the lid came off! I celebrated that happening with loud insane laughter that my neighbors might have heard because my windows were open.

Now I know the trick to opening these poorly designed bottle caps. I guess my crazy friend knows a thing or two.

This masking fluid is great for adding texture to a watercolor. A few years ago I tried using it on an oil painting, which I was told doesn’t work, but it does work if you use it over thinned oil paint with no medium mixed in. And I keep seeing people are still reading those old posts which is a mystery to me how they find my old masking fluid on oil paint experiments.

If you want to use this product the most important thing to remember is to put soap on your brush first. It’s impossible to clean the brush if you don’t put soap on it first and the brush will get gummed up and ruined. With soap on it you can rinse the brush in water to clean it and use more soap to be sure to get all the masking fluid out of the brush.

watercolor fun time / dunes

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They gave all of us Plein air artists a great swag bag at the Ghost Ranch with a lot of art supplies. The thing I wanted to try first is this little color sample test palette  with 6  dry colors from QoR Modern Watercolors made by Golden. I was just playing around and made the colors bleed because it’s kind of fun to see what you get when they mix and also to watch the bleed.

That’s Mars Orange Deep on the dunes with Indanthrone Blue in the shadows and Manganese Blue in the sky. The blues don’t show up right in this photo because I took it in the yellowish light over my work table. They’re both good blues in real life.

They are some real nice bright colors and I might buy tubes of them in the future.

It rained today and it might rain tomorrow. That’s ok. It’s been dry here for 3 weeks. I started my watercolor at the Pleasure House Point marsh, but didn’t get very far with it yesterday. I will finish that thing some time soon. Not exactly sure how to proceed.  At least I had good weather for my vacation. I’m glad I made it home before the bad weather moved in out west.

skinny-dipping / watercolor abstract

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I bought raw Sienna, burnt Sienna and cobalt blue. This is a test of transparency and how the colors look overlapping and blending. I made it fun by doing a skinny-dipping abstract. The colors look better in real life than they do in this photo. A big part of improving my watercolors is to do random color swatches until I’m more familiar with the paint. It might seem like a huge waste of time and paper, but every step counts toward the goal of mastering the medium, which could take years, so there’s no rush, or limit on supplies I’ll go through. Now I know I’ll enjoy using these colors together and I like the blends I got.

Spirit Horse Head in Clouds

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It’s a clouds experiment. I can’t tell if it looks like clouds to the viewer or not. If it looks like something else, that’s what it is. I painted it in Plein air from my balcony with watercolor and the clouds were moving. I used masking fluid on my fan brush and white oil paint stick first to block out some white and to see if I could make a soft and fluid cloud texture. When it was dry I rubbed off the masking fluid with an eraser.

The horse is another drawing with a black oil paint stick taped to a yardstick to make it fun.

I’m just goofing around at home with the horses for models and trying different things with watercolors but I’m going to get back out in plein air tomorrow and get back to the landscape next.

The weather is improving.  YEA!

Spirit Horse / watercolor

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I was trying to make a ghostly transparent look with this experiment. I used masking fluid on the horse and spattered rubbing alcohol on the background. It was fun. I might do another ghost horse. Why wait till Oct? Spooky subjects are fun all year round.IMG_2307

This is my finished charcoal sketch that I started earlier this week, as seen on my previous blog post, when it was kind of rough. I’d like to go abstract with it but I feel like I need to do a tight sketch first.

By the time I finished the watercolor I probably have 7 or 8 hours in this one experiment, including the time I spent sketching, transferring it to watercolor paper then going into it with masking fluid and paint. That’s not including the times I had a fan blowing on it between layers of paint. That might seem like a long time to put into an experiment, but I learned a thing or two that I can use in the future. The more times I draw a subject the easier it gets.