Category Archives: experiment

Seaweed / charcoal and chalk


I found this sad and slightly gross thing on the beach. I went there hoping to sketch waves but the tide was out and the waves were very small so I gave up on that idea for today.

The seaweed caught my eye and it seemed appropriate for a gray day like today. I arranged it on the sand and sat on the side of a sand dune with less wind to sketch it.

I just wanted to be on the beach a little while.IMG_1988

This is a sketch I did yesterday. The waves were small then too, but today it’s practically calm. I need to sketch waves again before I start the painting I’m planning of the beach in fog. If it’s foggy the waves will be small, especially if the tide’s going out. I can give up on painting large breaking waves with sunlight showing through the curl here. I get the feeling this spot never gets waves like that. If it’s stormy the waves could be bigger but the sun wouldn’t shine through. I’ll find large waves another time.

I’m excited about my plan for this painting because I want to tape my paintbrushes onto yard sticks and stand back from my canvas to paint, like Matisse. And also, it will be a challenge because I want to try to represent fog. With less waves and less contrast, it’ll be mostly gray. I want to use warm and cool glazes close to the same value to make my grays brighter, and I also hope I can get a foggy atmosphere into the painting. It could take a few tries. The better I work out my plan before I start, the better my chances the painting will work.


Ocean Waves / charcoal and chalk


I’ve been hanging around on the beach sketching. Here’s the plan for my next big project. I’m going to use a technique of Matisse. I’ve always loved his work and recently read an article that reminded me of a fun project I tried in high school.

A few days ago when I went to the beach it was so foggy I could hardly see the waves 50 ft. away. Looking in this direction I could see the fence all blurry in the fog. Looking the other direction down the beach nothing was visible except gray mist. It was eerie. It was soft and muted. That atmosphere was inspiring. So now I want to try to represent fog. I want to make a real smooth painting using glazes. That last painting I finished of the Port Authority was fun working on a larger canvas and trying to get a panoramic view. So, I’m going to try to do the beach in the fog next, and do it big. It will be mostly gray, but I enjoy mixing my grays. I think they look pearly.

The thing about Matisse is that he sometimes put his paint brushes on a long stick so he could stand way back from his canvas. I did that long ago and it was fun. Also it’s good to stand back from your canvas so you can see it better. Now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make a smooth painting if I tape my paintbrushes to yardsticks but I’ll try. It will eliminate the detail from the painting, so it will look more Impressionistic, but I’ll still use my glazes since getting the values right will help get the illusion of fog. I know I won’t get it right on the first try. Impressionists don’t use glazes, so I don’t know how they would represent fog. My painting won’t look anything like a Matisse either.

I can’t start a project like this without a solid plan for the waves, even though they will be covered with fog. I still need more practice drawing waves. I can’t go by a photo because of a teacher I had in art school. ( I’ll update my about page soon and tell that story since it had a big influence on me. ) That means, I’ll be going to the beach a few more times to sketch. And I’ll need to do a smaller paint rough before I start on a big canvas. This could take months because I’ll have to wait for foggy weather. We should have more fog soon, but not all the time, so I’ll also start on another painting and have two in progress, the fog and the swamp.IMG_1985


Celtic Knot / masking fluid on oil paint tips


All it requires to use masking fluid on oil paint is time and patience. Here’s how.

Prep the canvas. The stretched canvases in the stores have a coat of gesso, but they’re a little rough. I sand my canvas, coat it with gesso, sand it again, another coat of gesso and a final sanding. Mix a little water in with the gesso so your paint is smooth as possible. I usually spread this canvas prep part out over a couple days. The smooth surface helps when painting lines.

Tint the canvas with thin oil paint. I used alizarin crimson. Add drops of turp slowly mixing them into the paint till you have thin paint. It doesn’t have to be too too thin, or the color might rub off later, but thinning the paint with turp spreads out the oil and the masking fluid will adhere to it nicely. If you have medium mixed in with the paint that might make the surface more oily and then the masking fluid wouldn’t flow off the brush well. So only use turp.

Give it a week to dry before painting the masking fluid on the tinted canvas. I put some soap on my brush before dipping it in the masking fluid. It helps with keeping the masking fluid flowing off the brush and not gumming it up.

Basically it’s the same as using masking fluid with water base paint, so I don’t know why they say it doesn’t work with oils. You paint right on top of it and peel it off after the paint dries.  The hardest part is waiting for your paint to dry so you can take off the masking fluid and reveal your creation! hahahah Sometimes it’s easier to take the masking fluid off. It just peels right up in a long strip. Sometimes it’s a little messier. That’s probably because my paint wasn’t dry enough.

If you don’t have the patience for slow drying oil paint, acrylic might work. I like oil, so, I had to give it a try.IMG_1969

I love Celtic knots. This book shows you how to draw them. You could put the book on a copier and blow it up to the size you need, but I like to follow the patterns and work it out like a puzzle. I drew my pattern with charcoal on brown wrap to the size I wanted. It’s an easy design to copy. Then went over it with magic marker to make my lines thicker before transferring it to my canvas.

I really appreciate this guy, George Bain for figuring out the patterns and publishing them, because I’ve used these designs so many times over the years.  And the original Celts, who came up with this type of design were genius!

Norfolk Port Authority / unfinished masking fluid on oil paint experiment


This would be easy if I knew what I was doing.  But it’s driving me insane!! The weather isn’t cooperating either, so it’s taking weeks just to make a little progress.

I thought about how to paint a big bright winter sky. Winter skies have the brightest colors of the year, I think, with the orange sunlight coming through the atmosphere on a long slant.  From this view, the sun would set close to the center of my painting, which isn’t good. When I was in art school one of our teachers said, “Never paint a blazing sunset.”  I’m not sure if he said that because a bright red sun is what they called “the red circle trick” at the Academy. It’s bad for a composition because the eye goes to the red circle and stops there. It makes  a static composition. The eye doesn’t go around the painting to any other focal points.  That’s how the stores get you to go to the sale items, by placing a red circle over them. Or maybe his objection to painting a blazing sunset was that it’s impossible to duplicate the beauty of the colors. Or maybe he thought it was a cliché, because I remember he said never paint a barn. He said barns are a cliche and it’s true. A lot of jurors will reject a barn painting no matter how beautiful the painting is, just because they’re tired of barns. I’ve painted barns anyway.

So, an afternoon sky is what I’m shooting for here, and I glazed over it on 3 or 4 different days, trying to make a good blend from orange to blue. Then if I see the kind of clouds I like, I’ll have a background of sky ready.

Meanwhile, one day when I had a glaze down on my sky, I sketched in the Port Authority with gray paint. It’s just a skinny strip of land going way out there with rigs far away and some closer. My paint lines weren’t straight or even enough since I did them freehand outside, but I planned to use masking fluid on this painting. When my gray paint was dry I went over the rigs with the masking fluid and sharpened up my lines. Then continued to do sky glazes on top of the masked off rigs. IMG_1964

This close up shows my layers of sky glazes on top of the masked off rigs and strip of land. I’d really like to take the masking fluid off it today because it’s raining and snowing here again. The paint is dry and I’m tired of waiting for nice clouds to add. After I take the masking fluid off, I’ll go over the rigs again. This masking fluid step, if it does work out, was to sharpen up my drawing a little, since it seems easier to paint a straight skinny line with masking fluid than with oil paint. I hope you can see what I’m trying to get with this experiment.

And I have another experiment started, which will be dry in a few days. I could call this sky finished. Forget about winter clouds. It would be great to finally finish it after looking at it unfinished for weeks and waiting for good weather, or for my paint to dry.

If you think you have the patience to try this technique, I’ll post instructions for masking fluid on oil paint soon. I’d like to see what another artist would do with it. But, waiting for oil paint to dry does take patience sometimes.

I did another tie dye t shirt


This one came out more colorful on the back. I’ll take 3″ off the length and cut a 4″ fringe then bead it on the bottom.

See those orange circles surrounded by blue? I did a little experiment. I put rubber bands over beads inside the shirt. Then I put orange dye on the little bead bumps I made. and then put squares of plastic wrap on top of the orange dye with more rubber bands so the blue dye wouldn’t flow into the orange. Then I scrunched up the rest of the shirt and banded it up and used the ice dye technique to add color to the rest of the shirt.

That was fun. I bought another t shirt. I might try to do more contrasting circles using beads and plastic wrap. I’m excited about how bright my shirts are coming out.

tie dye bathrobe for my daughter


Sarah told me she recently purged her wardrobe and gave away a ton of clothes she doesn’t wear. She also put a moratorium on herself not to buy more clothes for the rest of the year. That’s a bold anti consumerism move from a career woman! So I told her if she wants something sewn or tie dyed to get me while I’m hot. She knows sometimes I don’t sew for years. She said she’d like a tie dyed bathrobe, so I said ok, I’ll give it a shot.

I got white terry cloth. It’s cotton and I thought it would take the dye well. I decided to cut the pieces out first but not sew them together till after I had it dyed. I thought that might make it more manageable to rinse in the sink. After I had the pieces soaking in the soda ash solution for 20 minutes I put them in the dryer to get out most of the moisture. The guy on the “crispy” U Tube video says to have the fabric only slightly damp when you tie it up to dye. (That guy is a real inspiration with the beautiful shirts he makes.) Well, my pieces started to fray in the dryer, so I sewed French seams on this to stop it from fraying more.IMG_1873

How do you like this draining mesh I rigged up? Good thing I saved those old stretcher strips every time I moved. I knew I’d use them one day. And that roll of waxed button twine I bought long ago finally got used for this project too. I stapled the twine to the stretcher strips.  I used a scrap of black mat board to make my collars to hold the ice on top of the fabric. I just had black on hand, any cardboard will do. That’s all my cuts for the robe scrunched down and banded up in the collars.IMG_1874

This photo shows my ice on top of my scrunched pieces with dye sprinkled on top of the ice. When the ice melts the color goes through the fabric and you get that water color look. You have to wait for the ice to melt then turn it over and put ice and more dye powder on the other side too. The excess dye drips into the plastic tub underneath. The ‘crispy” guy says to wait 24 hours before untying and rinsing the fabric. You can’t tell how it will come out. And kind of hard to wait 24 hours to see what you got!

I’m not finished with my tie dye experiments. I have another idea in mind, something big.

the Mondrian top in colors I like

IMG_1872This is my second try on making the Mondrian top. I like this one more because these are colors I enjoy wearing. The first time I made the top I was only trying to copy the original, but I don’t enjoy wearing red, gray, white and black. The monotony of the colors in the stores is what I’m trying to escape.

Quilting Adventures has the most beautiful cotton prints but I’ll have to iron this every time I wash it. The fabric  stores don’t have as great a color selection in polyester. Maybe I could make a Mondrian sweat shirt though, because they do have nice bright colors in fleece. That’s a project for the future.

Another reason I like this version more is because it fits better. After I used the pattern 5 times, and made a few alterations to it, I got it to fit just right.

So, it took 2 tries, and it was difficult, because I’m not very experienced at piecing, but I finally made a Mondrian top that will be fun for me to wear. And I hear the style is making a comeback.

tie dye t shirt with beaded fringe


That was FUN!

My first 2 attempts to tie dye didn’t work out as well as I hoped, so I watched a few U Tube videos and got some good tips. This is the ice dying method. You scrunch up your shirt and put rubber bands all over it, then put it on top of a rack so the dye can drain. That way the shirt isn’t sitting in dye getting too dark and mucking up your colors. Instead of mixing the powdered dye with water and squirting it on with the squeeze bottles in the kit, you cover your t shirt with ice cubes and drop the powdered dye on top of the ice. When the ice melts the dye soaks into the shirt and gives this water color look.

The instructions on the kit say to wait 6 to 8 hours before untying the shirt and rinsing it, but the U Tube videos say to wait 24 hours, so I waited until the next day to rinse the shirt.

Also, the videos recommended you use soda ash to set the dye better and make the colors come out brighter. I got a pack of the soda ash and followed the instructions. I think it  did help keep my colors from washing out in the rinse part of the process.

I thought this one came out ok. I wanted to put a fringe on it because the shirt is long on me, but I wasn’t really sure how to add the beads and had to try a couple times sewing them on. Finally I got the hang of sewing the beads on, but it took a long time.

My wardrobe wouldn’t be complete without some tie dye. I need to do more.


top with neck facing trim


I saw this top on TV and thought it was so cute I stopped the show to look at it. I liked the 2 rows of contrasting trim around the contrasting yolk. It looked like the neck facing was on the front instead of inside the top! I was so happy I figured out a way to make it!

I have a Simplicity pattern 8061 that looks like the style I saw on TV, and easy to sew. I made it out of muslin first to check the fit and was glad I did the muslin because the top fit ok except it was too high on the neck in front, like it was practically choking me. Then I tried again with some polyester fabric and cut the neck edge down about 3/4 ” from the original pattern. It was more comfortable to wear, but still could go lower. The pattern also has a low scooped neckline, a V neck and a square neck, but I wanted the higher round one. A lot of times the piece I sew doesn’t come out looking just like the picture on the pattern.

After I changed the neckline on the front pattern piece, I also had to draw  new facing pieces to fit my alterations. Then, do the bias trim on the facing top and bottom, sew the front of the facing to the wrong side of the top. When you flip it, it looks like a pieced yolk with trim, but it’s really only a facing.

I’m going to do it again with the facing on the front in contrasting colors, and alter the pattern one more time. This time, I want to lower the neck edge a little more and lower the armholes about 1″ too. Then it will be perfect for me.

Then I want to do the Mondrian top again in my favorite colors with this pattern.

microscopic star dust life form, reproducing

IMG_1862gold leaf and beads on oil paint

This is another experiment using masking fluid on oil paint. They say it doesn’t work. They say masking fluid beads up on oil paint. I think they are misinformed about that.

I started with a red tinted canvas and painted the masking fluid on my Spirograph design blocking out a red line. Then painted the blues and greens over top of the masking fluid. I added quick drying medium to my paint but still had to wait a couple days for the it to dry before taking the masking fluid off . Then I put gold leaf on my red lines and put beads on the canvas.

I used 2 different sized lids to stamp the violet circles in the background. For the larger beads, I cut little slits in the canvas and pushed the beads half way in, then hot glued them on the back. I sewed the small beads onto the canvas.

The most difficult thing about using masking fluid on oil paint is opening the bottle. You have to press down on the lid and turn it. I hear a click but the lid doesn’t unscrew. After trying to open the bottle for a while, my hand gets tired and I get out some tools because I want to break the freaking lid. Then finally I can open it after much frustration.  I mean, COME ON! Winsor Newton. Can’t they make a better lid?!

About the life form; It fell out of the sky into the ocean. Now it is reproducing and will probably choke out all life on Earth !  Are you scared? I just scared myself! hahahah