Category Archives: oil painting technique

Chinese Paperbush / unfinished

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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.

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Windswept Trees / oil

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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

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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.

 

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.

silk scarf painting workshop #2 / inspiration

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I haven’t mastered it yet, but this is FUN! I’ll take the class again. The teacher, Meryl Ann is a great help and showed me how to correct a mistake.

The oil paint sticks work nicely on silk. The paint doesn’t affect the drape of the fabric. They cost around $10 each color, so it’s worth the class just for that one reason. She has a lot of colors. But I made a mess of it and you can’t lift the color off if you put it in the wrong place or smear it. The thing to do is cover it with another design, then the mistake isn’t noticeable.IMG_2155

This photo looks a little out of focus, but I’m not a real photographer, so I don’t care.

Now I want to make my own templates. I have some good ideas. There’s a product like glue you can use to draw on a piece of cardboard to make your own template.

Also, the ladies in the class are very supportive of each other. It’s nice to hang around with other artists because art is mostly a solitary activity and this is getting me in friendly company.

silk scarf painting workshop

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I took a class this morning at Ocean View Arts where we painted on fabric with oil paint sticks. It was something I always wanted to try but didn’t know how to do it. The class was a lot of fun!

This photo shows my two practice pieces. You use templates with a raised surface, tape the template down and tape the fabric on top of it, then lightly rub the paint stick on top of the fabric and it picks up the design of the template.

The teacher, Meryl Ann, explains the process and gives you as many practice pieces as you want to do before you start on your silk scarf. I used an op art template and got a 3D effect on the black fabric. IMG_2153

This photo shows the template and my start on painting the scarf. I didn’t finish the scarf today but luckily there’s another class tomorrow night that I signed up for. I ordered 3 scarfs so I can give them to my mom and daughter for Christmas presents and have one for myself.

One nice thing about taking the class is the paint is included in the price of the class. The oil paint sticks are expensive. It was real nice to hang around with other artists and they are very welcoming to their group.

I’ll post pix of my finished scarfs in a couple days.

Japanese Maple / oil

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Don’t you just love to see fall leaves backlit? With the sun shining through the leaves the tree looks like it’s plugged in and turned on!

I wish I was a better photographer because this is brighter in person than my picture makes it look.

I was standing on the shady side of the tree and I could see the branches but on the other sunny side of the tree all you see is a skirt of leaves.

This is another try at painting like Matisse in my quest to understand more styles of art than the traditional, which is what I was indoctrinated into at art school. I taped my paint brushes onto yardsticks and stood back to paint it. It’s fun and this time I felt like I had more control over my brushes than before. I’m still mixing different styles together in this painting. I did some glazing, which Matisse probably didn’t do. And I used gray even though most modern artists don’t like to use it. Matisse wanted his paintings to reflect some kind of emotion, but I’m not feeling very emotional these days.  If I was to represent any emotion it would have to be my love of this tree.IMG_2138

This photo shows my canvas hanging on the wall over a piece of packing material and a piece of checkered vinyl to protect the wall from my paint when my paint brush taped to the stick goes off. You can see my sketches taped up too. I did my sketches and mixed up my colors in plein air on the path by the tree, but the canvas was too large for that narrow path so I painted it at home ala Matisse.IMG_2135

This was the first step, the background. I didn’t do an underpainting, which is the traditional way. This background took over a week to dry because when you paint with the brushes taped to a stick the paint goes on thicker. After I looked at this while it was drying, I decided to kill the brightness a little so the background wouldn’t compete with the tree. I wanted it to fade back a little, so when it was dry I put a thin glaze of white over the yellow and green. I think  glazing with oil paint is verboten in modern art styles.  Once a juror that rejected a painting I entered said, “Don’t mix different styles together.” I needed to do a glaze here. So much for dumb art rules.

 

Lotuses / oil / some tips on composition I remember from art school

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They said the mind seeks balance but we shouldn’t make a balanced composition because when the viewer’s eye sees balance it’s instantly bored and moves on to the next thing.

The way to create imbalance is with focal points. An odd number of focal points is more interesting than an even number because the viewer’s eye will keep going around the canvas. If there’s only one focal point the viewer’s eye will go to it and stop right there. Also, don’t put a focal point dead center on the canvas. That makes a static composition.

Focal points can be created in different ways by using contrast such as complimentary colors or value contrasts, or by making sharp detail on an otherwise blurry painting.

I find composition to be a difficult part of painting and cutting my shapes out of paper and arranging them like Matisse helped me plan this painting. I’m getting a lot of inspiring ideas from Matisse this summer.

About this painting : The path through the Japanese garden is too narrow for me to stand up my easel. I’d have been blocking the other visitors so I took a few pastels and did my sketches on my small sketchbook because I don’t need my easel to hold it and I can easily back out of the way if people want to walk through. I did the painting at home using Matisse’s method of taping my paintbrush onto a yardstick and standing back from the canvas to paint. I’ve tried the brush on a stick method a few times and it still seems awkward. It’s hard to control the brush. I have to hover the brush over the canvas and when I make contact with the canvas in the right general area I want to paint, I kind of roll it. After I get the general shape I’m trying to do, I can get some brush strokes on it. I want to keep practicing this brush on a stick thing. Maybe it will get easier if I practice.

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 / try try again

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That painting I did last week was sooooo bad. How bad was it? Matisse rolled over. I tossed it.

They don’t give any information about technique in my Matisse book. It’s trial and error here. At least no one will ever say I fear failure. I’m learning something about fauvism by trying to copy the style. This is what I got so far.

Fauve means wild animal so my painting should be bold. Last week I was hesitant so I daubed. Matisse would h8 that. This time I was more deliberate with my brush strokes.

In fauvism you’re supposed to convey an emotion with your color choices. I hope I can do that. Imagine Diana, goddess of the hunt. She represents the feminine ideals of independence and chastity. She can kill her own food so she doesn’t need to rely on some god to bring dinner home and she’s better off without being in a relationship with some god because those guys cause all kinds of mischief fooling around with mortals and chasing nymphs etc. She’s alert and at peace with nature. She’s strong.  I hope I can capture her attitude.

Trying to paint in a style I’m not used to is challenging. I’ll try again. If you know anything about it please advise me. Thanks for the likes on that last post which was a really horrible painting. I appreciate the support.