Tag Archives: technique

Vine charcoal makes sketching easier for me.

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This sketch of daffodils isn’t finished. You can see the smudges from erasing. That’s ok, the smudges won’t show when it’s finished.

To start a sketch I use the side of a small piece of charcoal to blob in the general size and shape of the flower, then go back and erase to get the shape of the petals. I spend as much time erasing as drawing to refine the shapes then I outline the petals, then erase again so the charcoal doesn’t show through when I use my semi transparent oil paint sticks on top.

I did this a few days ago and it’s been raining ever since. When I go back the flowers won’t be the same. I’ll either start again or totally erase these and draw on top of this.  I feel like I get a better finished piece if I get a good drawing to start with. Even if it’s only a sketch and will never get framed or seen anywhere except WordPress, I want to make it a strong sketch. There is a chance I could use it for a painting. If I never do, I’ll still have burned a file for daffodils in my brain which will make it easier to remember in the future. Those brain files are better than looking it up on google. Know what I mean?IMG_2211

This sketch of a slipper orchid is almost ready to go over with oil paint sticks. I need to erase more but I will be able to see it. Then my lines of paint stick will look free. Durn, there’s a smudge on the paper. Maybe I can erase it, or I could try to hide it somehow if it won’t erase. Stay tuned.

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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.

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.

 

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?

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.

background for flower painting and talk about Matisse’s technique

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This paint went on a little thicker than my usual underpainting technique would have. I’ll have to wait a few days for it to dry before I start on the flowers. I did all my sketches in plain air but I’m working on the painting at home since I have enough visual information in my sketches. IMG_2070

One reason why I prefer to paint in plain air is because all my life I left home to go to work. When I got off work I’d get some exercise then go home and I was tired by then. At home I did some cooking, cleaning or chilled. When you’re in the habit of going away from home to work, the things at home become a distraction and a reason to postpone the art projects. I think, I should do the dishes, or I should fold the wash, or watch TV. I’ll work on the painting later. but if I go out to draw or paint I can leave that mess behind and forget about it until I get home. For me,it’s easier to concentrate on drawing away from home.

That said, I was slow to get on this painting at home. It took some time to straighten up the area to paint and I thought it would be boring since painting in plain air has me spoiled. Plain air painting is never boring.

A few months ago I was inspired to try Matisse’s technique of taping paint brushes to yard sticks so I could stand way back from my canvas to paint. I did that when I was in high school. I had a great art teacher, Mrs. Palmgren, and she gave me a lot of info that I used. I didn’t try the paint brushes on yard stick idea since then, but remembered it recently. I got a start on a painting of waves but it wasn’t going well from the beginning, so I put it aside. Yesterday I tried again with the leaves and I think this is a good background for my flowers. I’ll try to paint the flowers from far away too. It was fun! Not boring at all!

In the second photo you can see how I set up to paint. I taped plastic on the wall and hung my canvas on top of it in case of a big mess. My sketch of leaves for my lilies is propped up against the wall next to the canvas. I thought putting it on the wall would be a better support than my easel.

I moved my wave sketches above the whole set up because I want to paint waves like this too but that’s what didn’t work before. I’ll try again with waves after I finish the flowers.

Ocean Waves / charcoal and chalk

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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

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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!

Distelfink Walks Labyrinth

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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.

Evening after Rousseau by Felix Bracquemond

etching and drypoint
etching and drypoint

The Winter weather is a bummer even in our normally mild VA.  I hung out at the museum last week and worked on a drawing of a horse. The VMFA has a great new exhibit of etchings by Bracquemond, so I got a shot of my favorite one for you.

When I was in art school I took a print making class and learned the process of etching. It’s more difficult than drawing with a pencil because you can’t erase. My etching from art school looked kind of weak, I must admit.  Strong drawing skill is a necessity if you want to do an etching.

This artist is a master. I hope you can see it clearly on your computer because I was amazed by the depth showing. The detail is so fine. The textures go from sharp to fuzzy. How did he do it?