Time to Experiment January 25, 2023 16:37
I promised myself that if I got into senior housing, I would take advantage of not having to work so much and instead spend more time experimenting with my art rather than trying to paint things that I think will sell. It's not that I dislike anything I've painted. If I do, it never makes it to my site. I probably throw out or paint over about 20% of what I make because it's not good enough or I just plain hate it. But it is much more difficult to take risks with art when you need sales.
But where to start?
One thing I came across that was very helpful was a video by an artist named Chelsea Lang. In this video, she talks about learning what it is that you really want to paint, that you can be passionate about consistently. To discover exactly what that is, she advises gathering images that inspire you. Once you've got a pile, you create a "curated" collection composed of images that you would be proud to have painted yourself; I've posted some of them throughout this page. You then go through the curated collection and make note of the drawing (or not, like with colorfield), the values, the color, the edges, and the composition.
Was I ever surprised what I came up with! I thought I would end up with a lot of landscapes, probably somewhat abstract or subdued. Instead, almost every single one of the 40 images I "curated" were purely abstract and many of them were even monochrome, which I never expected in a million years--get this: even though I often find myself using max 2 colors plus white & black. I marveled at this.
But I also considered it gold in terms of self-discovery.
Chelsea Lang advises that once you've got your curated collection and determined what aspects they most have in common, you have found what you should begin learning how best to paint and start practicing and studying. She also advises worrying about the mechanics of selling once you have worked that out. I think this is the most sensible advice I've heard in a really long time.
So I've begun practicing. It's the best thing I have done for my art in a long time.
Oil painting November 3, 2021 12:26
I've been doing watercolors exclusively for quite a while but began to miss oils, despite their inconveniences and because I still felt weird about using a lead-manganese drier in my paints to hurry them up. Then I came across mention of the King in Yellow in a horror novel I was reading, "Southern Gods" by John Horner Jacobs, who named a madness-causing bluesman Ramblin' John Hastur (Hastur being the King's other name). This reminded me of reading about the King in Yellow when I was a teenager and read the collection by Robert W. Chambers of the same name and then came across this name in various stories part of the Cthulhu Mythos. I always thought this was a scary figure, described with no more than a line about the tattered scalloped edges of his yellow silk robe..We are told that a play with the same name caused its audience to go mad in the second act. And I got a hankering to paint him.
I asked my friends on Facebook what did they favor for this task? Almost all recommended oils. Okay.
I had a lot of brush cleaning to do, since it had been so long since I'd used my oil paints that the oil in the brushes had hardened. I had to clean them by soaking them in orange solvent and then scrubbing them with mild soap. Whew! But once I started, the painting just flowed. I was surprised.
I had to take a break to do a project with a deadline, which I will be posting about this weekend or early next week, but when I finished that, I immediately went to finish the King painting. I'm happy with it.
Meanwhile, I had been working on a watercolor still life that had taken me a couple of weeks already. I still haven't finished that. Not much is left to do. I had anticipated doing a series of still lifes, but having dipped back into oil painting, I remembered how much more forgiving it is than watercolors. Yes, oils are smelly, messy, have an involved cleanup, and there is the drying issue, which has been big for me because there are a lot of components of traditional oil painting that I can't tolerate.
One of them has been lead, and I posted before about using a lead-manganese drier, Siccatif de Courtrai. I had this product for a few years before I actually used it, gingerly, and then I got hooked on it. There were a couple of things I noticed about this stuff. While it didn't always work as quickly as I'd like, I actually didn't mind the smell. I realized it must have some refined turpentine in it, not the cheap stuff I had smelled in the past. Also, using the drier meant, for some reason, I no longer smelled the oxidizing oil. Maybe there is some chemical reason for that, but I don't know what it is. All I know is that having the window cracked a bit makes it so I can paint with this stuff no problem and the speedier drying has been a game-changer for me. So much so that I bought some "English distilled turpentine," which is supposed to be the best quality turpentine and less anoying than its cheaper siblings. I haven't tried it yet. I look forward to it.
Fresh Horses July 29, 2021 12:59
I've been mulling my next steps in painting because of the issue with fumes from gouache burning my eyes. I started another painting with just plain watercolor, but I disliked it a great deal (<--). I could not get it to look even close to what I had imagined. I guess I would have to use oil paints to do that. I just kept looking at it and hating it, even though folks on Instagram were very supportive about it. Maybe it just looks better online than it does in person.
One problem was that I have never been able to draw a straight line. So I've got that issue throughout the painting. I decided to use painter's tape to remedy that, and it helped, but it was still an issue (I will say that Frog tape is much better than masking tape for that purpose). I bought some tools like a metal ruler (couldn't find my old metal ruler) and a ruling pen to do that, but I just didn't want to work on it anymore. They are just sitting in front of the easel.
So this morning I took the painting off the gatorbord and put the line-drawing tools away. And frankly, I was relieved. I am not cut out to be precise.
I haven't been happy with my art lately. Nothing I've been doing has been good, in my opinion, and it certainly hasn't seemed like me. I have felt very cut off from it.
Some time ago, I gave myself 10 years to become a successful painter. "Successful" for me meant that my art income would be sufficient for me to scrape by when combined with my Social Security benefits. I have not even come close with that. For the past couple of years I've made only about enough during the entire year to support myself for one single month. And that's the gross, not the net. Sheesh.
I chose ten years on account of hearing Renato Muccillo talk about how it took him that long to become a successful painter. He inspired me, even though I paint nothing like him. I like how he paints landscapes with detail but without becoming photographic. His painting is always painterly. I also like how he often uses cheap brushes. :) And I admire how productive he is. I feel like being productive is one key to becoming successful and hopefully, a good painter.
The thing is that one problem I've always had with art is that I want to do too much. I'm greedy. I want to learn how to paint everything in almost every style and in all mediums. So that results in jack of all trades, master of none syndrome. It also means my paintings have no cohesiveness as a body of work, and I feel like that should be there. I have little style of my own because I am always careening around from one thing to the next.
This is quite the contrast to how I am as a writer. I realized recently that I'm a better writer than I am an artist. Kind of a disappointing realization. Writing is work, but it's easy work for me. I never really thought about why. But I started thinking about that why. Maybe I could apply that info to my art.
It isn't just plenty of practice with expository writing that makes me a good writer. It's because when I write about something, I dig deep. I research the crap out of a topic, I read everything I can find on it, I make notes on the best info, rearrange it, write that up, and when I do that, I have gained enough knowledge and experience on whatever it is so I can come up with original ideas on the topic. So IOW, my writing is good because it's about depth, not breadth. Depth is the the environment for my writing.
I thought, how can I do that with art when I'm always all over the place? I can't. And I think that's why my art is not anywhere near as good as my writing.
So okay: concentrate on one thing. I paint three kinds of things: landscapes, abstracts, and surrealism. Which one should I concentrate on?
At first I thought landscapes. I've always loved landscapes, and I still do. George Inniss is one of my favorite painters. I've got tons of books on landscape painting, and I've already signed up for Mitchell Albala's forthcoming landscape workbook (I highly recommend his first book for landscape painters--and Suzanne Brooker's and John Carlson's). And landscapes are popular. People love them, right?
They do, but they don't love mine. I looked over the past couple of years to see what had sold. One landscape, and it was small. Most of the rest were abstracts.
I have to admit that I like painting abstracts best--better than landscapes or surreal stuff. I feel very connected to my brush when I paint them. I like that abstraction helps me dig down deep into myself and my connection with the material and spiritual worlds. Of the three focuses of my painting, abstracts feel like the most me.
And I don't have to make any straight lines if I don't want to. In fact, I usually default to curving lines and biomorphic shapes, because that's what I like to look at in life. They have a special meaning to me that I can't put into words.
Plenty of folks paint very colorful landscapes, but I have often felt constrained by local color. Conversely, with abstracts I've often painted with only two or three colors because I've been wary of jamming too many colors into one painting and losing all unity.
I want my colors to have a reason to be on the support, even if that reason is only their relationship to the other colors there. But I also want to become less wary about using them, as in this little work in progress (-->). In the past, I never would have added that pyrrole red.
So I'm going to focus on the abstract stuff for the next three years. I'm going to learn about a ton of abstract painters and go see abstract works in museums and galleries and listen to lectures about abstraction. And I'm going to paint a lot more than I have been, because for one thing, in three years I'll be 70 years old.
Work in progress 5/5/21 May 5, 2021 11:41
The initial layer of this painting was a bunch of ripples made with some ultramarine pigments, just because I don't usually use them. They are just sitting there in their tubes and maybe hardening. So I figured to use some of them, together with the siccatif I bought. But I used poppy oil as a medium instead of walnut oil, so that layer took a long time to dry compared to the paintings I started with walnut oil, especially because I put a bit of impasto into it.
Finally it dried, and I took it out this morning to work on it. Funny how turning things on their side can show you completely different possibilities for a painting. Began to apply some WN Winsor Yellow (PY74) into the center folds of the painting because the yellow + purple made me think of irises and therefore spring, and it's spring, but also I had just seen a call for a watercolor (NOT oil) competition having to do with spring.
But I also had some lithopone (Williamsburg's Porcelain White) lying on my palette from a previous painting and thought what the hey, might as well use this. And it just growed. I added highlights with titanium.
Right now this is tentatively titled "Between the Waves." It's 16 x 20" oil on canvas with a traditional 7/8" profile. I was a little concerned about this batch of canvases, because in the past I have sometimes found that the thinner profiles on cheaper canvases can be warped, but so far I've had luck with these Blick Premier traditional profile canvases. I do love the Fredrix Pro-Dixie canvases (which I think only come in the traditional profile), but they are almost twice as much as these. I know I want to do a LOT of painting right now, so I am going to use these.
I really like painting watery or cloudlike images. I'm thinking of doing some series along those lines, which someone on Instagram recommended to me. Thanks!
Work in Progress 03/11/21 March 11, 2021 18:21
I also got a bunch of new brushes from The Brush Guys yesterday, some of which I used today in making the lines of light but also the bright areas in this painting. I bought a bunch of different types of small brights, which is a small square brush like a flat but shorter. I find that for me brights are very handy for drybrush and for using side foward to make lines and to lift narrow areas. I actually learned about using them from oil painting, which I hope to get back to this summer. I highly recommend The Brush Guys. They have good prices and ship fast.
Getting into the groove of this ground October 18, 2020 21:57
I'm starting to find my way with these grounds. This is a work in progress on the Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground, which I applied to two 16 x 20" Fredrix Pro Dixie canvases. I have no title for this one yet, although I'll probably finish it tomorrow. This is Dr. Ph. Martin Payne's Grey, cobalt teal, DS Iridescent Gold, and titanium.
I love how this stuff paints. I have been doing a lot of lifting in order to create the light areas and then highlighting what I want with Guerra's titanium pigment dispersion plus either Cheap Joe's gum arabic solution or QoR's watercolor medium. Lifting and then adding white is allowing me to do all sorts of stuff with glow and light. I've focused on that before, but I never realized how helpful lifting could be along those lines. I think I will extend the central part that's extending from the main shape and then do something with the top of the shape along the right-hand side. Not sure yet. This one is taking me quite a while to do.
I guess you can tell I am really liking working with darks. :) Have a lot more dark paintings planned. The other night I lay in bed and had a ton of ideas along those lines.
A nifty discovery October 2, 2020 18:41I recently tried some Light Dimensional Ground from QoR. I prepared two 12 x 12" canvases with it. I made one canvas very textured and the other much less so. The highly textured canvas was a problem when it came to finishing it with cold wax; the buffing tore off a couple of sharp points of texture. But I think the less textured canvas will be a success. There's only one bit that might be too sharp, and I will sand that down if necessary. Or just cut it off.
The texture, though, is gorgeous, IMO, so even though too much texture can be a problem in itself, I really want to find a way to work with it. Because look at this--> This is as good as texture I could get with impasto oil paint or acrylic, but no waiting several days for it to dry, no smells, and watercolor is easy cleanup.
It does act differently than paper. It's very prone to lifting, which I am trying to work with instead of resisting it. And so far I have not seen it run the way some pigments do on paper with misting. That's something I will try on the next painting to see what happens.
Because of the easy lifting, it can be difficult to glaze, but glazing with dry brush is a cinch. You can see that I've used it with the light metallic paint here. What's really nice is getting the pigment caught in all the creases--just magical! And it feels a lot like happy accident time like when doing wet in wet.
So I was all gung ho about this ground, having decided I could work around the excess texture issue, but there was also its price. A 4 oz jar is $11 + shipping and I used up 2/3s of it on those two small canvases. So I wrote to QoR and asked them if they were going to make larger sizes of the Light Dimensional Ground available.
They said that was especially marketed to watercolorists, but they had the same thing by another name: Golden's Light Molding Paste. And that comes in a 32 oz jar for $28. Heck, it comes in a bucket. Hell yeah!
I have plenty of supports lying around that I can apply this stuff to, ranging from 5 x 7" to 40 x 40" canvases and panels and boards. This stuff is so nice to spread with a palette knife too (finally I have a use for them other than mixing paint)--very sensual, like cake frosting. It is so nice not to have to worry about cutting paper to the right size to fit a standard frame and to produce works that can even hang as is, with not only no need for glazing but no need for a frame at all, if people want it (although I personally like a frame and feel like it does its job of protecting especially the corners of a support).
So I've got a ton of this stuff now and am really looking forward to learning to work with it.
Light Dimensional Ground on Canvas September 19, 2020 12:34
I got some of QoR's Light Dimensional Ground and applied it to a couple of 12 x 12" canvases I had sitting around. The stuff was easy to spread with a big palette knife, but I used up 2/3s of the little jar on two canvases. I don't know if I just used too much or what. I like oil paintings with a lot of texture, and I thought I might be able to capture that effect with this stuff, so I went to town. You can see the amount of texture I ended up with.
This stuff is not as smelly as the regular watercolor ground, but I still let it dry out in the hall during the day, and since we have hooligans coming into our building at night to fuck around, I took the canvases in and put them in my window to complete drying overnight. As long as it doesn't rain or freeze, I think that's going to be a good place to let stuff dry.
Today I could hardly wait to try out these supports. One technique I use a lot in watercolor is apply some paint and then mist with a hair mister to get it to run and to encourage particles of pigment to settle in the texture of the paper. I find a hair mister works many times better than a regular sprayer. You can do tiny puffs of mist just where you want them or quickly mist the whole thing to encourage granulation. I was hoping that I could do that with this ground, but I wasn't sure, since I kept reading about how it was spongy. A spongy surface might just sop up the pigment and not allow it to run. In fact, at least one review said that.
But that's not what happened with my paint. I used Daniel Smith's Green Apatite, Winsor Newtown's Prussian Blue, Daniel Smith's New Gamboge, and Winsor Orange. The apatite settled out a dark purplish brown color different from the green that dominates it. It fell into a lot of the creases and rumples and showed up as wonderful specks. It doesn't photograph well, but the photo above shows a detail.
Here's the whole painting. When you get close to the support, it does have the look of grainy paper, but the texture reminds me of acrylic, like modeling paste. The paint isn't shiny in any way. It's completely matte. I didn't feel much of a difference between this and painting on CP except that it lifts much more easily. I tried using that to my advantage to create limbs and trees in the background, but they ended up being overworked. I also tried some highlights that way, but it looked like too-vigorous lifting. So I think I might try lifting and then painting another color over the lift area, like zinc.
I'm not sure if I will add more to this. It might look better with some blue added, especially my beloved cobalt, but OTOH, I'm eager to go ahead and seal it with cold wax and see what happens. I asked the manufacturer if they thought it would be okay to use cold wax on this, because of the spongy thing. They said they didn't know but sounded kind of doubtful. That might be because no one has tried it yet.
This stuff has a lot of possibilities, but I am not sure how much I am going to use it because it is pretty expensive in terms of how far it goes. They produce it only in a small 4 oz jar. :( However, it might be possible to use Golden's molding paste and then either use watercolor on it or spread some of the regular watercolor ground over it.
However, I did just order some of Golden's Crackle Paste to try for texture as well. I didn't realize it could be used with watercolor, but on a hunch, I thought if light dimensional ground could be used that way, so might crackle paste. I can hardly wait to get my hands on it.
I am sensitive to acrylic, but I did okay with these grounds and I don't anticipate hovering over the stuff like I used to do with my paints. I will also allow the supports to dry out in the hall and/or in the window, so I think I will be okay.
I know some people might say, "Why are you trying to get texture with watercolor?" I know it's not "traditional," although in the 19th century, British watercolorists used aquapasto in their watercolors, which can produce low dimensionality with watercolors and is made from gum arabic and silica gel (that is treated in a way that makes it safe). I've used that in the past. It can give you brushstrokes similar to a not-too-heavy Impressionist style. I still need to play with that more.
But as for why insert texture into a watercolor painting, why not? There is no reason why oils and acrylics should get to have all the fun. Texture really expands watercolor and doesn't change its fundamental nature.
Lots of possibilities!
Experimenting with different grounds September 17, 2020 14:48
I felt a bit stuck with that semi-landscape painting on watercolor ground on canvas. I couldn't get anywhere with it as a landscape and thought maybe it was because starting it as a landscape had been my entry into the box canyon. So I changed it up a lot, trying to push it into something abstract, but still felt like I was getting nowhere. And I thought it was just plain ugly. Bleh.
I think part of the reason was that I just didn't feel well. Had some kind of non-COVID thing for weeks. Plus I have thalassemia, a genetic blood disease, and its accompanying anemia can cause depression and anxiety. I sure was being hit with that. And I can't paint when I'm really down. Wish I could! Instead, I just get kind of paralyzed.
I started up a different painting on another canvas I'd prepared with watercolor ground, but I ended up being stuck in that one as well. So I chose to mess around with some Ampersand Clayboard that I forgot I had bought to experiment with egg tempera (which I once again had learned I do not have the patience for). I found them sitting in the bottom of one of my oil painting supply carts, so I took one out and painted way too many layers of watercolor on it. These are just little 6 x 6" panels, but I did learn that yep, they are totally usable for watercolor as long as you like lifting--that is, removing paint with a wet brush. I actually have been using that as a technique after being frustrated by it for years. I always preferred to glaze, which lifting interferes with, being kind of the anti-glaze. But then when I began using dark paint and white (often not allowed by traditionalists) in watercolor, I began to see how useful lifting can be. I still have a lot to learn along those lines. This is just an experimental mess. Up in the right-hand corner, you can see where I put on so much paint that I ended up with "bronzing," as it is called--a sort of sheen that some watercolor pigments take on when you use them too thick. OTOH, you could think of it as a feature instead of a bug if you had done it on purpose. But I hadn't. However, perhaps next time...
Then I went back to the second one I'd started to see if I could pull it out of the ditch. That was this. I had tentatively named it "Arrival of the Spirits." When I give a painting a title, that usually means that I see possibilities in it--that it might actually turn into a finished painting--although it's not infrequent that I give a work in progress a title only to abandon it and usually paint over it. I am thrifty about my supports. It's only when I can't manage to re-use a support that I just throw it out.
But this wip just kept sitting on my easel not doing anything because I couldn't figure out where to go with it. I like to use contrast in my paintings, and I had been working on that in this one. But there were so many things wrong with it. For one, I had tried to incorporate a blue iridescence that was too green. Etc.
So it sat.
I finally did get back to it yesterday and decided to try some drybrush on it. I first started using that when I was working mostly in casein. You dip the ends of your brush in the paint and then squeeze most of it out--in fact, it feels like you squeeze all of it out, but it turns out there is still a lot left. Then blot it on a towel. Then you kind of sweep the brush on the painting, back and forth like a cartoon house painter. It gets drier and drier but keeps on placing pigment for a long time, and even then, you can still kind of shape what's been laid down. I really like this technique. It's great for adding all sorts of shadowy depth or layers of color to a section but also good for making glow. I mixed a primary yellow with some titanium and ended up with this.
I think it's moving toward something I will finish now. Still needs more contrast and some shaping of the light parts, but it's getting there.