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Experimenting with different grounds September 17, 2020 14:48

Former landscape that turned into a mess

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. 

Watercolor on clayboard wip

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...

Arrival of the Spirits wip

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.

Arrival of the Spirits watercolor on watercolor ground on canvas

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. 


Back to work September 11, 2020 16:32

I've been trying to consolidate all of the different things I do, from art to teaching classes in magic to growing plants to writing books. So I'm going to be posting here again instead of on Wordpress. Trying to keep everything closer to home and decrease the craziness. 

Texture painting on QoR watercolor groundIn terms of painting, I finally started exploring the watercolor ground I've had for the past couple of years. I applied some QoR Cold Press watercolor ground to a couple of small canvases I got from Blick to do oil experiments with. That was a year ago, and I didn't accomplish much with those experiments, but I found the unused canvases when I moved and sorted all my supports out so everything is in one place and I can find stuff.

I haven't been using my oils since I moved out of my studio back in I think it was November. It was just not an okay place for a studio. Maybe great for a sawmill, due to the noise, dust, flooding, and old lead paint falling out of the ceiling, but not for a painter. But once I was out of there, I didn't feel okay about using oils in my loft. It wasn't that I was using any solvents or other toxic stuff; I use just walnut oil with an occasional foray into walnut oil + alkyd. But the smell of oxidizing vegetable oil is not that pleasant and also I have cats. And cat hair and oil paints don't mix.

So I've been using my watercolors instead, and honestly although I do miss oils and want to get back to them eventually (I would like to move to a 1-2 BR apartment in a more convenient location in spring), I am really enjoying the challenge of watercolors. I forgot how much I love Daniel Smith's Primatek Colors (made out of rocks!) and all sorts of granulating pigments.

But I've also been missing the easy framing of an oil painting. For instance, my loft is plastered with many of my oil (and acrylic paintings), which can be hung without framing--just throw a wire on the back. I haven't even varnished most of them. 


But watercolors are another story. NONE of them are hanging on the walls because of the cost of framing them and because, frankly, I don't like framing behind glass. It is heavy and expensive and just aesthetically not the best, IMO.

So I've explored ways to seal watercolor paintings. One of them is just to spray them with acrylic + mineral spirits spray varnish. It works great but holy hell does it STINK. You HAVE to do it outside, even in the depths of winter, and it is, just as it smells, carcinogenic. No thank you cancer.

So instead, what I've been doing on and off with the watercolors is sealing them with Dorland's Cold Wax. This gives the colors a depth and richness plus protects the work from water. I use three coats, letting it dry thoroughly between each coat and then buffing with a soft cloth. It makes a nice satin sheen, really wonderful and not at all plasticky, like the spray varnishes can be. I have seen videos of people applying it with their fingers, but it does contain odorless mineral spirits (almost no smell), so I would not get this on my skin. I use a soft rag or a shop cloth to apply it. You can actually splash water on the thing when you are done and it will just bead up. You can pop your work into a regular frame with a foam backing and you are good to go. 

However, this does mean that some competitions will not allow you to enter your work as a watercolor. Instead, you enter it as "mixed media." That is fine with me. I have found that collectors do not seem to give a damn about medium. :) And if one or two watercolor societies don't allow it, well, I don't need to be part of that.

I still felt a bit weird about framing a piece on paper and I know that many people like to get a painting all ready to hang and furthermore, they just don't like works on paper. To many, if it ain't on a canvas, it ain't art. So I decided I would try the watercolor ground on canvas.

It is fabulous. I am still experimenting with it, in particular in terms of achieving some kind of granulation. But it is fab for lifting. I do think it sucks up paint. But so far I have only tried the QoR watercolor ground and not all the other brands and types.

I was concerned because in the past I had tried it and the cold wax seemed to make any use of titanium a bit dingy. But now that does not seem to be an issue. Also, I have tried going over the titanium with a thin layer of zinc and I don't see any dingyness.

I've got tons of canvases and panels from my oil and acrylic painting days, and I am going to cover them all with watercolor ground.

Next up, using the cold wax to finish these things.

I did contact QoR to ask them about whether they thought cold wax would work on their light dimensional ground, which is some cool stuff. It looks like it has really unusual capabilities with respect to watercolor. I can hardly wait to experiment with that. But they seemed a bit doubtful that cold wax would work with that particular ground, because it is a bit spongy, but I am looking forward to giving it a try. 

That said, you can do quite a bit of texture with the watercolor ground, as you can see from this photo of something I was messing around with. 

And of course, once you are done painting, you can seal the paintings on watercolor ground other than the light weight stuff with cold wax, and you have a painting that is ready to hang. I love it!


Stuff I've learned lately July 10, 2018 19:11

No matter how much I need  a good green or a peacock blue, the phthalos are not it. I had a hankering to paint iridescent blue dragonflies and hummingbirds for some reason, so I pawed through my collection of blues and greens and came up with:

1) two versions of terre verte (a dull dark green made of earth)

2) chrome oxide (good color, but very opaque and slow drying)

3) zip

So I ordered the two blue phthalos (green and red shades) and two green phthalos (yellow and blue shades) in the Winsor Newton oil paint versions. Also got some quinacridone magenta for the halibut.

I got them on Saturday and right away remembered why I had quit using them so long ago--they look like markers to me. In fact, I am sure that the pigments in blue and green markers are phthalos.  I am not a fan of colors that reminds me of markers. 

Now, I know that the green phthalo blue shade can be a great "mineral" glaze for rocks. So I tried some. Yes, but it also reminded me of markers. So I am glazing over it with other stuff.

In particular, something I found when I was digging through some forgotten tubes of paint: cobalt green.

When I was painting with watercolor in tubes, I really hated cobalt blue. I thought it was just one hell of a dead color. To me, it just looked like something that would give us cancer. Just dead.

Then I switched to making my own watercolor paints

And the incompetent jerks at Shopify lost the rest of my blog post. Because that's the way they are. Stupid, incompetent jerks who absolutely are incapable of providing a blog platform that does not delete one's work at random times.

Screw you, Shopify. You are maroons, as we used to say.

 


Lines June 30, 2018 11:27

Maybe that's why today I noticed something about my paintings. They made heavy use of lines. I think I posted about this a while ago, saying that since I had developed a tremor due to ageing that I was going to be avoiding using lines so much as I usually did. But this morning I could see that nothing of the kind had happened. 

Paintings of Sunsets June 28, 2018 09:32

Since switching to oils, I have not tried a sunset. I remembered too well how crappy my acrylic sunsets turned out--so crappy, for the most part, that I didn't display them or just painted over them. The closest I could get was a nice lavender dusk.

Avoiding the trap of reference photos June 23, 2018 15:44

Some people use reference photos as a sort of sacred text for their painting. They will even project it onto their support and trace over it. For me, a reference photo can be a valuable aid for getting some interesting shapes, but if I start trying to copy the colors, it can easily turn into a trap and the resulting painting just looks dead somehow. So usually I morph my reference photos in some major way.

Just what I need - another medium! June 19, 2018 08:44

Right away I can see that I can actually learn to use Photoshop Elements for this purpose. A lot of stuff I have tried to do just messing around is explained in the first chapter or so. So now I am looking forward to making more art, this time digitally. 

My new studio June 18, 2018 12:36

Back in January, I brought this up to the rental agent here, and he got back to me around March with a basement room for rent in this complex about a two-minute walk away from my loft. It was 300+ square feet with three ten-foot-high north-facing windows. It is partially shaded by a retaining wall and a slope up to the front parking lot (on which a huge mass of Japanese knotweed is now growing).

Abstraction May 26, 2018 13:11

One reason why I love abstraction is because of the burningly intense colors some artists use. I love color. I also feel like abstraction is ready-made for the depiction of the spiritual. It hitches up to a different part of our brain than representational painting, IMO. And for me, it more easily and more often attains a mysteriousness that I want my paintings to have as part of my representation of the world. 

Sick from OMS: Not as toxic does not equal non-toxic May 21, 2018 11:59

This morning I woke up horribly dizzy, nauseated, feeling feverish and just plain sick. I thought I must be getting the flu again. Took my temperature and it was normal. Had a dry mouth although not dehydrated. Drank some spearmint tea for the nausea and debated going to the doctor because of the dizziness.

The mug project May 11, 2018 15:47 2 Comments

One of the podcaster's recommendations was putting art on mugs. I figured I could make little watercolors of plants and use those. I cranked the numbers and was astounded at how many I would have to sell to make what I am making now from Alchemy Works. I thought it must be a mistake. But it wasn't. The difference was that the cost of my business is 2/3s of my gross, but with this new business, the cost of doing business would be 1/2 the gross, and the boring work--making, packing, and shipping--would all be done for me. Holy carp.

Making stuff and finding stuff out April 18, 2018 20:16

So I decided to try painting with straight walnut oil. No alkyd. Even though I knew that this would lengthen drying time a lot. But it was an experiment to see if my eyes would not burn.

Aquapasto February 4, 2018 19:59 2 Comments

A couple weeks ago I bought a medium made by Winsor Newton and others called "Aquapasto." This medium is meant to give a small amount of texture to watercolor brush strokes. It's based on a 19th-century formula and consists of gum arabic and fumed silica, so it does not take the user out of the watercolor category. 

Holy fish scales! January 18, 2018 08:16 2 Comments

There are also the few pigments that have such fine mica particles that they are iridescent in the way that nature is. This is exactly what I am looking for to add to surface layers of abstract paintings. I experimented with mixing these pigments with just casein binder and also added them to some random, low opacity colors (they are supposed to work best with transparent pigments). They worked wonderfully.

Art and Shitholes January 15, 2018 05:57

IMO, we need political art and art that is social commentary as much as we need art about spiritual stillness. Maybe more. Because the difference between art that is political and agitprop is that art has the capacity--the opportunity--to be subtle, to make us question, whereas agitprop is usually part of an echo chamber. 

Chameleon Colors and the Pigment Jackpot January 12, 2018 07:20

I recently came across sites that sell pigments for use in cosmetics, including nail polish (which is just acrylic paint), and yesterday I sent for some samples of what they call "chameleon colors." Other pigment vendors call them interference pearlescents. I've read that such pigments don't work in matte binders like casein, but I will experiment and find out for myself. 

The Goblin Color: Cobalt January 8, 2018 20:06

Today I ordered a bunch of cobalt pigment dispersions from Guerra: Cobalt Bermuda BlueGreen YellowTitanate Blue Green (which I think has great possibilities for moonlit mist), Green Blue (reminds me of spruce trees), Forest Green  (great landscape green), Blue Green, and Nickel Green (another good possibility for mist - shown). 

More colors January 3, 2018 10:45

I've been learning more and more about casein and finding out just how very much this stuff is capable of. Lots and lots of glazes, for a start. I haven't had much of a problem with lower layers of paint lifting ever since I quit dipping the brush in water. I just clean it off between colors and then dip it in binder before I dip it in paint. That really helps. 

Lots of paint under the bridge December 26, 2017 10:10

I like that the casein paints I make are not at all chalky or high in tone like I read they would be. I like that I can get a lot of contrast, which I read I would not be able to do with casein (must have been about the casein emulsions). It's really nice that they don't have a smell and they clean up with water. They are really intense because they sit mostly on top of the support. I'm getting the hang of how to mix the binder with the pigments, and I made the right decision to use pigment dispersions instead of sticking to dry pigments. The latter are very romantic but messy, and neatness is not my strong point. And the dispersions allow me to use all sorts of vivid synthetic pigments that would be hellish to try to mix dry for various reasons.

New colors, new paints September 24, 2017 10:46

I found a place that supplies pigments to artists, and what's especially interesting about them is that they sell not only dry pigments but pigment dispersions as well as a variety of viscosities of acrylic binders. The dispersions mean that you can mix your own paint without having to worry about wearing a mask, contaminating your space, or using a muller. You can make these dispersions into acrylics, watercolors, and other stuff. They have a bunch of them.

Speaking My Own Language July 24, 2017 14:14

I started my most recent painting over three times (one of the great things about painting flat with acrylic is being able to start over on the same support). First, I tried some color combinations that I've always liked but never used. I realized that they just weren't me and that I should avoid using these combos in future and instead seek out the colors *I* like to paint with.

The Necessity of Changing My Style June 17, 2017 20:08 1 Comment

There's another reason now for me to move away from incorporating so much line work in my painting. My hands are shaking. Read more...
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Supports: Wood Panels June 5, 2017 11:45 2 Comments

Misadventures with panels... For the past year I've been using more wood panels than canvases to paint on, because I like how I can lean my whole arm on them, which helps steady my hand. Read more...

 

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Rose Moon and Vibrating Color June 3, 2017 08:18


In Spirit of Rose Moon, I let myself play with color a lot more. I worked hard with many layers of glazing to get a good gradation in the sky area of pale yellow to pink to blue. My efforts paid off, I think. Read more...

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