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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Painting the Tiger

Next I worked on the tiger.  This was pretty straight-forward, but with lots of little fur strokes.  One interesting thing is that I decided to make his eyes blue.  White tigers have blue eyes, but the regular orange colored ones have orangey - brown eyes.  I thought the blue eyes would add a nice touch of mystery.

I glued the flower drawings on the panel partway through the process of painting the background, so they had a lot of color (background color, that is) already on them when I began detailing them.  I painted them with sideloads of white and other mixes that were both lighter and darker than the background.  When I was done, I painted the gold scroll work.

Something about the flowers bothered me, though.  I put the painting next to the TV so that I could keep looking at it through the evening, hoping that I would see what the problem was.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Time for a Change of Pallette

I've been using a lot of blues and greens lately and felt that it was time to explore the warm side of the color wheel.  I've been watching a TV show called "The Story of God" narrated by Morgan Freeman.  Sometime during nearly every episode he visited India and I was struck with the gorgeous brilliant colors there.  And that inspired me to not only use those colors, but to choose an Indian subject - a tiger with a crown of lotus blossoms.

I cut a board with an arched top, primed it, then began with a black and white collage.  Many of the collage elements are "found" - book pages, napkins, tissue paper, etc. - but many are also elements that I created myself by painting with black fluid acrylic on deli paper.  When I apply the deli paper elements with mat medium, the deli paper itself virtually disappears, leaving only the black brush strokes showing.  By the way, I always tear the edges of my collage elements rather than cut them.

I had drawn both the lotus blossoms and the tiger.  I tore the blossoms from the sheet of drawing paper and used them as elements in the collage. The last step of the collage phase was adding some opaque coarse molding paste here and there.

To begin the painting,I then applied all the background color using transparent fluid acrylics.  There are probably as many as eight layers of paint in parts of the background.  I then ripped out the drawing of the tiger, tearing as close as possible to the edges of the figure, and "glued" it in place with mat medium.  My other choice would have been to cut the tiger out exactly, position it in place, draw around it, fill the area with gesso, trace the details of the tiger, then transfer them to the gessoed patch.  But I decided the take the shorter route.

I then began painting the tiger, once again using fluid acrylics - some transparent and some opaque.

Perserverance continued

So I had nine little drawings and a tracing of each one and was wondering what to do with them.  I decided that I wanted to save the drawings, but would use the tracings to make a composition.  I cut a piece of 1/4" thick hardboard the right size to lay out all the tracings with 1/4" between them and 1" all around the edges.  I added a background with Golden fluid acrylics, choosing Phthalo Blue, Phthalo Green, and Sap Green.

I sprayed both sides of the tracings with workable fixative because I was afraid that they would wrinkle otherwise when I adhered them to the board.  I used acrylic mat medium to stick them to the board.  The background colors showed through nicely, as planned, but - not as planned - the tracing paper wrinkled badly and didn't flatted out when the medium dried.

At this point I was - once again - stuck.  I knew I wouldn't be able to paint over all those wrinkles.  So I decided to use colored pencil.  So the pencil would stick, I sprayed the piece with workable fixative, then proceeded with colored pencil and ink.  With the colored pencil, the colors were all muted because specks of the background showed through everywhere.  Nonetheless, it was sort of an interesting effect.

To finish the piece, I added some painted decorative details in the frame area.  I used metallic paints - gold, silver, and turquoise  - as well a opaque light turquoise dots.

I may use this as the top of a small table with glass over it for protection.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

An Exercise in Perseverance

It has been quite a marathon of patience and endurance to get this far with this piece.  It began with an inspiration from an article in "Cloth, Paper, Scissors" magazine by, I believe, Leslie Verugo.  She made stamps with Doug and Melissa's Scratch Foam and then made art from the prints.

I began by doing nine little (4" x 4") drawings of birds.  I then traced each of the birds and transferred one of them to the Scratch Foam.  I painted a piece of Strathmore mixed media paper with black gesso, then painted over the scratch foam with white acrylic and tried to make a print.  It didn't work. I think the problem was that the paint was too thin.  I used soft body acrylic, and the paint got into the scratched lines.

As I pondered the problem, I traced the rest of the drawings, then made another scratch foam stamp.  This time, I painted over the stamp with regular tube acrylics but, once again, the stamp didn't work because the paint got into some of the lines.  Perhaps I should have used a brayer to "ink" the stamp instead of a brush,

Monday, May 9, 2016

Elf Owl Selfie with Asteroid

This piece is finished!  I added more stars, some shooting stars, lightened the portion to the right of the owl, and added a few "planets."  After that, I finger painted an irregular edge of turquoise iridescent paint, then a narrower band of silver over that, and, finally, the squiggles over the owl's head.

So there are two sort of interesting points. 

The first is, that with this kind of background that is built of transparent washes over collage, there is not doing any of the final detail over.  For example, if I didn't like the shooting stars or the silver squiggles - too bad!  I couldn't just paint over them and try again, because whatever I painted over with wouldn't blend into the background.

The second is that I believe my title - "Elf Owl Selfie with Asteroid" - is an integral part of the piece, but it doesn't appear anywhere. So what are the solutions to this problem?  I suppose I could write it on the front.  Or I could have incorporated it into the collage.  Or, I could just forget about it!  But without the title, the viewer really has no idea that the bronzy-green thing is as asteroid.  Maybe it doesn't matter.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

More work on the Elf Owl Selfie

I've done quite a bit of painting on the owl, and have also begun to add the Milky Way stars in the background.  This painting has gone quite well because the part of the surface that I'm painting it on is smooth.  Smooth, that is, with the exception of some blobs of coarse molding paste along the bottom.  The paste wouldn't have been good under the head, but here, on the mid body, it's fine to paint on but still adds a bit of texture to the owl which I think helps integrate it with the rest of the piece.

The black areas to the right of the owl are from a print that I was trying to do with a bird stamp that I made from scratchfoam.  The print didn't turn out because the white paint that I was using (over black gesso) was soft body and I really needed regular.  While I was doing the initial collagen this board, I noticed that failed print and decided to use it!

The birds to the left of the owl are from a paper napkin that I used in the collage.  This is just so much fun!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Four Birds, Finished!

Here are the four completed bird mixed media paintings, along with my comments about the success, or otherwise, of each.

I think this one, the wren, is the most successful of the four.  The warmth of the bird contrasts with the cool of the background and comes forward visually.  Although the background is cool overall, there is also noticeable warmth in it.  The sculptural element stands out well against the background.  The pose of the bird is interesting, and has a relationship to the sculptural element.

This one, the nuthatch, is less successful, but still pretty good.  Because both the bird and the background are cool, the bird doesn't stand out enough.  But the sculptural element is large and has a lot of warmth in it, so at least the warms and cools are somewhat balanced.  The pose of the bird is interesting, and the strong graphics in the collaged papers behind him help define him as the focal point.  I could have, and should have, done a lot better in painting his eye.  I'm not sure I like the peach color of the scrolling, but it needed to be warm.  Perhaps metallic gold would have been better.


 I don't feel that this one, the tufted titmouse, is particularly successful, but I really like this sculptural element.  There is contrast between the warm background and the cool bird.  But there is very little contrast between the warm background and the color of the structural element.  I dry-brushed light peach over part of it to bring it out a bit and that helped somewhat, but not enough.

I would classify this poor little wren as a complete failure.  The bird is warm on a warm background so there's no contrast.  The structural element vanishes into the rest of the background.  And, worst of all, there was so much texture over this whole piece that the painting was impossible.
So, lessons learned?  Primarily to pay more attention to contrast between the main elements, and in a way that the focal element comes forward.  But also - very important - lay off the texture where I'm planning to paint detail.  Which means a bit - but not too much - planning.  The lack of planning is what makes painting this way fun.  But a total lack of planning can clearly lead to trouble!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Owl Selfie

The same day I began the collage backgrounds for the four 6" x 6" boards - which turned out to be birds - I did this slightly larger, 8" x 10", one.  I didn't have any firm idea of what it would become.  But I have been thinking about a large piece with three owls.  So when I was ready to continue on this one, I thought I'd do an owl as a prelude to the larger piece.  


Although originally I thought it would be a portrait orientation piece, in the end I decided that it would be landscape orientation.  This meant that some of the collage elements would be notably "on their sides" but "oh, well!" 
I knew that I wanted the background to suggest a late twilight sky.  So this is how I painted it.  There are probably about 10 very thin layers of acrylic paint on the darker parts.  I just kept building it up until I thought it was good.
Then I did the drawing of the owl, cut it out, and with the aid of a loop of tape on the back, experimented with where I wanted to place it.  This is what I decided on.  I'm happy that the birds and the bee from the collage papers still show. The spirals in the lower right are coiled rusted wire embedded in coarse gel.  They don't really add anything, but they were an experiment just to see what they'd look like.  So now I know...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mixed Media Bird Quartet 2

By this time I've done quite a bit of work on these four little paintings.  First, I did all four backgrounds.  At that point, they looked like the two on the left without the white bird shapes.

For these backgrounds, I added wash after wash of Golden fluid acrylics.  My intent was to make two with warm backgrounds and two with cool backgrounds.  But there are bits of cool washes on the warm ones and bits of warm washes on the cool ones.  During this process I painted over the paper clay elements as well.

At this point, I patina'd the paper clay elements.  For the pieces with the warm backgrounds, I used VerDay iron and for the cool backgrounds I used VerDay copper.  When I sprayed them with the VerDay patina solution, parts of the iron turned rust and parts of the copper turned blue-green patina. On the warm backgrounds, I wish I had used something that was more different that the rest of the background color.  I'm thinking now that those warm painted backgrounds should have been, basically, a warm green like Sap Green.  Or, a red-violet with the copper would have been nice too.

Anyway, the next step was to gesso over the shapes of the birds so I'd have a white background to paint on.  The pieces on the right in the above photo are completed to that point.  The photo below is a closer view of the wren.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Mixed Media Bird Quartet

When I painted my big mixed media tree I included four birds on the margins.  I thought they would be nice on four small paintings, so here's my start.

The surfaces are 6" x 6" cradled boards from Dick Blick.  They weren't very expensive and the quality is nice.  My first step was to apply a coat of spray primer on the fronts and sides.  Then it was on to the collage part.  Mostly I used papers, including some brushwork designs I made with black acrylic on deli sheets.  They laid down really well and I will make more and use more in the future.

Another thing I added was paper clay pieces.  I made molds with two part silicone molding clay over various nice things around the house - carving on the back of a chair and the metal plates behind door pulls on some antique Victorian era pieces.  I pressed the paper clay in the molds and could unmold them pretty much immediately.  But then the paper clay pieces needed a day or two to dry.  Before I glued them on, I sprayed them with workable fixatif to seal them (but I didn't seal the backs, thinking that would give me a better bond).  

I also used texture paste, glass beads, and Prima small and large stones.  However, with the large stones I didn't get enough gel behind them.  Some of them fell off, and I ended up pulling the others off.