Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sparkling Vine

Last October on one of the last really nice, warm autumn days I went looking for abstract oil painting inspiration in our local park. In the planted formal garden, most of the flora was already dead or dying, but I noticed that with the leaves withering one could more clearly see the "skeleton" of  the bare plants which was perfect for organic abstracts. And in this particular case it was also casting an interesting and tangled shadow against a wall and some steps.

Ever since I was quite young, I've loved to paint interwoven organic shapes. My brain finds it very soothing, like a giant puzzle--maybe it's the organizing of nature's chaos. It's the kind of painting where I just let my "art brain" take over and I'm just along for the ride. So these nature-inspired abstract paintings are always a bit of surprise even to me when I'm done.  Because of the linear nature inherent in vines, twigs, branches, etc. like to start these paintings with a very gestural drawing sometimes with a brush but this time I used a dark blue oil pastel on a 18 x 18 canvas panel.

Speaking of panels, I'm hoping tomorrow will be warm enough to start making some GM (gessoed masonite) panels. While these can be a bit of a pain to make--run to Home Depot, cut them, gesso, dry, gesso, dry, etc.  But, if you tend to be a frugal artiste as I am, these "homemade" panels are a fantastic deal (a 24 x 48 board is less than $4).  GM panels are one of my favorite painting surfaces for oils and acrylics, particularly for abstracts and mixed media where you need a sturdy smooth surface that stands up to stamping, glazing, stenciling, leafing, collage, etc. 

Perhaps best of all, one can cut these panels to any size you desire. Which is perfect for those bizarre, non standard frames that always seem to be lurking in studio corners. Yes, you can buy these gesso panels online or at most arts stores now--but they are relatively expensive and for me I find the surface is too slick and smooth.

For the rest of your weekend I'll leave you with one of my favorite art quotes--it's actually from architect Frank Lloyd Wright--but I think it absolutely applies to learning and teaching art as I do:  Talent is good, practice is better, passion is best. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

It's a Dog Day Friday!

Happy Friday everyone! I always love posting my student's work when they are nice enough to let me do so. This fabulous and heart-warming pet portrait is courtesy of one my highly talented watercolor students, Shawn M.  He was kind enough to let me share his dachshund watercolor painting with everyone today. Shawn is quickly gaining quite the reputation among his friends and family as a pet portrait artist! 

Animals and pets will always be my favorite subject matter, but for those of you who also paint beloved animal companions know just how emotional and challenging it can be. You really want to capture each pet's unique charm and personality (especially for their proud parents) as Shawn has done so wonderfully here. FYI, for my watercolor fans, Shawn painted this on his CP 140lb Arches Block using a limited color palette of warm and cool neutrals which I think really helps to keep the focus on this lovely dog's face.
Another challenge I find painting animals and pets is fur. Fur is a particularly interesting texture to paint, but can also be a challenge. The other day I saw some quick tips for painting black fur for those of you interested in painting black dogs or cats. And here's a step by step oil pastel demo of a lovely, furry Himalayan cat.

Also, for more dog paintings, check out the William Secord Gallery in NYC--they specialize in wonderful 19th Century dog and animal paintings.  If I ever have my own gallery, I would love to have an all animal gallery. And for more contemporary dog paintings and animal painting inspiration, see the Daily Painters variety of dog painters on their blog.

Friday PM is my personal studio time so it's time to go but I want to wish everyone a wonderful and creative 
spring weekend. Looking for a fun and relaxing painting class this sprint? I'd love to work with you. For more info, please visit me on TeachStreet (search ScarletOwl) or see my new listing on The Arts Map or feel free to email me anytime. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Birthday Boy

It's been a snowy day in the studio, but that allowed me to get this quick little 8 x 10 oil painting study in of my beautiful blue gray tabby, Dash--named for fiction writer Dashiell Hammett--checking out the hedge for sparrows. It's his birthday today (he's 6) and since he's the feline studio mascot I promised him he could model today.

As many of you know, painting can be a lonely endeavor sometimes and so I wanted to honor all the animal companions of artists who keep us company.  Dash is the most vocal cat I've ever had and he particularly likes to comment on unusual weather like today. 

Speaking of gray, I have to mention how much I like the new Richeson Gray Matters palette paper--I've always used the traditional white but the gray really makes a difference for judging the lighter values. Also, today I ordered Santa Fe artist Nancy Reyner's book Acrylic Revolution and am looking forward to reading that.  Snow days are always a great excuse for some internet art book and supply shopping!

Finally, for those of you interested in my art classes, I also spent some of the day looking for affordable workshop space and hope to have an announcement soon of a workshop in Denver in addition to my private and semi-private classes.  My plan is to have a variety of workshops for oil, acrylic, and watercolor. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and have a creative week!

P.S. For those feline art lovers out there, here are some other examples of feline paintings at Daily Painter.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Western Spring Quilt

Are you finding the first few days of a new season as inspirational as I am? Sometimes when I feel I need to break out of a painting rut, I decide to try a new painting supply.  So yesterday, in place of my usual favorite Arches CP 140lb watercolor block (the one with the green cover) I thought I'd try a new Stephen Quiller Watercolor Paper (also 140lb/CP). 

I originally went to the art store looking for some Twinrocker paper because over the weekend I went to my favorite Denver bookstore, Tattered Cover and treated myself to a lovely William Matthews book. In the book, Matthews talks about his watercolor supplies: Winsor Newton paint, Kolinsky brushes, and Twinrocker paper. I'm particularly interested in trying a colored watercolor paper such as a cream--it's what helps make his amazing white accents really pop. 

While you can order Twinrocker online, my usual impatience sent me out to the store. When they didn't have the Twinrocker, I was determined to try a new watercolor paper of some kind, thus the Stephen Quiller block.  When I try a new supply, I like to do a fairly simple painting and so in this case I chose a geometric color value study or "color quilt" as I like to call them.  My color mixing goal was to play with warm and cool neutrals which I think can often make or break a watercolor painting. This piece was also inspired by the wonderful geometric watercolor paintings of Denver artist David Castle.

FYI, the lines were quickly masked out with thin drafting tape which comes in a wide variety of widths.  I also tested the paper by scratching it with my brush handle when the paint was still a bit damp to see how it settled in the grooves. And finally, since I love metallics, I glazed a pearly layer of Winsor Newton Iridescent Medium over some of the darker colors.

The Stephen Quiller paper has a very nice warm tone and an interesting, almost linen like texture. While I can't yet say I like it better than my beloved Arches, it was well worth trying and I look forward to working with again soon. As always, thanks for stopping by and hope you have a great week in the studio!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Springtime in the Studio

Spring officially starts in about an hour in our time zone and in honor of that I'm posting one of my favorite collage paintings--an abstract floral painting of tulips. Because flowers are such a common subject for painters I'm always looking for new and interesting ways to paint them.

If you enjoy florals, especially those in the tradition of the Dutch master painters, in this month's art collector I spotted the amazingly detailed paintings of artist Marc Dennis.

For this particular painting, I gessoed an illustration board and then painted an underpainting using acrylics (a mixture of Golden Fluid Acrylics and opaque white acrylic). Quick tip for painting on illustration board: Wax all the edges with an old candle or white crayon to help keep the board waterproof.

Then I placed a high quality collage tissue paper  (white) over areas where I wanted more dimension and then painted over the tissue. I finished with some negative painting in the background around some of the flower forms.  It's a great technique to try if you are looking to add some more texture into your acrylic paintings.

Before I forget Daniel Smith is offering Free Shipping on all orders this week, coupon code:WRS310R4.

As always, I want to give kudos and thanks to all my wonderful students. I know many of you were beginners when you started and you are all blossoming, if you'll excuse the seasonal pun, into wonderful artists. I'm so proud of all of you! And welcome new students as well, I look forward to working with you this season and for many weeks to come. For more info about my classes in watercolor, oil, or acrylic painting please drop me a line at the studio email in the header or visit me on TeachStreet

Happy Spring painting everyone!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Top 10 Favorite Art Studio Tools (so far)

Since I've been working a lot lately and have not had that much time to paint, so I thought I'd take a minute to share some of my studio must haves. Like many artists, especially those who work in multiple media, I'm an art supply lover who loves to try the latest colors, art tool, studio gizmos, etc.

But over time, I find that I have a few tried and true art studio resources and tools that I always go back to or buy in bulk. And most of these are quite inexpensive. Keep in mind that I regularly paint in oil, acrylic, and watercolor so some of these "studio helpers" work across media and others are media specific. Best of all, most are under a few bucks each.

1) Red sheets of acetate (usually available at art store in the drafting department). For those of you who used them before, you know they a great value finding tool.  Put them over any color photo or painting and they instantly "decolor" and help reveal the values. Ahh, the magic red sheet--my students know it well! Price: Under $1 for a small sheet.

2) Blue painters tape. I use the basic 3M brand from home improvement store. Yes, sometimes it's not as sticky as I'd like it to be, but you can use it for so many things and as a well-known TV designer used to say: It's a ruler on a role!  So if you struggle with astigmatism like I do, it helps keep you on the right track.  Price: $3-4 roll. Probably less in bulk.

3) Speaking of something blue. I love blue shop towels on a role. You can also find these at home improvement store, hardware store, or even Costco. Much better than paper towel, IMHO. Because they are designed for oily clean up, they help keep my brushes cleaner and in turn I have to use less solvents.  Price: About $3-4 each in a bulk pack I think.

4) Covered palette boxes. Yes, those crazy plastic lids can be a pain the you know what, but I like how they are relatively easy to transport, deter curious pets, and in general keep your paint relatively fresh. I use these for all of my media in a variety of styles and shapes from round to the classic rectangle Pike palette with big wells for watercolors. Price: Varies $10-25. 

5) Color wheels. I've painted for over 25 years and am even known as a "colorist," but I still like to have a good size (think pie) size color wheel (as well as some smaller "purse size" wheels) on hand. A bit of a color safety net? Perhaps but when I get stuck sometimes, usually a quick glance over at helps me make a decision or a more interesting choice if I'm in a color rut.  Price: Usually under $10.

6) Old frames of a variety of shapes and sizes. I never complete a painting without popping it into a frame first to help me make those final adjustments. I try to keep the most common sizes on hand like a 8x10, 9x12, 12. x12, 12x16, 18x24, etc. in both a dark (black, dark brown) and light finish (gold, silver).

These studio frames don't have to be great quality and many are quite banged up and scratched. Next time you are at a frame shop ask if they have any "scratched/dents." And yes, I've spray painted some frames that had seen better days that a neighbor was tossing out. That being said, once in a while I splurge and buy a really high quality frame (more than $100) which are always nice to have in the studio. Along the same lines for watercolor paintings I like to have a variety of sizes of white mats on hand. Often you can save a painting by simply cropping it in different way.  Price: Varies based on your dumpster diving issues.   

7. Big tubes of white oil paint. I use both Permalba (a mix of Titanium/Zinc) and Titanium. Yes, large tubes (I find) have tendency to dry out, but I think it's worth it if you ever see these on sale to buy a few extra. Rarely do I have a day, especially when I'm teaching, that I'm not reaching for a big tube of white. And yep, I buy student grade white oil and acrylic paint. I've tried the professional white and personally can't tell enough difference. Price: $8-15, maybe less on sale.

8.Painting knife (I like the new stainless steel ones with the color rubber handles--very comfy), especially with oil, but I use them quite frequently for acrylic as well. As much as I love brushes, if I was forced to choose one tool for painting it would have to be a painting knife. Price: A few dollars on up depending on brand, size.

9. Art or painting apron--I've said it before. I love art aprons. I'm really not that messy but mentally I just feel ready to paint when the apron goes on. It's like my work uniform--but with crazy retro patterns. With summer approaching, I've seen some nice ones in the kitchen wares section of home goods stores. Look for lots of pockets--you will use them. And of course you can get more "serious" aprons from a variety of online art stores as well. Beret, optional. 

10. Hmm, at ten already. Isn't part of the joy of being an artist all the special equipment that comes with the job? I really can't pick just one more item, o I'll just list a few a extra studio accouterments came quickly to mind as far as daily studio use (and hopefully most fairly self explanatory):
  • Digital camera
  • Variety of easels (from large floor to small table top)
  • Scented candle (preferably natural or woodsy--helps "put me in the mood") and/or hot cocoa
  • Bungee cord (use to hold paper towel on easel)
  • Idea folder
Have  a great week in the studio! P.S. The spinning red brush holder (only $14.99)  is a utensil holder from Target and comes a in a variety of fun colors like this red (which I had to have of course), turquoise,  and lime.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Glazing a Rose

This intimate study of a rose this morning was inspired by one of my students, who is working with the  indirect oil painting method. In other words first painting a value study underpainting or grisaille (for this 8 x 10 rose on canvas panel I used Mars Black and Titanium White acrylics) then adding transparent glazes of color.  I have to admit while I've glazed before, it's not a technique I use everyday. I tend to be a more direct oil painter so I was excited to try this method again. 

While the oil painting glazing technique calls for some extra patience, the fascinating results are well worth it.  You can see why the master European painters were so entranced by this method. I love how focusing on the first step of strong values immediately gives you instant light and drama.

In the next step or layer, I decided to try glazing using Gamblin Galkyd Lite medium (in the past I've used Winsor and Newton Liquin) since I've noticed so many painters recommending this medium lately. While I thought the Liquin worked quite well for glazing, I've been looking for less harsh medium for my growing chemical sensitivity in the studio.  

For my transparent oil pigments I chose a simple palette of: Perm Rose, Thalo Blue, Indian Yellow, and Burnt Sienna (mixed with Thalo to help warm up the cool background). I'm eager to keep layering on the yellow and red on the rose, but I'll try to be patient and let it dry overnight. I also found it easier to glaze laying the painting flat on the table (rather than on an easel) and I used a No. 6 nylon filbert rather than a stiffer oil brush.

Since I glaze quite a bit in watercolor, I think that helps me here because I'm needing to adjust my approach  from opaque direct oil painting to transparent layers here. At the end, however, I'll likely add some opaque in my lightest or whitest areas for more pop.  As always, thanks for stopping by and happy painting!

P.S. If you are looking for more information about painting florals using this glazing method be sure to visit Jane Jones website she's a master of the technique.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pouring My Heart Out

If any of you have read Jean Grastorf's Pouring Light (Layering Transparent Watercolor) book you'll recognize this painting as one of her pouring exercises using her recommended triad of transparent watercolor pigments (from light to dark): Hansa Yellow (I used transparent Lemon), Permanent Rose, and Thalo Blue.  I also used the watercolor paper Ms. Grastorf prefers--Arches Cold Press 140 lb. since it's my favorite as well--though I did use a block for convenience.  I have poured before, but only a few paintings in workshops and it's been a while.

More specifically, it's the simplified yellow color family (e.g. yellows, mixed oranges, mixed greens) pouring exercise with no masking. I thought this would be a good warm up before I attempt a more complicated masking piece this week from my own photo references. I paint almost everyday, but I don't often have time for a multi-step process like this. 

FYI, the first image above shows the first pour of the 3 primary colors. Then I let that dry for a few hours then came back, wet the paper again (a key pouring step!) and poured the same colors again to increase their intensity.

Step 3 shows direct painting (staying with the same 3 pigments for color harmony). As this dries, my guess is that I might want to may some of the darks richer but I'm happy with it for a trial piece.

(Just so I could compare my method, I purposely tried to keep very close with her sunflower example.) I have a particular fondness for really rich, grainy watercolors so I'm eager to try some "grainy" pours as well.  I think that's why I've always admired the work of  Don Andrews and western painter William Matthews.

Speaking of well known watercolorists, I was also inspired to paint a watercolor this afternoon after to my visit this morning to the 2010 Colorado State Watermedia Show juried by artist Rantindra Das.  While I did not enter the show this year, I'm always inspired by the variety, color, and subject matter at a state-wide, juried watermedia show like this.  Be sure to stop by if you can.   

For more information about my watercolor classes, please drop me a line or visit m on Teach Street (Scarlet Owl Studio) for more information. Am off to watch the Oscars!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Good Day Sunshine

Yesterday I noticed the light levels are really beginning to get much stronger as spring approaches.  In the kitchen, I spotted the sun hitting a plate of pears and took a few snapshots for my oil painting study this morning. I was really drawn to the strong shadow patterns and organic shapes.  As I often do I painted this small 8x8 study on bright red toned canvas board--one of my favorite painting approaches. It's interesting to play with the "lost and found" red edges.     

For this study, I decided to do a quick (30 min) acrylic underpainting to help me map out where I wanted to go with my expressionistic colors. My favorite palette for working on acrylics by the way is the Richeson Lock Box palette. Sure, it could be larger and the donut-shaped inserts are rather funky, but I love the round shape (so I can mix around the color wheel). And it really does keep acrylics quite pliable for at least a few days and I live a very dry climate.  (Just wet the sponge inserts, lightly spray the palette with water and close the lid.)

Why bother with an underpainting for a small oil study? One of my new students is working on a master copy oil painting using the classic grisaille underpainting approach.  This layered classical method had me thinking more about approaching a painting in this way, which is not something I would normally do especially when I only have an hour or two to paint.  But the results can be well worth your patience, so while I've not done a traditional glazed oil painting with a lot of detail in a while and am thinking that will be my next painting.

For more information about my oil painting classes (located in Denver, Colorado) please drop me a line at the email above or visit me on Teach Street (search Scarlet Owl).

Monday, March 1, 2010

Springing for Color

 Happy March everyone! In anticipation of spring, I'm encouraging all my students to play with and use more color this week. If we paint enough, we all get into a color rut from time to time with our favorites (perm rose, indian yellow, and ultramarine are some of mine.) 

A great way to break out and discover new color combinations is to create what I call "mini primary triad abstracts," which is just a long way of saying play with warm and cool versions of red, yellow, and blue. In this example, I've painted the combos as a watercolor sampler, but of course you can create the same thing with acrylic or oil paints.  I promise allowing yourself this "discovery" time will make you a stronger, more creative artist.

In my watercolor sampler example, I've painted all of colors "wet in wet" (dropping in the color) but note that you could also pour the colors for even more subtle and interesting color mixing.  Here are just a few mostly primary color triads to try, but notice it's interesting to switch out a violet for a red or a burnt sienna as your yellow.  You'll likely discover some new favorites along the way as I typically do!
 Quick tip: Be sure to label your tests for future reference and for more detailed pigment info, see Handprint

  • Rose Madder, Aureolin, Cobalt 
  • Perm Rose, A,C
  • Perm Red Violet, A, C
  • Aliz. Crimson, A, C
  • Opera (bright pink), A, C
  • Aliz, Crimson, Lemon, Pthalo Blue
  • Cad Red Light, Indian Yellow, Cerulean
  • Perm Rose, Indian Yellow, Prussian
  • Perm Red Violet, Cobalt Violet, Prussian
  • Magenta, A, Phtalo Blue
  • Rose, Burnt Sienna, Ultra Blue
  • Opera, Indian Yellow, Ultra
Recommended watercolor reading for the week fellow Michigan native watercolor master Nita Engle's How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself.  For more info about my classes please visit me on TeachStreet (search Scarlet Owl) or write to me at the email in my header.Have a great week!