In order to grow as an artist you need to learn. Sometimes you learn from classes and books and sometimes you learn by trying different things. Doing the same thing over and over, if it is not working, is not the answer.
Lately I’ve been working in oils and playing with perspective. But while I was online getting some supplies, I came across Golden Fluid Acrylics. I went on You Tube and found many artists doing some fantastic work with them. One whom I find very soothing to watch is a gal MelyD.artist. She comes out with some great work as well and it’s fun to watch it develop.
So of course I had to try it as well. I found where I wanted to take my experiments were different than the way she worked and that is how art works. Creative efforts often spark more creative efforts.
So here is some plain acrylic paint mixed with Matte Media. I call this one You Make my Heart Melt.
Of course I had to go on and play some more. This one is mostly fluid acrylics with a little painting on top. I call this one Meeting the Genius.
Conjuring the Storm
Surfing the Mindscape
I find I like to use these acrylics to make a complex background and then either enhance the elements with a little painting or paint over them. It’s always fun to try a different direction.
My husband is from the south coast of England and loves the area. I decided to paint one of his favorite landmarks in the area, The Cobb. I do have a mantra to “paint what you know” and I haven’t been there. So I did some reading on the Cobb and also found a You Tube video that allowed me to visit. Here is the video.
After getting to know my subject I used a circular composition to which this well suited. I like my landscapes to have an abstract element. This is also oil on board. I like how the paint sits on top of the board (I used a marble gesso and allowed it to dry for several weeks before painting) and allows the light to refract through. The title of this is “Safe Harbor”.
The Cobb is a naturally circular structure. I decided to use the same composition in an entirely different format. Here is Lavender in the Hills, another circular composition.
I like to paint in a manner that could fall into the genre of Visionary Art. I often dance around that term because there have been so many great visionary paintings I a tremble to even attempt to put myself in their spheres.
Many visionary artists paint after being influenced by Psychedelics and some can be found on this blog post: http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/visionary/
But historically there have been many painters that have been visionary without the use of chemicals, where artists have painted an unseen, a world not viewed with the mundane eye.
My own art comes from dreams, a deep respect and contact with nature and a strong yoga and meditation practice. With that caveat, here are some of my “Visionary” paintings.
The Long Journey
No, I’m Not Done Yet
The Far Shore
The World Tree
Owl Storm Eyes
In Your Dreams
Ride the Wild Seahorse
The Mating Game
The Power of Nature
Meeting the Genius
And of course more to come
Who doesn’t want to live forever? I thought it was time, before my delightful hubby and I get too wrinkled to attempt a portrait of ourselves. I love Lucian Freud’s work and think he was incredibly skilled but I didn’t want to wait until we are like this self-portrait he did that can be seen in Vienna. I of course then had to watch a video about him and his art, and found he was a great fan of Cremnitz White, which I have on order. This is a lead based white paint, so don’t eat in your studio while using it. The video I watched on Lucian Freud can be found on YouTube here: A Painted Life I love the emotion he conveys although he obviously was a haunted and tortured individual who didn’t play well with others.
Back to my painting. My husband and I went out to our favorite French restaurant and dressed up for an anniversary one of the staff took a fabulous photo of us. I decided to use that as my reference photo, along with peeking over my wine glass at dinner, an assessing, did dear hubby have a few little crows feet, how did the cleft of his chin look in profile?
A book I referred to was
Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form by Eliot Goldfinger.
This year, I used a marble based gesso to cover my boards. The white is so white it hurts your eyes. If you are just tuning in you might want to read my post on Mischtechnik.
Next I spent a fair bit of time looking and reading about the anatomy of the face and neck. And then spent a couple of weeks on an initial sketch.
And here is the initial glaze, I used iron oxide red. It was still wet in this photo.
Meanwhile, as I wait for this to dry, I’m reading another book and learning even more about portrait painting. It has an excellent section on blending colors for the skin. I’m only half-way through, but I’m sure this will be a better painting because of it.
Portrait Painting Atelier: Old Master Techniques and Contemporary Applications
by Suzanne Brooker
The next step, after it was fully dried, was to work on the highlights creating more tones, with the egg tempera. I freely thinned the egg tempera with a little cold pressed linseed oil, so I could have different shades of white. Some I used undiluted and some thinned.
And of course wait. I usually keep a second painting going and work on that while I’m waiting. This year its a semi-abstract in acrylic paint that has lots of free movement and invention and dries fast. The antithesis of this.
Another glaze, this time I used transparent yellow ochre. In the past I used a bright primary transparent yellow, but I like the warmer tones of the earth reds and yellows.
Ah, finally we are starting to see some of those magic mid-tones arise out of nowhere. I had on a top that was covered in black sparkles and I want to show that, but I’m not sure whether I have a handle on it. I have a few points of light on it, but I’m not sure if they work yet.
Here is the white tempera on the highlights after this glaze.
Now the blue glaze.
Technically I should do another layer of the white highlights, but I like where I am. I am going to start glazing local colors as soon as this dries. Oops…I forgot to take photos of a couple of glazes. Don’t worry you didn’t miss much, just the first coat on the walls, shirt and shawl.
Have you ever finished a painting, loved it and couldn’t wait to photograph it to share on social media? But after you photographed it, it had shadows, glare and all sorts of blips and blobs highlighted that made it look awful and nothing like what it looked in life? Recently I finished a painting that was textured and had a number of layers of glazes that gave me that problem.
I want my photographs of my art to look like the painting, not better, not worse. If I were to sell a painting online or submit it to a show and the painting looked substantially different than the photograph, it might cause disappointment or even (horrors) the thought I was trying to put something over on them or hide a flaw.
There are a couple of quick fixes for photographing a textured painting that has a glaze on it or a varnish. The easiest is to take the painting outside and photograph it in natural light. Try to light your painting at an angle and visually adjust for glare.
OK, so you tried taking outside and playing with that angle and this angle and it still didn’t work. Then do the following:
Use two lights at a 45 degree angle to the painting and try some filters.
I paint using artificial light. Specifically, I use 2- 2200 K lights on stands with diffusing umbrellas, in studio with the walls painted white. Which gives me a nice soft daylight. The benefit of this, is as the sun rises and gets stronger or as it sets in the afternoon, my light doesn’t change, so I don’t change my pigments in intensity because they look different under different lights.
A good link talking about lighting, color and temperature, can be found here.
The next thing is to orient your light at 45 degree angles to the painting. But there is still a lot of light bouncing around. You then need to add polarizing filters on your light, or camera or both as done in this article on documenting art.
Take a moment to look at your setup as if you were the camera. Is there light bouncing off an area causing a highly visible glare? Play with your lights. I use a liner polarizing filter and manually adjust the focus on my camera. If you plan to use auto focus use a circular polarizing filter. I am not, at this point, using additional filters on my lights. A circular polarizing filter may bend the edges of your painting a bit.
This is the first time I’ve used a filter. The one on the left is filtered and on the right is unfiltered. I felt I lost a little of the line definition on the filtered. But I lost the glare and the tones show up better. But once again, a photograph never quite looks the same as the painting viewed by the eye. So I leave it up to you, to filter or not. My goal is to make the photograph look as much like the original painting as I can. I also manually focused as a linear polarizing filter works better that way.
You may be one of those people who buys a fancy camera with all sorts of bells and whistles fully intending to learn how to use each and every one, but after a brief time with it you find leaving it on auto and auto-focus suits you just fine. And you go to buy a filter for it and search for “polarizing filter for my brand of camera”. And you can’t find a single one, only packages with prices you can see might be a bit of a rip-off. Look on your lens, take off the lens cap and look at the area directly around your lens. Somewhere there will say what mm the lens is. My Cannon 60D is a 67 mm lens. So when I went and searched for 67 mm polarizing filter I found a much larger array of choices. I know, “duh”, why include this? I figure if I wasted time doing it, someone else might and I could save them some time.
Another alternative, is to scan your art. If it is just for your own records and the work is small you can probably use your in-home or in-office scanner. If it is a larger work, you plan to make and sell prints, you may wish to take it to a facility that has large format scanners and experience in scanning work of your type.
I love little books. Pretty little books for writing notes in, books with thicker paper for drawing and silk and art covered books I always plan to fill with wonderful poetry but never quite do. I love filling them cover-to-cover and I’ll share some of what I put in one of them below.
I was quite inspired by this little book I bought in Katonah, NY yesterday. I love the cover, the fertile Goddess figure inviting me to embrace my art and fill it with wondrous views of my world.
But usually I find the plans I make for a little book usually turn out differently than what I first imagine. This is my little book I started doing sketches in for 2014-2015. I find when I am stuck waiting somewhere, rather than moaning how my time is being wasted I pull out a pen or a pencil and start scribbling. I keep a mechanical drawing pen and a drawing fountain pen filled with scribblers ink in my makeup case, in my purse. Time then flies, and I find sometimes my scribbles are just scribbles but sometimes they crystallize a memory. None of these are meant to be great drawings. Some only took 30 seconds to do. I’ll share a few I like below.
It’s nothing particularly special, it’s about 5 x 7 inches so I can fit it in my purse or hold it and sketch wherever I go. Such as,
30 second drawings at an art gallery:
Or a moment when housebound during an icy winter storm:
For the next I must introduce you to my dog, Gwyn, a wonderful energetic English Shepherd that usually looks like this:
Yes, that is all four paws not touching the ground!
So when I spotted a rare moment of repose:
But sometimes life drives art, when I saw this of course I had to draw it:
My new book will be filled with wonders. Some will just be playful scribbles, that I won’t share with anyone, but I will enjoy in the moment. I will crystallize moments in time that should not be forgotten in a way more personal and lasting than a social media selfie. And with every line I make, I get just a little bit better as an artist.
I encourage you to get a little book. Fill it with doodles, sayings, quotes, poems, or lists. It will become something more than the sum of its parts when you have filled it cover to cover.
Meanwhile, I have a request to go out and find some inspiration outside.
This was the second Mischtechnik painting I did. There were a few stages where I really felt like I had created an ugly duckling that just wasn’t going to work. But here they are from start to end. I didn’t take a picture toward the end of every single step, so know there were a few more steps than shown. In contrast to my first painting, this one was done on board. My post on making egg tempera or emulsion can be found Here.
Title: Apparition of a Local Form (above)
Another playful one I’ve done in this style (I’ll skip all the steps as I gave you above) is The Monster in the Closet (below). What if there were monsters in your closet and what they really wanted were your accessories? (Grin).
What is Mischetechnik? It is a mixed technique using ink, egg tempera and oil paints. It is also referred to as Mische technique. That sounds simple right? It is the technique that was used by many of the old masters, religious icon painters and also many current visionary artists One of my favorite artists to paint using this technique was Andrew Wyeth. It creates many semi-neutrals that glow and add depth. I love using a palette that contains semi-neutrals and therefore am attracted to this technique.
I have to admit I am also an art geek. Not only do I love to paint, but I love to delve into the history of how paints were made, when various oils were used and why, and how we came to do things the way we do now. Older is not always better, but I think we can learn from the past. When you start delving into how do to Mischtechnik all clarity is lost. First we need an egg. Check. Then you need….well oil to make the emulsion..but through history various thicknesses of oils with various varnishes have been used and every artist had his or her favorite. Often simply as what was commonly and cheaply available at that time and in their area.
So instead of looking for a recipe to copy exactly, I decided to look at why each component is used, what is its place, and how does it function. And then like the artists of old, what do I use regularly and have in my studio that fulfills that function. I will share with you “my recipe” but I highly recommend a read of any section related to egg tempera in The Materials of the Artist and Their Use in Painting: With Notes on the Techniques of the Old Masters by Max Doerner. I’ve also had some productive conversations with the owner of The Art Tree House, my source for non-toxic painting and cleaning supplies.
To paint, what do you need? A support, pigment for color, a binder to mix with the pigment so it can be applied and a method to apply the painting. The pigment can either be made to be opaque or transparent. Commercial paint may also have fillers, stabilizers, and other agents added to prevent paint degradation. There are some tempera paints available in tubes, but from what I have read, they don’t give the same results as making your own. I’m not saying they are good or bad, just not the same.
I prepared two different types of supports, one canvas and one a wood panel by coating with a thin layer of gesso, and allowed it to dry. Then I made my drawing with waterproof ink and also allowed it to dry. This gave me a fairly smooth surface with lights and darks, not just outlines, well defined. Here is one on canvas.
Next I used a transparent iron oxide red. If you are looking through your tubes of paints, and come across a brand that doesn’t list transparency on the label, if the color is a “lake” insert color, it is probably transparent. I made a mixture of part Damar crystals in lavendar oil to 1 part linseed oil for the glaze. I tested my glaze simply by using a marker on my disposable palette and glazing over the black mark. Of course you could make a series of test panels for yourself as well. Here is the paintingng with the transparent oxide red over it.
Next onto the egg emulsion. To make this a more formal “tempera” simply use the egg yolk only. An egg emulsion should dry harder and shinier than the tempera. A nice treatment of egg emulsion vs egg tempera can be found on the True Art website.
In the following order shaking your container vigorously after each addition:
1 measure of whole egg (Egg white will make this dry more rapidly, egg yolk only will dry more slowly).
1 measure of linseed oil (lavender oil alone would not be enough of a binder)
1 measure of damar crystals in lavender oil:linseed oil 1:1 mixture (I found using too much (straight lavender oils can leave a sticky texture and take too long for a painting to dry to suit me.)
1 measure of water. (Max Dorner says you can add 2 measures so it’s up to what you want.)
Now you have your egg medium. Mix with dry pigment. I used Titanium white. Do some research as some pigments contain substances, often metals, that will chemically react with the yolk. My sources say to use a glass pestle on a glass palette. While I used a glass palette, I simply blended and blended and blended with a palette knife. You can see the partially blended material on the left and the smoother fully blended material on the right.
I put this in a clean jar with a damp sponge at the bottom and literature says in the refrigerator for about a week. I think mine might last a little longer as lavender oil has been shown to have antibacterial properties. This does dry quickly so work fast. I also diluted it a little as needed with my damar crystals in lavender oil: linseed oil mix to thin it out as needed.
I used this to paint in the highlights and areas of light. One thing I came across in my reading of Max Dorner was not to add white into the shadows as it will make them look muddy.
Next you add a layer of transparent yellow, allow to dry, and then add whatever lights you want with your egg tempera/titanium white mixture. Allow that to dry and add a transparent layer of blue. Again whites where needed, and finally add local colors either directly or by adding another layer of your egg tempera and painting on that. All these steps can be repeated over and over so there is no requirement to either a) do them all or b) stop at only 3 or 4 layers.
Yellow and egg tempera on the iron oxide red glaze.
Here is the blue glaze over the above, allowed to dry to tackiness and then egg emulsion with titanium white painted for the highlights. Wow..things are stating to happen. Look at all those shades of green. I used a Prussian blue glaze alone on the bulk of the picture with a bit of zinc white I added to the blue in the glaze on the sky. The white egg emulsion was then used to highlight where I was planning to put local colors. No green paint has been used.
Here is the final with local colors painted in directly. This is after drying overnight, the colors meld a bit then and more semi-neutrals magically appeared overnight. I think I may have been a little heavy handed with painting in some of my local colors and am trying to be a little more careful with the other two paintings I am working on. I’ll post them both when they are finished.
Title: Gerd Watching the Land Incubate the Harvest
Happy painting! Let me know about your experiments into media and how they work as well.
This is my new favorite painting. I combined some abstract elements with lavender fields in Provence. I also used elements of color theory that I used from Stephen Quiller and his book Color Choices: Making sense out of color theory.
The Quiller Wheel works by using semi-neutrals that harmonize a painting. For instance if you need a dark for a shadow you could try blending a purple with the opposite on the color wheel a yellow, for a cool toned semi-neutral.
You can see how this works on his website, where I love some of the muted tones in his paintings.
So without further ado, Lavender in Provence.
Over the years this has turned out to be one of my most popular paintings and I won’t give up the original. But for a friend I did Lavender in SC
And in 2016 a gallery wanted the original (which I still won’t give up) so I did Provence 2016 for them.
So if you in the mood to try reading the book I used Making Sense Out of Color Theory know that although he works in watercolors, he has charts in the book that cover acrylics and oils, as the exact name of a purple hue may be different for different media. It also comes with a pull out color wheel that I have on my studio wall. One of my favorite things about the book is that he will do the same scene using different color combinations and intensities, that in itself is very educational.
If you like his work and you are a watercolorist you may like this book: