Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Toning Canvases - My New Approach!

hi there!

last month, i posted about toning canvases, how & why i do it. i've started doing something a bit different, so i thought i'd show you.

i hate to waste paint - it's expensive, it's too pretty to throw out, & it just goes against my new england upbringing to waste anything! so when i clean off my palette, it feels really wrong to just wash all that paint away.

when i was cleaning up after one of the last paintings i did, i noticed the color of the smudged together paints was pretty nice - in fact, with a little more cad yellow & raw sienna, it'd be a decent, if dark, gold. and there was a lot of it. i decided to use it to tone some canvases - & this is how it turned out:

i'm pretty pleased with it, though i am concerned it's a bit dark. so the next time i painted, i used just the lighter colors & came up with this:

with the most recent painting - the sailboat - i left out the greens and blues, using only the reds, yellows, & oranges i'd mixed up or put out on the palette. it made this lovely color my son said should be called "sun-dried tomato"!

i'm really liking doing this! first, it lets me use up a good portion the leftover paint so i'm throwing much less out. this lets me feel a bit freer about how much paint i put out on the palette when i'm starting a painting, knowing it won't go to waste. it's also a really easy way to keep at least one canvas ahead of myself so i never run out of toned canvases when i'm ready to start a new painting! and any way i can outthink my tendency to procrastinate is ok with me!

thanks for stopping by - take care till next time!


Monday, August 23, 2010


hi there!

sorry i've been away from here so long - been a bit under the weather, but also very busy! i got a writing job that turned out bigger than expected & that's been keeping my limited energy-time tied up. but it's almost done - & i did get another painting finished! been working on it slowly - so slowly, i totally missed the deadline!

this was for the august Daily Painter International Art challenge, which was "reflections." i decided to finish it even after the due date passed because . . . well, one, i'm stubborn - &, two, i'm a bit compulsive! also - i guess this is three! - i felt i'd learn a lot from it - &, boy, have i! i'll go through my process painting it, then sum it up - more reflections than the original photo has!

first - here's the photo:

i took that over the july 4th weekend at woodley island. i figured i could simplify it pretty easily so i could concentrate on all the things i've never done in it - things like boats, water, reflections . . . ! i put it on the digital picture frame, placed the grid over it

then sketched it in in charcoal on an 8x10 canvas, pretoned in gold:
this was the point at which i had my first qualms. the perspective seemed off, even after following the grid. the boat didn't seem as angled away from the viewer as in the photo, yet the perspective of the stuff on the boat seemed correct! i tried to fix it a couple of times, but decided to go ahead with it.

first note to self: fix it in the sketch, not after it has umpteen layers of paint!

i decided which colors to use: ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, raw sienna, trans yellow oxide, cad yellow light, alizarin, cad red light, & titanium white. i felt these would do the sky & water (the blues), the sail cover (the reds), & the trees (the yellows w/ the rest of 'em).

i started with the sky. i wanted to show some yellow at the horizon to reflect the warm sunniness of the day, so i put straight cerulean blue in the top of the sky area & cad yellow light mixed with white in the lower half, then mixed them up, going up & down with a fairly large brush to blend them roughly. the light yellow mixture & a light blue mixture i made up on the palette served as my atmosphere colors in light & shadow, and went into any color mixes that needed to be lightened.

i then put in the water, using ultramarine & white, & the sail cover, using the alizarin for the shadow areas & the cad red light for the bright sunlit parts. i mixed up various greens and put in the first sketchy bits of trees. at this point i still put in the buildings in the background & the other boat to the right behind the main one. i decided that boat wasn't working, but still left the buildings.

only that was too much stuff back there for me to do well along with everything else. so i wiped the buildings out, mixed up some more greens, and put in more trees! if you ever go to eureka & see trees growing where the carson mansion used to be, now you know why!

second note to self: settle on the composition before you start painting!


next was the side of the boat & the reflection. i knew the boat couldn't be pure white, so i did a first layer of the light blue mix over it all, then put darker tones at the two ends and the yellow mix blended in in the middle to show the curving shape of the side. i mixed up a color for the main reflection and put that in, along with faint indications of the other things that were reflected.

at this point, i asked my son to look at it. he studied it & realized i had the color of the reflection completely wrong - it was green based rather than blue. oh dear. he sure was right. i scraped the color out & reworked it with a slightly darkened form of the light blue mix, & it looked a lot better!

third note to self: don't mix colors based on what you think they 'should' be - hold up the brush or palette knife next to the original & check!

i then finished off the insides of the boat, discovering leftover bits of the original sketch i'd decided not to do, which i had to paint out. (is that note one or two - or both?!)

i didn't like the sky, so i took my big soft fan brush & started squiggling it around, getting a sorta van gogh-ish effect in the sky, which i liked. at this point i also added some ultramarine to the sky & some cerulean to the water to create more life in them both. i adjusted the darkest parts of the shadows under the boat, the shape of the reflection, and added more cad red light highlights on the sail cover.

the last thing was the mast. i am incapable of drawing a straight line, so i placed a ruler at the top of the canvas, slanted away from the paint but in the direction i needed the mast to go. then i loaded up my finest brush & placed the tip on the starting point of the mast on the boat. using the ruler as a guide, i was able to put it in fairly straight & was really relieved! i didn't use it for the two cross bars but they were pretty short. and that was it!

after all that, this is what my table & palette looked like - not literally every brush i own but every one i use regularly!
oh - plus some new ones! i discovered some taklon long handled guys that i really like - inexpensive too, as they were student grade - perfect for me!

i can't say i really like the painting, though i do catch myself recognizing the reflections as reflections when i walk past it on the drying rack. so in that i succeeded. i do really like the sky, and it does have a certain naive charm about it. (i did notice that i have ripples in the sky, but not the water!) and i sure learned a lot about painting doing it - which is the fun part of the challenges!

i guess the thing is, it just has no 'me' in it . . . somehow it's missing that spark that directs my hand & helps me choose what to present & how. not sure why . . .

if you ever have ideas about how i go about things, or what i could do to improve what i'm doing, please let me know via the comments or through email - i'd really appreciate it!

thanks for stopping by - take care until next time!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Homemade Brush Holder & 2 Paintings, Framed

When i first started to paint, i had a lot of trouble figuring out what to do with brushes that were loaded with paint, but that i didn't want to clean until i was done with them. i tried the classic hold-them-in-your-hand with your palette, but kept crashing into the walls (yup - my other studio spaces were that small!), getting the paint from one brush onto the next, &/or dropping them on the floor. a friend gave me an art supplies catalog, & in it i saw the answer to my problem - a brushholder! trouble was - it was too expensive, especially with shipping. so i kept schmeering paint on the walls & picking cat hair off the bristles as i painted.

Sometime later, my son tossed out an old lamp he had. It had a curved plastic shade - & looked just like the brushholder to me! i salvaged the shade & explained what i wanted to my son. he taught me how to use his dremel tool with the sander attachment, and i made little scoops in the shade to hold the brushes. (if you do this be careful - it can really get away from you fast!) i made one of the scoops larger for bigger brushes.

then he heated up his hot glue gun (i can't use glues myself because of the chemical sensitivities), and glued the shade to a piece of wood i'd found floating around the garage. (you can find virtually anything in my garage - in fact, i believe if you look hard enough you'll find the engine for a 1986 subaru somewhere - or is it an '84?)

the scoops were a little slippery for the ferrules of the brushes, so he lightly coated the inside of the cups with a bit of rubber cement.

this works incredibly well - you can see it in action below. you just rest the brushes bristle-end in - it keeps them secure, separated, and off any surfaces you don't want coated in paint! if you can find anything that would work, i'd suggest doing this.

in other news: the two paintings (blue & brown couches) i had at the local gallery haven't sold, so tomorrow i'm going to bring him these two, & see if he'll take 'em. maybe folks'll like these better!!

thanks for stopping by - take care till next time!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

RookiePainter Challenge - Pink Dahlia

Wherein i learn that running about flailing my arms & screaming, "i can't do it! i can't do it!!" does. not. help.

hi there!

I knew this one was going to be hard. I've never done flowers (well, one rather stilted tulip!) - and i really dislike the color pink. but in the process, i made some great discoveries & have a much better idea how to proceed in the future!

this is the photo posted over at rookiepainter:

i thought the background need a bit of something. i found this wallpaper online & photoshopped it in. (actually GIMPed it in; i use gimp - opensource, free, and i think funner to use than photoshop - partially because - it's free!)

i liked what that blue was doing, so off i started. first thing, i put the grid in front & studied where everything needed to go:

i put a grid on my canvas (5x7, btw) with charcoal, brushed off the excess, and put in a simple external outline:

then i sketched in the insides of the flower, and a hint of the wallpaper design:

now, this is where i started to have the first tremors of concern. that center section just wasn't coming up right. but i forged ahead!

first i decided on the colors for the background. i wanted that blue sorta purple, to set off the oranges in the pink petals, and also greyed down a bit. so i chose phthalo blue with a bit of alizarin crimson to get a purple-y blue, then added a hint of transparent orange iron oxide to grey it - and, with white, hit it right first time out! i was stoked!

(have i not heard the expression pride goeth before a fall? like, ever?!)

i happily painted in the blue, then added - with a q-tip! - a pure phthalo halo-like around the flower, figuring i'd decide how to finish it when i had the flower in. i also decided not to try doing any design in the background - too fussy.

and then i innocently created some initial pinks to start with, using the alizarin, cad red light (for its orange cast), and white. i also created a pale blue-white and pale purple (using ultramarine violet), for those blown out areas of the photo, which i really liked.

got about half-way through (the lighter side of the flower)

when i realized my pinks just were not cutting it. so i began dragging out most of my reds, mixing them with white, and trying them out. cad red, quinacridone red, and cad orange joined the fray - until i remembered quinacridone rose! ah! that was it!

this has made me more determined to do color charts. it is really frustrating not knowing what my colors can do. on the other hand (says she who likes to avoid anything that looks like work), as i paint more & more, i'll learn along the way!

i got the outside petals how i wanted them to look (going not for realism but for soft, fluffy, ice cream colors in pinks & oranges). i knew i wanted the paint to be layered, and thicker than i usually make it. i also wanted a softer stroke than the flat bristle brushes give, so i tried using - for the first time - my taklon filbert. ooohh! i liked it - soft & sensuous, it lays down a wonderful rich sinuous line of paint! it was also much easier to place layers of paint over earlier, wet layers, something i've been having trouble with using bristle brushes. the synthetics are lots cheaper than sable, but seem to be soft enough. since i don't use turpentine or any other chemicals when i paint, the brushes should last fairly well. (i say brushes plural, 'cause soon as i sell another painting, i'm gonna get more!)

once the main petals were done, i did the center. and wiped it out. five times. five. i either got it too light, too plain, overly structured, too dark . . . it just wouldn't work! that old familiar panic ("why am i doing this? i paint like a two year old!!") started taking over.

at some point after yet another wiping out (using q-tips galore), i re-drew the center back in with paint (alizarin), and started over.

i carefully laid in the shadowing, the shading & highlights on each little triangle, the pokey center - it looked like it belonged in a different dimension from the rest of the flower! i tried all sorts of brushes, and all sorts of shades for the tiny petals & shadows till my work table & palette were covered:
but it still didn't look right - what was i doing wrong?! (this is where the flailing of arms comes in!) i finally realized that i was over-thinking it - trying for more realism than the rest of the flower called for & forgetting (a) to lavish the paint on, as i had in the rest of the flower & (b) to have fun!!

i found a worn sable filbert among my inherited brushes, loaded it up - and swirled it onto the canvas! i just played with different pinks, and laid in the little dots in the very center with cad red light & cad orange. ah!!

it still looked too formal to me - so i roughed the tips of the petals, loosened the darker blue of the background - and then, taking my large soft fan brush, with just the very tips of the hairs dipped in paint, i swirled white over the surface, in places going counter to the flow of the pink paint. & i liked it!

whew! that was tough - and took much longer than previous 5x7's. but i do still like it (it looks better close-up, too - maybe because i used my reading glasses more than with other paintings!) - tho i still don't like pink!!

thanks for stopping by - take care till next time!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tracing, Gridding, & Virtual Paintout: Hong Kong!

hi there!

the last four/five days have been really busy - visiting with my boys, yardsale-ing, watching movies, medical stuff . . . and having computer troubles! but i've a new video card & all software updates installed & it seems to be running on all four burners! unfortunately, that means that - procrastinator that i am! - i didn't get the painting for the month-long Virtual Paintout July challenge done - until August 1! i'd been planning to do it, & had my picture chosen . . .

this is the original pic (the link is here)

and this is how i cropped it - plus i added a more interesting sky & revved up the colors a tad:

this was, i thought, going to be quite a challenge for me! i've done sky only a couple of times - and not to my satisfaction. & i'd never done buildings, palm trees, walls . . . ! i knew i'd need to be careful with the composition, so i decided i' have to copy the main forms of the original pretty closely. but how to do it?

in starting the dog painting, i had gone with tracing, taking a piece of parchment paper, placing it over the source photo, and using a pencil to outline the salient forms, like so:

i then scrubbed the back with the pencil (in the future i'd use charcoal), placed the tracing over the canvas (which is roughly the same size as the photo), and retraced the lines. this left the image on the canvas so i should have less trouble with proportions & placement:

but i wasn't really happy with this - plus the city photo was a different size than the canvas i was going to use. so i decided to do gridding.

i've been avoiding gridding because i thought that i might get too caught up in putting in all the details, getting the painting photo-realistic, etc. but i felt unsure enough about my perspective skills to give it a try!

as a guarantee against trying for exact copying, i made this grid:

it's on a piece of lexan (or is it plexi-glass? or lucite?!) that i had around left-over from making a palette for a pochade box (i'll have to tell you about that one day!). i marked the lines, with the width of my ruler as the guide (rather than measuring exact inches, etc.). i then stood it up in front of the picture, displayed on the digital picture frame:
the photo measured 5 squares high & ~3.5 across - so i marked that many squares on the canvas (5x4, toned in gold & dry) - here's the first set of dots:

i then was able to sketch in the outline, using ultramarine blue:

in all, i'm really glad i did it this way! i was able to immediately see what detail (whole lots!) to leave out, and was able to use the gridlines as guidance only. and i'd have had such a hard time getting the right angle for the receding side of the building without the grid! it wasn't an exact copy - which was exactly what i wanted! also, i think that, because i didn't get so tangled up in trying to get the outlines acurate on my own, i was able to have more fun with it & paint more loosley - which i've been wanting to do!

here's the supplies i used:

the paints are: ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, veridian, cad yellow light, alizarin crimson, & titanium white. the brushes are: two flats (4 & 6 - for the bulk of the painting), my 0 sable filbert (for details), & a 4 fan brush (with i think artificial sable - it's soft, anyway! - for the clouds). the q-tip was for the front of the building - i didn't like the color i originally had it, so i wiped it away & started over - worked great, much better than trying to load new paint over old! the fan brush turned out to be just right for the clouds! i had wanted them to be somewhat more defined than in the manip, but still wispy & soft.

to do the colors - & i have to apologize here - i have no inbetween steps for the actual painting - it all went so fast! - i first mixed that pool of ultramarine blue & white that you can see on the bottom left of the palette for the basic sky color. once that was on, i added hints of straight cerulean in areas.

i then mixed some of the pool of blue into a lot of white for the clouds. this became, with a bit more blue in it, my atmosphere color as well. "atmosphere color" is what i call that color that i've determined is the color of light in the picture. it goes into every mix i make. in paintings where there is more atmospheric perspective, i put more "atmosphere color" the further back in the perspective of the painting i go.

the clouds lay in well with the fan brush - i had to be careful, tho, to stop myself adding more - & also to stop from trying to blend them into the sky! & i'm happy with the result! you can see how many details got left out, & where i chose to change some things in the rest of the painting, too.

for the palms, i made a darkish mix of atmosphere & veridian for the base color, then used straight veridian for shadows, & atmosphere plus a tad of veridian for the highlights. the building is, basically, atmosphere plus the alizarin & yellow. the concrete wall really came together when i added the sunlit highlight on the top edge, which really created a lot of the perspective in the painting overall as well!

and that's it! it went quickly, due to the gridding, & was lots of fun!

thanks for stopping by - take care till next time!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Computer Problems!

hi there!

well, something's up with my computer! for the last several days now, i haven't been able to tweet, load many parts of this page & other blogger pages, & other odds & ends . . . hoping this posts, at least, so you know i'm still around! my son the computer genius (why yes, i am proud of him!) is coming over today to install a new video card, do a software update, &, hopefully, figure out what's wrong!

if all goes well, i'll be able to post about what i've been doing painting-wise . . .

thanks for your patience - take care till next time!