Paintings in Progress…For My Sister, Nancy

My wonderful sister, Nancy, tells me that she enjoys seeing sequences of my paintings in progress. Several other people have mentioned this to me, too. It kind of surprises me, maybe because when I’m in the process it’s quite a lot of hard work and often I find it hard to believe I’ve made any progress after a day of painting. I guess what I see is the hard work and what others see is the progress? At any rate, I always intend to document my work as I go along. Partly to post here. Also in the hope that I’ll find some sort of formula for getting from Point A to Point B, eliminating the struggle in between. But then I’d probably get bored!

58 x 80 inch large acrylic painting in progress

Above is a painting I’ve been working on for several months. I did start out documenting it daily, and posted a few photos several blog posts previous to this one. Then I got involved in painting and totally forgot to take pictures. This painting is 2 canvases bolted together. The total size is 58″ x 80″. Unbolted, it will fit into our Element, to be transported to shows. I’m finding it’s an aerobic workout to cover the surface of this one.

 

Try # 4 on this canvas, the other 3 are underneath

This little painting has been a real big pain in the neck. At 14 x 28″ if I charged what I’ve gone through on this one, it would cost a million dollars. It started out as a completely different painting. I decided I didn’t like the image—not the color, not the design, not anything. So I morphed it into a longer view of the same place. I worked and worked and worked. Hated that iteration, too. So I sanded off a lot of the paint, took what was left and created what you see above. Not only a different view but from an entirely different state! The initial painting was from Canyon de Chelley on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and what you see here is from Zion National Park in Utah! So far so good I think. We’ll see if it cooperates and gets itself done.

 

24 x 24 inch start of rock & water ptg

I’ve barely worked on this one. I like what’s here, which is also a problem.  If I hate what I’ve done, then I feel free to mess with it because it’s no big loss. If I like it then it’s hard to continue for fear that I’ll goof up what I like about it. The classic lose-lose proposition. Soon I’ll take the plunge and get to back to work on this one. But not today…

Role Reversal—the WEGOs Teach Me About Watercolor Using the New Golden QoR Watercolors

Some time ago, I received a package from Golden Artist Colors. It contained a sampling of their brand new QoR (pronounced Core) watercolors. All of the Golden Artist Educators and Golden Working Artists were asked to experiment with QoR and then give feedback on how it performed and how it compared to other watercolor brands.

I sat on the goods for quite awhile since my watercolor experience is almost non-existent and I wasn’t sure how to proceed. The only watercolors I had ever used were inexpensive cake watercolors when I taught elementary school art. And then only to help the children create their own fabulous artwork. I myself had little luck using the watercolors. I figured right off that this wouldn’t count as a legitimate comparison to QoR.

I went to the library and picked up several books on the subject but just couldn’t manage to get started.

Then a flash of brilliance hit my brain. I thought to myself, “I’ll call on the WEGOs”.  And so I did.

WEGO stands for Watercolor Exploration Group of Oracle. The WEGOs are a remarkable group of seven women who have gotten together every Wednesday afternoon for the last 6+ years (to be precise, their journey started on May 28, 2008 but who’s counting) to create with watercolor. Over the years, the group has accumulated a vast amount of knowledge and experience with the medium. They assign themselves a project/experiment every week to be completed for the next meeting. They attend workshops in the Tucson area and around the country as individuals or in groups. Then they teach each other what they learned. Most remarkable of all is that they remain close friends, supporting each other in their art and personal lives. They say they’re not competitive with each other at all. Amazing!

The WEGOs were kind enough to come to my studio on a Wednesday afternoon several weeks ago. Their task—to experiment with the QoR, to compare it to the other watercolors they use, and to give me feedback. Plus have fun of course. And as a big bonus, I would be able to observe and learn and do some experimenting myself.

For starters I had no clue what to do with tubes of watercolor. My first surprise is that this group (as well as many other watercolorists) doesn’t use the watercolors straight out of the tube. Instead, they use palettes with dividers in which the tube colors are allowed to dry, each in their own separate little space. Each time they’re used they are moistened with water. When the painting session is over, the watercolors dry and are packed away ready to be used next time. Voila!

In order to get set up, Nyla Butler came over a few days before the get together with a supply of styrofoam plates she’d subdivided into sections using silicone to create a barrier between each section. Nyla and I had a mini-party applying a blob of each QoR color into its’ own little section on enough plates for each of the participants.

 

Two days later, the watercolor blobs had dried. The WEGOs arrived at my studio. Above, you can see them poised and ready to jump into their task.

 

Each person took a different approach to their experiments. Above is a chart comparing QoR to several other brands of the same color. And you can see the nifty plate with with its silicone barriers.

 

Since the group uses a variety of different brands of watercolors, there was a lot of chart making and comparing going on. On the left is a previously made chart and on the right is a new chart including the QoR watercolors.

 

And here is another participant’s chart.

 

Washes and charts.

 

Working away…

 

Here’s a chart in progress with a sketch of the pears included. Lovely isn’t it!

 

More experimenting.

 

Working from a magazine illustration.

 

 

The WEGOs took a well deserved break to refuel. Above is my famous (in Oracle) guacamole with chips, apples straight off our tree and last but not least further down the table and not visible here are homemade cookies.

 

Back to work. Having fun.

 

Above, Jill is concentrating on pears, experimenting with washes and lifting the paint.

 

A  landscape in progress.

 

I thought this was an interesting way to experiment with the colors. Each band is being build up with layers using a variety of techniques.

 

The pears again.

 

Apples. The texture is the result of QoR Watercolor Ground. The ground can be applied to all kinds of papers and a variety of other materials, such as canvas, to create an absorbent surface suitable for watercolor. Before the workshop I coated some big sheets of Arches 88 paper with 2 coats of QoR watercolor ground. Arches 88 is a smooth, heavy printmaking paper. You can see the texture created by using a coarse bristle brush, applying a coat on direction, letting it dry and then applying a second coat going the other direction. Lots of interesting possibilities for experimentation with this stuff.

 

Pears.

 

More pears.

 

Experiments using Yupo.

 

Poppies in progress.

 

 

 

At the end of the afternoon, everyone commented on their reactions to QoR. There was a lot of enthusiasm. The group felt that the intensity of the QoR colors was remarkable. They liked the liftability as well as the blending capabilities. There were lots more specific observations, too.

So there you have it. A great afternoon with a great group. Many thanks to the WEGOs. And to Golden, of course.

I don’t think I’m on track to becoming a watercolorist, but I do think I’m going to have fun experimenting. And I’m going to bring QoR along next time I travel—so portable, such beautiful colors—maybe I’ll finally get around to creating a travel journal!

 

 

 

32 Ounces of Golden Light Molding Paste Later…

The big 32 oz. jar of Light Molding Paste is gone, gone, gone already. This size jar will ordinarily last for a number of smaller pieces. A hidden cost of painting large is suddenly crystal clear to me—massive increase in the use of art supplies. Luckily, I have a gallon of Light Molding Paste on order and hopefully it’ll arrive on the scene soon. Meanwhile I’ll have to live without it as I motor on with my jumbo-for-me painting.

I’m trying to keep on top of photographing the painting regularly, but am finding that daily is too often. I work hard for hours and hours but the changes are probably so small that they’re only apparent to me. And sometimes I step back after a day of painting and wonder what I’ve actually accomplished.

Below are a series of photos taken over the course of the past week or so from about June 15 through June 25:

 

 

 

It’s a bit more difficult to see the progress from the 3rd to the 4th photo, but if you look closely at the whiter areas, you’ll see what I was doing (maybe). It took a lot of moving things back and forth and adjusting directions and colors but the changes aren’t as drastic as I thought when I was actually painting.

It’s always at about this stage that I can convince myself that there’s not all that much left to be done. Experience tells me that that’s grossly optimistic—it’s more likely that I’ll be working away on this painting for weeks if not months and months.

 

Entering New Territory—A Very Large Canvas (at least for me)

I decided it was time for a new challenge. Previously, the largest canvas I’d ever painted was 48″ x 60″. That’s fairly large and I’ve done several. I’m not sure what the definition of a large painting is in the official art world, but I don’t think 48″ x 60″ qualifies. What you see below are 2 canvases, each 58″ x 40″, bolted together to form a 58″ x 80″ painting surface. By making a larger canvas from 2 smaller ones, they can be separated for ease in shipping, they’ll fit in the car for transporting to shows and they’ll also be easier to store.

I had Fred Soto of Fred’s Custom Stretching in Tucson stretch the canvases for me. This was another first, as I ordinarily do the stretching myself. He did a beautiful job, perfectly stretched with lots of bracing in the back and the bolt holes in the right places.

I did the canvas prepping. First I used a coat of GAC 100, which is a Golden product that seals the canvas and prevents support induced discoloration. On top of that I applied 2 coats of Golden Gesso.

The canvas(es) are so large I needed Jim’s help to get them bolted together and hoisted up on the wall easel.

All set and ready to go. There they sat for several days. Creating a painting on such a large surface appears to be a daunting task and I was pretty intimidated at the prospect.

I looked through my files of reference photographs, thinking, thinking, thinking. I cropped and printed a bunch. Eliminated down to a handful. Taped them up on the canvas one by one and sat and stared at each one. Finally I made my pick and took the plunge.

Well, this was certainly a wimpy start. If you look closely, you’ll see some pale pinkish marks. Just trying to get a sense of the motion and direction of the water. And to get something, anything to break the vast white surface.

The next day, I got a bit braver. I can tell you that covering the whole area takes both a lot of time and a lot of paint. I mixed the colors with generous dollops of Golden Light Molding Paste, which both extends the paint and can be used to create textures, which I did. I love the consistency and feel of this stuff. It’s a good thing I just ordered a gallon from Golden, as it took almost 32 ounces of Light Molding Paste just to get a thin coat on the painting.

On another note, here are the official photographs of 3 new paintings. If you check back to previous blog posts, you can see the progression to the finished paintings.

Floating World    Acrylic on canvas       24″ x 56″


Interval     Acrylic on canvas    40″ x 15″

Vision in Purple     Acrylic on panel            30″ x 30″

Are We There Yet? The Vision in Purple Painting May Finally Be Done…

I’ve lost track of how long I’ve been working on the Vision in Purple aka the Lady in Purple painting. At least three months, I think. At any rate, she’s gone through many changes, causing some despair on my part, as I’ve gotten stuck on multiple occasions. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many layers of paint and how many various Golden acrylic pastes, gels and grits are included in this painting.

There were several times when I was tempted to apply the screwdriver to remove the staples and toss the canvas into the garbage (saving the stretcher bars for reuse). Of course all of this is just part of the process—sometimes frustrating and painful not to mention laborious. Other times, paintings just seem to materialize with little fuss. And I’m never sure when I start out which it will be.

Here she is:

Vision in Purple, Acrylic on Canvas, 30" x 30"

Vision in Purple, Acrylic on Canvas, 30″ x 30″

I have her hanging next to the paintings I’m currently working on. And it seems every day I see some little thing that I need to fix. I know she’ll be completely done when Jim photographs her. At that point I don’t dare make any changes as he doesn’t appreciate having to continually re-photograph “finished” work.

Here’s what’s happening on the easel:

Day one, Canyon de Chelley acrylic painting

I just started this one yesterday. All paints mixed with Light Molding Paste and applied with palette knife.

 

In progress, panoramic acrylic painting

I’ve been working on this one for awhile. If you’re curious you can go back a few blog posts to see the progress.

 

Lyman Lake reflections acrylic painting

Is it possible that this one is done? I’m trying to figure out what I need to do next. Which might mean that it’s ready to be photographed. I’ll let it molder on the easel for a few days just in case. There are previous posts showing progress on this painting, too.

 

 

 

My Youngest Collector

The Oracle Artist Open Studio Tour happened several weekends ago on April 12 & 13. This was our fifth year of participation in the tour.

We had perfect weather and crowds of people. I had many interesting conversations—we get lots of winter visitors who have fascinating backgrounds. People were in great spirits and were very complimentary about both Jim’s and my work.

Here are a few shots of the way in which we displayed our work in my studio. What you don’t see is the massive amount of stuff that I moved out of my studio and into the adjacent garage as well as the cleaning that went on in order to make the space look like this.

An overview of a section of my studio, with Jim’s cloud photographs and a few of my paintings on the right wall. We both had cards as well as books on display. Of course everything was available for purchase.

 

A view of a few of my paintings

A few of my Reflection in the Desert paintings.

 

Jim's cloud photographs

Jim’s display of a group of his cloud photographs (unframed, in the center) plus two of his framed landscape photographs.

 

Visitors during the Oracle Open Studio Tour, 2014

Jim is on the right, talking to a visitor interested in the US Route 89 project. People in the background are looking at cards and books. There were times when the studio was full of people, but of course, I was too busy to take photos then.

 

Oracle Artist Studio Tour, my youngest collector

And here’s a shot of my youngest collector. Her grandparents purchased a small painting for her. Isn’t she gorgeous (and so is her Mom). She’s six months old. How wonderful is that?

 

 

 

 

Sometimes Going Forward Means Going Backwards First (I Hope)

My mysterious lady in purple painting has mysteriously taken a different direction. For the last few days, I’ve been working away making subtle changes. Suddenly yesterday afternoon after working ferociously for hours, low & behold, I was looking at a totally different painting.

I added coarse molding paste to the floor in the foreground over the top of what was there. I reduced the texture effect in the area around the woman by adding matte gel medium via palette knife. Then I added light molding paste with titan buff and a bit of yellow (don’t ask me which) and scraped it over the top of the dried matte medium. I got into adding iridescent stainless steel (coarse) fluid here and there.

I completely changed the problematical vertical wall edge on the far right. Still problematical? I don’t have a clue. I added a sculpture stand on the left side of the painting. Oh, I got rid of the sculptures previously on top of the other two sculpture stands.

What in the world did I do? Am I worried? Am I discouraged? Anyone in their right mind would be. But actually, this is what I love about painting. It’s the challenge. And the flexibility of the materials. No rules. At this point what do I have to lose beside days and days of work?

Having all kinds of materials on hand and knowing what they do makes it really fun. I feel like a car mechanic Or maybe like a surgeon, with all the right tools at my disposal. It’s just a matter of figuring which one to use where.

One bonus of teaching workshops is all the learning I get to do. I’ve done a lot of experimenting with gels, pastes & grits, some of which I had used in the past but many are new to me. I experiment when I’m making samples for my classes. That experimenting pays off when I’m working on an actual painting. I have so many more options than I did before I took the Golden Artist Educator program workshop last Fall. With thanks again to my Golden Acrylic Color company friends.

Now let’s see how I use all this to resolve this painting.

Lady in purple, acrylic painting on canvas

Here she is after all the dramatic changes yesterday.

To be polite and helpful, I should probably show the previous sequence of photos of this painting. Alas, I can’t seem to locate them. But if you’re interested you can check back to previous posts to compare.

Three Completed Paintings and Three On the Easel

I’ve been told by a number of people that they enjoy seeing my paintings in progress. So here goes:

The following are my latest completed paintings. Thanks, Jim, for your care in making sure the photographs of my paintings are as true to life as they can possibly be.

If you’d like to take a look at previous blog posts you’ll see snapshots of these paintings at various stages of progress.

Water Shimmer, acrylic painting on panel, 30" x 30"

Water Shimmer, acrylic on panel, 30″ x 30″

 

Once They Were Sunflowers, Acrylic on panel, 12" x 12"

Once They Were Sunflowers, acrylic on panel, 12″ x 12″

 

Where Have All the Sunflowers Gone?

Where Have All the Sunflowers Gone?, acrylic on panel, 12″ x 12″

It’s odd to see paintings on the screen, because the size is deceptive. In this case the flower paintings are quite small compared to Water Shimmer, which is much larger in real life. But of course here they appear as the same size.

And now on to paintings in progress. The first two are pieces I’ve also shown in previous blog posts. What you’ll see below are snapshots of  the paintings on March 11 and then again on March 12, to give an idea of the day to day progress. The third set of photos are of a new painting on its first and second day of life.

 

Here we are with the mysterious woman at the Phoenix Art Museum. This snapshot was taken after working on her on Tuesday.

 

And here she is on Wednesday. You’d need to look closely to see any changes. At this stage progress is slow. Some days I take one step forward and two steps backwards. Right now I’m working on getting the area on the left to read as a window, something of a tricky proposition. I’ve been adding multiple thin layers of matte medium to this area with additional paint sandwiched in between. I plan to eventually add a final layer of gloss medium to make the window shiny. Maybe.

 

This water reflection painting has also appeared in previous posts. Here it is on Tuesday.

 

And on Wednesday. I didn’t realize how much I’d lightened up the painting, especially at the bottom. What will happen next is a mystery to me!

 

And a brand new painting, after the first day.

 

Big changes here. This is after the second day of work. Paintings nearly always progress quickly for me in their beginning stages, It’s the middle stages that go on and on seemingly forever.

So there you have it.

Layers & More Layers Workshop with Lots of Photos

Usually when I teach a workshop, I get so involved that I forget all about taking photos. For the recent Layers & More Layers workshop I made a concerted effort to try to record the way in which the tables were set up before the workshop, the information pinned to the wall, the work in progress and the participants. Admittedly, the photos are not so hot, but I hope they give a sense of the buzz of excitement and the creativity that went on during this two-day workshop.

The tables are set up with supplies, just waiting for students to arrive.

Included on each table are: a bucket of water, a container with brushes & palette knives, scissors, a sharpie, and a pencil,  5 prepared panels, paper towels, empty 2 oz cups and lids, a palette, a plate to use for piles of paint colors, a spray bottle and last but not least, a folder full of information and prepared surfaces.

Information on the wall

Here is some of the information I’ve put on the wall

 

Supplies are laid out by category for student use

 

The group is putting gels, pastes & paints on their palettes, getting ready to start experimenting

 

I can always tell people are working hard by the state of the tables. Refer back to the first photo to see the change!

On the drying table—skins, surfaces with pastes, tar gel decals on the left side

You probably aren’t familiar with what acrylic skins are. Well, it’s a bit hard to describe, but I’ll try. First you spread an even coat of gloss gel medium across a piece of HDPE plastic. Let it dry. Paint on top leaving open areas. Let dry. Next comes the exciting part—you can peel the whole thing off like a big piece of skin and then apply it to a painting or collage with gloss gel. If you only like part of the skin or you want to use parts for different projects, you can cut it apart with a regular pair of scissors.

More things drying. On the upper left is a chart prepared by one of the students showing some of the properties of gloss gel and matte gel mediums. More skins. The round items are tar gel decals. They are like the skins, only thicker. In the front middle and just behind are two gel transfers in the works. They are drying (what you see is the back). When the gel is dry, you wet the back and then rub off the paper, leaving the image from the other side. Hard to describe, but magical when it works. On the lower right is the start of a painting with two layers so far. The blue and green were applied first. The red and gold lays on top, creating a new layer—this was an acrylic skin.

Below are a series of in-progress paintings from this 2-day class. The intention was to have students leave with a good understanding of the materials, how to use layering and to have 4 panels started.  I hope I’ll have a chance to see the finished products at some point!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite a bit more didn’t get photographed, but you get the idea. Pretty impressive for 2 afternoons of intensive work!

Many thanks to Golden Artist Colors for including me in their Golden Artist Educator program, Mary Beth Shaw (aka Stencil Girl) for the great tree branch stencil, to Patti Brady for teaching me so much neat stuff during the Golden training in New Orleans last fall, to Patti for her book Rethinking Acrylic and for Nancy Reyner for her books, especially Acrylic Innovation and her newest, Acrylic Illumination. I’m amazed that every time I need information or am looking for new ideas or inspiration, I keep finding it in one of these books!

Gone AWOL but Back Now With Three New Paintings in Progress

Alas, how did it get to be mid-February already? There’s a lot of confusion in the world at the moment, what with the extremely odd weather all over, and the confusion has gotten into my brain as well, I guess. Our apple trees have been blooming for weeks and yes, lucky us. But woe is the tree that blooms 3 months early and then gets hit with freezing rain and snow.

At any rate, now that I’m getting back into my routine after multiple interruptions, I can share snapshots of a few new and in-progress paintings. Yes, despite many and various events I did manage to make time to work on my painting.

Square water reflection painting '14

 

If you’re curious about how this one started, there’s a snapshot of the start of this painting and then another of the painting roughly in the middle in the past two blog posts. Here I’m nearing the finish line. At least I think I am. I’ve done a bit of experimenting with iridescent and interference paints, Golden acrylics of course. It’s a bit scary, but I think the small amounts that I’ve used are just enough to make the painting shimmer in a water-like way without overdoing it. Even areas where the interference paint got covered up still seem like there’s some shimmer coming through. I’m not sure if that’s my imagination or not. It’s probably too subtle to see in this photo.

Lady in purple at the Phoenix Art Museum

 

It’s pretty early in the game on this one. A vision of a lovely woman dressed in purple at the Phoenix Art Museum caught my eye several months ago. I took a few photos and then finally stretched a canvas and started on this painting a couple weeks ago. I’m adding layers of matte medium to the left side, which is a view out a window into the sculpture garden. Eventually after multiple layers of matte medium in between painted details, I plan to cover this area with a gloss medium so that (hopefully) it’ll appear like a window. I’ve used both coarse and fine pumice gel mixed with matte medium in the background to simulate the texture of the walls in the museum, painting layers of color over the pumice gels. By the way, this painting is part of my “Nooks & Crannies” series, which is ongoing but has been neglected for awhile. See more on my gallery page.

Vertical water reflection painting

This vertical water reflection painting is in its infancy. I had a hankering to work on a vertical painting, bought the stretcher bars, stretched the canvas and searched my files of snapshots until I found one that had the colors and the feeling I was looking for. So far this one is fun. But I haven’t made it to the hard part yet!