February 29, 2012

Daily Painting -- Hammers of the World, Unite!

Hammers of the World, Unite! 
Still Life, Watercolor on Canvas
12 x 12"
 I did this daily painting to enter into one Dailypaintworks.com painting challenges.   The challenge was called, "You Know the Drill". The tried was to create a still-life using things that you found in your shop. I loved that idea because in my family I am the handy one.  I shop in home improvement stores like some women shop for shoes, so I had lots of "subjects" from which to choose.   When I spotted these hammers, the image of them in an arch in the strong light on our wooden floors popped into my head because I knew how much deep shadows would add to the image.  I quickly realized that my normal 10 x 8" format would not do it for this topics, so I chose a square, 12 x 12" format.

When I did the sketch for the piece, and noticed how the cup hook looked like a sickle, the title for the piece also popped into my head: Hammers of the World, Unite!  It appeals to my "reality with a twist" sensibilities.

A number of artists wrote me with questions about the process of doing watercolor on canvas, and their questions prompted me to experiment with the way I approached this piece.  For instance, a couple of people asked how I prepared the canvas to work; others asked about how I handled glazing (painting in layers) since paint lifts so much more easily from the gessoed surface of canvas than it does from the more-absorbent watercolor paper.

My first experiment involved playing with how I prepared the painting surface.  I normally don't do anything, but this time I used a Kirkland wet wipe on part of the surface to see how that later affected how well the watercolor stayed on the surface.  I noticed that while the wipe was great for lifting the watercolor sketch lines, where I used it sometimes did seem cause my watercolors to have a harder time grabbing the surface than normal.  Thus, in the future, I won't be routinely wiping down the surface with a wet wipe before starting to paint.

Another experiment I did when working on this piece dealt with glazing (creating layers) on the painted surface.  For that, I went to one of my the watercolor instruction books, Building Brilliant Watercolors by Judy Treman.  Judy creates beautiful, dramatic watercolors in a somewhat unusual way: she created an underpainting in purples before adding local color to her pieces. While doing a value underpainting is a classic technique in oils, it is not standard in watercolors where people need to worry about their colors getting muddied if their under-colors lift when glazes of other colors are placed on top of them.  Treman's works, however, don't have the problem because purple tends to be so staining. Thus, the layers of purple underpainting tend to stay put as she glazes the final colors over her underpainting.  Treman's "trick" for doing this involves not only the use of staining purples, but assuring the underpainting is dry throughly before she begins her final glazes.  The neat thing about the color is that after the final colors are glazed over her purple under paintings, the purple "disappears" -- but the values established by the purples remain.

When I finished my research, and got down to painting, I started out by doing what she suggested.  I created pools of purples of varying intensities and temperatures each in their own bowl, then I used them to create an underpainting for this piece.  However, I adjusted how I applied the underpainting colors because I realized that I the color's normal staining properties wouldn't make them stick more to a gessoed surface.  Thus, I tried out something I suggested to one of the people who had written me in response to a piece I wrote for  Empty Easel.  This woman wanted to know how to create glazes/layers in a watercolor on canvas.  I suggested to her that dipping one's brush in a little matte acrylic glaze (along with the water and the paint) might both help the under-layers of color be less vulnerable to lifting when other colors were worked on top of them without also interfering with ability of the later glazes of watercolor to adhere to the canvas.  I told her I'd experiment to see what I discovered.  This piece is the result.  I used my various purples (with matte acrylic graze) to create an underpainting.  I then grazed, and lifted, and glazed again and again over the underpainting until I got the image I wanted.  The intensity of the underpainting was maintained, so I'd say this experiment was a success.

 I'm entering the piece in the Challenge today, and it will be available in my Dailypaintworks Gallery for auction.  I'm going to make the starting bid $35 (instead of my normal $25 or $15) because it's a larger piece. I'd love to hear your comments, questions, suggestions.


  1. Like this piece, the perspective is great. What a wonderful Father's Day gift for someone!


I look forward to your thoughts and comments.