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.

February 27, 2012

Daily Painting: The Dark Side of Sweets

Dark Side of Sweets, watercolor on canvas,
10 x 8"  
This piece was done in response to a painting challenge on the Dailypaintworks.com website.  The challenge was to do a picture of something yummy that you might want to eat before you finished the work.  I loved the idea of that, but as a compulsive over-eater, sweets are something I've given up eating because I know they could trigger a bout of over eating sweets, and savories, or whatever was around.  People in my program warn against eating such things by reminding ourselves that for us, "One bite is too many, and 1000 is too few.  Thus, when I think of candy, etc., this dark side of enjoying them helps me not choose (no matter how yummy the sweet looks) to avoid that first dangerous bite.

That idea gave me the concept for the piece: presenting candy mostly cast in shadow, so their "dark side" was featured.

I'm also including this piece in this week's auction on in my Gallery on the  Website.  Check out my Gallery, and bid on it if you want to.   I'd love to hear your feedback on this piece.

Oops -- about comments & responses

I am still learning how to blog, and I want to apologize if it looked as if I wasn't responding to the comments posted.  They can forwarded to my email, and I'd been responding to them, and assumed that my response would automatically get posted on my blog.  WRONG.

Fortunately, one of my sisters pointed out gently that I hadn't been seeming to respond to comments, and that helped me realize what was going on.  (Thank you, again, my sweet sis.)

So, I have found and reposted my responses.

February 22, 2012

"Daily Painting" 5 -- Lovey Dovey

Lovey Dovey
Watercolor on Canvas
10 x 8"
As you can probably tell, I painted this little still-life from life on the run-up to Valentine's Day.  It contains the bag I used to give my husband his little Valentine's gift.  A heart shaped container that housed a previous year's gift and a wonderful, ceramic craftsman-style trivet given to us by friends one Christmas (I think because the think of us as love birds.) I placed them all on a tablecloth we have in our kitchen because the old-fashioned lightness of the design was consistent with this old-fashioned homage to V day.
Hope you enjoy.

Even though it's not Valentines anymore, I'm including it in the auction this week on my Gallery on the Daily PaintWorks Website.  Check out the Gallery, and bid on it if you want to.   I'd love to hear your feedback, and if you want, I can do a tutorial on using these watercolor crayons to create paintings.

"Daily" Painting 4 -- Mmm ... Spicy!

Mmm ... Spicy
Watercolor on canvas
10 x 8"
This little still-life plays with how to create the feeling of depth in the picture plane when there in very little physical distance.  I chose the topic when thinking about our niece-in-law's mother. Aparna's mom, Kappu, is a great cook of Indian food and a wonderfully generous hostess.  Whenever we visit them in Toronto, we can always count Kappu serving us great food, no matter how busy she is.  She knew I also enjoy cooking for others, so she asked me if I cooked much Indian food.  I had to admit that I didn't know how to do that.

In response,  she made up a beautiful-designed packet of individually wrapped spices typically used in Indian cooking. I was told that she hoped it would inspire me to have the courage to try some Indian dishes.  They did, but I found the look of her spice grouping so appealing that I could never really bring myself to use the actual spices she gave me.  Instead I just move them from one container to the next, so I can look at them and think of my creative, lovely Canadian/ Indian friend.

I chose to place my spicy still life on wonderful table runner I have because the cloth feels exotic and its colors compliment the spices.  I also liked the  challenge playing with how not to have the complicated design of the cloth totally overwhelm the main subject of the piece.

I'm also including this piece in this week's auction on in my Gallery on the Daily PaintWorks Website.  Check out my Gallery, and bid on it if you want to.   I'd love to hear your feedback on this piece.

February 21, 2012

"Daily" Painting 3 -- Loneliness of a Whiny Goose

Loneliness of a Whiny Goose
watercolor on canvas
10 x 8"
This small painting is a type of a watercolor on canvas, but I used artist grade watercolor crayons to paint him.  I saw him on a trip we took to Charlestown, MD, on the Delmarva peninsula.  He's a Toulouse goose. I'm very fond of this type of geese because their slightly tubby shape and white underside remind me of toddlers in diapers.  That day, this guy's normal crew (OK flock) weren't with him, and the way he was squalking for attention and snacks so reminded me a whiny 2 year old that I knew I'd have to paint him some day. It still makes me smile when I see this image and I think of that day -- and that goose.

I used Caran D'Arche Neocolor II Aquarelle Artists Colors on this piece.  They are artist-quality watercolor crayons from Switzerland.  Finding these crayons was serendipitous.  My sister Nancy (a hand-crafted jewelry maker) was scheduled visit us when we were in Ireland last year.  Since she and I spend time making jewelry when Arny and I visit her, I had offered to show her oil painting when she visited me. She told me that she instead wanted us to work with this type of watercolor crayons.

Nancy had seen some jewelry pieces that incorporated designs with watercolor crayons and was intrigued by them for her own art. I, however, had never used watercolor crayons, didn't have them, and didn't know how to find them in Ireland.  But, being a good sister and hostess, I spent a long time trying to find them, and going on websites to learn about how to use them.  Unfortunately, we didn't work on them together because she didn't come, but it wasn't a waste because these crayons are a great  add-on to my artistic toolbox.

These watercolor crayons can be used alone or with other watercolors, acrylics, and/or ink or markers. A wet brush turns a few swipes of a crayon into a color wash.  Colors can be placed to create a varied,  layered effect.  They can be applied in a more impasto fashion, and they can even scraped to create more effects.  Like with other watercolors on canvas, paintings made with watercolor crayons also need to be sprayed with  clear acrylic to preserve and protect them.

I'm including my whiny little guy in an auction on in my Gallery on the Daily PaintWorks Website.  Check out my Gallery, and bid on it if you want to.   I'd love to hear your feedback, and if you want, I can do a tutorial on using these watercolor crayons to create paintings.

February 15, 2012

The Advantages of Producing Large Watercolors on Canvas

Catching the Post-Season Sun -- watercolor on canvas, 28 x 40.5" 
A few days ago, I said that I'd give some examples of large works that could be produced using watercolor on canvas.

Although it is possible to produce large watercolors on paper, I've always found that there are a few problems that arise when working on too large a scale that have to do with the nature of paper itself.  First, paper of any kind is relatively soft, so if you reach over it when working, you run the risk of marring the it in a way that isn't easy to take back.  For instance, if you push down too hard when you are drawing, lifting color, or erasing, from then on, you have created a spot that will grab on to more pigment than the flat areas (because water flows to the lowest point) -- whether you want that effect or not.  And, since you tend to need to work essentially flat  when doing any kind of wash or wet-in-wet work in watercolor (unless you are really fond of the drips of Jackson Pollock) it's hard for someone of my height (5'5+") to NOT lean over a piece that is that large while painting.

Comrades in Fishing -- watercolor on canvas, 32.5 x 42.5"

Another advantage of using canvas as a painting surface for a large watercolor is how much easier it is to frame the finished pieces.  Watercolor paper is absorbent, soft, and thin and the paper tends to bleach in the sun.  Thus regular watercolors need to be framed under glass or "acrylic glass" to protect the paper from harm, and the paint from water and sun.  You also have figure out some way to keep the paper away from the "glass", as well as to provide a subsurface (like foam board of some sort) to fit under your watercolor paper.  All of those things add significant cost and weight to the final piece.
The Gourmet Capital of Ireland -- watercolor on canvas, 24 x 36

     However, when you paint on a properly-prepared surface (with acrylic gesso, not oil-based gesso) and then later coat the finished piece with a clear acrylic spray, framing becomes much easier.   You can present your watercolor as you would an oil painting: as is or with a frame (as I've done with both Catching the Post-Season Sun and The Gourmet Capital of Ireland) or unframed with a prepared edge (as I did with Comrades in Fishing.)

In the next week, I'll update my website with more information about these pieces for those who are interested in finding out more about them.   If you have any questions or comments about this blog, or the pieces, I'll be happy to hear from you.

February 1, 2012

#2 Daily Painting: Evie ... now Evelyn, etc.

Evie ... now Evelyn -- 8 x 10" watercolor on canvas
This is my second daily painting.  It's also an 8 x 10" watercolor on canvas, and is called Evie ... now Evelyn.

Although  I now normally paint oils, I'm starting out doing watercolors for my daily paintings because I exclusively painted in watercolor for years, and I miss the vibrancy that medium offers as the surface shines through the layers of largely transparent colors.  I'm doing the watercolors on canvas, because painting on primed canvas offers a number of benefits over painting on paper.   For instance,  the steadiness of the substrate (canvas vs. paper), they don't have to be framed under glass to be protected from moisture and wear. Also, since my watercolors on canvas are coated with clear, gloss, acrylic spray -- which has UV-protective characteristics -- the image isn't as prone the fade as old-style watercolors when displayed in a sunny place.  That said, I still feel it still is probably a good idea to not hang one of these paintings in a place where they will be in direct afternoon sun for long periods of time.

For the 17 plus years, I  exclusively on watercolor, however, I only painted on paper, because no one believed it was impossible to paint on canvas.  Then, Frederix developed an archival "watercolor canvas," and artists starting experimenting with it.  I learned about the technique while checking out my local art association's (the Lancaster County Association of Art) class catalog, and I jumped at the opportunity to learn the technique.  It was taught by a great teacher, named  Karen Frattali.  I so loved doing it that I quickly produced a number of really interesting large works in it.  However, my exploration of watercolor on canvas was interrupted last year for a silly-seeming reason. We spent the academic year in Ireland (my husband was on sabbatical there),  I couldn't find the clear coat acrylic paint I needed at my local DIY store.  Thus, I decided to go back to painting exclusively in oils until I got home.  I'm so grateful that someone encouraged me to do this daily painting project for myself, because it's so much easier to experiment when working on small pieces.

The topic of today's painting is dear to my heart.  She's my niece by marriage.  The image is from a photo her parents took around 30 years ago when they were on sabbatical in France.  When they sent the photo to us, we immediately framed it - but unfortunately directly under glass.  I so loved the image that we periodically would take it out and display it again for a while (despite the fact that she hadn't looked that way in years.)  A few years ago we got some great old photos of my husbands family, so  I decided to take out that picture, but re-frame it to go with the other photos we got. To my horror, moisture had welded the photo to the glass, so removing it to re-frame it was no longer possible.  My niece, who  now has two little girls of her own, saw it and  asked me to send her a copy of it, but because I couldn't remove it from the frame, I had to tell her "no," and  I felt bad.  Thus, it is not surprising that when  I decided to do this daily painting project, one of the first images I wanted to paint was this one.  I call it Evie ... now Evelyn because at around the time this picture was taken, my niece decided that she was too big a girl to go by the name of Evie, but that name still holds a place in my heart since that's what we called her when I first met and came love her.

If people are interested, tell me and I'll post some of the large watercolors on canvas I've done so you can get a better idea of what big works in this media can look like.  Also, I'm thinking of doing painting tutorial(s)/tip(s) on watercolor on canvas -- comments/questions?