A Little Easy Texture

Sometimes I just like to rub my hands over a painting to feel the bumps and lumps and grit of the acrylic texture. It makes me happy; it makes the surface mine; it shows my process.

The painting above is a small, 12×12″ canvas with lots of texture. I wanted to create a landscape minimal elements but with the look and feel of nature. The sky was painted; the mid ground forms were collaged using acrylic skins (a future blog post) and the foreground was created with fiber paste.

I spread Golden’s fiber paste over the bottom half of the canvas; let it dry, then painted the absorbent surface. With a drybrush of blue on top of the painted texture, there’s subtle tonal and value shifts and a more pronounced textured look.

The videos  below show my process of working with fiber paste. The videos are only a few seconds long just so you get a feel for the application of the medium.

Unlike the painting above, where I applied the paste directly to the canvas, this series of videos shows me creating a fiber skin that I will collage onto a future painting.

As the video shows, I use acetate sheets for the process.

A cute product shot!

Applying the paste to the acetate sheet. Plastics sheets and bags will also work for this. And if you spread out the paste evenly and smoothly you can create something that looks like a sheet of rough watercolor paper. By the way, fiber paste is made with mineral fibers rather than paper or material fibers. It makes the medium more archival.

Odd little photo, but it shows me using a razor blade scraper to lift the dried fiber paste off the acetate sheet. You need to let the freshly applied paste dry overnight before removing from the acetate.

This is a three minute video that shows ripped and torn pieces of dried fiber paste being collaged to the painting surface. And you’ll notice I’m demonstrating upside down. That’s a skill!! I use soft gel medium to apply the fiber sections. Any of the gels can be used as a glue for collaging. The heavier the gel viscosity, the heavier the collage material can be. Notice I use a piece of waxed paper to press down on the glued fiber. By placing a clean piece of waxed paper each time over the fiber surface, and by pressing firmly and evenly without moving the waxed paper, you prevent gel medium from overlapping the fiber paste. If gel medium does cover the paste in sections, those sections won’t be as absorbent as the uncovered fiber paste. I wiped up excess gel with a paper towel.

Once the gel has dried and the fiber paste piece is firmly glued, paint the surface. You can also mix paint with the wet fiber paste before spreading and drying the paste. Heavy body or liquid paints can be used.

In this video, I drybrush blue paint over the surface creating a look similar to the one in the painting at the top of this post. The paint clings to the high spots of the texture creating depth and often contrast and vibrancy.

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Furniture Becomes Canvas

Cabinet

It pays to do a good cleanout once in a while. Deep in the rafters of my garage I found a few pieces of small, unpainted wood furniture I've picked up at various decorative painting shows across Canada and the U.S.

I like the unpainted furniture – I can jump right in with a ground and paint. No need to treat or repair an existing surface like most of the wood pieces I pick up at flea markets. And there's a bit of physicality in painting 3D pieces – sometimes you lie on the floor, sometimes you paint upside down, it's a change from painting on canvas at an easel.

This piece, a contemporary cabinet about 40 inches tall, was ready to go and just begged for a whimsical treatment. Working with acrylic paint, collage, graphite and charcoal, I aimed for a loose look of line and shape.

The background colors are layers of acrylic paint sandwiched between layers of gloss gel medium. I worked with liquid acrylics, mostly transparent and alternated those layers with some layers of gel medium and some of opaque colors (transparents mixed with white gesso). I find this layering process exciting – I never know what I'll end up with. And I stop only when I think I need to stop.

In the 90s I spent much of my time creating block prints and screen prints. I kept the rejects…just in case. And now I'm making use of them for collage. The flowers in this piece are torn sections from water-based screen prints. I did a rough pencil sketch first to determine shape placement then glued all the paper bits down with gloss gel medium. I also applied another layer of gloss gel on top of the glued-down pieces. I believe in over-kill.

Next step was to slather a thin layer of Tri-Art Dry Media Ground over the entire cabinet making the surface gritty and receptive to graphite and charcoal. I scooped up a bit of the ground, plopped it onto the surface, then spread the stuff thinly using an old credit card or hotel room key. It's important to keep the medium thin 'cause it leans towards opacity.

Once the medium dried, I went to work with graphite and charcoal. The dark bars at the top of the cabinet are graphite. I own many rolls of tape of varying widths and I use that tape to create random "fences". Using graphite on dry media ground isn't the same as using graphite on paper. The gritty ground chews up the graphite and, while you can get some variations of value, most of the graphite grades end up looking like similar values and intensities. I blend the graphite/charcoal using shop towels.

Now here's the important part. The surface needs to be sealed before varnishing or the graphite/charcoal will bleed. You can use a spray fixative, but, since I work in a small somewhat air-tight studio, I prefer to use gel medium as a sealer. Scoop the gloss gel medium onto the surface gently, then, with deliberate motions, spread out the gel with your palette knife. This step requires patience to avoid smudging the graphite but it works well.

Once the gel has dried, the piece is ready to be varnished. My standard varnish, the one I'm successful with,  is Liquitex Matte Acrylic Varnish. Can't vouch for any other type of varnish.

I'm calling this piece finished (but just don't look inside the drawers).

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A Diversion

Post-it-Note-book-1On a good day, I go into the studio, pick up a brush and some paint and complete a few quick studies. This turns my key, gets me started for the day. And from there, I move to working on the larger paintings that sit around my studio waiting for completion.

But some days I finish the studies and I’m stalled. So on those days I look for a diversion. Something physical where I work with both hands and make a mess. Here’s one of those diversions. It’s a sketchbook. I cut the inside papers; cut the book board for the outside covers; dyed the fabric, glued the fabric to the book boards; stamped, cut and applied fabric and paper; added some paint; added some silk; created a flyleaf; sewed signatures and secured the whole thing together.

But then I couldn’t stop so I made a cover for my Post-It Notes. Who makes a cover for Post-It Notes?? This cover is wrapped with painted fabric, glued fabric scraps, bits of paint and some stamping. Always know where my Post-It Notes are now!

 

Post-it Note book Post-it-Note-book-inside

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A Little Bit of Paper, a Little Bit of Paint

GourdFound four unopened boxes of gourds in the garage a few weeks ago.  Sort of felt like Christmas!!

As a break from constantly working in two dimensions with my painting, I decided to try my hand at creating this little gourd sculpture for my office.

At the best of times, I’m not good at cleanup but I persevered with the outside of the gourd, soaking it in a mild bleach solution and scrubbing off the mold with a stainles steel scrubby I wanted to create a vessel from the gourd so I cut a hole in the top with my small jigsaw, put on a mask and starting scraping out the inside. (I do this part outdoors. Don’t want all that “stuff” flying around in my studio!) Once the inside was smooth, I painted it a flat black.

I painted the gourd with the blue latex we used to paint the office walls. As a bonus, I found this fibrous paper in my “stash”  that contained small gold paper inclusions and embedded leaves. I glued the paper to the gourd using Matte Medium. I tore the paper into small irregular pieces, brushed medium onto the gourd, placed the paper then applied more medium on top. I started by tearing roughly around the leaves then forming the leaves into a kind of necklace around the rim of the gourd. Then I just randomly applied small pieces of paper to cover the surface.

I dyed a bunch of pine needles black using RIT dye (the tips of the needles go black; the rest of the needle doesn’t absorb the color as well) then sewed them to the rim. I attached a few Swarovski crystals, added some fibers from my wife’s supply and a couple of I Ching coins I pick up when I’m in Toronto’s Chinatown and voila, I had a small, completed sculpture for the office.

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Just One Step at a Time

Rain 3 One day, when I was casting about for something to create, I cut up some white cotton, boiled the tea kettle, steeped some tea, and threw the cotton into the teapot. It came out with a subtle tea-stained, tie-dyed look.

Without a goal in mind, I attached the large tea-stained fabric to a backing sheet sandwiched with cotton batten. Then I sewed – miles and miles of irregular lines through the fabric using multi-colored rayon thread. It was a Zen-like experience I highly recommend. Just free your mind of unnecessary thoughts and push through a repetitive process. Total relaxation!

When I finished, I was left with a large machine-stitched chunk of fabric waiting for inspiration. And wait it did. Several months, in fact. To give the inspiration a little kick start, I cut the fabric up into smaller, manageable chunks then started designing. These two photos show my first results.

The piece above is about 25″ x 10″ and it’s called “…a little rain must fall”. And I mean that as a positive statement. The stitched lines remind me of falling rain. the rain successfully helps give growth to an oversized life.

The flower was painted on raw canvas with a large round brush and Mars Black acrylic. I roughly cut out the flower shape from the canvas and sewed it to the fabric panel. The background is painted and stamped to create landforms and there’s lots of hand stitched design to add texture. Some squiggly things are trapped into the water at the bottom with the help of some cheesecloth.

Sunshine 2 The more colorful panel at left is called “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows”. It’s 17 and a half by 8″. Inspiration came from an ear worm – you know, those songs that go round and round in your mind endlessly. It was a song from the 60s that just popped into my head one day and stayed there. I needed to turn the positive, whimsical words and melody into a visual statement. Using some of the tea-dyed fabric, I over-dyed the background for a warmer look then added extra fabric at the bottom where I attached beads, a stenciled image and lots of hand stitched texture.

 

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