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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Greens and Greens and Blues

shadows

“Shadows”; acrylic; 20 x 20″

Once again my backyard acted as model. But it wasn’t the landscape that captured my attention. Instead, it was the shadow in the lower right; a shadow cast by my studio. The shadow seemed to be leading the viewer in a specific direction and that direction was back into the woods, into the forest with its strong mix of shadows punctuated by brights spots of light.

Rather than being faithful to nature, I used my own color scheme – an analogous scheme which, to me, seems to create a quiet, peaceful mood. And I moved a couple of trees around to suit the composition!

Color palette for this painting was Nickel Azo Yellow, Raw Sienna, Napthol Red Medium; Transparent Red Oxide, Phthalo Blue (green shade), and Titanium White.  And the paint was applied with a brush, painting knife, credit card and shop towel. The challenge was to make a simple color scheme work by using a range of values and temperature shifts with the warmer colors in the background to draw attention to that area. The shadows seem to be on the outside of the forest; the woods appear more inviting.

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Let’s Make it Hot

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It’s always a bit of a challenge for me, working with warm colors. I prefer the soothing cooler colors of blue, blue/green with perhaps a touch of color from the warm side of the color wheel. But these hot humid days in the studio have inspired me to try warming up my palette. I want to create a series of landscapes using predominantly warm colors to reflect the current weather patterns.

This is the first in the series. So far it’s an untitled painting and it’s 12″ x 12″ painted with acrylics. I used my current standard palette of Hansa Yellow Medium, Napthol Red Medium, Phtalo Blue (green shade), Titanium White, and I added Transparent Red Iron Oxide to the palette to create some deeper warm tones.

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Here’s the first step to the painting. I randomly brushed the surface with some cool colors…just to get rid of the white…then I used a painting knife to apply light molding paste. The molding paste has a bit of tooth and would allow me to use drawing media like graphite or colored pencil on the surface at any stage. But as it turns out, I chose not to add calligraphy. The texture you see in the final painting is actually the molding paste.

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I covered the surface with a golden yellow then used an old, rough stain brush to apply the oranges.3

I think the hot colors gave me a headache! I toned down the surface here by drybrushing mostly white over the sky area and adding a blue path.

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Here I defined the path a bit more then brought some of that blue color up into the sky. To complete the image I added a few more lights, a few more darks and glazed the orange area in the front of the painting with several layers of Transparent Red Iron Oxide to tone and deepen the color.

 

 

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My Favorite Things – applicators!

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Raindrops on roses and whispers on kittens might be some of your favorite things. But some of my favorites are applicators! You know – those tools you use to apply paint to a surface. I’d call them brushes, but I only use a few brushes, the rest are, well, applicators.

Many of these allow me to work loosely and quickly, establishing shapes and patterns, working from large shapes to small shapes until applying the last few touches of paint with a brush.

The photo above shows my hard rubber roller. I use this to apply random vertical, horizontal or diagonal shapes to a canvas near the beginning of the process. The hard brayer skims over the surface applying color to the raised bits on the canvas. I’ll also often use a soft rubber brayer to apply more paint more evenly and/or a sponge roller which gives me a more opaque and smoother layer of color.

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Ahhh, my most favorite applicators. My painting knives (and I have many in a great assortment of shapes and sizes) are used to mix color on the palette, and to apply that color onto the surface. They give a textured application of color.

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Blue shop towels, grouting sponges, bamboo skewers and popsicle sticks can all work magic with a design. I can blend and smooth, and erase, with a dampened shop towel; wipe color or pounce color with the sponge and I use the wooden utensils to apply small dots and strokes of color.

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I use the drywall and wallpaper tools to apply large sections of broken color to a surface. Great to use over a gelled surface. The applicators just skim the tops of the gel peaks laying down thin, random spots of color.

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Catalyst tools are used to add color, move color and remove color.

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Old credit cards and room keys serve the same purpose as the drywall applicators, but I use them for smaller spaces. I often use the edge for tree trunks or field highlights in a landscape.

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And finally, my bristle brushes. I use these for small shapes where I want some control and for adding any final details to the painting.

 

 

 

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A Painting Facelift

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Funny how paintings can change over time. One gets completed; you live with it for a while and seem to enjoy what you created. Then, some time down the road, you realize a few nips, tucks and tweaks can make a stronger image.

The painting above is the current result of an image I’ve changed a few times. The image below shows the former look. The orange tree poking up through the forest just became annoying.

blog trail former ic

I knew I had to do something with that tree, and the photo below shows what I did – I got rid of it! With acrylics, that’s easy to do.

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I mixed the sky color which was Ultramarine Blue, Titanium White and a touch of Indian Yellow and brushed into the sky, over the offending tree and down into the tree line a bit.  I didn’t adjust anything in the bottom half of the painting but did soften the tree line, made the highlight on the grass a little thinner and less intense and move the tree into the front of the forest.

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I built the tree with layers of ultramarine blue and yellow creating values of yellow-green. Then I just kept adding color and switched the hue, and the tree, to blue-green, which I liked better. I added a few more touches of the blue-green throughout the image and I’m calling this painting done!

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A Quick Look at Painting with a Knife

Look quickly. This video will take you through a painting from start to finish in three minutes. I only wish I could paint that fast! I wanted to show you how I paint several of my images using a palette knife and shop towel, and I wanted to show that process from start to finish.

I painted the background an all over red-orange to begin, thinking the color would glow through in the final product. It doesn’t, but I learned long ago not to fall in love with any particular color or shape in the painting process. It’s all subject to change.

The video shows how I work back and forth between foreground and background and how I soften some of the sharp edges using a shop towel (with a little water if I’ve left the paint too long and it starts to set up before I can manipulate the color).

I mostly work from light values to dark values. I mix the color value with the knife then just kiss the surface of the painting with the knife to apply the paint. I work wet in wet when I want the colors to blend on the surface but I’ll let the colors dry when I want crisp, clear color changes.

The painting is an 8″ x 8″ acrylic painted on cradle board that was sealed and gessoed.
yellowfields8x8
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What’s Left on the Plate

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Monoprinting is offset printing. You apply paint to a substrate (in this case, a gel plate) then lay some paper on top of the substrate, apply a little pressure, and transfer the paint to the paper. Repeat this step many times and you have a layered, multi-colored original print.

Some residual paint is almost always left behind on the plate after printing a layer of color. And I like to use that residual paint to my advantage. What’s left on the plate becomes a guide for subsequent color layers. I’ve broken out some of the steps for this 3″ x 5″ print (above) to show you how I can start, with just one overall color and no plan for a final image, and allow some of the residual paint to guide my design.
stepA

 

The image above shows what’s left after I printed a layer of Quinacridone Magenta. By the way, I use Golden Open Acrylics, both for my monoprints and my acrylic paintings. The paints are slow drying – so they won’t dry on the surface while I’m slowly thinking of what the next step should be.  The paints also give me the freedom to mix colors directly on the plate (and often on the paper as well). I try to use lighter, brighter, transparent colors for the first layer.step1

 

The photo above shows the sky left on the plate after printing. I brush mixed a few colors to make the sky and those colors mixed with the magenta on the plate to create a violet cast to the sky.
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With a small, flat brush and some Transparent Red Oxide I created the mid ground – and this is what was left after printing.  With the remnants of the sky paint still on the plate, I could see where to place the Oxide to let some of the magenta show through at the top of the mid ground.

step3

 

With an old bristle brush and a little Sap Green, I added the foreground. The image above is what’s left after printing the first layer of the foreground. I used this color to register subsequent foreground color layers without having to guess about placement.

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Three Colors; Two Looks; Many Values

Red Green

Here's a little exercise I did using one limited color palette, the same design and a complementary color scheme to create two different looks.

 I used an acrylic palette of Hansa Yellow Medium, Napthol Red Medium and Phthalo Blue (green shade) along with Mars Black and Titanium White to create these two paintings.

 The top painting is a red/green color scheme, the bottom painting is red-orange/blue-green and I created both using various mixes of the yellow, red and blue palette mentioned above. This is a great exercise in value control. Since the palette is limited, the focus needs to be on creating a range of values and a range of color temperatures that will adequately create the illusion of space and tell the story. Values that are close tend to flatten the area (see the sky and lower foreground in the top painting) and values that offer greater contrast separate the shapes and make some of them stand out (see the tree line in the above painting). 

 While I used white to create lighter values, I only used a little of the black to create darker values. Black tends to deaden the color  Instead of always using black, I prefer to mix the two complementary colors to create some darker neutrals that are much richer than they would be if I used black.

Red Orange Blue Green

And finally – well, this actually should be an early decision in the process – I decided on overall color temperature of the painting. Should the painting be cool or warm? The top painting has a dominant red appearance making it a warm painting; the bottom painting is obviously much cooler with only a little of the red-orange used in the mid-ground.

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I’m Ready

Winter

Finished prepping for my booth at the Warkworth Art in the Park next weekend. It's be a whole booth of 6" x 6" landscape monoprints along with a few 12" x 12" acrylic landscape paintings. It's my first time exhibiting at this show and, as long as the weather cooperates, it should be fun. There are 30 artists, admission is free and best of all, for me, it's close by so I can sleep in my own bed!

Drop by if you have a chance. Warkworth is located just east of Toronto.

Lots of prints
Warkworth poster

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Stepping Out the Process

Mono print process - finished

Another 6″ x 6″ monoprint and this time I have a few stepouts to hopefully help explain my process.

These are the colors I used for this monoprint.

Mono print process colours

I almost always start with large shapes and work down to the smallest shapes. So, to get started, I roll a thin layer of paint over the entire plate. I use a registration board to keep each printed layer in line so I cover the edges of the board with tape while I apply paint. That keeps paint off the registration board and, when I remove the tape prior to printing, no paint will transfer to the print paper.

This image shows a single, transparent, layer of Indian Yellow Hue applied to the plate prior to printing.

Mono print process 2

Next, I usually work on the sky adding layers of different colors until I get the soft random value changes that I like. I work back and forth between colors until I’m satisified. I have a dry, clean brush nearby so after I print, if there are too many harsh edges on the printed layer, I’ll gently sweep some of those hard edges to soften them. And if the print starts to get too gummy, I let it dry overnight.

Here are a couple of shots of the first sky layer of soft green followed by a blue layer (shown on the print).

Mono print process 3

Mono print process 4

At some point, I’ll add an overall color to the land then start building layers of color letting some of the original yellow show through.

Mono print process 5

With the larger shapes filled in, I then start adding smaller shapes using a smaller brush. The green in the image above was applied with a three inch bristle brush; the highlights in the final print were painted on the plate with a #4 flat.

I use a lot of brushes – one brush for every color, and I don’t rinse or wash the brushes until I’m finished with the print. The only other tools I use are shishkabob skewers to create caligraphic marks (and to scratch back into shape an over-sized blob of color), and old credit cards for fine lines.

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