Late last year I felt I needed a change to my daily routine. I spend as many days in the studio each week as I can, painting. But I wanted to create a different approach to my art his year.
I’ve been creating monotypes/monoprints for several years now as a hobby, I guess. Whenever I’m not painting and I feel I need a break, I’ll produce a print or two.
But for this year, at least for the first half of the year, the emphasis will be on printmaking, particularly monoprinting. I want to see how far I can take it. I want to create mixed media art with prints, paint and pencils….just to see what happens.
The image above is a recent small print. It’s 6×6″. I did this print specifically for the video below simply to show process. It’s a quick, three-minute video Have a look. Hope you enjoy.
There are a couple of new spring studio classed listed under “Workshop/classes” page above.
I’ve also added some new prints to the “portfolio: prints” page above.
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.
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.
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.
I covered the surface with a golden yellow then used an old, rough stain brush to apply the oranges.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Process, process, process…if you don't like your painting process then there's no point in painting.
Sometimes the process can be quick; other times it's slow. At times, the process can fail you completely. But the minute by minute, day by day approach from a blank canvas to a completed painting should be, simply stated, a creative nirvana.
Here's American artist Mel McCuddin demonstrating his process…from a random application of paint on canvas to finding and refining images in that random surface.
Bits and pieces of quick photo grabs were combined to make this composition.
My wife and I share driving along Hwy 401 into Toronto. When I'm the passenger, I have my smart phone or ipad at the ready to capture any drive-by scenes that might have possibilities. Sometimes the photos are blurry; sometimes I question why I even took the photo, but other times I'm delighted with an image or piece of an image that I can use in a painting.
This painting, called "Out From the Dark", 18" x 24" and painted in oils, has several sections from several photographs. I cropped elements from various photos, added them to a page in Photoshop and manipulated until I found something I liked. My Photoshop cropping is pretty rough so once I'm happy with a composition I do a small sketch either in a paper sketchbook or a digital sketchbook. And that becomes my composition.
Next step was to decide on concept and color. The foreground of a couple of the original images I used as resource was filled with construction equipment. I wanted something a little more pastoral and I discovered a photo I took of a large shadow on grass – just a shadow; just some grass. Weird, but the pic was in my files. Turns out that shadow became the reason for the painting.
For a while, it’ll be three colors and three colors alone. The same three colors over and over to create paintings with rich and varied color. I’ve been focusing on teaching “limited palette” classes lately. So I decided I would try it myself.
I limited my palette to three colors plus black and white.
The three colors I’m currently using are Hansa Yellow Medium, Napthol Red Medium and Phthalo Blue (green shade) plus Mars Black and Titanium White. The painting above uses all of these colors. Each mixed color contains a little black to dull the intensity then as much white as is needed to create the tone/value I want.
The limited palette is a great exercise to force you to work with values. And it’s amazing how varied the colors can be.
I keep books of color mixes. This photo shows one of the pages of just one of my books
with a toner added to the three current colors in my palette – Burnt Umber for some of the colors, Raw Sienna for others. The book is a great resource if I need a little nudge. Sometimes the color chips will be the start of a new painting.
And just to show you how varied your paintings can be using a limited palette, here’s a picture of a small still life painted with the same three colors.
We used a variety of acrylic mediums and built paintings from loose colour applications to final, resolved, creative images with the addition of graphite, charcoal, collage, stamps, stencils and photo transfers.
Lots of positive comments on this image over the past year. It’s my Facebook timeline image. So I decided to make it available as an art print. The painting is called Orange Trees and it’s a reminder of those early autumn snowfalls.