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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It’s All About the Scale

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Some days you can be bang on; other days you miss the mark completely.

This is a 20″ x 16″ oil.

Below is how I started. I painted a background then started applying poppy shapes with no indication of scale or even composition.

I wasn’t happy. So I stopped.

I switched to the canvas size above and focused on painting the poppy sizes in relation, in scale, to the size of the canvas and concentrated on a cruciform composition.

I’m happy now.blognewpic1

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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.

firstpic

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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Drive-by Pix

Out from the Dark

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.

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Time

Tulip clockLooking out my studio window there’s still a foot of snow. But yesterday, the sun shone, the temperature started rising, (well, it rose about one degree but at least it’s going in the right direction), and the local radio station reminded me that we move our clocks forward this weekend for daylight savings.

All these conspired to convince me it’s now spring. And thoughts of spring bring thoughts of softer, lighter colors and, of course, spring flowers. And the flowers became the inspiration for this small CD clock I made for a gift.

It’s a 6″ x 6″ stretched canvas with a painted CD glued on top. I used DecoArt Americana paints for this project.The canvas was painted in Terra Cotta and drybrushed in Butter. The CD was painted (sanded with a coarse grit first) with Medium Flesh then sponged with Antique White. Flowers were painted with Melon and a little Butter drybrushed on the right to highlight and the leaves were painted with Celery Green. Then everything was outlined with Lamp Black. The CD was glued to the canvas the a hole was drilled through the center; the clock works were attached, and voila, a quick, simple gift was finished.

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Drawing and Painting on the Same Canvas

Don't Ignore The WhisperIt used to be that when I wanted to draw with graphite or charcoal I worked on paper and framed the final image under glass. But lately, I’ve been working on stretched canvas, incorporating graphite and charcoal with acrylic then covering the completed image with a final coat of varnish. With no need to frame.

The process lets me work larger; gives me the opportunity to use graphite/charcoal which I love working with; and I can still add layers of color and texture which are so important to my work. The only downside to working like this is it sometimes becomes a step-by-step process where I create an interesting background to work with my concept, draw with graphite, then finish with acrylic. It can be difficult to work back into the background and around or over the graphite design – but hey, you just have to jump in and make the changes without fear if you think something’s not working.

This piece “Don’t Ignore the Whisper” is painted on a 24″ x 18″ gallery stretched canvas. I started with a color plan; worked the background with various layers of color and texture (texture meaning gel medium or visual texture created with the paint or a shop towel), then the canvas is covered with a thin layer of TriArt’s dry media ground. When the ground dried, I created the pencil drawing.

The dry media ground is much coarser than most papers so it eats up graphite. It also can make harder grades of pencil appear like softer grades simply by grabbing more of the graphite. Try a sample piece first if the pencil grade is important to you.

When I felt the drawing complete, I topped the canvas with a layer of gloss gel medium, let it dry, then proceeded to paint, mostly with knives and cut stamps. Also note the dark scratches at the bottom of the painting. For these I took a razor blade and scratched into the gel medium then dusted some charcoal into the incisions. The painting gets another layer of gloss gel medium then topped with a layer or two of acrylic varnish (matte for me) and it’s done.

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