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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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.

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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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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.
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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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Mixed Media and a Print

Mixed mono

When I create a monoprint on a Gelli Plate I mat the finished print leaving a 3/4 inch border around all four edges. However, with this print, I trimmed the paper right to the edge of the image and therefore couldn't mat the print without losing a good deal of the image area.

Instead, I chose to glue the print to a cradle board and build from there. I gessoed the cradle board (8" x 8"), then adhered the print using Golden's Soft Gel Gloss. I spread the gel thinly over the entire board, placed the image on top, then, wth a piece of waxed paper on top of the image to protect it, I worked a brayer back and forth gently to ensure good adhesion.

I then put low tack painters tape over the entire image to protect it and then smoothly applied Golden's Light Molding Paste to create a raised border. (Remove tape before paste dries.).

Once the paste dried I washed Golden's new QOR Watercolors over the border to tone the color. I used a couple of different yellows and a soft blue. The watercolor tended to soak into the paste. Next, I taped some vertical lines and used a sponge to dab on strips of blue acrylic in the upper right and green acrylic in the lower left of the border.

Finally, I used a 2B pencil to create a tree line and some shapes on the horizon. I dabbed some acrylic highlight colors into the tree foliage and the horizon shapes…and I considered it a day!

I haven't varnished this, but you could. Just carefully apply a thin layer of gel medium over the entire surface (working gently so you don't disturb the graphite), then, when the gel is dry, varnish.

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Blurred Lines

Valentines

I was so proud of myself. I took a photo of every step in creating this monoprint. Then I went to load them into my computer, pushed some random button, and now I can't find the photos anywhere. So we'll make do with just this one picture of the completed design.

This is "Blurred Lines" a 6" x 6" monoprint created using a Gelli plate and Golden Open Acrylics. This is my Valentines card to my wife. To me, the landscape is the perfect subject for a painting. Whether I envision that landscape large or micro, the subject always carries significant meaning to me. And I painted that meaning bolder this time by wrapping the landscape in a large heart.

Even though I don't have the stepped photos, here are the colors I used – Quinacridone Magenta; Cadmium Red Medium; Sap Green; Titanium White; Teal; Bronze Irridescent. 

And these are the applicators – a roller, a stiff-bristled brush, a small flat, a credit card and a bamboo stick. While most applicators are obvious, I used the edge of the credit card to create the smaller, horizontal shapes. The bamboo stick I used to create some vertical texture both by scraping off paint from the printed image and by adding paint either to the gel plate or the printed image. 

I started with red rolled over the entire plate then built values of red using additions of white and/or sap green. A little bit of pure white and pure teal finished the piece. I then rolled the gel plate with sap plus red; placed a heart cut from paper over the plate then pulled a last print.

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Quick Photo Transfer

Over the years I’ve tried various versions of acrylic photo transfers. Some worked for me; some didn’t. But most involved a slow process of overnight drying of several layers of medium.

Yesterday, by accident, while searching YouTube for something else, I discovered this video from Golden Acrylics showing a faster way to accomplish the transfer. (three minute video)

 

 

So I tried it. Mostly to satisfy my curiosity, I suppose. The fern is from my garden. I previously scanned it and created high contrast in Photoshop. I printed out a copy on my laser printer yesterday and quickly applied it to a prepainted surface. And it worked….here’s what I produced:

Photo transfer project

 

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