Friday, January 30, 2009

Help Me Name this Painting

?, Mixed media (acrylic, printmaking, recycled drink cans, large brads, gold cord), 18 x 24

Here's my latest work. I need help naming it. Any suggestions?

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Spring Cleaning"

Yeah, I know it's not spring, and I'm, for sure, not cleaning, so let me explain. Every year, about this time, when other people are making resolutions to change their lives, I want to paint over all of my canvases. For the most part, I try to restrain myself and only pick a couple that need refurbishing. The one I picked this year had some nice colors and some interesting shapes, but really was only part of a painting. I have been watching it for some time, trying to decide what its next life will be. I think I have found it.

I have been doing a series of mixed media pieces (printmaking, collage, painting, anything else that doesn't run faster than I do!) with birds as the subject. I showed the first piece I did on the last posting. On Saturday, I rifled through our recycling bins at LibertyTown and found some aluminum cans. I removed the tops and bottoms and cut out fun bird shapes. My friend Sharon has brought me several kinds of adorable buttons with brads on them, so I punched a hole where a birdie eye would be and used the brads. Here are a few of the googly-eyed birds.

Back to the painting getting a makeover...I plan to pair these birds with that painting. I prepared a tree for them to roost in today. The tape sections with sharpie writing tell me which birdies will sit where. I'm still working out how they will attach to the canvas. (By the way, there is more canvas and tree than shows in this photo. I took the photo at an odd angle, so had to crop it in a funky way!)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Funny Rabbit

Funny Rabbit, oil

I present Funny Rabbit for your enjoyment. This is a picture of progress up to yesterday, and today I touched up the butterfly and signed it. I am waiting for an order from Jerry's with the proper sized stretcher strips. I plan on leaving him unframed because the painting will continue around the edges.

Yesterday, my buddy,Elizabeth, asked me to show the piece I had been working on when she stopped by my studio. I have stretched it, finished size 8 x 8, signed it and varnished it. Done! See below.

Dreams of Summer, mixed media with acrylic and paper

I'm pretty pleased with the results of my work, and it inspired me to work on collages all day today. I even cut up aluminum cans. But more about that later!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Almost There

Since yesterday's post, you can see more definition of the edges of the body and some shadow area. I added texture to the meadow and grayer greens further away. I will still have to adjust the colors to make them recede into the distance, but for now, I am happy with the form that the creature is taking. It has a nose and whiskers, now!

I grayed out the trees on the hill and lightened the sky on the horizon. The sun also got a little halo! I have decided that the funny shapes on the bunny's back will be a butterfly, and if you look closely you can see the beginnings of that. The spirals that make up the fur are all rather cool in color, and I've decided in the next layer to warm up the south end of the north bound bunny.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


By now, I've begun to call this guy Funny Rabbit, though Beth, who had a recent close encounter with a rodent, insists on calling him rat/mouse.

That's okay. He's secure in his rabbitness, and he knows who he is. Trees have grown on the hill beyond his meadow and the sun has come out from the clouds.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Adding Color

Now, I pull out my oils. Following the scratchings I put in the layer of titanium white, I begin to add color. My palette at this point includes Windsor blue, green shade, French ultramarine, Windsor lemon, a Windsor rose (I can't remember its name at the moment), Maimeri blu cadmium green and burnt umber (which I mixed with the blues to get "black") and titanium white.

I also began accentuating the openings I'd left in the first layer of paint by darkening the black areas and intensifying the whites and reds.

This part of the painting is pretty instinctive and unplanned. Who am I kidding? That's the fun of this whole piece for me; I set out on this journey with no idea of my destination.

This is exactly the kind of exercise I need after working on commissioned work. It frees up a more creative part of me just to sit and play with the materials. I am reminded of an article that my mother showed me some years ago where a group of artists got together once a month for "Ugly Art" night. The intent was to loosen up, work with recycled or inexpensive materials, and not worry so much about whether this piece was going to be the ONE...that perfect creation...the best you'd ever know, the one that would get you noticed by a NY gallery. That kind of thinking can be truly constipating for an artist...sorry Mom!

Anyone want to join me for an Ugly Art night? Anything goes! I'll bring the wine.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Phase 2 of "Watched Swatch"

To recap: Phase one of the substrate for my painting was a gessoed piece of muslin which had been given a black underpainting and then printed with a variety of my hand cut blocks in grays and white. I had also done some experimental painting in red, but stopped when I realized it was not turning out the way I wanted. If you look closely, you can see some of that red revealed in the image below.

Since all my previous layers had been applied with acrylic paints or medium, I decided to go ahead with a titanium white acrylic paint to cover all but a few windows of the printed black layer underneath. I was pretty sure I wanted to complete my work with oil paint, but at this stage, the acrylic paint would dry faster, letting me get on with the fun part sooner.

I love being able to see the previous layers peeping through in some way in each layer of a painting. I like it in my work, and I LOVE seeing it in other people's work. This is proving to be the most obvious of those layers (foreshadowing, for those of you following along at home!) What I wanted at this stage was to reserve as much of the revealed printed layer as possible.

Next, I scored lines in a fairly random way into the titanium white with the end of a brush, drawing "swooshes", shapes and spirals into the drying paint. intending to help create future form in the finished piece and textural interest in succeeding layers.

Thus begins the part of the painting process that I call the ugly phase. This can last as long as the moment the final stroke of paint is put on the canvas, requiring from the artist a great deal of patience, faith and hope to outlast it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shot in the Dark, or A Creative Process?

OK. So I've been working on this piece whose creation has been very organic. I have hesitated to put it up here because it is not finished, and it could turn out to be crap. But if I am going to take one of the creative avenues I like to take in painting, I have to assume the risk that it will turn out to be time ill spent. (So may reading this journal of the experience--a warning to the reader!) Today's entry is the back story.

I began last fall working on the idea of using my small, hand-carved soft blocks as the actual builders of form in my paintings. I knew I didn't want to work on paper; I wanted the finished works to be on canvas. It is very hard to make a good print on a piece of stretched canvas, so I decided to gesso my own cloth (bought as scraps for cheap at fabric stores.) I gessoed three layers on the cloth at least, leaving the fabric to dry between coats. It made a great surface on which to work flat, because I might press with as much firmness as I needed to transfer a print. (Of course, it meant I had to stretch it when I was done, but one must suffer for one's art.)

Below is one of the several paintings using this process that I completed last fall. It sold in November to one of my local collectors.

Under Cover, acrylic

Then I began playing with creating gessoed "cloth" for the making of other items. My friend and longtime printmaking student, Inge, took several pieces of this "cloth" and has been using it to create purses and covers for notebooks. This is an example of our collaboration.

She is an interior designer and has many samples of cloth, buttons, etc. The square in the center is a piece of the gessoed cloth I printed. She made all the other design and constuction choices. I have several of these for sale in my studio.

This is all preface to say that I had been pondering what to do with a sheet of this "cloth" that I had left over from Inge's efforts. I taped it up on the wall of my studio and left it hanging there some weeks while I "watched" it. I will often do this when I don't have a clear idea of the direction a painting should go. I leave it where I may look at it out of the corner of my eye, without pressure, until the solution emerges in my head.

This is the trimmed end of the watched swatch...

More later, for those who dare!

Etsy Treasury

Another artist on Etsy picked one of my newly listed greeting cards for a three day featured spot in a treasury she created. I am really thrilled, considering how much work there is to choose from on the site! Here is the link to see:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

...and more cards

And the first round of printing is done. I wanted to get a good selection to show the owner of the stationer's shop so that she'd have something to pick from. I think my next set will be printed from soft blocks, which have yet to be designed or cut. Busy, busy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


These are actual printings of some of my new card designs. This particular card was printed using one small block which was turned and printed again and again, each time creating new hearts by connecting with ones which had already printed. You can see the block printed all by itself in the upper left hand part of the design. It ends up being a card about hearts and flowers and leaves.

This one I have called "Cheers" and will be stamped with the letters in red or green or black.

I made this design with one block that has the big swirls and hearts on it, then printed over the whole design six or seven times with the "confetti" block.

I called this one "Tres Flores."

The lovebirds will be stamped with "love."

This one and the following are variations of the first card, repeating the "heart halves" block with more and less ink.

This last one was inspired by finding the shape of a jester's hat in my fun foam discards. I moved fun foam around until I came up with this design. And if you don't think I gave myself a brain cramp figuring out how to do the "4 U," you do not know me well!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Autumn Leaves II

This commission is complete, unless someone wants to give additional critique. The last steps of the painting were to add some leaf groupings. The leaves are really too far away to be seen individually, but we perceive them more as shapes and color. The birch tree was added in the front picture plane with its bright white look in the sunlight and gray shadows.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Card Designs

Ahh. Time just to sit and let the ideas flow! Just before Christmas, I got the opportunity to put my hand made cards in a downtown stationery store, so I am designing as many as I can while there is some quiet. It is my plan to put unique designs there from my cards at LibertyTown.

It has also been great to get back into my oil paints. I'll have more about my latest work in oil in future posts.

Below are some test prints for the blocks in the top picture. I will be printing in multiple colors and doing some hand painting of the blocks so that the images are colorful and fun.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Progress on Portrait and Landscape

I've tweaked "Cutie-Pie" and gotten a more accurate photo of the actual colors in the portrait. I used Maimeri-blu oil paints in cadmium green, vermillion deep, cadmium orange, burnt sienna and burnt umber and Windsor blue, red shade, Grumbacher flake and titanium white.

The fall picture also got a second layer of color today. I'm using a similar palette to the portrait, with the addition of Windsor blue, green shade, Windsor yellow and permanent rose, and Maimeri-blu naples yellow. I also usually use flake white only when painting portraits because of its warmer tint for lighter skin types.

The next layer will likely be the last and will see the addition of more detail, including the birch tree in white and grays, which should stand off nicely in the foreground.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Little Bit of This... A Little Bit of That

How nice to have a bit of quiet to begin planning some painting projects! I have begun to do that even as I finish up some commissioned work and hang a show of student work at LibertyTown.

We opened the show of work by students of LT teachers on Friday to a wonderfully enthusiastic crowd. The weather was mild and recent First Night festivities didn't keep all of our regular visitors away. Here is the work of a few of my students from 2008 on the right hand side of the arched entrance to my studio. (The painters of the cardinal and the peppers are not my students.)

On Saturday, I resumed my regular teaching schedule after a break for the holidays, and when that was done, began work on a portrait that had been commissioned in early December. It was fun to paint such a cutie! With a little tweaking, I think I am done with it and will show it to the commission-er this week. It is painted on a 5 x 5 canvas in oil. I had a hard time getting a picture that did not wash out the skin tones too much. The portrait has more color in the face than this picture shows.

I got another request for a fall picture, and so worked in oil on a small canvas, also 5 x 5, of a fall scene in the Fredericksburg area. My mother took the photo when she was visiting us one October. My underpainting is a dark green, and this is the first layer of paint with the background colors of the leaves blocked in. When this layer dries, I will add in the actual leaves in golds, reds, oranges and greens and add a white birch tree on the right just in front of the dark trunk you see here. I will also add touches here and there of the sky which can be seen behind the tree in the photo.