Happenstance 

I am a teacher. 3rd generation.  If you were to ask me why I did it my stock answer would be, “for the light-bulbs.”  What I meant by that was the moment you could see understanding dawn in a student’s eyes. Or the moment when passion or love of a subject took over.  I’m retired now and that is why I have the time to indulge myself in my own learning. Last summer someone turned on a light bulb for me. It wasn’t a quick flick of a switch, but a slow charging of a battery.

Laura, from Create Art Every Day, liked one of my posts and so I went to visit her at a time when she was posting a small watercolour every day, and I was impressed. No I didn’t hop right to it. I’m more comfortable with acrylics and watercolour intimidates me. But I did use my Crayola watercolour pencils to capture the visit of a colourful arachnid to my peony. See Inspired By A Visitor.  And that was all. For about 6 months.

After Christmas I took on two goals:  

  1. Continue writing a journal.  I do a good job of a travel journal, but usually not of a more continuous variety.
  2. Learn to draw; at least a little.

I can paint, but I have never considered myself able to draw. So I bought a couple of books at a second hand store, and started following Shoo Rayner and Cathy Johnson on Youtube.  Cathy had this lovely tutorial on making folded sketchbooks from single sheets of paper-much less intimidating than a fancy new sketchbook. 20170404_204040Each night I would sit and write in my journal, and then try to sketch one small thing. Not every night, mind you, but most nights.

And black and white is pretty dull, but I had an old Prang kid’s watercolour set. Well, the rest is history.

 

 

 

 

I now have quite a collection. All small, about double ATC size, but I’ve so enjoyed it. I’m learning every day; watercolour no longer intimidates me.

Here’s a little selection of the progression

Back Deck Visitor

Back Deck Visitor – One of the first

Sketch 2

Snow Day – Under Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

More recent sketches are definitely cleaner looking.

We have a holiday coming up, and I look forward to taking a little kit with me and adding some visuals to my travel journal. Thank You to, Danny Gregory, Liz Steel,  Koosje Koene and so many more for all the many hours of free instruction they have provided.  And thank you, Laura, for your advice and encouragement.  It may have only been a moment but we never know what little thing we do that influences someone else.  Be well.

Monika

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Stories or Statements

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Waiting to Launch – one of the first pieces I painted from a photo I took.

I am not an accomplished artist, nor am I seeking renown.  This will not be a career for me.  This art exploration I am on is following its own meandering path, and a year and a half ago, the path diverged from decorative painting, to exploring subjects in more detail.

You seek, and get a lot of advice when you start this.  Youtube has been a font of tutorials, but I don’t want to slavishly copy them (as they advise you not to) because that is not my work.

The biggest and best advice – “You learn by doing.”  But after that it gets confusing.  Copy old masters; Don’t copy old masters; Paint from reference photos; Don’t paint from reference photos; It’s ok to trace  your reference sketch/photo; It’s not ok to trace  your reference sketch/photo.  You get the picture.

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Frozen Ghost – combines three of my photos to tell a story.

Some of my favourite pieces come from photos I have taken.  Notice I say, “come from”.  I consider it my right to modify as necessary, or not.  And being a new painter, each time I tackle a photo, there is a challenge to present something on the support that I have not done before.  Each time, I am learning something that I can use in future paintings.  But when I showed some of my pieces to an artist and art teacher, who has had a decades long career and whom I respect, I was told that my work, while nice, lacked emotion.  That has niggled in my heart for months now.  There are all kinds of criticisms that I would have expected (on brushwork or perspective, colour or composition), but not that one.  And I have a problem with it.

Each painting I do from my photos evokes a memory for me, and/or tells a story.  Obviously, someone else will lack the frame of reference for the story, but I hope that the viewer can get some sense of it.  Perhaps one day I will evolve to the point of making strong statements with a brush, but at the moment I am giving more of a recitation.  And that is OK.

So if you are struggling with what should be the “right” way to paint – stop struggling.

If it speaks to you, that is the most important thing as you grow.  And try things outside your comfort zone, but not all the time.  Remember, you should be enjoying yourself.

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First Freeze – an ATC I did from my photo of the pond where I live.  The challenge was to learn how to do ice.  But the story is of a particularly beautiful sunset in the place I grew up.  A moment in time that evokes the peace of this place when I was a child.  In this light you don’t see a lot of the changes “progress” has wrought.

 

Another Art Adventure

When we drove to our summer place this weekend, I didn’t expect to begin experimenting with a different medium.  I knew there was a garage sale nearby, of stock from an art shop.  I had never seen the art shop, but had to drop by.  watermarked-cliCC1F

Well the last time I had been to the cabin, I had painted my first Plein Air, of the new house just beyond us in the cove.

Acrylic on 9 x 12 Acrylic Paper.

It was the HOTTEST day, and there was a wind.  (I won’t say breeze – to anyone other than Newfoundlanders it’s a wind.)  The paint was drying before I managed to bring brush to paper.  I was spritzing and on a wet pallette and using blending gel!!!  What a torture!  That was when I decided that I needed to try either different acrylics, or a different medium.

Last week Laura at Create Art Every Day enticed me to try watercolour.  It was not as stress-filled as I expected.  Inspired by a Visitor.  I enjoyed it and will try it again.

20160725_131759This weekend, my random garage sale, netted me some Holbein Duo Aqua water-soluble oil paints.  I didn’t want to come home with a truck-load.  It could have been so.  There were wagon loads of equipment and supplies (literally).  I limited myself to a yellow (Marigold), red (Madder), two blues (Navy and Turquoise), Ivory Black
and a grey (Monochrome 1).  She didn’t have any white, so that grey was as close as I could get. watermarked-SculpinRock Oil.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Voila, my first foray into oils.

This is on a 4 inch square of gessoed cereal box cardboard.  The view from my window.  Didn’t paint outside as it was raining, but it was enough to allow me to experience the texture of the paint.  It is a different process than painting wet into wet acrylic, and you have to remind yourself that it doesn’t dry.  But the rich, buttery texture of the paint is luscious.  And the colours have great depth and intermix beautifully.  And yes, they clean up with soap and water.

I’m quite pleased with it, other than the clouds in my sky.  I realize, looking at the photo, that they are all far too similar.  But in terms of the medium, I’m definitely impressed and will experiment more.

I have to keep reminding myself to “just play.”  I have a failing in that everything I do is looked at as a task with a goal or a product.  I have to let that go.

Enjoy your day, everyone.  And go play.

Portability

If I’m going somewhere that I might paint, I don’t want to spend hours packing gear, so I spend more time than I should collecting painting travel packs.  That does not presuppose that I am actually “painting mobile.”  I just have this need to be prepared.  And acrylics do not really make for easy travel sketching.  (I am secretly envious of watercolour artists and that is the one thing that may make me overcome my fear of watercolours.)  Acrylics are more of a plonk and paint situation.

We have a summer place, and I have painted there for many years.  I started doing the doors, because I didn’t want to have plain white or off-white doors.  The summer place is more of a place to play.  I keep my paints in a small suitcase, because we cannot leave them there in the winter.  The heat is turned off, and paints don’t take freezing well.  It is easy to carry about and then you only need your support and your source of water. The compact rolling table and stools were purchased from Canadian Tire many years ago.

But when that kit is at the cabin, what to do when you are travelling from home?  There is no shortage of supplies at my place.  20160712_200452Of the two dark wood French easels, the larger is my daughter’s.  A gift from a previous employer who appreciated her creative and organizational skills.  She is away now, so it is included in my supplies, but I have always been hesitant to use it.  (Not really mine to dirty up.)

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My Daughter’s Easel

The smaller French easel (open below) is mine.  I found it on Kijiji for $25 and quite love it, although I haven’t used it much as I paint at my drafting table most often.20160718_093355

The shopping bag contains a paint box easel and wash caddy, towels and gear.20160718_092822

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It is what I would take when a friend invited me to come to her paint group.  I didn’t stay with them, but it was convenient so I’ve kept it together.  Sometimes I visit my neighbour and we paint together.  (The plastic chocolate box is my wet palette.)

Then there is the blue bag, 20160718_092452which I have put together most recently.
It contains the paints, wash can, cup and boards that I intend to use when I get my act together to Plein Air paint.  I can grab it and my French easel and I’m ready to go.

The organizer holds basic sets of Golden Open paints, Windsor and Newton Artisan water mixable oils, and some cheap watercolours.  All these are things I have been collecting for about a year and I want to try for Plein Air.  My last experience with “partial” Plein Air was impeded by the struggle with drying time.

But that is the subject for another post.

I would love to hear about your experience with being “mobile” with acrylics.

Struggling with Workflow

Does anyone else struggle with workflow?  I so often feel like I’m fighting my paint and supplies and organization.  Do I paint flat on my drafting table, or do I paint on the table easel?  Or do I paint at the French easel?  Do I set the clean brushes to the left  and the paint to the right or vice versa.
Right now the table looks a bit messier
than the photo in20160712_200323 yesterday’s post (which dated from February).  Paint and water to the right of me, and brushes and rags to the left of me.  Light over my left shoulder.  When I paint on paper I tape it to the hard-surfaced placemat, scored at Pipers for $1.
20160712_201109I watch many artists on Youtube and always pay attention to their workflow.  Clive uses large buckets of water, Nagualero uses a small washpot, Cinnamon uses a beer cup, Jane uses a pickle jar.  (There are links to all these people in yesterday’s post.)  I like my brushes clean so I use a jar for prewash and a commercial wash container with two sections for further wash and super clean water.  See – I’m a clean brush fanatic.  And I have a pad of paper towel with an absorbent pad beneath to dry off the brush right away.
 Acrylics carry the challenge of drying quickly, so I’ve tried all sorts of pallettes.
Plain disposable paper pallets. tin foil, peel off acrylic pallettes, wet pallets, well pallettes with paint I have “globalized” according to a method by David Jansen (no I didn’t use their products).  Globalizing has real potential, and is essentially adding a retarder to the paint.  I’ve used home made wet pallettes and commercial ones.  Didn’t find that there was much difference, although the commercial paper that goes in the top of a wet pallette is less prone to wrinkling than wax paper or parchment paper.  None of it really has felt comfortable to me.  I always seem to feel I’m fighting the paints.  Don’t mist and they dry, mist and some get runny.  And all of this results in me wasting time messing with the workflow when I want to be painting.  I just can’t seem to settle.
I would like a pallette where I can globalize my most commonly used paints and keep them stored, and sealed, but have a flat, damp surface so I can blend and add less commonly 20160712_201021used colours.  The watercolour pallette on the left has potential, It is my newest acquisition (thank you 50% off coupon at Michaels).  Perhaps it will be my solution, but it is rather small and the blending surface is smooth but not damp.  I had such hopes for the round well pallette, which was a gift from my husband when I started this journey, but there is no mixing and blending space.  Perhaps some day I’ll design my own with a sealable set of wells (6 – 8) and a wet pallette space all in one.
That’s my grumbling for today.  I would love to hear about your experiences, and your suggestions would be welcome.
Next time, let’s talk about portability.