Who woulda thought I’d be wishing for warmer clothes?
Got back yesterday (at about 6 a.m.) from eight days in Honolulu. Even though the weather wasn’t the greatest (I ought to create an illustration called, The Wardrobe I Should Have Taken), it was nice to go beyond simply thawing-out, all the way to sleeping with the windows open!
I am enjoying the Open Studio that the senior center in my hometown (Keller, TX) is letting me host. We have been meeting Wednesday afternoons. January’s session is over, but February we’ll be back at it. This is the picture I started this past Wednesday and finished at home.
6″ x 8″ opaque watercolor (Dick Blick premium tempera) on 140 lb. Strathmore 400 watercolor paper. If you are wondering what the “stucco effect” is from: I’ve been experimenting with acrylic mediums on paper (and just a few days ago, on artist’s canvas). This is Liquitex (R) modeling paste, applied with a palette knife then textured by pressing & lifting a scrap of very heavy/coarse artist’s canvas (#8 or #6 I think).
Have also been experimenting with final acrylic glazes on my most recent watercolors. This one has one coat of Liquitex matte varnish. I believe that has solved the scanner-reflection problem I had with the gloss finish (which I do prefer, but not if I can’t scan things).
Three Pears experiment
I did this quote-unquote very quickly…just so I could see how cutting my own squares of canvas and backing them with a FLEXIBLE cardstock would work out “in the field.” The wrinkles you see here, there, and running across the picture will never come out: I was so smart back when I bought the stuff that I decided to pre-shrink the enitre role of lightweight unprimed canvas. In a swimming pool. On a length of PVC pipe “to KEEP it from wrinkling.” Famous last words.
Please, DON’T you DO THAT. Repeat: the wrinkles will never come out.
When I found this particular photo of pears on PaintMyPhoto with the wrinkled white tablecloth, I thought, “pe(a)rfect.” After sufficiently thick-ish color layers were dry I varnished it (and got smearing of the near-black background) and then did some touch-up with more tempera. Before a second matte varnish I used a spray “workable fixative” to prevent any more smearing. It seems to have worked.
Moderate flexing of the fully-dry painting does not seem to leave/make any cracks, etc. I feel very comfortable about cutting PRIMED canvas to 8.25″ x 10.25″ and stapling each one (within that extra 1/4″) to, say, 8.25+” x 10.25+” single-thickness corrugated cardboard for working on-the-go. Keeping them small means they might fit in document sleeves for further “travel protection.”
Winston Churchill is quoted as saying this about painting:
We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint box. And, for this, Audacity is the only ticket.
For me, once I pick up a brush it’s hard to accept failure. And I know how egotistical that is. Especially considering I’m a “Sunday painter” at best, a vacation painter at worst. All skills require keeping one’s hands busy at that skill, so to that end I’ve become a facilitator at the Senior Center in my town. The first three Wednesdays, for two hours “recalcitrant” watercolorists are coming together and getting back in the painting game. Absolute beginners are also welcome to sign up for instruction in the very friendliest medium, opaque watercolor.
I have been searching for an alternative to oil paints for a while, not because I don’t lo-o-ove the smell and feel of the paint and turpentine and all. It’s the wet work in transit and drying-time storage that are the problems. Two years ago I believed I had the answer: super thin glazes with lots and lots of drier…then I tried the H2O kind. Both still took months to dry sufficiently. I even “invested” in a couple of egg tempera colors before giving up the Dream and going back to my watercolors (18 colors of transparent Winsor/Newton and Pelikan 12-color opaque tablets.
Since the latter allows for such great layering I began to wonder about the fully liquid tempera. So…I recently bought the three mixing-Primaries, along with a true-blue (vs. Cyan), brown, and white. Didn’t bother with Black; I virtually never use it in any other watercolor work, and besides, a neutral brown + blue = close-enough-to-black.
It might be “paradise” according to some, but you should know it’s not a beach-lover’s version of paradise. Upon arrival at our “resort” we were disheartened to discover the technicality known as a sunning-beach. Sure there’s sand and lounge chairs and palm trees but you can’t walk into the water as you might expect. The three true sandy beaches on the south(east) side of Key West were, in a word, nasty. Oh, and there were only about 4 or 5 parking spots on average for the non-handicapped.
Thankfully we found back “up the road” (30 or so miles one-way!!!) a Florida State Park called Bahia Honda. It has a nice stretch of sandy beach with a choice of two sides. A protected (northern) beach is virtually wave-free and nice if you have small kids. There are about 6 or 7 covered picnic table/pavilions which are a must – even if you have an umbrella. P.S. you’ll need to arrive early to snag one as they have a lovely camp ground (booked full a year in advance!!!) on the property. (Concessions are available, though we brought our own. The restroom and shower facilities are well cared for.)
There are also covered picnic tables on the Atlantic side if you take the road to the left/”north” after entering and paying. Somewhat annoying is the park practice of NOT raking the washed-up seaweed off the beach. An old hippy-type park ranger-dude informed us loftily that it was Nature’s Way and they were respecting that by not cleaning anything away that washed up ashore. They even threw branches, etc. back into the water. Well, all-hail Mother Nature but be prepared with water shoes to walk across hopping-bug infested seaweed. P.S. Don’t rake the stuff yourself either! It merely exposes the previously hidden billion-bugs-per-square-inch that are happily squirming out of sight.
Before painting I tried something different on the paper’s surface. First I “sealed” it with Liquitex “Flexible Modeling Paste” which left a slightly uneven sandpapery texture. When that was dry the whole surface was coated with a slightly dilute mix of “Ultra Matte Medium.” It made for a less perfect surface, of course, giving the paper a hint of the mysterious, a touch of the unpredictable. Dare I say perhaps also a hint-of-Danger?
I decided to go almost all-the-way. TRANSLATION I tried making this picture on a half-sheet (15″ x 22″) of Arches 140-lb. hot press paper (don’t you just love the deckled edge on mold-made paper?). Let’s just say I’m not so comfortable working that large. Up side is that the next one on a quarter-sheet (11″ x 15″) will seem small!
I just might like working “large” after all. (O.K…I can practically hear the snickering. But for me this is almost huge.) I will deepen the “higher” part of the sky tomorrow. It really does need stronger “darks.”
Okay, I admit it: I like little paintings because they make me feel like a god. All the time, not just at the end after everything has been figured out and worked out and has ultimately become a veritable color & shape tune that hums and makes me feel better just by listening glancing at it.
So this is a foray taken yesterday afternoon (and “touched up” this morning) into Bigger-is-Scarier-but-clearly-not-impossible. (I used to work on “quarter-sheets” so it’s not like I’m a total wimp.) Here’s the photo-inspiration.
Up”date”: Um-m-m…earth-to-Patrice. The signature line’s date on this should have been “july” not june.
Started this last last Friday and finished it over the weekend. Painted-image, 8″ x 5″ on Arches 140lb. hotpress (i.e. smooth) paper. I failed to mention in “Have a beautiful summer” that you ought to add a block of White-tempera to your set. I prefer it over the tube of white that comes with the set of 12 Pelikan cakes. Here’s the link to the sizeable tempera “cakes” sold individually by, dun-dun-dun du-u-un…Dick Blick: http://www.dickblick.com/products/blick-tempera-cakes/ . Get a square of heavy foil and wrap it around the thng leaving the top open. This way you’ll keep your hands and everything else clean. I have a round covered tin it fits in perfectly but you can simply use a ziplock bag.