Artomatic: Paintings and Installation

I finished up the last of the 10 paintings I created for Artomatic on Friday night. Saturday I got ready to head down to the site to install them.

My mom offered to help me on Saturday so before we headed down to Artomatic, I put her to work adding wires to the back of all the canvases for me. She had a whole system for measuring the wires so that they would hopefully all be even when hung on the wall, and in the end it worked out great. I think we only had to adjust one or two canvases during the installation, and I know at least one of those was because I nailed the hook in a little too low. Oops!

While I was still at home I prepared the materials I’d need to add my name to my wall above my paintings–I tiled & printed out my name full size, cut up the pages, lined up the edges, and taped graphite paper to the back.


When I got to my Artomatic wall, I taped the prepped sign to the spot where I wanted my name and then traced over the basic shapes of the letters with a pencil. I used the black wide tipped Montana Acrylic Marker to go over the resulting graphite lines in a loose and rough style to create a hand drawn look that harmonizes with the paintings beneath it.

hand painted name

When I painted my wall a few weeks ago, I discovered that it was concrete. I’m glad I found out before I went down to hang my paintings because after doing some research I realized I couldn’t just hammer a nail in and call it a day. I found out about some complicated ways to hang art on concrete walls that involve drills and bits and diamond tips. Then I came across a product called hardwall picture hangers. They are a little odd looking–a plastic hook with four metal prongs sticking out towards the front–but they really work! If you ever find that you need to hang art on concrete, cinder block or brick walls, I HIGHLY recommend using these. The ones I got with the 4 prongs hold up to 25lbs! You just hammer them in and hang your art. As simple as that.

Here’s an action shot of my mom helping as we arranged and rearranged the paintings til we found the right balance:
hanging the paintings

About 4 hours after we got there, we had all the art in place!

my artomatic wall

I am so happy with how it turned out. The white and black paintings look great on the bright coral wall, and the overall presentation makes quite an impact.

I posted details about the process of making each painting in my last post, but I wanted to share closeups of the final versions here as well.

Painting 9
This one is actually hung sideways from how I initially intended it (the original top of the painting is now the left side), but since it hangs in the top left corner, the motion of the pods in this orientation does a good job of leading the eye down to the painting below, so it was a happy accident!

Painting 6
Notice the texture in the different layers? I particularly love the way it looks on the black layer–so shiny and luminous.

Painting 8

Painting 2

Painting 7

Painting 5

Painting 1

Painting 3

Painting 4

Painting 10

There you have it! 10 paintings are up at Artomatic, ready and waiting for opening night this Friday May 18th. I hope you can make it, but if you can’t, I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of my Artomatic wall. Thanks for reading!

Artomatic: Paintings in Progress

I have a dedicated studio space on the main floor of my house, but it’s not really set up for painting large canvases, so I cleared out a nook in the basement that would accomodate the larger scale artwork, plus space for a comfy dachshund bed.

Otto and Kasi

That was my view during most of the 1.5 weeks that I spent painting up a storm in the basement. Well, truthfully, Otto was my most faithful companion, hanging out with me until the wee small hours, but Kasi also joined us quite a bit.

As I mentioned before, I painted 10 canvases for Artomatic. They all measured 30x30in square, and I painted them all with black and/or gray on a white background.

Although the painting all took place over the course of a week and a half or so, I spent a lot more time than that sketching and figuring out my game plan. The average painting size I worked on before tackling these big ones was about 6x6in. Sometimes a little bigger, sometimes a little smaller, but for the most part I stuck with painting in the way I was comfortable: with a teeny tiny paintbrush on small bits of paper.

I started out by testing out larger paint brushes on paper.

sketches with paintbrushes

I quickly discovered that this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. The brushes I had were all too floppy, or too stiff. I needed something that was specifically made for the way I would paint. My friend Krissy suggested I look into Liquitex Freestyle brushes. I did some research and watched some demos, and they seemed like they would be perfect; or at least give me a fighting chance. I went to the art store and carefully selected a variety of shapes and sizes I thought I would use. While I was checking out, I casually looked at the display they had under their glass counter. As they scanned my items, swiped my card, and I signed my name, my wheels slowly started turning.

What was I looking at? Paint markers. After a closer look I noticed they were acrylic paint markers, made by Montana–a company I recognized as making high quality acrylic spray paint. After paying for my paintbrushes, I asked if I could see one of the markers. Maybe a black one and a white one would come in handy for touch ups. Then I noticed they had some thicker tipped markers as well–and they even had a couple of gray markers! It didn’t take long for me to decide to go ahead and buy a few to try out. I just had this intuitive feeling like they would really come in handy.

montana paint markers

It’s an understatement to say that I was glad that I got them. These markers are probably one of the best things I’ve ever bought. They are so much better than any other paint marker I’ve tried before. The paint is water based, runs really smooth, and most of the markers are refillable. In fact, even the ones that aren’t technically refillable can be converted to refillable with a drill and some duct tape!

I tried them out on some of the sketches I’d started with a paint brush and was blown away by the accuracy that was immediately available to me. What a difference! This was just what I needed to pull off my vision for Artomatic! Truly a godsend.

A part of me deep down felt a little sheepish to realize that I would be creating all my paintings without a paint brush. Is it cheating to use paint markers? Could I still call them paintings? Could I still call my self an artist? Before I snowballed too far down that path of self doubt, I pulled myself together and thought, “whatever works!”

Today I am 100% proud to admit that all the following paintings were created entirely with Montana acrylic markers. They are a fantastic product. I like to think of it as painting with a felt brush. You can get such a precise edge, as well as more painterly effects. While I’d still like to practice and get more proficient with brushes, I have a feeling these markers will always be part of my repertoire.

For my paintings I used their pre-mixed Shock Black, White Pure, Gravel, and Iron Curtain, and mixed one custom lighter shade of gray myself.

I didn’t pause to take any in progress shots of the first painting I created. I was so “in the zone” I just worked until it was done!

Painting 1 finished

With no time to pause too long to admire my work, I started on the next one, drawing in all the black lines.

painting 2 in progress & finished

I actually let the above painting sit overnight as I contemplated what to do for the background. Eventually I chose to add texture with the lightest gray shade, over only part of the background.

The next painting was the first one where I worked in specific layers, one color at a time from lightest to darkest. I’ve done similar drawings like this before, and usually I work from top to bottom, drawing the shortest swooping lines first, then adding the longer scallops as I continue. Since the paint is opaque, I had to work backwards.

painting 3 in progress & finished

The next painting was somewhat ambitious, but I loved the sketch I did so much, I had to go for it and see if I could make it work.

painting 4, try 1

Indeed, my first attempt ended in disaster. It was such an odd thing that happened. I was in the middle of painting the black outlines when I happened to notice that the cap on my wide tipped dark gray marker was not closed all the way. I was afraid it would have dried out, so I grabbed it and pulled the cap off. Far from being dried out, paint had actually collected in the cap, and when I yanked it off, I flung that paint right onto my canvas. I then panicked and grabbed some paper towels and tried to wipe off the paint. This not only smeared the drips, but also some of the lines I had drawn. In a last attempt to salvage part of the painting, I tried to gesso over just the section that got splattered, but I hadn’t let the black outlines dry long enough, so the gesso smeared it, turning that whole section a dark muddy gray. Live a learn: when you accidentally fling paint on your canvas remember to dab, don’t wipe! Also, when you open a paint marker, be sure to hold it well away from the surface you are working on.

I felt a little disheartened, so I put that particular design aside for a day and worked on the next painting. I did come back to it the following day, and the second time was the charm. I steadily worked on the black outlines, then carefully filled in some of the sections with dark gray.

painting 4, try 2

The next painting is a little different from all the others. I started by blocking in big areas on the canvas, using the two lighter shades of gray. I used the wide tipped markers for each of these large areas which helped create a really nice background tone and texture for the detail lines I added later using the fine tipped dark gray marker.

painting 5 in progress & finished

Next up was another layered painting, which actually took quite a while to complete because not only did I have to wait for each color to dry, I actually did two layers for each color–one layer was a basic all over background coat, and when that was dry, I came back with the same color and added a texture overtop to suggest that the shapes are either feathers or leaves. I think you can see that texture best in the bottom right photo below, especially in the middle-gray tone.

painting 6 in progress

For most of the paintings, I worked out the sketch in my sketchbook first, then projected that image onto the canvas and traced over the lines with a watercolor pencil to make sure I got the proportions right. For the next painting, I worked in a much more spontaneous way. True, I had an initial “sketch,” as you can see in the upper left corner in the image below, but I didn’t trace the shape of the lines onto the canvas. Instead, using the sketch as a reference, I worked freehand, painting in the lines directly onto the canvas. Once I’d gotten the initial six curved lines in place, it was just a matter of waiting for the paint to dry so I could thicken the lines until they felt right. I had to do this about 5 or 6 times–thickening the lines, then letting it dry before filling it out more–because if I tried to go over wet lines with wet paint, it would scrape some of the paint away and start to clump up. Patience was key with this painting, and in the end, I think it really paid off. It’s definitely the boldest of the bunch, and also the only one that uses black exclusively.

painting 7 in progress & finished

Painting #8 was up next, and I knew I wanted to do something in this style all along. Drawing a grid on a canvas that is not perfectly square is quite a challenge though, so it was a while before I worked out a grid that looked even which then provided the framework for this design. Once I got the grid set up, the painting went pretty smoothly, although I admit it took a long time. There are lots and lots of lines on that canvas!

painting 8 in progress & finished

By the time I was almost done I was eager to get the paintings finished up, so I didn’t take as many photos in progress photos, starting with painting number 9 (pictured below on the left). This particular painting came together rather quickly. I did transfer a sketch to get it started, but when I began drawing the lines, it took on a life of its own. The line work is a lot looser than I intended. In fact, when I first finished it, I wasn’t 100% sure I even liked it all that much, but it grows on me more and more every time I see it. It definitely adds a light and energetic element to the group of paintings. The last painting I did is not quite finished in the image below (right), but again, I think we’re lucky I took even one in progress photo!

paintings 9 & 10 finished

Throughout my painting process, I had this sketchbook page open and nearby at all times:

deciding what to paint

I had quite a few ideas for what to paint, but for most of the paintings, I made the decision when it was time to start a new canvas. The page above shows some of the many (30+) thumbnails I had for potential paintings, and various deciding marks as I considered some paintings and ruled out others. There are a few ideas that I thought for sure would make it onto a canvas that didn’t make the cut, and also a couple that I didn’t initially consider that did earn a spot in this group of Artomatic paintings.

While I worked on paintings, the area next to my easel was always cluttered with pencils, markers, paper towels, sketches, tape, paint, and more.

creative mess

Somehow, even with a creative mess around me, and a few setbacks here and there, I managed to keep on track and finish all 10 paintings in time to get them installed for Artomatic.

In fact, here’s a little sneak peek of my paintings on the wall.

view of my art through the doorway

You can see my space through a doorway off one of the main areas on the 1st floor. All the walls in that main space are covered with either art or graffiti murals, but I think my display has a good chance of catching people’s attention, don’t you think?

I will be posting, probably tomorrow, with images of the final wall. I even took some non-instagram photos, so you can get a good idea of what the space actually looks like without weird filters distorting it.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading this exceptionally long post! Do you have a favorite painting of the 10 created?

Artomatic: A Bright Coral Wall

When I signed up for Artomatic, I had no idea what I would actually present there. I wanted to wait to see what my space would be like before making any major plans, since I knew it could be anything from a 6′ to 20’+ space.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I got an awesome 17′ wide 9′ high wall. After contemplating a few ideas, I settled on one: 10 big paintings, all black and white, on an incredibly brightly colored wall. I considered both red-violet and pinkish-orange, but the pinkish-oranges on the paint samples at the hardware store were brighter, so I chose the brightest called “Lipstick” by Behr.

The wall itself was in pretty good shape, with only a few holes, but there was a cable conduit that I wanted to remove. Unfortunately when I did so, it took big chunks of the wall with it.

white wall

This actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I hadn’t realized that the walls were concrete before then. I would have showed up with nails to hang my paintings, and I would have been disappointed.

I went ahead and taped off the side and bottom edges. Then I hopped on my little footstool and reached up to the ceiling. That’s when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to tape the top edge of the wall! I’m pretty tall (about 5’10”), but my fingertips just brushed the ceiling when I stretched. I didn’t have the accuracy I’d need to tape off the edge properly, so I grumbled a bit as I realized I’d have to come back another day.

Not to be slowed down, I went ahead and painted what I could.

I started like a normal person, painting in the edges with a brush.

starting to paint

Then I had the bright idea that some of the cracks and holes could probably use an extra coat, which would be best done first, so I did that.

more paint

giving the cracks and blemishes and extra coat

I thought the idea was sound, but after I was finished, I talked to a couple of artists who were hanging their work across the way from me and they wondered what my strategy was in painting all over the place with no apparent pattern. At one point they thought I was perhaps painting a mural! Haha. Maybe I was also trying to break up the monotony of painting edges?

getting there

Yeah, looking at my progress, I kind of see why they were wondering what my mural would be about. In any case, I kept diligently working, making progress on the edges and the cracks and holes. Then something wonderful happened. A guy came along who was a great deal taller than me. We got to talking and he offered to tape my ceiling line for me! Yay!

someone taped my ceiling for me!

Thanks to him, I would be able to finish the wall in one day! Indeed, eventually I was almost done!

almost there!

And then I was pretty much totally done!

yay! pretty much done. now to clean up.

Just had to clean up!

When I was finished and had cleaned up the space, I was so proud of my hard work, I decided to take a self portrait with my brand new brightly painted wall. First, of course, I had to set the self-timer.

checking auto timer

Then I actually set the self timer, and I took a super cheesy photo of myself doing jazz hands while wearing my painting pajamas.

me in front of my painted wall!

Although sweaty, tired, sore, and a little dehydrated, I felt very accomplished. At this point I had about 1.5 weeks to start and finish 10 paintings and get them up on my awesome, bright wall. No problem!


I’ve been tweeting up a storm about it, but I haven’t had a chance to write a proper post before now. I’m finally participating in Artomatic!

For those of you who don’t know, Artomatic is a huge art festival in DC that is all volunteer run. It’s open for anyone who wants to participate. There is always a huge variety of visual art, plus live performances, films, workshops, tours, and more! This year it’s running from May 18 – June 23rd. That’s over a month of arty goodness!

I had wanted to participate in 2009, but an opportunity to travel to Saipan got in the way. I had the intention of participating in 2010, but alas, it was not to be. 2012 is the first year since 2009 that the event is actually happening, and I knew I didn’t want to miss it!

I registered as soon as I could, and went to orientation and site-selection just a week later.

After I chose my space, I snapped a few photos of my wall with my iphone. Not the best quality, but it gives you an idea of the space.

left side of my Artomatic wall
left side of my wall

right side of my Artomatic wall
right side of my wall

view from my room out into the main open room on the 1st floor

view from the main open room on the 1st floor into my room. my wall is the one dead ahead!

I had initially chosen an entirely different space–a little room to have all to myself, and I thought it was exactly what I wanted. I planned to make a little lounge. Bring in chairs and a coffee table so I could hang out and sketch and have visitors to my little space. Then I went to the check-out room, and the wall that is now my wall was right there and still available, calling my name. There was a flurry of excitement and activity to get it switched, but luckily my friend Krissy (who is also participating in Artomatic and had selected her space earlier in the day) was along for moral support. She fended off claim jumpers while I dealt with the space switch.

Today I’m heading down to Artomatic to paint my wall an orangey-pink color called “Lipstick” according to the Behr paint name.

The paint color for my wall at Artomatic is called "Lipstick"

I’m hoping it won’t be too obnoxious, but instead that it’ll liven up the space and help my black, white, and gray paintings stand out.

This is such a cool opportunity to do something completely new, and I’m definitely taking the challenge to heart. I’m painting bigger than I ever have before. I’ll be creating 10 – 30x30in paintings. I did go a little easy on myself, deciding to limit the color palette to black, white and gray. Also in the interest of finishing the paintings in time, I’m reusing many designs that I’ve created in the past. There will be a variety of styles, but I’m thinking that the similar color palette and canvas size will unify the collection.

I’m planning to post updates on this blog about my Artomatic journey, so stay tuned. Also, follow along on twitter where I’ll be posting photos and updates more regularly!

Sketchbook Project in 24 hours

Last Friday I received an email from the Art House Co-op with a friendly reminder that my submission for the Sketchbook Project Limited Edition was due to be sent in 3 days. In the back of my mind, I knew the deadline was approaching, but it hadn’t really sunk in that April was almost over.

With a full weekend already planned, I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to start working on my sketchbook until Sunday afternoon. I hadn’t started it at all before this, other than the myriad of ideas that had swum through my head over the past few months. Now I had just about 24 hours to figure out what I would do, fill up the sketchbook, scan the pages, and still make it to the post office before 5pm on Monday.

I had to be strategic. All thoughts of taking photos, printing them out, pasting them to one page, and somehow creatively responding to them with a drawing or painting on the facing page flew right out the window.

Somewhere amidst the cobwebs in my mind, and little idea resurfaced. I remembered an old watercolor instruction book that I had discovered among some of my Grandma’s old art supplies. The instructions were a little outdated, so it was earmarked for the recycle bin. Although all the examples were printed in black and white, and therefore maybe not so helpful with waterCOLOR, I did enjoy the texture and values of the different images, and set the book aside for use in future collages.

Only one thing: somewhere along the line I decided that I suck at collage. Part of me never really expected to use the images in the book, but thought they might come in handy for art swaps at the very least.

In my time of need, I revisited the initial inspiration to use the book for collage, along with internal comments such as, “yeah, but you don’t do collage” followed by other thoughts of “well, why not?”

As Sunday afternoon approached, I settled into the idea more and more. Maybe I could do collage after all. Maybe I thought I sucked at collage because I was trying to collage the way other people collaged. Maybe I needed to find my own way of doing it. Maybe just start cutting and tearing up paper and see what happens.

So that’s what I did.

I’ll admit to feelings of frustration and almost giving up because I wasn’t totally sure of what I was doing. I also admit to the fact that part of what kept me going was knowing that if I didn’t finish this, I wouldn’t be in the Sketchbook Project Ltd. book that I’ve already paid for, and that would really bum me out.

In order to help me meet my goal and overcome uncertainty and frustration when it came up, I set one important rule for myself: don’t over think it!

That became my motto. Whenever I started to fiddle for too long, I would remember my motto and I’d either have to make a decision right away, or move on to something else. This was the best rule I’ve ever come up with! It was both freeing and challenging. I’m used to taking my time, thinking about things for days before making a decision. I didn’t have that option with this project, and in the end it was so much fun to simply have an idea and go with it. If in the short term, the idea didn’t pan out, I had the option to move on to something else, but I had to keep going. It was truly a revelation!

My first two pages came together with very little thought or deliberation. I was drawn to a few scraps of paper that were “leftovers” from more purposeful tearing and cutting, and the composition practically assembled itself.

Sketchbook Project Ltd. Pages 1-2

Don’t you love when that happens?

Not all of the arrangements came together quite so smoothly. I fiddled with the layout of the shapes on pages 17-18 the longest out of all the pages. I kept to my rule of not messing around with any one idea too long before moving on, but I kept coming back to it, knowing I wanted to use the triangles in some way.

Sketchbook Project Ltd. Pages 17-18

In the end I drew inspiration from previous drawings I had created for another set of sketchbooks. It was fun to work out a similar composition with the restriction of using pre-existing shapes.

To choose one single spread that I like the most in this book might not be possible, but I do have a favorite in terms of how it came to be. Pages 11-12 are the epitome of my “not over thinking it” process.

Sketchbook Project Ltd. Pages 11-12

I found two scraps of paper (the ones you see on the bottom left of each arrangement) that were very similar in shape, even having the same bit of extra paper the folded over to the front. When I discovered them, I knew they had to go in the book, so I looked to see if there were any more like them. There weren’t. Just those two. In the spirit of not over thinking, I said to myself, “ok, you just have the two pieces. now figure it out.” So I did. Step by step I made decisions to get the composition to where you see it. It was a new way of working for me, and it was so cool to see where the process took me. Every time I look at this image, I get a strong feeling of familiarity. I’m not sure why or where it comes from. Maybe it has to do with going with the flow and doing what needed to be done in the moment, and therefore creating something that was “just right”?

As I continued to work, a theme seemed to develop for my sketchbook on its own. Many of the compositions are a comparison of different shapes and textures that I arranged in a manner that emphasizes their similarities. Perhaps another title for this sketchbook could be “Similarities in Difference”. Pages 15-16 are a good example of the discovered theme.

Sketchbook Project Ltd. Pages 15-16

Despite the fact that each individual shape is unique, they fit together in small groups and then as a whole pattern in a harmonious way. Their similarities are notable, as are their differences!

For most of the pages in the book, I arranged the compositions of pieces of paper, deciding on the final arrangement before gluing them in place. With pages 21-22, I quickly realized that wouldn’t be possible.

Sketchbook Project Ltd. Pages 21-22

The individual pieces of paper were too small, and overlapped too much to work out the design beforehand. With a general idea in mind of what I hoped to accomplish, I worked by tearing the pieces and gluing them right to the page. I wasn’t concerned with a perfect composition for this spread. I knew these pages would not be about achieving a perfect composition but about the creative process. Happily, I was completely satisfied with the end result. I love the overall texture of the larger shape, and the pencil details I added to the smaller shape have given me ideas for future work!

I would love to show all the images here, but this post is already about a mile long. I’d love for you to check out the rest of the pages on flickr where I spent a little time writing descriptive insights about the process of making each set of pages.

Did you participate in the the Sketchbook Project Limited Edition? What was your theme? Did you finish and send your book off in time?

I hope you enjoy this new style I discovered as much as I enjoyed making it! It was a 24 hour whirlwind, but probably one of my best days ever!