Acrylic Painting in Layers and Thinking About a New Project for 2015

I recently got a great deal on some Golden acrylics, and I’ve been having fun trying them out.

I’d been working regularly with watercolor before getting these new paints, and switching between the two is always a bit of a challenge until I get the feel for it again.

When I got back into watercolor a few months ago, I found myself laying it on way too thick and wanting to layer it. Now that I’ve gotten used to watercolor, my initial acrylic efforts were getting kind of muddy until I “remembered” the magic of layering.

After a few layers of paint, I had a somewhat muddy dark gray surface with light speckles. I wasn’t too impressed at first, but coming back to my art table after a break and taking another look, the speckled surface reminded me of cactus prickles. I ran with the idea!

Close up of Cactus Painting

I drew the outline of the cactus shape (you can see pencil lines where the segments meet) on the page, and then painted around the edges with a layer of purple and then blue. For those two layers I thinned out the paint and painted it thickly in sections, then dabbed it off with a paper towel before it could completely dry. That technique allows you to see through to the speckled layer, as well as the lighter purple layer under the ultramarine blue. It also gives the piece the vibrant luminous color that it needed.

The final touch was adding red cactus blossoms here and there.

Not only was I trying out paint, but I was also trying out different sizes of paper. I’ve been contemplating another year-long daily project, and one of my thoughts was to work on a specific size of paper. This one is 5×7 which feels pretty good to me, but I’m also trying out 4×6 and 6×8.

Are you considering a year-long project for 2015? I’ve also been thinking about working with a time limit, or possibly working digitally, but I still haven’t decided. I would love to hear what you have planned for the new year!

Rethinking Embedding Instagram Photos

If you read my post from yesterday, you’ll know I was excited to find out that you can embed photos directly from instagram.

As with many things, even if you can, it’s good to find out if you should.

My friend Robyn emailed me with some really important feedback. While browsing her Feedly feed, she noticed that when she saw my post, she couldn’t see the image. Since I specifically talked about including an image, she knew it was probably there, so she clicked over to my site. I was curious, so I checked my Bloglovin feed, and also noticed that no photo showed up in the preview. For anyone who follows me with Feedly, Bloglovin, and probably other RSS feeds, they might not have the same incentive to click through without seeing a preview of the image in their feed.

For me this is a deal breaker, so for now I’ll stick to uploading photos to Flickr and linking them from there.

Here’s the same image from yesterday, linked from Flickr, in case you missed it:

Doodles on Watercolor

It looks a lot better than the embedded instagram photo anyway!

It’s good to try out new things, but it’s even better to find out what really works best! Thank you Robyn!

We Are The Contributors

We Are The Contributors is a cool new creative community that hosts collaborative projects. Some of their goals are to create and showcase art projects inspired by a theme while growing their creative community. I love that the work created can be ANYTHING–visual art, music, poetry, an essay–you name it! I also love the fact that they are focused on including people from different backgrounds and communities across the internet.

I first heard about WATC through Jaime Derringer who participated in their first project with the theme “The Armory Show”. I was really impressed by the work that was created in Project #1 so when I saw the invitation to sign up if you wanted to be considered for future projects, I jumped at the chance! Happily I got an email inviting me to create something for Project #2: Beginnings.

Almost immediately I knew I would work with painting for my submission, as it would reflect the beginning of my effort to paint more this year. By the time I zeroed in on the specifics of what I would create, I realized it would be a whole series of paintings that would each individually represent a beginning of a painting, and as a group represent the beginning of my resolve to paint more in 2014.

Submission for the We Are The Contributors Project #2: Beginnings

I wrote up a description of my thought process about creating the series of paintings that you can read over on the project page.

Now that I’ve had a chance to reflect on the works I created, I realize that these initial paintings are about jumping in, getting something down on the page, and building the momentum. I worked quickly on each piece. I didn’t over think it and I didn’t judge any of it as “good” or “bad”. I was immersed in the process, laying the groundwork to be able to move forward with energy and enthusiasm.

I’ve only shared 9 of the 32 works I created, and I’m looking forward to sharing many, if not all, of the other paintings in their beginning stages as well as along the way as I develop them further.

If you think you might be interested in participating in a future WATC project, don’t be shy! Find the link to sign up on the WATC home page or check out their blog for mini projects that they host via instagram and are open to anyone to participate.

By now the new year is well under way. What are you beginning, or what have you recently begun? Even if you started something a month or two ago, I’d love to know about any new territory you are exploring, what new art medium you’re giving a try, or if you’ve started a long term project for 2014.

Gouache Paintings Made with Extra Paint

Gouache is one of my favorite mediums to use. I worked with it in October and November for my daily pattern project, and during the process, something new developed–a series of abstract paintings I dubbed “extra paintings” since they were made in addition to the day’s pattern.

If I had to pin point the source of this new discovery, it would probably be when I started to use pieces of sturdy paper as paint palettes.

paint palette

paint palette

I really enjoyed the “paintings” that would develop on these paper palettes after several sessions.

There were times when I mixed too much paint in the process of getting just the right color, and I would let it dry on the palette. A couple of times the paint globs actually cracked and started to flake off which I wasn’t crazy about, so I started to scoop off the extra paint and smear it around on an blank sketchbook page.

painting

I thought these pages might come in handy for making textured papers for collage, but just like with the paint palettes, after several painting sessions, the built up layers became more and more interesting.

painting

painting

Before I knew it, I had painted quite a collection of “extra paintings” and my eyes were opened to the new possibilities of a different kind of visual pattern and texture.

painting

I’ve been having so much fun with the paintings I’ve been making, I want to do more. This year I plan to do a lot more paintings and I can’t wait to get started!

Pattern a Day October

After creating patterns for over a year, it’s funny that I never realized that most of the patterns I created were on white backgrounds. I became aware of that fact before October, so I thought it would be the perfect challenge for me.

It really was a challenge, but wow, what a great one!

On the first few days I worked with looser brush strokes and tried out watercolor washes for the background.

Day 1 Pattern a Day October

Eventually my brushwork got more precise, and I decided to work with opaque gouache backgrounds, although I sometimes used several tones of the same color to create a textured surface.

Day 11 Pattern a Day October

Many of the patterns I created this month used abstract shapes, but I also included recognizable objects in a several patterns which was a lot of fun.

Day 18 Pattern a Day October

Day 25 Pattern a Day October

Even within the parameters of working on colorful backgrounds with refined brushwork, I was able to explore bold strokes of color that filled the page as well as delicate marks scattered over the surface.

Day 23 Pattern a Day October

Day 24 Pattern a Day October

I really hit my stride this month and created a number of patterns that I was very happy with. I still plan to experiment with different media in the future, but I’m sure that painting patterns will always be part of my repertoire. Also, now that I’ve gotten comfortable with working on colorful backgrounds, you’ll definitely see more of them from me in the future!

Bottles for Light Grey Art Lab’s 6 Degrees Show

Several weeks ago I saw a call for art at Light Grey Art Lab. The show is called 6 Degrees, and it’s an, “exhibition and project celebrating the work and cultures of artists from around the globe–a show about the power of the collective voice”. To be considered for the show, I had to submit a portfolio site for review.

I’ve wanted to participate in one of LGAL’s group shows ever since I took a couple of workshops with them back in 2012. This one seemed perfect for me, so I put together a portfolio site on Cargo, submitted the link for consideration, and crossed my fingers.

I was so happy to see my name a few weeks later listed among the accepted artists!

I was asked to, “think of your surroundings and the environments, people and places that make your world special,” and base my piece for the show on those ideas. I gave it a lot of thought and the process lead me through the macro and micro environments in which I live.

I’m from the US, but what does it mean to be from Maryland? What’s the distinction about being from Gaithersburg? What is it like to live in my neighborhood? How is the street I live on unique? What about my house and yard? That lead me to one more general question: how do I interact with my environment, wherever I might be–whether at home exploring the back yard, running errands in a nearby town, or checking out museums in DC.

I realized: I’m a collector. No matter what environment I’m in, I go into noticing mode. I collect images with a camera, and I gather treasures that I find, both natural and manmade. Collecting ideas and items is my way of registering the inspiring details I encounter day to day that might otherwise be forgotten.

Since the theme of the postcards ultimately was to be about me, I got to thinking about my immediate environment where I spend the most time–my yard, my house, my street, and the nearby creek.

Initially I planned to create a still life sourced from some of my collections gathered in my surroundings–bottles found by the creek, feathers I come across on neighborhood walks, flowers from the garden, or one of my many potted plants. As I started gathering items together, I focused more and more on my collection of bottles.

bottle collection

I’ve found all of these bottles (and more) down by the creek. There is an old farm dump down there, and I can always count on finding a few glass treasures when I go exploring, especially after we get a lot of rain. My most prized bottles are the blue one, the old ink pot, and the small milk jar. I’m still amazed at the variety of bottles I can find so close to home!

But I digress. To get started, I decided to do a few loose sketches of the various bottles in my sketchbook.

bottles sketch

I had an idea to do washes of color over the bottles as a nod to the translucent colors of the glass. I chose colors that were inspired by real bottle colors, but since most of the actual bottles are clear, I took creative license and used the colors at full strength.

Although I had intended this to be the first step in an entirely different process, I really liked the result of this initial experiment, so I chose to pursue the idea further.

I found these initial sketchy drawings quite charming, but I decided to redraw the bottles twice more. While still maintaining the spontaneous line quality, I drew the bottles more carefully and included more details.

bottle drawing with more detail

I drew them once more in a looser style, though still somewhat more refined than the the original sketches.

bottle drawing, looser

Then I had two versions to work with. Both similar and both good!

I went ahead and painted both versions with the gouache wash technique I tried in my sketchbook.

both versions: refined on left, looser on right

Still both similar and good! How to choose?

Ultimately it came down to the size at which the art was going to be displayed. We had to get postcards printed of our art which would be displayed at the show. I chose to go with the standard 4×6 inch size because anything bigger requires the same stamp as an envelope! Since the final size is on the small side, I chose to use the looser of the two drawings for the final piece. Since the lines were bolder and less detailed, it actually made a better impact at postcard size.

final bottles for Light Grey Art Lab 6 Degrees Show

I got the cards printed at Overnight Prints on uncoated stock, and they turned out beautifully!

bottle postcards

I signed and numbered all 100 cards, bundled them up and shipped them off to Minneapolis. The show opened December 6th and is on display through January 17th, so if you happen to be in the area, do stop by and check out all the awesome postcard sized art work.

If you won’t get a chance to see the art in person, check out the show’s online page where you can see all the cards! You can also purchase larger prints of any of the postcard art on Light Grey’s site. I’m offering the print of my “Bottle Collection” at 13×19 inches for $30, and there are also a limited number of postcards available for just $6. Here’s a link to the listing for my “Bottle Collection” card and print, and another link to the main LGAL shop.

Pattern a Day December

December was certainly a crazy month in a lot of ways. I was still in Alpine, Arizona, and took a mini vacation to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. Then I drove across the country back to Maryland, got home and got sick, and somehow managed to prepare for the holidays and celebrate them successfully! In the midst of all that, I created a pattern everyday.

I didn’t bother posting photos while I was staying in hotels with crummy lighting on my road trip home, but by working with simple tools–a watersoluble carbon block, a brush, and paper–I was able to stay creative every day, even after driving for 10 hours, or spending most of the day in bed with the chills.

Because of my choice of medium for the month, all my patterns were black, white, and/or grey. I know I already mentioned it in my December round up post of other artist’s patterns, but since I was only working with one “color,” I was especially glad that other people were making lots of vibrantly colorful patterns in December. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love black and white, especially in pattern form, but I also love a little variety!

One of the things that was most eye opening, especially when I considered the way I approached creating patterns in November, was how much the medium and color (or lack thereof) drives the way I create a pattern, and ultimately the imagery that I put down on paper.

In November many of my patterns had a lot of depth and complexity, while most of my December patterns tended to be more flat and graphic.

November/December pattern comparison

I don’t think either is necessarily better than other, it was just interesting to reflect on my processes over the past few months and recognize the difference!

At times I felt like some of the patterns I made weren’t my most creative, which is ok. This challenge was never about producing something ground breaking everyday, it is simply about creating everyday. I think as part of that, there will naturally be times when the work is excellent, while other times when it’s just so so. To me what is important is that I get in the habit of working with my hands everyday, as my natural tendency often leaves ideas stuck in my head for days or even weeks before I get around to getting them down on paper.

That said, there were definitely days I got excited about–especially the days where I tried out an idea that in my head I thought was a little odd or unattractive, but the results were sometimes quite striking.

Day 11 Pattern a Day December

Day 14 Pattern a Day December

Most of the patterns this month were abstract. Either focusing on form or the texture of the water soluble carbon.

Day 6 Pattern a Day December

Day 21 Pattern a Day December

I did manage to sneak in a few that were representational, and most of those were inspired by the season.

Day 9 Pattern a Day December

Day 22 Pattern a Day December

One of my favorites was the pattern I created on New Year’s Eve. Although abstract, it really captures the festive feeling of a New Year celebration.

Day 31 Pattern a Day December

I like to think of this as a good omen for the year ahead, which I hope to fill with even more patterns! I’m not necessarily intending to make this a year-long commitment, but you never know! Bit by bit, month by month, I might just get there!

See the rest of the patterns in my Pattern a Day December set on flickr, and check out the Pattern a Day group for more patterns and lots of inspiration.

Happy New Year!

Pattern a Day October

I know what you’re thinking: “Pattern a Day October? But it’s the end of November!” Well, my internet connection at the cabin is slow and limited, so I didn’t want to upload all the scans of my October patterns. I discovered that my laundromat actually has a decent connection, strong and speedy, so I brought my laptop with me last time, and uploaded a bunch of images while my clothes were washing and drying.

For October I worked with watercolor, and sometimes added details with gray ink that I filled a couple of my rapidograph pens with.

Before I started the month, I tried out my new mixed-media sketchbook with some colorful inks I had on hand.

Extra Pattern a Day October

I liked the different line quality I was getting with wet media, but I didn’t want to limit my color palette this month with the few colors of ink I had. I decided to use watercolor for all the color possibilities it would give me.

I completed the first few patterns while I was still in Maryland.

Day 2 Pattern a Day October

Day 7 Pattern a Day October

I left Maryland for Arizona on October 10th, so I created several patterns while I was on the road! I used a small travel watercolor set, so I had fewer colors to work with, but I still came up with some interesting combinations.

Day 12 Pattern a Day October

Day 13 Pattern a Day October

When I finally made it to Arizona, the daily pattern making continued.

Day 16 Pattern a Day October

Day 26 Pattern a Day October

Throughout the month, there were some days where I wasn’t 100% happy with a pattern I created, so I wanted to redo it, or I just wanted to keep painting, so I did! I ended up with quite a few “extra” patterns and paintings. Some were rather experimental or rough, and the explorations were a lot of fun.

Extra Pattern a Day October

Extra Pattern a Day October

You can see many more daily patterns and all the extras on flickr.

At the moment I’m nearing the end of another month of daily patterns, and although December will be full of travel and holidays, I’m planning to keep going for at least another month! Feel free to join me and make a pattern everyday (or so). Tag your photos on instagram and/or twitter: #letsmakepatterns and #patternadaydec

Yay patterns!

Painting Experiments

This month I’ve been creating a doodle a day along with several other artists on Instagram (#doodleadayaug). I wasn’t intending to have a theme when I started, but after the first few days, I realized I kept drawing flowers. They are one of my favorite things to draw, so it’s been a fun month!

One doodle in particular inspired me to take the subject a little further.

initial sketches

I enjoyed the sketchy line quality, but felt it could be improved upon with some added color. An idea formulated in my head to do a loose underpainting of color with gouache and then add the sketchy line work on top of it with an acrylic paint marker.

The first step was to print out a quick copy of the original sketch, and transfer each drawing to watercolor paper using graphite transfer paper.

Transferring sketches with graphite paper

I really love the way these taped down sketches look, so I had to share!

Once the doodles were transferred, I painted each one using various colors of gouache. I liked the paintings at this stage, but I felt they were missing something. At this point, I was wondering if the intense black outlines would be “too much,” but I still wanted to go ahead and try out my original idea, just to see what the result would be. One of the thoughts I like to keep in mind when I make art is to not be afraid of “ruining” a painting or drawing by trying something new. True, sometimes ideas don’t translate well, but I figure that if I’ve done something I like once, I can always make it again if I mess up!

all flower paintings, side by side

After seeing the side by side comparison of all the paintings before and after the addition of the black outlines, I’m on the fence about which I like better. I still think that at least some of the paintings without the outlines are missing something, but maybe the black lines are too overpowering?

Taken on their own, I don’t mind most of the outlined versions, but I also wonder if they read as paintings, or just as colored-in drawings. If that’s the case, I could probably achieve this look in a much faster way, maybe using marker or colored pencil instead of paint.

Now that I’ve tried out my idea but am not 100% satisfied with it, I’m planning to redo the paintings to see if I can come up with a result that I really feel is “it”. Instead of outlining with black, I’ll work on adding depth and maybe outlines with more layers/colors of paint. So the experiment will continue!

Do you have a favorite of the above paintings? Do you think the outline works better for one painting more than another? I’d love to hear what you think!

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.

sign

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!