Get Your Paint On, Week Three

Week three’s assignment had to do with mixing color. Choosing, matching and mixing color is something I’ve become pretty good at over the years, so I chose my color palette and got to work. I painted an underpainting of bright blue, and then added several layers of texture in a yellow-green color.

I didn’t have an abundance of new ideas, so I drew inspiration from an old composition that I’d done last the summer. I wanted to try a technique that I saw in a video about Beatriz Milhazes where she applies acrylic paint to plastic, glues it to the canvas, and peels the plastic away, so the imagery of the stones was perfect to try out the new method.

Rough Edges

I used the technique for the gray round shapes. It worked pretty well, but some of the paint came up when I peeled off the plastic, I think because the sheet of plastic I used was rather stiff and inflexible.

The next step offered me an opportunity to practice my fine line painting again. Some of the lines are still better than others, but the practice was worthwhile, and I feel like I’m getting a feel for it.

Red Lines

At this point I considered calling it done, as I had initially planned to keep the gray shapes rough. However, I found the inconsistencies of the edges of the gray shapes distracting, so I retouched the edges and chipped areas and it felt much better to me.

Week 3

I find it interesting that the texture of the gray painted touch up areas is so different than the paint that was applied with the transfer method, which is super smooth and almost shiny.

I would like to try the peel-off technique again to see if I can perfect it. It would be ideal if I could get the shapes to transfer cleanly without the need for touch ups.

Get Your Paint On, Week Two

Week Two’s assignment for the Get Your Paint On class was to draw inspiration from a painter or specific painting and incorporate some part of it into our own painting. I ended up drawing inspiration from a couple of artists: Frida Kahlo and Tuco Amalfi.

Kahlo’s vulnerable self portraits that show her exposed heart inspired me to paint an anatomical heart. It’s a shape that I really love but always resisted drawing because it seemed complicated. Once I delved in and started sketching, I realized that it wasn’t so bad!


One painting in particular by Amalfi inspired the rest of the imagery.

I used a framed masonite panel for this painting, which was new for me. I really like the flat, firm surface. It’s only 6 x 6 inches which was a surprise to some people who thought it was much bigger based on the photos.

I painted the entire panel dark blue to start, then traced the shape of the heart onto the surface. I carefully painted a couple of layers of white so that they colors I was planning to use for the heart would have an easier time showing up.

Heart, first layer

Heart, White

At this point I had a couple of thoughts: I wanted to brighten up the background a bit, and I considered painting the heart pink so that I wouldn’t have white peaking through the color.

I painted the entire panel with a thin layer of light blue which brightened up the background to my liking and also turned the heart blue.

blue heart, oops!

I liked the idea of having a blue underpainting for the heart, so left it as is and moved onto the color. However, when I added in the lines that divided the different parts of the heart, I realized I’d forgotten to paint in a section of the heart! I had to carefully paint that little part white, and luckily I still had some of the same blue color to match the rest of the heart.

two blue hearts

Finally I was ready to paint the heart pink. I was eager to get to this stage, because I’d planned to use gouache for the first time. I mixed a few different tones of pink using Holbein’s Acryla Gouache.

Pink Heart

I was really happy with the texture of the gouache and liked how just a bit of the blue showed through. Since for me this class is about pushing myself to try techniques I’m not very comfortable with, I decided to add some shading to the heart to give it a little more dimension. I thought it would make a nice contrast to the final elements I had yet to add which I’d planned to be flat and decorative.

I was really nervous at one point while working on the shading because it was looking really dark and muddy and ugly. I saved it by revisiting the heart with brighter, lighter colors to even out the overly dark shading.

Heart with Shading

The final step was to add lots of fine white lines to create veins that turn into roots, and branches with blossoms. This was the step that I procrastinated on because I didn’t know if I’d have the skill to pull it off.

I spent lots of time sketching various options for the lines and working out their final look and feel. I used pencils, pens, and a little help from the computer to get them just how I wanted. Then I traced them onto the panel with the help of some graphite paper.

Pencil LInes

Once the lines were on the panel, I finally reached the moment of truth when I had to paint the lines white.

Week 2 -- instructor critique welcome

Although I was nervous, I was lucky to have a very fine brush and a steady hand. It took me a while, but eventually painted all the lines. I was very pleased with the final look, and overjoyed that I’d done a good job!

Once I’d finished painting the flowers on the branches, I had the idea to maybe paint the blossoms pink, but I got several responses that encouraged me to keep them white. My friend Maggie Nichols offered me a wonderful insight: “Hearts are on the inside, away from the sun, and when roots, leaves or other plant bits are away from the sun they lack pigment and stay white. So I think that makes sense here. It makes them stand out very well.” I loved her take on the imagery which settled my decision to leave the flowers white once and for all.

This is only the second assignment in the class, and I already feel like I’ve learned so much, just by making the effort to try a few new techniques.

Get Your Paint On

I signed up for an online painting class! My recent watercolor dabblings sparked an interest to work with acrylic and gouache, and it seems the “Get Your Paint On” class was the kick in the pants I needed! I found out about the course a few weeks before it started, but waffled back and forth about whether to sign up until two days after it started. I’m so glad I went for it!

Week One’s class was designed to get students putting paint on canvas, panels, or paper. I chose acrylic and canvas for the first project. The source of inspiration was the Gee’s Bend Quilters, a group of women from Alabama who have a quilting style that is full of bold colors and improvised shapes and patterns.

To generate ideas for my painting I started out by making a series of sketches with oil pastel. I had luckily come across a large 11″ x 14″ sketchbook while cleaning up in the basement, so my sketches were all drawn loosely, quickly, and on a relatively larger scale than what I’m used to. The oil pastel was fun to work with. It has a very rich texture, and the colors are saturated and bold.

Week 1, sketches

Week 1, sketches

Week 1, sketches

Week 1, sketches

Week 1, sketches

As you can see, I created a lot of sketches! In the end, I decided to continue with the pattern in the image that’s directly above, right for the painting.

Initially I thought that I’d pencil in the lines and carefully construct the composition of the sketch. when I was ready to start, however, I decided to embrace the impromptu quality that the quilts were often made with, so I dove in with the paint first.

Week 1, in progress 1

In the first round of painting, you can see that I chose a pink underpainting for this piece. I wanted the painting to be warm, and didn’t like the idea of stark white possibly peeking through. I chose a medium sized round sable brush, which was somewhat difficult to maneuver since it was pretty floppy. I had a hard time getting a straight smooth edge but didn’t think about switching brushes until I started painting the next day. At this point The main color that’s missing is the purple, which when added really changes the look and feel of the piece.

Week 1, in progress 2

I blocked in the purple areas roughly, with the intention of refining all the color blocks after this stage. The biggest change I made from the first round to this was to use a different brush, which made a HUGE difference. Instead of the floppy round brush, I chose a stiff, almost bristly, flat brush. It was probably still a bit rougher than it should be but was a lot more robust, and it was easy to get a smooth uniform stroke and edge.

Week 1, in progress 3

Perhaps this third stage almost looks like a step back? I didn’t want to be afraid of “ruining” it by correcting or adjusting the areas that I wanted to revisit, so I purposely scruffed up the purple frame color because I knew I was going to repaint it anyway. This helped me not worry about painting over the other areas of purple while I was adding layers or adjusting the edges of some of the other colors.

For the final round of painting, all I had to do was clean up the purple areas.

Week One

Overall I’m happy with the final painting, although I must say, I really admired a lot of my classmates’ work that was loose and full of texture. I like to think that my painting shows the graphic designer in me coming through, but it was also good practice to get the painting to this final, flat finish. It’s possible I’ll revisit this painting if I have an idea for how to add some other elements, but for now I’m happy to leave it as a useful and informative first painting.

Week Two’s assignment is to take inspiration from a favorite work of art. I haven’t zeroed in on the artist or piece that will inspire me, but the wheels are turning, and I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon enough. So far this experience has been incredibly rewarding, and I’ve already learned a lot. I am really excited to see how the remaining four weeks go.