Thursday, May 31, 2007

Watercolor Class

This weekend I will be teaching a watercolor project. The piece is called Standing Watch. It is from a photo taken by a marsh near our old home. I grew up in Delaware and we lived for a number of years in Maryland. These areas are flat and you have coastline, so there are swamps and marshes--after all, you are near the water. When we moved to the mountains of northern Pennsylvania, I was amazed at the number of marshy areas you find in the mountains. In any event, one day we were driving by the marsh and saw a white heron standing in the water. This is my interpretation of that photo.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A book to recommend

Today I want to talk about a book I recently purchased. I have a very large personal library of books of all types on all sorts of subjects. Of course, a lot of them are art-related books. When I came back from our retreat where I took the pastel class, I wanted to learn more about pastels. I found a book titled: Collins Painting Workshop Pastels by Jackie Simmonds

This is an excellent book, not just for pastels, but as a general art book as well. Unlike many of the books we purchase that have a little bit of information and a lot of photos, this one is a whole art class in one not-very-big book. She has chapters on the supplies you need for using pastels of all types, techniques used in pastel painting, and other pastel-specific information. Then she includes chapters on color theory, perspective, choosing a subject, setting up a still life, painting still life, landscape, florals, people. Every chapter has exercises for the reader to do to explore the topic in the chapter. I have read most of it (not typical) and I'm getting ready to work my way through the chapters to do the exercises. I am so very glad I purchased this book.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Another Painting Sold

I got the best news today. One of the paintings that I entered in the 16th Annual Seaside Miniature Art Show in Nags Head was sold. I am so very pleased. This piece is painted in Genesis Heat-Set Oils on a 4x4 piece of gesso board.

A Trio of Pears

Friday, May 25, 2007

Another small work

I feel like I have accomplished a lot this week. Here is another small painting that I completed. This iris painting is one that I am thinking about submitting to a conference as a teaching project. It is painted in Genesis on a 4x4 piece of gesso board. When using gesso board with Genesis, it is a good idea to first basecoat it with DecoArt Americana acrylic paint. I did not basecoat this piece and found that the paint dragged a little on the first stage painting. It made painting a little more cumbersome. Once the first stage painting was completed, there was no further problem. I would basecoat with something like Light Buttermilk.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Gift

One of my very best friends is retiring this year after 30 years of teaching. She lives in another town and I will not be able to attend her retirement party due to other obligations. She also runs a Victorian Bed and Breakfast and loves roses. I wanted to send her something special to recognize her retirement. Something that she will hopefully love and will find a special place in her home. Because she loves roses, I painted a pink rose for her. This piece is painted in Genesis on a 6x6 piece of gesso board. The background is a technique I have come to really like using--a sort of out-of-focus garden. You can see colors and green, but nothing definite. Only the subject of the painting is in focus. I will be framing the piece tomorrow so that I can mail it off to arrive in time for her celebration.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A New Project

I finally got a day to just paint. It was heaven. I have had this walnut pen holder for over a year and have been thinking about what to do with it. It is only about 2" wide, so whatever design was to be painted on it needed to be long and narrow. I finally hit upon pears. The line drawing is from the Dover Library of copyright free designs. The Dover Library publishes a large selection of books on a number of different subjects. They consist of copyright-free designs that may be used by artists, crafts people, designers, and others with certain restrictions as to the number of designs you can use in one project or publication. They are a wonderful source of reference material and designs that can be adapted to a number of different uses.

Because it was a pretty piece of wood, I did not want to cover it up by basecoating the whole piece. Instead, I sealed it with a coat of Final Coat wipe-on varnish before painting it. The design is painted using Genesis Heat-Set Oils. I found that I should have used more than one coat of Final Coat as a sealer. The first layer of Genesis dragged a bit as I applied it. It needed to be heat set and then painted a second time to get even coverage. At the end of the day, the Pear Quartet makes a nice embellishment for this little pen holder.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

What is a wet palette and how do I use it?

Many people like to use a wet palette when they are painting with acrylic paints. The wet palette keeps the paint from drying out and skinning over as quickly as it does on a dry palette. Some people also cover it when they are finished and hope that it will keep their paints usable until the next day. How do I use a wet palette? I use it during a painting session to keep my paints moist, and I don't use it all the time. Sometimes I just use a piece of palette paper. The wet palette is most useful for me when I anticipate being able to paint for an entire day. I never use the cover and never expect to be able to use the same paint the next day.

How do you find or make a wet palette? The answer to this question depends upon how much you wish to spend. First, you can buy a pre-packaged wet palette. It is called the Masterson palette and comes in several sizes. Included in the package is a shallow plastic box with a lid, a sponge sheet that fits inside the box, and a package of special paper that goes over the sponge and on which you place your puddles of paint. The box is quite nice because it is no more than about 1/4-inch deep which makes it easy to work with. However, the sponge holds much too much water and tends to dilute your paint. The special paper requires special handling. It must be soaked for several hours before you place it over your sponge and once it has been wet, it must be stored wet. It is also a bit pricey to buy additional sheets of the special paper. The large Masterson Sta-Wet Palette lists for around $26.oo. The smaller one (about 8x10) can be found for around $15. Here is a photo of the small Masterson Sta-Wet Palette without the sponge and the special paper--I threw those away long ago.

The travel size Masterson Sta-Wet Palette

So, if you don't wish to buy the ready made item or you have the Masterson but struggle to use it, there is another solution. First, if you have the Masterson system, throw away all the inside stuff. If you do not have a Masterson system, find a shallow container. This could be a shallow plastic storage container (Tupperware, Rubbermade, etc), an enamel butcher tray, or even a shallow baking pan. If you use a baking pan make sure it is aluminum so that it will not rust. The container must have sides, but it needs to be shallow. Some people even use styrofoam meat trays. This would be a free and disposable container but whatever you do, make sure you clean it well before you use it with your paints.

Next, go to the local dollar store and look in the automotive section for synthetic chamois. This can frequently be found in a bag with one or two sheets of synthetic chamois and a couple of really cheap sponges as a car wash kit. Cut a piece of the chamois to fit inside the container.

Synthetic Chamois (new piece and used piece inside container)

Pour some water into the container so that the chamois gets thoroughly wet. Then, use you hand like a squeegie to remove most of the water.

Finally, go to the local shoppers club and buy a box of deli wrap. Deli wrap is the paper that is used in delis to wrap your sandwiches. It has a coating, but is stronger than waxed paper. You cannot use standard waxed paper from the grocery store as it will disintegrate. Deli wrap will hold up to the paint and brushes as well. A box of 500 sheets of deli wrap can be found for under $10. If the sheet of deli wrap does not fit exactly in side your container, cut it down or use part of an additional piece. Carefully use your hand to press the paper into place. You will know that the chamois is wet enough if the paper sticks to it. If the water oozes up through the paper and makes puddles, it is too wet. If it will not stick, there is not enough water in your chamois.

Deli wrap in dispenser box and cut to fit palette

Once your wet palette is assembled, pour out your puddles of paint and work as you normally do. When the piece of palette paper is full and you are finished with the colors you have on it, carefully remove the paper and insert a new sheet. At the end of the day, throw away your used paper and wring out your chamois so that it can dry. Do not cover the container with the wet chamois inside unless you want to conduct a science experiment in growing mold.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Creative uses for everyday objects

We are always told that we get better results if we use the right tool for the job. This is basically true. But that doesn't mean the most expensive tool or the one that is only available in the craft or art supply stores. The right tool may sometimes be found where we least expect it. For example, you could purchase fancy water buckets to use with your watercolor or acrylic painting. But, you can just as easily use empty jelly or peanut butter jars, the jars from candles once the candles have been burned and the leftover wax cleaned out, yogurt cups, or whipped topping tubs. Using these "found" objects keeps them out of landfills and costs nothing. You have more money to spend on brushes, paint, paper (OK, so that may be stretching it a bit, but you could maybe buy a couple of brushes or a tube of paint with your savings)

Here is a nifty idea for a brush holder that I wish I could take credit for, but I saw it at a workshop last Fall and have been looking for them ever since. This device is called an Ice Tube Tray. Its actual purpose is to make long cylindrical ice cubes that you can put in your bottles of water. You can find them at WalMart, but you may have to search a bit. The cost was around $2 per tray. The compartments are just the right depth to hold short handled brushes. If you find that your brushes are all over your work space while you are painting, this may be a good solution to keeping them organized. I use them with my Genesis paints to keep the brushes orderly while I paint and to keep my workspace a little neater.
Ice Tube Trays

So, look for inexpensive, creative solutions to studio accessory dilemmas. When you can find the right tool for little or no money, you have more to spend on the supplies you need to actually create your art (no matter what your art form may be).

Friday, May 11, 2007

Finishing Partially Completed Projects

My studio is very close to being able to actually work comfortably and schedule a few classes. As I have been sorting through things (old surfaces, partially completed projects, ancient products) many things have gone to the trash. You simply can't keep everything and there are very few decorative artists (or other artists, seamstresses, crafters for that matter) who don't have an abundance of old, outdated, and never to be used again items in their studios and work areas. But in among these miscellaneous items, there are potential treasures to be found-- practice pieces or studies that were started and set aside when something more important came along or the particular learning activity was completed. Some of these pieces could be very nice if finished, even if they are only displayed on the studio walls.

This is one of those pieces. It is a leaf study after a design by Ann Kingslan. It is painted on a wooden plate in Genesis Heat-Set Oils. The objective of the study is to work with cool and warm greens within the same piece--to realistically represent the shape of each leaf, turned edges, the position of the leaf in the cluster using both the value and the temperature of the color. It uses a monochromatic color scheme. I actually worked on this piece last summer while my kitchen was non-existent due to our renovation project. Unfortunately, when I attempted the first heat set, I found that the plate was just a hair too big to fit in my toaster oven. I had to set it with a heat gun (something I absolutely LOATHE). So, when the design was finished, I set it aside for another day when I had a full sized oven at my disposal.

This week I completed the piece. The background around the subject had to be completed. You will notice that it reflects the colors in the leaves. There is a lighter green in the upper right corner of the tray going part way down the right side. It is not as obvious in the photo, but the left side of the tray is darker than the main body of the tray. Finally, after varnishing, the rim of the tray was treated to a bit of Silver Rub 'N Buff, and yes, it is meant to have some of the basecoat showing through.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Another Memory Box

The Memory Box Artist Program is such a worthy cause. The boxes are much in demand. The program started in June of 1998 and has grown every year. It takes such a little effort and brings such comfort to the recipients. If you are interested in getting more information about this very worthy cause or would like to contribute a painted or otherwise decorated box, you can get more information by going to the memory box website:

Today I finished this memory box to be delivered to the service program chair at our next meeting. The box is a 10" papier mache box that is basecoated inside and out before painting the design. It is then given a couple of coats of varnish. My favorite varnish for most projects and surfaces these days is Final Coat, a wipe on product.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Same Design, Different Media

I was continuing the clear out and set up of my studio when I came across a pair of ballet slippers. These slippers were given to me so that I could use them to set up a design for a painting. The original plan was to do an oil painting for my niece who was studying ballet at the time. To thank the young lady who gave me the slippers, I did the same design in watercolor for her as a gift. I did not think to take a picture of that piece, but she was thrilled with it. After a couple of years passed, I did another version of the same set up in watercolor with a different kind of background. The photo of the oil painting was taken with my old camera, so I must apologize for the quality.

The photos below show the original photo from which the paintings were done, the oil painting. and the most recent watercolor. The point of this exhibit is to show that you can take the same design and use it a number of different ways. In addition, this same design could be executed in pastels, acrylics, or graphite/charcoal. It could be painted on gesso board (like the oil), or on a box, a piece of furniture, a wall, or any other surface as long as you selected an appropriate medium. The background can be altered in a number of different ways as well. The size could be changed. All of these pieces are approximately 9x12, but it could be reduced to miniature size or enlarged to life size just as easily. Use your imagination and see where it takes you. I think I feel an urge to do another still life set up using these slippers.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Oh, Joyous Happy Day!

This has been a wonderful day. The weather has definitely turned warm enough to call it spring and we have sandal temperatures.

Today I took some paintings to one of my galleries. I like to periodically change out paintings that have been on display for a while for new ones. While I was there, someone came into the gallery and bought one of my paintings right off the desk--it never even made it to the wall! It is always nice to sell a piece, but it is especially nice to sell a piece that quickly and to meet and talk with the person who bought it.

Montreal Hotel
Watercolor, 4"x4"

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Another Connie Parkinson Seminar Piece

Here is the second of the seminar pieces I did last weekend in Buffalo with Connie Parkinson. I think this is my favorite of the two pieces, but I really like them both. This piece is painted on an 11x14 piece of gesso board. It is actually designed to be painted on a 9x12 tray. To accommodate the larger surface, the table front became larger and I added a drawer.

Connie will be coming to Butler, Pennsylvania, for a 3-day seminar in September. This piece is one of the projects we will be painting with her at our Seminar. If you are interested in the September seminar, you can go to the Town and Country Decorative Painters website: and click on Seminars in the menu bar at the left of the screen. There are pictures of the three projects and registration information.