Tuesday, December 30, 2008


pastel on paper
Jan Gibson

This is a pastel pencil painting that I struggled over. The reference photo was pretty bad (no, I didn't take it this time! lol) as it was shot from the front using a flash. Many of the features were totally washed out and, of course, those weird "flashed" eyes. So, much of this was sort of made up as I went along.

However, the owner was pleased with it and kept saying that it was her Jack.

Guess that's all that counts!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

After Christmas/Before New Years!

Christmas Lights
Christmas Lights

We ended up taking the dogs for one more trip to see the Christmas lights before everyone takes them down for the year. I took some photos but they didn't come out that well. The photo above is from just one house so you can imagine what the whole street looked like!

As usual, the dogs enjoyed the trip and my husband was inspired to add more lights to our yard next year. This was pretty much confirmed when he found a bunch of lighted candy canes really cheap at WalMarts on the New Black Friday (the day after Christmas).

Today is supposed to be our family Christmas dinner but my son in law called last evening to say that both my daughter and granddaughter were really sick and he didn't think they'd be able to make it today.

I'm disappointed as it would have been the first time both kids had been together for Christmas in about 6 years! It seems that one or the other have always had something come up and it looks as if the pattern continues this year.

Our son will be here though with the two grandchildren so I'm still cooking. I made homemade yeast rolls last evening and a squash casserole
early this morning (but haven't baked it yet). The squash is from our garden this past summer and it's so nice to have something from our garden in the middle of winter!

We're having ham but that's my husband's job to cook as I don't eat any kind of meat. It's hard to prepare it when you can't taste it to see if it's seasoned properly so he takes over that chore. I so appreciate it too as sometimes even the smell of meat cooking is unpleasant to me.

So, I guess I'd better head back to the kitchen and finish all the preparations - I'm still hoping my daughter and her family will be well enough to be with us. If not, I'll probably take some of the food over there as I always make enough to feed Pharoah's army!

May you all have the best New Year ever!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Black Cat - OSWOA

"Black Cat"
Jan Gibson

I've been hearing a lot lately about OSWOA's (Original Small Works of Art) and wanted to try one. Actually, the Japanese Magnolia that I posted a couple of days ago is an OSWOA but that was sort of an experiment. This painting was intentionally painted as an OSWOA and I was determined to paint it to the best of my ability.

One of the specifications for an OSWOA is the size - 4 inches by 6 inches. As a matter of fact, that's about the only specification other than the work has to be original - no copies or prints except for some very stringent rules for prints.

It's the size that I want to comment on though. Four inches by six inches is pretty small and therefore very hard to achieve much detail on them. I've done a few ATC's (Artists Trading Cards when traded with other artists) or ACEO's (Art Cards Editions and Originals when sold as original artwork to the general puplic) and it's extremely difficult. ATC/ACEO cards are even smaller than the OSWOA's at only 2.5 X3.5 inches and it's very hard to do them with the mediums I use. I thought the OSWOA's would be a little easier but it's still difficult to get a brush or a fat pastel pencil into such a small space and come away with something recognizable! Not only are the brushes/pencils almost too large for detail, but your hand is always in the way so you can't really see what you're painting!

So, I was pretty pleased with the outcome of the cat painting above. I belong to a group of patrons of my favorite pet store who get together once a month or so and this month we're having a small gift exchange. This kitty will be my gift for this occasion. I hope whoever gets it likes it and isn't disappointed at all. The plan is to put all the gifts (wrapped) into a large container and let everyone draw one out. So, no one knows who will get what gift. I debated about painting a cat. I know about the dogs everyone has, but somehow, the cats don't get as much discussion time. I didn't want to paint a dog as most everyone has a rescue dog or two who certainly aren't purebred and it would be almost impossible to please someone with a dog breed painting. And, not knowing who would receive my gift also made it hard to paint a specific animal. I actually wanted to paint a wild animal but figured I'd be safer painting a cat. We'll see if I change my mind and paint something else before the exchange! lol

But this cat photo spoke to me plus I wanted to try a black animal again to see if I could give it enough life to make it interesting. I'll let you decide if that's been accomplished!

More Thoughts on Glassless Framing

I've not had a lot of time to experiment more with the glassless framing of either watercolor or pastel lately but I have been thinking about it a lot. And I've reached a few conclusions about it for me personally and I'll share them with you here.

First, I think glassless framing is very practical. Pastel and watercolor are relatively delicate mediums and the varnish protects them in a way that glass cannot do. However, the very delicacy of the media is what makes them what they are and look as they do. Varnishing changes the look into something else and I'm not so sure that's desirable, especially in every case. If varnishing didn't change the look of the art, I would be wholeheartedly enthusiastic about glassless framing. As it stands, I'm enthusiastic - with some reservations.

In this day and time and especially here in the US, there's a myriad of art media available to artists (and I think I've tried just about all that are out there! lol)

The painting of the cockatoo (varnished watercolor) is hanging on the studio wall where I have to see it on a regular basis. One day as I glanced at it, it struck me that it looks very much like an acrylic ink painting. Varnishing a watercolor is quite a bit of trouble so why bother when the look ends up being very similar to a medium that doesn't require near that amount of effort? Acrylic inks also behave so much like watercolor that if one is mastered, then the other can be also. Perhaps the major difference is that the acrylic inks cannot be re-wet or lifted once they're dry, otherwise, they're very, very similar to work with.

Pastel is another matter altogether. Right now there's really not any other medium that looks or behaves quite like soft pastels or pastel pencils. Even after it's varnished, it has it's own look. Of course, the average person probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a varnished pastel, a varnished watercolor or an acrylic ink painting. Once finished, they all look very similar. And, without the texture, an oil or regular acrylic would probably look very close to the other mediums if all were varnished with the same type/finish of varnish.

So, right now, with technology as it is, I don't think I'm going to pursue glassless framing, especially for pastels. As I've said, if I could do it without changing the look of the original medium, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But, since the varnish is an extra process and changes the look of pastel and watercolor into something else entirely, I say why bother?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Japanese Magnolia - Take 2

Japanese Magnolia
Jan Gibson

This is the second Japanese Magnolia I've painted in watercolor. The first was from a photo reference taken by someone else on a free photo sharing site. This one is from my own photo reference taken at WalMart's garden center of all places! The day was a little overcast so I had to compensate and punch up the color and contrast in this painting.

I can see why it's so desirable to work from life. Most of the time I don't have the luxury of doing that as my main subject matter tends to be less than cooperative at sitting still for long. And I have to admit that I'm usually a very slow painter so even florals or landscapes will change light before I can begin to finish them. Photographs give the luxury of working at my own pace and the time to make changes that may not be there while painting en plein air.

Anyway, thanks to the help of the good people at Let's Make Art, I've finally finished this flower. I have a bunch of photos so maybe I'll paint another one one of these days. I think they're beautiful.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Lights/Strange Traditions

Hayfield Christmas Tree
Jan Gibson

The photo above shows the Christmas tree that my husband decorates every year. It sits on the edge of our yard right before the yard merges into the hayfield in the front of the house.

I guess it's kind of weird to have a lighted tree sort of in the middle of nowhere but I'm sure people passing by at night are comforted by these lights. Well, maybe they're just amused! Oh, well, if it makes them smile, I'll all for the tree.

As I said, this is kind of a weird tradition but it's not the weirdest one we observe at this time of the year. We live about 5 miles from a little community-sized town. It's tiny but they usually have a nice tree on the main street and there' s a little side street where the residents go all out with lights and decorations. Every year, we take our two old dogs to "see the lights" in this little town. We've been doing it for 13 years - ever since we got the dogs as pups.
They seem to know when it's time for their annual Christmas trip and they really seem to enjoy it.

Of course, it could be that they're just excited about a trip out with us that doesn't involve the vet!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cockatoo, Finally Framed

Cockatoo, Framed
Watercolor on Aquabord
Jan Gibson

I finally got the cockatoo painting framed and am pleased with the way it came out. It may have looked more like a watercolor painting on paper with a mat and framed with glass but I do like this glassless framing.

I have it hanging on my studio wall with a window to the right as you look at the painting. There's lots of light coming from that window if I leave the blinds open but, as you can see, there's very little glare on the painting.

I chose a frame in the same colors as the branch the cockatoo is perched on but I usually have doubts that I've chosen the right frame! Would it have looked better in a snazzy tropical color? I really think so but I'm not the brave one when it comes to things like that! However, I'm going to keep my eye open for a really colorful frame in maybe orange or yellow or some other bright and fabulous color!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Watercolor Glassless Framing - the First Result

Cockatoo Before and After Varnishing
Jan Gibson

I thought you might like to see the cockatoo painting after four coats of the Golden UVLS gloss varnish. Actually, you can't see much difference between the two scans here but the varnished painting looks a little brighter in real life. At this point, I'm debating on whether to add another coat of satin varnish for a different finish or leave it as it is.

I like that it looks bright and rich in color and the fact that it's not real shiny in spite of the gloss varnish. I hesitate to use the satin varnish in case it doesn't look as good but this is an experimental piece so I think I'll try it. If I don't, I'll never know whether it would have looked better or worse, right?

I have been diligent in observing the different stages of the process and will give my thoughts here in hopes of helping someone else.

I do like the ease of the Preval sprayer for applying the Golden Soft Gel (gloss). I diluted it to 2 parts Soft Gel and 1 part water and it sprayed on beautifully.

However, when I diluted the Golden UVLS varnish (gloss) 2 to 1, I felt that it was too thin and may try it with either less water or will not dilute it at all and will apply it with a foam brush.

With the sprayed on varnish, I either got runs and drips or lots of air bubbles. I got rid of most of the air bubbles the same way you do with a cake batter - by rapping the painting sharply on a hard surface. The rest were popped with an old hat/corsage pin.

I don't like the Preval sprayer because I had to use quite a bit of the varnish in order for the sprayer pipe to reach the liquid. The jars that come with the sprayer are a little over 2 inches in diameter and are about 5 inches tall. They hold 6 ounces of liquid.

Of course, the bottle doesn't have to be filled to the top line for the sprayer to work but it seems to work best with at least an ounce in the bottle. This varnish (and the soft gel) goes a long, long way but I'm told that the varnish doesn't keep after mixing so that means that I have quite a bit left that will have to be thrown out. These products aren't cheap so I think this is a pretty good reason to at least try the foam brush instead of the sprayer the next time. Or, perhaps I can find a bottle with a lot smaller diameter that will work with less liquid. Or, maybe the airbrush is the solution after all.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Whimsy or Realism?

One of the art forums I visit has a post from a really good realistic artist who was not only turned down for gallery space but was basically told that her art was not any good. Of course she was devastated. Come to find out, this gallery only showed abstract art and was saying that since she didn't paint in the abstract style, she wasn't any good.

The discussion continued about different genres of art being in vogue at a particular place and time and that these genres cycle in and out of favoritism.

From what I see on the internet, whimsy seems to be the current art flavor of this period, especially for pet portraits.

One master of this type of painting is Ron Burns. I like his work immensely even though my "calling" is to realism (artists are allowed to appreciate the different types of art!).

Getting back to the post on the art forum, many of the members posted about the hard time the impressionists, for example, had being taken seriously in the art world of their time. Now we look back and consider them the geniuses of their era!

I wonder what future generations will think when they look upon this period in art history? Will they look at abstracts and whimsical paintings and appreciate them or will there be a different flavor of the century?