Friday, August 28, 2009

Fabriano Tiziano

If you've been reading my blog for the past few weeks, you might remember a post about some Fabriano Tiziano paper I bought on sale.

Well, I'm not one to let any art supply go to waste if I can help it, so I ended up applying a coat of Colour-Fix Primer to one of the sheets and it actually worked! The paper did buckle a little but a quick mist of water on the back then overnight under a pile of books solved that little problem easily.

I bought the CF Primer on a trip to Jerry's ArtaRama quite a while ago and have never used it. OK, I was chicken to try it as I'd heard it could end up streaky and uneven but I didn't feel I had anything to lose with the Tiziano paper. Actually, it went on very easily and while there was some streakiness, it wasn't all that noticeable after applying the pastel. It shows up slightly when the painting is scanned but a scanner will sometimes pick up every grain of sand anyway.

The painting above was done for an OSWOA exchange and I was very pleased with the way it came out especially since it proves that I don't have to let this paper languish in my paper drawer!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sassy Little Pom - WIP 2, Maybe Final

I've been working on this off and on since my last post and I'm still not satisfied. However, I'm on the verge of overworking it so may just call it finished unless someone has any suggestions.

The biggest thing is the shadow areas. They don't look right to me but I've worked and reworked them and don't know where to go from here.

Anyway, this is Sassy. I think she's finished - at least for now! lol

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sassy Little Pom - WIP

I'm told this dog's name is Sassy. This isn't a commission or anything - she was in a car at a shop I go to & since I had my camera and she was being sooo cute looking at me from the car window, I had to take her picture! The shop owner told me about her as I guess her owner is a frequent visitor to the shop.

Actually, this is more experimenting with the Jack Richeson pastel sticks. The paper is Strathmore charcoal and pastel paper and I'm also using some pastel pencils for detail. Right now, all I've done is block in some colors and there's still a lot to do on her.

The photos didn't come out that well as they ended up looking very streaky from the reflections on the window glass. I clarified and did as much as I could with my photo software and have guessed at some of the details in the eyes. I'd say the eyes are about 95% done but I'll have to tweak them before I finish, I'm sure.

I don't know when I'll finish this as I'm also working on a commission. The commission is a dog and I'm at the planning stage which is always the most difficult for me. The main photo has eyes that can't be seen and the other photo has the dog looking totally different from the first photo! If the client hadn't sworn they were the same dog, I'd be very doubtful! Anyway, I'm not even sure what medium I want to use but I think it will be watercolor. I keep sketching very flowing lines which seem most suitable for watercolor but I'll just see what suggests itself when the sketch is finally finished! Fortunately, this client is wonderful and always leaves it up to me to work however and in whatever medium I want.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jack Richeson Pastel Sticks Review

I don't think I've said a whole lot about the Jack Richeson pastel sticks that I recently bought. That's because I really haven't had time to adequately test them.

Actually, I still haven't given them a real test but I did paint this tomato primarily with them. The support is a scrap of charcoal/pastel paper and it was a soft taupe color. You can see that, in spite of several layers (fixing between the layers), the background color still shows through the white.

The colors went on ok, I guess. I don't know exactly how they're supposed to go on. They don't behave either like the pencils or the semi-soft pastels (Rembrandt) I have. The colors seem a little translucent, even the darker colors, which surprised me. They're billed as being very high quality pigment rich and more lightfast than NuPastels.

I'll have to determine their lightfastness later but I do want to discuss the colors in the set I received. I bought the 30 color set and the picture in the catalog showed a pretty good variety of colors. There is a good variety but I was very surprised at the colors I received. For one thing, there isn't a true green even though there are several greenish shades in the set. I had to do some optical mixing and still didn't achieve the colors I wanted.

Anyway, I want to do some more with them before I judge them. So many times I start out not liking a certain art supply then end up with it being my very favorite! I did find the sticks a little awkward and since I really don't like pastel on my hands, the fact that they aren't wrapped was a little off-putting. Also, I have rather large hands and found the sticks kind of clumsy trying to get into the small spaces. I think once the sticks are worn into different shapes I'll be able to use them better. A little experience with them wouldn't hurt either!

Monday, August 17, 2009

My New Still Life

What?!! You don't like it? Well, blame my DH as we bought some nice looking cherries at the grocery store yesterday and I went through them as I washed them and laid aside several to use in a still life. I knew I wouldn't need them until this morning so I left them on the kitchen counter to bag separately after they were dry.

You all know I'm not much for painting still lifes but the cherries were so pretty that I decided I'd give one another shot. Yep, you guessed it - the love of my life ate my still life! And, no, this isn't an excuse along the lines of "the dog ate my homework" - he honestly ate my still life - or at least one component of it!

This is just a few hours after we stood in the produce department of the grocery store while I debated with myself about buying the cherries. He finally said to just put them in the cart and if they wouldn't work for a still life, he'd eat them. I guess he mis-spoke and evidently meant that he'd eat them so they wouldn't work for a still life! lol

Aren't men wonderful. Mine truly is but he rarely really listens to what I say. I'd be willing to bet if I'd had that long conversation in the grocery store about painting cherries with anyone else that they would have remembered it and my cherries would still be intact.

Oh, well, there are some cherries left - not as pretty as the ones I'd selected - but there are some cherries left. So, this morning I set up some different still lifes and photographed them. Somehow though, I'm not really in the mood to paint a still life any more.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Angel in the Azaleas

This is the OSWOA (Original Small Work Of Art) that was my contribution to an art exchange at Let's Make Art, an art forum I belong to. I said yesterday that I would post it so here it is! lol

I was very pleased with this painting even though I had trouble getting the highlights to stay after spraying with fixative. It seems that light colors in pastel seem to just melt sometimes. Anyway, this is from one of my own photos and it seemed to just flow. I wonder if I should have made the azaleas more definitive but I wanted the angel to be the focal point.

Anyway, a long-time member of LMA and someone I consider to be very special received this painting and I'm glad it was she who received it.

My husband really liked this painting, probably mostly because it's of one of our "neighbor's" front yard before the county ruined all their beautiful azaleas by paving our country gravel road. Seeing this angel standing watch in the midst of all those azaleas was a sight to behold. I only hope I've conveyed that feeling of awe and beauty in this painting.

Friday, August 14, 2009

WIP - Lab Final

I had contacted Belle's owner yesterday and she preferred the red background so that's what I did. I finished it up today and emailed a copy to the owner who approved it wholeheartedly. I just returned from putting it into the mail.

Whew! I was sweating it as it seemed like pulling (my own!) teeth to get this halfway the way I wanted it. However, Belle's "mom" said it looked just like her and she was so excited to know that I mailed it today. Hope she's just as excited when she receives it!

I didn't have anything but a very bright red for the background so I ground up some red, some green and a little blue and mixed them together to come up with a color that the owner wanted. I have this photo cropped but the background is vignetted. The mat will cover everything but the red color though so this is pretty much the way the dog will look after it's framed.

Oh, I did tweak the eyes and nose just a little more before I mailed it but didn't make another copy - they were slight adjustments.

Now, on to my next commission - another dog. This time it's a pure white toy dog and I have some ideas for it but nothing has quite jelled yet. This is the commission that isn't due until November and where I'm given free rein to paint it the way I want to! How cool is that?

Also will be working on an OSWOA for an exchange in an art forum I belong to. We just had an exchange and it was so successful, we decided to plan for another one. I'll show the OSWOA I did for the last exchange in tomorrow's post but will have to keep the new one a secret!

Shhhhh, don't tell but I think it's going to be a flower!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

WIP Update 5 - Lab

My husband happened to read my blog yesterday and yelled at me for even considering starting this portrait over. Of course, he's not an artist and doesn't realize some of the problems and complexities but many times he's right.

In this case, he suggested a background and also suggested playing around with the color in my graphics program. So, I did. I know the wall color of my client is a tannish, grayish, pinkish taupe color and I know the dog is so light (actually lighter than I have portrayed her and I intend to rectify that) that I need a darker background color. Do any of you have any suggestions for a good color to use?

I also played more with the Richeson sticks and realize that the PastelMat needs a lot of pastel in order to build enough of a base for blending. Before that base is built, about the only way to blend is with another pastel. Even so, the pencil marks are still not covering well and it's still difficult to layer the lighter colors over the darker ones. I still have more work to do on this so please think good thoughts for me!

So, it looks as if I'll continue with this and hope I don't overwork it or otherwise mess it up. If I do, well, then I guess I'll start over at that time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

WIP Update 4 - Lab

I got the new Richeson pastel sticks in yesterday afternoon and have been working on this lab this morning. The new sticks are nice and they are very pigment-rich but they still don't cover the pencil marks or even over darker colors.

I think I'm giving this one up as I just can't seem to get it to where I want it to go. It must be the pastelmat support as none of the light colored pastels seem to want to cover over darker ones. I've never had that problem with any other support, or at least not to this degree. So, I think I'm going to start over again on another support - velour perhaps or maybe pastelbord or even colour-fix - I'll have to see what I have on hand.

This is such a pretty dog in her photos and I want to do her justice in my painting of her. But, it's just not happening. That's the way it goes sometimes. Usually I can work over areas to make corrections but not this time. As I said, it must be the pastelmat paper as I'm using the same pastels I always have except for the new ones. There seems to be plenty of tooth left but the colors just aren't covering as they usually do.

I'll let you know when I start over or if I have a miraculous break-through with this one! lol

Saturday, August 8, 2009

WIP Update - Lab

I don't know if this is just at the "ugly stage" or is really just bad but I'm about ready to start it over again. I bought the PastelMat to experiment with but, for me at least, it has a steep learning curve!

I probably should have left it alone until the Richeson pastel sticks arrived but it was lying there on my work table with the pastel pencils beside it and ----- well, I just couldn't resist adding a stroke here and there!

I'm still working all over the place and have the eyes, nose, collar (& everything else!) left to do so don't judge it too harshly! I am going to leave it alone until the new pastel sticks arrive and then, if I can't rework it to my satisfaction, I'll start over again on velour or maybe even PastelBord.

On a brighter note, I went to Hobby Lobby yesterday and got a few supplies. They offered a 40% off coupon, were having a 30% off sale on some items plus it's our annual tax-free weekend so I bought some things that I wanted. Actually, I didn't get much because Hobby Lobby doesn't carry much in the way of really good art supplies but I did buy the wedge-shaped Style Stix. I thought they might work as well as my finger for blending but it felt clumsy to use when I tried one. I probably just need to practice with it though.

I also got some Winsor and Newton workable fixative. I don't think I've ever seen that at HL before so I was tickled to find it. All I've ever seen around here is the Krylon stuff and that smells sooooo bad that I really don't like to use it. Hobby Lobby also had a low odor spray by Blair but, if I remember right, I don't think it said that it was a workable fixative. Anyway, I bought the Winsor and Newton and like it so much better than others I've used. To tell the truth, I think I like it better than the super expensive Lascaux that I've been mail-ordering.

One of these days I want to try the SpectraFix fixative that another artist has developed using milk casein. It's supposed to be much like the stuff that the old masters used without any of the more harmful chemicals or anything. It's also not supposed to darken your work. If that's the case, I may go back to experimenting with glassless framing!

So many art supplies! So little time and money to try them all! lol

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Loew-Cornell Style Stix - for Sue

Some time ago, Sue from PencilPix had asked me about some tools from Loew-Cornell that I had picked up and started using for pastel blending. I promised that I would tell her how they held up on sanded surfaces once I'd had a chance to try them on one.

Well, I'm about half-way through a painting on Colour-Fix (about 9 x 12 inches in size) which is very rough in my opinion and I've also used these on the WIP painting of the Lab that I show here on my blog. The Lab is being painted on PastelMat which is not really a sanded surface but is still an abrasive surface which would certainly test these blenders also.

The Style Stix are actually made to be used for painting and not blending pastels but they work beautifully for blending in my opinion. I purposely left one of the Stix unused so you could compare it to the others. The Style Stix come 4 to a package and in this instance, they are cone-shaped which is great for getting into tight spaces. I haven't been exceedingly rough in my blending but I haven't taken it easy on them either and they seem to be holding up very well. If I'd used a paper tortillon, it would be nearly shredded by now.

I don't know the exact material these are made from, but it seems to be a very dense foam-like substance. Even though they do stain, I can wipe the excess color from them and don't get any unwanted transfer from one area of the painting to another. And they can also be washed when they get really dirty.

Because they are cone-shaped, these haven't been used over large areas. I've mainly used them to blend in corners or other small areas and I've not needed to be very aggressive with them. There are other shapes available from Loew-Cornell also. You can go to their website to check them out - just scroll down the frame showing the product line and they're right after the yellow "Sponge-It" tools.

You can click on my photos above and enlarge them to see how the Style Stix have handled the abuse I've given them to date. I don't think what I've done so far is much of a test, but, as I said, a paper tortillon would be fairly well shredded on the end by now. I don't know how long these will last but they weren't exceedingly expensive (about $6/$7 for the package) as Loew-Cornell is known for making inexpensive products for artists. Because of the low price, I have doubts that they'll last forever, but for me, they're certainly a good thing to have on hand.

Lab WIP - Day 2

I worked on this quite a bit yesterday but it doesn't look like it here. Pastelmat is much like ColorFix in that you sort of have to fill up some tooth before you can start to blend. The PastelMat color I'm using is white and the dog is actually mostly white even though she's a Yellow Lab. But, I can't really use the white of the paper like in watercolor. I need to lay down the white base in order to get the shading done later.

Getting a good base down is sort of slow going with pastel pencils. I ordered some of the Jack Richeson square semi-hard pastel sticks and hope they arrive soon. I'm hoping they'll bridge the gap between the pencils and soft pastels.

These Richeson sticks are much like the PrismaColor NuPastels except that they're supposed to be much more lightfast and archival. I've heard that the NuPastels fade very, very quickly so I've never been tempted to use them but a lightfast stick would have a definite place in my studio. So, I can't wait to receive them and may wait until they arrive before working more on this portrait.

One of the problems I'm having with this portrait is trying to erase the sketch lines. I normally make a sketch on inexpensive paper then trace my sketch onto the good paper. Then I erase the lines as I go if necessary. I don't know whether it's the white color of the PastelMat or the texture of it, but the lines are not erasing this time. I've used a kneaded eraser, a stick eraser and a gum eraser and the lines remain. They also don't cover well with the pastel. I'm out of workable fixative but think I need to go get some to seal these pencil lines. The lines aren't deep - it's not as if they're impressed or anything so I don't know how to deal with them at this point.

Still, I do like working on the Pastelmat and would buy it again, I think. I bought 4 sample pieces that are about 14 by 20 inches and think by the time I've used those, I'll have a good idea of the best way for me to work on this support.

I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I know it's been a while since I was last here but I've been swamped by various projects. Some have been in the making for a while and I'll let you know about those when they're ready to be announced.

In the meantime, I've started a new dog portrait. This one is very special since 1) it's for a wonderful person 2) it's a lovely dog and 3) I'm using my new PastelMat for the first time on a commission!

I'd planned to do give you a full WIP, but, as usual, I got started and forgot to scan the basic sketch! However, I didn't get very far before I remembered so there's very little done.

In this wip, I hope to better learn the properties of the PastelMat, of course, but I also hope to learn more about mixing colors in pastel. I've been told that an artist really needs the exact color they want to lay down as mixing colors isn't really feasible in this medium. For this dog, I don't think the exact colors are available as I think I have just about every "dog" or "cat" color made and they're still not quite right!

Also, I'm working from some relatively bad reference photos. Well, the photo showing the body of the dog isn't too bad but the eyes were totally flashed out in that photo to the point where even the area around them was badly affected. I had another photo showing the eyes pretty well so I ended up using the one photo for the actual dog but am using the second photo to sketch in and paint the eyes. It looks right so far so I'm excited to see how it all works out!

I'm also excited about using the PastelMat again. I said in an earlier post that I didn't think I wanted to like it very much because it wasn't available here in the US. Well, I just found out that it is available here now! I don't know if any other art stores will carry it, but Dakota Pastels is now offering it to their customers. Having it available in the US may not entice me to use it more though as it's still a very expensive support! Hope my customers appreciate the fact that they're getting the best! lol

More later - let me get back to work on this so I'll have an update to post tomorrow!