Monday, October 26, 2009

The Great Pecan Debate Rages On

This is a freehand digital painting - no photo, no filters or anything but a stylus, digital tablet and a home-grown pecan for a model. I posted it because I wanted to brush up on my Painter (software) skills and I had a pocketful of pecans yesterday when I came in to rest a bit after picking up pecans all morning.

Ok, it's a pecan - what's there to debate about a pecan?

Let me give you a little background and I'll bet a light begins to glimmer! My darling other half is from down-home Georgia stock even though he was pretty much raised in Florida and has lived here in North Carolina most of his adult life.

I was raised in Kansas on a farm even though I spent several years in Mississippi and most of my adult life here in North Carolina.

Needless to say, there's a rather large cultural difference and sometimes, an even larger difference in speech. Sort of, you say potAto, I say potAHto. So the great pecan debate rages on here especially during every pecan harvest.

I was raised to call these luscious nuts peCAHNs, my husband was raised to call them pEEcans. He's pretty stubborn and insists he's pronouncing the name correctly even though I've told him time and time again that a pee can is something you put under the bed in case you have to get up during the night!

What do you say?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Follower

You all know that I'm interested in just about any art form and I recently found a blog that specializes in dough art. I used to play around with dough art back when my daughter was little but haven't really thought of it since (and my daughter is in her 40s!). But I recently signed up to make an ornament for a Christmas exchange and I thought of the dough art immediately because of the fun I'd had with my daughter those many years ago.

I was searching for a recipe for the dough when I stumbled upon the Dough Ditties blog. Mary, the blog owner, had published her recipe in her blog but instead of just taking the recipe and leaving, I was so intrigued that I had to read many of her blog posts.

Now, I haven't had any real contact with Mary, but I feel as if she's a kindred spirit and her dough art creations are both unusual and very well done. I was really drawn to her blog because of her willingness to share. She not only shares her recipe for the art dough , but she also shares her techniques on her blog. And even more, she's posted some wonderful sounding recipes for real, edible bread which is another passion of mine! I've found that artists as a whole are really giving people and Mary fits right in that group with her generous spirit!

Thank you, Mary! Now wish me luck in making that ornament for the ornament exchange!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Another Cute Photo

I know it seems as if I'm taking more photos than doing any art these days but I am painting - I'm just not painting anything I can show right now.

But, back to the photo. That's a cute little frog stuck to our glass kitchen storm door in case you can't tell. He was there when I came back from the barn after tending to Bonnie. It was still fairly dark out and I had a hard time getting a good photo. I tried to take a picture from inside but the kind of glass we have in the door evidently isn't good for shooting photos through as all I got was a yellowish blob!

I don't know what it is with the wildlife lately, but our porch has been attractive to it. Yesterday morning as I was going out to the barn to feed Bonnie, there was a little rabbit not far from the kitchen door! Again, it was still pretty dark outside and I didn't see it until I was right up on it! It startled me good, let me tell you! Of course, I'm sure it was startled more than I was! Since I'd come from around the corner (we have a wrap-around porch and I'd gone out another door) I guess it didn't hear or see me coming.

He hopped down the steps ahead of me and couldn't get away fast enough! The little frog didn't hang around very long either. I'd planned to try for more pictures after the sun came up but he was gone by the time that happened.

Oh, well, at least I got this one! I don't know what to expect for tomorrow morning but I'll look carefully before going out - there's been a whiff of skunk in the air the past couple of mornings!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another "Two-fer"

This doe was out front this morning right along the edge of our pecan grove. She stood still while I got several photos of her and, while this isn't the best shot of her, I was surprised to find a bonus in it when I downloaded it from my camera!

If you'll look at the bottom right of the photo (click to enlarge), you'll see one of the pesky bandits we have to combat in our quest to harvest ripe pecans! You might say that we could surely spare a few for the squirrels but they come in hordes from the woods surrounding us and can literally strip the trees of nuts in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Plus, they aren't the only thieves we have among us! The crows are very clever and will drop the pecans into the driveway in hopes that we'll run over them with the cars! That way they can just dig in and feast on the already cracked pecans!

Then there are the raccoons and possums and even our neighbor down the road has confessed to picking up a pocketfull from near the road while he was supposed to be picking up trash along the shoulders of the road!

So, maybe the pecans that the squirrels get don't sound like a big deal but I'm thinking that we'd better blast some rock music (or maybe a 410) or there won't be any nuts for us to collect! After all, we're the ones who planted the trees, watered and fertilized them and who have waited patiently for over 20 years for the trees to bear a nice crop - I'd sure like to be the one to reap the harvest!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Photo in a Million

I looked out the kitchen door this morning to see a hawk sitting on a fence post in Bonnie's pasture. I ran for my camera and it stayed still long enough to get a couple of shots with him and Bonnie alongside one another! This one is the best of them both together.

I think this is a Cooper's hawk but am not 100% sure. If anyone can verify, I'd appreciate it. The reason I'm unsure is because we have several varieties of hawks around here with the most common being the red-tailed hawk.

Anyway, I'm not a great birder and we so seldom see these magnificent creatures this close. He was eating a grub on that fence post. We've been exceedingly dry up until a few days ago and then have had rain nearly every day since. I guess the grubs are coming to the surface to keep from drowning and we have birds everywhere right now! BTW, that's why my Bon looks so dirty - she loves to be out in the rain and mud!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

When Will I Learn?

The lady with the pet food shop who stocks my notecards asked for some cards with bunnies. So I painted this bunny on a paper with a laid texture and it came out awful. The texture was impossible to cover and I'm not one of those who like to see a prominent texture in a painting. Well, I do like it from some artists but it doesn't fit with my style and I don't like it for my work. It's even worse for paintings that will be printed as the texture seems even more obvious.

So, this will be a do-over on a support I like to work with!

I know, I know - why did I even choose the paper to begin with? Well, my wonderful husband took me to Jerry's Artarama on Sunday as I needed a few things for my next commission. I really hate to drive in Raleigh so I was really blessed that he took the time to drive me. Anyway, I got the supplies I needed then happened to see that they had some paper by Strathmore on sale. It said it was made from hemp and "post consumer waste fiber" and, hey, it's good to be green, isn't it? And, besides, I like trying new things. Well, this paper isn't quite as bad as the Tiziano fiasco but I think I've learned my lesson about buying something new even if it is on sale! Fortunately, it wasn't expensive which is why I used it for the rabbit in the first place. If I'm painting something specifically for a card or other reproduction, I don't always use my favorite supports. Perhaps I need to start!

OK, chalk it down as another lesson learned!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Christmas Gift Quandry - What To Give!

Every year it's the same question - what can I give to (you fill in the blank) for Christmas? Of course I'm going to tell you that a gift of original art is always appropriate and it needn't break the bank either. There are some wonderful ACEOs or OSWOAs available that are very reasonably priced for what you receive. They are so reasonable they can even fill the bill for those gift exchanges where the dollar amount is limited! Check e-Bay and Etsy and other online shops and stock up now for the best selection!

And, although it's getting almost too late, a custom portrait of the giftee's favorite pet is truly a gift that will be remembered and treasured for a lifetime. Even if your favorite artist is all booked up and it's too late to commission the portrait itself, a gift certificate is the next best thing.

But, I really think other artists read my blog more so than non-artists - what does an artist want for Christmas? My daughter says I'm impossible to buy for because she feels as if she's in a foreign country when she goes into an art store. She says it's overwhelming and she's afraid she'll get the wrong thing when she goes in. There is that danger, of course, but again, a gift certificate would be a great gift.

But, at least for me, there are easier solutions that don't even involve a trip to the art store! My favorite aisles in WalMart are the stationery aisle and the arts and craft aisle and there are really some great items there that would make super stocking stuffers for the artist.

One thing I always need are those 2-hole pencil sharpeners. Pastel pencils dull the best sharpeners very quickly and I always like to keep several on hand. The sharpeners with 2 holes usually fit any pencil I have. And while we're in the stationery isle, markers are another item I always look at with longing but just don't buy for myself. And pencils! A few plain ole pencils would delight most artists and some mechanical pencils with different sized leads could bring tears of joy!

Moving to the arts and crafts aisle there are craft knives and blades and those rotary cutters are very nice too. There's tracing paper, some specialty art supports (which would be suitable for practice if nothing else), and my WalMart carries some brand name art items like Prismacolor in limited supply. There are also these bags of brushes for just a couple of dollars and I like them for applying masking fluid or just having around for the youngest grandkids to use. There are lots of acid free, lignon free papers for scrapbooking that work great for collage too.

And if you look around the store, you'll find many other items - for instance, I use quantities of that lavender colored low-tack tape in the painting aisle and can always use a new roll . Foam brushes and those small foam rollers or refills are great ideas for applying gesso or primers.

These are just a few things that I would definitely like to get and they don't require a trip to the art store nor a second mortgage to buy either!

I'd love to hear more suggestions from those of you who stop by here too. Let's hear some suggestions for everyone and then some specific suggestions for the artists among us!

What would YOU like for Christmas?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Camouflage or Deception Paintings?

There was surge of popularity in what are commonly called "Deception" or "Camouflage" paintings not too many years ago. These paintings have sort of hidden pictures within the picture so to speak. One of my favorite artists of this type of painting is Bev Doolittle and I prefer to call these "Camouflage" paintings rather than "Deception" paintings because the items are simply hidden and not really meant to deceive.

However, there are some so-called artists out there who do try to actively deceive their customers. One such artist was brought to the attention of the members of one of my art groups. A web link was posted to ask us whether we thought the paintings posted as examples were really painted at all as the artist claims or whether they were photo manipulations. Photos can be changed with certain filters and made to look like paintings and that's fine in my book. My beef is not with photo manipulations but I detest it when they're called paintings when in fact they aren't.

Even when paint is applied over the photo, the base is still a photo and should be called that. Thomas Kincaide is known for applying paint over his prints but he's very upfront about it and besides, the prints are from his original work, not a manipulated photograph!

Take a look at the photo above (you can click on it to make it larger) and see if you would ever call this a painting. It's actually a photo manipulation that I did in about 4 minutes to see if I could reproduce the same effect as the artist we were discussing in my art forum. Of course, the original photo is not the same as his, but it's similar and the effects came out pretty similar also. If anyone would call this a painting, I'm going to give up spending hours and hours slaving over a hot easel and start selling MY photo manips at the same price that my paintings bring!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Art Exchange

We are having a new exchange of 4"x6" art in my LMA group and this is the painting I did. It's already been received so I'm not blowing the surprise by posting it here. This is the size that would be called an OSWOA if the art were sold but I don't know what to call it since it's an exchange!

Hold on to your hat as it will surprise you to learn that this was done in colored pencil! Yes, I know - not my favorite medium but I wanted to try out the ColourFix primer on matboard and thought this cup of coffee would be a suitable subject with which to experiment. The ColourFix is the same primer that I used to salvage that awful Tiziano paper that I'd bought on sale.

This painting used a variety of colored pencil brands and the support is acid-free mat board. I applied the primer with a small paint roller and that seems to have worked well. I don't claim to be any great shakes at still life painting but this came out pretty well if I do say so myself. Of course, I always see things that could be improved but I doubt if I ever get over that and actually hope I don't!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pastel Glassless Framing - Instructions

Since there are so many artists interested in glassless framing of watercolors, colored pencil and pastel, I thought I'd share the process of my latest attempt.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I've been experimenting with glassless framing for a long time. Glassless watercolor preparation or glassless colored pencil preparation is no problem and very easy. However, trying to prepare pastel for framing without glass did not work well for me.

I tried the methods of many artists who had gone before me in this new, experimental process but my light colored pastel areas always "melted" away or dissolved and I wasn't happy with any project I tried.

However, with Libby, I'm on my fourth coat of the diluted PVA and have not had to touch up much at all! Whoooo hooooo, praise God! So, what have I done differently this time?

I used the Ampersand PastelBord as usual (you can use other surfaces and I'll explain how later) but I did not use the pastel pencils much on this painting! That's evidently the key to successfully framing pastel without glass! I used mostly the Richardson pastel sticks and some Rembrandt soft pastels this time around with touches of the pastel pencils in the details.

I also used diluted PVA as my isolation barrier instead of the Golden Soft Gel but I don't think that was a major factor in the success this time.

Anyway, I am very pleased with the glassless prep of this painting and look forward to more paintings prepared this way.

I know you're wanting to know the exact process and I can only tell you how I do it. I've had input from many different artists who were very generous in sharing their methods (you can go back in my blog for their names and links) but the main thrust came from Jana at Phinearts blogspot. I just modified her methods to suit my way of working and chose products that were convenient for me to get and that I knew were archival.

OK, here we go:

1. Choose a support that can handle water and will not deteriorate over time - paper by itself is not a good choice. As I stated above, I use the PastelBord but I've heard of artists using the PVA to glue paper to hardboard cradles then proceeding with the painting after the glue was dry. Or some (brave souls if you ask me!) glue their finished work on paper to a hardboard cradle then proceed with their glassless method of choice. (You can find out about either method by searching on Google or some other search engine.) I have not tried to use velour or other "fabric-like" supports for the glassless framing & don't think it would work well. I think the nap of the fabric may be difficult to seal. However, maybe some day I'll take a small test piece and try it.

2. After your pastel is finished, we begin the process of preparing it to be framed without glass. Because your typical varnish will probably yellow over time, most artists use an isolation barrier of some kind of archival, non-yellowing material between the art and the varnish. That way the varnish can be removed and re-applied without damaging the actual painting should it become necessary.

I use about 4 coats of the PVA glue/sizing as the barrier in my paintings. I spray these coats to avoid disturbing the layers of pastel and I found a nifty gadget that is the perfect sprayer! I do have an airbrush but it's a real pain to drag out and the compressor is kept in the barn because my husband uses it more there. Anyway, it's just a whole lot easier to use a Preval sprayer. These sprayers can be found in automotive parts stores, some paint stores, and some home improvement stores. They're extremely reasonable in price and the gas canister lasts a very, very long time.

I dilute the PVA to the ratio of 1 part PVA and 9 parts water, stir it well and start the spray off the painting then sweep across it lightly back and forth until it's all been covered. Then turn the painting on its side and do the same thing again. I spray with the painting propped up but lay it down on its back to dry.

Clean your Preval sprayer thoroughly after each use: spray some warm water through it for a few seconds then I store the nozzle and the stem in water until I'm ready to use it again. I've had the nozzle and the screen in the stem get clogged even after I thought the sprayer was completely clean so it's worthwhile to take extra precautions.

Let each coat of the PVA dry thoroughly. This doesn't take long if you haven't sprayed too heavily. If necessary, touch up the pastel between coats. The PVA does darken the painting some but not nearly as much as other sprays have done. On the painting of Libby, I decided it wasn't enough to worry about.

3. After your coats of PVA have thoroughly dried, you can varnish the painting to protect it. I use Golden's Polymer Varnish with UVLS which is both archival and also protects against ultra violet damage. I use 3 coats of the varnish letting it dry between coats.

A note of caution here - even if you want a matte finish to your painting, make the first 2 coats a gloss finish with the final coat the matte finish. That is because there are particles in matte sprays that dull the shine. Too many coats of a matte finish will make the painting look "milky" or "foggy". The gloss finish is totally clear, and, to be honest I actually prefer the gloss for all 3 coats. It's not as shiny as you might think it would be and you save by not having to buy both the gloss and matte (or satin) varnishes. However, you'll have to make that judgment for yourself. Experiment to see what you like best - you can even mix the gloss and matte to get the perfect look you like.

I use the Golden products in my Preval sprayer because I've heard they're the most archival and there's no smell and less harm to the lungs than when using aerosols. Jana and others use aerosol UV sprays like Krylon UV Clear or other products like it. It's certainly more convenient to use the aerosols but, again, that's a decision you'll have to make for yourself. It's best to spray them outdoors though. If you look at the photo above, you'll see that I made a cardboard "spray booth" so I can spray indoors where drying factors are more consistent. However, I wouldn't want to spray an aerosol inside.

And that's it. It's really a simple process. It does take some time and some touch up may be necessary but I think it's actually quicker than trying to frame with glass if you don't count the drying times of the PVA and the varnish. Plus, it's a much safer way to ship a painting!

If you have any questions, please let me know and I'll try to answer them. If you don't know about the products I've mentioned, please do a search to learn more about them. There's a plethora of information on the internet!

Libby - Accepted!

I heard from my client this weekend and she loves the painting of Libby - whew! I have it propped up in my studio where I can see it and I've decided that I like it. That's kind of scary to me as when I like a painting of my own, many times others don't like it at all!

This time it's worked out though and both my client and I like the painting!

Now, on to the glassless preparation. I've used workable fixative between the layers of the painting as I painted it where Jana uses PVA between layers. I'll use a couple of layers of the PVA as a barrier between the painting and the final finish and that will probably require touching up after each spray before the final PVA layer. After the final barrier layer is completely dry, I'll spray with Golden's UV protectant acrylic varnish. It's time consuming to mix the spray materials, spray, wait for it to dry, touch up any "melted" pastel, spray again, touch up again etc. until the pastel has enough build up to look as it's intended. At that time the final varnish coat can be applied.

It's really not as complicated as it sounds but just takes time to get right. The end result is worth it though and my customer will be able to ship the painting to its destination without the danger of the pastel being smudged or damaged. Also, there will be no glass to break in transit! The colors remain brilliant and the painting should be preserved for many, many years to come!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Libby - Almost There?

Well, I think I'm getting into the short rows with Libby's portrait. I emailed a copy to the lady who has commissioned the portrait and I hope to hear back from her soon.

I can see a couple of things that need changing now that the ref photo and the portrait are side-by-side - mainly that her face may be a tad too wide. I've used eyes from another photo of her but they weren't very clear in that photo either so the eyes and nose are a lot of guesswork.

So, critiques are welcome. This is my first white animal and I think white animals are way more difficult to render than black ones!

This is pastel on Ampersand's Pastelbord and when the painting is finished, I plan to seal it for glassless framing. This is a gift that will have to be shipped and since it will be framed also, we don't want to have to ship it with glass. I've been experimenting with a method used by Jana from Phinearts and it seems to work better than others. I basically use her method but don't work on canvas so don't have to prepare the canvas as she does. Please pray that it all goes well when the time comes to actually seal it!