Friday, July 30, 2010

New Portrait Painting & Some Observations

I just finished the portrait shown and delivered it to the customer yesterday.  This one went fairly easily and I just love this little dog's face.  It's a pastel done on velour paper and everything went fine until I began to spray between the layers.

Velour is a funny/odd substrate in that pastel will all fall off when you don't want it to and will cling tenaciously when you want to remove it!  I swear it seems to know the difference!  So, to prevent problems, I normally spray with fixative between layers then leave the top layer alone or spray very lightly.

I reviewed the SpectraFix fixative not too long ago here on my blog and that is what I used on this portrait.  It's about the only fixative I've ever used that doesn't change the color of the pastel and I think it's the best fixative out there.

However, even with the utmost care, it can "sputter" and leave large drops of the fixative on the painting.  I've had it happen both on paper and with the velour and it's very difficult to correct as the spots show up clearly.  There's not much you can do to correct the spots on paper and even going over the spot with more pastel sometimes doesn't cover it completely.  Normally it's a bit easier on the velour, fortunately.  I waited for the spots to dry completely then took a stiff bristle brush to gently brush the fixative off as much as possible and to sort of fluff up the nap.  I can add back pastel if needed to cover completely but usually the velour doesn't need it.

This time it didn't work that well and the spots were really visible on the background where there was no pastel to begin with.  I ended up adding a halo effect with pastel around the dog to hide the spots.  This worked, fortunately.

I'll know in the future to shield any areas without pastel to protect from these spots! 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Framing Questions

We've had a bunch of stuff to do this morning so am just now getting time to ask you all some questions about framing.  Here's the deal -

A friend's husband may get laid off from his job and is seriously considering opening a frame shop.  He's always made the frames and cut the mats for all their picture framing needs and I'm sure he'd do very well.  He's asked what is expected of a framer, particularly from an artist's point of view.  What do you all want most when you go to have a piece of art framed?  What would you like to say to all the frame shops out there?

OK, that's it, that's all I wanted to ask.  I'd like to give him a good overview of framing from our point of view so any relevant comments most welcome!

Making My Own Hardboard Supports - Again

I'm again making some more of those hardboard painting supports.  When I was looking for frames to frame my art for the gallery, I found some odd-sized frames at really good prices so I bought those too.  I figured I could paint to fit the frames since frames are notoriously expensive.

So, I'm s-l-o-w-l-y building up the layers of gesso and it always takes so much time for the layers to dry.  Well, dry isn't exactly the right word.  I got frustrated with the drying time and did a search to find out why I had to wait so long between layers.  After all, the gesso appeared to be completely dry.

Again, it's not that the gesso has to dry but it does have to cure.  I'm using acrylic gesso, by the way, and apparently, acrylics of any kind dry from the outside in and that takes a while.  They initially form a skin over the surface of the paint/gesso then it takes quite a while for the interior paint to dry.  How long depends on the thickness of the application, the temperature and the humidity level.

So, if the gesso is not allowed to dry/cure completely, it may crack or may not adhere to the surface of the hardboard well.  It would be a major disaster if you painted on a poorly dried support and your painting cracked or fell off with the gesso!  So, I'm trying to be patient here.

All in all, the actual work of making these panels is really negligible as far as I'm concerned and I can certainly find something to do while the panels dry for a few hours. This is true especially in light of the huge savings over "store-bought" panels and the freedom to use those odd-sized frames!

Oh, speaking of frames, please check back later as I have some questions for all of you - artist or not.  If you've ever had something framed then I need your input!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day In The Life Of A Ditz

I'm pretty sure you all know that I can be a real ditz at times.  Or, maybe I'm no more ditzy than anyone else and it's just that I tell about my ditzy moments and no one else does!  Or, maybe the following just proves what a ditz I am!

Like many artists, I have many creative outlets and I used to sew quite a bit.  When the price of fabric and particularly patterns got to be so high in cost I gave it up so I could spend more time and money on my art.  But I've been hankering to get back to sewing at least a little and got my sewing machine out yesterday.  I tested it and could see that it needed a good cleaning and oiling so I spent this morning taking it apart as much as possible and practical and going over all the little nooks and crannies with a soft brush and the vacuum cleaner.  Then I oiled all the pertinent places and put it back together.  I proceeded to adjust the tensions and I have to say that I don't think it's ever run better.

And, no, I didn't sew over my finger - I'm not quite that ditzy!  But I did spend almost as much time trying to figure out how to attach the bottom of the carrying case to the bottom of the sewing machine as I spent on the maintenance!  Now, this thing is not necessary for the operation of the sewing machine and I doubt that it even needs to be attached in order to keep the machine in the case.  But I've always kept it attached as it's a lot easier to put the machine away if it is. 

It attaches with only 2 big headed screws and you'd think it would be easy to just whip it back on quickly.  Nope - not easy at all as there may be just 2 screws but there are at least 8 screw holes scattered over the bottom of the case and getting 2 of them to line up with the holes in the bottom of my sewing machine was almost impossible.

Doesn't that sound a little ditzy to you?  After all, here's someone who took an electric sewing machine apart and put it back together but who couldn't even attach a plastic case bottom to that same machine with 2 simple screws!  AAARGH!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Green Beans and Art Walks

We've been getting green beans from the garden for a while now and I decided to do a quick digital painting of one before they're all gone.  It's been too long since I've even opened Corel's Painter software and it was sad at how rusty I was even doing this simple painting.  It's all done from scratch using a real green bean as a model - no photo manipulation or anything.  I did add a shadow from the program though and didn't take the time to paint it (the shadow) freehand.  I used the gouache brush with the digital airbrush for the shading for those of you interested in the details.

A friend and I went to the 3rd Friday Art Walk in Siler City last evening and had a good time even though it was very hot out.  Siler City, an old farming town not far from us, was becoming almost a ghost town as businesses moved out to the highway and left a lot of empty stores downtown.  Someone had the bright idea to buy up all those empty stores and rent them out as art studios and galleries and now those empty buildings are bright with paintings, sculptures, photographs and various other artistic endeavors as artists from all over have come to set up shop in the town.  You can read about the NC Arts Incubator HERE.

I was fortunate to have been asked to display in one of the galleries a couple of weeks ago and wanted to go see how my paintings looked hanging for all to see.  I personally think this particular gallery is one of the nicest in town but it has a lot of various kinds of art and my paintings didn't stand out amidst the plethora of offerings I'm sad to say.

It's not that my paintings are inferior in quality or execution or anything, it's just that I tend to paint small and small gets lost among so many items.  I hope that doesn't sound like bragging or an excuse, but I do think my work is on par with other art in this gallery or any of the others in town.  I'm trying to be honest and say that there is art there that I think is better than my own and there's also art that I think is awful that's displayed there. I know you know what I mean.

If you want to check it out, here's a link to the gallery - it's called the Raleigh Street Gallery and is located on Raleigh Street (duh!) in Siler City, North Carolina:

You can check it out virtually or, if you get the chance, check it out in person!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

WAAAAY Outta My Comfort Zone!

Hi all.  I have been painting but just not posting all that regularly and this time, I think I've really over-reached myself!

This is a painting that I've started of my vet's son holding a chicken that's almost as big as he is- isn't he just the most precious thing you've ever seen?  The child has evidently inheirited his father's love of animals and when I saw the photo, I just had to try to paint it (& "try" is the operative word!).  I was given permission but now I wonder if I've bitten off more than I can chew! 

You all have never seen a portrait of a human from me for a reason - I totally suck at them!  But, I'd really like to finish this one and do well with it.  So may I please get some advice from those of you who do such wonderful portrait work?

You can tell that this isn't finished but I've run into some problems.  The main thing is the shadow work - there are several very deep shadows on this fair-haired child but when I add them, he just looks dirty.  I've tried browns, red-browns, violets (purple ranges) and some green underpainting.  So, my main question is - how do I get those luscious deep shadows without the painting looking dirty or just downright weird?

Secondly, how do I keep the portrait fresh looking - the face especially looks as if it has makeup on it?  I'm seriously debating washing it all off and starting again but I know if I do, I won't ever go back to it.  BTW - this is pastel on Ampersand PastelBord.

I hope someone will answer but I won't be able to get back to this for a at least a week as I have a lot of things on the calendar for the foreseeable future.  I doubt that I'll even be able to post any more here for a time either.

Sooooo, think about it and please offer any suggestions you think might help - maybe with your suggestions and some fresh eyes, I can finally say I've painted a portrait - a human portrait!