Monday, August 30, 2010

First day, covering the canvas

I thought I would follow up to the brown paper drawing post for my new still life.
I will explain some of the process, in going from the brown paper to the painting:
First, I don't think I mentioned this, but I only spend about a day on the brown paper drawing. It is not to be a refined piece of work; it is just to get the basic proportions, values and arrangement in the square.
As I said, I do the life size brown paper drawing a bit bigger, and then crop it with strips of paper till I like the way it fits in the square. Sometimes you have to round this off a bit to an even number, or move the strips so it is a size that can actually be stretched. There is no 20 3/8" stretcher bar. The final size I came up with was 20" x 26". I then stretched a canvas to that size. I used a fine weave preprimed Belgium linen.
Then I did a rough tracing of the drawing, rubbed the back of the tracing paper with soft charcoal, laid that on the canvas and redrew the sketch. The drawing was lightly transferred to the canvas as if I had used carbon paper. I dusted off any excess charcoal and then did a light "inking" of the drawing. I put the canvas on the easel next to the still life setup and made sure to make any corrections of the major shapes and sizes. I did this with a thinned burnt sienna. All of this is done in a few hours.
After that dries, I just start painting with a full palette, laying in broad masses of value and color till I get the canvas covered. This is my favorite time in the painting process. Going from the white of the canvas to the big impression in a few hours is great fun.
I am trying to get accurate color notes right off the bat. I want the overall impression on that first laying. After about 6 hours I had a pretty good lay-in. I will let this dry completely and then go in and work on the furthest thing wrong. Honestly, I probably left the edges too sharp and did a bit too much drawing on this lay in. If I have painted a bit looser and left the edges fuzzed out for easier correction later- since there will definitely be lots of corrections.
Tomorrow I will re-wet the areas that need work and paint it over. This process continues until the painting is done. I am hoping to finish this painting in about 2 weeks.
First day lay-in. Using a bit of turpentine to help cover the canvas.

Also, I thought I would post a new little P&G portrait I did. It is pretty small, and I did it to fit a cool old frame that I just repaired for this purpose. It had some applied designs on the flat part of the frame that I sanded off so I could add the old Ivory soap labels. In addition to adding to the theme the blue color is a good compliment to the orange-ish Mr. Clean. I have done a few similar painting before. Something about this evil looking fellow that I enjoy painting. It is pretty odd that they made little dolls of Mr. Clean. I even have a few different varieties, each one as creepy as the next. I suppose it is his rampant OCD that has made him so psychologically disturbed.

P&G Portrait, 3 1/2"x 2 1/2", oil on linen, 2010.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

They're Great

Here is a shot of the brown paper study for my newest still life. I often do a brown paper study to find out, if the image is worth painting, to see if it has a nice arrangement of light and dark shapes, and finally to decide the cropping. I draw it life size, but it is drawn on paper larger than the final composition. So I am drawing out of the final crop a bit. Do you understand what I mean there?
Just in case, I do a drawing larger than I think the final composition will be, so I can know for sure what the picture will look like. If I try to draw it in the square perfectly the first time, it makes it more difficult if I want to add space to the top for example. It is easier to crop out, then to add on. So after this big drawing is done, I can use strips of paper to crop in and pick the best arrangement in the square.
The brown paper is the cheap construction paper you can buy in rolls at the hardware store.

The final crop ended up being 26 x 20.
I do the drawing in medium charcoal and then use chalk for the white. The nice thing about the brown paper is that it provides a medium tone and one just has to draw the lights and darks.
Look for me to post the painted lay in very soon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fine Frame Finishing- you smell something burning?

I just painted another picture of an old torch. Aside from the very cool duty of setting things on fire, they are very beautiful objects. With shiny brass, cast iron, colorful well designed labels, and a lovely shape, there is lots of fun stuff to paint.
I added smoke to this one to give the illusion that it had just been used. As usual I lit some incense and watched the smoke off of that and did my best to design an interesting shape.
 Torched, 12x9, oil on canvas, 2010 

A few years ago I did a painting of an antique torch. I did not get too fancy with this first one. It is pretty much just a simple portrait of a torch.
The Torch, 10x8, oil on canvas, 2007

I had a frame that matched the one on the first torch painting but thought it needed an extra special finish. After placing the new torch painting in the frame I marked where the torch was pointing at the frame, removed the painting, went outside and set the frame on fire with a real torch. I ended up having to saw into the frame a bit to speed the process, but once the frame caught fire, my fine new frame finishing technique practically did the work itself.

Is it not the most beautiful thing you have ever seen? It is a bit crazy and maybe even a bit of a one liner, but I thought it was fun. I have officially broken the 4th wall. 
Here is a close up.  
One issue was that I had made a large hole in the frame that now just showed the wall behind, and it stark and  killed the illusion. I decided I needed to soften that transition somehow, but did not want the area to just be black. I attached a piece of thick clear plastic to the back of the frame to cover the hole and then thinly painted and scuffed it till it looked dirty and burnt. I rubbed some black shoe polish on the plastic and then dusted it with rottenstone, which gave a dry dusty look.
Rottenstone is a fine powered rock used as an abrasive used for polishing - A quick tip from Luschek: if you have water damage or white rings from drinking glasses on your furniture, a little mineral oil and some rottinstone rubbed on the area will probably remove them. 
What a useful and fun fact.
Anyway, now the wall behind the frame still shows, it just appears that the wall has been burnt a bit as well. 
I thought about adding a smoke machine- but decided that may be going a bit too far.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Muckin' it up

A few years ago a local Cincinnati frame company  closed up shop after a pretty substantial run. Luckily they are now selling off the remaining frames. Contact them to set up an appointment if you would like to look through their stock. You can pick up an 11 x 14 for $20 and a 30 x 40 inch frame for $60. The frame selection is very random, and the sizes are often odd (meaning, not standard sizes). Many of the frames have a very nice design and most are unfinished so you can work them up how ever you like.   
As the frames are odd sizes and non-square shapes you will have to cut panels to fit these frames. So I thought I would discuss how I make my own panels, what type of panels I like to paint on, and how to make them suitable for painting.
Of course, you can stretch a canvas any size if you buy the right sized stretcher bars, but for anything smaller than 16 x 20 I will often make a panel.
If you are painting your picture on wood, it needs to be protected from the oil paint somehow. Oil paint has a tendency to eat away at organic materials. It will eventually destroy paper and cloth unless you somehow protect from the paint. The traditional choice is to gesso the wood or canvas. I have painted on oil primed wood but often find the surface too slick. After a bit of painting it feels like you are working on glass, which I find very unpleasant. I like some tooth to the surface. The best surface is oil primed canvas. The texture allows you to work in layers, build up heavy, thick paint, and is great for subsequent reworkings. I have recently done some paintings on the roughest linen I can find that is close to burlap in texture. It makes me giggle like a school girl. It is just a wonderful surface that can look almost like a pastel drawing.

First things first
Cut your Panel to Size:
Make sure the panel fits the frame. I buy plywood from the hardware store, or get left over pieces from a local cabinet shop. Often they have small pieces  of 1/4 inch plywood that is of no real use to them, but are great for painting on. A good basic plywood to purchase at the hardware store is birch. Cabinet shops will often have finer woods from finish cabinetry. I do like cherry plywood, but almost any type of wood will do. Make sure it has a smooth finish.
I have table saw, that allows me to cut the panels to the shape I need. Hardware stores are selling the panels in 2' x 4' sizes that allow for easier handling.
If there is a arch to the frame, or it is an oval, I will trace the size from inside the frame and cut it out with my jig saw. This could be used to cut square pieces as well. You can pick a saw like this up for a pretty reasonable price. When cutting, I usually cut the panel at least 1/8" smaller than the inside lip of the frame.
Finishing the Panel- Shellac
You can paint directly on the wood if you coat it with a finish. I often use shellac. I will get an amber shellac from the hardware store and just coat the panel. It gives it a nice warm tone. This will result in a glossy and slick surface, that I am often not fond of, but I do occasionally do it.
Above is a painting on a 3" x 5" painting done on cherry plywood with an amber shellac finish.

Making Canvas Boards:
My preferred method is to glue canvas on the plywood. I really enjoy working on oil primed Belgian Linen. It is of high quality and is like painting on butter (please note, that is a figure of speech- I do not recommend actually painting on butter). I also really enjoy Belgian beer- I do not recommend that you drink while making your canvas panels.
When I was researching online about how to glue up canvas panels, Yes Paste was often suggested.
Just say NO to Yes Paste! It was a complete disaster. I used it quite a bit. I had trouble with the canvas separating from the panel, bubbling up to complete separation. Do not use this product for gluing up panels.
Then I discovered Miracle Muck. It is wonderful stuff. It goes on easier, is less messy, and most importantly, it tightly glues the canvas to the panel. One exciting feature is that Miracle Muck is heat activated, so if your painting begins to delaminate, an iron could be used to secure the canvas back to the panel.
First, I cut out a piece of canvas slightly bigger than the panel, and then generously apply glue to the panel.
Smooth out the glue nice and even, apply more glue as needed.

Lay the canvas on the glued panel and either gently roll it out smooth. I have a rubber roller I use for this purpose.
I try to glue up multiple panels of the same size so I can apply pressure to them all at once. I put the two or more panels together, so the canvas sides are together. Basically, the two glued panels are placed face to face, and pressure is applied either with a weight or using spring clamps as shown. This way the pressure is on the back and will not dent the canvas. I have also placed the panel face down on a clean flat surface and set a heavy object on the back. Let them sit overnight till the glue is dry.

Above you can see the glued up oval panels cut for the small oval frame.
Trim The Canvas
After the glue is dry I use a blade and trim the canvas flush to the panel. I try to slowly and carefully pull the blade down the side. I cut so I can see the how close I am to the panel, and do so front to back so the force of the blade pushes the canvas against the ply. Do your best to not disembowel yourself. Blood and innards will stain the canvas.
Now you have a nice trimmed panel for your frame.
See how nice it fits. Shown in a small, unfinished Castner frame.
 Now you just have to paint something on that panel that will amaze all of your friends. 
An extra tip, when painting on a small panel I highly recommend that you use a pencil and trace the inside edge of the frame on the panel. Remember there is often a 1/4 " lip on the frame. If you are painting a 3 x 5 panel that is a substantial portion of the picture. So make sure you are designing inside the frame, and not to the edge of the panel that will be covered by the frame. I have had few tantrums after realizing that some beautiful passage that I painted on the edge of a painting is obscured by the frame.

I am planning on doing a workshop on Frame Finishing for Artists. It will be sometime in the fall at the Castner Warehouse. Let me know if you are interested. I will post more details at a later date.  

One added note to this post- beware of the shipping costs if you order this product! I ended up paying almost as much in shipping as I did for the glue. I let out a blood curdling scream when I saw that.
Just a warning.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cincinnati Art Galleries- Then and Now

I was recently selected to be in a still life show at Cincinnati Art Galleries. It's a very prestigious gallery that generally exhibits the work of  Cincinnati's historic masters, along with the occasional contemporary painters work.
As you can imagine it was an honor just to be selected, but then my work was chosen to represent the shows 'new work' on the postcard.
Technically the Then and Now means Dead Guys and Dying Guys. As I have mentioned in the past I relate more to the dead guys, so that is very exciting for me. I just respect the dead painters so much more and hope to be just like them in 50 or 60 years.
The other painting shown on the card is by William Mason Brown and was painted in 1883. I am pretty sure he is no longer with us.
I will have roughly 5 paintings in the show. Hope you can make it down to see all the work.

Poetry of the Still Life; Now and Then
Opening Friday August 27th, 5:00 to 8:00

Exhibition continues through September 24th

Thursday, August 5, 2010

You can paint your cake and eat it too.

In the last post I commented that I have a tough time finishing a painting in one session. I was pretty much talking about still life, or any painting that needs refinement. Now I have painted landscape studies that I felt were finished in a 3 hours session, but even that is rare. I suppose I like a bit more finish, and for me that takes repeated visits to a picture.
Coincidentally, the day after that post I think I did an OK job knocking one out in a single session. It is a painting that I wanted to finish quickly. So, after a bit of time arranging the scene, and a quick sketch, I painted as fast as I could trying to get the canvas covered in 30 minutes. I probably covered the canvas with paint in about 40 minutes and then just tweaked the shapes, adjusted the value and color until I was happy. The whole painting was finished in about 4 hours.
 Cake and Cookies, 12" x 9", oil on canvas, 2010
I wanted to do a painting of some baked goods. I thought cake would be fun to paint. I stopped at Graeters Ice Cream shop to buy a slice of cake and a few cookies. It was very hot out and I don't have AC in my van, so on the trip to my studio with these edible still life objects, the cake suffered some damage. It was a bit smashed on one side and the heat caused the top half to slide off the bottom a bit . I had to do some artful reconstruction of the cake to make it paintable. The side had to shaved a bit to clean it up and some of the icing sculpted back into shape. This was a delicious bit of work. I had a variety of cookies. There was a lot of yellow in the picture, so I left out- and ate- the yellow iced cookie. The pink one complimented the cake icing well.
Just so you know that I am not the wasteful sort, all the food in the picture was consumed (except the milk- it had been setting out in my hot studio for 4 hours).

This painting will be available in a charity auction. You will be able to bid on this painting and all the proceeds will go to the charity. The event is actually a bake sale, and as I don't really bake (Unless making toast counts as baking) I decided to paint some bake goods. The charity is for Nick, the son of a good friend of mine.
Here is some information about the event if you would like to help out.
A Benefit Cake & Pie Auction on behalf of "Nick Finn"

Pattision Elementary School, 5330 South Milford Road, Milford Ohio

Nick is a 9 year old little boy who attends Pattison Elementary School. Nick has been battling a long term illness called "Pineal Germinoma" which is a tumor that greatly affects a gland in the middle of his brain. Nick's quality of life has been greatly compromised for the past three years as his medical needs has changed dramatically. 
Currently, Nick receives rounds of chemo at Children's Hospital and has platelet and/or blood transfusions as needed. Our goal for the auction is to take care of any special needs/wants for Nick, offset the Finn families financial needs ~due to loss of work and excessive medical bills.
Please let us know if you can either donate a cake, pie or any other special treat and we are also collecting: * gift cards, or gift filled baskets for a raffle by August 9th to one of the chair people.
There is a Facebook event page where you can find more info and contact someone if you have any questions like, "Please tell me how I can buy that wonderful painting of a cake?" 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tiny Brushes, Tiny Thoughts.

"Tiny brushes- tiny thoughts" is a quote that describes what size brush to use when painting and why. Basically it says that it is best to use the biggest brush that you can. Using too small a brush will make it difficult to paint with breadth. A small brush will cause you to niggle the form and require you to paint in 15 little strokes that which may be done as well in one big, thought sweep of a # 12.
The 'tiny brushes, tiny thoughts' quote is especially fun to use on students that I find painting with small brushes. It entertains me anyway.

Speaking of small brushes, last week I did some tiny little paintings that I thought I would share.I had some small frames this size, and thought I would arrange and paint some cherries since they are in season. I am not a big fan of eating cherries, but did enjoy painting them. I don't like eating food in which there is something you have to spit out. It just seems unsophisticated.
I bet I used bigger brushes on these then you you think. Most of the work was done with #3 and 4s.
These cute little guys are only 2 inch square. They were painting in just a few hours over a two day period. I was hoping to finish both of them in one shot, but that never seems to work, no matter how small the painting. I like to let it dry, then go in to re-wet areas, adjust and correct any problem spots. I like having that dry lay-in to work on for finishing.

Next I decided to paint another light bulb. I have done a few before for the ArtWorks Secrets sale every winter, but these are a bit bigger and will go in the gallery. Light bulbs are great fun to paint and have very subtle forms and color.
The idea, 4 x 6, oil on linen
There is no real science to hitting a light bulb with a hammer, but I was hoping for bigger pieces so I could arrange them a bit in some interesting design. I did arrange the shards a bit, but ended up adding the hammer which was not my intention. It ended up being an improvement. I squealed with joy when this happened.  It added a center of interest to an otherwise jumbled mess.
The Idea Considered, 4 x 6,oil on linen, 2010
After this I decided I needed to rework the light bulb in the first painting. So, unfortunately I had to glue all of these pieces back together so I could work on it again. In hindsight, it probably would have been easier to just use another light bulb.