Sunday, November 22, 2015

It's baaaaaaaaaaaackkkk....

It's back. Nearly as scary as a poltergiest, and probably more frustrating for ruining your art plans. It's your friendly neighborhood tremor. Well, not neighborhood, mostly just my hands and head.

Yes, I have a tremor. It seems to have it's fun when I am trying to hold my head or hands still. Like when you are trying to ink a piece you are working on in a really fine line. Or, you are trying to do detail work while painting. Maybe you want to use your exacto to cut some fine detail? What, you wanted to work on your blockprinting? HA. Ha. ha.

Sometimes trying to have a sense of humor about it helps. Sometimes, I just want to take a nap.

It's funny how this tremor always seems to know when I have tons of art commitments to finish. I assume it gets worse with stress but it's so frustrating and slows me down a LOT.

Anyways, back to arting! :)

Here are some recent cards I created for a Mugshots swap, I used their scientific name as their first and surname and gave them crimes that they might actually commit.

Brown Bear

Red Fox



Friday, November 6, 2015

Technique Time! Underpainting (or Grisaille)

**This will be a long post as I am explaining and illustrating a technique **

Technique time! I have learned a few techniques while painting and crafting that I hoped might benefit others. I am hoping to make these kinds of posts a regular thing. I am mostly self-taught as my school offered no watercolor instruction. If I am doing something in a non-standard way, or even maybe the "wrong" way, let me know what you know in the comments!

Today I am going to talk about a technique that not only saves me an incredible amount of time but produces (in my opinion) better art for me. Underpainting. Yes, underpainting saves me time and sanity. On the surface of things, it seems like it would take more time to underpaint, I find the opposite is true.

There are a few reasons that it works for me, and maybe will for you? These reasons are-

1. I don't have to do much in terms of color correcting or glazes at the end

2. I can draw directly on the paper very lightly and not lose those guides when I underpaint thinner layers

3. I can see if a painting is going to be "worth it" FAR sooner than if I don't underpaint. It saves me from continuing to work on a lost cause piece OR going in another direction to salvage it sooner

Underpainting or (Grisaille if you're fancy) is the process of laying down an initial layer of paint that can be either grey (hence Grisaille) or in the tones of your painting. It is a classic oil painting process to paint up a base layer before adding color. This helps to increase realism and color balance in paintings of things like sculptures. It can also help with making realistic neutrals and ease the transitions between hard and soft edges.

 I tend to underpaint in the opposite color tones from the piece I am working on. So if my piece will be warm-toned, I will use slightly cool-toned paints in my underpainting and vice versa. Remember, you are doing very thin layers of underpainting and painting to get the best effect.

**IMPORTANT NOTE** DO NOT underpaint your piece with a thick layer or with a large amount of the opposite color tones of your intended piece. The paint from the previous layer can lift when more water is added and create a muddy mess. If you mix both the cool and warm tones of several colors together you will ultimately end up with muddy and unappealing colors.


I had a couple rules for my experiment. I had to count both working and drying time, I had to use the same colors in the same places and I had only 4 "tries" to finish the piece meaning I had better be doing final touches the 4th time I went back to add or subtract on the piece.

To show my work (ha!), I created two small "quick" paintings of the same thing with the same colors. I underpainted one of them and did not under paint the other.

I apologize in advance for the photos, I had to photograph by lamplight.

 These are the two pieces side by side, they are pears, one is slightly different in shape than that other

 This is the piece with out underpainting I am going to call it non-U/P from here on out. You can see the first layer is of average wash to lay down color. It took quite a while to dry before I could start working again.

 This is the second attempt at the non-U/P piece, adding a few elements and started working darker. I used an average thickness wash the first time, I found that the paper was a little too receptive to color. It absorbed a lot more color even after the first drying

This is crack 3 at the non-U/P, you can see the colors area is a bit brighter and the transitions are kind of smeary. The paper doesn't want to take more paint at this point. To finish this up I am going to have to thinly glaze the piece at the end to get the color tones where I want them. 

 This is the underpainted pear, I will call it U/P from here out. That first thin layer of paint dried fairly quickly. I chose  cooler toned undercolors to start, unfortunately that is hard to see here.

This is layer two on the U/P pear. You can see there is a great deal more dimension even though I haven't added the darkest colors yet. This was after two thin layers.

This is the third addition on the U/P pear, you can see there is even more dimension and is done except for the darkest accents

Here are the finished pieces. The underpainted pear is on the left and the non-underpainted pear is on the right. The piece on the left has more depth to it, the layers aren't as obvious and the colors blend together in a more realistic way. 

However, the non-underpainted pear on the right is much more vibrant it doesn't have nearly the depth to it. It was harder to lift out the light areas if I needed to, and very difficult to get the color I wanted. In the end, I had to finish the one on the right with a very thin lemon-colored glaze.

** This style is what someone might be going for, which is GREAT! It's a looser piece that is very vibrant. It wasn't what I was aiming for this time.

Final count for both working time and drying time (dry enough to touch or add another layer) - Underpainted side took 23:22 and Not-Underpainted came in at 28:18. That is an increase of over 20%. If you are painting a lot of work, or even painting large pieces that can be a major time savings. I find that I save more time than that when working on several small pieces at the same time.

Thoughts? Ideas? Questions? I am happy to answer any questions you might have for clarification or discussions. Maybe you have a technique you want me to cover? Comment below!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Opinions Anyone?

I wanted to see if anyone would like to share their opinion on giving art as a gift. Is it better to give to other artists or art lovers because they will probably appreciate it more? Or is it only OK if the gift of art is tailored to the recipient?

Recently I started gifting original personalized pieces to people, mainly family. It's always well thought-out in terms of the recipient's likes and style and of a quality that could be sold. I just have some reservations about it.

Am I obligating the recipient to show it in their home, even if it's not their style?

Is it "cheap" to give art? Or does it seem cheap?

Is it better to give originals, or are prints appropriate in some situations?

I am open to any conversations or ideas about giving art, but I have been mulling these questions over for the last few months. I don't know a ton of artists in my "real" life and the ones I do know mostly sell their art, rarely giving it as gifts, and almost never giving originals.

 Thoughts? Experiences? Comment below! :)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

On Illness and Art

I started working on art again after dealing with illness for the last few years. Unfortunately, my illness seems to be progressive and confusing to the doctors I have seen. 

Being ill has lead to a silver lining of having a lot of down time that I can fill with art. It doesn't take a huge amount of physical energy to sketch or paint watercolors. Creating art has been an excellent distraction from the issues I am having, while also allowing me to get closer to ticking off a bucket list item of being a "real" artist.

OK, enough of being a downer. On to more art! The art trading site I am a part of has had a few fibers based swaps as of late. I was going to participate in a fiber landscape swap, however I was unable to finish the work in time to participate. It was a little bit of a bummer but I really enjoyed getting back to embroidering. I decided to do the theme of 4 seasons with trees, I just never finished summer. For reference, these are approximately 2.5"x3.5". 

Spring Tree - the "foliage" is entirely french knots
Fall tree with metallic thread


Winter Tree
Summer, the one I didn't finish

I am hoping to finish "Summer" at some point and trade all of them for fabric cards. No idea when that will be, though.

Alright, off to work on art!