Saturday, May 28, 2011

Oil and cardboard

24X30x1.5", oil and cardboard on gallery-wrapped canvas

One of the classes I'm taking is about textured abstracts. I love the class, and am having a great time. This week the teacher suggested that, before I start the painting, I make a textured foundation using cardboard. I was hesitant, since I'm painting in oils (well, with marble powder), and I've heard that you shouldn't mix them. But I figured I could learn something.

What came out? This! And I really like it!

Later, at home, I researched the combo. I found web sites that said you should always gesso paper first, but they didn't give resources. I found a few artists who do use paper in their base layer under oil. And finally I checked my Artists' Handbook by Ralph Mayer. Ralph says that no oil paintings on unprimed paper have survived the centuries. Since Ralph's book is a standard, I'll buy the data. So, no, it's not a good process for the long haul.

Here's my quandary. Now what do I do? Ralph says it has thirty or thirty-five years. I'll probably never be all that famous so it probably won't get saved by a conservator. But I gotta do one of the following: sell it as is, keep it as is, or remove the cardboard. I can't sell it in good conscience, and I'm not convinced I want it around forever, so...

Sigh. Do we owe our buyers a work that will last thirty years or a hundred years?

Anyway, if I'm going to peel off the cardboard, I should do it while the paint is still workable. I'm thinking I'll replace it with burlap (not identical, but also textured and earthy) and then play with that. If I'm lucky, the added experimenting will add richness.

What to do about the class? I should either take texture material that works with oil, or switch back to acrylics. Hey, I've been using marble powder, and I'm told it works with acrylics, so maybe they'll be workable more like oil. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Finish Line"

20 x 24 x 1.5", oil on gallery-wrapped canvas

Another in the series of oil abstracts that I did during one week. Besides paint, I used oil crayons and whatever tool I could find: palette knives, ceramics molding tools. I do find it interesting that there's a trend in recent decades toward abstracts with a band of dark and a band of light. My suspicion is that the composition is so simple that it then lets other elements emerge, like texture or gesture.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Moon in the Fog"

18x36x1.5, acrylic and mixed media on gallery-wrapped canvas

There's a method I use for doing this kind of painting. It gives me a surface that is textured across the total area. I used it, earlier, to create Dragon Skin.

So, the method is that I take my tub of stucco patch, and I blop some on the canvas and spread it around with a big palette knife and a water spritzer until I have a good distribution, some areas thinner than others, and maybe some scratchy areas. I might add some colors while I'm doing this, or some pebbles, or other textural elements.

Once that's dry, I have a good rough surface for adding paint. I do a lot of dripping out of brushes or eyedroppers or little cups, which is why you get the spots. Some brushwork to fill in areas, although I don't really like brush marks on these. And, more recently, I learned about using pigments; when you apply them (add water and white glue), they settle into the crevices of the painting. And I use the spritzer a lot.

With this painting, I decided to try green, although it went dark, like olive green. Also, in my mind it was oriented horizontally; i.e., rotated CCW once. But since it needs to hang in a narrow area, I tried reorienting it, and it looked equally good, but in a different way.

So here's what I've been pondering recently. I returned to painting because I love it. Pure and simple. But I would like to sell. So recently I've been wondering, if creating is the main thing, then just what it is about selling that's so important? Here are some reasons I can think of:
  • To make a living. (And good on ya if you can!)
  • To see if others think your work is good. To get public approval.
  • To become famous.
  • To pay for art supplies.
  • To reduce the number of paintings you have stashed around the house.
  • Because someone wants to buy something.
Me, I'd probably subscribe to most of this list, although I certainly don't need to be famous or make a living. But I would like to know that the world likes my work, and I would like to reduce the number of paintings around the place.

Are there other reasons I missed?

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011


    20x20x1.5", oil, gauze, and sand on gallery-wrapped canvas

    I pulled together a handful of ingredients for this painting. A friend gave me some gauze, which I used earlier in Reticulate. I also mixed some paint with cold wax and marble powder for some thickness and used it to embed the gauze and the some sand. Sand is tough. It comes off and sticks to your brushes and oil crayons, and falls on the floor. If I try it again, I'll use it later in the process.

    This one was a bit of a battle. It sat on my easel for days and days and I played with it off and on. I finally had the time to dive in and I worked it. But, yeah, some paintings paint themselves, and some paintings are fighters.

    Switching gears here, I'm playing with the idea of how one develops as an artist. Do you direct your own learning or just do what appeals to you? I'm guess I try to do both. First, I must do what I want in order for it to have passion. But I can also tell when I lack a certain skill and need to direct my learning that way. Classes help.

    And I've found that taking classes is opening me up in ways I hadn't anticipated. I guess if I'd anticipated them, I wouldn't have needed to take the classes.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Come see "And So..." in Palo Alto

    My painting And So... was accepted into the Pacific Art League's May show, called Red. The show runs from May 6 to May 26. The Pacific Art League is in downtown Palo Alto, at 668 Ramona Street, on the corner of Ramona and Forrest. (For non-local folk, this is Northern California, about forty-five minutes south of San Francisco.)

    And So... is my biggest painting, at three by five feet, that was not a piece of a theatrical set design. (Those topped out at six by fifteen feet, or more if you assembled them.)

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    "Fire in the Mist"

    20x20x1.5", oil on gallery-wrapped canvas

    In my paintings, I like to use things I find. This is why I do the assemblages. While working this painting, I used oil crayons. Now, when they sit for awhile, they form a skin of dried paint, and you have to peel it off. So, of course, I took a few pieces of red and embedded them in the paint. It adds an interesting bit of texture. But I have a little tub in my studio with bits of peeled oil crayon. It's funny being an artist.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011


    20 x 20 x 1.5" gallery-wrapped canvas

    A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly generated a handful of oil abstracts. I think I've done this before -- suddenly burst forth with a slew of paintings -- although not necessarily oil abstracts. On this one, I spent most of the time working with the left border at the bottom (rotated CCW one notch), and it wasn't resolving. So I rotated it, and in this orientation it looked like a bird, and I was able to make the final changes. So, nope, prior planning, not so much.

    Sunday, May 1, 2011


    12x36x1.5" acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas

    I decided to find a photo of something specific and see how it would look if done impressionistically using my textured techniques. So I looked online (what did we do before the internet?), and found a picture of a mesa in the sunset. I put down a layer of stucco patch, and pressed and lifted my palette knife to get the vertical ridges you can make out. Then I added the paint. I used more metallic colors than I normally do. And this was the result.

    I don't actually recall where the name came from. For painting titles, I'll often find a word that the painting reminds me of, then look at the word's cognates and see if one looks interesting. Or a version of one.