Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tangerine Tango (small)

Tangerine Tango (small)
6 x 6, oil on panel


I've added this little painting to the auction at eBay. Most of you have followed along with the creation of this small painting, leading to the larger one. I hope you like it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Copper Pot with Plum Tree Branch

6 x 6, oil on gessoed hardboard panel

at auction

I love the reflected light along the inner rim of this ceramic pot, flowing and reflecting up on the underside of the copper pot.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Building Painting Supports from Scratch

Building Painting Supports from Scratch

Prepared panel, linen, and brayer.

This week I have been building my own painting supports. I am working on two versions: linen on hardboard panel, and stretched linen (as well as cotton canvas) on wooden stretchers. The process is sort of like making cookies at Christmas - you get out a huge bowl, a dozen cookie sheets, and don't stop until they're all done.

I started with the panels I ordered from Ampersand. I followed the recommendation found on their website and coated both sides as well as the edges with GAC100. When that was dry, I was ready to mix the glue. I precut my linen, and followed the instructions on the package of rabbit skin glue from Utrecht.

Here is the glue in an old Tupperware container, and my first attempt at attaching the linen to the panel.

It gradually became apparent that the glue was not holding. This may have been because I either mis-measured the granules and/or the water, or the water was too hot. I was following the instructions provided with the package, which were slightly different from instructions I've read from other sources.

So, I went back to Ampersand's instructions. They recommended attaching the linen using a slightly thinned acrylic gel medium. This worked well - except that I discovered I'd cut the linen too small if I wanted to fold over the edges. Back to the drawing board.

Here I am working on a larger panel. Plenty of overhang here. After smoothing out the linen using my Speedball brayer, I flipped the board and worked on the corners.

This took some careful folding, and after I finished I put the panel into a frame to make sure the corners would fit. Those that were too bulky were refolded. I decided to fold over the linen instead of cutting it flush to the edge because, for me, the corners are most prone to damage, loosening canvas, or breaking.

This is one of the stretched canvases with the rabbit skin glue on half of it.

After 24 hours, I lightly sanded the surfaces and got ready to the second application of glue.

I noticed that on one panel, the linen hadn't completely adhered, and I was a little concerned with the outcome. So I was particularly careful as I mixed the glue - in a smaller batch because I certainly hadn't needed the amount that I mixed on the first day. I cut the recipe in half and allowed the water to cool a little longer before adding the granules. That worked. After the second application of glue dried, everything was tight as a drum.

If you are stretching linen, staple it loosely to the stretchers. Do not fold in the corners yet, but staple close enough to keep the linen in place. Lightly spritz with water and wipe gently with a damp sponge. The linen will tighten up nicely. The glue makes it tighten further, which is why you don't want to start as tight as you think. It's the same for the cotton canvas, although the canvas- while wet - appeared to sag more than the linen, but again, when everything was dry, both the canvas and the linen are tight enough to work on.

Remember, leave the corners loose at this point. You will be putting on the oil ground next and want to coat everything before folding the corners.

Today I applied the first layer of the oil painting ground from Utrecht. Here is the step-down knife I ordered. The idea is to apply a thin layer to fill in the spaces between the fibers. You can also use a brush for this - which I did eventually reach for when doing the edges. My eventual technique involved brushing on the mixture, then scraping it back with the step-down knife.

I mixed the painting ground with odorless mineral spirits according to the instructions. I used a glass plate, and after I finished, I was able to scrape the excess back into the can to use another day.

The tools. You can see the thinner areas - brushed on, the thicker areas, using the knife, sort of like frosting a cake but very, very thinly.

I also dug out a little squeegee that worked very well to scrape back the surface. The goal is to prevent any ridges from forming - from brush marks, or your spreading tools. From my research, the goal is two thin coats instead of one thick coat.

I will be adding the second coat within 48 hours, then letting the panels and canvases cure for 3 weeks.

I won't know until then how I like this painting surface, but I definitely enjoyed the process. I have always liked exploring the materials and processes used in creating art, from start to finish. It seems to connect me to the traditions that have existed through the centuries. No, I'm sure I won't give up my favorite oil primed canvases and panels, but if this is an affordable alternative, then I will continue to make my own.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Red Pears on a Plate


Red Pears on a Plate
6 x 6, oil on panel
@Sue Smith 2009

I really like this painting.

The still life paintings have been very popular, the landscapes, not so much. That's okay. Paint and learn.

I started buying from artists on eBay, too, finding small pieces that I like. I'm not ready to trust the *genuine artifact, authenticated old Roman pottery shard for $5.00* claims on some things, although if they were genuine, that would be neat. Maybe.

If you are thinking about selling on eBay, spend time looking at what is available, what people are actually bidding on, and what you can do that would work. I've learned that small is good. Good art is good. Free shipping is good (necessary!) Low prices are good, although there are a few artists selling LARGE (what exactly is large?) paintings. I have to wonder though if they are making any money after materials and shipping. Some probably are making it in volume and there are a few artists who really can command prices over $100.

I'm not there yet - over $100. Mine sell between $30 and $60.

But I intend to be.

Consistency. Finding what works. Regular posting. Building a following. The right pricing.

This is what seems to work.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Studio Tip for March

I missed posting a studio tip for February, so you get double the tips today.

Do you ever buy those small, individual servings of applesauce or fruit for your kids or yourself? I save the little plastic cup afterward, wash it thoroughly, and use it in my studio. It's perfect to hold small amounts of medium, odorless thinner, or, if you work in watermedia or collage, things like your GAC or clean water. After a while it's time to pitch them, but if you clean the cup after using it by wiping out with a paper towel, these little things last a long time. Yogurt cups work as well, but are a little too deep for what I do, so I generally recycle them.

Here are some of my favorite oil painting surfaces right now:

  • Masterpiece Vincent Masterwrap stretched canvas. This is an oil primed linen canvas, with a surface that I absolutely love. There is virtually no brush drag. The paint sits on the surface and the colors retain their intensity, rather than sinking into the gesso.
  • Pintura Cotton Medium Grain , double primed good for oils, acrylics, and gouache. This is also a beautiful surface, and not as high end as the Vincent Masterwrap. I like that there are brass tacks holding the canvas along the sides of the stretchers, with a few staples on the reverse, plus wooden keys already inserted. There's a wonder mystique about this canvas that I really enjoy.
I would like to try Charvin's stretched linen canvases, and Raphael's stretched linen in the future. Of course I do love Ampersand's gessobord panels, although their recommended method of attaching the cradled panels doesn't seem to work for me. I will be picking up two large assemblages next week because there seems to be either shrinking or - over time - torque has created some gaps. I will need to come up with a framing solution and I'm working on that.

I also just ordered some materials recommended by a fellow artist - far more accomplished than I - Margret Short...some canvas scrapers, a priming knife, Rabbit Skin glue and Utrecht oil priming material. This is the first time I've ordered from Utrecht, so I'm curious to try out their products. I also ordered some hardboard flats. I have several yards of fine linen which I was going to stretch onto a rather large set of stretchers. I've since decided not to do that, and instead try my hand at adhering linen to a hardboard surface, which I think would not only be fun to do but also open the door for more options regarding my painting surfaces. I've discovered many good instructional sites regarding how to do this, so I will keep you informed of my success...or failures...I guess rabbit skin glue can be a little tricky, but I'm optimistic about the process.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pear and Roses

"Pear and Roses"
6 x 6
oil on Panel
@ Sue Smith 2009

I go through cycles - there is the thinking cycle where I spend most of my time doing "busy" work and otherwise distracting myself from the actual work of painting. Then there's the "preparing" part where I start to get motivated and gather together new subjects to paint. And then the actual "painting" part of the cycle. For the past week or so I've been caught up in the painting part and hadn't really wanted to stop long enough to photograph anything to post to this blog. Sorry :.(

But this is a funny story, here, so I'm happy that you're still reading along. My husband had asked me the other day what paintings were selling the best, and I said "Pears and Roses." So he pointed at this little painting drying on the table with that look, "Covering your bases?"

Duh...yes, even though the colors and shapes DO look good together, better than the tangerines and roses, which was another "base covering" idea...hey, when they want chocolate you're wise to give them chocolate and not offer broccoli instead, as the marketing guru's would say.

So my question is...does this count as a "formula" painting? Because according to all the uproar a few months ago over on Ancient Artist, formula paintings are "A Fate Worse Than Death!"

Still...I think it's a pretty little painting. I've found that for me and the way my eye/hand works best, with flowers I will paint the value form first, checking with my hand mirror to make sure it reads the way I intended, and finish with a few gestural strokes using a small palette knife. The key for me is not to think about it too deeply, just "draw" with color, one or two quick marks, following the direction that the paint gives. If I try to be too exact and purposeful with this step I ruin it.

When this is dry, it's destined for ebay. Wish me luck.