Posts Tagged ‘Acrylic paints’

Castle at Oban, County Argyll #2

Have you ever noticed the plethora of paintings that abound at garage sales, resale shops, and sometimes even in an antique mall?  These works, often created by people like you and me (home-grown, everyday artists as opposed to those who are world class or at least widely known) may be sold for anywhere from $15.00 to 75 cents by the artist himself or some family member who simply doesn’t have space (or an inclination) for “Grandma’s art”—or whatever else it might be.

I have purchased a lot of these works at rummages, and I’m always happy to make room for them in our home—even if it’s a bit of floor space against a cabinet or desk.  I marvel at the skill represented in “rummage art”, and always wonder why it’s up for grabs at a ridiculous price rather than adorning someone’s wall, or standing in the studio of its still-producing creator.

Perhaps in many of these cases, the artist just quit making art.  Somewhere along the line he or she lost interest in the process—while quite possibly thinking:  “I’ll never be “good enough”; so why bother?”

Most artists (whether well known or otherwise) agree that given an absolute passion for making art and access to good quality materials, anyone can be an artist!  Of course along with the passion and the materials, one must be willing to devote time—lots of time—to one’s chosen medium of expression.

Likewise, most painters agree that every artist encounters periods of self-doubt—days when nothing goes right in the studio, and times of incriminating flashbacks where we consider a previously accomplished piece far superior to anything we are producing at the moment.  In my life-long discipline and profession of writing, this experience is called:  “Writer’s Block”.

As a writer, what have I done with Writer’s Block?  I’ve gone right on writing.  Thus, with what we can call “Painter’s Block”, I am determined to go right on painting—regardless of whether or not my chimes (or anyone else’s) are ringing over the work in progress.  There are ways to deal with the dry spells, and sometimes even prevent them.  Here are a few:

1)  Periodically invest in new-to-you colors of paint, from different manufacturers.  There is nothing like squeezing a generous blob of fresh, gooey paint from a brand new tube onto one’s palette, to give a person a kick in the rear (reminiscent of the commercial for V-8 Juice®).

2)  On “down days”, generate prints from your computer file of your own scanned-in art.  I produce lots of 3″ x 5″ prints, and affix them to artist quality blank stationery by Strathmore—a fine company located right here the Fox River Valley Paper Kingdom of Wisconsin.  I rarely buy commercial greeting cards or stationery anymore, as I have a huge inventory of art to share.

3)  Try a different technique, paint medium, or variety of art.  Periodically I branch out into gouache, and get excited all over again with its possibilities in combo with transparent watercolors.  On days when the watercolors don’t flow the way I want them to, I may move to my collage table and get atrociously messy with acrylics paints and mediums plus my bins full of saved “everything under the sun”—from Oriental papers, cheesecloth, feathers, sequins, ribbons, family photos, dried flowers and leaves, symphony programs, theatre tickets, wedding invitations, old letters, and scraps of yarn—to dog hair.

Recently I ordered a set of Winsor & Newton water soluble oils.  This is tremendously exciting, as traditional oils are off-limits to my tetchy breathing apparatus.  Scientists have discovered a method of changing the molecular structure of the oil base (linseed oil, most likely) so that “oil paints” will dissolve in and clean up with water!  No turp, no toxic fumes.

4)  Take out a dud which you very fortunately neglected to file in your trash bin.  (Some flops are worth saving, for reworking.)  The above-pictured example was a really stressed out piece of Arches 140 lb. cold press paper—apparently “ruined” on both sides with failed attempts at a landscape.  I had one more go at vigorously scrubbing* the paper, removing all but faint tints of the paint.  (Arches holds up remarkably under such abuse—whereas some other brands of 140 lb. paper will not).

Due to the scrubbing, virtually all of the sizing was removed from the paper, creating a totally different effect from work on fresh, clean Arches cold press.  Without sizing, there is no resist and the paint soaks and soaks.  Therefore any paint containing sediment is apt to look more “sedimentary” with this process; the paint soaks away and the sediment remains—along with the scribble scrabbles of fiber which surface when you were destroy your paper.  Never mind all that.  Just keep plugging along, to see what will happen!

Not all my duds are as satisfying when reworked as this one, which is called “Castle at Oban”—because it recalls a trip my husband and I made to my ancestral home of Argyll.  Scrubbing the living daylights out of paper can create a total mess, but my Scottish Castle turned out to be kind of moody.  I like it.  It enabled me to work through Painter’s Block, and the very next day I created a work that truly delighted my heart.  Here it is:  Kingdom at Sea”.  I must have castles on the brain—and probably beautiful Scotland as well!

*A fantastic aid for scrubbing out paint, is the MR. CLEAN “Magic Eraser”®.  This unbelievable product removes stains and spots from all over the home, as well as on art paper.  My husband says, “It’s just a sponge.”  But I never knew a sponge could do what MR. CLEAN accomplishes with his “Magic Eraser”!

Kingdom at Sea

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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 “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small . . . .”  Winston Churchill

Although the implications of the above quote were radically serious in the autumn of 1941 and England’s darkest days of World War II, I’ll apply that great statesman’s principle to a totally lighter setting—that of making art for fun!  After all, Churchill did say “in nothing great or small”—and in his postwar years he pursued a hobby of painting!

I have learned to “never give in” to discouragement over the most ridiculously messed up, failed renderings.  I’m experienced in painting failures, as I only actually succeed to my personal satisfaction on about 1 out of every 5 pieces.  To begin with, that is. 

While the 1 out of 5 gets framed or at least matted and preserved in an acid free plastic sleeve, those remaining 4 get stashed in a “think about” drawer.  Later, they are reclaimed and usually recycled into something that I can live with.  Thus the 1 out of 5 ratio of success becomes 5 out of 5, simply because I refuse to give in! 

How do I reclaim the cast offs waiting in my “think about” drawer?  I sometimes can recycle the work by additional glazing with transparent paint, to soften or liven colors or distract the viewer from some clutzy shape.  Sometimes I can new shapes on top of the ones I don’t like.

If transparent glazing doesn’t do anything redemptive to my would-be masterpiece I then get out my Japanese papers, decorative paper napkins, gauze, and acrylic products.  Japanese unryu paper is great for softening colors and diffusing those shapes.  It’s semi transparent, with plant fibers in it, and it comes in shades of white and off-white.  When the unryu is secured with acrylic polymer it dries to a clear surface, easy to paint over—especially with acrylic paints, preferable at this point because they are waterproof whereas the underlying watercolors are not. 

New shapes can now be applied over the unryu paper.  If the new shapes are still clutzy and yucky, I can paint more new shapes over the dried acrylics—building relief and texture. 

Meanwhile, I tear up drifts of cotton cheesecloth—distorting it into interesting lines and patterns, and secure the cheesecloth here and there across the painting (again with polymer or with glossy acrylic gel medium).  The cheesecloth adds still more texture.

At this point I frequently get out the molding paste—another acrylic wonder.  Molding paste looks something like plaster, and it can be sculpted into raised designs forming mountains and rocks.  Often I smooth some molding paste over a surface, and then imprint it with a flower or leaf design from a copper stencil—or comb ridges into the paste with a hair pick.  The molding paste is white—not exactly my favorite color—so I nearly always brush over it after it dries, with something wonderful from my acrylic paint supply.

Sometimes I raid my stash of decorative paper napkins.  Every pretty paper napkin has at least 1 layer of backing, and often 2.  Very carefully I peel the backing pieces off the napkin, leaving a lovely see-through print.  When the napkin is applied with polymer, the effect resembles stained glass.

Finally, my piêce de resistânce—acrylic Interference® paints.  Interference® is a line of paint which is pearlescent in nature.  It comes in several different color combinations which shimmer and change as the painting is viewed from various aspects in changing patterns of light.  I have green/lavender, green/orange, and blue/lavender Interference® paints at present.  These, along with my copper and permanent magenta metallic paints, add touches of glitz.  And how I LOVE glitz!

The above picture is an example of a painting failure turned into a collage.  This one happens to be on gallery wrapped canvas, a good support when you think you may end up collaging with heavy textures.  I can’t recall what it started out to be:  perhaps a mountain, a tree and some flowers, or maybe our front door.  Whatever it was, I’m delighted with what it has become!

There are many wonderful products available and reasonably priced at online sources.  I love having time to play!  And I’m especially grateful that Winston Churchill has reminded me to “never give in”!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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