Acrylics: experimentation 1

I really should have written this post closer to the time in which I was experimenting, but various things (mostly the closing in of the deep night) kept me from doing that, then.  Today — well, today has not been an art day; nor was yesterday.  However, a few days ago I began experiments with my heavy-body acrylic paints, to see what the difference was — directly — between watercolors and acrylics.

High-key gradations

I’ve just done some Levels adjustments on these photographs.  The lack of good lighting was actually really noticeable on this first photo (it was, as usual, nighttime when I took the shots).

Anyhow, as I had been doing gradations in watercolor, and I knew I had a Zinc White which I had barely tried out, that top strip is Quinacridone Magenta, gradually blended with increasing amounts of Zinc White.  Zinc White (Chinese White) is different from Titanium White in that the latter is much more opaque than the former.  Thus, while both of these whites will fade out colors, the Titanium White will make a more opaque mixture (as you can see in the Payne’s Grey + Titanium White value scale over the black bar at bottom), while Zinc White will make a more transparent mixture.

The colors I used in this experiment were all high-key (bright) colors, things I normally wouldn’t use by themselves, unless I wanted a kind of psychedelic effect.  What I found interesting:  I mixed a violet tone in the upper right of that photo with (I’m thinking, probably) Phthalo Blue:  Green Shade and Quinacridone Magenta.  Above that mixture is a line of straight Dioxazine Violet, though it doesn’t look all that great in this photo (I’d have to tweak the color adjustments more to really get that to come out clearly).  Here, I’ll try:

Mixed violet vs. pure Dioxazine Violet

What I realized is that though the two methods would each make passable violets, the mixed violet was more complex when observed because of the fact that there were two different light-scattering pigments in there (both the Magenta and the Blue), whereas straight Dioxazine Violet gave a more “flat” violet (though still modulated by paint thickness, which in turn had to do with the amount of water and paint in the brush).

By the way, those little bars at the bottom of this image are Ultramarine Blue (Red Shade) — which is what would have been used to mix an intense violet in my Color class.  Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) is much greener and more vibrant, producing a relatively muted violet tone.


It is, however, not as green as Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade) or Phthalo Green (Blue Shade), which are at the top left corner of this practice sheet, moving from left to right, respectively.  I had found it difficult to find things to use Phthalo Green (Blue Shade) with, as it’s so vibrant and intense.  On the other hand, I had also not known why it was that my prof had us get Chromium Oxide Green (top center), because it’s such a dull, muted color.

About half of the swatches above are paint straight from the tube, whereas the other half are mixtures made using those paints.  I didn’t really get into good territory, though, until I started mixing with Indian Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue (a bismuth salt which I had been trying to avoid until I realized how efficient it is), Bronze Yellow, and Yellow Oxide (a.k.a. Yellow Ochre), along with Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), Chromium Oxide Green, and Emerald Green.  The last is a convenience mixture, located directly below Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade):  that is, farthest to the left, one down.  (Indian Yellow is directly below that.)

You can see how close these two paints are in hue…I have been collecting greens for a while because of really hating that Chrome Oxide Green:  unmixed, it is the hue of a pool table.  However, in Liquitex Heavy Body paints, most of the green colors available are convenience mixtures.

Bronze Yellow (bottom row, second from the left) is also a convenience mixture, but produces more complex tones when mixed.  Like Indian Yellow, it makes warm and muted greens (the swatch in the lower left corner was mixed with Indian Yellow, whereas the swatch at bottom center was mixed with Bronze Yellow).

I am trying to remember exactly how I reached that color second from the right, on the bottom row.  This was my favorite color of the entire mixing session; I know it was Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) with Indian and/or Bronze Yellow, and/or Yellow Oxide.  (By the time I had reached that point, things were getting complicated on my palette.)  I probably should have noted it down while it was still fresh in my memory…though I should be able to mix the modified version again, easily.  As long as I know that it was a muted bright yellow (now that I’m thinking of it, it was probably Indian Yellow) with Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), I’ll probably be all right.


In any case, that color makes up two of the blue-green center streaks in this plaything I made up.  (I was using a hog-bristle “Georgian” flat brush by Daler-Rowney which had already started to wear down from my painting with it on rough surfaces…so I decided to play with it while I could.)

By the way:  these experiments were done on canvas pad sheets.  These are sheets of canvas which are primed on one side and bound into a pad, like papers would be.  I’m not wasting stretched canvas on these experiments, that is.  And actually, the image to the left, here, is something I was messing around with on the back of the first experiment I showed you.  It’s really easy to just gesso this and then wait for it to dry, and then you can paint on the back of the canvas (though it may need weights to keep it from rolling up while it’s drying — I used a couple of tubes of paint).  As for gesso brushes, I was using a Purdy brush, which is available from hardware and home improvement stores.

Anyhow, the greener streak on the far left is mixed like the center blue-green streaks, but also with Emerald Green.  As for those other yellow-green colors, I honestly can’t remember how I got there, anymore; but am guessing it will be relatively easy (for me) to get back.

For some reason, this setup, in which I had gessoed the canvas myself and then waited for it to dry, seemed to accept the paint much more easily (and cleanly) than the part of the canvas which was designed to be used first.  I’m not sure if it has to do with the absorbency of the gesso or the grittiness of the gesso or what (I was using Liquitex Basics gesso, which is relatively rough).  I didn’t try laying down areas of color on this side of the experiment, either, so I don’t know whether my paints would streak with the Liquitex Basics gesso as well as the pre-gessoed front side of the fabric, or whether the streakiness is due to some quality of the pad’s integral gesso formulation (I still haven’t broken into the Fredrix canvas pad).

In any case…I realized at this point in the experiments that I wanted to try pairing muted colors with high-key colors in mixes, because in that way it’s possible to get vibrancy from the high-key color, with temperance from the muted one.  This must be one way to use those psychedelic colors with which I started off this post, without looking entirely artificial.  Without Phthalo Blue’s intensity, that is, I don’t think I would have been able to reach that intense peacock blue hue.  Mixing a muted yellow, I asked myself what would happen if I added a greenish blue:  and I got that beautiful formulation.

I also realized just how close Indian Yellow and Yellow Oxide were, to each other (Yellow Oxide is in the lower right corner)…and have begun to realize that I can weed out some unnecessary colors (which produce repeat hues), once I figure out what I want my palette actually to be.

And, of course, that means:  more experiments!  Hehe.  I have found that I enjoy working with acrylics moreso than with watercolors…the paint is just easier to control, although there is the issue of needing to work on surfaces which aren’t paper…luckily, I have 17 pages of canvas pad sheets left.  🙂  And, if I’m not working on anything serious, I can buy more unstretched canvas (though I’m not sure it will work the same).

As regards that big painting I want to work on, that I’ve talked about before:  I am thinking that I am going to try jumping right to canvas without making a trial drawing of the succulent that I want to paint.  I’ll be using vine charcoal for an underdrawing, so any mistakes should be easy to wipe off with a wet rag.  My problem is that I put obstacles in front of myself to delay the work, and that isn’t good:  and, I mean, as long as I’m not using a textured media like gel media, I will be able to gesso over the whole thing and start again, if I need to.  Putting it off just reinforces the procrastination and fear mechanisms; and I do really want to start on this — before school begins again!


Yes, in Art, books do (actually!) help.

I’ve heard it said that one can’t learn Art through reading books, but sometimes those books actually help urge someone into action.

I’ve been reading in a book on Chinese ink painting techniques…and may just have gotten the inspiration to work on a painting (I’m not giving away the title until after I’ve decided whether to buy it or not).  This is on the canvas I intended to start on last semester when I got my easel (the canvas is 30″x30″, just under the 34″ maximum height my easel can take), but a different image than originally intended/settled for.  If I can pull it off, it may turn out to be a beautiful, wonderful painting.

I think a large part of the reason I haven’t started on this yet (besides time pressures) is the fact that the canvas is square, and so it isn’t entirely straightforward to think of a way to make the composition dynamic.  Though, it is possible.

I had wanted to work with an image of this plant before, but I thought that maybe I should work on something less…daunting? perfect? instead.  What I’ve done is taken one of my second-favorite images (not the most-favorite one, which this one may be a prelude to) and cropped it down in Photoshop, then printed it.  Next step is to gesso the canvas with a base color, then work loosely with vine charcoal over the surface to draw in the shapes.  After that comes glazing over the correct lines, wiping everything else away, and starting in with color (which is where I may want to bring in the colored pastels — given that I have no time limit).

I might want to do one or more practice versions of the drawing first, though, just so that I know where everything is…though that will mean working on not-so-great paper (full size is…pretty big, and the only thing I’ve got in that size is cheap butcher paper that’s kind of irritating to work with; moreso than newsprint).  Or — a better idea.  I could do a smaller version of this on one of my square watercolor blocks, though…the methods differ.  I would need to mask some areas, if I used watercolor.

Hmm.  I think that what I’ll do is work at about 2/3 scale on a newsprint pad, first, including value renditions if I can (including white as well…I am not sure if I want to go into colored pastel on newsprint); then go into drawing on canvas (given that I haven’t worked in charcoal for months).  Watercolor is just going to be tough…unless I do it loosely, and very small.  Also, that method seems to work best when one hasn’t decided on a layout yet; I have my layout already.  What I need to do is figure out where everything is placed, and get my arm used to the directionality of the lines and forms.

At least I’m getting back into the art…

(Yes, Fall 2016 is now over…hurrahs may commence)

Hehehe!  I am officially done with classes (for a month, at least)–!  Though there are a few things I can still pick up, there’s no rush to do so (with the exception of my painting, tomorrow).

Now, I get to do things that I actually want to do!  (Once I can remember what those are…)

I expect there to be a few days in which I don’t know what I’m doing, or how best to use my time.  It happens at the beginning of every break.  Usually, there’s a long rest period, then I start to explore what I can do, then I start to do it, then the next semester starts up again–!

No, I mean, like, really.

I do have a lot of books which are available for me to read, which I didn’t have time to read while I was working on schoolwork.  In particular, I have a couple of books on Design, well– actually, three books, at least, on Design (focusing on Graphic and Web Design), and at least one new book on Watercolor painting.   And lest I forget, I do have three in-progress books on art practice.

Plus, I have my guitar–! though I will only be able to practice with that 30 minutes maximum today, before my fingers get too sore to continue.

And then, I also have plenty of art materials to play around with.  In particular…paints.  And inks.  Lots, and lots, of things that I can apply with brushes.  Which reminds me, that I really want to experiment a lot more with color mixing with those FW acrylic inks, given that even the neutrals seem vibrant…

There’s a lot about color mixing that I just wasn’t taught.  It seems to be different, as well, depending on media:  so whereas when I was painting with acrylics, it would be normal for me to mix from 5 or 7 base paints to get the color I wanted, apparently that’s not something done in watercolors?

I’ve found that when working with transparent watercolors and gouache, it may make the painting look disjointed to use too many different pigments to start off with.  This is, at least, unless heavy mixing is going on where you’re using differing proportions of most or all of the paints, in each color you’re laying down on your painting.  I was indeed doing that with my acrylic paints, but watercolors are just prone to getting contaminated, due to the way the paints disperse in water.  In addition, I tend to reuse my dried watercolors — at least, the transparent ones — so I am apparently concerned when the teacher turns my Aureolin well brown (it’s supposed to be yellow).  :/  (and Aureolin isn’t a cheap color!)

Acrylics, however…you lay out a full palette of those colors, and that paint is basically gone.  You can’t re-use acrylics unless you use plastic wrap to cover them and keep them from drying out.  A spray bottle full of water to wet them down doesn’t hurt, either.  The issue is that they dry out, and when they dry out, they also cure, and can’t be reworked.  Because of this, it isn’t a big deal if the paint on the palette gets contaminated, as it’s all a loss, anyway.  On top of this, the contamination stays limited to a small area, at least if one is using heavy-body paints.

As for what to do with the acrylic inks, I’m just going to have to experiment…though I suspect that they are closer in behavior to high-flow acrylic paints than to watercolors.  Like other acrylic-based paints, I put out a few drops of this stuff and I can never use it again!  But, the amazing thing is how far a few drops (especially three drops of each base color), goes.  For a small, 5.5″x7.5″ test paper, it’s plentiful.

I was experimenting on a cheap little plastic palette with little cups, which showed me how intermixable these are — on par with my heavy-body acrylics — and also how permanent they are!  (I should probably take a picture of that palette I ruined, so you all can see it.  I wouldn’t be able to accurately tell the color of any transparent paints or inks I used in the painted cups, again.)

So now I know to use the disposable palette sheets for these.  It’s not like the drips are going to run anywhere, unless I pick it up.

I am thinking, also, of the entire Web Design tangent — hence the books I obtained for myself during the semester which I didn’t get the time to read.  However, I know that it isn’t an easy option, especially when dealing with people trips me out, anyway; and people who want Design jobs done may have much more serious problems than “make our website pretty.”  How do you say to people, over and over again, “I know you hired me to make your website pretty, but you have these fundamental navigational and structural problems which we can also fix”…?  Although, that doesn’t sound so bad…if you can fix them.

Now that I know that Design isn’t totally “selling out” as an artist; that it requires a different set of skills than someone solely a visual artist may cultivate, and that someone solely a visual artist may not know about; it may become a viable option.  This is in addition to any learning I get done as regards Information Architecture and User Experience, in my program, in addition to my main Cataloging focus.  Coming up, I should be taking a Beginning Cataloging course along with a course on Metadata, and Research Methods…though it’s without question that I do want to learn how to construct Web pages.

I’m just really, really glad that I don’t have to focus on public service, anymore–!  I mean, seriously…

Preparing for freedom

As difficult as it is, I’m going to try and think about something not related to Finals.

One of those things is that I have made a date to go and claim one of my pieces which was formerly on display.  It should feel good to be reunited, again!  This was one of the first large pieces in acrylic paint which I did, and one of the first in which I worked quickly enough to be able to shade wet-into-wet.  Unfortunately, it is made with acrylic gesso on plywood, the combination of which is an apparently unforgiving surface to natural hog-bristle brushes (it gradually wears away the fibers until you get a little stub-brush).

I’ll wait to show the photo I have of it, again, until I can get it back.  I wonder if the paint has faded at all, after all this time?

Hmm.  In other news, the organization of the craft area has been shifted around again.  I had been using the craft table as a place to deposit library books (because of the dirt issue; the craft table can take heavy cleaning).  But now, M and I are sharing the same space.  It shouldn’t be much of a problem once I move back into using my easel, but it was nice to have a space in front of the window, while I had it.

And the little baby succulent along the walkway is dying.  😦  I’ve decided not to interfere, though; much for the same reason as I decided not to dig it up in the first place:  I don’t want to shock it.  Really, a life in the soil seems better than life in a pot, even if it does end up dying.

I don’t know what that says about me?

Anyhow, 🙂 the yard is looking rife for planting.  Most of our grass and ground cover is dead because of the drought and watering restrictions, though now the major issue is that it’s cold and wet, most of the time.  Not freezing, yet, but very cold, especially at night.  It would be nice to get in there and really aerate the soil, and put in some little plants.  I don’t think it would be many; just, some.

Hmm.  Maybe I should figure out which?  The little succulent thing looks like it’s dying from too much water, plus something physically nicked it — I can’t tell what, from here.  Although I did want to plant a little succulent garden, I’m unsure that’s a wise option now, with the rainy season here.

I have always liked pepper plants, though.  Maybe some kind of chile?  Mint (though mint would likely take over the yard)?  Maybe Lemon Verbena, eh?  Chocolate Mint!

I have tried to grow Chocolate Mint before, and it ended up dying from a combination of humidity and heat on my windowsill, leading to mildew and mites.  After the webbing and moving speckles came, I did just toss it, sorry to say.  In an exterior environment, though, mites would have predators, and wouldn’t be able to overwhelm a plant so easily.  Push comes to shove, I can pick up a handful of ladybugs and set them loose.  🙂  Which, probably everyone would like.  🙂

(It’s weird, though:  Chocolate Mint actually does smell like chocolate and mint!  Of course, though, I have no idea what to actually use Chocolate Mint for…)

And, no…I do not know the spiritual difference between an aggressive plant and a non-aggressive one, though I know the Mint family has always felt joyous, to me.  I just know that they (the mints, including Spearmint, Peppermint, and Chocolate Mint; plus Lemon Verbena, etc. — they look similar, are fragrant, and have square stems) are aggressive and will kill other species so they can grow.  This is the reason I’ve been hesitant to plant them before; mint spreads by runners and can take over native habitat, IIRC…and this area is native habitat for California Poppies (an endangered species, for those not in-the-know).

And actually, now that I’m thinking of it, it’s also native habitat for Miner’s Lettuce, which is edible (I mentioned this, probably some years ago, now).  But Miner’s Lettuce needs shade and lots of water, to thrive.  It does die back in the dry season, but comes back just as readily when it rains.  (I should check and see if it came back in a nearby yard…)

According to M, the front yard is actually suitable for edibles.  There has been spraying of RoundUp in the past, but I don’t think it was in that area; rather, I think it was on the weeds in the back lot.  I can confirm with D.

Yeah, I guess a big patch of dead ground is just waiting to be cared for, eh?

Aside from that, I have gradually pulled off of the guitar practice.  It was good until I just became too busy to even think about guitar.  The good thing, though, is that guitar is an alternate soother to me than tea and chocolate (I did set myself up with chocolate, for this week!  It calms me down and keeps me awake to do work).  I think the real kicker is that my guitar — no lie — sounds like a harp.

I mean, seriously, my guitar sounds like a harp.

I do still have a little toughness to my fingertips on the fret hand, so I could probably play a little bit if I wanted to.  But:  I just have to make it through Monday, and then things will be all set.  I just have to remember to make it through to Monday.

On Monday, or Tuesday…I should make a date to do some ink drawings (Copic and Micron), and try the new acrylic inks over the top of them.  My notes have started to have little mandala drawings and line drawings which are…kind of interesting!  Also, I have two new watercolor journals (one small and one large), so I have the space to do this.

Coming up, I will also want to mine my photographic records and blog entries, for inspiration as regards what to put on the 30″x30″ canvas I have had out for months now, on my easel.  I know I want to do something plant-related; I’m just not sure exactly what.  There are a number of images I have which could inspire something, but I’m not used to working loosely — which is kind of a requirement with heavy-body acrylic paint.

Maybe I should just remember the feel of a brush gliding over canvas, though, and set my mind to enjoy that, rather than thinking of what I want my finished painting to look like (like I can predict that?).

I…did start an interesting project in one of my Art Journals (I did this when I could no longer bear to think about school, or life).  Maybe I can draw inspiration from that…

…and maybe I should be working in that journal, now, and consistently…so I don’t have to rearrange the symbology in my photos…

Life goes on…will my passion become a hobby?

Well, the good thing is that I don’t have to go back in to work until Wednesday.  Plus, the only thing due today is completing one of my readings, which I’m already halfway through.  Because I’ve been setting up a new device, I haven’t been able to get much work done, though.  That is to say:  I have a new homework machine, and pretty much all of yesterday was spent getting it secured and up to speed.

The somewhat troubling thing is that I haven’t made time for art-making since the semester started, a week and a half ago.

I’ve just gotten through cruising the “gouache” tag, here…which at least is enough to remind me what gouache is and how it behaves and how it’s typically used, making me wonder whether I want to try it, again.  What I have is about nine years old at this point, though (ha), and it isn’t worth it to get new paints in that medium, too, if I’m not going to use them.  (Gouache, from what I hear, actually has a shelf life.)

The nice thing about gouache…well, there are a number of nice things…but it is flat and opaque; the “set” I bought in 2007 was all sourced from suppliers who did not add opaquing agents to their paints.  If I’m recalling correctly, this was Winsor & Newton, Holbein, and — I’m thinking — M. Graham & Co.; the latter of which, I bought without knowing that honey was part of the formulation.  Then again, all I bought from them was a Payne’s Grey, which I ended up not using much of.

Right now, though, I do have the acrylics and the acrylic pads, in addition to a few blank canvases.  If I didn’t have to worry about getting paint on the carpet (my reasoning for not starting this project sooner:  I have to cover the floor, or move my easel), I could start the abstract that I’ve been wanting to work on.  I recall, however, that this is a pattern I get into which short-circuits my visual work:  I get too caught up in the original image to feel that I could ever get it “exactly” that way on canvas, and my perfectionism keeps me from starting.  Then I start finding reasons not to start.

It’s the same thing that happened with the succulent drawing I posted some months ago (Yapha), where to get started at all (after two or three weeks of delaying), I just had to begin something.  That “something” was a tracing, which then clarified to me that I didn’t have to get the details exactly as they were in the original observation.  The substance wasn’t in mimicry of shape, though to be clear I am not entirely certain how to deduce content and what matters from a source image.

With observation, it’s easier.  With a photograph?  Not so much.  I think it’s really a tripping-out thing, though, where when there already is an image there, I/we start to think that if we worked perfectly, our final image would look like the photograph, and that isn’t actually the case.

It looks like dinner is about to be ready, so I’ll wrap this up and try and finish my reading, tonight.  Tomorrow, I’ll need to start on my reading for my database course, and complete my spreadsheet for that class.

I’ll also need to work on some scheduling for my schoolwork and classwork, as well; so that I actually will have time reserved, to make art.

“Mad Skillz”?

Well, hopefully soon I’ll be able to get out and replace the two paints which I need to (Raw Umber and Cadmium Red Medium Hue, now — the neck screwed off of the tube in the latter today, too), and maybe pick up an Ivory Black.  Due to multiple prior commitments (and the fact that the cheaper art stores are farther away), I wasn’t able to do it, today.

I am considering dropping one of the Library School courses in Fall to give myself more time to go through the work for my Vocational program, and to do art — and to restart my Communication group.  Taking only six units in Fall would also mean my tuition would be entirely covered by my grant, meaning the only expenses I would have would be for computer hardware and my books.  This would mean that I wouldn’t be out of much if I decided it wasn’t for me.

My technical course is really the make-or-break of all this.  If I do well and I like it, I should be able to move forward with the Technical Services track.  If I don’t do well and/or don’t like it…I’ve really got to question whether Library School is my best option.  Social skills have been my weakest area…and without that, my main focus would be Cataloging (which is outsourced in my system) or Management (which doesn’t seem compatible with a lack of good social skills).

I could try for the Special Librarianship track, but if I’m serious about it, that might take more than three years (and this is one of the tracks of which my technical course might predict the outcome).  Or:  I’d need to take 12 units for a couple of semesters.  Doable, if I don’t have to worry about work…but it’s relatively vital to remain employed in LIS while doing a degree in LIS.

Of course, the Vocational program should be able to help me out with making decisions around this.  Right now, Editing, Graphic Design, and Web Design are all looking alluring — due to the paperwork I’ve been filling out which has started me thinking about what I’ve liked to do best in my (meager) past employment.  One of those things was reworking the layout and editing of a course reader:  I felt confident at my verbal editing skills, and happy when the layout turned out the way I wanted it to.

(Of course, though, I was using MS Word, which was fairly buggy when it came to formatting images, text boxes, columns, etc.  The experience did help, though, when putting together a List of Works for my final Artist Talk in Creative Process.  It’s likely that if I had used a page-layout program like Quark or InDesign for the reader, the desired results would have been easier to achieve.)

It was work, as regarded what I was doing and the fact that readability was a major goal; I left the Graphic Design track because I was told that I “could do more” than be a Graphic Designer.  I didn’t know what that meant, and I kind of still don’t; but the person who told me this doesn’t seem to be teaching at that location, anymore.  That advice (and a rather stupid run-in with a collectively paranoid Graphic Arts e-group) was the reason I got the Art AA first, though, instead of diving fully into Multimedia Arts or completing the Graphic Design series.

The major drawback to working in Graphic Design is that I would need an apprenticeship, plus more schooling (though relatively cheap schooling — unless I went for an MFA).  The minor drawback is occupational exposure to toxins (not so minor if you ask the teachers I’ve had who are cancer survivors), and the fact that I may need to pay for health insurance on my own.  Graphic Design is also not a particularly lucrative field, so far as I know.

There is something of an art community in Oakland…I remember going on field trips to a few design studios, but that must have been almost a decade ago.  There are also a number of galleries (enough to have regular Art Walks and Open Studios)…and, of course, the Museum.

Of course, Oakland isn’t the safest place to live, but I’ll save discussion on that for another day.  Granted that if it’s my life mission to be creative, losing my life in pursuit of that mission is just one of those things that could happen.  If my drive is strong enough to risk cancer, it’s probably strong enough to brave Downtown to see the galleries, or to live in an urban area (though I seriously don’t want to do the latter).

It’s also notable that there is a ceramics supply outlet and a jewelry supply outlet on this side of the water, though neither are close to me.  It’s possible that the East Bay has more of a thriving Arts community than I’m used to thinking about us having.

I should also note that I’ve identified my writing skills and art skills as something which counterbalances my lack of social skills.  It was nice to hear people say I had “mad skillz” tonight.  🙂

I’m getting tired at this point; I need to sign off…

Experimenting with different ways of drawing/painting the same thing…

I’ve been trying to keep track of what I have and haven’t written here, though given the length of my postings, that isn’t easy.  What did happen is that I did make it out to the art store and I did buy some paints and canvas (though these are canvas sheets in a pad, not stretched canvas or canvas board).  The canvas pad would seem to be good for studies, though the brand I used here (Blick) warps a bit when it gets heavily wet…explaining why canvas is usually stretched.  I haven’t tried Fredrix yet, which was the other brand I purchased.

The first thing that I should have done today that I didn’t do, would have been to gesso the canvas sheet with a background color or tone.  I think that I was thinking more in terms of watercolor, here, though:  hence the tracing that turned out to be near purposeless when covered by opaque acrylic paint.

Tomatillo-1 version 1 on the left; tracing on the right.

My plan was to trace the more important lines in the original study I’d made, then transfer the lines over to the canvas pad using Saral paper (basically, carbon transfer paper).  I did succeed in doing this:

line drawing:  transfer onto canvas

…however, it would have made much more sense to do this if I had been making a transparent watercolor painting of my original study.

I may still do that, just to enlighten myself as to the differences in working methods between drawing, watercolor, acrylic grisaille (working only in black and white) and acrylic in color.

What we would have done in Painting class would have been to make the original study/drawing, then gesso the substrate that the painting would lay on with a background color, then make a loose vine charcoal drawing of what we wanted to paint on top of that, then seal the vine charcoal with acrylic glazing medium, then wipe out the extra vine charcoal with a wet rag, then paint on top of that.

What I learned fairly quickly when trying to work over this tracing (talk about tightness) is that it’s so light and delicate that it gets covered with the first strokes of opaque paint.  (The first study was in Mars Black and Titanium White.)  Given that I’ve had trouble concealing all signs of my underdrawings in vine before, I doubt this would have been much of an issue if I’d used fine willow or vine charcoal (which is much blacker than graphite) to provide guidelines.

I’m not sure of it, though.  I’ll have to test it out.

I kind of wonder, too, if a charcoal or carbon pencil would have worked better…but they would not be as easily erasable as vine or willow, both of which have basically almost no adhesion to much of anything…except maybe cloth.

Tomatillo-1 version 2

In any case, what I ended up doing was basically an entirely different method than I would have been working with, had I used transparent watercolor.  It became evident fairly immediately that the most efficacious route might have been to block in a body color in the shape that I wanted, then hit the lowlights and shadows, and then the highlights.

Well, no:  first the background, then the body color, then the lowlights and shadows, then the highlights.  Then blending.  (This is just what I’m guessing might have been easier, in my case.  Yours may be different.)

This is different than what I would expect for transparent watercolor, in which the lightest areas would ideally be left without paint, and then everything else could be filled in block by block.  I really couldn’t do that, here.  Well — maybe I could, but there was no reason to do so.  In my head, at least, the fewer layers of color one works with in transparent watercolors, the better, as this increases luminosity (or the amount of light reflected back from the paper).  With acrylic — at least with opaque colors — that is not a burden.  You can paint and paint and overpaint and mess up and correct it, and it’s OK.

What I could have done instead of the tracing and transfer was just to block in a large shape in color (like I did in my original drawings) and then refine it from there.  There was really no purpose to the line drawing, except to help out with visualization a tiny bit, and make me initially feel better about diving in.  But it wasn’t necessary.  I might even have gotten a better result if I just tried to paint what I saw in my original study plus having the tomatillo for reference next to me, without having anything drawn in on my canvas.

Tomatillo-1 version 3

The above one in green…I did after I did the grisaille (black and white) version right above it.  I’m actually really glad I did the grisaille version first, because it had less variables to manage when I hit the point of realizing that my underdrawing might hinder me more than help me.

When I went to the art store, by the way; I didn’t end up getting the Green Gold.  I went in there expecting something around $11 and it was listed at more like $18 for 2 oz, which gave me a bit of sticker shock.  The Web Match prices which I qualify for aren’t listed; it’s just kind of a nice surprise at the register.  So while I did go in there ready to purchase $20-$30 of paint, I wasn’t about to spring for $20 for one tube.  Basically, a mix of one of the Greens I already had, plus Bronze Yellow, will give a hue like Green Gold — or so I was certain of by seeing the color swatches and knowing my strength in color mixing — it just may not be transparent (and transparency wasn’t something I desired).

The main colors used in the above are Chrome Oxide Green, Cadmium Yellow Hue (this is the Bismuth Orthovanadate that I mentioned before), Vivid Lime Green (a convenience mix), Titanium White, and a touch of some more earth-tone colors like Bronze Yellow (a mix of iron oxides) and Raw Umber, plus a tiny bit of Indian Yellow (Isoindolinone).  I did get out a couple of reds and a blue (as I realized I could lighten a color using Chrome Oxide as my deepest pigment, but not darken it), but I didn’t end up using them.  Well, no:  I used a Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) for some of the greens, but I can’t recall where.

In any case, the color version was the most fun to paint.  🙂  (And yes, I realize I didn’t put in a background.  :P)  Could I have gotten there first without doing all the prep work?  I’m not sure.  I don’t feel it was time wasted, though, because I have learned a lot.

And, I’m wanting to paint more in acrylic.  It kind of forces me to be looser, and that isn’t a bad thing!  I have a good amount left in the canvas pads, so hopefully that will lower the entry level into playing around with these paints…

Ah — I almost forgot to mention, too.  I lost two tubes of paint, today, because either the cap failed (on my Blick Titanium White) or the neck of the tube just peeled off (like my Raw Umber Liquitex Professional Heavy Body paint).  When I say the “cap failed,” I mean that the part of the cap that one holds, separated from the part of the cap which fit around the neck of the tube.  With the Raw Umber…I have no idea what was up with that, except maybe it had too much UV exposure, or something.  I went to open it and the entire neck twisted off.

Raw Umber is only a Series 1 color, so I can get a replacement for it for about $8.  Still, it’s like what the hey…gah.

And oh, right:  I need to use a less-watery brush with these paints, because it seems to turn out better when I don’t get pools of paint like I would with watercolor.  I…wasn’t after my color moving around on the page, though I guess I can stop that by drying my brush a little after cleaning it…