Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Working Woman

Yep, what you're seeing is more of the same piece I've been trying to finish for nearly two weeks now.  I got up 30 minutes early today to see if I could get a good chunk of it finished.  30 minutes is just about the right amount of time to get warmed up and ready to paint!  

Beyond the Wall, beginning the detail work

Here's the dealio:  I've taken a job.  A real, live, grown up people sort of job.  After I get the new skills sets down I will be able to paint more, but for a week or so, I'll be running pretty hard.  The challenge with all of this will be to find balance between working full time and having energy left to paint.  Of course I'll be blogging about how that goes, so please stop by again soon and see how things are going.  Till then...  Alice 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Like a Turtle

Still working on 'Beyond the Wall' right now, but I seem to be dabbing and poking at it more than putting in long stretches of time needed to finish it.  Life keeps popping up having to be dealt with-taking my studio time and energy.  It tends to do that..

Progressing like a herd of turtles..
Posting progress of the piece right now is more for my benefit than anybody else's; it helps me see that I'm getting something done on it.  Nearly ready for the fun bits- the shadows and details, I hope to have a chance to sit down and get this one finished up this weekend.  Of course, that will depend on that always capricious wind of change I call my life.

I hope you're getting more done than I am!  Come back again, Alice

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Meet My Friend, Kenny Rhodes

I first met Kenny Rhodes when I took an oil painting class from him at Eastern Arizona College.  We had similar views on the world and senses of humor and became friends quickly.  I am excited to feature Kenny's work on Whatercolorit because he doesn't take much time to feature or promote his work.  Kenny is devoted to his family and students.  Married and a father, he also is the department head at EAC and teaches a heavy class load.  Summers have been taken up with wild-land firefighting.  

Kenny Rhodes in his Superman suit
I asked him a few questions about his art.

What inspires you when you get stuck?

I find myself going through cycles of inspiration and lack thereof.  Teaching a heavy course load of so many different art disciplines can really take its toll on my creativity and motivation.  I get out of that funk in a variety of ways.  Travel generally helps. I always make a point of seeing what other artists are doing when I travel.  Sometimes I get an exceptional student who is really driven to learn new techniques so that generally pushes me to produce.  It amazes me how some of them have no fear when it comes to trying new things.

Bull Skull, oil on canvas
24" x 36"

What/who influences your work?

I have had a variety of people influence me through the years.  Most recently I purchased the book Daily Painting by Carol Marine.  She and several others describe a variety of challenges they have faced as artists.  It was as if they were describing my life as an artist.  I found it very motivating. In addition, last summer I completed my 20th and final season as a wildland firefighter.  This summer job took me on adventures in remote locations in the western United States.  It also provided me with many resources for future paintings.

Ke’ ahi o’ Malamalama (The Light of the Fire)
16″x 20″, oil on canvas

Will you tell me more about the subjects you paint?

I have found that there are quite a few similarities between Native Hawaiians and Native Americans.  One of the most prominent is their struggle to maintain their identity and traditions.  It is very challenging to find the “fit” with modern society and still be able to maintain cultural heritage.  Nearly everyone I have asked from both groups has been open and willing to share their culture.  Another similarity is their deep family ties.  I have seen so many sacrifices made to help family.  It’s really moving.

'The Guardian' Oil
20" x 16" 
Growing up near the San Carlos Apache Reservation, I learned to appreciate the beauty of their traditions.  My wife was born and raised in Hawaii and has been a Polynesian dancer since she could walk.  She traveled internationally and performed professionally for many years, so I have been fortunate to have her to teach me about the Hawaiian culture.  I very much enjoy the contrast between the lush tropics of Hawaii and the arid beauty of the desert southwest. 
Midnight Blue, Oil
16" x 20"
When I asked Kenny about how he could be contacted he said:

Currently I don’t have my work online, although I am working on it.  I hope to have things up and running this summer.  This is my first free summer in 20 years.  I gave up my seasonal job as a wildland firefighter.   I have shown in several galleries but find it pretty painful to pay such a high commission, so I avoid selling in the gallery scene.  By doing so, both the customer and I benefit.  I have to say that it has been really liberating to paint strictly for myself.  Since I stopped placing a heavy emphasis on what people will like or what will sell, I have found that I really enjoy the process, which was why I started to create art as a child.  If someone is interested in seeing my work, or buying a piece they can email me at fireandice_64@hotmail.com or visit my new blog, https://tonedcanvas.wordpress.com
'All of the Ingredients' oil
16" x 20"
Thanks for stopping by and I'll see you soon.  Alice

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fear of Foliage

Yeah, I have fear of foliage.  Not real foliage, mind you.  My fears 'stem' (hehe) from a dread of painting silly looking trees and bushes.  I have ruined more paintings by adding my uptight versions of greenery than I care to remember.  It's depressing, actually.
The point I got to when I decided to walk away.  (I didn't prime this with yellow, the light was low when I took the photo)
I started a painting last week, Beyond the Wall and was so excited to get going on it.  Excited, that was until I realized I had planned shrubbery and trees into it.  I got the background roof and hillside started and began to plan ahead and came up with a bang against the greens.  Instead of doing my usual trick of wading in with a loaded brush and no plan, I put my brushes down, turned off the music and ran. I found myself so afraid of making a mess of this that I totally froze up.

First tree in and all is well.. whew..
I have spent a week letting the trees needed in this piece, um, take root (so sorry) in my mind.  I've been thinking of how to handle them as I go to sleep, soak in the tub, go for walks and hurried past the studio with my eyes averted.  It's been a weird week.  I've been afraid of a silly painting.

The greenery is in and done.  I didn't ruin the painting with it.  This is big, folks!  
Finally, yesterday I felt like I was ready to begin the Alice Webb version of shrubbery-  I've tried everyone else's tree style over the years, perhaps it's time to figure out my own.  Thankfully, what I cooked up in the back of my mind seems to have worked.  It's not Edward Wesson's version, it's not Claudia Nice's version, it's mine.  And I like it.  When I finally let go of what I thought I was supposed to be making trees look like, my instinct took over and made up my own.  Before you get too proud of me, remember that I've been stubbornly throwing myself at this concept for 20 years.

I may be slow, but I am persistent.  See you soon!  Alice

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Catastrophes CAN Have Good Results

A month or so ago I wrote about the project that was on my loom at the time.  You can see it HERE.  This weekend I sat down to finish taking that project off of the loom so that I could re-use the warp and begin again.  To my dismay and not-terribly-surprised eyes I discovered someone had cut a large section of the warp yarns with little round nosed will-only-cut-paper scissors!

What was left of the old piece after I finally finished the job started by a grandkid.  
Not-terribly-surprised eyes because most of the grandkids had trooped through the house recently and anything is possible when 7 small people arrive! Will-only-cut-paper scissors are akin to prescription bottles with child-proof lids; strong willed and determined children have no trouble popping those suckers off, either.

Setting up a new warp; I find the repetitive movement of this step relaxing.  
The truth of that matter is this, if it had been one of my own little darlings years ago I'd have been hopping mad.  Now that the grand darlings are on the scene I can sit on my weaving stool and laugh.  Shake my head and cut the project off of the loom.  Grinning.  I'm asking myself why it was funny and finding that I remember how many things small hands got into over the 175 or so years I was raising kids and how happy I am that the cycle has moved on down another generation!

This time the twining tension is even and pretty.  There is beauty in repetitive patterns.
As a result, I spent the weekend re-warping my Navajo loom.  The first time I did this process it was very, very hard.  The second time was not much better.  The third time I felt more comfortable with it, but this, the fourth time it felt natural to my hands.  In fact, it was meditative and enjoyable.  I find myself glad I had to start over again because this time the thing is finally done right.  The tension is even, the ends are tightly attached and I found the rhythm fast.

Warped and ready for the pull-stick to be added
I realize that what I weave on it will be far from the perfection the experienced Navajo weavers achieve, but this time I am weaving with joy.  I can see how someone can make this their only medium and work a whole lifetime on it.

Weaving is a peaceful, meditative process.  Yarn therapy.  
I've told myself I can't weave or paint today until my living and laundry rooms are clean.  As I've been slaving away over an ungrateful house this morning, I keep thinking how glad I am that I had to start over on that loom.  Again.  I learned and gained experience from it.  Whichever adorable little person gleefully snipped at those warp yarns did their Meemaw a favor. Precious little lamb!

Until tomorrow, then, Alice.  


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sealing a Watercolor Painting With Wax

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post about gallery wrapping watercolor paper.  I'd like to give a big thank you to Charlene McGill for sharing this knowledge with me and her permission to share what she has written with you.  There are two schools of thought on sharing techniques and ideas; the first is keep it to yourself and use it to help you stay unique, and the second is that what we know or learn should belong to everyone.  I believe in the second idea and appreciate others who do as well.  Sharing what we know doesn't diminish our work or stature, rather it adds to it.  
Painted all the way around the edges.

This style of finish focuses the viewers eye on the work.  Isn't it nice to know there are choices when you don't want a frame?
One of the problems I run up against with my own work is the expense of framing it.  In life I have often found that I either have time or money, but rarely both at the same time.  In painting, it's no exception.  

Char shared:

Waxing your painting as a final finish:

Doesn't this sound scary?  I couldn't believe that waxing my paintings was a viable and EASY solution to finishing them.  I must confess that it's my preferred method because the watercolour seems to retain its character look.

v Again, there is a variety of products from which you can choose what's best for your own process. 
Ø  I use Dorland's Wax Medium. 
Ø  I have also tried Gamblin Wax Medium which is also easy to apply.  Both contain Damar resin and beeswax. 
v This wax is typically used by oil painters to change the viscosity of their pigments, making them smoother and easier to manage. 
v It can be used directly from the container.
v It dries to a completely transparent finish, improving the luminosity and clarity of colour!
v You can clean the surface with a damp cloth!
Wax treated paintings hung for a gallery show of McGill's work.  Notice that some have been dropped into frames just as you would an oil or acrylic piece.  
Steps to applying a wax finish.

  1. This is so easy, it's almost unbelievable.
  2. Select a very soft lint free cloth.  Cradle it around your fingers and scoop out a little wax from the container.
  3. Apply it in a circular motion.  As soon as your cloth "drags", scoop out more wax.
  4. Continue applying the wax over the surface and around the edges of your painting.
  5. Allow this coat to dry completely.  It'll take a few hours depending on the humidity in your area.
  6. Using a clean, dry and lint free cloth, buff the surface.  You'll see a very slight sheen.  Application lines, if any, will buff out.
  7. Apply a second coat exactly the same way you applied the first.
  8. Once it's dry and buffed, examine the sheen.  You likely won't need a third coat, but you can at this stage if you feel it's necessary.
  9. Turn over the work and apply a coat of wax on the back.

The wax bonds with the watercolour down into the fibres of the paper.  Because it's a petroleum product, it does not reactivate the watercolour.  No toxic sprays or substances are needed.  You don't have to "set" your watercolours before waxing.
Either painted as vignettes like the canning jars or around the sides like the corn and gourds, this it a beautiful way to present watercolors.  

Seriously?  That's it?  This is very do-able and as you can see from images of Char's work finished this way, quite attractive.  Wax mediums such as Dorland's or Gamblin aren't expensive. In fact, a small jar costs about the same as a full sheet of Arches 140lb. paper.  Now I am looking for excuses to get myself to town and the local art store for wax medium.  Thanks again, Charlene McGill, for passing this along to me and anybody else who thinks this is a great idea!  

To see McGill's work and learn more about her, you can visit her website HERE. Be sure to check out her gorgeous paintings.  

Ya'll come back now!  Alice 

Beautiful work, simply set off.  Quite effective.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Gallery Wrapped Watercolors! Who Knew?

Did you know you can wrap watercolor paper over a canvas stretched on wooden stretcher bars?  Well, maybe you did, but I had no idea.  I'm so excited to feature these instructions by watercolor artist, Charlene McGill.  She has been generous enough to share her technique here.  

One of McGill's wrapped paintings, 'Poppy' 
How to Wrap Paper over a Primed Canvas Stretcher

McGill: This process can be fun and rewarding as an alternative to matting and framing your watercolour paintings. 

I prefer to use inexpensive primed cotton canvases.  These can be purchased at all Art Stores, Craft Stores and even Department Stores.  Buying the cheaper brands can be a little risky, because the stretcher bars may warp.

The process seems to work very successfully with 140# paper.  You can certainly use hot press which is very smooth, cold pressed which has a little bit of tooth, or rough which has a lot of tooth.  Arches is good, strong paper and that’s what I’ve used in this demonstration.  I’ll be stretching this paper over 8" x 10" canvas.

 Protect your work surface with a plastic cover and clean towels which will absorb any excess water.

Carefully measure your paper to ensure that you’ll be able to fold the edges over the stretcher bars and onto the back of each of the bars.  Remember that your paper must cover FOUR sides! The depth of the canvas is an important measurement because the deeper sides of Gallery Wrap vs. Regular Canvas will make a difference in the size of the paper.

For smaller sized paper, you can fill your kitchen sink with tepid water.  If you decide to stretch larger pieces of paper, the bathtub is a good place to do that.
Lay your cut piece of paper in the water and allow it to soak for only a few minutes.  It just needs to be good and pliable.  Drain the excess water from it before taking it to your work surface.Soaking your paper too long could result in washing away some of the sizing.

Set your paper on the clean towels and then centre your canvas on it.
This is the “nerve wracking” part.  Firmly grasp the edge of the paper and pull it over the long edge of the stretcher.  Immediately staple it.  Turn the work and firmly pull the other side, stapling it to secure it on the stretcher.
As if you were wrapping a gift, fold down the corner edge on the short side.  Hold the fold with your thumb while pressing the excess paper onto the stretcher with your forefinger.  It’s not as complicated as it sounds.

 Once pressed, the paper will hold its shape so you can crease the corner before stapling it.
 Staple that first crease you’ve made.
I practiced this fold using a thin piece of printer paper until I was satisfied that I could make nice tight corners.  It’s purely an aesthetic reason for being so careful, but I feel that it really makes a difference in your finished product.

Now, firmly pull up the short side of your paper over that stapled crease and staple the paper in the centre while holding down the corner.  It will appear that you have TWO folds.  Staple the crease.
Your finished corner will now be held firmly and appear to be nice and flat.  Add more staples as necessary to firmly hold you paper in place.
This process is very similar to reupholstering a seat cushion!

Here’s another corner detail. From the side, you can see how neat your fold appears.


It’s the smooth, sharply creased corner that I mentioned before where I believe it’s important to practice before you fold your watercolour paper.
Remembering that you must continue to work quickly.  You don’t want your paper to dry out.

If it does begin to feel too dry, spritz it with clean water using a spray bottle that you keep with your palette to reactivate your pigment.

Finish stapling the other short side and then, finally complete the long sides.
The front of your gallery wrapped canvas will look exactly like a regular primed canvas, except that it’s watercolor paper!

Me:  It's genius.  I am so excited to try this out.  Be sure to join me again tomorrow to see how McGill finishes these paintings.  It'll blow your mind!  We can hang watercolor paintings without glass and even without frames and Charlene McGill will show us how.  Thanks for stopping by!  Alice 

Friday, March 6, 2015

M. Fred Barraza, Part 2

Continuing from yesterday, I asked Fred some questions that I always want to ask every artist I meet.  

MeWhat inspires you when you need ideas? 
Fred: Anything can inspire me. I love the shadows of early morning and late afternoons. I get enjoyment in drawing ordinary things, organic or other wise, such as an electrical wall socket, a computer mouse, a stapler.   In a meeting I might draw the person across from me or my water bottle or my clipboard.  In the class I teach I might draw students as they draw.  I enjoy drawing and painting landscapes and people. Waiting in a doctor's office, I may draw the chairs that are all in a row, practicing my perspective drawing, or someone waiting for the Doctor also, without them knowing (don't want them to feel uncomfortable with me staring).  My wife will sometimes ask me to keep my eye on the road a little more instead of looking around for some landscape I need to remember for art work.  I enjoy the use of good lights, darks and shadows.  I enjoy the feel of movement in something that is stationary.  For me, I can honestly say that I have so many ideas to explore in drawings, paintings, printmaking and sculpture, that I sometimes feel a slight self-pressure to get these done before I die.

'Mia' Graphite
Me: Who influenced/influences your work the most?  

Fred: There are so many artists works that influence me in some way.  As a young artist, my influences were artists such as Alberto Vargas, Alphonse Mucha and Maxfield Parrish.  A strong influence came when I was in the U.S. Marine Corps. Seeing and experiencing the Asian culture influenced my work.  Especially when I was in Hong Kong and Japan.  My student's work influences me. I enjoy seeing what they produce.  I do my art work first for self-enjoyment and if someone likes it, that's great.

'Alluvion Encounter'
Me:You've done a lot of 'woodcut' inspired pieces.  Where did that idea come from?   

Fred: Linoleum cuts are in the same category as woodcuts, they are a relief printmaking process.  Learning about printmaking in college I practiced the intaglio process; I did lithographs and serigraphs.  For a while I was not particularly impressed with the relief process.  So many things I saw being produced were pretty much hard contrasting black and white cut outs.  So, referring back to what I had seen when I was overseas in the Marine Corps, I started practicing more of a linear process of cutting out the linoleum. In my studio I have a large etching press which I purchased after starting my post college day job.  I love printmaking.

'High Clouds' Linocut
Me: How can people see or purchase your work?  

Fred: At the moment, I am not in a gallery.  I used to be in two galleries, one in the area and one in Albuquerque.  I have abandoned that for now but will eventually get back to the idea of placing my art in a gallery again.  My work can be seen at Adobe Springs Cafe in Silver City, NM.  People may purchase the work there.  I have actually had more sales there than at the galleries I was in.  I am planning on starting a new web site. The old one needs a major overhaul.  If anyone is interested in my art, they may contact me at fredbarraza@gmail.com.   I am currently working on illustrations for another children's book.  
'Prickly Poppies and Moon' 

 While visiting with Fred, he told me this will likely be his last semester at Western New Mexico University.  While this makes me sad for the students there, it will be interesting to see where he goes next and what new adventures are ahead for him.  

'Reading by the River'
When Fred Barraza gets a webpage, I will post it here.  In the meantime, I feel inspired to go forth and work!  Hard.  Thanks for coming by, Alice