Friday, October 30, 2015

Now, THAT Was Fun!

I've been avoiding learning about zentangle.  I hate when someone gives a name to (and claims) something that's been done by people forever, like doodling.  However, in reading about it as I've been looking for an activity for my middle schoolers' I decided to give it a try.  Afterall, I never know what will engage the students.
My first "zentangle"

The concept is this- using a 3.5" x 3.5" piece of paper with no plan or grid, just doodle in patterns.  Let yourself go with it wherever it takes you.  Well!  What fun.  I may be doing this more in the future.  Hope the students like it!

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fat Over Lean

One of the rules I go by when oil painting is "fat over lean."  Keeping the first layers of paint fairly 'lean,' or thinned down with a bit of solvent, then adding thicker layers, and finally a layer with an oil (Liquin for me) medium in it helps the painting keep from getting the fine, crazed cracks one can sometimes see in an oil painting.  This evening after work I refined my composition a bit and defined the values where I want them.  Using Pthlalo Blue, Hansa Yellow, Burnt Umber and Zinc White I had a great time getting everything ready for the local colors I plan to use.
Where I left off on my last painting session...

Today's contribution; light, medium and dark values defined, with the composition refined. 

Not only has it been a relaxing evening after a hectic day at work, my studio smells heavenly!  One of the only things I don't like about watercolor is the lack of wonderful, oily, solvent-scented air that oil paints bring to the studio.  I keep wandering out here just to enjoy it.  I seem to have a paint addiction...

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Process For Underpainting With Oils

In the spirit of wanting to play around with my materials, I decided to start an oil painting.  I took an oil painting class while I was attending Santa Fe Community College and the instructor, Laura Rosenfeld taught a fun technique to us.  I've used it several times since and always enjoy the loose feel of it.  I thought it'd be fun to share it here in case you haven't seen this before.

The 22" x 28" linen canvas coated with blue-violet acrylic paint and ready for the next step
The first step is to put a layer of acrylic paint on the canvas.  Today I laid down a coat of a deep blue-violet.  This will be a "mother color," which will give the painting a unifying tone underneath.  I almost always use an intense color combination for this technique.  The bits that show through the paint later on give the viewer an almost unseen peek at the underpainting, but it's there and adds to the depth of the piece.

Using a thinned down layer of Hansa Yellow Medium oil paint, I'll cover the acrylic layer
Next, I add a very diluted coat of oil paint, usually the compliment to the acrylic layer. I dilute it with Gamblin's Gamsol, an odorless mineral spirit.  The thin layer of oil paint can then be used to draw the initial composition into.

The canvas covered and ready for the composition to be wiped away
Using the tip of my finger inside a soft rag, I dip into the Gamsol, then wipe away the lines of my composition.  If I don't like a line, I can simply paint over it with more thinned paint and start again.  Painting with my finger is pretty fun and keeps me from taking the whole thing too seriously.
The composition is laid out, ready to dry so I can get started. 

Here is the basic outline of the painting I want to do.  Since I'm painting in oils, its easy to change it up if I need to, but this gives me a starting point.  I've been ruminating on this idea for awhile.  Using oils will feel more like playing, as every time I use watercolor I get too involved in the details and I want this to be very loose and painterly.  Hopefully, I can take time to dabble with it after work next week when the top layer is all dry.  It's under my skin now; I don't want to stop and let it dry..

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Heaven On Earth

This was a tough day at work.  Some days are like that; the kids at school go in cycles... right now they are in a naughty phase.  And we teachers are tired!  In art, the older students are painting rocks.  I've gathered several 5-gallon buckets of them this week so far and still today I could see I would need more by tomorrow.  So.. after I got off of work, I headed straight for the mountains for more rocks.  I have to admit, I wasn't excited and really just wanted to go home and sit around in my jammies and veg.

Soothing, cold, running water, just what I needed.
Then, I got to the water.  Today may have been the prettiest day of the year.  I sat by Cave Creek and breathed the cool autumn air and watched the sun move towards the mountain peaks, enjoying the shadows the trees were casting across the water.  By the time I had meandered down the stream and picked up enough rocks, all of the knots in my neck were gone, my headache was gone and so was my grouchy mood.  The mountains had worked their magic on me once more.

The Chiricahua Mountain Range across the desert.  You'd never know, driving to them what a beautiful oasis they are in the desert.
On the way home, the clouds were so spectacular to look at that I was a bit of a danger on the road!  I probably passed two cars on the 40 minute drive home, so all ended well.  You know, sometimes I get restless with the isolation of where we live and I have to go to a city and get a town fix, and sometimes I resent driving long distances to take care of business as well.  Then, I have a rough day and as the beauty around me begins to ease the wrinkles out of my crumpled spirit I remember that I love this place.  Again.
Looking opposite from the Chiricahuas, bare desert mountains are beautiful, too.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A New Chapter

Last week or so I wrote a little bit about playing.  I've been thinking about this more in the past few days.  During our eye drawing week at school, I assigned the students to draw any kind of eye they wanted, even a made-up one.  There were some very imaginative eyes going on in my classroom.  I'd post pics of some of them, but I sent them home to get finished.  If I had been assigned to draw an eye, you can bet it would be drawn as close to perfect and as realistic as I could get it.  I occurred to me that I've been so focused on learning to draw and paint realistically and flawlessly that I have never experimented or tried to make new ideas just because they might be fun.  What my students were doing with their eye projects looked like just plain fun and I wanted to try it!
One of the few pieces I have done that was a process of play.
Virden Farm
Oil on canvas
18" x 24"
 Although I learned a lot of very good stuff in college, everything I turned out there was for a grade and a class to see and critique.  My technique had to be perfect to suit me, or as close to perfect as I could get it.  Please don't get me wrong, I enjoy painting very much.  It is exhilarating as something comes together like you have envisioned it- and nothing beats the feeling of stepping back and knowing it is finished and you like what you made.  But... am I missing something?
Another 'play' process, this was actually a joyful piece to make because I had no idea how it would turn out.
Blue Pitcher
Acrylic on primed board
4' x 3'

I think it might be a real learning experience to play and experiment for awhile.  I decided this afternoon that I am going to dedicate any studio time I get for awhile to 'dinking' around and just see what comes of it.  Can I even make imaginative art?  Can I just be whimsical?  Probably not at first, but who knows?  I might just find I have something to say in a whole new voice.  Whatever comes of it, I'm excited to begin.

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Warming Up

The first real day of autumn around here is when the temperatures finally stay below 90 degrees.  Today was that day.  What a blessing- it's actually chilly outside tonight.  I got my sweaters out and stacked on the closet shelves to celebrate.  Of course, needing them is still probably a month away, but it was fun to anticipate the coming cool weather.
Still unfinished, a bit garish but a good warmup project anyway. 

Having not painted for several weeks, this afternoon I decided to play around with the watercolors and think about how cool weather looks in the mountains close to our house.  Foggy, hazy afternoons are particular favorites of mine as they are rare and beautiful, making the mountain tops look like they are floating on the horizon.  Too bad my memory of them is still in my head and not down on my paper.  I enjoyed painting again, but turned out a disappointment of a sketch.  However, warming up my skills felt wonderful.  I love watercolor.  Love autumn, too.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice