Mothers Day Bouquet


Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16″
Click to enlarge

On Mothers Day Robin brought me a lovely bouquet which I started painting that afternoon. The picture below is as far as I got that day. I was liking how loose, free and sketchy it started out:

first layer-mothersdayBouquet

Then it was back to the office for the week. By the time I returned to painting, the flowers had moved and changed. I kept trying to work from the flowers, but once they got stinky I gave up and used a photo reference I’d taken, but it was from a  slightly different point of view:


My main goal in doing this painting was learn more about working with acrylics and to try to find a way to make them work and blend more like oils. I’ve been told that you can do everything with acrylics that can be done with oils but I’m not convinced yet. I did learn a whole bunch while doing this, and did find a good way to blend (misting the canvas before applying the paint which has been mixed with gloss glazing medium or gloss gel…and not the satin medium I’d been using which has dulling matting agent added).

The thing I’m having the most trouble with is mixing the colors I want and getting bright light colors. Acrylics dry quite a bit darker than they look when wet because the acrylic medium is white which makes the colors seem lighter until they dry because then the medium is transparent, no longer white. Also I’m finding that acrylics seem more transparent than oils  and don’t cover as easily (although you can always go over any area mid-painting with gesso for an instant undo).

I don’t like how stiff this painting is and how corny (although I do like the way the vase turned out). I think that for me to enjoy easel painting I’m going to have to work bigger

Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated!


In the studio & Wanna be tagged?

Studio - Work in Progress 2

A watercolor in progress (about 1/3 done) on my watercolor table with my helpers standing by, waiting to help (or get in the way). This is a commissioned portrait of a house with the family’s 3 cats in the window.

Studio - Work in Progress 1

An acrylic painting in progress on my easel in the opposite corner of the room.

If you click on the pictures to look at them on Flickr you’ll see little notes of what stuff is.


Now, about this tagging business. This week I’ve been “tagged” by three different art bloggers. When you get tagged you’re supposed to list seven little known facts about yourself and then list seven blogs you like to visit and then tell each of those people they’ve been tagged. It’s sort of like a chain letter. Since I don’t know who’s already been tagged, and since I was tagged 3 times in 3 days, I have a feeling people are running out of people to tag…which makes me feel a little like I did in high school gym class where I was always the last to be picked for a team since I was such a klutz.

So instead of tagging other people, I’m going to invite people to be tagged. That way I won’t be imposing on anyone and won’t re-tag already tagged people. Will I get in trouble for breaking the chain? If you want to play and haven’t been tagged yet, just leave me a comment and I’ll toss you a tag…

Here are the 7 random facts about me:

1. I live in a house that used to be a duplex so I have 2 living/dining room rooms, 2 kitchens, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 2 laundry rooms. (One living/dining room/kitchen is my studio and 1 laundry room is a pantry now.)

2. I have two cats who sleep on top of my computer monitor and tv with their tail hanging over the screen.

3. I love doing dishes and cleaning the cat litter box but dislike doing other housework because it takes too long.

4. I like to read manuals for computer software and electronic gadgets and I subscribe to PC Magazine.

5. I hate shopping for clothes but love shopping for art supplies and books.

6. I download books from to my computer and iPod and listen to them while I watercolor (but oil or acrylic painting I listen to music).

7. I have a spinning bike (exercise bike) in my living room and I like to ride it while watching American Idol on my TiVo with the sound played through my stereo.

And here are links to the lovely artists who tagged me:

Claudia of Time Passages whose garden sketches are sensational!

Kerstin Klein of Snowflakes and Black Vampires who has been participating in the portrait party where people trade doing each other’s portraits.

Dinahmow (sounds like “Dynamo”) of Idle Thoughts of an Idle Woman  whose printmaking and photography is stunning.

So, I know I’ve done this all wrong. I haven’t listed 7 new tagged people…but I’m tossing the ball to you and calling out TAG, You’re IT.  If you wanna be tagged, just leave me a comment and I’ll link you in the next post.

Practice with Acrylics: Blending and soft edges

Acrylic-blending Acrylic-watercolor

Acrylic on gessoed canvas and watercolor paper (R)
To enlarge, click image, select All Sizes

(I know this isn’t much to look at, but it’s what I did with my art time today — practiced making soft edges using dry brush, blending with wet-in-wet and other techniques, and painting watercolor-style washes using acrylics thinned down with water and “Acrylic Flow Release.” It’s harder (but not impossible) to make the kinds of beautiful soft edges and blends that can be done easily in oil paints (these samples are neither beautiful nor soft as I’d like, but that’s what practice is for). I was surprised how easy it was to make clean flat washes using acrylics as watercolors.

I’ve just started reading “Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting,” originally published in 1929. Even though he’s incredibly opinionated and assumes all artists are men, I’m finding his observations to be really interesting and often astute and applicable today. Here’s a few tidbits from the first chapter, “How to Approach Painting:”

“The art of painting, properly speaking, cannot be taught, and therefore cannot be learned. I believe about art, as I believe about music or architecture, that the only way to study is to practice; and that any good teacher can point out certain intellectual or technical “makings,” certain helps that will give a fulcrum to the lever of practice.”

“No one can teach ‘art.’ No one can give a singer a glorious voice, but granting the voice, and emotional sensibility, a teacher can teach a man to sing…”

“A snapshot is a correct rendition of physical fact…but the camera does not have an idea about the objects reflected upon its lens. It does not ‘feel’ anything, and will render one thing as well as another. This ‘idea,’ or thrill is the unteachable part of all art.”

“The beginner in painting begins by copying nature in all literalness, leaving nothing out and putting nothing in; he makes it look like the place or person or thing. By and by he will learn to omit the superfluous and to grasp the essentials and arrange them into a more power and significant whole. And it is wonderful to know that these ‘essentials’ will be essentials to him only (and herein lies the secret of orginality). Another man will choose another group of essentials out of the same fountain of inspiration.”

These hit home for me, especially the last one. Do you find them interesting? annoying? inspiring? helpful?

Acrylic glazing practice: Pear

Acrylic Glazing exercise

Acrylic on gessoed mat board, 8″ x 10″
To enlarge, click image, select All Sizes

Today I practiced acrylic painting techniques in my new book, “Acrylic Revolution.” This exercise started with a painting done in black, white and grey (known as a grisaille) to establish the form and shadows. I meant to photograph that stage but got too involved and forgot. When it dried I painted over it with transparent layers of paint thinned with glazing liquid). I had to do a bunch of layers to compensate for having made the initial grisaille too dark. Unlike watercolor which dries lighter, acrylic dries darker than it looks when you mix colors. This is because acrylic medium is white when wet and clear when dry. I haven’t gotten used to accomodating that change yet.

I also experimented with using acrylic like watercolor, trying various types of washes which all worked perfectly. I was less successful with oil-style blending techniques and will work on those some more tomorrow.

Devil’s Tongue (aka Snake Palm) again

Devils Tongue Again

Acrylic on mat board, 27 x 13″
To enlarge, click image, select All Sizes

I hadn’t posted anything for a couple of days because I’ve been working on this painting instead of daily sketches. I was determined to finish and post it today, and did, even though the photo isn’t great. I worked from a watercolor I did on site, and a bunch of photos I took of this odd stinky plant on a walk a few weeks ago. I did some sketches for composition, trying to make sense out of all the crazy foliage happening in the photo and to decide what to emphasize, eliminate or move. I did a couple of small value studies too. Then I just had at it, working very loosely in acrylics. To check values, I set my camera to black and white and took a picture. I could immediately see I need more light areas and where. I painted in layers, using thickened and thinned paint in many layers and glazes.

My main goal with this painting was to experiment with trying to make acrylics work like oils (except without the toxic solvents, lengthy clean-up and slow drying time). There was a ton of learning that went on as I worked on it.

I’ve done a lot of reading on acrylics, much of it contradictory or out-of-date information but finally found an excellent new book called “Acrylic Revolution” by a Golden Acrylics (the brand I’m using) working artist named Nancy Reyner. It’s the book on acrylics I’d been hoping for. Detailed up to date information about how to properly work with the various mediums and paints to do whatever you could dream of doing and more. It’s a great book and tomorrow I’m going to experiment with some of the techniques in it to try to better understand how to do some of the blending techniques and ways to get soft edges, to be able to work more like oils.

Update: This is a Dragon Arum plant (Dracunculus vulgaris), not as named in the title of the post.

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