Acrylic Painting Gardening Other Art Blogs I Read Outdoors/Landscape Photos

An Artful Life

I’m doing something different today, inspired by a visit to my best friend Barbara’s house today — I’m sharing some of her wonderful artwork and photos of her garden. She truly lives an artful life and every corner of her little house and garden has something to delight the eye and spirit.

Images can be enlarged by clicking them and selecting “All Sizes”

Left: Life size ceramic woman (celebrating retirement and gardening). Right: View from the front porch. Just beyond this is the lush vegetable garden.

When Barbara retired not too long ago, she completely redesigned the tiny rental cottage beside her 3-story house in North Berkeley, sold the big house, and moved into the cottage with her husband and teenage daughter. Barbara is an amazing gardener and artist.

Above: Cottage front. Barbara created this mosaic on the foundation of the cottage using broken pottery and her handmade ceramic chickens.

Left: Barbara’s mosaic studio she built herself from recycled doors, windows and other things. Right: Path in her garden

Two pretty corners in the garden. Left: A ceramic gardening woman holding a carrot and a tall mosaic garden mirror.

Left: Whimsical ceramic whistles in Barbara’s sunny kitchen and a graceful ceramic woman in the hallway window. She started by making ceramic whistles and then learned how to make Ocarinas. I wonder if the female sculpture was inspired by our figure drawing sessions.

Two canvas painted “rugs” on the kitchen floor by the sink and fridge. I have rugs on my kitchen floor in those spots too, but they’re ugly things from the hardware store.

Above: Even the laundry room is artful. The detergent is hidden inside a tapestry cover.

Two of Barbara’s acrylic cactus paintings from back in the day (after she was a fabulous silversmith making exquisite silver jewelry when we first met, but before she became a teacher). During her years as a teacher she stopped painting and focused her art on quilting. Now she’s painting on her ceramics and plans to start painting on canvas again too.

I’m looking forward to some time painting in her garden. It’s about as close to heaven as you can get in Berkeley, especially when it comes with her homemade lemonade!

All art copyright 2007 by Barbara Edwards.

Acrylic Painting Art theory Flower Art

How to Overwork a Painting

I started this attempt at acrylic painting with a lovely bouquet of flowers and a plan to be free and easy, working from life but also from my imagination. I covered the canvas with a loose wash of orange and red and purple paint. Then I sketched in the flowers using a brush with thinned violet paint. Next I blocked in the colors and shapes of the flowers and the background with fairly thin paint. So far so good…nice and loose. Here’s what it looked like at that point:

Bouquet start

Acrylic on canvas, 12×16″ I wish I stopped here

I was happy. It was free and loose and going pretty well. Then I had to go back to work, so I missed a few days. When I returned to the painting I completely forgot about my plans for loose and free. I started trying to get realistic which was dumb since I’d invented some of the flowers, there was no good directional light to model the shapes of the flowers, and they were starting to smell badly and flop over. I kept working for another couple nights anyway, trying to at least cover the canvas and finish it. Here’s how it ended…

Bouquet overworked

…because I got sick of working on it (and of the smell of the gross flowers). Now it can join the pile of “learning experience” paintings I’m accumulating as I continue to try to learn to paint with oils and acrylics.

Bouquet photo

(Above) One of many useless reference photos I took but didn’t use (note how the light from above creates unpleasant shadows but no real modeling of form and no reflections in the vase).

What I learned:

  • Remember my original inspiration and stick to it (or end up with a weird hybrid creature, neither free nor realistic)
  • Take the time to get the lighting right if you want things to look three-dimensional.
  • Acrylic mediums are my friends — use them to make the paint the consistency I want because it sure isn’t right out of the tube.
  • The Stay-Wet palette will keep acrylic paint wet indefintely but will also turn it to useless colored slime. (Skip the special paper and just stick another palette inside the box atop the sponge–the paint will stay wet without absorbing water.)
  • There is no Golden Acrylic equivalents to Winsor Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, New Gamboge or Permanent Rose (mainstays of my watercolor palette) so practice mixing the colors I need with other pigments.
  • Before applying a mixed color to the canvas, test it on a piece of paper…yes you can repaint acrylics forever if you get it wrong, but why go through that?!
  • Acrylic paint dries darker because the white medium makes it look lighter until the medium dries clear…just the opposite of watercolor which dries lighter…so take that into consideration or add a little zinc white to compensate and make the color the same as it will dry.

And most important of all:

  • Lighten up, enjoy the learning process, humbling as it may be, and remember that in a year I’ll probably be much better at it (as well as a year older, so don’t rush to get there).
Acrylic Painting Flower Art Sketchbook Pages Still Life

Scruffy Roses – Scruffy Day

Scruffy rose acrylic

Acrylic on mat board, 7 x 12″
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Scruffy rose pencil

Graphite in Aquabee sketchbook, 6×9″
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I had a hard time getting started in the studio today. I’ve been studying and reading many books on technique: oil, acrylic, monoprint, drawing…and I’m at the point of too much information and not enough practice. It’s like learning how to drive by reading books, without actually doing any driving — you might know lots of techniques and rules, but are terrified at the idea of getting behind the wheel and driving off. I started feeling paralyzed, unable to decide which medium I wanted to explore, what subject I wanted to paint, and after looking at all the fine work in the museum Friday and my books and on others blogs, was beginning to get that awful, “why bother, it’s all been done before and much better than I could ever do” sort of feeling. I also had a headache and had some annoying errands to do.

I did some organizing in the studio and then gave up and went out to do the errands and then it was dinnertime and still no painting. After dinner I finally got to my drawing table and just started sketching this scruffy, battered winter rose from my bush that still hasn’t been pruned. Then I scanned it, printed out the drawing a little bigger, and using Saral transfer paper (like carbon paper but waxless), transfered the drawing to a piece of matboard and then painted it with acrylics. I know I would have done a better job with watercolor, but it was fun experimenting and learning how to “drive” the acrylics by taking them on a little jog around the block.

Acrylic Painting Every Day Matters Sketchbook Pages Still Life Watercolor

Soap: EDM #101

EDM 101

Acrylic in HandBook Journal 5.5 x 5.5″
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The week’s Everyday Matters challenge is to draw a bar of soap. My original idea was to line up all the different soaps in my house, from dish soap to laundry soap to bath soap and make a grid and paint them all. But by the time I did all the errands I’d been putting off, time was short. Also, I wanted to play with the fluid acrylics I’d bought last weekend and hadn’t tried yet. So I settled on one soap, one bowl and tried painting with the acrylics as if they were watercolors.

It was fun and interesting. One thing I learned is that acrylic is basically a glue and if you get any kind of crud or cat hair on the paper it will become permanently glued in place. Also you can’t erase pencil after you’ve painted with acrylic. It’s ridiculous how fast the stuff dries. I guess you have to develop a second sense about spritzing the palette all the time.

I’m ready for some big, juicy, free painting next. After all the lettering and detail in the watercolor I finished and posted yesterday I’m tired of tiny, tight painting. It’s back to work tomorrow but hopefully this weekend I can go a bit wild with paint and loosen up.