Showing posts from November, 2010

Mixing media and ancient pots

"Pair of Pots" 15 x 20 Mixed Media on Paper
Click here to buy print:

These two little Egyptian pots looked so cozy together, I had to create a piece just for them. I've been trying to stick with working big as often as possible, as it's more enjoyable than agonizing over small details.

I started with an acrylic painting in pink, purple, and white to show the values. Once the paint dried, I added some chalk pastel to show a little more color and neutralize the background. I've used this combination in the past and enjoyed it, although the acrylic does tend to eat up the chalk pastel (useful if you want to get a nice flat side on any of your chalk, I suppose). The finished product was awfully dusty, though, and lacked any areas that "popped." A little blending with one of those craft sponges lifted off some of the dustiness, but didn't entirely solve the problem for me.

I decided it …

Happy Accidents (experimenting with pastel techniques)

"Standing Alone" 12 x 18 Chalk Pastel on Watercolor Paper
Click here to buy print:

It was that time of night where I was tempted to just call it a day and get some sleep, but felt guilty because I hadn't painted yet. Lying on the floor with my feet by the heater, I grabbed my chalk pastels and a large piece of Canson watercolor paper. I find it helpful to tape paper down on some type of board earlier in the day, so I have one less excuse to get out of painting. I figured I would work large and simple, use complementary colors, and toss the piece out at the end if I didn't like it. I used one of my photos of a simple, beautiful Egyptian pitcher as a reference.
I didn't have much in the way of light, which also freed me from agonizing over details. I worked quickly, and had a complete (first stage, anyway) painting within a half hour. I finally felt justified in drifting off to sleep.

Back to the big paper... make it Canson Watercolor

"Clearing" 12 x 18 Pastel on Paper
Click here to buy print:

I used to have a brave motto for myself when it came to painting: paint big or go home. If I had to resort to something as small as 9 x 12, it was because I was out of the bigger stuff.

In recent months, particularly once I began painting regularly, I've had to cut my paintings down in size. Between time constraints, tiredness, and lack of space, I could only go for the big paper or canvas when I got the rare opportunity to spend a few hours painting at a time.

Painting small has its benefits-- it takes less time (in theory at least), and doesn't require as much energy for me to cover the paper with the media. It has a big drawback for me too though: I end up painting much tighter than I originally intend to, and end up squinting over that small paper or canvas, trying to get my details straight.

With this issue in mind, I recently bought…

I see Arches Cold Press in Your Future...

"Esmeralda" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Click here to buy print:

I've always had a fascination with gypsies (or at least their outfits) of my favorites is Esmeralda, the fortuneteller in the machine in front of the arcade at Disneyland. She looks especially interesting at night, with all of the lights around her.

For this piece I broke out the Arches Cold Press watercolor paper-- I enjoy blending the chalk pastel with water, and this type of paper really lets that combination shine. I blocked in my painting with strong pastel strokes, using bright colors. Instead of smearing with my fingers, as I usually do, I used a brush and a small cup of water. I learned this time that it's best to use a stronger brush-- the brush I was using was made for Chinese caligraphy, and not at all helpful with the "bubbles" that formed when the water hit the chalk. Still, a little patience went a l…

It's All in My Head (painting from imagination)

I don't normally paint from's hard to stay "on topic" if I don't have a clear reference as a reminder of what it is I wanted to paint in the first place. One of the things that helped me stay focused in this case was to make a thumbnail sketch as a guide.

I used to paint from imagination all the time, before I began taking art classes. It was frustrating to ind that what was in my mind never quite matched what came out on paper. In fact, it rarely even came close. Now that I have a few years of painting practice under my belt (and know a lot of special tips and tricks), I feel ready to occasionally try something from pure imagination again.

One of the things I enjoy seeing (and am spoiled enough to see often) is a beautiful sunset. Of course, it's not always practical for me to run out and try to paint the sunset-- it changes pretty quickly (and don't get me started on the gnats!) Occasionally I'll take a picture of one, but the tr…

Another "Wild" Night (Painting Wildflowers)

"Pretty Wild" 9 x 12 Pastel (oil and chalk) on paper
Click here to buy print:

I'm finding it quite therapeutic to paint random scenes from nature these days (in my usual messy fashion of course). What turned me off to a lot of these types of scenes initially was that I didn't want to get caught up in all of that detail... so many leaves, branches, petals, etc! I've since become comfortable focusing on emphasizing just a few details, and making the paintings mostly about the texture, patterns, shapes, and colors.

It's important to work the whole painting at once, rather than get sucked into making each area perfect before moving on to the next. I started this one with the oil pastels, using dark blue and purple to map out the main shapes for the branches and larger flowers, and then adding in the overall patterns of flowers and leaves. I tried to detail a few leaves or flowers, just to…

Fast, loose, and small (a quick daily painting)

"Boy" 6 x 6 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Click here to buy print:

I had a little 6 x 6 piece of black Canson paper left, and I was feeling portrait-ish. I didn't feel like getting trapped in the realistic painting vortex, so I flipped through my Egyptian museum photos. One of them has many figurines in it, and all I could see was the head of shoulders of what looked like an Egyptian boy. I used a pink-orange tone to start, and added bright yellow and green blue to finish the shape of the quick sketch with the pastels.

So how did it end up so blue? I began smearing (my weakness) and adding a touch of black and lots of dark blue. As I smeared and highlighted, the shape of the boy's head and shoulders rose from the pastel dust, and became a reco…