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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Canson Canva-Paper: Great for Mixed Media!

I hit a wall a few weeks ago, after taking a week off painting. I returned to pastels and plein air, only to feel that I needed to breathe new life into my work. The best way I know to do that: experiment!

I've used Canson Canva-paper a few times before. I wanted to see how it held up under some thick paint, and played around with my palette knife and some acrylic paint (applied impasto style). After adding a layer of chalk pastel to each, I ended up with the following two pieces:

"Shimmer" 12 x 16 Acrylic and Pastel on Canson Canva-paper
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"Dschungel" 12 x 16 Acrylic and Chalk Pastel on Canson Canva-paper
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("Dschungel" is German for "Jungle." It's always been one of my favorite German words.)

Both of these pieces were based loosely on photographs taken around Southern California (one at a butterfly exhibit, another at a theme park). I honestly didn't feel much like painting at all, since I've been in a seasonal allergy fog for a few weeks. I told myself I would just slap some paint on the heavy-duty paper and see what came out. In a quick burst of painting, I "knifed out" the basic compositions for these two pieces and was quite pleased with the strength of the paper. I also love its texture, which shows through under the paint. The only caveat I have with this paper is that I have trouble getting a good photo of the finished piece. Thankfully, we had soft afternoon light today (unusual for this area), and I was able to take some good photos outside in the sunlight.

The following painting was also done on Canson Canva-paper a couple of weeks ago, in a rare plein air session where I had a couple of free hours to experiment with some oil pastels and watercolor. It took me until today to get a decent photo, which is why I hadn't posted it before:

"Canyon Houses" 12 x 16 Oil Pastel and Watercolor on Canson Canva-Paper
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In "Canyon Houses," I applied the watercolor both as a wash and straight from the tube for added texture. Again, the paper's texture showed through, lending a patchwork feel to the piece. I wouldn't recommend the oil pastel and thick watercolor combination for the timid artist-- it's easy to lose control of the watercolor. One of the things I enjoy about mixing media is that loss of control; sometimes I just start with a basic idea and see where the mediums take me.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A New Medium (Watercolor and Pencil)

"Chatte et Pomegranates" 5 x 6 Watercolor and Colored Pencil on Card

We've been getting some dry, cold weather in between brief storms. Between having dry hands and finding it a little cold outside to work with pastels, I thought I might try a little different direction and play with watercolor.

The subject for the painting above is a cat who has been in the family for many years. A few years back, we had quite a pomegranate crop, and I brought a basket of them over to my sister's. The cat sniffed them curiously, then sat down by them in disgust. She looked so funny sitting guard by the basket, I had to take a picture. I thought it might make a nice card for this time of year, and set out to paint it on one of my Strathmore watercolor cards.

After getting the basic watercolor painting done, I tried out my spectracolor pencils as a finishing touch. I've never really used these seriously before, but Ive often wondered how they would look over paint. They blended nicely over the watercolor (and looked particularly nice with light color on dark paint).

The title comes from my favorite nickname for this cat (she likes to be referred to as a "Chatte," which is french for cat).

To complete the piece, I added a little cat and pomegranate to the accompanying envelope. You can see this listing and other pieces for sale on my etsy store:

Or, you can click below to see originals for sale through my website:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Stormy Inspiration

"Storm Headed East" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
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This one wasn't technically plein air, although I did paint it in action! It was a stormy day, so I worked in front of the kitchen window as the clouds barrelled eastward. This painting was unique in that I was able to begin and finish it in one session while my daughter was awake-- never been able to pull that off before!

Whenever we get a good rain in Fallbrook, the colors of the surrounding hills become richer: purples get darker, greens are more vivid, and bits of sanguine red peek through the bushes and trees. Set against the backdrop of a gunmetal sky, the colors become even more striking. I always stop to appreciate the view of a rainy day (once the fog clears), and this was the first time I tried to capture its beauty on paper.

The day before, it was quite windy, so I did my plein air work close to the ground:

"Plein Air Shrooms" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Original Sold

Mushrooms! Or more likely toadstools...

These little guys are growing over by our shed, and they gave me a good excuse to find a sunny spot with less wind to do my painting for the day. I kept them fairly abstract, figuring that I didn't want to end up stylizing them. I do admit to having the "A,E,I,O,U" song from the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland in my head as I worked. It's hard not to think of pop culture when looking at a few mushrooms for an hour straight.

To see more originals for sale through my website, click here:

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cactus: Ridiculous or...ridiculous?

"Plein Air Cactus" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper

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The cactus plant: a common sight in Southern California, it means different things to different people. For some, it's ugly (I have a friend who hates succulents in general). For baby squirrels, it's a safe home. For random strangers at the end of my street, it's apparently dinner. You think I'm joking? There's often quite a crowd out there with their plastic bags and knives, helping themselves.

For me, it's something that's always available to paint, but I only do so after careful deliberation-- painting cactus is like working on a puzzle. In this case, it was the play of light and shadow on the plant that inspired me to work. I really had to get into right brain mode, though, because my left brain was screaming "It looks like a hand! A hand with fat wide fingers!" This is thanks to a teacher once telling me that a tree I'd painted looked like a hand coming out of the ground (I wasn't offended, he was absolutely correct). Those are the observations that stick with you as an artist, I guess.

Once I got a handle on concentrating on value and shape, I played a little with the color. I always think my plein air pieces are disasters in the making until I put them aside and take a fresh look at them. This piece was no exception; I was quite happy to look at it again and again later and not feel like I'd painted a big fat hand with wide fat fingers sticking out of it.

It's hard for me not to stylize cactus, and here's a previous plein air piece where I did just that (and had a little fun with it):

"Cactus" 4.5 x 6 Oil Pastel on Paper

To read more about this piece and my first week of plein air, click here:

To see more original works for sale, click here: