Daily Art Challenge: July 16

Our challenge today is to use a black background for our art project.  This can be black paper, black gesso, black paint.

The use of a dark background can give you an entirely new perspective on your project.  Often we use the same light or white paper or canvas for each project, forgetting the possibilities of other, more dramatic options.

The use of pastels on a black background can have truly spectacular results.  A painting of a treasured landscape becomes entirely different when seen in the shadowy twilight of an evening sky.  A portrait stands out proudly from a dusky backdrop.

Use chromatic blacks when possible over straight black from a tube.  The richness of these blacks will bring a liveliness to your work which is lacking from straight blacks.  (My not so humble opinion is true black deadens a painting and makes the other colors flat, which is why I mix my own.)  Here are a few simple recipes for chromatic blacks for you to try-one part to one part of each:

  1. Ultramarine blue and burnt sienna.
  2. Phthylo blue and raw umber
  3. Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine blue
  4. Dioxazine purple and Phthylo Green
  5. Dioxazine purple and sap green

Obviously there are many different options for color mixing.  These are just a couple very simple recipes anyone can mix.

Many artists take great pride in their color mixing abilities and guard their color recipe books like they’re the Crown Jewels.  I have several books of my own recipes, and when I have no inspiration for creating anything, I’ll mix colors for my books.  It’s a very relaxing thing for me to do and I have discovered some truly delightful hues along the way.

Give a “black” background a try and see how you like it.


Weekly Techniques Challenge: Week 27

Each week we are focusing on an art technique.  For week 7 we had the challenge of making a value scale.  If you had already made one of those, the other option was to make an Edgar Degas inspired pastel art piece.  Our techniques challenge for this week is further exploring the versatile medium.

pastels from an earlier post-getting to know your supplies.

We’re going to begin with a simple image: a pear.  You can find an image of a pear at the site Paint My Photo.  This is where photographers upload their pictures and artists can use them copyright free.  This site is a valuable, and free, resource you should take advantage of.

Now that you have your image, begin by lightly sketching it in with your pastels.  (Use pastel paper or give a sheet of watercolor paper a thin coat or two of clear gesso.  This will provide the necessary tooth for pastel art.). Soft pastels will fill the tooth of your paper, so I would use those last for finishing your painting.  You can blend your colors by use of a blending stump, crumpled tissue or paper towel, your fingers, cotton swabs or sponge tools.

Another technique is called scrambling.  This is laying color over top of other colors.  For example, once you’ve blended your pear, you can add more color over top in layers.  Adding yellows over blues will give you a green look.  Add browns and yellows for a golden look to your pear.

Scrumbling can be done by using small circular motions, lightly adding your colors to your work.  Feathering is similar, only you use a hatching/cross hatching pattern rather than circular motions.  Either of these techniques will give your painting depth and interest.

Hard pastels are used first to prevent filling the tooth of the paper.  Once the tooth is full you can’t add more pastel, it won’t adhere.  This is why you wait until the last step in your painting to add the very soft pastels.  These are perfect for your highlights and shadows.  The beautiful creaminess of the soft pastels are delightful to work with.  Your finished painting will be detailed and rich, with several layers of color.

Once you’ve finished your painting, either store it in a glassine bag or mat the painting and put into a frame with glass.  You add the mat to create a space between the picture and the glass to prevent moisture or dust from reaching it.  If you choose to seal your painting, use the cheapest hairspray you can find.  This has no extra additives which can damage your art.  Also be aware, you will have color shift if you seal your pastel paintings.  No matter what type of sealer you use.

And, as always, hang art out of direct sunlight.  This goes for all art work.


Daily Art Challenge: July 15

The challenge for today is to use vintage lettering in your art work.  This can be copyright free images from the internet or letters you make yourself.

I’m currently reading a biography of a person from the 1400’s.  In this book are several examples of ornate lettering from historic documents.  Due to the time period of the persons life, many of the documents are from church records and royal decrees.  I am fascinated by the elaborate way in which these documents were written.  Since only the very wealthy and highly educated of the time could read and write, other than those within the clergy, few would have been able to read them.

The tools used to create these breathtaking works were miserable at best.  Pens were made of cane, reed, bird quill or metal.  To make a quill with cane or reed, first they removed the center of the cane-the pith-then carved the tip to a point or an angle.  Lastly, a small slit was cut in the tip.  The hollow made where the pith was removed held the ink, which flowed through the slit to the tip.  Feather quills were made in the same way and were usually more flexible and lighter than a reed or cane quill.  While the metal pens were durable, the others could be quickly sharpened or adjusted by cutting with a pen knife to suit that writers preference.

The pen knife had many uses for the scribe.  Not only could it sharpen the quill, but it was also used to scrape off their mistakes.  It was the ancient scribes eraser.

The parchment used was made from the skin of animals, usually cows, sheep or goats.  The methods used to make the parchment weren’t consistent and also cost a lot of money.  There were times a scribe would be writing on their parchment and come upon areas of hair.  The use of pumice stone helped smooth the uneven parchment with limited success.  The most costly parchment was usually reserved for monks who were transcribing the Bible.  Legal and historic documents were put on lesser quality parchment.

Because there were no reliable light sources, other than daylight hours, the scribes worked as long as they could see to do so.  Candles provided little light to help the scribes produce the intricate letters and decorative elements you see in these fascinating works.

And even though there are errors in some of these parchments, the efforts made by these dedicated scribes should be greatly admired.  Their working conditions were miserable-imagine working hunched over for hours at a time in blistering heat or frigid temperatures, year round, with poor tools and lousy light.  The monotony of transcribing must have taken a toll on these unsung artists as well.

So take a bit of time to admire the beautiful lettering and the dedication of the scribe.  Truly one of the hardest working and least appreciated  group of artists ever.

Daily Art Challenge: July 13

Our challenge for today is to make a multi- colored color wash on our paper or canvas.  Here’s how:

  1.  Gesso your paper or canvas.  Let dry completely.
  2. Dilute 1 part paint with 2 parts water.  Mix well.  This is your base coat over your gessoed surface.
  3. Appy loosely wth a rag or sponge in a cross-hatching pattern.  Rinse rag or sponge very well, squeezing out excess water.
  4. Choose your second color.  Dilute with water and white paint if the color is stronger than your base coat.  Again apply in a loose cross-hatch pattern.  Rinse sponge or rag very well, squeezing out excess water.
  5. Add additional layers of the second color, using horizontal and vertical swipes with the sponge.
  6. Now add more of both diluted colors, randomly as wipes across the page, or just pounce the sponge randomly over the paper.
  7. Dilute a very pale color, say cream or lilac- that coordinates with your two background colors-  with three parts water to 1 part paint.  This will be very runny and watery.  It’s just a thin glaze over top of the two before.  You don’t want to obscure the two previous layers.
  8. Use a dry wide, flat brush to apply matte medium over the top of your painted background.  This will seal the surface and enhance the depth and uniqueness of your painted background.

Paint techniques are some of the easiest there are.  You really cannot mess them up.  It may take a little practice to get the right mixture of both colors, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.  You can do this technique in any colors you wish, but the lighter ones maybe easier for a beginner.

This same technique can be used to make a plaid background.  Use one or two colors horizontally, leaving some space between lines of color.  Now go over those vertically.  You’ll have a plaid look with the areas the two lines meet being darker or a combined color of the two you used.  I’ve used this several times to make “wallpaper” on a set piece.

Weekly Techniques Challenge: Week 26

Our weekly techniques challenge is to make a Spirit Doll.  The idea of a spirit doll came from Barb Owen.  She is a wonderful artist and a fantastic teacher.  Barb has been one of my favorite you-tubers for a long time.  She’s insightful, compassionate, and just a terrific person.  I have been truly blessed by her work and her lovely, joyful personality.  (And I love “the sponsors!”)

What is a spirit doll?  My interpretation of what a spirit doll is might be different than many, but for me it is a way of focusing on a spiritual area I want to work on in my own life.  I give my spirit dolls the name of the attribute or area of spiritual growth I am focusing on.  For example:  I may name my next spirit doll Understanding, as in being understanding in my dealings with others in my life.  Another name might be Compassion.  Or Wisdom.  Strength.  Peace.  Gratitude.  Love.  Any of these might be a name for a spirit doll.

If the words spirit doll bother you, just don’t call yours that.  Make your doll just for fun, or as a reminder of a loved one or person of influence in your life.  You can make your doll look like a mermaid, an elf, a construction worker.  Pick a holiday and make your doll based on that…There are countless things you can do with this project.

I sketched out a pattern on an 8 1/2 by 11″ piece of paper.  I made the body and head larger than I wanted the doll to be, as you need some extra for the edges.  If you prefer-you can skip the legs and arms and just make a triangular shaped body with a round head on top of it.

Now, once you have your pattern drawn-(there is a free pattern on Barb’s website if you prefer that one)-Barb attaches hers to a plastic sheet.  You can use plastic leftover from one of the boxes toys come in.  The heavy-weight, flat plastic.  If you don’t have any, attach the pattern to a piece of chipboard.  Use glue sticks or Aileene’s tacky glue to stick the pattern down onto the plastic or chipboard.  Cut out the pattern carefully once it’s on the plastic or chipboard.  Cut the face oval from clear plastic if possible, as you can see through it which is really helpful later in the process.

Barb has face stamps she uses for her dolls.  I don’t have any of those, so I drew the face onto a scrap piece of thin pale fabric (larger than the oval piece) with my waterproof ink pen. (If you want you can find a copyright free face on line and use that as your pattern.)  Use whatever color ink you prefer.  (Barb used brown, I believe.)  These are meant to be fun, happy faces.

Now, if desired, use some colored pencils or pastels to shade the face.  Make the color slightly darker than the color of the fabric.  Once you have the shadows on your face, add some highlights with a lighter color.  This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does give your face a bit more life.  Add a light cheek color to the balls of the cheeks and a slightly darker color on the lips.  Add your eye color.  You can lighten the color slightly in areas with some white.  This gives the eye some life. Use a dark color for her eyeliner.  Fill in the pupil with a waterproof black ink pen.  You can add some eyelashes and eyeliner with the black pen as well.  This needs to be a very fine tipped pen.  With a very fine tipped white paint pen, add your highlight.  Make sure they both point in the same direction so the eyes look like they’re looking at the same spot.  Otherwise she’ll look cross-eyed or walleyed.  Barb covers her face with workable fixative, which I don’t have.  I sprayed mine with clear matte finish from Krylon.

Trace your dolls body over your fabric.  I like to use Batiks for this.  (Barb used fabric she made herself.  I have made this fabric too, but I prefer to use my own scrap fabrics rather than the stuff I made myself.)  Only cut the shape for one side of the doll, and use a square or rectangle piece for the second.  Barb-who is a sewer and I am not-says this is way easier than trying to stitch the two identical pieces together.  Leave an opening so you can stuff your doll.  Stitch the body and backside together.  Leave about an eighth of an inch from the edge of your fabric.  Once you’ve stitched the doll, leaving an opening for stuffing, remove from your machine. (If you want, you can make several bodies for several dolls at one time.  This is a great way to use up scrap fabrics, and you can combine any two fabrics you want.  If you like batiks but find them expensive, use another cheaper type for the back side of the doll.  Anything works with these dolls.)

Stuff your doll loosely with fiberfill or cotton batting.  I used the white stuff you use for snow at Christmas time, which is what was handy.  Don’t stuff her so full she’s stiff and hard.  Once she’s stuffed, go back to the machine and close the opening where you stuffed her.  Now trim off threads and the excess fabric from the back piece.  Take your time to do this, there is no hurry.

Once your dolls body is finished, it’s time to add the face we made earlier.  You can use Aileene’s tacky glue for this as well.  I smear the glue on the backside of the face and add it to the face area of the doll.  Smooth carefully, making sure you have good adhesion to the dolls body.

Now comes the fun part of the whole process.  You get to decorate your spirit doll! Gather scraps of yarn, ribbon, trims, fabric scraps, beads, broken jewelry pieces, whatever you can think of for decoration on your doll.

Using our trusty Aileene’s Tacky glue, add your trims or fibers to your dolls head for hair.  Use a clothespin to hold the hair in place until it dries if necessary.  Add to the back of the head too if you want.  Include beads as a headband or add a flower in her hair.  Add bows or buttons on her body.  Make jewelry for her wrists or as a necklace.  If you want to add words to her, now’s the time to do that.  Perhaps her name or her first initial.  Play with your stuff and make her uniquely yours.

Let her dry completely and enjoy her.


Daily Art Challenge: July 3

Our challenge for today is to make handmade cards.

An easy way to do this is to fold card stock in half and use that as your card.  You can also make post cards from card stock.  Use watercolor paper and paint a card.  Use scrap paper to make images, layers, titles, collage.  Add foam tape to pop your image or title off the card.  Stamp an image and color it in with colored pencils, watercolor crayons or gelatos, markers, ink.  Add fibers, ribbons, paper embellishments or buttons.

You can use all sorts of techniques on cards.  They are often less intimidating than making an art journal page or canvas.  Cards are also a really great way to practice new-to-you techniques.  If it doesn’t work out-you pitch the card.  No big deal.  I often do this with my watercolor paintings.  I work it out on a card first before I paint it on a larger, more expensive piece of watercolor paper.

If there are techniques you want to play around with, cards are a great way to go.

Daily Art Challenge: July 2

Our challenge today is different watercolor techniques using common household items.  Here’s how:

  1. If you want a textured background, cover your paper with wet paint.  Lay a piece of plastic wrap over top of the wet paint.  Squish a bit to make the plastic wrinkled.  Let dry overnight.  Remove the plastic when paint is dry.
  2. Use a white crayon or a piece of wax to draw an image or word on your paper.  This makes a resist.  Give your paper a wash of color and the area with the crayon will remain white.
  3. Another lovely technique is to drop kosher salt over wet paint.  The salt absorbs the color.  This technique is one of my favorites.  Let dry completely before you brush the salt away.
  4. Drop rubbing alcohol into wet paint.  It pushes the paint away.  Great for bubbles in water.
  5. Use an old toothbrush dipped into paint and spatter over your painting.  I like to do this with the left over paint when I’ve finished my painting.  I lay paper over the dry image and spatter.  This brings in all the colors and is a very easy background.
  6. In wet paint, press wadded up tissue paper.  This makes a nice textured background.

I love watercolors.  You can find them very reasonably priced.  Some of my favorite inexpensive brands are Marie’s, Reeves’ and Turner’s.

Marie’s and Reeves are both student grade paints, while Turner’s is an artist grade watercolor.  I use Reeves’ brand for the classes I teach.