Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pouring in progress

acrylic ink, watercolour 22 x 30

Today a snowstorm was in progress. I dislike late spring snowstorms as they tend to hold more moisture and have more snow associated with them. This one has hung around all day and is now turning to rain. Nasty, messy.

However, being confined to the house provides me with an opportunity to play around with some new techniques. I had done a study for barbed wire previously and decided it could make a good subject for a watercolour pour.

Don't do this at home kids. At least not the full sized sheet. My studio is now multicoloured and so am I. I have learned that full sized sheets means outdoors in warmer weather or in a bathtub! Water and colour tend to go everywhere despite precautions of plastic and paper towels. (Aren't they pretty now?)

However, despite the drawbacks of mess the process was fun. I used a full size sheet of Arches watercolour paper that I taped to a large drawing board then sprayed it gently. I drew the outline of the string of barbed wire, then blocked it in with masking fluid. I find that stuff very toxic and it made my eyes uncomfortable for about 30 minutes after using it.

I mixed a cup for each of three primary colours and used acrylic ink, diluted with water. Once the paper held just a sheen, I then started pouring going from light to dark. I tipped the drawing board to let the ink flow and run back into its cup (or that was the plan). It simply ran onto the floor and the plastic and me instead with about three drops into the cup.

Of course I was impatient and didn't wait long enough between layers so its a bit muddy in places. I wanted the impression of a soft focus field behind the barbed wire so added more red. I then sprinkled some sea salt over the wet ink for a mottled effect.

Once the layers dried and I brushed off the loose salt, I rubbed off the layer of masking fluid to reveal the wire again. It looks so start against the coloured background now and I have to decide next steps

I could mask off a lot of the background and do another pour on to the barbed wire or I could simply use watercolours to create the wire and not disturb the background. This is where I need some advice from the experts out there. Whch is the best way to go from here?

I will add more layers of colour to the background to brighten it as it got a little too mixed in the first enthusiastic round of colour throwing. I should have started with a smaller piece initially to try this and will do another later to try for a better background. The snow made me do it!

Friday, March 20, 2009

The birth of a fish

I have completed this fish painting and now feel that I can progress onto other waiting projects. The fish started out as an experiment and evolved into something more, as many drawings do.

I wanted to use a full sheet of watercolour paper to stain then add fish prints to. I then wondered if I could just draw the fish on freehand before staining, cover them with masking fluid and then add details to the fish after staining the full sheet. This is where the fish was born. I pulled a sheet of 3 ply bristol drawing paper from a package of samples to sketch out a fish with. Then colour was added and the paper held up well with just a little bend to it which will flatten under weight or a frame.

The addition of ink came after studying the skin of the fish and wanting to replicate the pigmentation of it. A small amount of irridescent acrylic ink was added to the image to give a hint of sheen that is present in the colour of the fish.

And now, I have a completed fish and still now full sheet waiting to go. Its time to make progress.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Its funny how inspiration strikes and how it moves you into areas you hadn't considered. I have never been an illustrator. My mind needs a physical object in front of me to produce art. My imagination doesn't soar into places of wonder where magical creatures sit easily in familiar settings. But occasionally, just occasionally something lets me put the ordinary into not quite so ordinary settings.

Ages ago I started a symbolic self portrait which is still unfinished. I had finished about two thirds of it, the rest remains empty, due to my inability to think up something clever or creative to put in there.

Recently I revisited some images from Rima at The Hermitage. If you've never seen her work or read about her lifestyle, I'd strongly encourage you to do so. Its a magical journey into another world and one that provided me with the inspiration I needed to sketch out this thumbnail of my initial 'J' and some things that relate to me. Its the beginning of a more detailed piece that will be transferred to a sheet of........not sure what yet, as I haven't decided on the medium or whether it should be graphite or colour. I'm leaning a little towards Graphitint pencils as they can provide a soft muted shade which I think is what I want in this piece.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Elephant art

Hot Stuff
18 x 24 acrylics

An undiscovered Jackson Pollack? A toddler's painting? No, it was one of approximately 50 paintings that Kamala, one of Calgary's Zoo's three female Asian elephants produces as part of their enrichment program for these animals.

Elephants have been observed in the wild using sticks or rocks to scratch patterns in the sand and dust, a behaviour that has been explained by some naturalists as a possible expression of mood. Although all three of the Zoo's female elephants have been given the opportunity to paint as a part of the enrichment program, Kamala is the only one who has shown a continuing interest.

Kamala uses specially designed brushes to hold in her trunk as she applies acrylic paints to canvas on an easel.

Go here to learn more about Kamala's art and to purchase one of her paintings.

It seems the elephant world has talent as you'll see in this video clip of one animal who paints her own self portrait!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tidbits for the muse

Maddy - update
coloured pencil 9 x 12

I haven't made a lot of progress on anything this week and my creativity has taken a nosedive too. I go in spurts of work then it defeats me or my shoulder complains. Last night I was just getting into something when the power went around 10:30 and stayed off til I gave up and went to bed.

I have so many ideas in my head and I jot down notes and thumbnail sketches, but lately its almost as if I have too many ideas and as a result nothing comes to fruition. But I will persevere, I'm sure its just a phase, as its been here before and will be here again. Creativity ebbs and wanes like the tide and we all know there's nothing we can do to change that.

While waiting for the muse to regroup her thoughts, I wander, looking for tidbits to tempt her. And I found some.

Riddle Fence
Riddle Fence is a Newfoundland-based journal of arts and culture, published three times yearly by Riddle Fence Inc., a registered Canadian charity.

Canadian Brushstroke magazine
This is an electronic magazine with Canadian content sent straight to your inbox. And its free!

A Day in the Arts Arts information to your inbox 5 days a week.

Art Calendar - the business magazine for artists.

Art Critical - A forum for criticism and ideas in the visual arts. Based in New York City, it welcomes contributions from around the world.

There are host of magazines and newspapers related to the arts and these are just a few. Sometimes its good to browse through a few and see what inspiration springs out.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pen & portrait

I've been working on a number of projects that have been curtailed a little due to this problem with my shoulder, so I've worked on little pieces that don't need to be on the easel which limits arm movement.

This little portrait was done in my colourful sketchbook. Its a treat to even choose which page to use for a drawing and anticipating how it will fit and look on the swirl of colours. This piece was done in pen and ink, freehand, just seeing how brave I could be with the finite marks that the pen makes. There are some things I could change but for now its just a simple exercise so no need to return and fiddle.

I used to be very fearful of pen and ink, but now I quite enjoy using it. I like the finished look of an ink drawing as well as the process of doing it. It can be quick and simple or very detailed and time consuming.

I'm working on a fish piece that's posted on Watermarks today. I'm using pointillism to create the effect of pigmentation and shadingon the fish. Its a slow technique but becomes rather hypnotic as you complete dot after dot, almost like sending out Morse code messages for hours. It also becomes rather addictive too.

Ink is also a lot more forgiving than I originally thought it would be, especially in looser pieces. You can easily 'hide' a mistake under layers of shading in ink. I have a variety of pens and different coloured inks but invariable return to my .25 Rapidograph and black or sepia ink. I love the fineness of the nib and will invest in a couple of finer yet nibs to be able to work details with more precision.

Reviews of Rapidograph pens often list them as tempermental and clogging readily but I have to say that I don't follow the rules with them of cleaning and daily use and they've not let me down, except to run out of ink.

And finally a little song that's stuck in my head for days, now for my daughter, who's headed to Las Vegas today. The Weepies - Vegas Baby.