Surface prep, laying out a composition, show update

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Work in Progress, 48 x 36 inches, © Cindy Schnackel, 2016

Today, I took four large canvases and four small & medium sized panels outside to prepare for painting. While I was working on the others, the first big canvas was drying so that I could start to lay out the painting shown in progress in this photo. (I won’t tell you what it’s going to be, you’ll have to wait until it’s done and I and the gallery it’ll be in start to promote the show this September.)

 

Sealing wood panels

Most panels need to be gone over lightly with sandpaper, wiped clean of sanding dust, and sealed. Our hot dry air makes things dry SUPER fast, so sealing requires working fast, resisting the temptation to brush back into it, and usually watering down the medium. If it’s cool and humid where you’re working, it may not need to be thinned at all.

I sand off any sharp edges, splinters, etc. It only takes a few seconds because most store bought artist panels are pretty nicely made.

One panel manufacturer, Ampersand, recommended Golden’s GAC as a sealer. (I only use acrylic paints; if you use oils, you may need a different product.) The panels were wood and masonite/hardboard type. I seal them with a large flat soft brush and Golden’s GAC100 or GAC 200 which are both multi purpose acrylic mediums that make good sealers. You can roll it on, and if your roller makes bubbles, have a damp, wide, soft brush handy to lightly flatten them before the GAC starts to dry. Once you find a roller type that works good for you, you’ll be able to avoid most unwanted textures etc, from rolling, like bubbles.

GAC 100 is more flexible, seems like the brush strokes float out better, but it is a bit tacky like acrylic paint when dry. Eventually it does seem to lose the tacky feel but can take weeks. GAC 200 is only recommended for rigid surfaces; it dries fast and without tackiness. I can, and did, get along with just 100. But now that I’ve had 200, I have found uses for it that will keep me buying both.

I find that most mediums like GAC can be thinned with a little water so the brush strokes float out and it doesn’t dry quite so fast. But, because water can raise wood grain, I may save the thinned coat for last.  If necessary, I sand lightly between coats. The first coat is most likely to ‘pull’ at the brush. Subsequent coats go more smoothly and level out nice.

Preparing Canvases

Eventually, I’m going to get around to stretching raw canvas on some stretcher bars I have, but this is about store bought, ‘ready to use’ canvases. They ARE ready to use, especially with acrylics, but many artists–like me–prefer to add a second gesso coat of their own.

The manufacturer’s gesso IMO still leaves them too rough and absorbent, too textural, for any of my detailed work. So, unless I’m going to do a palette knife painting right away, or am doing something where that canvas texture is really wanted, I put another coat of thinned gesso on them. Since I don’t need that coat to be all that opaque I may mix in some acrylic medium. Acrylic medium alone makes a good second coat if all you want is a smoother surface. I have used fluid matte medium, too. Whatever I have that gets the job done! The brushes don’t drag so much or leave ‘holidays’ when I give it a second coat before starting a new painting. ‘Holidays’ are those annoying little areas that the brush skipped and left white.

I usually brush on the gesso, but sometimes I roll it. I actually don’t mind the subtle ‘orange peel’ texture of some rollers. Like with sealing panels, even if you roll, you might want to have a wet brush handy to smooth out anything that needs it or even add an all over brushy texture. I tend to start in the middle with a big puddle and spread it out quickly to the edges. Look at it at an angle to see the light shining off the surface, to see where you’ve been, any missed spots or drips.

Acrylic gesso comes in white, black, clear, tinted, and even gold! You can tint it yourself with a little acrylic paint. Makes it easier to see where you’ve been, plus it can be nice to start a painting that’s already on a toned ground, as that can be part of your background color. I’ve used white, black, and clear gessos. Clear is kind of gritty and you can draw on it, and even layer drawn with painted elements.

Some brands of gesso are thin enough to just use out of the jar. Others are almost like paste, and unless you need paste, thin it out a bit with water. People have preferences for brands, due to how toothy or smooth they are.

There are even sandable versions.

Here’s how I laid out the painting. I’d like to hear how you lay out your paintings, too.

There was some dark blue thin acrylic glaze from a previous painting, that needed to be used up before it dried up. Using that and a large-ish round brush, I just started drawing the scene I vaguely had in mind. More ideas came up as it progressed. A wet rag was a handy eraser, for any unwanted lines. I don’t usually plan things much, but this ‘draw and erase’ method helps me invent as I go along until I get the main composition roughed in. The paint marks are kept smooth, so any wish to change things later is easily accomplished.

After roughing in the characters and main objects, I grabbed some ready mixed Liquitex pastel colors (soft body, comes in jars). These are great for when you know you just want a color as a main background, a real time saver, and it’s nice paint. Portrait pink and a sort of lavender blue. Then I used some yellow ochre (Golden paint co.) as well. These blocked in color areas as well as making some of the pink background warmer or cooler depending on where the light will be. The paint is still pretty thinned down to keep it smooth.

I was thinking as I went, about whether a character should be dark or light, to stand out against whatever was behind. But, a lot of things could change before it’s done. Even dark areas are not hard to cover up with a good brand of titanium white, and sometimes I will even carefully gesso over some part that I want white again. For that I would use pure gesso for maximum opacity.

Despite the heat, (110-ish these days), this is messy work that has to be done outside, but at least it’s mindless and quick. I had a big glass of ice water out there which helps!

Canvas or Panel–Which do you prefer?

Canvases have the advantage of being lighter weight and less expensive. When they’re done I like them just fine. But my preference, if I could always have my way in the universe, would be to usually work on rigid panels. I just like the way they feel. It’s an entirely personal thing; some people hate panels and prefer canvas.

A compromise is canvas panels. I like Centurion linen canvas panels, and have used some nice cotton ones, too, but only use them in small sizes. When I work larger, I prefer ‘cradled’ panels and canvases with deep edges so I don’t need to frame them. Canvas panels as far as I know only come as just the panel, no cradled edges.

You can adhere canvas/fabric, and even paper to panels but it’s not the most fun thing to do, working out the wrinkles, etc, so it’s a step I’d rather pass on, and just get surfaces that are what I want in the first place, (as much as possible). I find panels preferable over canvas for collage.

A note about my Fall 2016 shows!

The reception date for Olney Gallery is still Friday, Sept. 2nd. It will be there most of the month.

The reception at {9} The Gallery, which I’ve titled Fatal Farm, is now likely to open Friday, Sept. 16th. It had been penciled in as October but is now Sept.

I’ll be posting news about these shows when I know more and when the galleries start promoting them. Just wanted to let you know about the schedule change. Whew! I will be soooo ready for a break after September!

Feather Brush, and Art Knockoffs on Amazon

When I worked as a theater set painter and faux finish artist, we used feather dusters for special effects. I wanted to use our cockatiels’ naturally moulted (shed) feathers to make a similar brush. They get new feathers every year, going thru several small moults between spring and fall so they’re never bald, LOL! Not sure if they replace EVERY feather on their body annually, but when I vacuum it seems like it! I’ve saved some of their feathers for a couple of years now.  The small pile of fine yellow and gray crest feathers are the most rare of those I save since many accidentally get vacuumed up before they’re noticed. I have not done anything with the crest feathers yet, but I made two paint brushes out of some of the bigger, stiff ones their wings and tails, and a medium sized feather that is softer but still has spring to it.

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Courtesy of our cockatiel companions, naturally moulted feathers saved up to make paint brushes.

Even though our birds lost these feathers naturally, it was still just a little creepy seeing them all laying on the table like that, like some horrific predatory aftermath…gah!

Experimented with them a little and think I need to make some looser, softer versions, as these are both quite stiff, but am sure I’ll find a use for them as soon as I get used to the type of marks they make. I have plenty of leftover feathers to experiment with.

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Experimenting…

ARTISTS’ WORK INCREASINGLY INFRINGED ON AMAZON

Many artists I know thru online groups, etc, are sending dozens, even hundreds, of DMCA takedowns per week, to Amazon alone, for infringements of their work. Difficulty getting Amazon to respond to valid takedowns makes the chore even more time consuming.

The issue is so bad it has been getting some press lately, like these articles from CNBC and Plagiarism Today:

Amazon counterfeiters wreak havoc on artists and small businesses

Amazon Has a Serious Copyright Problem

Painting and Gardening in 100+ degree weather

Work in Progress, for a show at Olney Gallery in September. 

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Large panel painting in progress

I finally committed to the idea I had for this large panel, but by the time I did, it was well over 100 every day. This past weekend it was around 114! Normally I don’t paint outside unless it’s under 90 because the paint just dries too fast and I wilt in extreme heat anyway. But, this needed to be done by late August and there’s almost no chance it’ll be good outdoor painting weather again before Oct.

So, when it “cooled off” to 106 today, I was out there spattering, glazing, dripping and slinging paint. I had a water spray bottle in one hand, which helped keep the paint wet long enough to get the runny effects. The paint dries instantly in this heat. The panel itself heated up so it was a little like painting on a frying pan. Artists who use oils and spray paints seem to take advantage of that. For acrylics it can be a real drawback but one just has to work with it, or wait for better days!

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Cooled off to 106 today, ran outside to paint before it passes.

I LOVE spattering and dripping. We did a lot of it painting theater sets and other large scale things. It was like being given permission to make a big mess, plus the effects are fun. Because it’s all so random and you have to work fast, it’s a great loosening-up exercise. Happy accidents happen, and give rise to more ideas.

This painting will almost certainly have birds in it, but you never know what life of its own it’ll take on. Tomorrow morning I’ll be out there again. We’ll see where it goes.

Flowers that survived the 114 degree weekend

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Hollyhocks

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Red sunflower, about 6 ft tall, the back is mostly yellow but the fronts are red!

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Dwarf zinnia mix

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Sweet potato flower

Technically, the sweet potato flower did not really survive the 114 degree weekend, because it seemed to have stopped flowering just before that. I moved it to the shade because the plant looked like it was struggling in even morning sun right now.

This is an actual sweet potato, not the ornamental kinds you buy for the foliage.

I had bought some sweet potatoes at the grocery store, forgot to cook them, and they started to sprout leaves right in the paper bag they came in. I continued to ignore them and they got to be a nice houseplant, LOL, but I was concerned they would die if I didn’t get them in soil soon. This was in winter here, maybe Jan or Feb. So I took it outside and put the bag and all into a pot and dumped potting soil into it and watered it good. It continued to grow into a lush plant, only getting a little damage from frost.

When it got hot this spring, it began to flower! Being related to morning glories, the flower resembles them. I can’t seem to capture the full beauty of the bloom, but they’re mostly white with a lavender and purple tone as it goes deeper inside. Luminous is how I’d describe them. They’re not quite as big of a flower as morning glories and they tend to hide under the foliage.

I’m told this is really rare for them to flower and that I should try to save any seed it makes. So far I can’t even locate a seed head. It may be that the heat, or lack of pollinators, prevented pollination and it may not even have seed as a result. If it does make seed, info I read said they’re rather rare and valuable to gardeners because that’s the only way to get genetic diversity in them. Most of them are propagated by roots because of how difficult it is to get seed. I wonder if the fact it was in such a crowded pot made it flower. Sometimes ‘stress’ makes a plant flower, and go to seed. High heat is one of the things that can do that with some plants you don’t generally want to go to seed, too, like lettuce. Some herbs and greens are “slow bolt” varieties that give you a little longer time to cut greens before they bolt and die. In all my reading up on the sweet potato I don’t recall if the vine is perennial. Seems like it would be; guess we’ll find out!

 

 

 

Review: GAC 200 and Jerry’s new medium/varnish

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A new love in the studio

Nope, I’m not being compensated to say this.

GAC (GOLDEN ACRYLIC PAINT CO) FORMULAS 100, 200

I love Golden Paint Company’s GAC 100 as an all purpose medium, sealer, and adhesive, but I had read that GAC 200 was specifically for rigid surfaces and was less sticky, (a harder finish). Since I’m working more on panels and wood scraps, I decided to give 200 a try.

The first thing I used GAC 200 for was as an isolation coat and/or top coat on pieces done on panels. It leveled nice, dried very fast, and was almost immediately non-tacky. I loved that! It’s glossy like 100.

I’ll continue to use GAC 100 on canvases, as well as a good painting medium and adhesive, too. It’s very flexible when dry so it is really better suited to flexible surfaces like canvas. I used a lot of gel medium, GAC 100, and really any acrylic mediums I had on hand, to provide bonding strength in my sculpture materials.

Read more about Golden’s formulas here: http://www.goldenpaints.com/products/medium-gels-pastes/special-purpose-mediums

Read MSDS info on Golden Products: http://www.goldenpaints.com/combinedmsdspage

 

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Satin and Matte formulas

JERRY’S STUDIO ACRYLIC MEDIUM & VARNISH

Another product I’ve used a little now is Jerry’s Medium and Varnish, which comes in Gloss, Satin, and Matte. I’ve only used the Satin and Matte since most other acrylic mediums I have are already glossy. This is new to me. They were demonstrating it in Jerry’s store a couple months ago and I liked it. It’s thin, so I didn’t need to water it down for use as a “varnish” even in our hot dry air.

This is a similar concept to Liquitex’s Medium/Varnish (which as far as I know only comes in gloss, a nice product, too).  Tri Art used to make a varnish/medium if I recall but I haven’t seen it offered in the Dick Blick catalog lately. I don’t always want a true varnish, and to just use matte medium or mix my own and hope it’s the right ratio, isn’t really ideal. Matte mediums are not recommended by the makers as a final finish, though I, and I suspect many artists, end up using it that way sometimes!

Well, now there’s a Medium/Varnish that comes in all 3 gloss levels. The finish of the Jerry’s Satin and Matte is really nice. It’s interesting to play around with it and see how just changing the gloss on something can change or enhance it. Since some of my pieces have a deliberate combination of gloss and matte areas, this has been very useful. When I do collage or work on paper, I often want to retain the matte look of paper, so this will be a nice addition. On paintings, I don’t want it too shiny, so the satin is just right.

Unlike true varnishes, you can continue to work over and change things with a Medium/Varnish. Or just paint the hell over it entirely if you want. That may not work out so well if you’ve put an actual varnish on the piece and then later change your mind! So far, it has been a good performer.

The only unusual thing I noticed with Jerry’s Medium/Varnish is that the odor while drying is “solvent-y,” as best I can describe it. I looked for Material Safety Data Sheets on the Jerry’s products but didn’t immediately find them.

[UPDATE, edited to add that I heard back from Jerry’s when I asked them about MSDS sheets and they said they don’t have them at this time. According to OSHA, MSDS sheets are not required on non hazardous materials for ’employees’ but I didn’t look further. If someone wants to research it please comment here with your findings, we’d all appreciate it! OSHA ] 

If you read the Golden MSDS sheets, you can see ammonia is a component of GAC formulas. I am not sure I’d describe the Jerry’s odor as ammonia but if that’s commonly in products like this, that’s what it could be.

I put things outside to dry a lot no matter what, because even if things don’t have much odor, they can be bad for you and your pets, especially in large amounts.

Read about Jerry’s Artarama’s Medium: http://www.jerrysartarama.com/jerry-s-studio-acrylic-mediums

 

© 2016 Cindy Schnackel

UPDATED, “Deep,” and “Sinister” will be at 9 The Gallery in June

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“Sinsiter” Mixed media on paper, approx 11 x 9 in. Cindy Schnackel © 2011

 

Two of my works will be in the show, Gods and Monsters, at {9} The Gallery, in June 2016 along with multiple other artists’ work.

“Sinister” will be matted and framed with glass or acrylic, for the show. The artwork alone is about 11 x 9-ish inches. I did it a few years ago but it has just lain in a stack of drawings since! I’ve been slowly going through drawings and getting them framed so they can be shown. Some of the really small drawings I am doing collages with, especially the ones on reclaimed wood scraps that I’ve blogged about earlier.

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“Deep,” Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 24 in. Cindy Schnackel, © 2016

[Update, edited to add that “Deep” sold!]

“Deep” is a new acrylic painting this spring, 12 x 24 inches, on deep edged canvas, so no frame needed, (but you could frame it if you wanted to).

Should be a fun show! Hope to see you there if you’re in the area.

Opens Friday, June 3rd, at 6 p.m.

{9} The Gallery is located at 1229 Grand Ave, Phoenix, AZ. Website: http://9thegallery.com/

Wood Scrap Miniatures; Happy Daisy Invasion

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Odd shapes of wood scraps, doodles from my sketchbooks, and a few words ripped from newspapers, (or my own handwriting if legible!), combined into collages with various effects for backgrounds. All sealed with acrylic and often also a wax finish. Meant to hang, though cube shaped ones can also sit on a shelf. Most are only a few inches wide/high. There are a couple I did earlier this year still for sale at {9} The Gallery in Phoenix, for $45 each. These will be about the same price, maybe a little higher, and will be in one or more fall shows.

The making of miniatures is a continual process, and great fun to sit and match doodles with words on days when I simply can’t work outside due to weather.

We may hit 100 degrees this week! That’s cutting in on the outdoor painting time, and it’s often windy, so no tiny collage pieces outside right now! Mostly, I use the patio table shown above for drying things, once it stays over 90. Gets the potentially harmful VOC’s out of the house when it’s all closed up and the AC is running, and things dry rapidly outside in the warm, dry air. Would be great to work outside almost all the time. There is just something really good for the soul, to be outdoors and see birds, lizards, plants, the sky, etc.

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Daisy Invasion of our yard, © Cindy Schnackel 2016

African Daisies are a common flower to see here. These have all gone to seed now and been cleared away, but this is what our front yard looked like earlier this spring! We didn’t know when we moved here a couple years ago that our yard was a “daisy yard.” They just popped up. They grow on natural rainfall. If you don’t get much rain, you get fewer daisies. Where people don’t spray herbicide or pull them, they thrive once they get a toe hold. Each flower produces a seed head with at least 30 seeds, (I tried to count them but lost count when the wind kept blowing them away LOL).