Small, Affordable, in Time for for Holiday Gifts

These little square bird pieces are mixed media, kind of a combination of drawing and painting, and sealed well so they do not need to be under glass. They are wired on the back to hang, on 3/4 in deep panels, (you could frame them if you wanted to).

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More to come!

These are made by applying a thin layer of tinted fine pumice paste in two colors. I used sandpaper when they were good and dry, to knock down any peaks that were too high and for the effect/look of the sanded pumice surface. Then, I drew on them with colored pencils and added some acrylic washes, watercolor style. They’re sealed with clear acrylic and the edges are painted a dark charcoal gray.

They’ll be at {9} The Gallery, 1229 Grand Ave, Phoenix, AZ, thru most of December, (opening night Fri Dec 2), for the Tiny Works-Tiny Dances group show.

The Price of Art Supplies!

I won’t publish the photo of the painting panels that cost $134 for a pack of 10, 8×10 in., panels, it might not set well with the store or the brand.  The panels were double sided which, since they were marketed as handy for outdoor painting, could be ok. But what if both sides ended up being something you would sell? If they were only for studies, then there are much cheaper panels made of paper, or heck, why not repurpose something like cardboard coated with gesso? For keepers, two sided does not make sense. For disposables, expensive does not make sense. Nonetheless, it speaks to the fact we can’t sell our work for peanuts!

The other panels I looked at had suddenly jumped in price since I last bought a few for work I did this year. Small uncradled panels that used to cost me two-six dollars were now more like six to ten dollars. Cradled ones were insane! One brand of cradled panels in 8×8 in was about $25 and that was the “sale” price! I looked at the labels of at least three or four brands. One that had formerly been all American made now had  “Made in China” on it. So there goes any advantage to paying more for American made.

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My favorite brush cleaner, 24 oz tub, lasts me at least a year!

Usually, I wait until I get a coupon or there is a sale, to buy the large size or really expensive items. Michaels seems to be the only store that carries the large tub of my favorite brush cleaner. Even at half off with a coupon it’s not cheap, but it lasts a long time so over time it’s still economical. Last time I bought a tub, about a year ago, it was in the 20’s or 30s, now it is over $40. It’ll make me consider switching to a liquid that I bought some small bottles of to try, to see whether they are more economical, but I doubt they will be. The solid cake as in the picture has virtually no waste, an important factor in how economical it is to use. Also never evaporates or dries up and can’t spill!

Brushes have always been costly for good ones. Lately, the good ones seem to be of less quality though, making me consider cheaper ones. A number of ‘good’ brushes are also made in countries known for cheap junk. The heads wobble in the store; you know they won’t stay on long at home! Before quality and prices took their last jumps up/down, I had gotten a good varnishing brush. I can tell the construction is kind of shoddy but I’ll glue its head back on if it comes off. The brush itself is really nice, though.

Some of my brushes are from the 1980s! Some of those are still in great shape. I’ve taken good care of them. Any time I think I can’t get all the paint out, I leave the brush cleaning lather in it, shape the tip, and just leave it that way until I use it again. That seems to keep paint from drying permanently in the bristles if you have a tough one. Just rinse it out before you paint with it!

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Some of my brushes drying.

Other brushes, especially round ones that are supposed to have a nice sharp point, may not last long as the intended shape. I just go ahead and use them for scumbling or other rough uses. When they splay really badly, they make great ‘grass’ and ‘hair’ brushes, more random and natural looking IMO than the special effects brushes cut to do the same thing. (Top brush in photo above.)

The cheap replacement for it, (middle), has bristles that aren’t packed very tight, so paint can still be up in there no matter how carefully it’s cleaned. I leave the lather in it to try to keep it from becoming splayed.

Bottom brush is a favorite for applying isolation coats and top coats of acrylic medium, as its fine, soft bristles don’t leave marks and it holds a lot. The head is cheaply attached, but I’ve had good luck simply gorilla-gluing heads back on to brushes, so will do that if/when I have to.

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Green!

GREEN!

A women painters group I recently joined decided we all needed to challenge ourselves with the color green, since so many of us said it was our least favorite color. That prompted me to start something I’ve been putting off; making a sketchbook into a color mixing chart like I did years ago and foolishly threw away in one of my many moves. Just started today, with swatches of all the greens I had on hand. Next, I’ll do some mixing samples with other colors to make my own greens. And so on.

The little painting isn’t done yet, and not sure it’ll end up being my “Green Challenge” piece.

What are YOUR favorite or least favorite colors? Are there any premade greens you like or dislike? My favorite ready made green is Golden’s Green Gold. I have others on hand but that is one I would have a hard time living without. It’s quite transparent. Even though I don’t much like green, I like Green Gold. Sap Green is another I kind of like. And, to do the challenge, I made myself buy a small tube of Chrome Green, a color I haven’t bought since I did oils back in the 80s. I kind of like it, so far, but most of it has been covered up in the little painting.

What to call it? [UPDATED! Solved!]

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The link to Tamara’s site is: http://www.tamarakenneallyphotography.com/

[Update! The company, Fatal Farm, gave me permission to use the phrase for my show! So nice of them, thank you Fatal Farm! http://www.fatalfarm.com/  ]

My show about animals has no title! I found there are other entities using the term I was mulling, and though it probably wouldn’t create any confusion with those entities and it doesn’t appear to have been registered as anyone’s trademark (yet), I don’t want to use the phrase anymore. If you have any suggestions let me know in the comments! Think pets and farm animals, vegan, factory farming, how we view animals, how they view us…these are themes in the show; now I just need a great title for it ASAP.

The painting below on the table is for it, one of the gentler ones, just fun. The one on the easel is for a different show that doesn’t need a title!

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Two big paintings with a lot of detail, getting closer and closer to done!

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Storm to the North.

Progress shot today, and pretty, dramatic sky. The light suddenly faded and I wondered if it was later than I thought. No, it was a small but intense rain storm headed our way. It got almost dark as night! Some parts of the valley did get over 2 inches of rain in a very short time. It’s still not where we are, not sure we’ll get as much out of it except darkness.

Just today, a friend on Facebook shared this article, about ‘copying,’ and it’s a good read. The infringement problem has just exploded in recent years and is bleeding some artists dry. http://elihalpin.com/blogs/eli-halpin-blog/do-not-copy-art-without-permission

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!

Today in the Studio

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An unfinished sculpture for a fall show watches over the work table. Today I’m cutting out old drawings from my sketchbooks, and words from newspaper and magazine headlines as captions, to collage onto lumberyard scraps. These small pieces will also be available at fall shows. A completed one sits among them.

I keep a large drawer of collage materials, and go through phases of what look they have. Making several at a time they tend to be in series of similar themes. I like to use acrylic gel as an adhesive. The wood blocks are sealed with Golden Paint Co’s GAC 100, an acrylic made for the purpose of sealing wood and other materials, before I add anything. (GAC 100 is also a great all-purpose acrylic medium.) Sometimes the wood grain and knots, etc, will show, other times they’re painted over and then roughed up a bit so wood peeks thru here and there. I like crackle effects so those are frequently part of the overall finish. Once all the artwork is dry, I seal them again. These are a good use of scraps, both wood and sketchbook kinds, that might otherwise end up in the trash!

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Only two left, numbers 4 and 8! $45 each at {9} The Gallery on Grand in Phoenix!

There are still two similar miniature pieces available at {9} The Gallery, 1229 Grand Ave, Phoenix, AZ, out of the 9 cube shaped pieces I had there. I’ll be showing at 9 again this year, details to come when they are known!

Sculpting a bigger butt, and adding eyes

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Enlarging the behind, work in progress, 2016

Decided one of the sculptures in progress needed a bigger butt. I enlarged it with an air dry clay called Paperclay, not to be confused with a kiln fired clay of the same name. This can be hard to find at art supply stores but I reliably find it at Michael’s. Last time I got it, it was the last one in stock! Whew!

PaperClay

The pin holes in the add on buttocks are to let more air in so it dries faster and more evenly. I put it in the sun to really bake it dry! After it dried, I smeared small scraps of thin chiffon fabric with acrylic medium, and pressed that down over it for some added strength. Other fabrics work, too, but chiffon seems very strong and flattens so well it’s barely detectable.

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When that was dry, I put a thin coat of Golden’s heavy modeling paste over it, and made fur texture with a  home made texture tool. I save plastic cards etc, like used bus passes, and cut a pattern into them to make a texture. You can paint or glaze over the dried texture to get various looks. If you can’t wipe off your paint/glaze before it dries, you may be able to carefully work that area back again with a rag and some rubbing alcohol, or fine wet-dry sanding film and minimal water. I usually have a damp rag in one hand and work fast, but the more aggressive methods will work if an area dries too fast for the rag alone.

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Eye detail, sculpture 2016, Cindy Schnackel

 

Here’s a close up of the eye of one sculpture. I bought realistic eye balls from a maker who makes them specifically for use in arts and crafts, etc. A lot of the processes I researched involved baking various clays in the oven, or other toxins, something I didn’t trust to be safe in a house with pet birds. I may explore some other ways to make my own eyes, but in the meantime, these are fabulous, and I sculpt the lids, etc around them after attaching firmly to the substructure. I debated whether this sculpture would even have eyes, since I kind of liked the way it looked without! But, in the end, I’m glad I put eyes in it now. Perhaps a different piece will be eyeless.

By the time these are shown in the fall, I may have changed things, but here’s where they stand now.

Mutant Piñata progress; Shows

Mutant Piñata!

The Mutant Piñata drop off is in just a couple of weeks! My husband, who is into technology, has a phrase for projects that get out of hand with ideas to make them more cool: “Creeping Elegance.” (He once had me draw a creature to depict Creeping Elegance, which his team at work had made into T Shirts!) I don’t want to be caught at the 11th hour, still not done, so, I’ve actually simplified my original plan, which was pretty hazy anyway. Nonetheless I might have to title my Piñata “Creeping Elegance.” We shall see.

Below are some progress shots and descriptions of how I made her. (I’ve decided she’s a woman, but you can decide otherwise if you like.)

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Making big eyes

The eyes are plastic domes from a thrift store picture frame. Some were dented so it wasn’t suitable to use as a frame, but they were perfect for this. They’re about the size of the plastic domes on top of various slushy or ice cream drinks only there is no hole for a straw. I started by scuffing up the inside with fine sandpaper. Then I painted the whites of the eyes with gesso. The light blue iris is gesso tinted with blue acrylic paint. The pupil is unpainted. Since the creature’s body is now black, the iris looks kinda black, but also like you can look inside the eye, because you can, sort of! I left some plastic around the edge to have something to hold it down with.

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Inside the cone; structure, and tentacle base

The body is a cardboard cone. The cardboard was about 3 x 4 feet I think, thin and flexible, more like tag board. It was some sort of packing material in a grocery store that was trash, and I grabbed it. The cone is held in place with duct tape.

The small cardboard disc with sticks and wire was adhered with gel medium near the top inside of the cone. It gives it stability and is a way for the hanging wire loop to be attached.

The second disc is larger, and has holes because I plan on stringing fabric tentacles thru them, so they’ll hang down below the body and flutter.

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Tentacles threaded thru the cardboard circle with holes

Threading strips of chiffon fabric thru the holes and making them stay by tying knots. This was costume fabric I bought long ago on sale, because it was cool. Since I don’t see myself dressing up as a fairy any time soon, I decided this was where it was destined to be used.

When I’m ready to put the tentacle disc in permanently, I’ll use some gel medium so the tentacles can’t easily be pulled out, and also to adhere the edges of the disc to the inside of the cone body. This disc could show so I painted it dark. I had some really dark purple that was almost black, and needing to get used, which worked great for this.

 

 

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Eyes and tube mouth attached

The cone is wrapped in strips of cloth soaked in a combination of black gesso and gel medium. SUPER MESSY! I worked on this outdoors for that reason! Even being cut with clear gel, the gesso is really opaque and black. It was Dick Blick gesso, mostly, but some was also Liquitex. Gesso alone might have worked for this, but the gel medium is more sticky and I wanted to be sure things adhered well.

It has dried to a nice leather like material, pretty sturdy, and not heavy. Before I attached eyes and a tube mouth, I had let it hang and dry for a couple of days. I also painted the inside with more of the dark purple/black. The strips of cloth go over the excess plastic around the eye-domes, securing them in place. That way I don’t have to rely only on adhesives or gel medium really sticking well to plastic long term. I split the excess plastic around the domes with a mat knife so they’d conform to the body and not resist being wrapped and held down. Wrapping the cloth around them created nice wrinkly things like might be found around real eyes.

The mouth is a cardboard tube. I used a mat knife to cut some X’s in the body to make a hole that would fit the tube and hold it securely. I glued it in with gel medium and wrapped it with gesso/gel soaked cloth strips. The flared starburst lips are a piece of waste tag board from packaging, twisted into a cone, and cut, shaped, and painted.

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Getting close to done…

Above is where it ended today, with the chiffon fabric ‘tentacles’ cut in tapered shapes, fluttering in the breeze. The disc holding the tentacles is temporarily held in by the other end of the wire from the hanging loop. I will gel it in when I’m ready. At this point I may have more messy stuff to do to the body, so I still want to be able to remove the tentacle disc.

I need to think on it a bit now, and see what else I want to do, or have time to do. We have great weather for working outside now, warm and dry. I hope to finish it this week, and since there shouldn’t be any more large areas that need hours to dry, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Creating it has given me ideas for a more of these, and more complex ones. Maybe next year!

My husband is also working on one, and I like it a lot. I know he wanted to do a lot of electronics in it and may not have time, but I think his is really good just as it is.

Info on the annual show sponsored by Beatrice Moore who has done so much for the arts on Grand Ave!

http://downtownphoenixjournal.com/2016/01/21/wire-enter-your-weird-wacky-creations-in-the-mutant-pinata-show/

 

Two or more Upcoming Shows

I’ll be busy making enough work for essentially 2 solo shows this fall. One is not a solo show for sure, it’s a 2 person show, but the space is large so the amount of work is equal to a solo show. One show will be at Olney Gallery, 2nd Ave and Roosevelt in Phoenix, one at {9} The Gallery on Grand Ave in Phoenix. These will be happening in September and October, (barring schedule changes). Besides these, there is at least one and maybe several group shows I will try to do, as time permits. Will give details when things are more concrete.