Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Watercolor vs Acrylics

Enjoyed working on this small watercolor portrait, because this media is even more transparent, and requires more layers, than the acrylic paints I've been working with.

People who want home portraits tell me whether they'd like them painted in oils, acrylics or watercolors. I start many of my oil paintings with acrylics, because oils can go over the top and the acrylics dry faster, which makes it easier to get the initial drawing, composition and values (lights and darks) down on the canvas quickly.

Once upon a time, I preferred painting in oils. I liked mixing the colors I wanted on the palette with wet paint and the opacity of it. But when I started laying in my compositions with acrylics, I started to appreciate their transparency and the ability to build and mix color through layering like you do with watercolors. My mentor describes painting with watercolor like laying down layer after layer of transparent color film -- we build value and hue by painting an area over and over again, overlaying paint layer after paint layer. If it's the same hue, the color gets stronger. If it's a complementary hue, the color gets duller and grayer.   And if it's blue over yellow, my eye sees the green that results.

I haven't painted in pure watercolors for a few months, so I enjoyed its increased transparency compared to acrylics. For a painting like this, I have to draw on the paper first, so I know in advance where all the paint should go, kind of like paint by number.

I think this is why I prefer acrylics: I feel more free to experiment with paint on the fly, knowing it is opaque enough that I can cover it up and rework it if I change my mind.

But in this case, I realized I've gotten lazy by being able to make the darks as dark as I want right away with acrylics, rather than having to build them up gradually over the course of several sessions, like I did with this watercolor. I attached three photos here to show that progression from when I started to the finished piece.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A first today

Today is the first time I think I've ever started painting on a black canvas. It's interesting! I seldom use black paint -- I like to mix dark colors by combining complementaries like red and green, orange and blue or purple and yellow.

Also I think black paint and white paint appear sort of "dead" and lifeless in a finished work. But I bought a tablet of black canvas sheets to experiment with some night scenes I've been wanting to paint for a long time. This is one of them: Cincinnatian's may recognize our "Elsinore Castle" at the base of Mt. Adams on Gilbert. I love to see it lit up at night and will have to research more about its name and how people used to play Hamlet on it when it was the gateway to Eden Park.

I often talk about how one hour can yield very different results for me day to day. I was having fun with this -- looking at the shapes and values and then placing them on that stark black canvas. It's got promise! Stay tuned for the finish, some time in the future.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Learning from the Sketch

I like to draw a house before I paint it, to get familiar with its lines. When I get just one photo to paint from, as I did here, I just go ahead and sketch in acrylic paint. Then I can learn what I want to do about color and value, as well as the lines. I did my first sketch for this painting on a green background, laying in the lighter and darker values over the middle tone.

  The color scheme pleased me but when I looked at this, I saw that the right roof peak was way too high -- it should be at about the same height as the far left peak.

And that meant that whole right side was too large. One of the things I love about drawing with acrylic paint is that it doesn't take nearly as long to dry as oils. So my next step was to begin correcting that right side, as you see here.

Now if I were sketching for a larger painting, I'd probably be satisfied with the corrected sketch. Then I'd use it as my primary reference for the painting, along with the original photo I was given.

In this case, once I had a good sketch, I kept on painting. Because this customer purchased a portrait the size I usually sketch, which fits nicely into a ready made 11 x 14" frame with a matte and glass.

So here it is as finished this morning. Digital photography is great, especially with a SmartPhone. You always have your camera handy (mine's on a holster on my hip!) And I can print out any of these versions to learn or compare. In fact, if the customer likes an earlier version better, we could actually print it out to canvas, varnish it, and this giclee (French word for airbrush) could be framed just like an original painting.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Final Friday May 30 (tonight)

Yes, it's Final Friday at the Pendleton Art Center in downtown Cincinnati from 6-10 pm on May 30, 2014 at 1310 Pendleton Street 45202. $5 valet parking at the front door. Music outside on the loading dock. Art by hundreds of artists in their working studios with complementary food and drinks as you browse or buy. I'm on the fifth floor #507 with ceramicist Glenda Suttman and fused glass artist Margi Meier of Celsius 800. We'd love to welcome you!

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation will also have wine at a table on the lst floor by the elevator; baked goods for sale on 3rd floor and 7th floor; and warm smiles to greet you with wine and beer and a donation. Learn more about them at http://jdrf.org/about-jdrf/

Here's an 11 x 14" portrait I recently completed for a local client. Have your home, business, boat, wedding venue, vacation cottage or other happy place painted.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tonight at the Pendleton Art Center

Here's the home portrait I'll probably be working on tonight in my studio on the fifth floor (#507) of the Pendleton Art Center. Come by and see me from 7-9 pm if you're in the downtown Cincinnati area, near Horseshoe Casino.

Artist Julie Uehlin Clement returns to her Cincinnati roots, paired with award-winning photographer the late Tom McFarlane, in Kay Hurley's studio on the seventh floor.
Tom influenced Julie significantly as a pointillist and photographer. As co-owner of Directions Marketing, Tom hired Julie as a graphic designer where she honed her pointillist skills. After setting her sights on Colorado, she moved on, but they remained friends.
For many years, Tom immersed himself in his business and in the late 90’s, he returned to his passion – black-and-white photography. About the same time, Julie began painting in her signature dot-style.
After Tom’s passing in 2008, his wife Ona commissioned Julie to paint aquatic life from her new beach home in Oregon. Serendipitously, last October, Julie and Ona collaborated on Point In All Directions, an exhibition featuring Tom’s large-scale prints and Julie’s colorful dot paintings. Seemingly, a blessing from Tom…
When Tom was a resident artist at the Pendleton, his photographs always inspired me too. To honor his memory and support Kay Hurley, who I admire very much, I'm coming down to the studio tonight to work and attend the grand opening of this exhibit.
Finished another portrait yesterday but it is a surprise gift so I don't want to post it here until I know it's been received. Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Final Friday 4/24 and Cincinnati Nature Center's Back to Nature fundraiser Sat 4/25

 Yes, tomorrow night is again Final Friday at the Pendleton Art Center in downtown Cincinnati, where hundreds of residents artists throw a party and open our working studios on the last Friday night of every month to welcome guests and show/sell our work. Just up the street from Horseshoe Casino, we offer valet parking for $5 at the front door of our 100+ year old eight story building, which was originally the Krohn-Fechheimer Shoe Factory (US Shoe) and later Shillito's warehouse.

Let the elevator operator take you up to the top floor, where you can see examples of pieces done by various artists in the building, including paintings, photography, glass, ceramics, and jewelry. If something catches your eye, note which floor the artist's studio is on as you work your way down the stairs, stopping in to visit and chat with artists and enjoy the refreshments we provide.

I share space with a ceramicist and a glassmaker and we are on the fifth floor right across from the elevator (#507), so please come and say hello! See my work on the web here or at www.cincinnatihomeportrait.com. 

Outside, enjoy acoustic music by the Goodle Boys and wood-fired pizza from the food truck. We're open until 10 pm tomorrow night. I won't be there Saturday April 25, but the Pendleton is always open the day after Final Friday for Art in Action from 11-3: a much more "hands-on" experience where you can take workshops from artists who teach and create things yourselves. People love it! And it's free. Find out more at www.pendletonartcenter.com.

The two paintings in this post will be for sale at the Cincinnati Nature Center's annual Back to Nature fundraising gala on Saturday night April 25. Find out more at www.cincynature.org.

The painting of the house in this post is of Carl and Mary Krippendorf's home on their 175-acre wooded estate, now the Cincinnati Nature Center. Now known as Krippendorf Lodge, this is where the gala will be held. Just after World War I, Carl and Mary held "Daffodil Days," inviting the public to see blooms on the property to raise funds for war-devastated France. I always remember this when   I see all the beautiful spring flowers at the Nature Center, which I have supported with donated artwork ever since hiking there regularly trained me to walk through the Grand Canyon, which I did a few years ago.

Yes, the second painting is of Bright Angel Creek at the bottom of the Canyon near Phantom Ranch. It took us seven days and six nights to backpack from the North Rim to the South, camping along the way. Next time, I'll take the mules, but the trip was a bucket list experience that's provided a lifetime of inspiration for paintings and for life itself. I still don't know how I made it other than just putting one step in front of the other and taking my time. When I hike at the Cincinnati Nature Center, I still take the three kinds of breaks we took in the Canyon: 1) air break (just stop and breathe for a few minutes), 2) sit (with backpack on, drink water, maybe eat a Clif or Luna bar), and 3) take off pack and really rest (Oh, that feels so good!)

Two of my other paintings for sale at Back to Nature are Azalea and Twilight Garden. The one of Krippendorf Lodge is not the original painting, but a limited edition print I hand-colored with pencils and matted under glass in an 11 x 14" frame.

The original was an experiment in painting using some of the techniques I learned from illustrator C. F. Payne. I started with a graphite pencil drawing of the home on heavy cold press illustration board coated with gesso. Then I put a light wash of oil paint over the drawing and lifted out all the highlighted areas with a kneaded eraser, so I had a value study of the composition. Since you can't put watercolors, acrylics and colored pencil over oils without sealing the surface, Chris showed us a special spray fixative once used by people who hand-colored black and white photographs and that's what I used. (It's so toxic, it's not even manufactured anymore, so I have to find an alternative if I want to keep using this technique).

Once the oil surface was fixed, I painted over the top of it with watercolors, acrylics and india ink, using colored pencils for the details and then varnished the work. So when I call this a mixed media painting, you see what I mean -- it incorporates almost every kind of painting and drawing media.

A giclee (airbrush) print is another media popularly used by artists today. I don't make prints the same size as my original paintings but when I made this smaller one, I wanted to draw over it some more with colored pencils. I was delighted with the outcome, which is different from the original but better for the 11 x 14" frame size. And collectors love prints because the price is right.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Yes, Apr 25 is Final Friday

Yes, it IS Final Friday at the Pendleton Art Center this weekend, April 25 from 6-10 pm with $5 valet parking at the front door. Spring is here, so if the weather's nice there will be music and food truck(s) outside as well as refreshments provided by the 200 or so resident artists.

Come see us on the fifth floor, right across from the elevators (#507). One of the fun things about seeing artists' actual studio space is seeing work in progress. This is a home portrait I just finished but you'll see a couple things I'm working on in the studio Friday night. At in the 510 Gallery, we're all exhibiting "sketches and studies" we've done for finished works. I know what mine look like but I'm interested to see the ones from other resident artists and learn more about their processes and techniques.

This week is also your last chance to see the work painted outdoors (en plein air) by the Southwest Ohio Plein Air painters (SWOPA). Thursday -- late afternoon and early evening -- we'll be painting in downtown Sharonville, right near where this show of our work is displayed at the Westheimer Gallery.

I was excited to have my painting of Smale Park (downtown Cincinnati on the river near The Banks) in the right front window (white frame), so you can see it when you walk by, even if the gallery isn't open. I believe it IS open this afternoon 3-7p, Wed afternoon 1-5p, and Thurs 3-7p but you can check www.sharonvillefinearts.org to make sure, and for directions.

The night of the opening, April 4, we enjoyed live theatre right next door with a performance of The Curious Savage. This Friday or Saturday night, you can see "Love Changes," written by a local playwright and performed by 8 local actors.