Sunday, June 27, 2010

Workshop 2010 part 1

What I learned


While I have always underpainted I gained a better knowledge of some of the things you can do through the underpainting. It is here that you can establish tone, value and composition. So the Underpainting can be a very important part of the painting. Using it to serve your creative idea can make your painting. Rush through it, and the painting becomes much more difficult to execute.


First layers after support gesso (white). This is important. If you paint with oils directly on the fabric/surface, the oils will eventually damage the support.

The next layer of base color is applied simply to take the white off. There are a few options for this and they are mostly interchangeable. These options are:

· Colored gesso
· Mat acrylic
· Gouache

All of these are inert as far as oils are concerned, and you can use what suits you. I knew you could underpaint with acrylics, but did not realize there were differences between products. Many art acrylics are high gloss, and there can be some problem with adhesion with the really high gloss brands. This is especially true if you are using thin, medium rich glazing layers. Mat gloss acrylics work better for Underpainting, as they provide a better surface for future layers of oil paint. These can use used under both traditional oils and the newer water-sellable oils. New to me is the idea that you can use gouache successfully under oils. Gouache and watercolor has been used for centuries for underpainting it seems. It was at one time routine to sketch with watercolor as a preliminary step in painting. They may be why these mediums are still seen as lesser mediums to oils.

The first layer, or overall tone simply tones or tints the support, “taking the white off”. This is a matter of personal choice, but most artists find that tinting does help to hold the composition together tonally. Many feel that if small areas of the canvas should “peek” through, the undercolor is a better choice than flecks of the white canvas. Several of the paintings this week really showed how using a strong color underneath can help to unify a painting. A few flecks of a similar color/shade throughout a painting goes a long way in making all the color choices unit. And you do not need to worry about coverage, simply establish your painting and go.

New to me was the use of India ink to sketch out the painting, drawing with ink onto the established ground. Following the simple line drawing was working in a tonal value of the painting with ink washes. Here again, you can choose to allow some of this to show through to the final painting. This leaves this choice viable throughout the painting. Even if you choose to cover this layer completely, it does help to establish the lights and darks. When the tonal washes are done, you can stand back and see just how well your painting hangs together, or if major or minor changes need to be made, before a lot of work and effort with layers of paint have gone into the work. I have found this to be a real help in the early stages of a painting.

After you do the value study of the painting there is more you can do for your painting. A complementary study in either mat acrylic or gouache can add more interest and depth of color. Any of this layer that shows through makes the oil paint more vivid. Where subtle shading is necessary for any part of a painting, establishing an underpainting in a solid mid-tone helps to hold the object together through all the lights and darks.
In summary, why underpaint? Underpainting helps you establish tone, light or dark, warm or cool and provide harmony over the entire canvas. Also if small areas of the canvas get a lighter coverage in paint and some of it shows through, it is generally more pleasing to have a neutral color or even a more exciting color that can hold the painting together rather than some random white dots.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Workshop - Day 3

Workshop Day 3

What a difference a day makes! After just 2 days, it seems as is I had known the artists around me for a month!

Today we had a demonstration of knife work, again by building fairly thin layers. You tend to think of paintings done with a knife as being rather heavy handed, but Sean demonstrated that while it is a very textural method, it is possible to control it. With the use of a drying medium, he will be ready for the second layer tomorrow, which is astonishing.

I started two new paintings, so I could keep working while the others are setting up. I had a small 4 x 12 inch canvas that I brought along on impulse. The other one is 16 x 20, and it will be my knife painting.

I am getting into using India ink to sketch out my paintings. The narrow canvas is now going to be an abstract waterfall. I had put modeling past on it with a painting knife, and let that dry, then used 3 different colors of acrylic to simply take the white off. I don’t know why I used all three, except that I had done the underpainting for the other 2 I laid out yesterday, and simply had it. With the texture and colors I decided to use not the usually colors, but the basic components of the colors. So that one will be abstract, and the last, large canvas is going to be water lotus. I think that will lend itself to the texture inherent in a knife painting.

I am using galkyd lite for a drying medium and to thin the paint along with gimsol as a thinner and solvent. These are two new products for me. I really like the galkyd lite. It does thin the paint, and makes it dry quickly with little dulling. So I really like that product. I can see the advantages of the gimsol as a solvent. It also helps the painting go on smoothly and dry quickly. Both products are by Gambling. The class this week also covers water-soluble paints, so the equivalent drying medium is Max Quickdry. While I have been introduced to some fantastic paintbrushes, they are simply out of my price range. I cannot at this time pay $22.95 for a single brush. I am sure they are worth it, but not on my budget.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Workshop - Day 2

Well, today was a little easier. At least the anxiety is not as bad. I was actually looking forward to it, and feeling a little more comfortable. I walked into the studio, and went to my workstation as if I had been going there for months, instead of two days.

We started with a critique of our work, which went really well. The class is very talented! There were several paintings I wished I had the talent to paint! We all work at different paces, but, as usual, I am one of the slowest. I am used to it. Many have started their 2 paintings already. I put my work from yesterday in the sun to cure a bit, and sketched out two more small paintings. One of Ritter Park, in Huntington, WV and the other of two people fishing along the Kanawha River. I am going to try to do both in a more impressionistic style, less detailed and fussy.

I am getting into using India ink to sketch out my paintings. And the ink wash was a value sketch has its merits. I am finding those few ink lines really help me decide if the basic composition is strong enough for a good painting, or if it needs to be changed.

These lines are permanent, but they can be erased by glass cleaner. (It is the ammonia that does it.)

I am trying to decide if I will use gouache as an underpainting medium or try the mat acrylics. Since I used gouache for the first I am thinking that I should use the mat acrylics. I will start the Ritter Park painting tomorrow, and save the fishing painting for Thursday. That one I will do in water-mixable oils.

I am hoping one of the paintings will turn out, but even if they do not, I have already learned a lot and gained much more confidence in what I am doing.
The painting is much more fun. I have gotten a lot from the teacher's demonstrations, but also I have learned from watching the other students work. There are as many different approaches as there are students. I have never had the chance to work with such a large group, taking in all different approaches and visions.
Some have such a brevity of work, but get such outstanding results. I am sure tomorrow will be just as stimulating.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Workshop - Day 1

8:45 and I pull into the parking lot of Cheap Joe’s. Nerves on edge, I parked, ready? For the first day.

The studio is well light, and spacious. Even though the room was just about filled, it was not crowded. Most seemed quite experienced, which I found a bit intimidating.

Nonetheless, I was there to learn and learn I did.

Sean Dye is the name of the man leading the workshop. You can see his work on his website, Sean Dye Studio. He does have a unique way of starting a painting.

He encouraged everyone to try a variety of surfaces. Being at Cheap Joe’s, these were readily available. He also talked about adding texture at the beginning, even before the underpainting.

First painting, we had a choice of mediums to add texture, gel medium, modeling paste, etc.

I used a really rough one with pumice in it, as I had use the smoother gel medium before. I am doing a painting with a lot of rocks in it, and the medium will determine where the rocks are.

Also, a new thought, he makes sure he tints his canvases with a mat acrylic. Most acrylics tend to have a shine to it, but a mat acrylic will give you a little better hold for the later oil layers. This may be why from time to time we get a complaint about adhesion on the painting forum. They may be using a high gloss acrylic paint for their underpainting. I did not realize there was such a thing, but there is.

A solid acrylic wash was put over the entire canvas, and then it was set out in the sun to dry. Today the temp got up to 87°, drying did not take long!

One really new thought, he sketches his oil painting, not with pencil or charcoal, but with India ink! It does not react with oils at all.

Tried it, and it does make for a great way to draw out the painting.

After the line drawing, we then used ink washes to locate and set our lights, mediums and darks.

After that was dried, we had choice again of medium for the underpainting. I have used acrylics before, but again, mat acrylics to insure there is no trouble with the later oil layers. But the other choice was gouache. I never heard of this, but watched his demo, and it works! This tends to be a thin layer, which is what you want. This underpainting is done in complementary colors, so they tend to look weird.

Then the layers of oils were begun. Using a drying medium and very thin paint, color is built up thinly but quickly.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Painting workshop

Sunday June 20, 2010

Sunday night, and here I sit in a comfortable chair in a hotel. I am in Boone, NC at the Best Western. As many of you know, Boone, NC is the home of Cheap Joe’s. Tomorrow I will start my painting vacation there.

But tonight I am in my hotel room. It is a very nice hotel room. When I got here, I was given a handicap, smoking room. Now, heaven knows I have enough problems, but most of them seem more mental than physical! But the smoking room reeked. I don’t know if it was supposed to be a smoking room, someone made it one, but I new I could not sleep there. I know the room would have given me a headache.

Well, Boone is also a tourist area, being right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and itself a beautiful mountain town. All that was left was one of their Jacuzzi suites, so poor me, I am stuck for a week in a suite! Don’t you feel sorry for me?

I have been to Boone before, but not to Cheap Joe’s. this will be my first experience with one of their workshops.

Tomorrow is the first day of my painting workshop, and I am more than a little apprehensive about it. What if, when I get there, they discover what a fraud I am. Can I keep up with all the other, much more talented others, in the class. I am sure I will be the most behind person there. My ignorance will surely be revealed.

The workshop is being taught by Sean Dye, who has written several books about oils and mixed media. The title is “the Oil Experience”. It is billed as a hands on exploration of oils, but traditional and the newer water-soluble oils.

I packed up what I have in supplies, but I have not nearly the list sent to me. I tend towards a limited pallet, preferring to mix my own colors. So I am short most of the colors on the list, and the list is a long one. There is a list for both the standard oils and the water-mixable, so I am hoping I can substitute what I have for some of the colors on his list.

But either way, I will find out why he has chosen the pigments that he has. Why he prefers one color over its close kin.

Hopefully, I will come away from this experience with a greater understanding of oils in general and colors other artists choose.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

More Fiction Project

Wealth Means Survival

More than we need today against what we will need tomorrow. We have the wealth for art!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010



Washed up
Dragged up

Battered & Beaten by life


No one get out alive!

This is where we Start

This is were we start

With dirty hands scratching in the dirt


Hunting and gathering eating as we go

With dirty hands~sticky hands

Hunting nuts and berries eating as we go

With dirty sticky hands

They touch hairless arms
And leave a mark

They touch faces
And leave a mark

They laugh
With dirty, sticky hands.