Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday Painting in the Negative

Since the holidays are upon us and I am due to teach a workshop on negative painting on Saturday, December 8, at the City of Brea Art Gallery (call them for details or to sign up), I decided to try to paint poinsettias with all negative painting. Besides, they are my favorite color, red! My goal was to see if it were possible for me to do the entire painting in the negative.

(I do wish there were a different term for negative painting -- it just sounds so, um, negative. Especially for a holiday painting. Gerald Brommer's term, painting the unoccupied space, is a bit unwieldy.)

Anyway, I started my underpainting by wetting the paper and putting three yellow dots in the upper left. Then I slathered on all my different reds wet-into-wet in sort of poinsettia leaf shapes, so I suppose there was some degree of positive painting in the underpainting. I added bits of green to make the red pop and bits of yellow so that those three dots were not alone. I also lifted out some leaf veins with a small, almost dry brush. After letting the underpainting dry, I began negatively painting with reds darkened with green and greens darkened with red to bring out the flower shape. And here it is:

Holiday Flower

Right now I am thinking of changing my lesson plan for Saturday a bit so that I can include teaching what I did to make this holiday painting. We'll see how that works out .......

Friday, October 26, 2012

Another Try with the New Material

On the washed off Terra Skin from the last post, I started putting thick paint on and letting it run. As it dried I gradually brought some flower shapes out and I lifted some out, too. When I was done, it seemed that the left side of the painting was too different from the right, so I cut it into two paintings -- what a deal! These floral fantasies really take advantage of the properties of this "stone paper" -- I hope you can see the amazing textures. However, it seemed in my first painting that the painting became paler and paler day after day as it dried, so I fear I may lose some of the vivid colors in these. We'll see.

Terra Floral 1
Terra Floral 2

Trying a New Material

My friend Carrol Wolf gave me a large (28 x 40) piece of Terra Skin, a new "paper" made out of stone (ground up calcium carbonate plus binders) that is supposed to save trees and be biodegradable. Today I tried watercolor painting on it.

I never got the hang of Yupo, and this surface is a little like it, though it seems like the paint sticks to it a little better than to Yupo. I found I could easily glaze over other colors that had been allowed to dry completely, without disturbing the underlying color. It is easy to make fascinating textures on Terra Skin and to get hypnotized watching the colors mingle. It is extremely easy to lift color, even staining Prussian blue, down to the white. 

Masking tape stuck too well to the Terra Skin, and it was very difficult to remove, so if, like me, you like to tape your paper to a board, this may be a problem.

Anyway, I didn't like the resulting painting, so I decided to wash all the paint off. Most of it came off under running water, and even staining colors came off with a soapy sponge and a little scrubbing. Even pencil marks washed off. I wondered whether washing with soap would affect the surface, but apparently not, since I did some tests with additional watercolors on it and it behaved the same as before. 

It would appear that one could paint for years without ever buying any more paper or Terra Skin at all!

Taos Before Spring

Same Sheet after Washing

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hill Town Collage

After hearing a talk by Gerald Brommer on Saturday and seeing his slide show of his paintings of hill towns done with a variety of techniques, I came home once again inspired to try collage. This time I tried diluted Elmer's glue, as Brommer suggested as an alternate to matte medium. I cut up little squares of watercolor paper (his idea, only he cuts up 3 x 5 cards), slathered a piece of watercolor paper with diluted glue, and started sticking squares on. After it dried for 24 hours, I painted it on a slant, letting the colors run. The glue made for an interesting texture. I think it turned out OK and it was fun to do.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Adventures with Adhesives

I decided I didn't like the painting in the last post. It looked too much like a Halloween witch and not enough like an anxious Grandma. So I took another painting I didn't care for ("Vessels of Memory 2") and made a watercolor collage out of them. I tore them into vague mountain shapes. I had a seascape in mind, and I had to paint some pieces I ended up needing. One of the really fun things about collage is that you can tear or cut out a shape you think you need and then lay it on the painting and see how it looks and move it somewhere else and see how it looks there and even change the shape.

One of the really awful things about collage (at least for me, the neatnik) is the stuff you have to use to stick the pieces together or onto the mount. My pal Jessie and I went to Staples and investigated all the possibilities for adhesion they had. I bought a bunch and tried them all, but rejected most for being too messy (got all over me and all over my stuff) or too smelly (rubber cement) or too expensive (it required $7 worth of permanent glue tape to affix just a few pieces, though it adhered really well).  I ended up sticking with good old glue stick. We will see if it really can permanently hold the big heavy pieces on.

Green Flash
Can  you see the old painting in there? (Hint -- look at the right side of the old painting and then at the top of the collage.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Carrying the Baby Downstairs

This may not be a great painting, but it really captures how I feel when I carry the baby downstairs, clutching baby and bannister with all my strength.

Taking the Baby Downstairs

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tight and Loose

Today I saw a photo of a group of actors that caught my attention, and I decided to paint three of them. The painting turned out too tight, because I cared too much about my drawing. To loosen up, I used one of my granddaughter's creations as inspiration and just put paint to paper. If the goal of painting is to have fun, both did the trick.

The Stage Director

Painting Like a Four-Year-Old

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Another Aunts Painting

The show is down, so I feel a little sad. I sold a dozen paintings, so I guess it was a success. The best pick-me-up is to paint, so I did another painting of my aunts at their 1945 picnic. I used masque pen to create some white lines, though I ended up covering most of them up. With this painting I learned that masque pen takes practice, especially to get different widths of line, and that the lines are more successful if they do not surround a shape, but emphasize it in some other way.

Aunts at a Picnic 2

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Judy and Carrol Show

For the last year, artist Carrol Wolf and I have been planning and preparing for our two woman show at the Corner Gallery in the Huntington Beach Central Library for the month of September 2012. Here are some photos, taken by Dan Kee, of the day we hung the show.

The Show Postcard

Loading the Car


Beginning to Hang

Extra Paintings

Self Portraits of Self Portraits

The "Owie"

My two-year-old grandson fell and cut his head, and of course he had to have a bandaid. He looked so sad that I had to take a photo and then make a painting. I tried to capture how he looked so hurt, physically hurt but also psychologically hurt, even betrayed, from learning that painful things can happen to good little boys like him.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Grandchildren Art

Got to paint with my granddaughter and grandson (separately) in the last couple of weeks. It is clear that Ryan, age 27 months, has a concept when he paints. He makes a shape and tries to color it all in, and if I ask him if he is ready for a new color, he says, "Not yet." He also has definite color preferences and did not like yellow ochre ("I not like"). Here is one of his creations:

Maddie, who will be 5 in late November, paints more like a typical 4-year-old. The following painting shows her in front of her new school. She starts transitional kindergarten at a public school next week, and the dark cloud above her head suggests that she is a little anxious about it.

And here is a charming mixed media piece depicting her family by their house:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Trying Another One

The painting I did called "Dancing in My Red Dress" was published in a magazine and sold almost the day I painted it, so I thought I'd try another one. I used the same pouring technique with similar colors, then brought out the dancer with negative painting. It looked a little dull, and I recalled advice (from Steve Fleming) recently published in The Palette Magazine to "put in something that doesn't belong." To this warm, intense, orange, red, and turquoise painting of a dancer in a swirling dress I put in a cool, pale, violet, opaque high heel. Naturally the painting is called, "Kicking Up Your Heels." There are still some things about it that bother me, so it isn't quite done, but here it is:

And in case you can't remember the earlier one, here it is:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Finished My Other Blog

Today I completed my "Painting a Day NOT" blog, which you can see by clicking here.  Posted there are the half dozen paintings that I like from the 50-plus I have painted so far in 2012.

We just got back from two weeks in Alaska, and you can see some photos by clicking here. My mind is now full of beautiful images that may lead to a painting in future.

There will probably be little painting done in the near future, since it is time to begin preparing for the show that Carrol Wolf and I will have in the Corner Gallery in Huntington Beach during the month of September. There is a great deal of work to be done, from designing postcards to matting and framing, and posts about the WORK of art are all I am likely to do. It was certainly fun making the paintings for the show!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Having Fun (The Main Reason to Paint)

Though I have been painting a lot (over 35 paintings since this year began), I haven't really liked most of them. Yesterday I decided just to have fun by starting with one of my old style, impulsive, throw-paint-all-over underpaintings on an 18 x 24 piece of 300 pound cold press paper. After it dried, I did a self-portrait on top in less than an hour. I had fun and I like the result. You can see it on my other blog by clicking here. (At the June meeting of the Huntington Beach Art League, it won Best of Show.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It is EASY to change watercolor paintings!

It is often said that watercolor is a difficult medium, because once it's down, it's down and impossible to change. That is simply not true. Many corrections can be made with transparent paints, and many more can be be made with opaque watercolors. Often people ask me if I use gouache, but I don't. The main difference between gouache and watercolor paint is the size of the color particles in the paint, with the particles in gouache being ground to a larger size than those of watercolor. I use opaque watercolors, but they are still watercolors and they can be made transparent with the addition of lots of water. 

I have been experimenting with the use of India ink lines in my paintings, and I did one recently that I finally decided I didn't like. Today I tried to remove most of the India ink lines, something I used to think was impossible. I have at least reduced their impact in the overall painting, and I now like it better. 

Our Hope with lines
Our Hope with lines reduced

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


It seems that I have learned to make interesting shapes. Now I need to learn to make them beautiful as well.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

At the NWS Show

Dan took a photo of me by my painting at the National Watercolor Society All Members Show.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Palette Magazine

Just received my recent issue (#41) of  The Palette Magazine and there I am on page 23! The article includes Fecundity and Dancing in My Red Dress and describes the best advice and lessons I have received from fellow artists over the years.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

From Underpainting to Grand Canyon

Inspired by our recent trip to the incredible Grand Canyon, I decided to paint my impressions of the trillions of years of layers that made that amazing place onto the underpainting I recently posted. It already had many wet-on-wet layers, and I added many more wet-on-wet and some wet-on-dry layers. I am fairly satisfied that it expresses my intention. It has an ancient, layered Grand Canyon feeling to it.

While I felt OK about this painting, I knew it was inadequate, because as Milford Zornes once said, "You can't paint the Grand Canyon." Then I found out that he DID paint the Grand Canyon, and so I tried to copy one of his paintings to see how he did it.  You can see how that turned out  by clicking here.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Layering Wet-on-Wet

While painting with Maddie, I decided to experiment with layering washes wet-on-wet. In the first one, I started with green, then blue, then violet, then orange, back to blue, etc, for many layers, and then I dropped pink and orange in over and over to watch them crawl. The second one has only five layers, and because it was painted vertically on Strathmore Aquarius II paper, a lot of the paint slid off. Still, you can get some beautiful, subtle, glowing, deep colors this way. I have been thinking a lot about what to make of this underpainting.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Vessels of Memory 2

Today I felt like doing a nonobjective painting, based on a new distorted grid. I worked on the grid quite a while and was fairly pleased with it. Then I painted it with earth colors and some orange and purple and green. I was not pleased with it. I tried to analyze what I didn't like about it, and I decided that it was too busy, with too many small, broken up shapes, that the colors were rather garish, and finally, it did not seem to express anything. Skip Lawrence says that when paintings fail, the most common reason is because the artist forgot his or her expressive intent, and I think that's happened here. I was intending to do something peaceful, and I got so involved in the painting that I even quit following the grid and just threw paint on. It was fun at the time, but the results were not thrilling. So I looked at some paintings by Katherine Chang Liu for inspiration and got some opaque watercolors and started covering things up, trying to create bigger shapes, with more variety of size. Now I think  it expresses peacefulness; I like how the colors of the underpainting show through and create variation of color within shapes; and I like the India ink line.  

Distorted grid

This became the underpainting.

The Resulting Painting

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Aunts Photo

This is the photograph that inspired my series of paintings of "The Aunts." It was taken at a big family picnic in Garfield Park in Indianapolis in 1945. Since I wish someone had written the names of the people on the back, I am going to try to identify everyone according to my best guess. Left to right, Hope (Brown) Todd, my mother; hidden behind her, Helen (Todd) Huehls, holding Mark Huehls; behind the man on the ground, me and my dad, William Ross Todd; the man on the ground is either Lloyd Huehls or Marshall Todd, and the children in front of him may be Bobby McColgin and David Ford; next to him, also on the ground, Margaret Todd, Marshall's wife; woman hidden behind her, unknown; woman in white dress, Ruth (Todd) McColgin; Dottie Todd, who was named Gertrude, I think, and later married a man with the last name of Edwards; and last, Lucile (Todd) Ford, holding Bill Ford.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Re-Doing an Old Painting

Today I took a not very thrilling old painting from my Krumpers series and added india ink and tons of paint. This time, I think the second painting is much better. 

I think I am done with this series. I have said all I have to say about krumpers.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

First Place, Hooray!

The painting from "The Aunts Series" that I posted on March 2, won first place in mixed media at the Huntington Beach Art League meeting last night.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Developments in Grandchildren's Artwork

Maddie, age 4, has moved into representational art, as seen by the following works:

The Beach -- you can see palm tree, ocean, sun, and sand


Ryan, age 22 months, continues with abstract expressionism:

He recently made a move towards representation:

Friday, March 2, 2012

"The Aunts" Series

Aunts at a Picnic

Today, for the first time, I tried Ruth Ellen Hoag's method of using india ink to do her drawing onto watercolor paper and then painting over it. I actually had a transparent abstract underpainting already in place when I painted with the india ink, and I left some of the transparent colors when I painted over the ink with mostly opaque watercolors. 

This is part of a series of paintings I have done based on a photograph taken of my five paternal aunts at a picnic in 1945 at Garfield Park in Indianapolis. In this one, Aunt Helen got left out, leaving Margaret, Ruth, Dottie, and Lucile (holding the baby).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Christopher Schink Workshop 2012

Just returned from a three day workshop with my all-time favorite teacher, Christopher Schink, along with some wonderful friends. It was held at Sylvia Megerdichian’s Art Box Studio in Upland. The majority of people in the workshop are accomplished artists, so it was a bit intimidating. However, I had the good fortune to sit next to Ruth Ellen Hoag, whose work I greatly admire. I had already begun to experiment with black lines, so watching her take it farther with india ink was inspiring.

The title of this year’s workshop was “Designing Figures and Shapes.” As artists, Toph says, we need to develop our own graphic language  (form) to convey our intent, ideas, and emotions (content). This workshop focused on using shapes and figures to convey the content. Toph encouraged us to regard the figure as just another shape, as an element to be incorporated into our overall design.
In order to get us to attend to the figure as a designable shape, our first exercise was to do two or three paintings of the same subject with different types of distortion or stylization. Here are my three.

Next Toph taught us about arranging figures in pictorial space as an important part of the design process. One thing to consider is the “background” or “negative space.” The figure always seems so important, but the background must be designed with just as much care as the figure. It should also have interesting shapes, along with the same type of painting treatment as the figure. OR we can make the figure really large, eliminating most of the background as an issue.
Here is my attempt to integrate figure and background into an overall design:

I think I prefer this attempt to make the figure very large:

As Toph kept reminding us, paintings done in workshops are PRACTICE, and when you first try something new, it will probably not be very good. I will try these ideas again and incorporate what I’ve learned. 

Thanks, Toph!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Using My Computer

Artists need to learn to self evaluate. I can look at someone else’s painting and immediately tell what needs to be done to improve it, but it annoys me no end that I cannot do this for my own paintings. It helps to look at them different ways, which is the reason for the advice to evaluate with a mat. Other ways include looking at them upside down, looking at them in a mirror, and looking at them upside down in a mirror. These different perspectives of your own paintings can help you see more clearly what needs to be improved.
For me, taking a photo of my painting and looking at it on my computer makes faults glaringly obvious. I don’t know why, but problems just show up more clearly on the computer. In addition, you can change it to a black and white picture and check the values. By taking a photo, looking at it on the computer, fixing whatever bothers me, and doing this several times, I can end up with an interesting series of photos of the evolution of a painting.

And now I can see something that still bothers me -- that added red blob on the left does not look right. Back to the drawing board (well, painting table).

Actually, a lot of it bothered me, so I changed it to this, a couple of days later: