Techniques and Tutorials

Acrylic Palette Knife Painting Tutorial – Scarlet Tanager

I’ve recently been doing some experimentation with palette knife painting, though for now my forte is mainly just birds! (I tried an octopus recently with disasterous results ūüėČ ). As someone who was previously very skeptical about palette knifing, I wanted to share how much fun it really is! As someone who is very sharp detail oriented with art, I was worried about not having the control that I can get with a pencil or brush. In the end, I found the expressive process of smearing and marbling colors with the knife incredibly calming and meditative. This is beginner level, so anyone can try it even if you have no painting experience. Give it a go and let me know what you think!

What do you think I should try to palette knife next?

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Techniques and Tutorials

Barn Owl Watercolor Tutorial

In light of social distancing precautions, we all are ending up with some unexpected downtime. It can certainly be discouraging and frustrating, but we can also use this time to our advantage to bring something positive out of a negative situation. I will be posting some simple tutorials on a regular basis over the next couple weeks. The best thing to do when things are uncertain is to occupy your mind, especially with something creative. Let’s have some fun!

To create this owl, you will need:

  • Watercolor paper (I used a 6×6″ piece, but you can work bigger if you’d like as well)
  • 3 Paint colors: Grey (or if using black add a lot more water to lighten it), Burnt Umber (or any dark brown), and Raw Sienna (or any bright, warm brown)
  • A large (I used size 8), medium (I used size 5), and detail (I used size 0) round brush (The brushes that come to a point at the end).
  • A medium size flat brush (The brushes with rectangular bristles, flat on the end).
  • A pencil
  • Optional: Black liner pen (Like a fine point Sharpie!)

Start with a light pencil outline made from basic shapes to guide your painting. Draw a circle for the head, a teardrop shape coming diagonally out from that circle for the body, and another smaller teardrop shape sticking out from the bottom center of the body for the tail feathers.

Using your large round brush, water down your raw sienna paint – you do not want this first layer too dark. Following the shape of the body keeping all your brushstrokes in the same direction flowing downward, fill in the wings, leaving the head and the chest white for now.

Using your detail brush, make some jagged up-and-down strokes with a watered down grey along the front of the chest, underneath the head, and along the back of the neck.

Rinse off your detail brush, and using the same brush strokes go over your grey you just added to the chest and neck with water. This will help blend the grey so your transition from grey to white is more gradual, and you end up with a soft, feathery look. Next, using your detail brush and watered down grey, outline a pointed “U” shape in the center of the face. Make some radial brush strokes sticking out from the top of the U where the eyes will be using your detail brush.

Still using your detail brush, add some radial strokes along the outside edge of the head, including one ray down the center from the top pointing to the beak. Add some grey to fill in the end of the beak. Rinse off your brush, and lightly brush over what you just added with a damp brush to blend it.

Continuing to use your detail brush, add a border around the head with raw sienna using short, radial strokes pointing inwards towards the face. Don’t forget the widow’s peak up top :)! Water down your raw sienna a bit more, and add some of this pale warm brown to the area where the eyes will be, using radial brush strokes again pointing outward from the top of the U shape.

Next, we are going to start adding texture to the feathers. Dip your medium round brush in some raw sienna with a little less water so the coverage is a bit darker than the base underneath. Stamp up and down over the entire area to create blots of color (This is called stippling.).

Do the same thing overtop while the raw sienna is still wet with the burnt umber on the top section of the wings. Add a bit of water to your umber first, but you still want it to be pretty dark.

Then, use your detail brush to create some thin outlines in burnt umber. Hold your brush at a 90 degree angle to your paper and use a light touch, hardly pressing down at all as you drag your brush to create thin lines. Create a darker outline around the inner edge of the raw sienna outline around the face. Outline the wing, and add some lines to the bottom section of the wing and tail feathers following the direction of the shape.

Still using your detail brush and burnt umber, make some groupings of short, vertical brush strokes to create striping in the wing and tail feathers in between the lines. Make them jagged and uneven for a more realistic feathery look.

Next, using your flat brush add some more water to your burnt umber. Using the width of your brush, drag a diagonal line underneath the owl starting at the bottom of the chest.

Go back to your detail brush, and grab some burnt umber with a little less water mixed in so you get a darker color. Add some short streaks of this darker shade over the post while it is still wet. Then, using the very tip of your brush, lightly add some speckled dots over the chest. Less is more! You still want to see mostly white.

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Now for the finishing touches! Use your detail brush to create a hooked shape with the burnt umber for the talon. Use your medium round brush to add a dark burnt umber feather shape visible from behind, between the tail feathers and the post. The last step is the eyes. Create a downward slanted football shape in the area we shaded for the eyes. You may use your detail brush to fill in the eye in grey or black, but you can also use a black liner pen for a little extra control. Be sure to leave a small circle open near the top of each eye for the reflection – This is what really makes your owl look alive!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial! If it didn’t come out exactly how you expected the first time, remember it just takes practice and the goal is experimenting and fun. No matter the outcome, you know more than before you started!

You don’t have to use natural colors for this project either. I think it would be fun to try a whimsical, fantasy owl in wild colors like purples, oranges, magenta, lime green … There are no rules! If you feel like sharing, post a picture in the comments of how yours turned out and as always, if you have questions don’t hesitate to ask! Stay safe everyone!

 

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Artists To Know, New Work

New Projects and Oddities

I feel like I’ve been sharing more class projects than studio projects lately, and wanted to update everyone on what I’ve been up to. I am still continuing to work on my series based on the symbolism of color, but have been trying to complete some smaller projects in between that are less about some complex visual metaphor and more focused on the interplay of pattern and things that I just plain find visually interesting. If I become to singularly focused on only one specific project I’ve found it makes me more susceptible to artist block, and I’ve also had a mentally and emotionally taxing last couple weeks that left me needing some of that creation therapy I’m always urging my students towards (nothing serious, never fear! This too shall pass and all that jazz…).

 

 

The amazing news is that all 3 of these projects from watercolor to mixed media to a doll repaint not only provided a bit of sunlight in my miniature storm, but also found good homes with art appreciators!

 

 

For a lot of my teens and early-mid 20s I felt like I didn’t have a cohesive aesthetic because I appreciate so many different types of visuals. Even when I get dressed in the morning, am I going to be goth, street style, barbie, androgynous, hippie, stepford wife, some odd hybrid of them all … It entirely depends on my mood for the day. I feel like in the last 5 years I’ve finally been able to marry my inspirations of nature and living things, the fashion world, vintage and antique, graphic patterns, and eerie elegance into a specific style without getting repetitive and monotonous.

Though I am not a very techy person and resisted bothering with both instagram and pinterest for longer than most, I have to admit I am now completely addicted to both for the constant stream of visual inspiration. To me though, at least looking at art and design on social media is a positive force, so long as you aren’t using it to compare yourself negatively to the journey of other creators! Today I wanted to share the current visuals I am feeling connected to right now. All are photography and fashion, which is an idea I feel like I try to bring into my drawings. I had a huge interest in pursuing photography for the longest time in college, but one can only focus on so much and eventually drawing won out! I also would have loved to go into fashion design but alas, I hate sewing machines!

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Creepy Kids by Ukrainian fashion artist Dina Lynnyk.

Lynnyk collaborated with photographer Roma Pashkovskiy to make this aptly titled series of disconcerting fashion collages happen. The mainly monochromatic yet still surprising color palettes, detail in the wardrobe and accessorizing, and the incorporation of wildlife in the form of winged friends in many of the images drew me into this project right away (I’ve long been a fan of matching birds to clothing). Also, the pale stares! It makes you stop, and it is undoubtedly creepy but there is still such an elegance to it, like these children are some evolved form we have just discovered.

97d1ee4d4d8547cb3083b34a19013a47Gareth Pugh Spring and Summer 2015 Collection.

Gareth Pugh is an English fashion designer, and though my favorite image was from his Spring collection a couple of years ago, the inclusion of all-absorbing optic-art geometric prints are just as present in his current Spring collection for 2019. Many of his models are obscured in some way or completely covered by the designs, demonstrating garments’ power to quite literally transform the wearer into something or someone completely new. His hard edged, high contrast designs when photographed almost look like an ink drawing or painting, making the model a living work of art.¬†

 

ab830156054015.5609a2c8de3fcElisa Lazo de Valdez, French Postcards Photography.

Elisa Lazo de Valdez is a portrait photographer who specializes in surreal, dreamlike, fairy-tale images. Many of her costumes, makeup, and props are detailed and elaborate. Though it was these images that drew me to her work in the first place, I was struck by how simple this incredibly creative photograph was as far as decoration, yet the strong impact that results. I’ve been including butterflies in a lot of my new art since Spring began, which is probably another reason why this particular piece attracted me.

 

9b514eda1ec08bca74b6f8bfb9466475Matières Fécales.

I saved the most out-there for last. Montreal-based couple Hannah Rose Dalton and Steven Raj Bhaskaran make up the design duo whose name translates in English to, well, Fecal Matter. Everything sounds more elegant in French …¬† The couple are their art, appearing in public with no hair or eyebrows and alien-like makeup on the regular. Their designs are futuristic and slightly painful looking, but then there are nods to Victorian fashion at times, and every so often surprising botanical motifs will show up like in this favorite image of mine. Of their name, the couple says it is a comment on the relationship humans have with material possessions, their disposable nature. They also claim the unpleasant brand name forces the buyer to purchase one of their garments because they actually like it, not because they just want to own or advertise a certain name-brand. To me, some of their work seems like it’s more focused on shock value than creating art, but nevertheless there have been creations of theirs that have intrigued and inspired me, and that is no small thing.

Be sure to check out my Pinterest if you want to see more curated images of bizarre fashion and surreal portraits, as well as some really killer pescatarian recipes ;).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Art Education, Project Ideas

Monet – Creative Minds Art History Project

Since I’d been covering a lot of modern day artists lately with my Creative Minds class like Betsy Youngquist and Elizabeth Jameson, I wanted to start the new semester with another visit to the past with one of the founders of Impressionism, Claude Monet.

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Though he used oil paints, we stuck to a mix of acrylic and oil pastel to avoid the mess and because these materials are easier for beginning artists. In order to … Well, I don’t want to say “force” but yes, force ;), the students to try painting in more of an impressionist style rather I had them use circular foam brushes to apply paint rather than the traditional bristled brushes. They were shown how to quickly pound up and down with the foam brush to create the texture of foliage, how to lay it on its side and drag it across the surface to create short or long streaks, and how to simply use it as a stamp to create circular shapes. However, the favorite technique was double or triple loading their brush with different bright and dark colors and experimenting with how easily they could create the impression of light and natural blending with a simple stroke of their foam brush. Students that struggle with fine motor skills ended up preferring the foam brushes to using a regular paint brush.We looked up photos of local natural areas to use as inspiration for our paintings, and students then moved forward to create an “impression” of what they saw and how it made them feel. Some used natural colors, others, like some of Monet’s own work, either exaggerated the boldness of the colors or used different colors entirely.

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Monet used a lot of bridges in his artwork, so many of the students chose scenes with bridges for their inspiration. We used oil pastels to draw the bridge over our scene at the end. Success!

 

This is another project that is great for all ages and abilities. Those with more advanced art skill can always add more detail, and working with creating the idea of a scene rather than trying to create an exact copy of an inspiration photo takes a lot of the pressure off and allows students to just enjoy playing with paint and experimenting with a new art style. Don’t be afraid to go try it for yourself! Happy creating :).

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New Work

New Work Inspired By Spring (and Stress)

I’ve taken a short break from my new series to work on a stand alone project for a competition coming up. I always have a couple sketchbooks going filled with any ideas for art projects that I’ve thought up over the past 10+ years, some I’ve gotten to and some I haven’t. I think it’s the fact that I live in Michigan and the winter has been never ending that made me want to work on something inspired by plants, insects, and basically signs of life. When I began this project, I had also been having a bit of a rough patch emotionally with some minor life trials, nothing vast on their own but when all occurring at the same time… yikes. I had done a watercolor sketch way back in 2008 of a crying woman with ladybugs crawling our of her eyes, but it ended up looking way too gross which took away from the original intent. Another¬†previous piece¬†(Seriously, check it out if you haven’t already – it has a fun story.) from more recently incorporating butterfly designs into the human form had been well received when showed at a curated exhibit and to my surprise actually ended up selling right away. With this in the back of my mind, I decided torn butterfly wings were the perfect vehicle for melancholia – not so creepy crawly.

From this creative soup came my newest piece, Torn, on 18×24 mixed media paper.

torn

One of the biggest challenges with this piece was maintaining a balance of light and dark and achieving the bold contrast I knew I wanted without the figure looking disjointed. The white outlined pattern taken from both the background’s ginkgo leaves and butterfly designs layered overtop the black watercolor drip of her torso helped to blend the dark areas into the light and remove some of the heaviness. I included pieces of stark black scattered throughout the piece to balance everything out, from the hair and parts of the wings to the thin branches in the background.

butterfly shirtAn additional challenge Рmy two loves are watercolor and colored pencil, and I especially love to utilize these two vastly different mediums together. What paper to use, though? Colored pencils just cannot blend on watercolor paper with the strongly textured, bumpy surface so I tend to opt for mixed media paper when using wet and dry mediums together. However, watercolor does not  act the same way on mixed media paper as on traditional watercolor paper. Doing wet-on-wet color application leads to some really blotchy, unpleasant results so I had to be patient and do a lot more light layering to build up to the look I wanted.

All in all, I am happy with the result and enjoyed turning one of my concepts in idea purgatory into a reality :). Prints of all types are available in both my Redbubble Shop and Ebay Store.

 

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Gifting, New Work

One More Series Reveal + More On Redbubble!

december she is connected to everything

Say hello to December – She Is Connected To Everything. What can I say, I’ve been on a roll lately. I don’t think I’ve ever finished so many different pieces 2 days at a time in my life … Granted, I haven’t been doing much of anything else in my free time, as the pile of dishes in the sink will tell onlookers ;). Though all the pieces in my current series I’ve been working on¬†are similar in style and use of medium, I wanted to keep them different enough that each could stand alone as well. I went a lot softer and less graphic, high contrast¬†with this piece. I even used some leftover dried moss I had purchased for a¬†felt floral arrangement commission earlier this year in the girl’s woodland crown. There is something I never thought in a million years I’d ever use in one of my drawings!

rbpromounlimited

I have been getting all my series posted to my Redbubble Shop as well, available for print on a variety of gorgeous items. My series also finally has a name … Unlimited. Each individual piece has it’s own title and the works¬†cover a variety of different themes, so coming up with one title to encompass the whole was a struggle. At it’s heart though, this series is about the best of humanity, and about the¬†strength, curiosity, compassion, and vibrancy of women across time, nationality, and ability. It is about the common ground that unites us, and when people come together, they truly become unlimited.

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Artists To Know

Artists To Know! Installment 6

Susan Saladino

In her bio on her webpage, Susan Saladino states that her work revolves around her belief that “we as humans have a kinship with all life”. In her series of sculptural figures, the series that first hooked me onto her work, they are made using materials from nature, and are often blindfolded. To Saladino, the blindfolds symbolizes humanity’s turning away from realities they find uncomfortable and would rather not face. She believes that the blindfolds must be removed to make the required changes, and that change must occur, especially as it comes to environmental conservation and animal cruelty. I am completely enamored with tree forms, which is why this series featuring the gowns made of branches caught my eye. This blindfolded woman looking up and away from the red bird she cradles could symbolize a variety of different things to different people, but to me, knowing the artist’s symbolic intent further increases my appreciation for her detailed and ethereal work.

Willy Verginer

Willy Verginer resides in Ortisei, Italy. He has been exhibiting his characteristic sculptures since the early 1990s. His exquisite figures carved out of lime tree wood are earmarked by solid color blocking against pale ivory, often with surreal touches. His sculptures interact, but their eyes never truly meet, and they can often be found with things growing from their hands, objects balanced on or connected to their bodies, or cut off at the torso or limbs and sinking into the floor as if it were made of liquid. The series the sculpture shown above is from is titled “a fior di pelle”, meaning “to flower of skin”. It is meant to describe hypersensitivity and to express the fragility of the youth and the ability to dream. Moving, calm, and eerily realistic, I would love to see some of his work in person someday.

Nicole West

I discovered this artist on pinterest, at first thinking her work was some really unique alternative fashion photography, and later learning oh my gosh, those aren’t photographs of real people but SCULPTURES! Is your mind as blown as mine was? Her gorgeous fantasy sculptures are made using polymer clay, and the perfect understanding of human form is apparent if you observe the perfected muscle tone down to the slight undulating in and out of the shape of the arm and the tiny indent in the elbow in the second photo above. As if the sculpting wasn’t amazing enough, each figure is adorned in luscious, detailed costuming including unique decorative jewelry and beyond fabulous hairstyles. Each has a dewy glow, so that it radiates human warmth and you’d be shocked to touch one and find it hard clay rather than soft, velvety skin.

Christina Robinson

I found Christina Robinson on etsy and was instantly intrigued by her whimsical, stylized figures that have a fun children’s book style cartoonishness to them but with a Tim Burton kind of twist. Really, no direct comparisons can be made though, because Robinson’s style is all her own. She paints as well, using the same playful colors and prominent faces with rather neutral expressiosn that still manage to say so much. Her bold, expressive style is certainly memorable.

Christy Kane

I don’t remember how I first discovered Christy Kane, but it was sometime in late high school. I remember ordering her short story book, a play on children’s morality tales including detailed photographs of her dolls posed to enact the sordid turn of events. Shortly thereafter, this short film came out.

Her dolls make up the true island of misfit toys. I love how they are not meant to be conventionally perfect and beautiful and everything you normally think of when you think of dolls, and I love the attention that is paid to each doll’s individual “story”. Each of them has a life, memories, experiences, likes and dislikes. That is truly giving your art life.

Kirsten Stingle

I discovered Kirsten Stingle on pinterest also. Her sculptures are primarily porcelain, and she uses a straight pin to detail the tiny faces, hands, and feet. Stingle is focused on storytelling, and believes our stories are what connects us to one another and explains who we are. She aims to combat isolation by presenting stories common to the human experience. This is something I value as well, and aim to do with my own work, so I really connect to her concept. I know I can relate to her figures struggling towards figuring out an arch for their life and forming their own identity; I suspect we all can.

I was left completely in awe of these artists. After a failed foray into paper mache in a summer art class (My “princess” turning out none to regal…), followed by a lumpy, bubbled copper ice skater I churned out for a project in junior high (I got a B on it! The calamity! Yes, I was one of those kids, but only in art class ;)) , I kind of shied away from sculpture. Forced to revisit it in college, I thought it would be amusing to share some of my projects of the 3-dimensional variety.

Miniature of the Library of Celcus in Ephesus. I thought it would be fun because I love books ... KILL ME NOW!

Miniature of the Library of Celcus in Ephesus. I thought it would be fun because I love books … KILL ME NOW!

We were supposed to make an abstract sculpture out of these little blob guys (balloons filled with plaster) that portrayed a tension between beauty and repulsion. I called this "Sisters". Alternate title, "A Very Angry Drag Queen" (note the feathers and nails).

We were supposed to make an abstract sculpture out of these little blob guys (balloons filled with plaster) that portrayed a tension between beauty and repulsion. I called this “Sisters”. Alternate title, “A Very Angry Drag Queen” (note the feathers and nails).

Just remember guys, nobody’s perfect ;). Keep working at your art and trying new things and you will find your niche. Don’t let fear of failure stop you from experimenting, taking new classes, learning new things … Many of our projects will not be successes but hell, at least you can have a good laugh about it later, right?

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New Work

New Piece Finished – “The Idealist”

“The Idealist” 18×24 Watercolor and Ink

The great thing about teaching art is that as I am demonstrating techniques with my students, I myself have periodic “Aha!
moments where I think of something that I just have to try in one of my own projects at home. I’ve been doing a lot of watercolor classes with all different ages lately, and really wanted to incorporate “wet on wet” watercolor application that allows for a free-flowing merging of colors in which the materials almost have a mind of their own. I tend to work more “exact” for the most part with every little bit planned out before I begin. I still didn’t want to have to lose the attention to tiny details that is something that is really fun for me in art. I’d been doing a lot of pieces lately that were inspired by concepts, and wanted this time to start by being inspired by color, plain and simple. I love drawing birds, and have become quite a pro at quick-sketching them because many of my Express Yourself Artshop students (a program for adult artists with disabilities that I work with) in my painting classes are very attracted to birds as a subject matter, but need some help with the pencil outline to guide their work. I set to work collecting images of colorful birds of all types. They almost look dressed up, don’t they? For this new series, I’m incorporating interesting birds and their natural environment with fashion and costumes inspired by the birds’ colors and forms. I did the detail work in the birds themselves and the branches with prismacolor markers, a new obsession of mine. Where have you been all my life? Yes, they are pricey, but well worth the investment. With art supplies, I have to say it really rings true that you get what you pay for.

The bird that inspired this piece is the Paradise Tanager. I have a bunch more bird/dress pairings saved in a folder on my desktop and am antsy to start with some of those (I’m saving my favorites for last), but I have some commissions to get to first so it may be awhile.

As always, prints are available in ACEO size, 8×10, and 11×14 in my Ebay Shop, and I’ve also uploaded it to Redbubble for T-shirts, stickers, phone cases, and more! Let me know what you think :).


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Travel

Revisiting Photography

In the last post I introduced you to some inspiring photographers with intricate, fantasy based, mind-bending designs. Little known to many, I myself enjoy photography as well. Photography is certainly more of a hobby for me than something I was ever interested in pursuing professionally. I mostly use it as a relaxing exercise for stress control :). I have not actively gone out to take photos in quite a few months now. Between working on my own pieces, working on commissions, teaching, and crafting accessories and plush toys I’ve had to pick and choose which creative pursuits to focus my time on to avoid the whole “jack of all trades, master of none” trap. When I do get out with my camera, my favorite things to photograph are street art, graveyards, and nature (though I’m not too into flowers, unless they are ridiculously colorful). Most of my street art photos are from when I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Europe with my family back in 2008. “Street art” in Midland, MI where I grew up is rather uninspired … mainly consisting of F-bombs and anarchy symbols, the actual political meaning of which is probably lost on the perpetrators anyway, sloppily scrawled in red spray paint. For some reason, it is always red, and any additional words are usually misspelled.

I was going through my photo storage drive last night, and realized that though I’ve taken a lot of photos over the last 7-ish years, I’ve never really done anything with them. I enjoyed the journey of traveling to a new place, or hiking in a wood nearby to town, dumped my camera card, and then just kind of left the images sitting there in limbo. I decided it wouldn’t take too long to put them to good use, and began uploading them to my Zazzle and Redbubble shops. If I’m going to enter a piece into a gallery or a juried exhibit, it is always going to be a drawing or painting rather than a photo print because that is where I want to focus myself and that is what I am known for, but where my watercolor paintings or pencil drawings are softer and more flowing, the bold colors and sharp graphics of a digital photo really bring a nice look to a T-shirt, skirt (I am absolutely in love with how the rose one shown below turned out!), tote bag, or phone case. I will be continuously adding more products and different photographic images over this next week (I do have 7+ years worth to sort through :)) including cards and stickers. With the nice weather, maybe on my next day off I’ll even dust off my camera and go for a good hike, see what catches my eye.

Macro Magenta and Yellow Rose Zazzle

Macro Magenta and Yellow Rose Zazzle

Diner Girls Street Art Redbubble

Diner Girls Street Art Redbubble

Pisa Notebook Journal Zazzle

Pisa Notebook Journal Zazzle

Silent Angel IPad Case Redbubble

Silent Angel IPad Case Redbubble

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