Saturday, December 12, 2015

Snow Fence at Bluewater Beach

This is another quick one, based again on the pictures that I took at Bluewater Beach last week.

Acrylic on 8x10 gallery canvas
While I do say this was a quick one -- it took me about an hour and a half to two hours to complete -- it was a bit of a challenge, in that I based it on a photograph that I had not only taken, but also applied an Instagram filter to (see here) so I was not only capture the scene, but work the vignette into the image as well.

I'm finding I really enjoy working with the soft body acrylics on smaller pieces, even if my palette is limited with that particular medium (although I seem to do well with the starter set).  They seem to work better with glazing medium and retarder.   To keep the colours really pale and almost watercolour-like, I used a shit-load of glazing medium. 

I have a piss-poor quality house-painting brush that I got from the dollar store for reasons that escape me, and it turns out it is really good for dry-brush blending (if that's a thing).  It's what I used for the vignette in the sky and gave the darker blues a nice, kind of feathered appearance.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

It Was Unseasonably Warm for December.

It's been a lovely few days, these last few ones. You'd hardly think this was December in Central Ontario, what with the temperatures sitting between 5 and 10 degrees celcius.

Yesterday was a balmy 7 degrees, so the Well-Travelled One and I took a drive out to Bluewater Beach and went for a walk along the boardwalk as the sun began to set.

The sky was an ethereal haze, with no discernable horizon, just a orange/blue gradient.  I snapped a few pictures with my phone, hoping I could catch even a fraction of the atmosphere.

Surprisingly enough, I was able to snap a few decent shots of the shoreline, and later that night I chose one of them and within about 2 hours I had come up with this:

10 x 8 Acrylic on Masonite
I'm pretty stoked about it, to be honest. Getting sun to look right was kind of aggravating, and when I started adding rocks I was worried that I just completely blew it, because at first they refused to look like anything except flat blobs of the wrong-color of paint floating in space.  Once I started adding some highlights and shadows they looked more like the clusters of rocks that they were meant to be.

My favorite part is the bottom left-hand corner, where the orange of the sand blends into the blue of the water where the wave is supposed to be pulling away.

I did this using Liquitex soft body acrylics and a fair amount of glaze and retarder to blend the colors.  I used a primed Masonite board as my support, which I sometimes find easier to use than canvas when I want smoother looking colours.

Desert Sunset - (Video)

I found out a while ago that my iPad has a time-lapse video option, thanks to a recent upgrade. I figured this might be fun for creating videos showing my painting process.

I made a first attempt at this a few months ago when I was painting this piece, but the result was very haphazard, as my daughter, who was manning the iPad, kept moving it around while I kept picking up the small canvas board and putting it down again.

This time I set the iPad up on another easel and aimed it towards my working easel and set to it.


My final result is here:

8 x 10 acrylic on Masonite.
 I went back the day after and added some red and orange glazes to bring out the colours around the sun a bit, but basically this was just a fun exercise.  I caught up on my works-in-progress last week, so I wanted to keep in the habit of painting even if I didn't have any ambitious projects in the works.

Indestructible

The other night I decided to try working with some watercolours.

10 x 12 (ish) watercolor on paper

I do not like watercolour.

I like how it looks in the hands of someone who knows how to work with it, but as a medium, I do not like it.  Acrylic is much more forgiving and requires less planning.

This is an image based on the song "Indestructible" by the Matthew Good Band.  The original idea was going to incorporate a lot of destroyed vehicles and police lights (hence the vaguely purplish background.. red, blue, night-time scene, etc), but drawing cars is bad enough, let alone trying to draw damaged cars.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bruce County Farm House

My friend Krystle lives in an amazing old 19th century farmhouse. I am completely enamoured of it. The last time I was out there I took some pictures because I was bound and determined I was going to paint this place.

The day I took the pictures was gorgeous spring day.

Acrylic 12x12 gallery canvas

I don't have a lot to say about this painting, except that I am so, so very happy with the final result, especially since I stepped away from it for a few months and for a while it looked like I wasn't going to finished.  I had screwed up on perspective, and couldn't seem to get the color of the bricks and the grass looked like astroturf and et cetera, et cetera.

So I put it aside for a while as I finished other project, and this week came back to it with a vengeance. I think I've spent about 6-7 hours total on this piece and every minute of it was worth it.

Fun technical tidbit:

I don't have a scanner, so I have to use a camera to take these pictures.  I don't have a good set-up so I have to try really hard to face the image dead-on.  This doesn't always work and I end up cropping out bits of the corner that didn't fit right into a square or rectangle.  I've found a tool in Digikam that will let me slightly alter the perspective without too much distortion in the image, so I can make it a perfect, all-90-degree angle square or rectangle before cropping.

Fun other stuff:

I've started my page at DeviantArt back up again so if you're interested in buying prints or just adding me to your watch list, please feel free. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Police and The Private - Redux

The other night I found myself with the urge to paint, but not really wanting to get into anything too involved. I have one current work in progress that I could have worked on, but frankly, right now it's intimidating the hell out of me, so I decided to revisit a piece that I had done years ago, but never really liked.

It's a piece that was inspired by Metric's "The Police and The Private" which, in my interpretation, is the story of a woman caught up in some sort of prostitution and/or smuggling ring, in an attempt to provide for her estranged child.

That's just my interpretation.

I always envisioned the train that the protagonist waits for as a subway train, rather than the more traditional type train.  I wanted to make a station that's kind of dirty and gritty.  I left the station name cut off so it was somewhat ambigious in its locale; that is, it could be Queens, NY, or it could be Queen's Park in Toronto.

(Does Queens, NY have a subway station?)



The canvas this was done on is probably the cheapest of the cheap dollar-store canvases, and I may have gone the lazy route and not actually primed the canvas before I began painting it.  I also may or may not have still been using student grade (and possibly even Crafter's) acrylics, so the coverage was not at all smooth, and left everything looking pretty shabby.

My main goal when I decided to give this piece another shot was to make the colors and detail sharper, and the woman in the foreground more person-looking and less amorphous-blob looking.


I did not, however, intend for her legs to look like she's trying real hard not to pee herself.  Which I'm not happy with. I am, however, happy that our protagonist now has a face.  So, that's something. I added some extra shading, and a back to the bench in the foreground.

I also moved the lettering on the back wall up further.  In a happy accident, I didn't quite cover the old lettering, which actually gives the impression that the paint on the actual wall may have been re-painted at some point.

Overall, I'm still not super-impressed with this piece, but I do think it's a massive improvement over my original.

Fatty Floats

I came to the realization this summer that I am ridiculously buoyant. It could be a result of the extra 65ish lbs that I carry around, but suffice it to say, when we went on a cruise a couple of weeks ago, I knew that if the boat sank, I was in no danger of drowning.  I might have died of exposure or got eaten by sharks, but I definitely wasn't going to drown, because in total honesty, I can probably float for days, with little to no effort.

During the summer my family and I would go swimming at a nearby beach.  Most days the water there is clear enough that you can see 10+ feet down, and while some days can bring huge waves, this day the water was almost as still as glass.

I laid back and closed my eyes and for several minutes, just floated. It had been about 10-15 minutes when I heard splashing nearby.  Figuring it was the boyfriend, I chuckled "I hear you....!".  Between gasps and the occasional sputter came the response, "Really? Do you? Because you sure didn't hear me when I was yelling your name to come back to shore!"

Opening my eyes, I realized I was about a quarter of a kilometre down the beach and a couple hundred feet out further than I had started.  Despite the stillness of the water, there was still enough of a current that I had figured that I would be pushed towards shore.

I was wrong.

The gentleman friend had called my name numerous times and finally swam out to let me know I was floating toward the opposite shore.

Acrylic on 8x10 wood panel

Anyway.

This is a self-portrait of sorts, but mostly I wanted to capture the calmness of floating on still water.  I used a lot of glazing in order to give the impression of being just slightly submerged in water.  My least favourite parts were the arms, which I feel a just a bit too long.  I'm happy with the bathing suit, I was trying to give a shiny, reflective, wet look.  I also like the shading on the thighs and the one leg that is completely submerged.

I did a bit too much hair. I found this the hardest part, making the hair stream out just the right way.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Streetlight in Winter - or - Hasn't Hit Me Yet

As you may have already guessed, I get a lot of inspiration from songs and books.  In a lot of cases, I just name the piece after the song that inspired the piece.

At other times, the song title and the subject matter are so far removed from each other that they become a non sequitor.  So, that being said, this piece, which was inspired by a couple of lines from Blue Rodeo's mid-90's classic "Hasn't Hit Me Yet" (seriously, go listen. This damn song gets me every time),is mostly untitled, since I felt like without the actual context of the lyrics, the title made no sense with regard to the subject matter.

So for now, I'll just call it as it is. 

Acrylic on 3x12 canvas
I did toy with the idea of calling it "Harbinger of Things to Come" since it is November here and we're just starting to get our first bit of snow (ugh).

I used mostly fluid acrylics in whites, blacks, and grey's over a yellow underpainting, as I was trying to catch the idea of that orangey-yellow that you get from sodium lights.  There was a bit of a struggle with the yellow reflection on the snow, as at first it just looked like the place had been visited by a large dog with a severe urination problem.

I used a paint-spattering method for the snowflakes, and broke then handle on one of my brushes in the process.  I also went over some of the finer details with a heavier-bodied acrylic.  Overall, I'm not unhappy with the final piece, although I was hoping to achieve a more directly over-head perspective, which didn't happen.  I do like the character in the centre of the image, the highlights in his hair and the shadow stretched out before him.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Tallahassee: First Few Desperate Hours (also, some updates).

When I listen to "First Few Desperate Hours" the second track on the Mountain Goats' Tallahassee, the impression I get is that it's moving day for the album's Alpha Couple, and things are going all kinds of wrong.

I relate to this album in that I live in a place that has become a bit of a money pit.  The day I got the keys, I looked around my newfound abode and collapsed onto the basement stairs and proceeded to bawl my eyes out in absolute "What-the-actual-fuck-have-gotten-myself-into?" terror.

To me, the 'Few Few Desperate Hours' of the title relates to the little things that can go wrong, and the abject fear of making a major, life-changing investment. The feeling of seeing little things you'd not noticed in the excitement of finding a place to call home, until the day it becomes real and it's all yours, warts and all.

For this piece, I wanted that kind of feeling, of sitting there, with all your shit in a pile on the porch, maybe some things got broken, others got lost.

Acrylic 12x20
In my original sketches for this piece, I had intended to have "Hopes" and "Dreams" inscribed on the boxes in marker, like someone would label "Books" or "Bedroom Stuff" but when I tried it on the painted version, it looked silly.

For technical stuff, I don't really have much to say here, except that I love painting wood.  Also, getting the shadow from the one porch beam to line up properly was a challenge.  Glazing is great for shadows, I find.

My favourite part here is actually one of the tiniest details: the little wee broken nail in the centre board of the porch.  That's my favourite.

I still aim to make this a full collection. You can see the other pieces here and here.

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In other news, Colectomy Scar is up at the Quest Art Gallery for another three-ish weeks, then comes down on November 16.

Here's me looking a little demented at opening night:

Got my crazy-eyes on, apparently.
Also, I have the honour of being a contributor in the next edition of Dirty Chai which, according to their website, was slated to go out today. My recent piece "Fatty Wants to Dance" is being featured. However, their editor, who is super-cool, is also a super-busy mom and I don't actually know how much of the heavy lifting she does on her own.  I'll post a link once the new issue goes live.  

'Tis all for now.  I've got my work space back so hopefully I'll be a little more productive over the next while, between Halloween, vacations, and other day-to-day stuff.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Self-Portrait in Red and Purple

Hey y'all.

Haven't been painting much because we've been... well.. painting. The house, that is.  After three years we've finally gotten rid of the 'Rental Property Beige' and have adorned the main floor with rooms of oranges, yellows, and greens.  It's all very warm and inviting and makes the place feel like less of a run-down mess.

If it can't be structurally sound, at least it can be pretty.

So that has been taking up a lot of time, energy, and space.  My art space is currently occupied, but I managed to bang this out last week, mostly for the sake of practice, and working with light and dark tones.

Acrylic on 8x8 hard board
I started off entirely in red, and added the purple to darken a few areas.  I'm happy with the nose and mouth here.  Noses and mouths are problem areas for me.. so many noses end up either looking like Voldemort (all nostril, no definition) or like a big hook or triangle.  The teeth here actually look pretty close to mine.. I have an overbite, but when in a resting state the teeth don't actually protrude past my bottom lip.  Usually attempts at teeth end up looking like the subject is snarling or grimacing, and that doesn't seem to be happening here.

Not entirely happy with the eyes, as they are rather huge, but I do like that I was able to make the glasses look like they are sitting naturally.  I tend to fit glasses within the limits of the face exactly, where in real life, frames usually stick out a bit, unless you're looking at someone dead on.

Hoping to have more works to share soon.  I have a couple on the go; another "Fatty" piece, and an addition to what I hope will become a complete Tallahassee collection.

I've also purchased some inexpensive watercolour paper in hopes of playing around with that as well.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Red Dress and Product Review

Generally, when painting, I tend to work with heavy body acrylics (usually Liquitex or Golden Acrylics. After watching some tutorial videos and reading some blogs, I've been interested in trying out something in a soft body with a higher flow, but the thought of building a new palette of colours in a different variant of paint was kind of off-putting, seeing as starter sets are usually prices in the 40-50 dollar range, and buying individual colours to create a basic palette was even more prohibitive.

That being said, when I found myself with a bit of birthday money last month, I decided to treat myself and picked up the Classic Professional Soft Body Acrylic Paint Set from Liquitex which comes with 8 basic colours in two-ounce jars.  The set is currently listed at almost 60 bucks (and also out-of-stock) on the Liquitex website. I don't know if that is USD or Canadian dollars, but I do know that I was able to pick the same set up from the Curry's at the Pacific Mall in Markham for about $35CAD, tax in.

The set includes the following colours:
  • Titanium White
  • Ivory Black
  • Napthol Crimson
  • Dioxazine Purple
  • Emerald Green
  • Cadmium Orange Hue
  • Phthaloyanine Blue (Green Shade)

Here's my first attempt working with this set:

Acrylic on 6" x 8" canvas board
The technical stuff:

First off, I've come to the conclusion that I don't particularly like working on canvas boards. I bought a few small ones during my birthday shopping spree for doing quick one-offs and practice bits, but there's something about them I find hard to work with.

Since my goal was to get sort of used to working with the lower viscosity paints, I was limited in my palette.  Let's put it this way: I have about 30 different colors in the heavy body, so working with just 8 colours meant I'd have to do more mixing.  Or not, because although I don't know if it was the type of paints or just the colours chosen, I really liked the more vivid colours in the end (although I did have to do some mixing for skin tones and shading).

What I wasn't prepared for was how messy the soft body paints are. This shouldn't be surprising, I guess, since they are a lot more runny than I am used to.  I was a complete mess just by the time I even got them open and got the little tab-things off each bottle.  A mess, I tell you.

I had to do a lot of layering and blending before kind of got the hang of A) what I wanted the paint to do and B) getting it to actually do what I wanted.

The fun stuff: 

This piece is kind of a quick-and-dirty, but in two parts. I was mostly just screwing around the first session, which took about an hour, and I wasn't wholly satisfied with what came out of it.  I sat down again last night and played around a bit and got this kind of classic cartoon look going.

I really enjoy the ambiguity in this picture. It's not obvious if this is a grown, but petite, woman or a little girl. The dress itself is something you might see on either. Her stance also doesn't make it entirely clear if she is walking, dancing, or gearing for a fight (as the wide stance and the clenched fist might indicate).

She looks defiant. I kind of like that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Better To Eat You With

I don't have much to say about this piece.  Screwing around with Instagram turned into screwing around and painting for painting's sake (which is not a bad thing, by far).

6x6 Acrylic on masonite board

Basically, this was a one-off whose purpose was to allow me to practice painting mouths and even moreso, teeth, which can be a pain to draw and paint.

I have a love-hate relationship with my teeth, due to an overbite caused by an underdeveloped jaw, and over the years I have taken a page from Shelley Winters' biography and learned to smile with a lightly-opened mouth in order to slightly disguise the overbite.

I don't know why I just told you that.

Technical Stuff

I did this on masonite hardboard, and I'm really not sure how I feel about hardboard yet.  I find it doesn't have the same tooth as canvas so it can be difficult to get a solid, non-streaky color (as I found in previous works).

Overall, though, I like the pop art feel here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Triptych - Fatty Wants to Dance

Okay, okay.. now before anyone goes off on the title, be assured, it's just a little tongue-in-cheek song reference to the Hawksley Workman song of the same name.  I originally intended to title this 'Dancing with Myself' in keeping with my love of stealing song titles for artwork, but considering the subject matter, which is a kind of pseudo-self-portrait (preliminary sketches, included below, were much more obviously self-reverential, where the final product ended up being more generic) and I am, realistically and in terms of neutral descriptors, a fat woman, and I didn't want to shy away from that fact.

My aim with this set was two fold:

1) Get some practice in drawing bodies, especially bodies in motion

2) Present a portrait of a subject that is feeling comfortable in her body, and experiencing joy at its movement.

The personal is political, as they say.  So this piece is pretty near and dear to me, and I had a lot of fun creating it.

Here is the complete set:

Set of 3 - 6x12 inch canvas
My favorite panel by far is the middle panel, with the yellow background:


In my humble opinion, the composition here is really good. I'm happy with the way the subject fills the frame.  I love the facial expression, it's kind of blissful.  The left knee turned out rather well.

My only complaints on this one are that the right hand is disproportionately small (but man, I was SOOO dang happy with the left hand - the one raised up in the air), and the left leg seems slightly out of joint.  But overall, my fave.

On the other end of the spectrum, I could be happier with the first panel:


Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of things I like here.. subject's boobs turned out well, as did the legs.  The belly ain't bad either.  But the hands are weird and the composition is really off.. The subject is floating, when compared to the other two panels.  There's some minor proportion problems here and there.  I don't think it's by any means terrible, but just some room for improvement.  Also, the colored grounds I created by mixing Gesso with some acrylic paint, and I think the shade of blue I used (cobalt blue hue, if I recall) had too much transparency.  It doesn't have the same boldness as the yellow and pink.

Oh, and out of curiosity, this panel is supposed to be some iteration of 'the twist'.

Lastly, the 'back' panel:


Better composition this time, even if one foot is cut off. Trying to do a back like mine, without actually being able to see it, was challenging, to say the least.  This time, I'll just cover the few things I could improve (hair looks kind of stiff, and hands look weird and small.. I was going for depth of field, but didn't quite get it.. the visible foot is disproportionately small, but after trying to fix that foot about FIFTY THOUSAND TIMES, untill I got it to where it didn't look like her ankle was broken, I decided I'd take it.)

Things I like?  MY DAMN CELLULITE.  HAVE YOU EVER SEEN CELLULITE LOOK THAT DAMN AWESOME?  NO SIR, YOU HAVEN'T.

I'm still unreasonably excited about how the back of the thighs turned out, and the little bit of visible butt-cheek.  I also enjoy the hell out of the right calf, and how the muscle is fairly visible.  Hooray for shading!

One note about this project:  SO MANY HANDS AND FEET.  Hands and feet have, as I have mentioned before, are my kryptonite.  I feel like I'm slowly getting the hang of it.

This is also going to be my first time building a custom frame for this piece (pieces?).  I will post a follow-up to let y'all know how that goes.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rugged Road - Use At Own Risk

The guy I share my home and heart with, he and I like to go exploring. We operate under a belief that deep down, most 'No Exit' signs are mere suggestions. We will take long afternoons driving around and testing the limits of my beloved PT Cruiser aka'd as "Petey".  Over the last four years, Petey has been subject to a fair amount of abuse.

It has always been fun to see hikers, as well as ATV drivers, Jeep drivers and others staring slack-jawed as I maneouver Peter down dirt paths barely wider than the car itself, over rocks and across streams.

One day, somewhere outside Collingwood, we took a turn down an interesting-looking dirt road and pulled over next to a sign that was all but obliterated from view by half-metre high grass, which read "Rugged Road, Use At Own Risk."

Acrylic on 20x16 canvas
We had quite the laugh over it, as it was most definitely one of those "Well, DUH," moments.

This is a recreation of a picture I snapped with cell phone, which turned out to be one of the best cell phone pictures I've ever taken.  I wish the painting had turned out as good, but while I have a few regrets (such as covering up too much of the sign with grass) there are a lot of aspects I do like, such as being able to capture some depth of field (ahaha, see what I did there? Depth of field.  Because it's a field).

I got some help with the lettering on the sign from my friend Nic, who created me a lovely stencil, even incorporating the angle of the sign into the lettering to give some perspective.  Check out his music, because it's great, or if you're into gaming, checking out his game site.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Girls at Bruce Caves [UPDATED]

My dear, sweet grandmother (on my mother's side, as opposed to my dear, sweet grandmother on my father's side) is turning 83 in a couple of weeks.

Back when I first took up painting, Nanny asked me to paint her a picture of my girls to hang in her house.  And, like any good granddaughter, it only took me about 6 years to actually get around to it.

Acrylic 20x20 canvas
It was quite the undertaking and took me about six months to complete.

The original photo was taken on a trip to Tobermory, Ontario (By the way, go there, it's lovely) when we stopped for a hike at the Bruce Caves just outside of Wiarton, home of Wiarton Willie, groundhog meteorologist extraordinaire.

The Well-Travelled One had lifted the girls up into this wee little opening in one of the cave walls. I was actually standing about 5-6 feet below them when the original photo was taken.

I blocked in the outline of the girls and did most of the rock in the background first.  It took a lot of texturing and glazing to get the depth I wanted.

I had a difficult time with the contrast of the opening in the background, but I'm rather happy with how it turned out.

This has definitely been the most challenging piece I've done, mainly for one reason:

HANDS.

There are SO MANY HANDS in this picture.  Normally, I get around hands by rendering them as, amorphous, vaguely hand-shaped blobs.  But because the hands in this picture are within the main focal point, I tried really hard to make them actually look like hands and not amorphous, vaguely hand-shaped blobs.  The hardest one was Reagan's (brown hair) left hand, the one laying on the rock in the foreground.  For the longest time it insisted on looking like a spindly, demented spider.  Although it's still a little disproportioned, it looks like a hand, kind of.

The one I thought turned out best was Tierney's left hand, the one up against her face.

The hair on both of them was a lot of fun to do.  I really just played with a lot of yellows and browns and whites until it turned out the way I wanted.

I'm a little disappointed with the proportions.  It turned out, after I had gotten well into it, that I had completely messed up the positioning of Reagan's arms and head, which caused me a lot of problems and I ultimately had to reposition her.  Somewhere along the lines, her head became a bit big for her body, which gives her a bit of a toddler-esque look here, even though she was about 9 when this was taken.  Incidentally, the fact that I made Tierney's arms a bit too long makes her look older.

Overall, however, I am mostly happy with the results, and I am hoping Nanny likes it too.

UPDATE: Yes, Nanny liked it, a lot. My cousin has also commissioned me to do a portrait of her and her kids.  So there's that.  Yay!


Monday, June 1, 2015

Abstract: Forest Fire

I never really *got* abstract painting.

I like how a lot of it looks.  I can appreciate it on a level of "Hey, that looks cool."

But I don't think I get it.

However, I'm dabbling in the abstract, here and there, lately.  I can't say it's been an epiphany at all, but I'm starting to understand the appeal, from an artist's perspective.  The emphasis falls on the process, rather than the end result.

It's kind of similar to writing in the 'stream-of-conciousness' style. You know when its done when its done, and you know where you're going when you get there.

This is where I found myself last week:

12x9 (? - too lazy to find the measuring tape) on canvas

I had some help from the gentleman friend with this one, so it has a little extra specialness to me.

I had started off with a lot of vibrant reds and the silver.  I just bought some metallic silvers and golds and wanted to play with them. As we mucked around, a bit of a forest scene began to emerge.

I like it. I think it's interesting.

I found a frame that fit the canvas I used which set off the piece rather nicely.  I'm too cheap most of the time for custom framing, so I've been raiding yard sales and thrift shops for empty wood frames.

Final in frame.  Pardon the glare and the dated wood panelling in the background.
I sometimes think I should try to refinish these frames I find, but I rather like the dings and scratches.  They add character.

So, I may try more of this. I still may not entirely *get* abstract painting, but I'd like to make more effort to try.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Nemo Found.

Last weekend I took my youngest daughter and a couple of friends south to the not-quite-'the city' city for some shopping. While there, we stopped into an exotic fish store to look at.. well, fish.

One of the tanks featured close to, if not all, the different fish featured in the Pixar film 'Finding Nemo'.  I snapped a few kind of blurry pictures with my phone and played a bit with the filters in Instagram and ended up with decent shots (although blurry and not always well-composed. Fish move fast, and are not great models).  The whole set up was very colourful.

I've been back in a painting slump.  I have two projects on the go.  One, I have to have done by mid-july, but I'm stuck at a point where I'm kind of freaked out about messing it up, and the other I am at a standstill with until I can talk to a guy about getting my hands on a stencil because it involves lettering and well.. free-hand lettering is not my strong suit.

So I decided to do a quick one off using one of pictures of the fish from the Finding Nemo tank.

Acrylic on 6x6 Masonite board
This was my first time using Masonite as a support.  I ordered a few smaller boards from Curry's after seeing them in-store.  They seemed nice and light, possibly good for attempting some plein air painting later in the spring and summer.. much more portable than canvas - even small canvases.

I'm not sure if you're supposed to prime them, since they say on the label that they are already Gesso'd.  So, I decided to forgo the Gesso and just dive in.

I found it really hard to get a matte finish without visible brush-strokes.  In an attempt to correct this, I mixed some retarder with the cobalt blue, hoping to make a smoother finish.

In a happy accident, I found that while it didn't help me get rid of the brush strokes, it did mean I was able to kind of scrape away some colour when it came time to add the plant and Nemo in the foreground.

I actually like the way you can see the heavy brush-strokes in the plant.. Unfortunately, I scraped away too much in areas, and you can kind of tell where I tried to repaint the background.

I really like the vibrant colours and high-contrast in this piece (and the original photo).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Fun - Beach and Abstract [UPDATED]

Today is Mother's day, and as a surprise, this morning my kids set up a number of 'stations' consisting of things I could do to relax on mothers day, including taking a bubble bath, reading, and going for breakfast.  One of the stations was painting with them.  I thought I'd share what I came up with.

It was nice, since I've been in a bit of a slump the last two weeks, with little to no motivation or inspiration.  Just painting for a bit of fun kind of reminded me that the process, sometimes, is just as important if not moreso than the final product.

Here's what I came up with.

Beach. Wet-in-wet acrylic on construction paper.
Abstract, acrylic on black construction paper.
UPDATE: My co-worker saw this post and asked if she could have the beach picture for her office.  It looks quite nice framed:

All's professional-like.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Colectomy Scar [UPDATED]

I honestly can't believe it's taken me this long to post this one.  I actually finished it about two weeks ago, and I have been ridiculously excited about the end result.

Basically, it's my belly.

My big, flabby, torn-up, post-surgical belly.  This piece was based off a photograph taken 2-3 days after I had 90% of my colon removed due to the cancerous tumor that had taken up residence therein.

I guess there are a couple reasons I took so long to post.

1) I have been busy.
2) I am a bad blogger.
3) This is kind of departure from some of the stuff I've been doing.  In my own honest opinion, this one of my favorite pieces I've ever done.  That being said, the subject matter? It's not exactly pretty.
4) I'm planning on entering it as a submission in a local art show and I feel like I'm jinxing myself if I reveal all too soon.

The local art gallery has a show coming up in the summer with the theme of 'Head to Toe' and is about, to quote the website:
...the strength and /or the fragility of the human form, whether it be psychological, mechanical, cultural or scientific.
This is the first piece I've painted strictly with a particular exhibit in mind. When I heard the topic, I knew I wanted to do something reflecting the whole cancer thing and my own battle.  My other idea was an abstract mixed-media piece incorporating all of the hospital parking stubs I collected over a year, but I think I may have thrown them out.

I found this image that was taken from my hospital bed with my iPad, and figured a big honkin' scar complete with multiple stainless steel staples did a pretty good job representing both strength and fragility.

I've had lousy luck with submissions so far, but I have a good feeling about this.

On to the technical stuff:

This was one of my first times making heavy use of glazes to create some subtle changes in skin tone.  I was pretty bruised and banged-up post-surgery, so I wanted to get some of the bruising along with the shading, so I used some fairly heavy amounts of glossy medium to create the glazes.  I found the glazing helpful for making the spots where the skin is being pulled by the staples look a little more natural.

Previous to the reading I did on glazes, I hit a point where I had to pretty much cover over everything I had done to that point and start again.  The second time around worked much better once I had a good idea of what I was doing.

While working on this, I picked up some retarder from Curry's, and man, that stuff is the shit for blending.  I love using it to just kind of dip my brush in when blending.

Just a fun thing:

As I was working on this, I kept noting in early stages that the blue of the nightgown against the skin tones gives an impression of a winding trail over desert hills, the blue of the nightgown acting as the sky.  The folds and patterns on the nightgown came across like some odd, twisted trees and stars.

UPDATE:  I got the word yesterday.  This piece will be on display at the Quest Art Gallery from September 4 to November 14, 2015. Yay! I'm so excited!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Morning Glory

I'm not sure if I should call this a work-in-progress.


I don't exactly feel 'done' but I do feel like there is no where further I can take it, and any further tinkering will lead to ruination.

It's a happy-but-not-quite-satisfied feeling.  I'm about 80% excited about the result, but I still feel like it's not quite complete.

So I'm putting it aside and calling it complete.  For now.

This piece is a reproduction of a photo that the Well-Travelled One took at my old house.  The third, or maybe second, summer I lived in the Dollhouse we found a crop of morning glories growing in the front garden, in spite of never having planted them.

The two sets of leaves are the result of the vines partially engulfing an existing rosebush.

It was overcast the day the original photo was taken, resulting in a dead-on light source and very little shadow, and giving the appearance of a stark-white background.

I had a difficult time with the water droplets on the rose bush leaves.  If I decide to come back to this, I will be attempting to fix those.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Hideout - Redux

This particular fix is one I was rather nervous about undertaking.  It's yet another literal interpretation of the first verse from Sarah Harmer's 'The Hideout' from the 2000 album You Were Here which is all kinds of wonderful and I just adore Sarah Harmer.
Look at that green
Out through the screen
After a quick rain came
So fast that
There wasn't time
To roll up the windows
And pull the clothes down off the line
Those lyrics were the inspiration for this piece.  I was torn on whether I wanted to try a redo on it, since truth be told, I really liked the original.  It was one of my early pieces that I have been really proud of.

But still, when I looked at it, I felt like I could just do better.

When I finished, I was really not sure I hadn't made a huge mistake.  The finished update seemed so much darker than the original.  It wasn't until just now, writing this post, that I thought "Yes, this is better."

Here is the original:


There are still a lot of aspects of the original I liked.  I loved the way the sheets on the line turned out, and at the time that was the best tree I had rendered to date.  When I set out to redo it, I wanted to concentrate on the sky and grass, make them look less.. brush-strokey, I guess?  I also wanted to make the colours look a little more natural.

First thing I did was block in the areas around the tree, deck and clothesline in solid colours, adding texture in layers afterwards.  This marked the first time I made any use of glaze in layer colours. I also made a lot of use of masking tape this time around on the railings.  I tried to work using a back-to-front progression, which meant I ended up having to paint over some things multiple times.

For the clouds in the sky, I found a really helpful video tutorial on painting clouds.

Finished product:

Saturday, March 7, 2015

In Old Yellowcake

Oh my god, you guys.

I am so excited about this one.

It was a pretty ambitious project and I am done and I am (mostly, because this is me) thrilled.

First, listen to this song, as it was the inspiration for this triptych of images.   Remember how I said I was a big fan of literal interpretations? This originally started out as what was going to be a trio of more metaphorical images based on the album "Who Will Survive, and What Will be Left of Them?" by Murder By Death (Which I still have ideas bouncing around my head for).  I wanted to create a set of images set into what is essentially a painted frame.. that is, I wanted to give the appearance of a framed picture that is actually part of the canvas.

After a month or two of staring at the canvas, which I had masked off into separate squares, sketching and erasing and sketching and erasing yet again, I changed tactics.  I had Rasputina's "In Old Yellowcake" ear-worming through my head for a number of months (thank you, Well-Travelled One) and every time I listened I could visualize the lyrics in my head, so I scrapped the original idea, and took three images from the lyrics and separated them into panels, to create a sort of visual narrative.

Here is my final product:

Acrylic. I honestly don't know the dimensions off hand.  I think it's something like 36x12

The 'frame' as seen here I added after removing the masking tape that I used to block off the three panels for each image.  I'm ridiculously happy about that part, as it looks exactly how I imagined it.

Here are the three panels, up close:

"Smoke rises from an ice factory..."

I have only two complaints about this piece.  The first pertains to the first panel, and is only that I wish there was a little going on here.  I like the silhouette of the factory in the background, and the colour of the sky.  I was going to try and incorporate the 'passing bicycle' into the scene, but bicycles are hard.  I was able to use some of my pumice gel on the gravel pathway winding up the road.

"Under the window, covered by curtains all lacy and spattered with blood.."

My second complaint has to do with the girl in the second panel.  I'm not crazy about how expressionless her face turned out.  It kind of reminds me of a Barbie doll face.  That being said, it took me umpteen tries to get the face looking THAT good.. I'm happy to have gotten it at least looking fairly symmetrical and human-like.  Faces are hard.

I love the way the curtains in the background turned out.  One of the colors I have is called "Unbleached Titanium" (Liquitex 434) and it's a kind of off-white that gives a really good dirty-grimy look.  I used it for the curtains in this frame and the dude's blanket in the next frame.

"...there's a man over there in the old muddy corner. He's asleep but he'll wake up soon."
I used the pumice gel in this frame to really get the idea of a rough, dirty stone kind of holding cell and I think it worked really well.  I employed some more masking tape to create the bars in the foreground, because I wanted this panel to appear as kind of the opposite perspective from the second panel.  At the last minute I added the shading (something I often forget) from the bars to give the room a more three-dimensional look.

All in all, I am quite excited about how this turned out. In my head it seemed rather ambitious and intimidating, but once I latched onto this idea and got going it was hard to stop.  Once I finished, I giggled like a madwoman for a good 10 minutes, I was so pleased.

(If some of the colours seem a little off, it's because I tried adjusting some of the colour settings on the photos, which didn't turn out too well.  Live and learn.)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Morning Moon

I'm kind of a fan of painting literal interpretations of songs.  A line here, a piece of imagery there; something will stick in my mind and I'll find myself wanting to try and paint or draw it.

Acrylic on 12x16 canvas
This is painting, as far as interpretations go, is about as literal as you can get, and it was based off of a verse from Morning Moon, which is the first track off of the Tragically Hip's eleventh album "We Are The Same."
The reactor's down, I guess for Labour Day
Today's the first day I ain't seen a great plume of steam
From across the lake, from across the lake
Hey, that's a morning moon, yeah
It's kind of a "What you see is what you get" or may be a "What you hear is what you get [to see]" kind of thing.

I enjoy the colours.  Probably could have been more careful in creating the reactor's silhouette, as they are a little lopsided.  But I've generally always been pretty happy with how this turned out.  It's pretty.

Incidentally this, along with the Gord Downie portrait, remain the only two portraits that, to date, I have sold for actual, real, legal-tender-for-all-debts money.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The House That Dripped Blood

I got bored one day and bought a palette knife.  I don't really know anything about palette knifes.  I know more than I did when I did this piece (like how different mediums can help create a more three-dimensional look), but at the time I basically figured you took the knife and started slapping paint on.

This is the second piece in what I would like to become a series of paintings inspired by the album Tallahassee by the Mountain Goats.  This quick-and-dirty acrylic piece is based on track number five, "The House That Dripped Blood".

It's another rather literal interpretation of a single line of the song.

"The cellar door is an open throat"
Acrylic on 5 x 5 canvas
This was done rather quickly.  I like to think that I was able to get across the idea of either peeling, painted wood or crumbling red brick.  The idea is an extreme close up of the house in "Southwood Plantation Road" (also based on a song from said album), so I matched up the color scheme. 

The concrete entrance is supposed to look empty and cavernous.  Some of the shading and perspective is a little off, but overall I think I managed a sense of foreboding.   It's a bit more impressionist than I usually go for, the surrounding grass especially.

It's kind of interesting to note that I went from a far-away, very detached perspective in the other piece to an extreme close-up here.   Should I continue pursuing this series, I'd like to treat the decaying house as my main focus, rather than the couple the album is based around.

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UPDATE:  So, whenever I have a song or literary inspired piece, I like to tweet or post to the Facebook wall of whichever artist has so inspired me.  After posting this piece to Twitter, I received this response from John Darnielle and pretty much couldn't stop grinning for three days.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Old World

This is one of my favourites. I had a lot of fun painting this.

Acrylic 8 x10

This image was inspired by The Burning Hell's tune 'Old World', a catchy piece of music that talks about birth from the perspective of a baby who is born and finds the world outside the womb is not what it is cracked up to be.

The narrator speaks of the easy life he* had as a wee fetus, just hanging out, smiling for ultrasounds and making plans for life after birth.
From the universe I planned out the world I would create,
I'd ride a scooter or a bus
and I would go on dates
And in the evening I'd stay in and concentrate
On drafting plans for my own benevolent state
Our narrator finds his little universe in the womb comfortable, but ultimate kind of boring, and looks forward to getting out, even though he senses there may be some let-down. The baby narrator has no idea until the day comes.
Then I was finally born into the disease of this world
and so were thousands of other little boys and girls.
We shook our little fists at the sky and cried and hurled our insults in our anger
Unfurled our flags and banners and waved them and we said
Take us back to the old world
We don't want this ugly new world
We were much happier back then
We want back in
Take us back to the old world
When I came up for this I wanted to attribute a sort of indignation and sorrow to a crying newborn. The fetal image is supposed to act as a sort of thought-bubble/wordless scream coming from this obviously pissed off baby (who, incidentally I am told, bears a resemblance to Phil Collins).

I used an acrylic wash for the background colour.  I wanted to use colours that were kind of warm and hazy in order to reflect the narrator's descriptions of the womb as a tiny universe, but I also wanted to bring to mind blood and tissue and the human body.

I don't what to call the style, but I wanted for the baby to look like it had been sketched quickly, with a marker or something to that effect (it's actually, you guessed it, black acrylic paint).

My only regret with this piece is not stopping before I added the text above the baby's head.  I feel like the sentiment was already apparent without people over the head with it.  Oh well.

*I don't actually know what gender the narrator is supposed to be.  I just think 'he' because the singer, Matthias Korn, is a dude.

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UPDATE:  I tweeted this to @theburninghell and got a lovely bit of appreciation in return.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

#tbt - Esther and The Black Balloon - Redux

This piece is not only one of the first pieces I attempted, it's also one of the first pieces I looked at and said to myself "God, what crap. I think I can do better than this."

What it is, is a fairly literal interpretation of a passage from Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, where the narrator, Esther, describes the execution of the Rosenbergs (Wikipedia), comparing her fixation to her first time seeing a dead body:

For weeks afterwards, the cadaver's head - or what was left of it - floated up behind my eggs and bacon at breakfast and behind the face of Buddy Willard...pretty soon I felt as though I were carrying that cadaver's head on a string, like some black, noseless balloon, stinking of vinegar
I was drawn to the idea of carrying that sort of weight around, like a tiny rain-cloud when everything else was sunny, and that image informed my whole reading of the Bell Jar.

I will openly and honestly admit that the original version of this painting is rather terrible, but as I mentioned, this one one of my very first attempts at painting since high school.
Original acrylic on 8x10 canvas
When I went back in to try this again my main focuses were sharpening everything, giving more detail, straightening up the background, trying to give 'Esther' more expression.. pretty much fixing every damn thing.

I think the original may have been done in dollar-store crafter's acrylics, so the color is kind of bland.  You can see in the second that the colours are a lot brighter, with more texture.


The two images were taken years apart, with different cameras (the original might actually be from a scanner), in different lighting so that also accounts for much of the difference in tones.

I still feel like there could be room for a lot of improvement here, but there are elements I enjoy, such as the way she looks as though she is looking apathetically over her shoulder in the updated version.  Also the bushes around the houses are nice, I think.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Lake on Bruce Trail

Heyo!

I've been having a bit of a creative slump over the last couple of weeks, between being busy, not feeling up to painting (or writing, or music), and just a general feeling of 'BLEH'.  We're a week into February and it's kind of getting to me.

I've got a couple of works-in-progress that, in spite of my excitement, I had hit that moment of "This is coming along so well! I better not touch it in case I screw it up!"

So as a quick exercise and a chance to try out some of the mediums that I highlighted in my last post I pulled together a quick-and-dirty landscape scene, based on a picture that the boyfriend-guy took on a vacation we took two summers ago to the Bruce Peninsula National Park.

Acrylic on 9x12 canvas
I used the semi-gloss for the sky and some of the higher gloss gel for the lake.  I used some of the moulding paste and clear tar for the trees.  To be honest, I had a hell of a time with the trees and when I first started adding them I thought I had messed the the whole picture up for sure.

It's not my best of course.  But I was enough to get me motivated to work on some of my other projects, so that's something.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Learning as I go: Acrylic Mediums

This weekend I took a little trip to my happy place, Curry's, to pick up some colors for a work-in-progress that I started last week (I'm very excited about this project and may be posting up-dates as to my progress).

While I was there, I picked myself up a little treat:  a variety pack of Golden mediums and pastes for acrylics, for about 25 bucks plus tax.

Happy UnBirthday to Me!


I've been wanting to try some different mediums for a while, but didn't know where to start, so I figured this would be a good investment.  The package contains a half-dozen 2 oz. jars of the following (according to the package):

- Soft Gel (Gloss)
- Regular Gel (Semi-Gloss)
- Extra Heavy Gel (Matte)
- Light Molding Paste
- Coarse Pumice Gel
- Clear Tar Gel

When I was trying them out, I couldn't really see the different between the gloss and the semi-gloss, but I was pleased with how far the color stretched when you added the gel.  The paint spread more fluidly and had better coverage.

Soft gel
Gloss
Semi-gloss

The matte gel seemed to add some transparency to the paint I was using.  That could be just because I was effing around with what's left of my academic colors (I've been slowly trying to convert over to professional grade).

Extra heavy gel for matte finish
You can see the finish in the corners where the paint has started drying

The pastes and gels were what I was really excited about trying.  I've tried in the past to achieve that almost-three-dimensional brushstroke look with a palette knife never really accomplished much beyond wasting a lot of paint.

The molding paste added some body to the paint and created a lot of texture.  When I tried the tar gel, it was almost like working with icing.  I liked how the colors less likely to blend together when I used the molding paste.

Light molding paste
Dabbing the brush to achieve a 3-d look

Clear Tar Gel

Tar gel leaves a heavier brushstroke

The pumice gel could have some interesting applications, as it adds a grit to the paint, leaving behind a rough surface.

Coarse Pumice Gel
Rough stuff
I'm planning to purchase some smaller, inexpensive canvases to kind of muck around with and do some rough one-offs.  Looking forward to experimenting!