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

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!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Self-Portrait Redux

When I first picked up a paintbrush, one of the first projects that I embarked on was a small self-portrait.  At the time, I was working with a lot of Crafter's acrylics and cheap dollar-store materials so the colours in the original piece were very muted and bland.

The blue streak is from when one of my girls, as a toddler, tried to 'help mommy'

I have a lot of trouble with faces.  People, really. I have difficulty with eyes, mainly making them match.  My daughter gets around this problem by always having her subjects wink.  Myself, I end up with a lot of images of people looking down, so that I am mostly doing eyelids and eyelashes.  This self portrait was a challenge since I not only had TWO eyes to draw and make match, I also had to draw them open.

Oh, and teeth. Don't get me started on teeth.

Lastly, the concept of using shading to create contours on a face was, for quite some time, completely foreign to me, which made noses a problem.

In re-doing this portrait, I took a 'shave-your-head-and-start-again' approach and just painted right over the original face with several layers of flesh-tone, then trying the face-thing all over again.

This stage haunted me in my sleep

I also added some more detail to the hair.

There's still room for improvement, here.  The mouth could use work, as I went overboard on the lips and there's still some depth lacking in the bite.  Also, the shading on the face just kind of looks, in some places, like I had just had  a dirty face that day.

8x10 Acrylic on canvas

All in all, very satisfied with this fix, however.  It still doesn't look much like me, but it looks a lot more human now.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

#SketchySunday - My Zombie Apocalypse Team

You know those Facebook memes that go around sometimes, where you pick the 5,6,9 what-have-you friends and place them into different scenarios?  A few years back there was one where you had to pick the first five people who showed up on your friends list and they were the people who would be part of your Zombie apocalypse survival team.

This is mine:

Clockwise from top-left: Nic, Dan, Katia, Moi, Ange, Kaylee
Drawing glasses is fun, and means you get to avoid drawing eyes.

Drawing people smiling is hard.

I'm happiest with how Nic, Dan and Katia turned out.  Again, proportion perplexes me, since the height differentials between Nic and Ange are exaggerated, more than they would even be in real life.

Nic had to go and cut his hair the day before I actually drew this.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Girls in Old Quebec

Previously, I spoke about my initial ignorance in regards to gouache and how to work with it. Once I figured out that it's supposed to be used more like a watercolour than an acrylic, I decided to take a stab at recreating one of my favourite pictures from a trip to Quebec I took a few years ago with my girls.

Gouache on 12x16 canvas

Gouache is difficult.

The reason I tend to work with acrylics is mainly that I'm lazy and acrylic is very forgiving. If I mess up, I let it dry and paint over it.  Because watercolors and gouache have  high transparency, I find it more difficult to fix mistakes and drips (and there are drips, so many drips).

After working and creating the background, I let this sit for about a year. I was super-nervous about placement when it came to adding the girls to the foreground.  Reagan (in the purple sweater) turned out pretty well, except for one wonky foot.  She's positioned right where I wanted in relation to the retaining wall in the background.

Tierney (purple skirt, foreground) took a lot more effort to get proportioned and I'm still not entirely satisfied.  I would have preferred to place her higher up in the frame, so that her legs aren't cut off as they are here.   Also, I lost a bunch of my colors and had a difficult time coming up with the proper mix to create a matching flesh-tone (another reason I prefer acrylics.. I find it easier to mix colors).  So we're gonna pretend she was wearing yellow tights that day.

All in all, I could probably do more with this, but I feel like I'd eventually end up wrecking the whole thing.  I'm tempted to take another shot at this picture using acrylics instead, but I think I'm going to work on some other projects first.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Autumn's Here - Redux

I'm going to be honest.  When I started this piece, which was inspired by multiple listenings of Hawksley Workman's "Autumn's Here" from Lover/Fighter, I was scared out of my wits, as the vision I had in my mind felt incredibly ambitious at the time.  If you listen to the song, there are a lot of references to ghosts and abandoned railways and the like.  It has always made me think of those things you sometime find, way back in the woods, things like rusted out cars and crumbling foundations that tell stories about people who may have once settled there, but left without looking back.  At one point, Workman references immigrants moving pianos from Europe to Canada.  I took that reference and the imagery this tune brings up and kind of ran with it.

I don't consider this one a rough start, because for a long time, I considered it done.  What really happened, however, was that I had reached a point where I liked how things were coming together and got worried that if I continued on, I was going to muck the whole thing up.

Acrylic on 16x20 canvas
A few weeks ago, when I started playing around with fixing some of my old paintings, I made the decision that I was going to *finish* this piece, once and for all.

This is my finished - actually, really and truly finished - product:

I'm happy as hell with most of it.  Especially the rocks.  I was always kind of bothered by how the rocks in the original kind of just looked like amorphous blobs of grey.  The forest in the background seems more three-dimensional, like there is more depth to it.  Lastly, I am really excited about how the piano turned out, although in my original vision, it would be more dilapidated, as though nature was taking it back.  I'm a little disappointed that I wasn't able to get that across.

I've been told that there's a bit of an "Alice In Wonderland" feel to this, which can be partially attributed to the fact that I still have some real problems with proportion...  I'd been working on this for over two weeks before I came to the realization that these are either some pretty stunted trees, or that is one HUGE piano, judging from the height ratio between it and the seemingly mature oak just in behind it.

Meh. Live and learn.  In the meantime, I'll call it surrealism.