Thursday, October 30, 2014

Art on the Road: How to Create While Traveling

If you're like me, you love traveling to new places but dislike having to spend time away from your studio. Especially if the trip calls for you to be gone for several days or even weeks. It can seem like an eternity before you're able to return home to the studio and resume your usual routine. In the past I'd practically experience separation anxiety when I was on the road. Yearning to be at home with my paints and papers sometimes came dangerously close to overriding the happy experiences that traveling yielded.

Here I'm checking out a local newspaper while on a trip to North Carolina. Words pulled from headlines often make good collage fodder

Traveling light

Forget about lugging paints, brushes and canvases through airports, hoping airport security personnel will know enough about the nature of art supplies to refrain from detaining you. With nothing more than a few items small enough to fit into a purse or pocket, I've discovered how to remain in tune with my Inner Creative Child while living out of a suitcase!

No matter where we go, it's possible to make mini collages, while packing nothing more than a glue stick, a few pens or color pencils and a 6x8 inch pad of 140# watercolor paper.

Watercolor paper makes a good collage substrate. And there's no need to use gesso. Just apply the glue stick to the back of your collage papers, and press them down onto the surface of the watercolor paper. Nor do you need scissors if you're willing to tear your collage papers rather than cut them. Vary the look of the edges by tearing the papers toward yourself as well as away from yourself.

"What collage papers??" you ask. "You didn't mention packing collage papers!!!"

Here's the good news. You don't need to. Wherever you go there's a wealth of collage material all around you. Below are just a few sources available to on-the-go artists. Because many are likely to be copyright protected, artwork made with them should not be offered for sale or used for commercial purposes. Such collages are to serve as personal creative exercises only!

Consider the source(s)

That said, here are 10 places to find collage papers when you're away on vacation or traveling for business:

1. Roadside welcome centers offer hundreds of colorful travel brochures for the taking, as well as road maps.

2. Restaurants are usually happy to give you their menu if you ask for one.

3. Many hotels and inns provide their guests with free newspapers.

4. Ticket stubs can be used if you take in a play or concert, visit a museum or attend a sporting event.

5. Ditto for printed programs and seating charts these venues may provide.

6. If you attend religious services while traveling, don't overlook take-away materials such as Sunday bulletins.

7. Free magazines and circulars are commonly offered in racks at entrances to shops and restaurants.

8. Boutiques and specialty shops often have attractive graphics or patterns on their shopping bags.

9. If you like the grunge look, curbs and sidewalks can be great places to score interesting bits of paper litter. The same holds true for parking lots.

10. Stopping to buy snacks at convenience stores and gas stations can yield colorful candy wrappers and other useful packaging, provided they're not greasy or waxy. Bonus: you get to eat the contents!

As you can see, there's no reason to leave your creativity at home when you hit the road. You'll be so much happier, and get more enjoyment from your travels, if you take a few art supplies with you. So don't leave home without them!

©2014 Lynn Edwards

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Thought for Sunday, October 26, 2014

"The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper." -- Eden Phillpotts

Friday, October 24, 2014

Another Paper Mosaic Mirror!

Back on June 25, I wrote about creating a paper mosaic mirror. That design featured paper strips that were one inch wide, and were composed mostly of blues, greens and purples.

The original paper mosaic mirror, completed back in June.

Earlier this week, I noticed I had amassed quite a few handpainted scraps left over from larger projects -- enough to make another mirror. But most of these scraps were really, really small --- nowhere near the size of those on mirror #1. Undeterred, I lightly sanded another Ikea mirror to give its surface some "tooth," and plunged in.

The five day mirror in its almost-done state. All that's necessary to finish it is a bit of trimming, then sealing and varnishing.

It soon became obvious this project was going to take more time than the first one. Much more time. The little papers were so much harder to pick up with my fingers or tweezers, and gluing each one down was equally tedious. But still it was an enjoyable process, though there were countless frustrating moments as a paper would escape my grasp and land -- fully loaded with glue -- someplace it wasn't supposed to.

Five Days and Counting...

Not including the time allowed for drying, this second mirror took five days to make. Insane, I know. Whenever someone asks me how long it takes me to make something I never know how to answer. There's the planning time, the prep time (painting and embellishing papers, preparing the substrate by applying multiple coats of gesso and sanding between each coat, etc. etc.)  But those tasks are usually just the tip of the iceberg.

Accounting for the Intangibles

Do we count the 3 a.m. brainstorm on a sleepless night that sends us rummaging through old journals, searching for an obscure entry that's essential to our project? Do we factor in the hours, months or years we've spent in classes and workshops honing our skills? Do we include the time we've invested surveying the work of other artists so that it can inform and inspire us? The time spent driving to and from the art supply store to buy our canvases and paints? How do we account for these and countless other factors that contribute to our making a finished piece of art?

I suspect the question is asked so that the inquirer can get some sense of how much the item will cost, and allow them to make a value determination. But there's really no way an artist can provide a concise answer because so much of what we artists do lies well outside the realm of timeclocks and 40 hour work weeks.

Coming up with a fair and reasonable price is like herding cats. It's possible, but it's not easy. After getting out my calculator and crunching the numbers, I learn I should be charging $5,345.00 for mirror #2. Sounds good to me! So step right up, my friends! All major credit cards accepted!

Text and images ©2014 Lynn Edwards

The Poured Painting: Dealing with Rough Edges

Something I forgot to mention in my previous post was the problem I encountered trying to pull the blue painter's tape off the sides of the MDF. Instead of pulling off cleanly, it remained firmly stuck to the MDF wherever pouring medium had seeped through it. I was able to remove some of the tape but about half of it refused to budge. I then tried to sand it off by hand. Still no go.
Rough edges and stubborn tape remnants pose an aesthetic problem


Thinking that just maybe the whole messy business would look better painted over, I applied a coat of Cobalt Teal, an opaque color I had also used in the pour. Well, that turned out to be the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig, to quote Sarah Palin. The color was nice but the tape remnants still showed through and still looked awful.

So what to do next? I could have taken a sander to it but frankly that idea didn't work for me at all. All that dust....yuck. Besides, it would require a trip down to the basement to find the sander, hunt up more sandpaper, and figure out a way to clamp the painting down while I performed the surgery. Not my idea of fun.

Much better, don't you agree?

After mulling the problem over some more, I came up with this: just cover up all four sides with strips of painted butcher paper. (I've done this using artist's tissue in the past, but tissue does tend to show any imperfections in the MDF.) The butcher paper would camouflage both the rough MDF and the tape, resulting in a nice smooth finish. With careful measuring and cutting I could butt the paper strips together at the corners -- no mitering needed. So that's what I did and it turned out fine. I used two coats of Cobalt Teal on the butcher paper, measured and cut out four 3/4 inch wide strips, and adhered them to the sides of the MDF with Yes!Paste. Easy peasy. I liked the result so much I'll use this treatment on all MDF panels in the future.

And you can be assured that next time I do a pour, I'll seal the edges where the tape "wall" meets the surface of the MDF panel with acrylic gel medium before I do any pouring. The gel medium should keep the pouring medium from penetrating into the tape. I'm not sure I'll use painter's tape again, either. I'm thinking duct tape might be a better choice. And next time I'll use gel medium to glue the paper strips to the sides of the MDF. (Yes!Paste was just a little too messy.) This project was intended to be a learning experience...and it taught me quite a lot!

Text and images ©2014 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Thought for Sunday, October 19, 2014

"To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul." -- Cicero

Friday, October 17, 2014

My First Pour: The Final Results

After tweaking and tweaking some more, my first poured painting went from this:
Too much green!

To this:
I'm happier with it now that some of that green has been covered over.

These closeups show how many more colors were added to reduce the excessive amount of green:

 Golden Polymer Medium vs. Liquitex Pouring Medium

After the first pour, made with Golden's Polymer Medium (Gloss), I decided to switch to Liquitex's Pouring Medium just to see if there was any noticeable difference. And there was. While the polymer medium produced an incredibly deep layer with a "surfboard shine," crevices appeared on the surface as it dried. While some folks might find these to be acceptable, they bothered me.

So for subsequent layers I switched to mixing my fluid acrylics with Liquitex Pouring Medium. This product produced a smoother surface but it didn't have quite the ultra shiny finish I was hoping for. It was glossy but not quite as glossy as the polymer medium.

Now, it's entirely possible the age of my bottle of pouring medium may have had something to do with it. It was already several years old when I opened it the other day for the first time. I plan to buy another bottle to see whether fresh Liquitex Pouring Medium, used for pouring all of the layers, will produce different results. So the experimentation continues. And that's what's so much fun, in my opinion.

If you've poured acrylics, I'd love to hear what your preferred mediums are and what techniques work best for you. Do you pour on canvas, or do rigid substrates work better for you? Do you use fluid acrylics, or heavier bodied paints? To share your views, just click the Comments link below.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Seeing Possibilities in the Mundane: Altering Photos for Art Use

Recently I was sitting on a beautiful deck shaded by a canopy of trees. I couldn't help but notice the intriguing patterns the sunlight was casting all around me. Then I began to look really closely at other features in this idyllic spot -- the rough bark of the trees, the pebbled surface of the concrete path leading to the deck, and the "toothlike" appearance of the wooden steps across from where I was sitting. Thinking I'd like to add some photos to my inspiration file, which I like to tap for collage elements and painting ideas, I grabbed my camera to capture these humble subjects before the light shifted.

Here's a small sampling of what I ended up with:

An ordinary tree trunk
Rotated sideways and altered in Photoshop it becomes a textural element for a collage
Rotated in the opposite direction and colorized, it might be the basis for a future abstract painting
Shadows where a vertical wall met the concrete sidewalk
Changing its color and exaggerating the saturation results in something quite different!.
Ordinary wood steps on the deck
Those same steps look more interesting now, don't they?
I really liked this pattern on the patio lantern.
Photoshop turned it into something quite dramatic.

Playing with the color and saturation levels introduces a whole new look entirely.

Even if you don't have access to a photo editing program you can still take pictures that can inspire you, be used as image transfers, or be altered manually. With digital photography the sky's the limit! An indispensable guide to dozens of techniques for altering photos is Image Art Workshop: Creative Ways to Embellish and Enhance Photographic Images by Paula Guhin. It's a go-to resource for me. You can check out Paula's blog, Mixed Media Manic, by clicking on the link in my blog list. I think you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

A quick update on my pouring experiment, described in my previous blog post:

I'm still tinkering with the painting. I think I'm done messing with it now, but I need to go back and clean up the edges where I put blue painter's tape. Overall, I'm happy with the way it looks, but I need more practice with pouring. As soon as I make it presentable (!!) I'll post a photo, probably toward the end of this week.

Text and images ©2014 Lynn Edwards

Thursday, October 9, 2014

It's Pouring!

Once in a while it's fun to try something that's waaay out of your creative comfort zone. Inspired by an article by Mary Beth Shaw in the latest issue of Somerset Studio, yesterday I decided to try my hand at pouring acrylics.

Oh wow! I think I'm hooked!

A closeup view of  one section of the painting.

Per Mary Beth's instructions to use a rigid substrate, I used a gessoed-and-sanded piece of MDF measuring roughly 8x8 inches. Although her instructions didn't call for it, I created a "wall" around the outside edges of the MDF with blue painter's tape to help contain the paint and medium.

After laying down a large piece of freezer paper to protect my work surface, I poured a good sized puddle of acrylic polymer medium gloss in the middle of the MDF panel. Next I placed a few drops of fluid acrylics and acrylic inks in various colors into the polymer medium. Then the fun began.

It's all in the moves......

By tilting and moving the panel in a circular fashion, the pigments suspended in the polymer medium started to shift and blend, as the medium began to slide around on the surface, kind of like a colorful, miniature tsunami. Pthalo Turquoise merged with Hansa Yellow, forming brilliant greens that whorled and swirled in a dazzling tapestry of patterns. Quinacridone Magenta encountered ripples of Hansa Yellow, producing a vivid melon color that reminded me of a sunset I saw once on Tybee Island. Cobalt Teal, Titanium White and Ultramarine Blue joined in, as the polymer medium carried them across the MDF in all directions, blending and combining them all into fascinating shapes and hues. Yowza!

Still very wet, this is how the painting looked when I called it quits for the day. I think there's too much green, so I'll let the whole thing dry, then I'll cover up some of the green by pouring another layer of contrasting colors over it. The "white" areas near the upper right- and left-hand corners are actually reflections on the ultra glossy surface.


When I finish the piece shown above, I'll post a photo of it here on the blog.

What I learned:

While creating this piece, I learned a few things:

1. Wear gloves. Or use a barrier lotion. (I failed to do either one and spent 30 minutes trying to get dried paint and medium off my hands and arms.) Pouring is unbelievably messy!!!

2. Test the viscosity of the gloss medium on a piece of scrap before applying it to your substrate.The first layer I poured was a little too thick. It didn't move as readily as it should have, so for the second layer I added a small amount of water to the polymer medium. That made all the difference.

3. Ensure your work table is dead level before you start pouring. This is a must. If you don't have a carpenter's level, a glass of water will suffice. Make needed adjustments by slipping scraps of matboard under the table legs.

4. Don't rush the process. Allow ample time for each layer to dry completely before proceeding further. In our humid climate, letting each layer dry overnight isn't too long.

5. Start small. Six by six, 8x10 and other small substrate sizes are ideal. Pouring is an acquired skill -- the learning curve is easier to master on a smaller scale. Failed paintings can be used, too.

Talk about having fun...pouring acrylics is pure joy. If you want to be entranced and amazed, I hope you'll grab some gloss medium and give it a try!

Text and images ©2014 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Thought for Sunday, October 5, 2014

"One difference between savagery and civilization is a little courtesy. There's no telling what a lot of courtesy would do." -- Cullen Hightower