Sunday, November 22, 2009

2 DOWN, 18 TO GO!

Continuing with my series, here is the final result of today's work. I created a slide show of the steps. I included some details as well. I am really enjoying working in a vertical position. I can see accurately and can step back periodically and take a better look. I also like letting gravity do it's job. I made some changes in this collage. I started with the printed instruction and then drew the image with a fine brush and Venetian Brown Hydrus liquid paint. I was surprised it didn't run and stuck to the surface well. Since I had used undiluted mat medium to stick the paper down, I wasn't sure the watercolor would take. The next step was adding some of the tissue pattern. While I was doing this, the idea of paper dolls popped into my head, so I cut a doll chain from tissue paper and stuck some of those down. I liked how this looked. In the end, you really don't see them. I did do some negative painting around them with the Venetian brown but it all pretty much disappeared in the end. I decided to do an overall wash of diluted gesso to push back the importance of the printed paper. While the paper was still damp, I redrew the lines with a Daniel Smith watercolor stick and then started painting. I think I have found the perfect way of working with these paint sticks. I can draw and paint at the same time. I really loved being able to work this way! The line quality was interesting because it dragged in places that were dry. I could also wet it and blot to lift back if I got too much color on because of the mat medium coated paper. I decided not to use a black line this time. I am happier with the more colorful version. Not much evidence of a grid. I will emphasis that more in future pieces. Overall, I think this was a successful days work.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I created some new self portrait photos the other day using the camera built into my MacBook. The program is called "Photobooth" I used one for the demo yesterday and had fun with the hands, so I decided to start a new series of paintings using some of these photos and focusing on collage and exploring manipulating an underlying grid. I plan to do 20 paintings in 10 weeks but most of them will be half sheet size rather than full sheet. If something really special shows up, I will do one in full sheet. I did this painting in a few hours today, so I think I can meet this 2 a week goal.

I started with a charcoal drawing on hot press 140lb watercolor paper. I wanted a loose spontaneous drawing so I drew directly on the paper keeping my composition in mind and praying that it would land in the right place! I did pretty well with that. I can make some minor adjustments in placement when I put it under a mat. I did this entire painting vertically on an easel. So much better visually than laying flat on the table.

A friend gifted me with some very old sewing patterns. They make fascinating collage material. This is a Vogue pattern from 1950. I was surprised to see only punch holes and punched words on the pattern printed lines! I love all the holes! The tissue had a slight green cast to it. The shapes of the pattern pieces were great to work with. I overlapped some of the pieces to create a grid pattern. I finished up the painting with liquid watercolor, Stabilo watercolor crayons and diluted white gesso.

You can see the influence of the layered pattern pieces through the painting. It is subtle. The hands came out fairly clumsy looking. I will pay more attention to them in the next painting and improve their shapes. This first painting led me to think of 3 more variations to try. I am keeping a list so as not to forget. Thoughts are so fleeting these days!

Friday, November 20, 2009


David Lobenberg honored me by asking if I would come up to his Sacramento City College watercolor class and do a demo for the students. What fun to meet someone in person you became friends with through the internet! Naturally, the weather was fairly threatening with a big storm coming in and I had a two hour drive to get there. Add in rush hour traffic in the Bay Area. I was anticipating a harrowing journey. Just goes to show how we waste so much time worrying about what might usually doesn't. The drive was easy all the way, counter commute, and I was ahead of the rain. By the time I left, everything was sunny.

David is a very joyful person and his wonderful sense of humor and fun pervades the classroom so I knew I was in for a great time. I did demonstration using Tyvek with two different inks....the Carter brand I found ad Staples which has a cool bias and a Winser Newton non-waterproof ink that had a warm bias...Permanent India Ink plus bleach. I added some carbon black at the end. While the painting was drying, the class put on a feast, pot luck style.

So, thank you David and your wonderful class for such a warm welcome. I am looking forward to receiving lots of e-mails with photos of the paintings inspired from my demo.

I am getting lots of people loving this Tyvek paper. Maybe everyone who is interested should start requesting it from Cheap Joe's. If there seems to be enough interest, maybe they will carry it again.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I finally updated my website with the additional workshops I have scheduled for 2010. I even had a little lesson in html code writing! Nice to have an in-house expert. The January workshop with Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society is filled and now has a growing waiting list. We are discussing having a second session if there are enough people who want to take it. So, if you are interested, be sure and let them know.

Now I need to update the website again because I just agreed to be the teaching artist for a trip to Belgium in August of 2011! This is going to be such a fabulous trip! It will be a small group of 7 plus the teacher and the tour guide. The company is called French Escapades and you can learn more about the company and the trip by clicking on today's blog title. The photo is of Bruges, Belgium. Heaven!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I was reading Peggy Stermer-Cox's blog the other day and she featured a fabulous blogsite called "Making a Mark" by Katherine Tyrrell, an English artist. Intrigued, I wandered over there and fell in a Rabbit Hole! Hours later, I was still wandering around her site going from link to link to link! She is full of valuable information and does tons of research. This was a real treasure trove from a very generous artist.

I came across a recommendation from her for a book on composition (shown above) If you click on the blog title it will take you directly to the Amazon page where you can order the book. I, of course, couldn't wait that long so I headed out to my local book store, bought the book and read it in an evening. I wanted to present the information the next day to the Critique group I am leading, since we will be focusing on composition for the coming month.

The brilliance of this book is its' simplicity. The author has distilled lots of information into easily understood, clearly illustrated concise, digestible chunks! I never realized how difficult it was to distill art information into a few paragraphs until I started working on my book. I think I must have passed this book up before because it looked too simple, but that is the true beauty of it.

Composition is critical to any successful painting and that means there has to be some planning and thought put into the design before the paint goes on. Especially in watercolor. It is always so tempting to jump right into putting paint on the paper or canvas. But, without a well structured composition as the foundation, there isn't enough paint in the world to disguise a poorly conceived painting. That old saw "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail" holds true.

I had a chance to visit the 2008 National Watercolor Society traveling exhibition at the Adobe Art Center in Castro Valley after the critique class. Now there is a fabulous collection of well composed and executed paintings. It's almost criminal what catalogues do to beautiful art work, so when ever possible, make the time to see excellent work in person. It motivates us to strive for higher excellence in our own work.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


We have a secret weapon here in the SF Bay Area and his name is Mike Bailey. (to check out his blog, look to the right of my post and scroll down) Mike developed this fantastic 10 week class sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society (SCVWS) called Watercolor Beyond The Obvious. I have taken the class 3 times. This is hardly a record. Many have taken it time and time again. It is offered once a year and sometimes twice a year. My schedule has become too busy to have 10 weeks free, otherwise I would take it every time it is offered. The strategy is to take an image and create a series of 20 paintings (2 full sheets a week) changing it each time by manipulating the elements of design. You can view my series on my website The 10th week meeting is when everyone brings their 20 paintings to class and, one person at a time, spreads their paintings out in sequential order on tables that have been set up in a huge "U". Everyone walks around the tables and looks at the development of the series. Mike talks about the artist and the artist has an opportunity to talk about their perspective on the whole experience. This 10th class is what I fondly refer to as "THE BIG REVEAL". Guests are welcome and there is a wonderful pot luck luncheon for all. It is one of the most special days of the year.

This is Stephanie. You can see part of her series which was based on the marvelous shoes she is wearing. Stephanie is new to the group and she just did the most fantastic job. The reason I have this photo of Stephanie is because while everyone is busy walking around and taking photographs of the art work, I am busy looking at the art work and taking photos of everyone who is walking around. You can see why I fixated on Stephanie. The striped hose, boot like canvas shoes, model lythe body and she is a painting waiting to happen! Not only is everyone on to me, now, many are busy photographing the crowd, as well. Stephanie was definitely the star...look for lots of long striped legs in lace up canvas shoes appearing soon!

All the students did phenomenal work but there is one woman who has stayed with her same theme through 5 separate sessions of Watercolor Beyond The Obvious and completed her 100th painting of "Liberty". This is a series with serious content and Laurie Barna has put her heart and soul into it. Check out her website at and view this exciting and moving expression of love for America.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Here are the last two stages to complete this painting. I added white acrylic to the bleached painting, then started glazing and painting on top. It is a good idea to photograph the steps of your paintings for future reference. If you find you don't need them, it is easy to erase them. If you decide after the fact, that you wanted to document the steps, you can't go back!

Very little of the original bleached effect is left. Most likely it impacted the look of the finished painting, but it is pretty subtle. I'm going to keep on with this idea until I hit on the balance I am looking for. Can't quite say what it is, but I will know it when it shows up. The thrill of the hunt!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This was a piece of watercolor paper that I had put a band of textured gesso on as a demo. I decided to cover it with the ink. The ink is very blue in appearance on the gesso section. The ink will lift off of the gesso with water but the bleach changes the color to orange which gives both a warm/cool contrast and a blue/orange compliment contrast at the same time. I put two full strength coats of ink on the paper. Today I started playing around with the bleach. I was able to get the layering of values I wanted on the paper but it is too orange. It wouldn't lighten enough. I think I will go back to just one layer. I like how it looks on the gesso area. That area is totally liftable, so I sprayed it with acrylic fixative. Tomorrow I will go back in with some acrylic and see what happens. I put up some detail photos so you can see things more clearly. I was using a stick, a dip pen and all kinds of brushes. I went to Michaels and bought a bag of cheap brushes to use with the bleach. I was also experimenting with all of these ideas on YUPO. It moved around too much on the slippery surface, so I think I will move on. I guess Tyvek is next!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I don't know where this expression originated but it seems to be appropriate for how I feel about the final results. The color didn't photograph very well and the odd dark shape in the lower right hand corner is the arm of my chair that I used to prop up the painting to photograph it. Still, I think I am on to something with this technique but I am not happy with this image. Her nose is too long, so it ruined the face for me. I think I removed too much of the ink. You can't see the effect of the bleach enough. This will probably see collage or gesso in the future. I think I will do the next one by totally covering the page with full strength ink and draw with a chalk pencil then bleach out leaving more of the ink behind. This painting is a full sheet. I think I will work on quarter sheets until I have the right combination.

Our branch library is closed for renovation, so I returned my books to the main library in downtown San Mateo. When I walked in there were arrows on the floor leading to a Friends of the Library 1/2 price sale. Well, I practically swooned! All the art books were marked $1 up to $3 and then they were sold at half of this ridiculously low price. I decided to be nice and leave a few books for other people. I paid a whopping $5.25 for my bag load of books which included a hard bound 1961 original edition of Faber Birren's "Creative Color". Signed copies of this book are going for $129 but, alas, no signature could be found. Since I already have this book, I will have to find a creative way to pass it on. Any ideas?

Friday, November 6, 2009


After completing the first bleach painting, I wondered what would happen if I used different dilutions of ink and bleach. That's what this painting is investigating. I let the computer do the hard work and broke the image down into 4 values, printed out the results and used that as my guide. I drew the shapes of the values in with a charcoal pencil and then painted away. This ink is decidedly blue when diluted. I let stage one dry, then went about bleaching out the ink areas. I diluted the bleach about 50/50 and it seemed to work. There was practically no odor, so this is a good discovery. I played around with a little stamping. I can't seem to help myself! I'm not sure if I took too much off or not. Tomorrow I will be sitting at Gallery Concord, so I will take my paints and put the color in. If you are in the area, stop by and say hi.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Kitty Weiss is a member of our critique group. She is an amazing artist, great friend and generally an inspiration to all of us. Today we managed to give Kitty a surprise 80th birthday celebration. Everyone made an Artist Trading Card (2.5 x 3.5) which was put into a book. Karen Druker, the Pearl Mesta of our group, was the hostess. As always everything was gorgeous and sumptuous. A very special day for a very special lady. Many more happy birthdays, Kitty.

Art brings wonderful people together for friendship and inspiration. I hope your circle of art friends adds as much richness to your life as mine does for me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I found a very interesting book at the library called "Painting without a Brush" by David Ferry. Printed in 1991, it is still available on line. In fact, I had to pay as much for postage as for the book! The library is a very expensive place for me. When I find a book I like, I want to own it. This book has lots of interesting mixed media ideas. Today I decided to try one that really intrigued me. The idea is to use bleach to lift areas of ink. Above is the final result. Here is the process I followed:
First I drew the image with charcoal onto a sheet of smooth watercolor paper. Next, I took a white candle and drew some lines that will act as a resist. Then I took some non-permanent black ink (permanent ink has shellac in it and won't work) and brushed the ink over the paper, leaving some of the area white. When that dried, I then used various brushes and applied bleach. Be sure you have decent ventilation as the bleach odor can be fairly strong. The bleached area turned shades of orange. I want to explore different strengths of ink and different dilutions of bleach to see how much variation I can achieve. When the paper dried, I applied more charcoal, then sprayed with an acrylic fixative. Lastly, I glazed some acrylic color over areas and used titanium white acrylic from the tube for more opaque passages.

This was so much fun, I can't wait to try it again tomorrow. Now that I have the idea, there are some variations I want to try.

Monday, November 2, 2009


I recently purchased a Japanese Brush Pen (synthetic nylon bristles) that has permanent ink in the cartridges. I decided to spend some time today practicing drawing with this pen. It takes a little while to learn how to manipulate the brush to get a variety of line. I did 11 drawings today and have posted 4 here. The first is actually the last. I think it came out the best. The first ones left something to be desired.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Well, the glazing got away from me and I lost the light. Decided to use alcohol and wipe out the highlights. Bad idea. This is how you learn, the hard way! Well, the lifting was blotchy and the glazing had a seamless quality so the two didn't go together. I then decided to go more opaque and that finally killed the delicate glazed appearance that I liked in the beginning.

So now I can throw the thing away, go completely opaque or I can try and lift off much of the acrylic with alcohol. I opted for the last idea. The good news when you have ruined something is that what every you try next, it can't really harm anything. What a freeing feeling. I am intrigued with the idea that alcohol dissolves acrylic, so I wanted to see how this works. I put some alcohol in a dish and used a sponge roller to soak it up then I ran the roller over the painting a number of times. I took some paper towels and rubbed as much acrylic off as I could. This is the stage I took the first photo.

When the surface was dry, I reintroduced some charcoal. Next I brushed a coat of glazing medium over the surface, lifting the smeared charcoal in places. I worked back into the image with some additional glazing of a few colors, used a few stamps and then drew a little with a Japanese brush pen with permanent ink.

I like the final result. It is more mysterious, gritty and painterly than the first idea.

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