Category: Artist Studio

Does my face really look like that?

My husband and I were in London recently taking a tour of Chelsea.  Known as the epicenter of Swinging London in the 1960-70s, it was home to artists, musicians, and models.

Though today it’s a more sedate upscale neighborhood, we were lucky enough to find one artist that still calls Chelsea home. Nick Bashall, one of England’s leading portrait painters (who has painted British royalty), offered to do a head sketch of my husband during our visit.  It was magical how he transformed paint into living flesh right before our eyes (my hubby also got to watch through a well-positioned mirror.) Nick talked about how important it was to paint from life instead of photographs to truly capture the essence of a subject. The shiny areas in the photo are because the oil paint was still very wet. Nicky’s finished sketch on the left.

 

 

While getting my MFA, I took several figurative and portrait drawing classes. I always worked from photographs as I couldn’t coerce others to sit for me for hours at a time. Watching him work while we watched makes me even more impressed with his talent. If you ever get the chance, I’d highly recommend getting a portrait painted by Nick Bashall.

This is a painting I did of my husband done around 2009. He’s is still a handsome devil, isn’t he? Or would we call him a silver fox now?

Let’s speed things up!

Multiple works in progress

One suggestion to working faster and looser is to on start multiple paintings at one time. I use the same paper size and color palette to work up four different versions. That way, I can just move from painting to painting, adding a little here and there, letting it evolve more naturally. Everything is a little less important or precious so I don’t get as frustrated when a painting isn’t working out. I just move on to the next one and come back later with a fresh perspective.

How to make a small studio space feel bigger

Wall easel paper bird studio & design

I am so excited about my new wall easel from Paper Bird Studio & Design (aka Tueller Easel Company) custom built for me by Jason Tueller. To maximize the space in my smallish Colorado studio, I opted for this amazing wall easel. It’s over 100″ long and I can put up to four canvases (or one huge canvas) on it at once! It is a great way to open up some floor space and still have lots of painting surface to work on. I’ve temporarily mounted some old family photos on it to try out the canvas holders.

Five tips for moving your art studio

moving van

moving studio packing tips

I have moved my art studio many times over the years, and I would love to share a few tips I’ve learned.

Tip #1:
 Get rid of as much as possible

The less you have to move, the easier the move becomes. I’ve found the longer I’m in a location, the more stuff I accumulate. After a while, my piles of stuff become overwhelming and make my studio mostly unusable. Over the course of many moves, I’ve forced myself to become more selective about what I keep to help reduce the clutter.

I start by ridding myself of a lot of my old paintings. I am happy to say my work has improved over the years and much of my earlier art isn’t up to my current standards. Now, I only save the professional pieces that I’m not embarrassed to show anyone, plus a handful of earlier pictures of which I’m particularly fond. As a result, I have a pretty streamlined collection of my work (with just enough old stuff for that museum retrospective I plan to have when I’m 90). So what to do with this work you’re not keeping?

  • Have a moving sale offering your older work at a good discount. Someone gets your work at a great price, and you have lightened your moving load. Win/win.
  • Gift your work to friends, charities, and other places (hospitals, retirement communities, etc.) that might like some free artwork to hang on their walls.
  • Throw it away.  Or have a bonfire party where you and your artist friends can purge their unwanted artwork as a cathartic way to start fresh. 

Next, I cull the materials I don’t use. During my MFA, I experimented with all kinds of mediums that I’ve never used since. I went through and sorted what I use from what I was keeping out of some mistaken thought that I might one day use them. Ground pumice, carborundum grit, silk screens, linoleum tiles, & rabbit skin glue (I’m a vegetarian for heaven sake!) Yep…time to give that stuff away.

Tip #2: Buy plenty of high-quality packing materials

I like to pack my art supplies myself (and purge as I go). The key to making the packing go quickly and smoothly is to NOT skimp on packing materials. Don’t use old, worn shipping boxes as they are generally too thin to protect your supplies. Instead, purchase the heavy-duty cardboard boxes, packing paper, and bubble wrap. Don’t over pack your boxes, cramming your materials together without padding. Instead, wrap your supplies well, and add extra padding around the bottom, sides, and top of the box. If it’s important enough to transport, it’s important enough to pack it well. Home Depot has very affordable supplies, and you can return any unused purchases so buy more than you need to eliminate unnecessary extra trips to the store.

Tip #3: Hire qualified movers to do the lifting

I have personally packed, loaded, moved, and unpacked my studio by myself several times. It’s time-consuming, back-breaking, and I end up with lots of bruises and smashed fingers.

I’ve realized that it’s better to leave the physical lifting to the professionals. It may seem expensive, but I’ve never once regretted the added expense. With pros moving my stuff, I don’t run the risk of injuring myself trying to carry studio furniture that weighs more than I do down a flight (or three) of stairs. Plus, movers are faster than I ever could be at the job. Seriously. During this recent move, they had ALL my stuff including a massive table, two flat files, and heavy wooden easel loaded in the truck in less than 30 minutes!

Tip #4: Handle your fragile artwork and breakable supplies yourself

If you are moving locally, move your most fragile stuff yourself. I have pastel sticks that break if you sneeze on them and unframed paper works that need special care. I prefer not to let the movers handle these more delicate items. Instead, these things come with me in my car to my studio’s new location. I can treat them with child gloves, and if anything gets damaged, at least it was by my hands. Somehow, it makes damaged work easier to bear.

Tip #5: Don’t ask the movers to move your chemicals

Most movers won’t deal with your chemicals. Plus, the last thing you want is for a container of turpentine to suddenly start leaking in a box. It would expose the crew to harmful fumes, it’s flammable, and could potentially damage your property stacked up around it. So what to do instead? If headed out of town, get rid of as much as possible to another artist or hazardous waste site. If you are moving locally, make a separate trip using your car. While not exactly the most optimal thing having a box of chemicals packed in your vehicle, it’s probably no more dangerous than your full gas tank. Seal everything in plastic bags, packed with copious amounts of packing materials, and drive carefully.

Do you have some moving tips from your studio move? Please share them in the comments section.

 

Step by step, how to rework a failed painting

Rock Garden painting
Failed painting
Failed painting

Some paintings come easy, while others require a lot of work until I’m happy with them (or I throw them out).  My painting Rock Garden was one of my more difficult pieces.  On my first try, I ended up with this version.  It had the elements of a strong composition with a clear focal point but I just didn’t like it.  It sat in my studio for the last three years but I couldn’t determine a way to “fix it”.  

In the meantime, I finished another painting River Rock that I needed a companion piece to hang with it in an upcoming show.  The only panel I had in the same size was this failed painting.

Work in progress
Work in progress

 

I needed both paintings to share the same color scheme, so I created some new collage papers to better match the companion painting’s colors.  I like to add lots of elements at first and then simplify the final painting by painting over of some of the areas.  At left is the next phase of the painting/collaging process. At this point, it’s complete chaos and is going to require a lot of editing. 

The colors still didn’t match the other painting that well and I needed to get rid of the red, the bright yellow and the ultramarine blue.  I dug up some more papers and collaged them over these colors.  Next, I picked the areas to keep and those to cover up.  I needed a strong focal point and more areas of calm.  There was a lot of overpainting to do and still more collage papers to add.  The work also needed greater contrast so I add in the light yellow and dark gray areas to expand the value range.  Below are the two final paintings, Rock Garden and River Rock.  Can you find the areas from the original painting that still shows in the finished work?  It’s a little like “Finding Waldo”! 

Rock Garden painting
Rock Garden, mixed media, 20″ x 16″
River Rock
River Rock, mixed media, 20″ x 16″

What happened when the paintbrush married the pen?

Trying out different inks in my sketchbook

Why they had a baby, of course.  I just discovered an art tool called the fine line painting pen by Loew Cornell. It’s advertised as a simple yet high-quality painting pen used to draw fine lines, or for lettering when a liner brush just won’t do.  The only instructions were to fill the pen with ink or paint thinned to an inky consistency and start drawing.

Trying out different inks in my sketchbook
Trying out different inks in my sketchbook

I got out my sketchbook to try it out, grabbing some FW Pearlescent Liquid Acrylic and added a couple of drops to the painting pen well.  Try as I might, I couldn’t get the acrylic to flow out of the tip of the pen.  I was unable to draw a single line.  The acrylic was too thick to flow through the small pen tip.  I switched to the thinner basic FW Liquid Acrylic Ink, and though it did work (yellow ink), the ink had small coagulated bits that clogged the pen tip.

Next, I used a thinner product called Liquitex Professional Ink!  This product (the green and violet inks on the sketchbook) worked well but the paint color lightened the longer I drew with the pen as if the color pigment had settled to the bottom of the pen well making the first lines the darkest while continuing lines got lighter the longer I used the pen.  I would add more ink, and it would be dark again. I tried shaking the ink bottle first before loading the pen well but I got the same uneven results.

The Loew Cornell Painting Pen
The Loew Cornell Fine Line Painting Pen with Cleaning Tool

Rather discouraged, I switched to my last option, Golden’s High Flow Acrylics.  Lo and behold, the clouds parted, the sun shined through, and the angels sang.  This product (the magenta ink) flowed effortlessly through the pen with consist pigment coverage.  I also tried out some white high flow acrylic on a black swatch with good results.

To complete my experiment, I tried using the painting pen on different types of paper and canvas.  It worked beautifully on all surfaces including those covered with acrylic paint, nu-pastels, and more.  The only exceptions were the areas first covered with matte medium (which just repelled the ink from its surface).

Warning:  Be sure to rinse the pen as soon as you are finished and use the cleaning tool provided to remove any paint from the delicate tip.  If paint dries in the tip, you’ll never get it out.  You can pick up your own pen at most art stores or Amazon for about $9.

My New Art Studio: Before and After

New carpet tiles from FLOR

I moved into a new art studio a couple of months ago. It has lovely wood floors, but I found them too dark for an art studio. I also worried about damaging them (I’m just renting the space). I found an easy, affordable solution by covering most of the floor with cream-colored carpet tiles from FLOR in my new studio space, plus adding an inexpensive area rug from Home Depot for some color. 

 

 

Covering the studio’s brown wood floor makes the space so much brighter.  Plus, I don’t have to worry about getting paint on the floor.  I can easily lift the individual tiles up, rinse them off in the kitchen sink, and then stick them back down when they are dry.  Or more likely, I’ll just leave the paint on them and consider it part of the decor!  Drop by and visit so you can see for yourself!  

I’d rather shop for paper than clothes

Beautiful, delicate rice papers

I am not a big fan of shopping. Don’t get me wrong. I love getting new clothes, yummy food from the grocery store, or pretty new earrings. But I just hate the actual going to the store, picking it out, and paying for it.  And living in New York City, that includes schlepping it home too!

 

Beautiful, delicate rice papers
Beautiful, delicate rice papers

 

But I do have one exception. I love shopping for art supplies. Even if I’m only browsing, it’s fun to see the rainbow of paint colors, try out the newest pens, and fondle the paintbrushes. But my most favorite thing to shop for is PAPER! Collage paper, drawing paper, watercolor paper, pastel paper, and more. I love them all but handmade rice paper holds a special place in my heart. It’s so delicate and comes in so many forms. I picked up these gorgeous rice papers at Blick Arts. Some of them are mulberry paper; some have gold leaf specks in them, and my favorite is the one on top of the pile with the dried leaves embedded into the paper. I’m planning on using them in a commission I’m working on. Have you ever used rice paper? What is your favorite type of paper?

What would you do with an extra hour a day?

Moving truck photo

 

Moving truck photo
Loading up the moving truck

An opportunity arose to move from my Long Island City studio into a studio just down the block from my current apartment in Greenwich Village. Basically, it shortens my roundtrip commute from over an hour to 5 minutes!  I will miss my artist friends from my old studio building but not the subway commute.

What would you do if you discovered an extra hour in your day? Take up yoga? Sleep more? Learn to knit? I am going to use it to make more art. Leave your comments below. I am really interested in everyones’ answers.

 In next months newsletter, I will show you my new studio space and some new artwork in progress. Stay tuned!

 

One lonely painting on the wall

I just delivered 29 of my paintings to Matted LIC for an upcoming solo exhibition…hence the empty wall in my studio. See all the nails without art hanging from them? This poor little painting didn’t make the cut!

Opening night this Thursday, Sept. 22 from 6-8pm at Matted LIC, 46-36 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City. I would love to see you there (free wine and food, plus my eternal gratitude!).

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