Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bunny Hop Inn

The whole problem with getting sick is that it interrupts your life. That is my epiphany for today. Write it down. I spent an evening in late March sketching out what was to be a new Easter themed painting. I had the house to myself for the weekend and found my copy of Bridesmaids and a beer and sat down to sketch. All was fantastic until I was sick the next day for close to two weeks. And no, I could handle the beer. Promise. I finally was back in my studio for the first time two days ago and it became my mission to bring my vision to life. I decided since it is already after Easter that I would sit down and put my thought process online for a tutorial. I haven't done that with any of my paintings yet, so this is my maiden voyage and you will need to bear with me. Note: the tutorial pics are Iphone pics so bear with that, too.

This is the fourth in my series of paintings that focus on houses/streets. They've all been fairly quirky, but two of them have been themed around holidays which adds an interesting element in my head when planning. Where do the ideas come from? Well, I love looking at unusual architecture on the Internet and most of my houses have had their roots in pictures I have seen on Pinterest and Google, but some have just come out of nowhere while I am sketching. The odder the better in my book because I want my audience to see the whimsy. The Easter piece, Bunny Hop Inn, has it's roots in my love for Easter egg coloring and a piece that I painted for Valentine's Day, Lover's Lane. That painting prominently featured a street, but in the sky I introduced hot air balloons (another love of mine). I wanted to feature the balloons again in a more prominent way so that I am not a one-trick pony so the idea of the egg shaped balloons seemed perfect when I began sketching. I decided at that point that the hot air balloons would be the focus of the painting, but had to have at least one physical structure. I began by prepping my 6 x 12" canvas panel with a coat of Golden Titan Buff fluid acrylic. These panels come prepped with gesso, but I like to get rid of the stark, white, background and usually find a way to incorporate the Titan Buff into the sky. My Halloween Couture did not follow this rule since it was set at night. Instead, I added a background of Titanium White to that one, but I diverge from my tutorial. Mea culpa.

Once prepped, I set about sketching with a fairly hard pencil. The result is below. I don't try to get everything in my sketch, just what I see is essential to my vision. If I intend to do any texturizing of any parts, I generally do this now. On this piece, I used two elements on two of the five eggs. No pics of this step, but I did use a super fine masking fluid pen called Saved Whites on the second balloon from the left. I drew stripes downward all around the egg so that the Titan Buff would remain intact when I painted the egg later. Its needle-nosed applicator allows for thin lines that dry quickly for easy removal after the painting process. Artist Kae Pea turned me onto it and it is sometimes available in her Etsy Shop. On the last egg to the right I used Wood Icing, a texture paste, that I love to use because of its quick set-up time. This enabled me later on to create colorful striations with depth.

How do I plan my color palette? Hmmm.....well, I have to admit and this will shock those with a painterly background, that I don't in particular, probably due to the nature of my vision. I like to be on a wild ride with these paintings so I just put out a few colors to start with that seem to go with the theme, and get started. I can always change the colors if need be by repainting or simply shading. The Easter balloons cried out for fun, spring colors, so I set about painting with a lot of water. I like to remove some of the paint with paper towels and then add and subtract over and over until I get the right shading for my main pieces in these paintings. I found the house to be too dull with just the preliminary paint application so I went ahead and added some variegation to the roof.

At this point, I like to get to some detailing so I can let the focal elements take shape and really start to tell a story. To detail, I use a black Pitt Artist Pen in XS & S or a Pigma Micron Pen in .005. Both are easily found in craft or office supply stores and work well over DRIED PAINT. Note the caps in that last sentence. Don't get antsy and detail before the paint is dry or you will be buying pens willy-nilly. That has never happened in my studio. Really.

I usually start with foliage for the secondary elements. The next two pictures show the evolution of the trees. I have to confess that I love to draw trees for some reason and bushes and plants, etc. I've been fascinated with pointillism for a long time and featured a project using it in my book, Texture Effects. I use this technique of lots of tiny dots, some watery, some dry brush, to create all the foliage and flowers. The trees proliferate as the painting moves along. I don't sketch them at all, but rather let the brush guide me and the craggier the better in my book. I love the lacy look of the flowers especially. By varying the amount of water used, you can recreate the fragility of flowers over and over.

I get so excited once I have a Pitt Pen in my hand. 95% of this is up in my head where imagination hides and often involves the motifs that I crave.... swirls, curves, checks, Harlequin designs, etc. Once the detailing is started, I go back and forth from adding the secondary elements and detailing the dry areas. This is a great use of time because detailing does take a lot of it on it's own so alternating processes allows you to keep moving forward. Also, it keeps it fresh for me, and to be honest, the ideas don't all come at once. I like to be open to change while I am painting because it makes me feel so "on the edge" which probably doesn't make any sense to those reading this after seeing the finished painting above. It's detail is so precise that it probably looks like it was completely planned beforehand. Now you know the truth.

At this point, I generally take a step back and see what's missing from my original vision. I really had wanted a forested area but since it was early spring, I couldn't achieve that with heavy leafage. I really do try to have my paintings make some sense so no comments on how these balloons will land in the forest at all, please. I had to satisfy myself with adding more trees along the perimeter and lower understory to create the surrounding landscape for the Inn. Yes, this is when I named the structure as part of the story. I love to name things so this was particularly satisfying. I drew my first bunnies as well. There are two of them leaping amongst the foliage and a third in a particularly fun place. I'll let you find that one.

I always send a picture to my sister, a wonderful artist, for critique and listen to what she has to say. In this case, the problem was the color of the sun. The sun distracted her from the rest of the painting so she suggested fading it out. I sort of knew it was vibrant but since I've used Pyrole Orange on all of them, I still wanted to stay true to that. Instead I added darker color to the egg farthest to the left and darkened some of the leaves throughout. It is interesting that even though I fixed that problem, it was not until I photographed the supposedly finished work that I realized I didn't like the sun sitting on the branch. That was remedied in the final product above. Changes were also made to the moon's positioning, and trees and foliage were added to the front of the hill to create more depth.

So there you have it. This is the story behind the story of the painting. I wanted you to have a glimpse into my process and enjoy my spring journey. Let me know if you find that last bunny!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April Showers

What a strange spring/summer we've had so far in St. Louis. I had a wonderful class in March at Wood Icing in Chesterfield. A great group of ladies enjoyed making abstract water media designs. Mid March brought us baseball sized hail that destroyed our roof, siding, screens, windows, etc. Luckily we have good insurance and everything has been redone except for screens that have been ordered. A good week of my life was spent with banging and more banging. While I was dealing with that, my husband was sitting on a federal murder trial and driving a car out to our daughter in PA. A crazy month filled with twists and turns. We're finally having some showers and cooler weather, but I certainly hope we get the pretty May flowers after all of this. Before then I will be teaching here in St. Louis at For Keeps Sake . Join me for my advanced resist class on Saturday, April 18. Class samples are available in the store and on their site.