Weekend Studio Time Part Deux

Loki piece after “burning in” last night’s oil painting. (Gently heating the painted area & wax to bond the oil paint to the beeswax layer below.)


Starting to develop the branch and the golden apple, but they still need work:


Weekend Studio Time

Working on my encaustics today. The apple is a laser transfer, and I plan on painting the branch, leaves, and possibly highlights on the apple in oil paint.


Did a laser jet transfer on the other one I’m working on, but I’m not sure I like the position. I think I’m gonna scrape the spider off and add one slightly bigger and a little more lower and left.


“Loki and Idun’s Apple” at the end of the night:


“Anansi” piece – spider resized & repositioned. I think this one looks much better:


Local color layer begins!

The color on the skull needs to be a warmer white, but otherwise good so far. Still have to put local color on the back wall, pitcher, plate below the pitcher and darker background fabric. Then I can begin modeling the shadows with darker tones.


It’s a new year, which means a new semester and a new class! (Updated with more photos)

This semester, I’m taking Oil Painting Techniques with Victor Wang.  During the course of the class, we will learn three major old master’s oil painting techniques: Jan van Eyck, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), and Peter Paul Rubens.  Currently, we are working on the van Eyck method of painting.  I’ll go into more detail later about the other styles (once we get to them!).

We started with a 14 x 16 inch piece of tempered masonite (smooth on both sides) and sanded one side down.  Victor showed us how to make chalk gesso the traditional way with Titanium Dioxide, Gypsum and Rabbit Skin Glue (I’ll discuss the recipe in a separate entry) and showed us how to grind it.  We then put a couple of layers of the gesso on our panels, sanding in between.  Once there was enough gesso applied, we gave it one last good sand to make sure the surface was nice and smooth.  A smooth surface is very important to the van Eyck technique.

The full still life

The full still life

Next, we got to sort through all the props available for still lifes and pick what we might want to paint.  I and two other students are sharing our set-up, so we all had approval/veto rights to select the composition that might be good for each of us at different angles. 

My chosen view of the still life for our Van Eyck style painting project

My chosen view of the still life for our Van Eyck style painting project

Then we each began trying to find the view of the still life that we wanted to focus on and drew the composition onto a piece of newsprint.  Once the image was laid out the way we wanted, we flipped the paper over and coated the back with vine charcoal.  We then placed this carefully over the gessoed front of our panel and taped the top of the image securely on the back of the panel, so that it wouldn’t move while we redrew over the top of our original drawing, transferring the lines onto the panel below, hoping to keep the proper proportions to everything.  Once the image was successfully transferred, the new drawing on the panel was fixed with spray fixative.

Initial drawing to work out the composition

Initial drawing to work out the composition

Making old school tracing paper – vine charcoal on back of drawing

Taped top of drawing to back of panel – lower down to trace & lift up to double-check that the lines are matching

Tracing in progress

Original drawing after tracing onto panel beneath

Traced image – sealed with spray fixative

From there, each student took a brown pen (I used a permanent ink Pigma pen) and went over the lines of the transferred drawing, setting a firm foundation to each successive layer of painting.

Inked layer - permanent brown pen to finalize the lines and composition

Inked layer – permanent brown pen to finalize the lines and composition

Once the ink drawing was complete, we mixed a verdaccio color (yellow ochre, ivory black and a little titanium white if necessary) and applied all the paint over the surface of the panel, using 1:4 or 1:5 ratio linseed oil/turpenoid medium to help coat the panel and create a seal on the gesso.  Chalk gesso is very dry and tends to soak the oil out of anything you put on it, so it often takes a layer of Liquin or linseed oil before each painting session in the early stages to keep the paint from absorbing too much and leaching out the color.  The verdaccio is applied and then wiped with a soft paper towel or rag to even out the application and wipe off extra oil and paint.

Verdaccio layer demo - use yellow ochre, ivory black and a touch of white to create a greenish background color

Verdaccio layer demo – used yellow ochre, ivory black and a touch of white to create a greenish background color

Painted color onto panel and use 1:4 or 1:5 linseed oil/turpenoid medium to thin; wipe down evenly once applied

Painted color onto panel and used 1:5 linseed oil/turpenoid medium to thin; wiped down evenly once applied

Verdaccio layer completed

Verdaccio layer completed

Next class, we began to define the mid-tones and the shadows of the composition with a burnt umber underpainting layer, to establish the image more fully and begin to add depth.  I’m finding this layer difficult, because I’m only using one color and I can only use medium to adjust the darkness/lightness of the image.  Who knew it could be so hard to paint deep shadows with one color?  This stage goes very slowly because there is a lot of detail to the underpainting, depending on your design, and I’m about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through this layer after 3-4 painting sessions, after around 10 hours or so of painting so far.  From what I understand, the next layer is the local color layer, so I’ll have to post more once we get to that level.  Hopefully it will go a lot more quickly!

Preparation for the umber layer - Liquin and burnt umber

Preparation for the umber layer – Liquin and burnt umber

Painting set up

Painting set up

First paint session

First paint session

Victor demonstrating blending techniques and how to add depth to dark area

Victor demonstrating blending techniques and how to add depth to dark area

Second paint session - another student hard at work

Second paint session – another student hard at work

Midway through second paint session

Midway through second paint session

End of second paint session

End of second paint session

End of third paint session

End of third paint session



Art St. Louis XXIX, The Exhibition

Three of my mixed media encaustic pieces have been chosen as part of “Art St. Louis XXIX, The Exhibition”.  I am so excited!  The opening is tonight, November 16, from 6-9 pm and is free and open to the public.  Let’s hope I sell some pieces!


These are the pieces that will be on view:

Folktale Series/ Bradán, 2013 – Mixed media encaustic on panel, 6″ x 6″

Folktale Series: Bradán, 2013 - Mixed media encaustic on panel, 6" x 6"

Folktale Series/ Andalusia, 2013 – Mixed media encaustic on panel, 4” x 4”Folktale Series: Andalusia, 2013 - Mixed media encaustic on panel, 4” x 4”


Folktale Series/ Poppy Dreams, 2013 – Mixed media encaustic on panel, 4” x 4”

Folktale Series: Poppy Dreams, 2013 - Mixed media encaustic on panel, 4” x 4”


Whew! What a week!

Really – what a couple of weeks!  The past two weeks have been the busiest of the semester for me so far.  Gearing up for our guest artist visit with Jennifer Meanley on 4/8 and 4/9, I kicked it into high gear (well, even higher gear) over the last two weeks, culminating in a weekend spent actually sleeping in the studio to make sure I finished as many pieces as humanly possible before my critique on Tuesday, 4/9.  I texted my husband that I was coming home when everything was done Tuesday night and his response was: “And you are?” 😀  I finished 4 new encaustic pieces (mixed media works made by layering heated and smoothed wax and spray paint, drawing, oil paint or collage) and made significant progress on 4 others (a couple of which, depending on how I feel after a little more time, may actually be complete – sometimes I have to sit on them a little bit to decide).

Jennifer Meanley was our guest artist for the spring semester.  Her art can be viewed here:  http://www.jennifermeanley.com/.  On Monday, she gave a lecture discussing the history of her work and some of the themes that are interwoven throughout her pieces.  Ideas of home and place in physical or mental space and nostalgia are very important to her work, the sensation of longing for something no longer present and how a person carries it within one’s memory.  Her paintings and collages seamlessly balance simultaneous color and simultaneous contrast, placing complimentary hues parallel to each other, as well as light next to dark.  She is very interested in what happens when objects meet and what happens to the space in between, using the tension of the contrasts in hue and tone to adjust the speed at which the viewer’s eye travels through the piece.  She is the first artist I recall listening to that discussed color in terms of tempo and velocity, rather than just temperature.  By the end of the lecture, my brain was humming with so many things to think about that I was afraid it would just short-circuit and not be able to process it all.  I can’t claim to have understood all of the theoretical principles discussed in her lecture (or my critique for that matter), but if I can integrate even half of the ideas into how I think about making my own work, my pieces, especially the oil paintings, will likely improve dramatically.

In total, for my critique, I showed 3 large figurative pieces (at various levels of completion) from my Dialectic Personae* series and about 15 encaustic pieces (some finished & some in progress).  I wish I’d thought to take a picture of the wall with everything displayed together, but I got caught up in other preparations.  It was a really good feeling seeing how many pieces there were all together.

Jenn’s main critique of the Dialectic Personae pieces was that they looked like I was really trying to show that I know how to paint, but that the figures themselves came across as being handled in a manner that was “too self-conscious”.  The viewer really needs to question just what the heck is happening in the image, rather than seeing a couple of reasonably well-painted figures.  She referenced the artist Isabel Bishop for me to research, looking at the unselfconscious observation of urban working class women beginning in the 1930s, as in “Tidying Up” http://www.imamuseum.org/collections/artwork/tidying-bishop-isabel and the weird, slightly creepy, yet almost Renaissance style work of John Currin for the odd but beautiful factor (http://aphelis.net/john-currin-paintings/).  “Be weirder” will now be my new painting credo!  Jenn also suggested that I tear back into the color of the pieces to help make them pop, make them more energized, and guide the eye around each piece better.  I had taken a break on working on these larger pieces this semester to work on the encaustics so I could feel like I was making some progress after being stuck on the slower paintings for the past year or two, but I feel like I have enough distance now from the bigger works that I can dig in and make some major changes.

Getting closer to completion

Getting closer to completion


I considered this finished before the critique, but am now considering digging back into the piece to work on the color harmonies.

Jenn also suggested that I look at Art Nouveau artists (http://www.nga.gov/feature/nouveau/exhibit_intro.shtm), including Gustave Klimt (http://www.klimt.com/), for ways of blending abstract design with more realistic figures.  That may be a way to incorporate some of the layering techniques and design choices from my encaustic pieces into my oil paintings.  A lot of thoughts to digest, but I feel like this will be a stepping stone to much improved work.

*The Dialectic Personae pieces are based on the idea that many of us live dual lives – we present ourselves one way during the day (i.e. I am an administrative assistant) and another way at night (wacky MFA student).  I have done several modelling sessions with women who do roller derby, burlesque, or polesque (pole-dancing combined with burlesque) and have 3 paintings started, at varying levels of completion.