Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christensen Workshop Experience

I'm fresh from a 5 day Scott Christensen that was without question, the best thing I ever did for my art. I've had my eye on his workshops for a while now and as soon as I saw one I could attend on this side of the country, I jumped on it. The workshop was held at Chesapeake Fine Art Studio in Maryland. It's a beautiful large space run by Hai-ou Hou, a very accomplished artist herself, who made everything flow seamlessly throughout the week.

Maryland in November can either be Indian Summer or edge of winter. On the night before the workshop began, an arctic air mass dipping all the way down to Florida, settled in for the week. I'd brought lots of layers of warm clothing, and I needed them all to deal with the wind, rain and freezing temperatures. For those who didn't want to venture outside, the studio had floor to ceiling windows with a view of farm fields and woods.

I wasn't sure what to expect of the workshop especially since I had never attended one, but I had the advantage of knowing exactly what I was looking for to improve my work. I've also been painting long enough that I was confident I'd be able to understand the concepts that would be presented. The workshop far exceeded what I anticipated. Scott shared his knowledge and experience very generously. I'd been led to believe he could be aloof or lacking communication skills but nothing could be further from the truth. My concerns and questions were always met with precisely the right information and a genuine interest in seeing that I understood the teaching point.

I loved seeing how he worked through his idea on a constantly changing and evolving canvas, while he searched for the right combination of shape, value, color etc that best manifested the idea. Watching that approach will forever put to rest the idea that getting it right the first time is the proof of ability. I also liked his clear minded view of the current practices of plein air painting.

By the end of the workshop I was filled with such a wealth of valuable information that I have plenty to work with for a while. I have a new tool kit that I'm excited to play with!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

It's Finally Here!

 Dune Flowers on Santa Rosa Island ©Theresa Grillo Laird
click here for info

A workshop I've looked forward to for months is finally here! I've kicked off this art filled week with one last Autumn painting in the dunes before heading off to Maryland. After the workshop I'll be in New Jersey for an extended stay so I especially welcomed the chance to fill my soul with the sights and sounds of another gorgeous day in the dunes, before turning to the cold and gray north.

In the evening I headed over to the Greater Gulf Coast Art Festival for a look at what other artists are doing. The fair was good this year.

Now I'm finishing up the packing and In a few days I'll be in a 5 day workshop taught by Scott Christensen where I'll be mining whatever landscape painting information he intends to share. If you aren't familiar with Christensen's work, Google his name and take a look. You won't be wasting your time. I'll do my best to not commit the workshop mistake of trying to prove that I can paint too. Watch this blog to see the experiences of the day. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

How I Make My Painting Panels

I've been asked to show how I make my painting panels. I've bought panels from several companies. The only ones I like are expensive and honestly, the painting surface is no better than what I can produce myself. Some of the panels I've purchased, are very slick which moves the paint nicely once you get used to them. Some have a surface similar to the various weaves of stretched canvas or linen. Some have a clean looking plasticized backing. The degree of whiteness of the ground and priming can differ from brand to brand. It's worth experimenting with a few store bought brands so you know what you like and don't like. Some panels are just ground and priming on wood. These can also be made at home, but today I'll be making canvas covered panels.

The above photo shows my supplies. From a roll of primed canvas or linen, I've cut pieces to size . There are panels in various sizes, glue and a brush or roller, pieces of paper to work on and pieces of waxed paper and a kitchen rolling pin.

I cut my pieces of canvas or linen about 3/8ths or a half inch larger than the panel. The canvas will shrink a bit so you want to allow for that. Also the edges are easier to glue down if there's some overhang. I use 1/4 inch birch plywood for my panels. I get help to cut them to the sizes I need. The next step is to sand the edges a bit to remove any fuzziness or splinters.

I've tried two different kinds of glue. For me it's important to have a reversible glue. I once made a panel on Masonite and used acrylic medium to glue the canvas down. The painting then got caught in flood water. The image survived but the Masonite didn't. I couldn't detach the painting from the ruined board.
The Miracle Muck I'm currently using is reversible with heat. It's very easy to work with and sticks well. The only problem with it is that it gets moldy in it's container easily. I don't know it that's a problem in less humid parts of the country. Before trying Miracle Muck, I used Lineco Nuetral Ph Adhesive. It's reversible with water- which probably isn't ideal for a painting. It has never gone moldy in two years of being in my cabinet but doesn't stick as easily as Miracle Muck. 

As you work with your glue, your table surface will inevitably get glue on it. I use a stack of papers and change them when ever necessary to keep each new panel from getting glue on it where you don't want it. Don't use newspaper. The ink will transfer to your canvas surface.

The waxed paper is to put between your finished panels before weighting them down. I also use it to protect the canvas surface when I roll the canvas. 
Use the rolling pin is to roll all the air pockets out after you attach the canvas. I used to use an industrial type roller but this old fashioned rolling pin with it's beveled edges and larger surface, works better. 

To apply the glue, you can use a small foam paint roller which is convenient for larger panels, but you lose a lot of glue in the roller. I'm using a hardware store 3 inch wide brush in these photos.

The last thing you need is two boards to stack your glued panels between, and something to weight the stack down with. 

So, now to work! Pour glue on your panel which you've dusted clean of any sawdust or debris. Spread it evenly with a brush or roller making sure to get glue all the way to the edges. Wait a minute or so until the glued surface grabs your finger when you touch it.

Meanwhile use a sticky lint roller to get any debris off the back side of the canvas.Lay the cut pieces of canvas or linen on top of the glue carefully leaving a roughly even margin overlapping the edges. When You're happy with the placement of the canvas, lay a piece of waxed paper over it and smooth the canvas out. Take the rolling pin and roll from the center outward to perfectly adhere the canvas and to remove any air pockets. Take special care to adhere the edges well. Check the surface to make sure there are no air pockets or pieces of debris under the canvas. Debris can be removed by carefully peeling back the canvas and re-rolling it. 

Stack your glued panels on top of each other with like sizes together. I put waxed paper between them to keep any excess glue from ruining the painting surface. Weight the stack and let it dry until the next day.

probably not the best way to use a portable drawing table!

 I've been told by the makers of Miracle Muck that it isn't necessary to weight anything smaller than 30 inches. Maybe it isn't but I do it anyway to prevent bowing. With Linico glue it's absolutely necessary. Unstack your panels,  and trim the edges with a sharp razor blade and your're good to go!

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