Thursday, November 24, 2011

Art Humour - An Oldie But a Goodie!

This has been around for quite a while, but I thought some may not have seen this talk entitled "Ursus Wehrli Tidies Up Art".

It's video of a hilarious lecture by a well known Swiss comedian Ursus Wehrli, which takes a very clever look at mostly Modern Art and Post Impressionist Art from a typically Swiss perspective. 


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Family Christmas Gifts - Do They Really Want to Hang One of Your Paintings?

What prompted this post was a truly gruesome event.  There was recently held a country art show that was unjuried and had a flat rate entry fee which allowed artists to enter up to twenty paintings for $5.  An amateur dauber, who shall remain nameless, decided to try and have a clear-out so put very low prices on a heap of paintings.  Most of them carried a tag of $50  -  which was a lot more than they were worth, but one has to recoup the cost of even secondhand frames.  I will charitably declare that these were not paintings of the first order. And no, it wasn't me!  Along came a gentleman who knew nothing about art.  He bought eight of these cheap paintings to inflict as gifts upon his poor nieces and nephews.  I hope he doesn't expect them to be hung in a prominent position.  So glad I'm not related to him.

Being a somewhat sensitive soul, I'm hesitant to inflict one of my masterpieces on my family when contemplating gift giving.  Being an art supplies addict doesn't leave too much cash left over to purchase lavish gifts so the logical, economical answer would be to give a painting.

A painting is meant to be hung right?  Friends and rellies might secretly loathe my work and find it torture to have to hang it anywhere but behind the door of the smallest room in the house.   Many years ago I lucked upon a solution to this dilemma  -  a hand painted gift that the recipient can keep in a cupboard with a clear conscience or proudly display upon a coffee table.


A seriously inexpensive photograph album with your masterpiece painted on the front cover.  At right is an album I gave to my late Mother about 12 years ago.  It still looks as fresh as the day it was painted.  I've done several of these over the years and now keep my eyes peeled all year for nice albums on sale.  Painted in acrylics on the vinyl, it was a gorgeous surface to work upon.  If only vinyl lasted forever, I'd choose to use it as a first choice for an acrylic painting surface.

Step 1:  I chose an album with existing gold line work on the cover which nicely frames the owl I decided to paint.  Maybe you would prefer to paint a landscape, a still life or a wildly colourful abstract?  What about a pet or baby portrait on a small brag book for a doggy obsessed parent or a doting Granny?  You could even settle for the collar and lead or a pair of baby booties and a ball if you don't want to be stretched.  Whatever floats your boat, but remember to have fun while you are about it.

Step 2:  I washed the album cover with a wet, detergent laden sponge, rinsed and dried.   What follows was probably not necessary , but I had no idea how the vinyl would react to the paint, so I decided to seal the surface with a medium used to prepare glass surfaces.  In other words, it was an acrylic glass and tile medium designed to make acrylics stick to slippery surfaces.  I applied a coat to the whole album, back and front in case it caused a colour change to the surface, which it did not.  My final acrylic varnish is in a nasty smelling, fast drying, solvent carrier so I considered it wise to protect the vinyl from those chemicals further down the track.  If I was going to paint with oils on the vinyl, I would definitely use an acrylic barrier such as the tile and glass medium to prevent the oil mediums eating away at the vinyl over the ensuing years.  If using acrylic paints and a brush-on acrylic varnish to finish, this step is probably optional as you are painting plastic upon a plastic surface. 

Step 3:  Then I sketched the somewhat stylized design, including the carefully measured  line work so that I could work out how best to place my Boobook Owl.  Using Saral Transfer paper, I traced my design on to the cover of the vinyl covered photograph album.  No hope of sketching freehand with charcoal on this surface.

Step 4:  I base coated my bird in a mid-tone beige coloured paint and then dived in, building colours and values up and down as needed.  Only when painting with acrylics, I always commence with a middle value.  Then I lay in the darkest darks where needed, over the top of that middle value basecoat.  Because acrylics dry so fast and are mostly opaque, there is no danger of polluting the subsequent layers of colour.  I dry with a hair dryer in between layers if I'm not wanting to work wet-on-wet.  The lighter colours are applied next and the highlights last, after everything else is completed. 

Variously known as a Comb, Rake or Wisp brush.
Step 5:  The feather texture was applied with a watery mix of acrylic paint, using a Comb or Rake filbert brush.  One company refers to these as Wisp brushes.  They are available as flats or filberts.  The paint for use with a comb/rake (also when using a liner) brush should be the consistency of milk.  If using a heavy textured acrylic paint, diilute with half acrylic medium and half water or, by the time you dilute it to the milk-like consistency, your paint will not bind to the underlying layers of acrylic paint.  If using a Flow Formula acrylic then it's okay to dilute with water as you will not be diluting the acrylic medium in the paint as much.  My preferred size of brush for the feathers is a 1/4" or 5/8" comb in a filbert shape, depending on the size of the bird I am painting.  The work goes amazingly quickly using a comb brush.

Step 6:  Apply the highlights and float in your transparent shadows using acrylic medium or gel and a small amount of one of the transparent colours. A hint of Paynes Grey usually works well as a transparent shadow colour, which allows undercolours to show through.   You can see this method of floating shadows clearly with the shadows on the leaves in the above painting.  The highlights are often applied with a dry brush technique and very little paint on the bush.

Allow your acrylic painting to dry for at least two weeks before sealing and varnishing with an acrylic varnish.  Coat the whole album with varnish to help preserve the vinyl.  I chose a satin spray varnish called White Knight Crystal Clear, available from hardware stores in Australia.  I've used this for about 15 years as a sealer for acrylic paintings and it has not yellowed or cracked.

Unlike an acrylic work on wood or canvas, if you do not allow enough drying time before you seal with a varnish, the varnish may become cloudy as the painting cannot dry from the rear because the vinyl will prevent evaporation from the under surface.  The varnish acts as a permanent barrier and prevents the paint layers drying from the upper surface.  Result: a moisture cloud.  Apply several thin layers of varnish rather that one or two heavy layers. Allow to dry between coats.  Because acrylic paints including varnishes are flexible when dry, the work will not crack when the album cover flexes.

The beauty of this gift giving solution, is that you can trot out a new album every few years on the assumption that the old one is filled with photographs.

Feel free to ask questions.  I don't bite!  Anyone have any similar ideas they'd like to share?