Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lessons learned

I mentioned in my last post that I had learned a few things from my most recent painting experiment. So, in no particular order, here they are!
Lesson #1: Prime, prime, prime!
It's important when using oils on wood that you prime the surface. Over time, oil degrades wood and paper, so you need that primer as protection for the wood. This I knew and I did apply a couple of coats of clear matte medium to protect the wood. What I didn't fully appreciate was the importance of preparing the surface for me, specifically. If you look closely at the image above, you can see the bumps and roughness in the surface of the wood. I didn't realize how much that would distract me. I swoon for super smooth painting surfaces, so the texture of the wood bothered me. 
So, in short if you're working on wood with acrylics and you like rougher surfaces and texture in your work, don't worry about priming. Jump right in! If you're using oils on wood and like texture, a couple of coats of gesso or matte medium should work fine for you. But if you're a lover of glassy finishes like me, sand, prime, repeat ad nauseam.

Lesson #2: Use a good reference photo (or model if working directly from life).
This was my reference photo, which wasn't absolutely terrible, but didn't provide me with what I needed for this picture. Had I been striving to recreate this picture, it would have been doable, but to recreate the patterns and shadows of the face in muscle and patterns, I should have used a clearer, not so blown-out picture. 

Lesson #3: Get out of your comfort zone.
This experiment was pretty far out from realistic portraits of everyday objects and their reflections and that was great for me. Try a new painting surface, subject, or technique! You'll never know your own style unless you explore. Who knows, it may turn out even better than you imagined! Or it may turn out that it's not your cup of tea at all. Either way, the experiment will be a success. 

So what about you? Learn anything new lately? Discover a love of a different subject or technique? What have you been experimenting with? Let me know about it!

Like this post? Check out:
New Goodies
Life is just a bowl of... doorknobs?

A few of my favorite things

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Magical Mystery Painting Revealed!

At long last, as promised, here it is!
"First let me put on my face" by Erin Hardin
oil on birch
Like I said, pretty different from anything you've seen from me, but not ENTIRELY different from anything I've ever done. A couple of years ago I did this:
"Emotional Skin"
by Erin Hardin
for "Heads Up, Alabama!". "Heads Up, Alabama!" was a public arts display sponsored by the Alabama Psychological Association to raise awareness of mental health care. I was one of 30 artists in Alabama chosen to decorate one of these huge fiberglass heads. Here's an article in the Birmingham News about the program (with another photo of Headley, as I affectionately called my Head). Here's another photo so you can see the size.

The inspiration for my design, "Emotional Skin" came from one of my professors in grad school. I've probably mentioned before that I have a M.Ed. in counseling from the University of Montevallo. During my internship one of my professors described a person with borderline personality disorder as "having no emotional skin," because he or she feels all emotions more strongly than normal and they all hurt. That image stuck with me and so for this project I thought of how a person might patch their emotional skin in healthy ways. I loved that project, so I thought I'd experiment with a few paintings based on that concept. However, I ran into a few challenges with the painting. All good learning experiences, but challenges nonetheless. I'll go into what those challenges were and what I learned from them in my next post. For the time being, here are a few more close-up images of Headley for your perusal (that's kinda a fun word). 

One clear, bright sky, eye

And on stormy sky eye
If you enjoyed this post, you may like:
Art Bite 1
Art Bite 2

Art Bite 3
Art Bite 4
Art Bite 5

Monday, May 21, 2012

Art Bite

Here's today's art bite:
It's almost done. I've enjoyed this picture. It's way different from the others you've seen from me. I think it's the start of a new series. However, I'm not entirely happy with it. On the upside, though, I have learned some things. I'll reveal the finished painting and the lessons learned in the next post. For now, though, I've promised you my thoughts on my current work surface.

Like I mentioned here I'm trying out some different work surfaces since not only does painting on metal take a great deal of time, but also I make my own supports which means getting the metal cut, mounting it on board, building a frame, etc. which, of course, means more time. So, for this painting I tried birch panel.

I thought I would love it. It seemed so smooth and I loved the idea of letting the wood show through. Alas, however, the more I painted on it, the rougher it got. I have no problem with texture in paintings. In fact, I enjoy it sometimes. However, I feel like my style almost requires smoothness. Plus, the wood soaked up the shine of the paint, leaving a matte finish which would be perfect for some artists' work, but not for me. The birch panel was convenient and for many artists' purposes it would be perfect. It just wasn't the right surface for me. In the future I may experiment with ways to make the surface more glassy, but for now I'm going to say this isn't the surface that I'm looking for (yes, Mom, I know it's supposed to be, "the surface for which I am looking,"). Stay tuned. The final painting will soon be revealed.

If you enjoyed this post you may like:
Art Bite 1
Art Bite 2
Art Bite 3

Art Bite 4

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A few of my favorite things

 One thing you should know about me- I love, I mean LOVE mixing colors. It may be my favorite part of painting. Rarely do I ever use a color just straight out of the tube. So, now and again I'm going to tell you about some of my favorite colors and how I use them.
My mentor, Dori DeCamillis, taught me that when laying out your palette you should put out all, or almost all, your color whether you think you need them or not. The reason nothing is truly only the color you think you see. For example, what color are these apples?
Greenish yellow, right? So you only get out your green and yellow paints. Look again.

Do you see it? There are so many other colors in there. Pinks in the skin, dark grayish blue in the shadows, white in the highlights. I even see a little light blue in the highlight on the top of the apple to the left. So don't be scared of wasting paint and go ahead and get it all out. You may surprise yourself. Oh, and my color tip for the day? Try a little caucasian flesh tone mixed with blue for that funny little color you see around the base of the stem. 
Do any of you have any tips or favorite color combos you'd like to share? I'd love to learn from you. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Art Bite

Here's today's art bite:

To view other bits and pieces of my current work in progress (aka magical mystery painting) check out the links below.
Art bite 1

Art bite 2

Art bite 3

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Field trippin'

Disclaimer: I'm holding a teething, squirmy, 6-month-old in my lap as I type, so forgive any typos, please.

I'm excited about the painting I'm currently working on, but there's one part that's just driving me crazy! I can't seem to get it right and I just can't seem to leave it alone. So, I'm going to force myself to take a break from it. You know what that means...
Today I visited the Loretta Goodwin Gallery a well-established gallery in the Lakeview District of Birmingham which bills itself as "Birmingham's premier fine art gallery." I must say, I was very impressed. A charming courtyard welcomes you off the street and into the gallery where neutral colors form a backdrop for an array of styles. The staff seemed very friendly and knowledgeable and the artwork was beautifully displayed. I, of course, was not able to take photos in the gallery, nor do I want to infringe on any copyrights by posting images of paintings actually hanging in gallery, but let me tell you about a few of my favorite things:

Milt Kobayashi's portraits- The faces reminded me somehow of Toulouse Lautrec. They were lovely.

Bruce Adams' "Tea and Lemon"- We all know how I love simple, everyday items. This painting by Bruce Adams was, in subject, the simplest of all this artist's paintings that I saw there, however it was my favorite. I studied his depiction a turquoise cup and saucer, with slices of lemon for probably 10 minutes. I was especially impressed with the roundness he managed to convey in the string of the tea bag. Sometimes the simplest things are the most important.

Emma Boyd's "Egg Basket"- A beautiful, close up, oil on paper painting of, as the title suggests, eggs and a basket. This another one that I looked at for a while. The eggs looked like they would just roll off the page. Gorgeous! Another painting by Emma Boyd, "Big Yellow Pear," also fascinated me. The pear almost glowed with light and Ms. Boyd beautifully handled the speckles and variations in the pear's skin.

Lee Wilson's "Haven"- "Haven" is completely unlike any of the other paintings I've mentioned so far. It's a large, acrylic, abstract painting. Chaotic splashes of colors suggest rambling brush and wilderness, however the eye is constantly drawn to a clean-lined cabin in the distance. The simplicity of the house indeed makes it a haven from the busy feel of the rest of the painting. There is a picture of it on the Loretta Goodwin website (click Lee Wilson's name above and it is in the gallery), however to truly appreciate it, you need to view it in person. This is another that captured me for several minutes.

So, in short, I think that this excursion from my studio was time well spent. Plus, I came back to my painting with fresh eyes and believe I know how to fix exactly what's been bothering me on my painting. Score!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Have a taste

Here's another bite of my current work in progress
I'm having so much fun with it! Stay tuned for more bits and pieces.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Magical mystery painting

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was trying out some new painting surfaces since painting on metal takes so much time (not to mention the fact that I mount my own metal pieces). As promised, here's an update on how it's going.

This week I'm working on this...
lovely birch panel. At first glance (and first touch) it was super smooth. But, alas, wood is made of fiber so it didn't stay that way. Since I use oils and oils will, over time, degrade wood if applied directly, I primed the panel with a couple of layers of acrylic matte medium.

I'm super excited about my newest painting. It's WAY different than anything I've done in a while. I'm having a blast. Instead of showing you the whole thing in progress, I thought it'd be fun to show you little bits and pieces along the way. So, here's a tidbit:

You can probably tell from this little piece of the painting that  the surface is a tiny bit rough. So far, I like it pretty well, though. Stay tuned for more little puzzle pieces of my mystery painting

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Work in Progress Finished- Take 2!

Oops, I lied. In my last post I told you that Bright Idea, my work in progress that you have watched me finish step-by-step, was done. However, the more I looked at it, the more I felt that something was missing. Let's play the "What's different?" game.
Here's the "finished" painting that I showed you in the last post:

And here it is now:

Do you see it? It's not the bolder color. Sorry, that was a photography error on my part. The second photo is truer to the actual painting. Look again. It's subtle and tiny, but I think that it makes a big difference. Do you give up?
It's the filament inside the lightbulb. I left it out on purpose originally because, though my work is classified as realism, I purposefully don't make it exact or photorealistic. That's where creative license comes in. Like I said, though, the more I looked at it, the more I realized it NEEDED the filament. My husband (and art critic in the best sense of the term) agreed. 
That's what I love about painting. No mistake is totally permanent. Some take more work than others, but everything is fixable. it's nice to have an area of life that's so forgiving. 
What do y'all think? Do you agree that the filament was a necessity? Have you ever thought something was finished and then revamped it? Maybe even totally. I'd love to see or hear about it!

To see the full journey from start to finish, check it out, herehere, here, here, here, and here (in that order).