Returning to the studio inbox after a weekend away, I found this machine jammed with questions regarding my last letter and video,” Forest spirit.” While I had in mind writing a letter on another subject, I thought I’d better answer a few of the questions.
There was a pile of curiosity about the blue rubbing. While the painting took almost an hour, the video cut the action down to six minutes. Every fade indicated the passage of time. What we didn’t show was the painting sitting in a shaft of sunlight until it was dry enough to take the Phthalo blue glaze. Applied with a rag, this glaze is made up of a small amount of pigment, acrylic medium, and water. Other colours can be used. It serves to pull the somewhat arbitrary tones together and gives the work a “mother colour.” In my case, this toning down sets up the painting for punching in negative areas, coming to light, and colour surprises.
Something else we didn’t show or explain was the scumbling with Cadmium red. Taking place shortly after the glazing, this dry-brushing gives general warming and electrifies the slubs and bumps of the impasto. To my eye it adds surface interest.
My outdoor paintbox is an adaptation of a common one you can find in most art stores for about $30. I added braces to the lid so it’s absolutely steady and doesn’t wiggle when I push against it. The standard 11″ x 14″ canvases are locked at an angle for more direct viewing.
Regarding the palette shown, I’m more often than not using arbitrary colours these days. Two yellows, two reds, two blues, plus black, white, and a gob of molding paste. I’m trying to live and learn with less. In the questions asked of my efforts, I detected some wonderful curiosity–the sort that comes from people who want to know but don’t necessarily want to go in the same direction. Just pure curiosity. In the words of Winston Churchill, “I have always had a curious nature; I enjoy learning, but I dislike being taught.” Unimpeded private curiosity is the key to personal growth. In our game, there are no bad questions. “How do you keep your curiosity fresh?” Good question.
PS: “Keep your curiosity fresh.” (John Singer Sargent)
Esoterica: The car is a ’38 Bentley. I’ve owned it for almost forty years. I paid for it with my art. The steering wheel is on the “wrong” side because it’s British. We don’t know why the dog is interested in art. The birds in the video are Pileated Woodpeckers and White-crowned Sparrows. There were squirrels in there too. The thing I lean my hand on is called a mahlstick.
Michelle is 18. She is going into second-year University in September. The software suite she used to edit the video is called Adobe Premiere Elements. The video camera is a Canon GL1. Michelle is assembling the clickbacks and posting your free links these days. We are going to make more videos when we have time.
Discovery through the arts
by Terry McEntee
“Forest Spirit” was quickly emailed to my art team in the school district where I am just now retiring. This film was just what I needed after the end of the school year. My team members wrote me back thanking me for forwarding the letter and I wanted to thank you for starting this contemplative “chain letter.” Listening to the birds and watching as you painted was something I could never have imagined. It touched my soul and my spirit and from this point I am pulling out the watercolors and starting to do my own art “spirit.” Fourteen other curious minds are doing likewise. Our team consists of 15 women who are the most dedicated and most talented anyone can imagine. I have been very torn about the end of my 33 years of teaching young children, as we all know that we learn more from those young minds than we teach them. The constant challenge of seeing these creative minds grow and develop their own curiosities as to the wonders of discovery through the arts is something I will sorely miss.
All rules can be broken successfully
by Linda Blondheim, Gainesville, FL, USA
I had an interesting discussion with my recent workshop students about the “Dreaded Black.” They had been told by other teachers to never use black. After I showed them the superb and yummy colors they could mix with black, they changed their tune. I find with dismay that many workshop teachers hand down rules and regulations as if they have come down from the mount by Moses. We as teachers should be careful about how we influence our students. All rules can be broken successfully and teachers should be more flexible in their approach.
Use of arbitrary colours
by Terri Steiner, Princeton, MA, USA
You mentioned “I’m more often than not using arbitrary colours these days. Two yellows, two reds, two blues, plus black, white, and a gob of molding paste.” What are those colours? I want to review and work with the basics again.
(RG note) Thanks, Terry. And thanks to everyone else who asked this question. The colours are arbitrary — that is they vary from painting to painting. But generally speaking these days I’m using a Cadmium and an earth colour for each of the primaries, except for blue where I use both Ultra and Phthalo. Part of this ploy is what I call “handicapping.” Colours are chosen at random and squeezed with abandon. The painter then works with what’s on the palette and only adds specific other colours if and when needed.
‘Classic’ gallery frames
by Lisa Klaunig, IN, USA
In your video, Forest Spirit, I noticed that the framed painting is matted as one would a work on paper. It looks stunning and it is obviously more protected this way, but I’m curious about your methods. How and why have you have arrived at this method of presentation for an acrylic painting? I am guessing that you had to unstretch the painted canvas for this purpose.
(RG note) Thanks, Lisa. The painting as shown is simply framed in a standard — what we call ‘Classic” gallery frame. It has a one-piece linen liner. The painting goes into the frame in the regular way. When the painting goes to the dealer, which it has, it will be framed by them as they see fit — or as the buyer requests.
There is 1 comment for ‘Classic’ gallery frames by Lisa Klaunig
Anatomy of a frame
by Tom Charvat, Westmont, IL, USA
I want to use some frames with very wide off-white mat… the kind that you used for the forest painting. It does not appear to be a linen insert. How did you frame this stretched canvas using that wide of a mat? Or better yet, how did you do it or what frame/company did you find this product at?
(RG note) Thanks, Tom. Frame tastes and manufacturing methods vary from region to region. Artists who move around the world often think other people’s frames are clunky. Having said that, we think our locally-made frames are understated and tasteful. This type of frame is ‘three piece’ — that is they are made up of inners, liners, and outers (moldings). If you show your local frame shop a picture, they will be able to put something together for you. There is no point in giving you the name of my guy because he doesn’t ship.
by Diana M Graham, West Linn, OR, USA
Thanks so much for the mention of M Graham & Co acrylics. We are going to test the strength of our white per your comment. I am totally amazed at the number of serious artists who have sent us a copy of your letter. I mean from every corner of the USA and Canada!
(RG note) Thanks, Diane. I used your acrylics again this last weekend in both cool and hot outdoor conditions. I’m using them in the studio right now. Smooth as a baby’s bottom. Fun to mix. I’m sure many of our subscribers will be interested in the results of your opacity tests.
Gussying up the edges
by Jace Mattson, Denver, CO, USA
I am an inveterate oil painter but I use acrylic paint to finish the edges of my gallery wrap canvases. My initial thought was to use the cheapest paint out there to “paint the edges..” I found that by doing that I was having to go over the edges several times before I got good coverage. It seems like a colossal waste of time but white edges are not allowed at my gallery. I was wondering if you could recommend a tube acrylic paint that would give me good coverage the first time around. Painting edges is not art. It’s gussying up the painting so it looks nice on the wall and I don’t want to use up good composition/painting time to do it more than once per painting. I use black almost exclusively for this purpose and have found that 2 or 3 coats are necessary with Liquitex and VanGogh. Any ideas?
(RG note) Thanks, Jace. I sometimes black up the edges for use in the popular “floater frames” that some galleries are using these days. I use Golden Acrylic’s Carbon black with a little bit of medium and water. Speedy roll-on is done with one of those small foam rollers that house painters use for going around doorframes, etc. Two passes are still necessary to get down and around the staples or tacks.
‘It is beautiful’
by Bev Rodin, Willowdale, ON, Canada
I just came back from our waterfront lot up on Ahmic Lake on the Magnetewan River system. I paint a lot of forests at different times of day in different seasons but I am especially drawn to backlighting. Magnetewan is a very historic area with a set of ancient working locks.
A. J. Casson has a famous painting of the little white church in the town and J. E. H. MacDonald did a painting of the sawmill on Lake Cecebe. The Magnetewan is a magnificent river with a canoe route stretching 40 miles from Algonquin Park to Georgian Bay. It also connects several large lakes. My husband Jim and I have done parts of it by canoe. In one spot there is a campground that overlooks three waterfalls. We have named our property Minwashin, which means “It is Beautiful” in Ojibway.
The rebirth of curiosity
by Rene Seigh, Huntsville, AL, USA
From your own Resource of Art Quotations, “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” (Ellen Parr) I’ve always been curious and it doesn’t seem to dry up except in the presence of an overload of stress or sheer exhaustion. Most children I know are curious. Maybe, like creativity, curiosity is squashed through rigid structure, expectations, and criticism. If we sit quietly and really observe the nature around us (including humans), maybe curiosity can be reborn?
by Annette Waterbeek, Maple Ridge, BC, Canada
The question how to keep your curiosity fresh is to keep looking for something more. In my constant state of curiosity I have sought out and found answers to a ton of questions without asking (although I’ve never been afraid to ask a question). This has been mostly done by simply observing. My greatest curiosity is still the mentality of the art collector. What catches their eyes. The collector is really at the very base of what makes an artist’s life livable. Understanding the art buyer is the basis of it all.
Enjoy the past comments below for Good question…
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes John Larner of Lake City, FL, USA who wrote, “When I started viewing your film, I felt the same elation I get when setting up to paint outside in plein-air. And to Sue Smith, the perfect place is inside you. I used to drive around for hours looking for that “perfect place” until I understood just that.”
And also Emily Lelandof Fredericksburg, TX, USA who wrote, “I have a little painting routine with an open box M and tripod, off the back of my Ford Explorer. Only yours looked easier than it is for me.”
And also Lynda Kelly of Toronto, ON, Canada who wrote, “Just watching your video was the most fun thing I could do inside with my clothes on! You Tube should have Awards, ‘Tubeys,’ just like the Oscars. I would vote for you!”
And also Diane Middleton of Calgary, AB, Canada who wrote, “My paintings have improved largely because of actively reviewing your emails & responses.”
And also David Kesslerof Berkeley, CA, USA who wrote, “Emily Carr‘s ability to communicate her love of trees is extraordinary.”