Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No Shortage of Ideas...

I admit it. I'm an idea person. I constantly have a long list of things to try - and it's not just with painting. However, I do try to focus most of my energy on the ideas related to painting, and toss out unnecessary distractions, but it's not easy. And it's often my husband who has to remind me to keep focused, although I am getting better as I age... kinda like cheese, I guess.

Anyway, I had a new idea. Not a new idea, just a slightly different twist to what I've seen done before. My inspiration? Two artists who graciously helped me launch my art career: Ben Mann and Brett Varney. When I was just starting out, these two gents were already out there doing the art thing in the town of Bellingham, WA, back when I too was a resident there, not doing the art thing. Their art is especially unique for the styles they have employed. They both use a black line to hold together their vivid, colorful imagery.

Brett works in oil pastel on black paper. It's this black paper, peeking out between lines and shapes, that make his imagery stand out. Although lately, he's been moving to having the shapes and lines define themselves more and doing an amazing job incorporating gold leaf work as well. They are quite stunning. Still, his traditional style with the black paper lines are what originally struck me when I first was introduced to his work. You can see for yourself HERE.

Ben also uses black lines to accentuate the elements in his work, however he's working in acrylics, as do I. His background is in design, and you and definitely see his expertise at work in his colorful and whimsical paintings. Ben uses a black gesso as his base and then draws his imagery with chalk lines first. Once drawn, he then uses color to further define the shapes and movements, leaving the chalk lines intact (for the most part). When his painting is dry, he can then wipe away the chalk with a damp cloth, leaving the black lines. You can still find Ben's studio in Bellingham (Fairhaven, that is), and out and about painting the town. If you can't make it to Bellingham, check out his work HERE.

Now, back to my little thought...

I often start my paintings with an abstract scraping of multiple colors of paint. I prefer to use old library cards, or such, with acrylics instead of palette knifes. As I was preparing such a painting I thought, what if I used the chalk technique but instead of on black, use it on this colorful background. Hmmmm.

I prepped 3 canvases. Chalked up 3 canvases. I had planned on a nice little vineyard triptych. As is often the case with my painting, each canvas took on a life of it's own, and this is what's left. The last painting (also shown above) actually shows the style I was attempting. The other two... well... I don't argue with the canvas. I just do what it tells me.
10 x 10 x 1.5 inch
Available on ETSY

"One Summer Day"
10 x 10 x 1.5 inch
Available on ETSY

"Memories of a Valley View"
based on the landscapes looking toward Chuckanut Drive
Available on ETSY

And as for the people who always ask, "where do you come up with your ideas when you paint?", I still have many more to get back to INCLUDING these!

Rocks and Minerals (previous blog post)

My Southwest Trip, and Grand Canyon

Image Transfers of Photgraphs depicting people

Underwater Images

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fabric Samples Have Arrived!

Let me just start out with this small disclaimer: I am not a sewing or fabric expert. Fortunately, I do have one in the family, though (my mother), and will ask her opinion on my fabric samples next time she's in town. Until then...

Check it out. Custom printed fabric from: Spoonflower.com

First I ordered a set of fabric samples ($1.00, can't beat that price and it includes USPS Shipping). I was a little worried about the thickness of some of the lighter weight samples, but especially liked the linen and upholstery fabrics. I decided to order a range of designs and fabrics to make sure they looked okay regardless of material.

Sparrows: I ordered this swatch in a quilting weight. It is a light weight smooth, soft material. I had been worried about how translucent the white sample of material was that I originally received. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the printing on the fabric made it more opaque. (I'll see how my mother thinks it compares to the other quilting materials she buys.) As for the design, I was happy with the colors and size of the sparrow image. It may be my favorite of the test samples I ordered. It is now a part of my spoonflower fabric line, HERE.

Lemon Grove: This swatch I ordered as a Upholstery weight twill, mostly because I am thinking of making it into roman blinds in my kitchen nook. I designed the fabric to be the correct width to fit my windows. I LOVE it. I can't wait to transport my little dining area into a grove of lemon trees! (Of course, with the help and expertise of my mother.) The color of the image matched my "Four Lemons" painting perfectly too. I may have to take an upholstering class now! Lemon Grove is available as fabric HERE in other fabric weights too!

Lemon Tree: I ordered this one as a Linen-Cotton Canvas. I think the Linen may be my favorite fabric texture and weight. I've always been a sucker for Linen, though. I think this could be a fun design for kitchen chair cushions. The background turned out to be a nice muted lime green. I was worried about this color, as I just picked it using the Photoshop paintbucket. I was glad to see it turned out, and is now available for sale HERE.

The last two designs I will have to re-work. I can see why Spoonflower suggests ordering a test swatch first. For $5.00, it's worth the price. I realized that the colors in the checkerboard pattern weren't quite right, and the squares were too large. The leaves of the other design were too big as well. I did like the feel of the fabric, though (organic cotton sateen). It was very soft, but maybe a little thinner than I would like. It would feel nice as a blouse, though.

I have about 5 more designs already done to test, plus the 2 here I want to re-work, as well as several others in progress, so look for more fabric coming soon! It takes Spoonflower about a week to process an order (pretty amazing to me, considering I gave them an order of 5 different swatch designs). They are fast, friendly, and working hard to bring us US printed fabrics. I like them. I realize I'm paying a premium for fabric, but for custom designs, it's well worth it. Find out more about Spoonflower HERE, and maybe try your own hand at designing a custom fabric or two!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Canvas Order and an Oil Change!

For my business model there are three things that I must have: quality materials, a quality tent, and solid transportation.

Yes, I am the traveling side-show artist from March to December, tromping up and down the I-5 corridor (and occasionally Eastward) selling my wares.

Since I started last week by setting up my show tent (to take new photos for some show entries), I used that opportunity to finally, after 5 years of trotting this tent around, grease all those joints. Yea! And what a difference that made. I also washed the side panels, found a missing screw, and then took it all down carefully, keeping the various parts grouped together and ready to go for my first show of the season (McMinnville, OR - mid March).

Now that my tent is in good working order, I was happy to take care of items 2 and 3 yesterday. I mostly mention the car care portion of the day as a lead-in to my lovely canvases. As the nice Toyota service person inquired as to why I would have my oil changed in Portland when I live in Corvallis, I said it was on my way to pick up canvas.

"To what?"

" Pick up canvas. I'm an artist."

"You can't get canvas any closer than that?"

To which I replied, "Not if you want quality canvas."

And it's true. I drive up to Vancouver, WA every couple months or so to pick up these high quality, locally made, professionally built canvases from a very nice man, Graydon of Artisan Custom Canvas. I love these canvases. If you have only seen pre-packaged stretched canvases (imported and using lighter/cheaper materials, no doubt), I would definitely recommend building your own or trying one of these! It's a world of difference. And they are such reasonable prices! I used to build my own years ago, but I don't have the time or patience for it anymore. Graydon also does a much better job than I ever used to! He does let me gesso them myself too, so that I can still enjoy the process without all the fuss of using a table saw.

And yes, my little workhorse of a car, 2006 Toyota Prius, is in great working order with a fresh oil change and tire rotation to boot. At 140K miles, it's handled the life of a road-tripping artist well. Not to mention the kids.

Happy painting!

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