Tuesday, August 31, 2021

From Birds to Museums with a Simple Tool

 If you are an artist, you realize there are many ways to apply paint to a surface besides using a brush. If you are a home owner/fixer-upper, you know that too: rollers, spray paint, sponges, air brushes, etc. Well recently I've been using a small simple tool to apply paint in a way that delivers colors in a misty way that creates a delicate texture for a background. With patience (letting the paint dry) you can layer one color over another, or darken an area with multiple layers. The tool?

A mouth atomizer: Originally I bought a cheap one which broke after a few uses, so I invested in the Pat Dew's Mouth Atomizer and have had it for many years.

Maybe you have one stuck in a drawer, used it once or twice, but didn't stick with it. If so, pull it out and give it a try again. That's what I did a few months ago when I began focusing on birds. I've been enjoying the results. 

This was made with two spray sessions over a large masked area.

It does take some practice to gain good control of one's spraying, and you have to have a good amount of air in your lungs. It also requires some space that can allow for a bit of watercolor mess and is wind-free. I've started mouth atomizing in the garage. This method also requires some masking and covering of space where the paint is not wanted. 

Nothing fancy here, just freezer paper, paper towels and tape. For larger masked areas, or detailed areas, I use Oramask masking film 813.

I will continue to paint birds, but I had this image in my mind that would be a wonderful way to experiment using this method for an interior subject. Several years ago I was in a museum (I'm embarrassed that I can't tell you where) and I took a photo of a couple. He was sitting under an Alexander Calder mobile and she was talking to him from a standing position. There was just so much space, and they were rather miniature in that setting. The scene was full of shadows and lighting and a simplicity that inspired me to take a photo. That moment was the inspiration for this painting.

The idea was simmering in my brain for years, and using the mouth atomizer was the tool I needed to feel I was ready to tackle this painting.

I started with placing the blue masking film on the white paper protecting the pieces of the mobile, the figures and three paintings on the wall. I used the mouth atomizer from that point on; protecting certain areas, spraying more here and there to create the turn of the room, the great golden light coming in the hallway, and the viewing bench. To create the light behind the man with a softer edge, I used a very fine rice paper, dampened the edge of the shape I wanted, and gently tore the paper leaving a ragged edge. Using the same method of protecting certain areas, I implied the floor and other minor details of the space.

Once I got to the point of really loving the effects I had created, it was pretty nerve racking to peel off the masked areas and paint what was left. Although the people are small, a good rendering was imperative. Also, I had to paint straight tiny lines to connect the parts of the mobile. Then there were the shadows! All of these small parts were make it or break it items. I am a pretty good fixer, but fixing a mouth atomized piece is nigh impossible.

Last night I was pretty darn proud of myself. I hadn't screwed it up with a water drip, or a crooked line, or an awkward figure. But this morning, I started seeing some problems. They were minor, but I called up my good art buddy, Ruth Armitage, asking for advice for the finishing touches. She took to her iPad and showed me some minor improvements using the app Procreate. I followed her advice and made the following changes--I darkened the lower left corner and some of the floor and put a hit of gray on the white mobile parts. 

Under the Shadow of Calder (working title)

Now I can sit back and think of the story this might tell:

-I've seen enough, Honey!
-Because of the Pandemic, only two people are allowed in the museum at one time.
-My feet are killing me.
-I told you it was Modern Art--Mona Lisa is in another museum.

And on it goes. What story to do see? I'd love to hear your interpretation of the painting!

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Failure Can Be "the Mother of Invention"

We are just three weeks from the one year anniversary of our home burning down in the Holiday Farm Fire. Daily trips to "Godfrey Acres" has allowed us to watch the slow, but predictable renewal of nature's greenery. First signs of returning life were songbirds and ferns. It's amazing to see the burned root clumps of a fern sprout new growth.

And after the usual spring volunteering weeds, ivy, and maples came some amazing colors. In the dry heat, petunias started popping up all over. And then I spied an unexpected snap dragon.

And so as I began to add birds to my graphic art this winter, I am now adding flowers that have shown up on the property. Not only on our property, but up and down the entire burned region, sunflowers are not only growing, but thriving.

So now to the title of this post Failure Can Be "the Mother of Invention."

This week I included my first flower to my graphic art and was pretty pleased with the results. The sunflower set in the burned bark conveys a cheerful, more hopeful image of our current state. I wanted to continue with this new addition to my graphic pieces. 

So I chose to put the incredibly determined petunias into my art. (They are labeled as annuals, but the seeds apparently like the challenge of procreation.) I was excited to add the lovely fuchsia colors to my black and white art.

I began with creating a protected area for the leaves and blooms using the blue film as I often do. I then moved on to drawing and patterning the bark of trees in the background of my bunch of flowers. 

After I was done with the graphic work I peeled off the film and saw that the film had roughed up a bit of the paper's surface. But I forged ahead anyway, figuring that it wouldn't matter once painted. I was wrong! The paint did not go on in the smooth way watercolor should and the paint was not as vivid as I had hoped. So as is my want as a stubborn person, I began to think of ways to solve this failure.

I could paint over the vegetation with acrylics. I could try collaging vivid flowers into the painted area. Neither of those ideas seemed to connect with me. In my frustration, I took scissors to the piece and just cut off the bottom. Now what? Again in stubbornness, I refused to give up on the work I'd already invested in, so I had a new idea. I glued black and white upper part onto a piece of black gessoed paper. Viola!! I now had a path to finishing this art.

I would collage flowers and leaves into the black. In a way, it talks more about the reality of seeing these amazing colors arise out of the soot and ashes the fire left behind, than a simply painted flower does. So where I had failed in a part of this creation I came up with a solution. For anyone who thinks cutting, planning and gluing is easy or fast, it isn't. I could have started an entirely new piece and finished it in about a third of the time it took me to think of and apply a solution to the failed piece. Did I mention that I have a stubborn streak?

To end this post,  Good News on the rebuild front. We have broken ground on our house to come!

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts about my art, or my blog, or whatever!