Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Paper Tiger

They say that "necessity is the mother of invention". Necessity does indeed cause many awesome things to be invented, but so does accident; stupidity, laziness, luck, obesessive behavior and caffeine all have their roles as well.

In my case, dissatisfaction with the availability of supplies and the desire to have all aspects of my craft under my supervision and control are the mother of invention. For these reasons (which probably fall under the category of necessity, and maybe the subcategories of "obesessive behavior" and "caffeine") I have begun making my own drawing paper.

Because I am generous and very tall, I have recorded the process and am posting the recipe as well as videos of the process. This is will be a real treat for you because you will get to hear my voice and see my hands move. If you are my mother (Hi mom) then you already know what my voice sounds like and this may not be as exciting for you. (Sorry mom).

Ok so, you will need:

1 plastic cup
1 yardstick or long ruler
1 Nylon paint brush (available from hardware stores)
1 sheet of 140 lb (300 gsm) Arches hot-pressed watercolour paper 140 lb.

I cannot stress enough that this must be "hot pressed". I would also suggest going with the single papers sold in sheets because it gives you a very attractive "deckled edge" which presents very well. you can go with a block for smaller projects or because that's what you happen to have lying about.

1 jar of "Golden" Brand Acrylic Matt Medium

This is basically golden acrylic gesso without the calcium carbonate (chalk.) In theory any other brand might do, but in my opinion Golden is a top notch product; and you get what you pay for.

1 each of Golden Fluid Acrylics

Ultramarine Blue
Hansa Yellow Medium
Pyrol Red
Carbon Black
Titanium White

The fluid part is pretty important as well. The regular acrylic paint is too think for our purposes and also not as strong. We need tinting strength here people.

1 jar Golden Gel medium "Fine Pumice Gel"

Get the fine stuff. The coarse stuff will be like drawing on concrete.

The sizes of each do not matter as much. We'll be using teaspoons of everything except for the acrylic matt medium (and we'll be using tablespoons for that)

If you were going to line everything up after you bought it, it would look like this.

Can you spot Kaiser Sose?

Firstly you want to prepare your paper with painters tape. I use blue painters tape, because it shows up on film better. But I suppose you could use just about anything; provided it was low-tack painters tape and you bought it recently.

A ruler and pencil are no-brainers here.

For my dimensions I measured out 2 inches on the left, right and top and 4 inches on the bottom with LIGHT lines from #2 pencil. This makes for a nice space on the bottom for some clean lettering and overall creates a killer presentation. If you are using smaller paper you can adjust your presentation accordingly. This type of high-quality paper is very much meant to be "show-paper". It's heavy, bright, has a clear watermark and deckled edge so it's nice to preserve and present it as a piece of art in itself.

After measuring out your dimensions, tape it out, being careful to follow your pencil lines:
Do yourself a favor and use 2 slightly
overlapping applications of tape
in case you get "brush happy"

So now the recipe.

I've messed with this recipe quite a bit. Mostly with the ratio of titanium white and water. You can vary the amount of the fluid acrylic you use to adjust the color. Because the pigments are so strong, it really takes very little to get what you are looking for. I wanted a neutral blueish-grey. And it seems the recipe below should give you enough for 3 applications. (on the big sheets). I would recommend using a plastic bowl or something similar. I would avoid wood and metal, the first because it will be hard to clean the second because I'm not sure that the metal will react in a weird way with the paint. (probably not, but I'm just being careful, so you don't write me back and say that you summoned some sort of lizard monster while using a metal bowl to mix this stuff)


2 tbsp Acrylic Matte Medium
2 tsp Pumice gel
14 drops Ultramarine Blue
16 drops Titanium White
2 drops Hansa Yellow Medium

When all in the plastic cup (or whatever your using)

A couple of things, you notice above I said that I experimented with how much water to add but didn't include any in the recipe. Yup. don't add water unless its super hot where you are. At first I thought that the mixture looked a bit thick. So I added water to make it easier to apply and it cause the paper to buckle wildly. I cut down the water and it spread just fine. If you cover the cup between applications you wont need to add any water at all. Unless you are making paper in the Sahara desert, (heat causes the acrylic to cure more quickly) don't add water. If you are making paper in the desert you will probably need a little water (no more than a 1/2 tsp) and you can probably exclude the pumice gel, as there will most likely be sand in your paper from the raging dust storms…

When you put everything together it will go from this:

Looks like somebody sneezed doesn't it?

to this

BTW if you know anybody whose sneezes look like that,
get them to a doctor quickly.

Now for the application. I made three videos to cover the application, because I thought it might be easier than me attempting to describe it without getting boring. It's the voice of genius time. Prepare yourselves:

Once dried overnight, the paper is removed from its state-of-the-art drying rack:

Technology at it's finest

Then the paper can be stripped of its tape, (carefully) and rolled until ready to use. Overall, start to finish, the entire process takes maybe 2 hours. With the most annoying bit being masking off the paper to begin with. If you are careful with the application of the size (the solution you mixed) you will not need to sand between coats. If you do need to sand because you were drinking heavily while making your paper (not recommended) then sand between coats leaving with 600grit sandpaper and leave the final coat as is. You don't want to sand off the texture.

When you are finished, you should have something that looks like this:

Are you ready to Rawk?

It's premium stuff and you can adjust the hue, tooth and texture to suit your style. While I originally made this paper for drawing, because I am using acrylic matt medium to seal the paper, it can be used for Charcoal, pastel and even oil or acrylic paint.

Total control over the process means total control over the product.

-Genius out

Sunday, October 16, 2011

For the Love of Tiny

I have many interesting posts coming up. I'm currently preparing some drawing paper and taking a fair amount of pictures. I'm also working on another Tromp l'oeil that will expand on the theme began in "Degas: 'Dancers in Blue'". But before I publish a highly technical post. I thought I would take a second and just reflect on my work in general.

I spend a lot of time looking at other painters work. And generally speaking I can always find something to take away from another painter. But what gets me every time, is smallness.

The first painting I ever did that I could truly call a "miniature" was a copy of a Louis Moeller which I call "The little helper". (The true title of which I've forgotten and cannot find. If anybody out there knows the title, please let me know):

Louis Henry Charles Moeller

I was hooked. I had done numerous painting before that and, I believe, had completed a large figure painting just before this one that was rough 3' wide and 2.5' tall. My work at the time had started to push toward the small size. Even so, it wasn't particularly small so much as "not large". While it sounds a bit redundant, there is a striking difference between paintings that are "Not large" and ones which are small. Namely you look at it and think, "God damn. That's small".

The Moeller was the first time I ventured into that realm of painting. The painting above is my copy and sits at 8" x 10" (For those of you across the pond, that's 20 cm x 25 cm). I had never attempted to really work that small before. Ten years ago, if you had asked me if I could paint a face that was smaller than a 50 pence piece (50 pence, because I was in England and had just picked up watercolour for the first time) I would have told you to "get stuffed".

Believe it or not, as it appears on your screen it is nearly
twice the size of the original

I don't think the experience of painting "The little helper" has entirely left me yet. I've probably duplicated a hundred paintings, more or less, and painted countless originals. I can't think of a single painting I have done that has had more influence on me as painter; in terms of my taste, subject matter and execution. Even now you can definitely see Moeller's influence present in my work:

What's a Bobbin?
Oil on Linen 8" x 10"
(20 cm x 25 cm)

I can count on one hand the paintings that have made this much of an impact on me. It's almost a joke between my wife and I, I'll be telling her about an upcoming painting and I'll finish the description with. "And get this, this is the real kicker. It will be really. small." And of course I grin like an idiot as though this is first time anybody had that idea...

But still. I do paint "regular sized" paintings. If only because I have to eat. Tiny figure paintings aren't the rage right now. but I don't paint them because they are popular. I paint them because they are the paintings I love most in the entire world.

Study for "The Collector"
2" x 2" ( 5 cm x 5 cm )

If home is where the heart is, my house must be very very small.

Genius out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beard power

Sorry for the absence, but I've been terribly busy. I had managed to be consistent in blogging for nearly 3 whole weeks! and then I got stuck doing stuff. Not really amazing stuff either. If I had to account for my time away from the blogosphere I would have to say that the biggest time-sucker is due to the fact that I am growing a beard.

After moving to portland nearly a year ago my wife and I have discovered three things:

1. Everybody has tattoos
2. Nearly all the men have either a beard or an ironic mustache.
3. You see many beards-in-progress but not no ironic-mustaches-in-progress.

Conclusion? You must grow a beard before you can grow an ironic mustache.

So I'm growing a beard which will eventually be shaved into some sort of ironic mustache. What kind, I haven't decided yet. My wife hates the idea, but I do the cooking so she can't kick me out without starving to death.

Victory is mine.

So during all the beard growing, I have been painting. Believe it or not, watching paint dry is far more entertaining that watching a beard grow: so is dancing. But, not surprisingly, I am very good at painting and not so good at dancing.


In the last few paintings I have really been really returning to my roots of glass, metal and paper:

Almost Coffee 10" x 10" oil on canvas

To further enforce the root returning phenomenon This will be the third time I have painted that particular coffee pot. Each time I feel that I get a better grip on it's lines and colour. This is however the first time I have painted it without using a Grisaille. In the past I've used Venetian red for the underpainting (especially when painting copper) but this time I just went for a direct painting method. I was like:

This picture, of course, is only a simulation.
My beard is much better.

In the past I've used the indirect painting method, which involves painting over the aforementioned grisaille underpainting. It is possible that I've gravitated to the indirect painting method because it separates out the components of color and value; allowing the painter to first focus on the drawing, then the value, then the color. I find, more and more, that I can handle much more visual information as my skills continue to improve. (That is to say, as my beard gets longer). Not that indirect (grisaille) painting doesn't have it's place among the skillful. Jean Leon Gerome used a glazing technique to paint "Pollice Verso"

Pollice Verso means "Turn the thumb."
In layman's terms, the guy on the ground
is screwed.

Incidentally Gerome had a mustache which may or may not have been ironic:

Oh the Irony!

I have no doubt that I will return to glazing in the future since I am as faithful with my technique as I am with my choice of canvas and support. I have a few miniature figure painting I'm kicking around in my head, but first things first:

Gotta get the beard sorted.

Genius out.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Artist of the Month

Just a quick note:

I am pleased to announce that I have been selected as artist of the month by Trekell. An excellent brush company out of California:

If you have a chance, do visit their website. I (being the material slut that I am) never hesitate to recommend a product or service I have discovered that is truly exceptional.

More posts to follow soon, I'm right in the middle of manically producing painting for my Gallery in Santa fe. And unlike painting, I am very bad at multi-tasking.