Category Archives: Making art

The Light Box – progress report

I made some progress today in meeting my self inflicted deadline to complete the sewing machine drawer project…. I wasn’t entirely happy with the art cover I made earlier so I spent some of yesterday doing some acrylic pours onto plexiglass sheets.

 

Even though they were promising in design when I placed them over the light box the acrylic paint was too thick to let enough light through- although where it was thin some very lovely “light holes” appeared – so there’s an idea bubbling away for a design where I intentionally screen out some areas to get a light pattern- think starry, starry night or bioluminescing water.

Anyway back to the project…I tried an ink pour next and it looked sort of OK .

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Playing with ink pours onto plexiglass sheets.

 

So , out with the drawer which I had previously kitted out with LED light strips attached to a transformer, and on with the plexiglass sheet.

 

The sheet isn’t fixed in place at this stage but I thought it could be OK even though at this stage it looks a little dull. Anyway – on with the lights!!!

 

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WOW! Love it when the light comes on!

It was an instant hit of lovely, warm, bright colour. There are parts of the panel at the top I would like to change but the pouring process is 1 part control, 99 parts out-of-control, and I could do another 100 and not be totally happy. This time I’m going to override my inner perfectionist and let my ‘it’s good enough” out of the box for a play.

I still have work to do because even though I measured twice before I cut it’s still a whisker too tight to recess into the drawer. I’m considering my options carefully to try and avoid shaving the bottom edge of the plexiglass which will be a very painful process-if anyone has any good ideas I’d love to hear! Meanwhile I’ll be straining the brain for a fix or going back for another cut and pour.

The sewing machine drawer project…

I’m brimming over with ideas at the moment and have a lot of projects on the go and a pretty messy studio. It’s not unusual for me to get caught up in a new idea and jump straight in feet first adapting the method to use whatever I have lying around the studio, the kitchen, the workshop or the paddocks! Mostly things work out OK, I’ve got very adept at adapting over the years.

Why all the adapting? It’s all down to my absolute impatience to start creating once I get an idea. Also my absolute impatience to complete a project once started. In my peak sewing days I was heard to say “if I can’t make it in a night it’s not worth making”. This inevitably led to some pretty late nights. Anyways, I start before I completely work out the details and somewhere in the middle I realise I don’t have the tail feathers of a rare Peruvian parrot which is absolutely essential to finish. Not to be thwarted in my headlong assault on the current creative make I head outside and find a couple of sparrow feathers , slightly mangled after the owner’s altercation with our cat ( no acrimonious letters please – the sparrow won), and surprisingly they work just fine.

So it’s been a slight departure from norm that I’m currently working on a new idea that is crawling along…definitely not a one night wonder. I had an idea for using the drawers from my grandmothers old Singer sewing machine to make light boxes. The top of the machine cabinet is wrecked but I didn’t want to throw it out because of the Nan connection so I got my creative side working overtime to come up with a repurposed use for it. The idea of a light box with some sort of art component was the winner and since I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it  I did a spot of googling and started making a list.

There’s actually a lot of bits and bobs that made it onto the list, none of which I had – a thorough search of the house and environs failed to turn up any subs so I headed to Ebay and ordered an express delivery of patience! I’m glad I ordered the XXL bag because the rest of the parts on the list have been slowly trickling in over the last month or so. The day the last bob arrived I had to fly out for a week visit to my father-in-law so the drawers remained unfinished, sitting on a bench overflowing with little packets of LED light strips and solderless connectors, plugs and transformers scattered around and sheets of cut and uncut plexiglass cluttering up the place.

I’ve been home 3 days and there’s been some progress. The box is all wired up, the lights work fine, the panels cut to size with a few spares, the wooden fixing strips are cut to size and it’s all set for the art panel to be attached. The problem is I keep changing my mind about the artwork. I’ve tried ink painting , acrylic pouring and photo transfer on the  plexiglass panels and just can’t decide what to go with. I think the problem is the art panel is going to be permanently sealed in place so once it’s done I can’t go “oops -should have gone with the other one!”

Bottom line is I fly out to Europe in 10 days and it’s going to be finished or I’m not getting on that plane…

Terry Ludwig pastels.

I’ve been coveting a set of Terry Ludwig pastels for a very long time. The trouble is they are quite expensive and you just can’t buy them in Tasmania. So by the time I’ve added postage from the US the “quite expensive” has soared to stratospheric heights of extravagance.

When I retired The Writer kept urging me to spend a little something on myself as a reward for sticking it out so long. I drooled over the full set of Terry Ludwig hand made pastels for some time even going so far as to ADD TO CART to see what the postage was. The message re postage implied I would need to take out a second mortgage to have the 550 set of delicious, buttery, hand rolled pastels delivered to my door. I sighed and deleted from my cart.

Roll forward 3 months and once again I sat up late into the night poring over the various sets on offer. I agonised about the price but I’d just done a couple of commissions and the bank account was looking OK so I decided to choose a small set and treat myself – I don’t think I posted the Easter baskets painting here previously.

Easter Baskets

I really felt I was due a reward after all those people and baskets . The client sent a black and white photo and asked me to paint it in an Easter pastels colour scheme. I did a lot of googling to work out just what might have gone into Russian Easter baskets and can now give you a full run down from lamb shaped butter sculptures to the plaited Easter breads with baked eggs embedded in the plaits.

Anyway , suffice it to say a feeling of entitlement prevailed. I debated the relative merits of the general landscape set versus the basic values set and then settled on the violet collection before succumbing to the gentle call of the Richard McKinley landscape set.

21937-5609-2ww-mI love bright colours and have a lot of them so this set wasn’t my first or natural choice but I kept coming back to it because this set is full of all those muted and soft colours of nature that can be hard to find. It’s going to fill a few gaps in my collection from the grey greens right through to the light hues of soft pinks and creamy yellows. I just love Richard McKinleys art and think I can learn a lot by using his chosen colours to add a little restraint to my vibrant palette. Here’s my first painting using just this box.

Desert colours

Already I love these pastels. It’s incredibly hard to find just the right colour for sage brush and here it was – right out of the box!

I’ll keep you posted on my new love affair with 60 square, yet soft and subtle,  pastels.

 

Acrylic abstraction

I was pretty happy with my first attempts at acrylic pouring on canvas. Well- if we don’t count last nights fiasco – which I ended up scraping off the canvas into the rubbish bin. I don’t know about you but I’m definitely not counting it.Tidal flats

It’s a very simple but unpredictable artform which I’ve been meaning to have a go at for some time. In fact ever since I bought a bottle of the pouring medium at my local art store about 6 months ago. It’s been sitting on the shelf in my little studio tempting me and I finally succumbed at 10 o’clock last night. Probably would have been better to wait till this morning but there you go- when the muse strikes she’s very insistent!

The edge

Basically you fill a few plastic cups with different coloured paint and then thin it down with some pouring medium and water to a thin pancake batter consistency. Add a squirt of silicone, stir and ten layer the colours in another plastic cup starting with white and randomly dropping in the other colours. Then sit a canvas on top of the cup, with said cup centered on the canvas and turn the whole thing upside down. Now just slowly and cleanly lift the cup away from the canvas but NOT straight upwards – off to the side a little.

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Waterways

The whole lot glugs out creating beautiful and random colours and patterns. Tilting the canvas moves the paint around to exaggerate sections of pattern and cover the canvas. At this stage the paint starts dripping down the edges and the mess gets messier. It’s not called a dirty pour without reason! Using a blow torch to run over the surface helps to pop any little air bubbles and create small “cells” where the denser colour (white is densest) drops to the bottom and the lighter colours rise to the surface.

I love the chaos and random beauty of these- not sure if I’ll keep doing it but really enjoyed the process. Let’s see if they dry OK before I make up my mind.

Reflections in a green pool
Reflections in a green pool
Meeting place
Edges
Purple nebula
Purple nebula

 

 

How to make a folded window artist’s book

This concertina artist’s book displays mini garden paintings in graduated windows on each page. You can cut any size window you want but I like the way this book seems to zoom out from the flowers to the full garden as the windows get progressively bigger.

Materials:

fabric scrap or piece if scrap canvas decorated in any way you like ( I used acrylic inks)

PVA glue ( preferably acid free)

scraps of thick mat board or other card for covers

straight edged metal ruler

craft knife or mat cutter

cloth tape

watercolour paper- you will need a sheet approx 100cm wide

length of ribbon or cord

 

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Step 1 Make the covers

Cut 2 pieces of card the same size . Mine were 5 x 15cm. Cut two pieces of your cover canvas or fabric 2 cm larger all round and then cut the corners as shown so you don’t have too much fabric to fold under at the corners. Spread glue on the face up side of the covers and use a scrap of card to squeegee the glue all across the surface of the card so it’s smooth. Turn the card over and centre on the fabric and smooth out so there are no wrinkles.3b

 

Fold the corners in neatly and then tear off strips of the cloth tape and tape leaving 1 cm all round free of tape3c

On the back cover lay a length of card/ ribbon accross the cover side to side and tape over it. The tape should be 3 times the width of the cover.3e

 

The front of your covers should look like this ( only not bluury!)3d

Step 2  Prepare your paintings

Now make sure you have 6 mini paintings ( or poems , or cut outs – whatever you like) that will fit in the windows you’re about to cut. I did flowers but it could be anything you like.3f

 

Step 3 Measure and cut your paper.

Now you need to measure your covers and cut a length of watercolour paper that is

LENGTH =(the width of the cover – .5cm) x 6

WIDTH = ( the height of the cover -.5cm) x 2

Step 4  Mark and fold your pages

Once you have cut the paper fold in halve bringing the long sides together. Crease the fold with the back of a bread and butter knife . Open up your paper and mark six equal sections  along the length of the paper strip.

Step 5. Cut the windows

Now you can cut the windows on the top half of the sheet however you like. I cut mine starting 1.5 cm in from the pencil marks leaving 1.5 cm border at top and bottom of the folded half. I increased the length of each window by 1.5cm.

Use a metal ruler and a craft knife for cutting the windows.

Now fold the long edges together again.

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Step 6  Position the paintings

Next match up your 6 paintings with the 6 windows and try them inside for positioning. I marked around the corners with pencil so I could position them again easily.

Step 7  Fold the pages.

Then you need to fold the strip of paper at each of the 6 sections you marker earlier. Place the metal ruler on the left of the first section mark and fold the right length of paper over the ruler to the left and press the crease. Now lay the ruler on the right of the second section mark which will line up with the start of your paper strip. Fold back over the ruler to the right. Continue the rest of the folds going in opposite direction for each fold. You will end up with a concertina strip as below.3h

Step 8 Glue in the paintings

Open up the strip and glue all along the non window side spreading the glue smoothly with a piece of card. Also place a bead of glue around each window. PLace the painitngs in the pencilled marks you made earlier , fold the strip long side to long side and smooth down to make full contact with the glue. Smooth out any wrinkles or creases. It should look like the photo below.

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You can make sure your page folds are crisp and smooth by ironing them with a warm iron.3i

Then I sandwiched them between some card and placed bulldog clips around until they set.3m

Step 9 Glue pages to covers

When fully dry cover the inside of your cover with glue, smooth out and then carefully position the front page painting side up on the front cover leaving an equal distance from the edge around all sides.3k

Do the same with the back page and back cover.3l

 

Leave for a few minutes then fold up the concertina book , wrap the cord around it twice and tie up.1

Step 10 Weight down for 12 hours

Now place under a heavy weight such as a brick or stack of books for 12 hours and you’re all done!

Step 11  Enjoy!

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Why not try one yourself and send me a link to your art book? I’d love to see where your imagination takes you.

 

I’ve been busy…..

I meant to post more often once I retired but I’ve been busy…. so here’s a collection featuring my “busy” for the last little while.

Mini pastel painting book

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Mini pastel painting book

I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a mini book filled with pastel paintings. The big problem is the smudge factor as the pastel is so delicate. I finally hit on the idea of placing a sheet of framing acrylic straight on the painting, securing with tape then glueing the painting to the inside covers of the book.

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Pastel painting book

 

 

Next I added a mat to hide the edges and joined the covers with a painted canvas hinge. I think it could be a goer- I’ll sit it on the shelf and see what I think in a few days time.

Now that took a lot of thinking and fiddling round and a fair chunk of my “busy”….

 

 

A few You Tube demos

I wanted to get a couple of YouTube demos done and put away for a rainy day. It’s good to have one sitting ready to upload if I have a dry idea week. So I did a couple of small paintings, edited the videos and now I have a spare. That took a medium size chunk of “busy”….

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McWay Falls

 

A trip up the coast

Hey this was work folks! I needed a few more photos of the East Coast of Tasmania. Seriously, I’ve only got a few thousand and that’s just not enough . We left early in the morning and I got some shiny sea shots on the way up which I was pretty happy with.

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Early morning sea
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Shining sea

 

Then some sunny ones at Honeymoon Bay ( a fantastic little beach in the Freycinet National Park). In between the photography I squeezed in a spot of snorkling so as not to waste the sun, warm water and prolific marine life.

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Honeymoon Bay
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on my lunch break

 

Then back home again with a few stops…

Friendly Beaches, Freycinet National Park
Friendly Beaches, Freycinet National Park
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Friendly Beaches
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Golden fields
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and those orange lichen rocks – totally untouched!

and that was a very full day of “busy”.

I unleashed the sewing machine

A trip to the home furnishing shop a few weeks ago saw me grab  few bolt end fabrics and they ended up in this trio of bags.

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And I made another mini watercolour painting book.

Just wanted to play with my new Schminke watercolour set which is lush!

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In between the busy I’ve swum and snorkled, baked and eaten, walked and talked, written and read so forgive me for my blogging slackness please.

What’s your “busy” been ?

Feedback and questions about your paintings.

If you want to ask for feedback or advice about your own painting, or you have a question about something I haven’t covered in my You Tube videos, or you have a suggestion for a topic you would like me to cover you’re in the right place!

Just leave me a comment with your question and/or a link to your painting and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Happy painting!

Day Trip

On Monday I headed down to Cygnet to drop off some paintings at an exhibition. It was a glorious sunny morning and The Writer was headed in the opposite direction to Port Arthur to take the Tasman Island cruise. I would have joined him but for the need to drop off the paintings and the fact that I’m such a bad sailor there was no way I was ever going to get on that boat! The waters down there can be pretty rough and the boat is a very bouncy ride – all adding up  to a green and nausious experience for me which I preferred to avoid.

So, back to the Cygnet trip which was by road and much less bilious all round!

I packed the car with my painting kit, trusty Red Velvet (my camera) the paintings to be delivered and some lunch. This took a bit of time. Painting kit makes it sound like a small box you might fit your first aid items in-try imagining a 1940’s film star heading off on the Orient Express for a 6 week grand tour of Europe and you might get a glimpse of the magnitude of the packing job. I had acrylic paints, brushes, canvases, my field box of pastels, rags, charcoal, pencils, alcohol ( not the drinking kind- I’m driving!) paper, sketchbook, easel and a kitchen sink just in case I might need to wash up after the painting! Then I decided it wasn’t quite enough so I threw in the tripod in case I wanted to YouTube the painting.

Red Velvet got quite a work out on the way down. As soon as I hit the Huon River I was stopping every few minutes- the reflections were fantastic and the blackberries lining the road were ripe and luscious- so between the snapping there was a fair bit of berry browsing!

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The big bend at Huonville
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The wetlands magic.
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Boat on the Huon river.

 

I often have trouble committing to a painting spot when I head off plein aire. I want the perfect subject , the perfect place for the easel, not too much traffic to disturb me and a bit of shade nearby. So I kept on driving and was very tempted by the reflections here…

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Golden grass reflections. Huon River.

but all the time I was thinking of Drip Beach so I kept heading south past more perfect reflections…

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Reflecting on the Huon River.

…and then I arrived. I love this small beach because it has such interesting shadows from the gum trees behind the beach. I’ve painted these shadows before and I thought I might try a different format this time…

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Drip Beach shadows.
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Sparkle on the water.
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Green water, red rocks.

 

I parked the car in the shade, hauled out the easel and set up. It was a lovely spot and I enjoyed being out in nature painting for a change. There were a few locals out walking their dogs and we exchanged greetings as they trooped on by. They stopped to check my progress on the way back and wanted to know if I was famous- not really- but they wanted my name anyway!

A couple of happy hours passed and here’s the result…

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Shadows on the water. Drip Beach.

I’ve promised myself I’ll get out and about more this year and this was a good start!

 

 

 

Painting snow in pastels.

Setting up.

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Tablet with reference photo

I like to use my Samsung Galaxy tablet to view the reference photo on as I paint because it has great colour and I can zoom in and out for detail if I need to. I just hang it up next to my paper. Then I choose the boxes of pastels I’ll be using and set them out. I’m using my Unison Lights for the snow, a box of greens I’ve made up myself for the trees and some Sennelier Darks for any area that needs a punch of deep, dark colour. The Unison Landscape set is for extras I might need. I chose a purple/violet MiTientes TEX sanded paper and taped it to a foamcore board.

 

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My boxes of pastels all set out.

Blocking in.

Next I sketch in the main composition lines with a white charcoal pencil and block in the main shapes with my harder pastels then wash them down with a watercolour brush dipped in alcohol.

 

Add in other basic shapes.

Now I start working from background to middle to fore ground.

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Blocking in middle trees and warming foreground trees.
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Adding some detail to the middle trees.
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Laying in the bright snow
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Snow on foreground trees.

 

Finishing off with a snowfall.

I choose a few very light blues and a white. Holding the pastel above the painting which I’ve now laid flat I scrape lightly with the knife and a little shower of pastel dust falls onto the painting. I start with lighter blues and end with some bigger flakes of white for the closest snowflakes.

Now I take a piece of greaseproof paper and place on top of the painting. Pressing down gently I move my hand in a circular motion to press the pastel flakes into the paper.

 

Finished painting and reference.

I was concentrating on the snow and didn’t realise that I sloped the paddock the opposite direction until I looked at it later. Doesn’t really matter as this was just a demo for my YouTube channel.

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Why not use the reference photo and have a go at a snowy winter scene. It’s lot’s of fun. Send me a link to your painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Framing a pastel painting.

This is a step by step tutorial on how to frame your pastel painting using a ready made chain store frame.If you choose a well made wooden frame you can save big dollars and still have a tastefully framed painting.

Materials list:

  •  a ready made frame with a mat ( the opening to be slightly smaller than your painting) Check the corner joints are well formed with no gaps.
  • some mat board or foamcore offcuts
  • a sharp craft knife
  • a pair of scissors
  • acid free framing tape ( can be purchased from an art supply store)
  • a kitchen table knife
  • a lint free cloth
  • 2 small screws
  • 2 D rings
  • hanging wire the width of your frame plus 10 cms.
  • a screwdriver

You can buy picture hanging kits from the dollar store which include the screws, rings and wire.

 

 

Step 1 – Remove the backing board using the kitchen knife to prise up the metal tacks flat against the frame.Take out the paper and mat. Make sure you place the mat on a clean surface!I like to use the paper insert from the frame as it’s just the right size.

 

Step 2Check the frame for any damage. Especially check that the corner joints are smooth with no gaps. Check the glass to make sure there are no scratches.

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Step 3 – Make a spacer frame. Cut four strips from your scrap board long enough and wide enough to make a frame that will sit approx  2cm in from the mat opening and 2cm in from the mat edge. You will make the scrap “frame”on the side of the mat that will be facing the painting.The spacer frame will allow any falling pastel dust to fall behind the mat keeping the front of the mat and the glass clean.

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Step 4Attach the spacer frame with the framing tape making sure the tape doesn’t show in the mat opening. You don’t need to tape over all the strips – just enough to hold them securely in position. You could also use double sided tape for this .

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Step 5- Centering your painting on the backing board. Take the pastel painting and sit it on the middle of your backing board. Here I’m using a piece of foamcore cut to the same size as the MDF backing board I removed from the frame. You cam use the MDF board but if you do it’s a good idea to seal it first with a coat of varnish or gesso to prevent any acid in the MDF from causing discoloration of your painting in years to come.

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Now place the mat over the painting to make sure only the painting is showing in the mat opening

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Take a ruler and measure from the top of the mat to the horizon line on both sides to check you have the horizon level.

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Once you’re satisfied with the painting placement remove the mat and tape the top of the painting to the backing board with a small piece of the framing tape. This stops it moving when you place the long strip of tape on.f15

 

Now cut a piece of tape long enough to cover the full length of the painting at the top and attach to the backing board.f16

Step 6Placing the painting in the frame. This is the fiddly bit. As you’re doing this stage you need to constantly be checking for any stray pastel dust on the mat and the glass before you go onto the next step. This is very important!

 

Clean the glass with a lint free cloth ( I use glass cleaning cloth)f19

Lay the mat on the glass making sure the spacer side away from the glass and the metal tacks are all showing. You can use the knife edge to lever the mat in  gently to get it to slip below the tacks.f20

Holding the painting on the backing board carefully place it face down on the mat

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You might need to use the knife again to ease it past the tacks.

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Use the flat of the knife to push a top and bottom edge tack flat onto the backing board.

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Turn over and check carefully for any dust or stray specks on the glass or mat board. If you see any remove the painting , clean the glass and/or mat and replace. You can use a kneadable eraser to clean any pastel dust off the mat. Only when you are completely sure you have no unwanted dust should you move onto the next step.

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Step 7- Taping the frame to keep moisture out. Turn the painting glass down . Take the framing tape and stretch it along the top edge of the frame just in from the edge.f26

Cut each end using the craft knife and gentle pressure.

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If your frame back is flush with the backing board then start in the middle and carefully press the tape downand gently press as you move your hands out to each edge. Don’t worry if you get a few wrinkles- no-one will see it when it’s hanging on the wall! If the frame is above the level of the backing board as mine is just cut  into the corners as below and then starting in the middle press the tape down into angle formed by the frame wall and the backing board. f28

Continue until all sides are covered.f29

I need to cover the small corner gaps now so I just cut a square of tape and place in each corner.f30

Step 8. Attach the hanging hardware. You will need 2 small screws, 2 D rings and some hanging wire. Notice that the D ring has a flat side and a curved side.f33

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Place with the curved side down approx 8cm from the top of the frame and screw in place.

Repeat on the other side using a ruler to make sure they are at the same level.

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You shouldn’t need to pre drill holes but if you do make sure to do it before you put the painting in as the vibrations will loosen the pastel dust and cause you grief!f37

Now stretch the wire across the painting to check the length is right. You should have a bit extra each side.f38

Run it through one D ring and pull it through a second time. Pull tight and tie off .f39

The excess is now wrapped tightly around the wire.f40

Repeat on the other side making sure to keep the wire tight.f41

Now just wrap the ends of the wire in a small square of the framing tape to keep all sharp ends covered.

Step 9. Hang on wall and admire!f43