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Oil painting

I’ve never painted with oils before last fall (I haven’t done much painting at all and never taken a class in it) but from the limited amount I’ve done since then I like them better than acrylic and I can’t really explain why. If you’ve ever had a game that you like because the pieces are nice, they are smooth and rounded and have a nice weight to them so that it just feels good to pick them up, that’s how I feel about oil paint vs acrylic paint. In November I was invited to start painting with friends and hopped in, hoping I’d figure out what I was doing as I went.

I started working on a landscape from a photo I took on the Isle of Skye of a heather-covered hillside and the shoreline and sea beyond. Did I mention I knew NOTHING about oil painting (or any painting?) so it’s been slow going as I stopped every time I had to work on something new.

I think it looks very much like someone’s first oil painting. The colors are too saturated, particularly the sky, and my brushwork leaves something to be desired, but I’m working on it. I need to finish up the heather and there are some details in the mid ground I want to touch up before I call it done.

After we’d been stuck in our houses a while because of the pandemic, I decided to bring the paint supplies to my house so I can at least work on something. I was not previously a fan of the still life, but these are small, have simple shapes and are very ‘low risk’ compared to a portrait. If I’ve got some lines off on a lemon, it doesn’t make the lemon look angry.

Things I noticed: when trying to paint a white, shiny object, I should not have made the highlights pure white – it looks too chalky. It is very difficult to figure out what the shadow color on a lemon is. I am not good at painting thin lines. If I do a blend from purple to red to orange I need to really keep my brushes clean and possibly break it down over several days.

Finally, I went through my photos and decided to try another landscape. This one is small (14×11) and I’m thinking of it as a ‘practice sketch’ for something to maybe do again later but bigger. I’m playing around with a style and want to work a bit looser. I started with a practice practice sketch – a thumbnail that was only 4″ wide to get an idea of the colors.

The oils take a while to dry between layers and I’m prone to wanting to rush everything (I can create grey!) so my current solution is to always have 3-4 paintings in progress so I can jump to another when one needs time to dry.

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Kingfisher

Playing with pastel pencils: test #3. Learning from my frog mistake I went a little bit bigger (but I think not big enough! This is 9×9″

What I learned:

  1. I need to slow down doing the backgound and get it nice and smooth.
  2. The stabilo pencils are water soluble and going lightly over it with a water wash once I’ve got some pastel down helps fill in the gaps were it may not be making good contact with the textured paper.
  3. If I want really bright colors maybe I should use a white paper
  4. Either I don’t like the spray fixative or I’m not using it right. The fixative made all the colors darker, made areas with only light pastel vanish, and made some heavy chalk lines in my underpainting stand out. Oh – it also revealed some lines from my pencil sketch! Working over the top. of the fixative felt a bit scratchy.

Since the fixative caused so many problems I did a substantial amount of work over the top of it. It left some gummy patches so my background is not as smooth as it was, but it did really let me punch up the color and rework the spots on the feathers. Looking at it now, there is some more I could do, but now I’ve got it under some glass to protect it.

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Pastels

It’s been a while, but now with everyone under a stay at home order, I’ve got plenty of time to play with art. Here are two quick studies I did to try to see how they work. I’m learning. The frog had good colors but I realized I’d made it much too small for the kind of details I wanted to use.

I called these “pastels” but they are specifically Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils. I have an ancient set of pastels that I never liked because they make a huge mess and were ‘scratchy’, I’m not sure about the scratchy part, but having pulled them out again now I think my main problem is that I only had 9 colors and it wasn’t enough to do anything. And also I would need to work BIG and that kind of size intimidates me. Buying paper that large is expensive – but I’m adult now with my own budget.

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Night forest and landscape painting

I have several uncompleted works now. I’ve joined some friends to try to learn oil painting – something I’ve never done before. I’ve hardly handled paints at all. But since the oil painting takes so long to work on and I only try once or twice per week, I’ve been sketching, and now putting some inkscape art together. Here’s what I’ve got.

Night forest – in progress
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Fall pysanky

I tried some very old and very new techniques.

These first two are variants of a ‘berehynia’ – a traditional design representing a protective Slavic deity. The next two are what happened when I tried to free-form a pattern and used alcohol inks to color with instead of the traditional dyes.

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Glass fusing

A friend had an extra ticket to go to a glass workshop to make art out of fused glass. This was really fun! I’ve never done it before but I really like working with glass. I think it’s only a matter of time before I want to go all-in and work with glassblowing. I’ve held back because while I like the idea of WORKING with glass, I don’t really enjoy owning it all that much. But the molten glass itself is fascinating to me. In any case, here’s what we did.

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Sunflower

Latest pysanky. This is another duck egg and I had a hard time getting the purple to take evenly over the red. It was coming out very dark in the purple area, but also not really covering the red in big blotches.

I used a paintbrush dipped in water and vinegar to brush off the dye around the wax and when the shell was nearly white, dipped it into the purple for just a few seconds. This was the result!

There are some flaws in my design and in my wax lines, but overall I like how it turned out. I plan to get a cap and hang this one as an ornament.

Flower on purple pysanka
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Eggs

Last month I volunteered to teach a class for a youth creative arts club and we made Ukrainian eggs. I haven’t made these for a while so it was a good excuse to try again.

I need to get a few more practice eggs under my belt, but it was fun. I bought 2 dozen duck eggs locally thinking that they’d be fun to work with. I tried some local chicken eggs – but it turns out everyone raises chickens that lay colored eggs and I wanted nice white shells. But when I did a search to see how to clean the duck eggs all I could find were articles telling me you can only wash them with water and if you wash them with soap or scrub with baking soda, the shells won’t take the dye well and they will wind up pastel.

I scrubbed that duck egg with baking soda, wiped it down with vinegar and then rinsed it. It seems to have taken the dye just fine. There are a few irregularities, but nothing I don’t also see in chicken eggs.