Thursday, February 27, 2014

I saw a bee!

There at my doorstep on Sunday morning, I saw my first bee of the season. It was the buzz of that little honey bee that got me flashing back to steamy hot summer days when my yard is alive with bumbles and honeys and other bee species unknown to me.

And it was then I remembered last year's intent to start up some bee beneficial plants. I had my seeds. Alas, I failed to carry through.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not merciless. I do have quite a few bee friendly species. Flowering crabapple, flowering quince, butterfly bush, lemon balm, holly, sweet pepperbush, goldenrod and jewel weed come to mind.

But it's actions that count, right? Ya, right! :-)

Lavender, Thyme and Rosemary seeds
from Johnny's Selected Seeds in Albion,  Maine.

A small flat, seeded with the above.
There are lots of seeds left over, so I may start up another flat soon. And if something goes wrong, come Spring there's always a trip to the local nursery where I can stock up with ready to plant herbs.

This post is dedicated to my good friend Val Littlewood.

Do spend a bit of time on her Pencil and Leaf blog. At the very least, you have to read this recent post. When you do, I can guarantee with certainty that the next time you see a bee, you will think of Val. And when you do, drop her a line and let her know. She loves a good bee story!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Good Enough Panel Making

What's a panel? To an oil or acrylic painter, it's an alternative to a canvas support. It could be of solid wood, plywood, MDF (medium density fiberboard), copper or even one of the new composites like Dibond. Sometimes canvas is secured to a panel.

A panel, like a canvas, needs a primer base and then a ground to be considered complete. Examples of primers are rabbit skin glue and acrylic dispersion primers (like Golden's GAC 100.) Examples of grounds are gesso, lead paint and acrylic dispersion grounds (like Golden's Gesso.)

Just those two little paragraphs above open to a world full of knowledge, opinions and outright nonsense. I try to wade through it all with the likes of forums within Natural Pigments and AMIEN. I keep up to date with products and research from the web sites of Golden and Gamblin. Museum sites can be tremendous sources of information for art conservation. (See here and here for starters on these stunning resources.)

I've tried linen panels but prefer a smoother surface. I'm not painting on very large supports, the biggest at this time being 16 x 24 inches. These are my surface and size requirements.

Over the past couple of years, I've tried 1/4" "Birch" plywood from the local building supplier, Home Depot. Splits in the veneer surface and localized warping plagued me.

Home Depot also offers MDF and I've been, until recently, working with their 1/8" MDF. I did find slight warping apparent in sizes over 12 inches.

I have settled on 1/4" MDF. No warping over a span of two feet.

To prepare my panels, I first cut to size on my table saw. Then over the course of a week or so, I will apply two coats of Golden GAC 100 to all sides. Then it's a coat or two of Golden's Gesso all around with a couple more layers for the front. I then let the panels sit for a week or so to dry more completely.

This little process is built upon the product information on Golden's site. It can possibly change over time so I visit regularly. My requests for technical support with Golden's products are always well answered. I like 'em!

You see, my goal here has been to establish a process that I'm comfortable working through and that I feel provides good protection for a painting's future. My standardized process feels "good enough" for me. I like that!

I do as some point want to explore MDFs. Are they all the same? Do some fit better with GAC 100? Perhaps I should scuff up the panel first?

I might want to explore grounds as well. Do I want to use a lead ground instead of acrylic? Will rolling acrylic gesso provide a smoother surface than a brush?

One could easily become lost in the technical abyss and never come out. I do have experience with that phenomenon. I think that's why my "good enough" statement is key here. I may be able to make incremental improvements in my panels but certainly don't need to delay painting. It's good enough!

(See my earlier posts on panel making here and here.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Another gift painting

Here's another little painting I recently gave to a friend. It was my first try at a Luis Melendez copy, just a little bit and rather incomplete at that.

A small piece of a Melendez
MDF panel
8 x 10 inches

I have a second copy that's more complete and a third just getting underway that's a full size version. We'll take  peeks at those later in the contexts of panel making and Old Master copying.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Meet Junior

In December I began this painting of a friend's cat, Junior. At that time, all I had was a picture in that pose on a windowsill. I kind of made up the rest as I went along! So naturally, lots of changes that led to lots of changes. :-)

Junior taught me that planning is important. I've some new work that I'm trying to hold in step by step fashion. It's hard. I want to dwell on the details here, and then there! And then...

So more on that later. For now, here's Junior! He's a very sweet cat! :-)

Linen on panel
8 x 10 inches

Note: This image is somewhat oversaturated and reading too contrasty. Since this photo, I've stopped using my iPhone 5 and gone back to the Canon with raw files for art work photos. But the iPhone was so handy...