Earlier this year I was invited to paint a door for a fundraiser for the Yarmouth, Nova Scotia branch of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
At the time I was swamped with painting my musician series and I almost turned down this opportunity. I thought I could be practical and adapt one of my photographs or an existing painting or drawing for the project. That would save time, right? Easy and fast, right? #famouslastwords Continue reading →
Right now, I’m headed outside to paint iris and lupins. Here is a repost of a blog I made in 2010 about painting at this time of year. I will try today to express the emotional connection I feel for iris as I did in this painting.
There were gorgeous, large bearded irises in my grandmother’s garden over 50 years ago. My mother transplanted some to her garden and eventually I had them in my garden. They moved ½ way across the continent with us when we came to Nova Scotia and are blooming like never before.
I know my mom and my grandmother would have loved the yellow variety that I’ve added to the ancestral iris. And I know they would have loved the wild purple, pink and white lupins that grow like weeds here and especially at our place.
I want to show you how I painted and drew these flowers using fluid acrylics over a base of wet matt medium and I’ve made a tutorial for you about this. Enjoy!
I paint from life and in early June, the lupins and iris are in bloom here in Nova Scotia. I brought some into the studio and placed them in wine bottles so that I could have good close-up examples of the lupin in the distance. Although I prefer to paint on location, at this time of year the black flies are biting, so I paint inside.
I started this painting applying watered-down acrylic on a primed canvas. I wanted to achieve a soft, wet in wet watercolour effect.
When that dried, I applied a thick coating of matt medium over the entire canvas and then painted into it with my fluid acrylic paints. I keep them in sealed plastic containers in a muffin tin. That way they are always ready to use.
I try to limit my palette to five colours or fewer because it creates a better colour harmony in the painting. I paint with nylon brushes and I also use a rubber-tipped scraper to draw shapes into the painting.
I dip the scraper into my paint and draw with it much like dipping a pen into ink. I like the calligraphy effects that I can get by pushing the paint away and creating a line and a texture.
If the medium gets too tacky, I moisten it with a spray of water. The water also makes the paint run which adds an interesting softening effect to the work.
As long as the medium is moist, the painting can be worked on and the scraping will reveal the colours underneath.
I love iris and I deliberately choose purple and yellow because they are complementary colours and they make the painting vibrate.
Although I have an easel, I painted this on the floor because otherwise the entire painting would drip and run if I placed it upright. That’s because I have a coating of wet matt medium on the canvas and that is the tip or secret that I am sharing with you.
I came across this quite by accident and now I almost always paint with acrylic this way. For one, it delays the drying period, which I like; but the biggest advantage is that I can create all kinds of textures and linear marks in the painting by pushing away the colour with a scraping tool and revealing the layer of colour or canvas underneath.
I bought a gorgeous yellow iris at a plant sale this spring and I wanted to make it the focal point in this painting. Unfortunately, by the time I painted this, it had finished blooming, but I used my huge purple bearded iris as reference. That’s the beauty of being the painter. You can change the colours of anything in your painting to suit your mood!
This last month my morning walk through the village and lanes is dotted with clumps of asters growing in the ditches. They are shades of lilac, purple and a few rare deep fuchsia blooms.With their happy yellow centers, they seem to burst out all over our field beyond the studio. I don’t remember seeing as many of them other years and I’m not sure what was different about our weather this year to encourage them.
I picked a big bouquet of these wild flowers and brought them into the studio to paint.
I started with a rough sketch of the flowers using a thick acrylic marker.
I am intrigued with the effects of clear acrylic mediums and paint on canvas. Some painters like to mix acrylic paint or inks into medium to create a transparency. I like to cover my canvas with medium and then paint into the wet surface and I usually use a thin matt medium to do this. But often that medium dries too fast. So, I’ve been using gel medium more and more which is thicker and takes longer to dry.It also lets the paint lie on top of the gel…but you must gently drag the paint brush across the canvas and try to just touch the surface once! Go in with confidence!
The thick gel has the added bonus of showing every brushstoke which is apparent in this painting.
Next, I painted in a yellow background. I liked the colour harmony of the yellow with the blues and violets.
At this point I felt that I needed to ground the painting so I added a subtle horizon line and slightly darkened the space underneath the line.
I haven’t used this much white paint for a very long time, and I like the results. It really illustrates the airiness and delicate nature of the wild asters that I’ve been enjoying for weeks.
For now, this painting is available at my studio. Let me know if you are interested in purchasing it. I ship worldwide.
Update June 30, 2014
I decided the painting needed more depth so I applied a thin coat of transparent acrylic ink to parts of the painting to give it some depth and definition.
This summer we’ve had very hot weather which made painting difficult. Acrylic paintings I worked on dried faster than I wanted them to. So, I’ve been using gel mediums that are formulated to slow down the drying time of acrylic paint. This allows me a longer time to apply the paint and to draw into my work revealing the canvas underneath.
Let me show you the steps I take.
First I paint the medium on the entire canvas. I used a combination of a pouring medium from Golden Acrylics and a thicker one from Liquitex. For the background colour I dripped Liquitex inks into the medium.
Then I blended the ink into the gel with a brush. This will be the background and will help to unify the painting.
Next, I studied my reference materials…in this case flowers from my garden that have bravely weathered this summer’s drought!
Then, using broad strokes, I painted a suggestion of flowers onto the canvas.
I try to lay in the colour with single strokes. This way, the gel allows every brushstroke to show. I like the freshness of painting this way.
Sometimes I put two colours on the brush to add to the surprise and spontaneity of the brush stroke. I mostly paint with Golden Fluid Acrylics and I keep them in small plastic containers.
Finally, I draw the scene using a rubber tipped shaper. This technique is called sgraffito. I add a few more colours and at this point it is a push and pull effort. I try to keep the freshness of the colours as well as building up a contrast and creating a pattern of colour that goes through the entire painting.
I can only get this effect by using gels and the slower drying mediums/gels allow me to work for several hours on the painting.
I am happy with my result. It totally reflects the joy I felt in looking at my garden flowers on a hot day in August.
Last summer I made this time lapse video of painting a watercolour using a ‘wet-in-wet‘ approach. That means painting onto wet, cotton paper using wet paint!
Today I added a voice-over to the video. The sound isn’t great because I didn’t use a microphone – just the built in one in my imac. Still, if you crank up the sound, I think you’ll be able to hear it OK. Continue reading →
I have a strong need to paint from life so wintertime here is a real challenge for me! It is a great feeling to be present with a living flower and to sense the life force of it. Sometimes I paint from photographs I’ve taken, but it’s not as satisfying an experience. Continue reading →
Occasionally I’ll read an article about some old Masters painting that was x-rayed to reveal another painting underneath. The writer will seem amazed and surprised by this. Oh, if those writers only knew how common this is for painters! Continue reading →
In my continuing attempt to deal with unfinished paintings, I came across one of an amarylis flower from last spring that lacked the energy that I found in that beautiful bloom. I loved the reds and I felt attached to the colours in the painting, but not the outcome. Continue reading →
Rust on linen and photo transfer by Flora Doehler.
I’ve been experimenting with dying rusty objects onto fabric. Fabric artist friend of mine, Marilyn Preus, used this technique in one of her beautiful wall–hangings and I had to try it out for myself!
The key ingredient for this is to find rusty objects and we still have quite a few of those in our barn. Thank goodness I didn’t throw everything out when we moved in last year.
Suddenly all those funny bits of nails and who–knows–what seemed like a pirate’s booty and I was so glad that we haven’t quite got to sorting things out in the barn. I was also glad that we saved so many of the handmade nails that came out of our house during renovation. They have all rusted at this point and could be used for my project.
Iron nails that are more than 100 years old.
Rusty nails, hooks and buckles.
Rust dyeing works best on natural fabrics so I used cotton canvas, linen, and silk for my experiment. I also tried dyeing a piece of polyester-cotton but the results were very poor.
After placing my pieces on the fabric, I squirted the entire pieces with vinegar until the cloth was saturated.
Rusted pieces laid out on poly cotton and silk.
I slipped the plastic board that held the fabric into a large plastic bag and let everything sit for 48 hours.
Vinegar dissolves rust.
My art room smelled like a fish and chips store for a few days!
I wanted to use a ribbed pattern to dye the cotton canvas and I found just the thing in an old wood stove pipe that is resting in the backyard.
Thankfully this old stove of ours missed the dumpster.
I brought the stove pipe into the house, and wrapped the cotton canvas around it. Then I poured vinegar all over it and place it in a bag where it sat for 48 hours.
I loved the result when I unwrapped the cloth but unfortunately I washed it before it had a chance to really set so I had to redo my steps again. I learned to rinse in cold water and then let the cloth dry and sit for another 2 days before attempting to wash with soapy water.
The shapes that the ribbing in the stove pipe made are reminiscent of a birds wing. I am now looking for donations of rusted rebar because I think that would be very cool.
I have been working with an image transfer as well. It’s an abstracted photo of young men sailing to this new world in the early 1930s. These men were in their 20s and are probably all dead now. One of them was my father although this isn’t a portrait of him per se. In the piece I create, I want to suggest the impermanence of all our situations as well as suggesting that immigrants are both casting out and are outcasts.
I have ideas floating around in my head, but there are still the technical details to master!
This piece was on linen and although I liked the placement of the metal pieces, for some reason I had difficulty getting enough rust on the cloth.
After a couple of attempts I decided to roll up the cloth with those rusty pieces and spray the heck out of it and shove it in a bag for three days!
When it was finished it certainly had a lot of rust marks on it! The shapes weren’t as controlled as I would’ve liked them to be and in retrospect I wish now that the photo image transfer had been larger.
I also rusted a piece of silk and discovered that the most interesting results happened in rusting this piece. Look at the detail in this piece of fabric, especially where the spring was placed.
It is back to the drawing board for me or to the rust heap! I am also experimenting with the image of my young men with paint on a canvas which I may show you next… and there is also the landscapes that I continue to work on… plus I just dug out my weaving books and am considering threading the loom again…. so much to do–lucky me!