Mini Painting lesson

There's a Bear Model in My Studio

As fascinating as it would be to actually have a polar bear in my artist studio to paint "live" from, I realize the "live" part probably wouldn't apply to one of us for long.

Polar bear portrait study 1.   ©Christine Montague. Polar bear oil paintings on canvas. 12" x 12". Contact Christine  here .

Polar bear portrait study 1. ©Christine Montague. Polar bear oil paintings on canvas. 12" x 12". Contact Christine here.

So to simulate this experience I brought up one of my photos of the wonderful Inukshuk (the adult male bear at the Toronto Zoo) on my laptop.  I positioned my laptop at a distance and height a human model would sit in front of the easel.  Imagining the model before me was 3D,  I blocked in the shapes, values and colours I observed on the blank canvas. There was nothing drawn up before hand.

Detail: Polar Bear Portrait 2  . (private collection). ©Christine Montague 12" x 12" polar bear oil painting. Please feel free to comment below or comments & inquiries are always welcome   here  .

Detail: Polar Bear Portrait 2. (private collection). ©Christine Montague 12" x 12" polar bear oil painting. Please feel free to comment below or comments & inquiries are always welcome here.

 

In this style of painting, the background is more than a backdrop of colour to hide the white canvas. The paint helps carve out  and define the outer edge of the head, helping it to stand out from the canvas. Only at the end of the portrait painting are the fine details, and pure blacks and whites added.

Of course, for me, whether the portrait subject is human or otherwise, the big reward is always when I get to finish the eyes. Thanks to the magic of oils, the polar bear eyes in these portrait paintings, as well as in my imagination, are very much alive.

Polar Bear Portrait Study 3.   ©Christine Montague (Please note that this image is slightly cropped. ) . For comments and questions about any of my art please   contact me.

Polar Bear Portrait Study 3. ©Christine Montague (Please note that this image is slightly cropped. ) . For comments and questions about any of my art please contact me.

heARTs & Cold Wax Oil Painting

Heart Rising. Cold wax on wood copyright Christine Montague It has been a while since my last adventure with cold wax and oil painting (Read more about it here).

Experiments that I had begun since that time didn't seem to set.  I wondered if I had received the wrong Dorland's wax product, or if I used too much oil paint in my ratio of wax to pigment. But as it turned out,  I had my work too textured, and the under layers could not dry. When I shaved off the thicker parts the drying process began.

So, the other day,  I decided I  would put some left over paint to good use and mix in some wax. There was enough for one little small panel. But, like trying to eat one just one peanut , next thing I  knew - I had pretty well used up my little stockpile of prepared wood panels (i.e.panels were gessoed, sanded, & their sides masked).  A whole series of pink, white & silver of heart & Valentine's Day inspired works lay drying in the studio - hearts emerging from the clouds, floating over the falls ("falling in love" get it?), hearts rising. A couple of bouquets too.

As the cold wax process uses a lot of oil paint - the cost of  artist quality Winsor & Newton oil paints does limit how much I can afford to experiment. With Valentine's Day in mind,  I added Permanent Rose (what better colour for true love), and Silver to the Dorland's cold wax.

First I dolloped the oil and wax mixture on the panels with a palette knife, then used the Wilton Dough Scraper spread and smoothed it over the surface. I also used the scraper to remove and push the wax mixture to create my texture, and values. The light pink is the stain from removed wax. The darker pink is where the wax is thicker and smooth.

A week later, some of the areas still weren't setting fast enough for my liking. Out came the palette knife to remove areas too thick. I accidentally scratched a piece with the  sanding paper I was using to clean up the back of the work. Hmmm. I liked the way that looked, and next thing I knew, I was dramatically changing some of the 3" x 4" blocks by  incorporating sanded away texture. Isn't that what experimenting is all about?

Below you see the Wilton Dough Scraper I bought at the Janice Mason Steeves cold wax workshop.

Winton Dough scraper. Tool for Cold wax. Christine Montague

Emerging Heart. Cold wax. Copyright Christine Montague

Hot for Cold Wax Oil Painting Art

One of the joys of being an artist is the opportunity  for life long learning, discovery and play (to misquote Hamlet "The play's the thing!"). Artists are probably one of the poorest (financially) of the professional demographics, but the reward of infinite growth is priceless.

For a while now, I have been curious about the encaustic (from the Greek word "to burn in") or hot wax painting process.  I had a series in mind that I envisioned with the built up, molten, textured, luminous look that results from painting encaustically. However, upon research, I discovered that the traditional hot wax process,  with its fumes (as well as potential toxicity) of melting bees-wax, carnauba wax, damar resin, and pigment, was out of the question in my poorly vented studio which shares air space with 6 other artists.  So recently, when Canadian painter Janice Mason Steeves http://www.janicemasonsteeves.com/ promoted her workshop in the "Cold Wax Process" -no heating wax, no excessive fumes- I enrolled.

Things to find out. How would this process differ from hot wax? How could I apply it my portraiture painting? Would it have the luminous and texture potentials of hot wax? (FYI I have noticed in word searches that bring readers to this article that it is wondered if canvas can be used as a surface. No. You want the solid surface of a panel os some sort so the wax doesn't crack when the canvas bends.)

Jan has a beautiful studio in Rockwood, Ontario, that was large enough for 8 of us to each work at a table of our own. Our goals were to play, experiment with colour, texture, and application on our prepared panels. My biggest challenge was "to play" with the medium. I am goal and product oriented, and any attempts to "play"  resulted in one question "what if I did...?" branching into multiple more. I knew I was hooked when 10 prepared panels just weren't going to be enough!

Dorland's generously supplied the cold wax medium needed. This is the most remarkable product with a multitude of uses. (Sham - Wax!!  :D) Check it out here http://www.paintspot.ca/cgi-bin/advice.pl?s=98 For our purposes we mixed it 50:50 with our oil paint and then squeegeed the resulting colours on in layers. Then the creative exploring started - wiping away, scraping, scratching, writing into, lifting off,  blending, brayering in textured pattern from material, lifting off with newspaper, stencilled into - whatever this creative bunch thought to do.

On the second day, Jan instructed us to make ugly work, i.e., no thinking about finished products. Explore, experiment and play were the order of the day. But at the end of the workshop, when we took a look at each other's work, it seemed, we all failed ! Every piece - and we were a productive group -  had a fascinating element. Eight very tired (playing can be exhausting)  but very happy cold wax converts drove off into the sunset.

Encaustic Painting with Hot wax: Artist Jessie Fritsch has a nice explanation here http://www.jessiefritsch.com/encausticinfo.html

Great explanation here about is cold wax "encaustic". AMIEN stands for Artist Materials Information and Education Network http://www.amien.org/forums/showthread.php?2054-encaustics-with-no-heat

Here's another example of my cold wax work.

Snow Textural detail of cold wax oil painting by Christine Montague

Taking Shape: New Cat Painting Begins

A new giant cat is emerging from the dark in my latest oil and oil stick painting - seen here in my studio at the Williams Mill.

The Colour Shaper tool is again proving useful to both add and remove paint creating great fur texture. Read all about the Forsaline & Starr Colour Shaper & how to use it here.

Finished Big Cat Painting Today

Detail of Big Cat Painting Copyright Christine Montague

I didn't want to leave the studio today until I finished this painting - I was so anxious to see it completed. Although I adore painting in oils, drawing was my first love, and so, it was exciting for me  to both draw (oil sticks) & paint (oils) in this art work. This piece also combines my love of portraits, my love of animals and my love of black (I am only painting in black until they invent something darker). Equally as fulfilling was my use, for the first time, of silver oil paint as my "white" - although its reflective values proved a little trickier to photograph. My iphone camera, couldn't quite do the trick.

Do you know that many artists give a lot of thought to the placement & appearance of  their signature on their paintings? Well, I am one of those artists. This new work called for a different look to my signature. Traditionally, on my carefully rendered, realistic paintings, I carefully print my full name in block lettering. I don't like my signature to distract from the work, and even will use more than one colour to print it so that the signature  flows with the work. This painting called for something more expressive. Artist Carmen Hickson of www.theredpigstudio.com lent me a nifty colour pushing brush* ( a rubber chisel tip instead of bristles). It was perfect for carving out a cursive signature with values that suited the painting.

By the way, "Big Cat Painting" is not the official title of the painting...

* I don't know the official name of these rubber tipped brushes, and tried unsuccessfully to  google them for this post. My son, who used to work at Curry's Art Supplies, informed me they weren't big sellers, but I sure found it terrific to use.  Do you know what this type of brush is called?  I did however find this new neat little cleaning gadget while trying to find the rubber brush name https://www.currys.com/catalogpc.htm?Category=A021B006823&Source=Search. I could have used this when washing piles of black oil paint out of about 8 brushes this evening :D

New Art - Giant Cat Portrait Painting Continues

Yesterday I mentioned I used Tri-Art's sludge as the preliminary step (the canvas was already gessoed in white)  to starting this 60" x 48" cat painting. I was quite enamoured of the taupe, neutral colour of the sludge, and began the day by ensuring areas had the sludge show through. This was not my original vision for the painting. Sometimes it pays to go with one's instincts, but in this case it was keeping me from connecting with the portrait. If I don't fall in love with the face, I know something is wrong.

So back to the plan - Black and silver oil paint for this silver tabby. What appears white in this painting, or light gray is actually silver. The painting is not done yet. But the concept that one side of the cat disappears into the darkness, and the other side is awash in silver light -  is becoming clearer.

This oil painting incorporates the use of oil sticks as well as oil paints.

Mini Art lesson 4. Learn Along with me in How to Paint Grays in Oil.

One of the reasons I wanted to create the painting I have in progress at the moment (scroll down) was the challenge to paint many variations of the colour gray. A trivia  email going around states that the human eye sees 500 shades of gray. In trying to confirm this online,  I have found the human eye sees 500, 700, 256, a dozen and less than 16 shades of gray.  Whatever the true answer is, it is a lot more than I normally mix in  my standard palette, and in the creation of this painting  I hope to illustrate as many variations as I can. Normally, I use the following  standard palette -

My usual pallette

  • cadmium yellow pale
  • yellow ochre
  • cadmium red
  • alizarin crimson
  • viridian
  • olive green
  • chrome green
  • cerleum blue
  • cobalt blue
  • ultramarine
  • burnt umber
  • titanium white

I create black from mixing equal parts burnt umber and ultramarine and my grays from adding white to that mixture. (see lower right of palette above)

gey-beginning4

So how to expand on my knowledge of creating grays?

I turned to the terrific book I bought recently Color Mixing For Artists Minimum colors for maximum effect using watercolors, acrylics, and oils by John Lidzey, Jill Mirza, Nick Harris, and Jeremy Galton. Barrons Educational Series Inc. This is one of the most readable, portable, helpful and affordable color books found in our local stores.

This is the starter palette from Color Mixing For Artists

Starter palette for oils

  • titanium white
  • lemon yellow
  • cadmium yellow
  • yellow ochre
  • cadmium red
  • alizarin crimson
  • Winsor violet
  • French Ultramarine
  • raw umber
  • Payne's gray

The book has a whole section on mixing gray as well as sections on mixing most other colors

Mixing Gray oil paint

Palette 1. Using Alizarin crimson, viridian, ultramarine, lemon yellow

Left: 7 parts viridian, 1 part alizarin, 2 white

Centre: 3 part viridian, 1 alizarin crimson, 6 white

Right: added some more viridian and white  to left mixture

Ignore blue blob

Mixing grays

Palette 2

Left: 2 parts French Ultramarine, 1 alizarin crimson, 2 lemon yellow, trace white

Centre: 4 parts French ultramarine, 1 cadmium red . White.

Right: 20 parts viridian, 1 part crimson, white, and more white

palette 3 Mixing gray in oil paint

Palette 3

Top left: 4 parts cerelean blue, 2 camium red, 1 lemon yellow, 2 white. And more white.

Bottom left: Mixtures of ultramarine and alizarin and white.

Bottom right: cerelean blue, burnt umber , white

Top right: 3 french ultramrine, 1 alizarin crimson, trace lemon yellow, white

Of course what I am really doing for much of this painting is creating the illusion of white painted surfaces- the railing, painted walls, white flowers on the t-shirt- in shadow and reflection. One of the great joys of painting is learning to intrept just what it exactly what we are seeing. When asked what colour are the walls, we would answer white, but what we paint is another story.

An additional note. A couple of years ago I enjoyed a show entitled "White" at the the Abbozzo gallery in Oakville.  Examples of the interpretation of white from all the gallery's stable of artists wwere on display. This show was a great example to all painters and students on the myriad of ways to paint white (and its grays)  - whether in abstract. realistic or illustrative painting. To see a few examples from this show click here.

Grey Paint. Phenology. Where's the link?

Riverwood, Mississauga crocus Copyright Christine Montague 2009

Today I was going to talk about painting greys, that is until I did a look see at  The Riverwood Conservancy new web site- here. Formally the known Mississauga Garden Council, this non profit organization has chosen a new name more suitable to  their role as steward (and much more)of this amazing urban wilderness - that in their words, to which I fully concur-  is both "beautiful and wild".

There is much to explore in this 150 acre old growth forest that is the most ecologically diverse in the Credit Vally watershed. Do you know that the salmon, yes salmon, are working their way through the 6th largest city in Canada, right about - let me check my watch - now?

But what I really wanted to let you in on is the niftyRiverwood web feature, the Phenology Database . At this link one can search for the time and place of the sightings of specific animals and birds. I think this is a great tool for nature lovers, artists and photographers alike.

As well, one can return the favor and enter the location, time etc. of the wildlife seen. I think this would be a nice participatory thing thing for the kids to do, too.

You don't have to be an artist to enjoy a visit to Riverwood... but I strongly suggest you'll regret not bringing your camera.

So much  talk about Riverwood on such a sunny spring day. The greys can wait. Guess where I'm heading?

Riverwood, Mississauga crocus Copyright Christine Montague 2009

Mini Lesson Continues: Light, Dark, More Birds in Painting & at Riverwood too

Next step, Glaze Copyright Christine Montague Next Step:  I have mentioned in the previous blogs how I did not have the foreground with the figure of  Wishing it was His Turn to Go as dark as I like.  I dropped a glaze of burnt umber over the figure, the door, and deck  posts.  Brilliantly, I forgot I had been painting the screen door earlier and so the paint pulled down through the opening in the door. This accidentally gave a "screened effect" and although the painting is still young I am hoping to  use this to some advantage.  I did not glaze over the hand holding the door. You can see the contrast between the hand and the neck define the right side of the head.

I simplified the sky, "carving" out the ear and jawline on the left side when I did so.

I also added the birds back into the painting.

In contrast to this early fall painting, was this very glorious day just before spring. This afternoon I spent a couple of hours exploring Mississauga's  wonderful urban wilderness, Riverwood Park & returned home 300 photos richer.

I do not have a quality lens, and must remember to get a monopod, to help with those darker wood scenes and bird shots.  Out of focus, I know, but this was such a darn pretty woodpecker, and the happy little thief of a  squirrel was sweet to watch as well. Who can resist animal shots?

Mini Art Lesson Next Step Underpainting to Blocking in Colour for Oil painting

next step:Blocking in Color Copyright Christine Montague 2009

Blocked in colour over underpainting Copyright Christine montague 2009

"Cat Mysteries- The Visitor""Blocking in Color Copyright Christine Montague 2009

"Wishing it Was His Turn To Go" At this stage, I am adding color to the monotone under painting (see previous blogs). Some artists complete small color studies before they begin their work, but I am figuring out my palette as I go. The teal in the screen door at the right will compliment the  with the yellowish bricks on the right. The reddish brown of the upturned picnic table and houses across the street will compliment and play against the greens of the grass and figures t- shirt. Because I didn't have the tonal values properly worked out in the under painting (remember I forgot to stain the panel for my mid  tones)  adding this light layer of colour did not improve the situation. As well as I painted quickly I have lost a lot of detail - like the birds and fence posts. Not to worry- details are like the cherry on the cake - saved for last, rather than first.

Tomorrow, I will add some more detail to the person- I want to start "connecting" with him by bringing him into more into focus, & making him more real to me (like developing a character when you write). I also want to get that division of dark and light in there. When i squint at the painting the "L" shape (an L on its back) of the deck railing , t-shirt and screen door should be very dark - in shadow. The band of fencing should be lighter- more mid tones. The "L" (and L facing down) of the brick wall and sky should be light. I also want to get the birds placed back in .

"Cat Mysteries- The Visitor" Still in the mood to paint, and should be removing my artist cap for chief cook and bottle washer with four hungry people arriving home expecting their dinner, I quickly dash out the darks and some of the colour for Cat Mysteries. More fun than more serious subject and detailed work, that's for sure!

Mini Art lesson: Drawing to Underpainting. Christine Montague Oil painting "Wishing.." Begins

Do you ever wonder how one begins a painting?  Here are the first steps of my  painting  in progress now. Anxious to start painting "Wishing it was His Turn to Go" ,    and not interested to make my own canvas (the image is a not to standard canvas size), I ordered a Fredrix, artist museum quality primed linen board that I could cut to size.  Bought online, the statement "hand-primed pure Belgium Linen sounded good to me.  But when they arrived approximately a day later, I was surprised to see the warning, in caps,  that includes .., EXPOSURE MAY CAUSE HARM...NERVOUS SYSTEM, KIDNEY OR BONE MARROW DAMAGE. Wash ahnds immediately after use. When using so not eat, drink, or smoke. (shouldn't do that when oil painting anyways). Wear an apron (what kind?! a lead one?)  .

Oh, my.

Still, onward.

The first step in transferring my drawn image is to tape a sheet of tracing paper over the image. I carefully draw the  outline edges first. This serves as my registration reference.

Transferring the drawing to the painting surface Copyright Christine Montague

Next I do an outline drawing fof the image. I do not bother with any shading. In this case I draw quite carefully. I like the original drawing and do not want to leave impressions on it by pressing too hard.  I include all major detail as there is a fair amount of detail in the original image that I do not want to loose.

Detail of tracing Copy right Christine Montague 2009

I  tape the traced drawing onto the linen board & slid a sheet of graphite paper between the two layers.  I had not yet cut the board to size and so had extra space on which to tape. I was grateful after I did this. I usually work on gallery mount canvas (canvas with a deeper profile) that I do not frame. That I had not yet cut the board let me add a 1/4" around the image to accommodate for any frame overlap.

Graphite used to transfer drawing to linen board. Copyright Christine Montague 2009

Here is the transferred drawing.  Somehow , in the using the new board, I have been thrown in my process. For an under painting I usually stain the surface first. If I do it at this step, it will dissolve the graphite drawing. Staining gives me a mid tone to work from. I remove the paint for my lights, and add to it for the darks.  Now, as much as the drawing and redrawing in the above processes helps me really know my painting, so I paint with  confidence,  I don't really want to be that confident, and start the whole process again!

Drawing the outline Step 2 to tranfer drawing to painting surface Copyright Christine Montague

Here is the tonal values of the painting.. Not as well defined as normal due to the lack of staining , but enough so I understand what is going on with the piece when I begin to paint with colour. I did the under painting in Old Holland Classic Oil Colours Burnt Sienna. Note: I found the oil gesso on the linen board very different to gesso on pre purchase canvas. It was shiny and almost acted as a resist.  Also, because I had not precut the board or sealed it with a stain, my hands had been in constant contact with the board. Remember the lead warning at the beginning?

Original drawing & Underpainting Copyright Christine Montague 2009

Begining Steps for a Step painting: Seagull at Gairloch Steps, Oakville

Normally an oil painter, I  have heard good things about Golden's open acrylics. "Seagull at Gairloch Steps, Oakville" copy right Christine Montague

In my post about my painting  "GR33N" I gave them a go for the first time, but not in my usual more realistic style.  I have now started the painting "Seagull at Gairloch Steps" Gairloch is a beautiful garden  park in Oakville, Ontario. A beautiful  heritage home, now a gallery, sits on a hill overlooking the great Lake Ontario. These old stone steps and wall, now just a picturesque resting place for winged and biped visitors are one of my favorite parts of the park.  I have at least three paintings in mind involving this wall.

But what I thought would be the first quick go at the mini series, is taking me much longer. This is not the finished painting. Although I like the open acrylics, they just do not respond to how I like to paint. No glazing for example.  So what should have been a quick study, isn't, as I figure out this new medium.

I'm attempting to keep an open mind about these new open acrylics, which stay wet remarkably long and feel a little more like oils in weight... but for my next paintings.. back to oils!

Have you tried open acrylics? What did you think of them?