Archive for the ‘color study’ Category

who's the wolf

Another Daily Art challenge make. I am revisiting Red; I’m not alone, lots of people are seeing Red these days. There has to be a reason she is surfacing to consciousness right now. I’m not speaking for anybody else, but I feel two contrasting and contradictory energies at work currently. The illusion of black/white vs. ambiguity.  The middle road seems very narrow these days. Mulder is back with his “question everything” philosophy. I like that; my feeling these days is that the questions are more worthwhile than the answers.

I started with the Rives BFK® printmaking paper and dropped some water randomly onto the surface. I put some black Dr. Martin’s® Bombay ink into the plain water drops and let it spread. I blew it around with just my breath and let it wander, then set it aside to dry.

I wanted to use tube watercolors today, so I picked up an ultramarine tube and kneaded it gently to mix the pigment up. These tubes are old so I go easy, but today not easy enough. I was daydreaming and looked down to find ultramarine watercolor all over my fingers. Luckily I had torn up a bunch of lunch sacks yesterday so I wiped my hands all over those pages, and everything else that wasn’t nailed down. Then I took a big brush and swiped water all over the paper to move the paint. I don’t want to think about how that will turn out when it dries, but can you say “CRINKLE?”

Well, watercolors dropped way down the list. That’s how easily I am deterred from stuff. I thought I might try ink. I have a mess of Higgins inks and I like them very much but I never have drawn with ink. I bought them for the purpose of making blot papers for my Interactive Intuitive Readings™ but they didn’t end up working as well as the Bombay ink. Higgins® Dye-based Drawing Inks are much less expensive and highly pigmented. The back of the package says they can be used like liquid watercolors.

I really like the way these inks move, and I would definitely equate them to watercolor nature. **Be advised, I have no watercolor or inking skills. I am purely at a “coloring book” level. If you want to investigate the qualities of either medium, consult someone else with a far greater proficiency.**

The black ink blot was dry so I started looking at it, spinning it around to see if anything presented itself. Here’s how I work with blots and expressive art. Take a couple of breaths, close eyes, open eyes, soften eyes, turn the paper. Pause. Turn paper, pause. Do this all the way around. Subconsciously you likely already ruled one orientation out. Keep going. Don’t get scared. There will be a point when you feel panic and think, “I don’t see anything!” That’s good and natural because this is a trust issue. Expressive art is about developing trust in your creativity and your instincts. Just breath again and keep going.

I went around several times. There was one other orientation that was intriguing and likely would have been deeper expression for me, but I do keep in mind my time limitation. I am sticking to my one hour religiously and sometimes that means sacrificing an idea or technique. That’s ok, there are always other opportunities. Two of the other images were already no go’s. Like it or not, this was the one remaining. Suddenly (and I mean that, like a bolt of lightning) the wolf appeared, really well defined. The major work back into the wolf shape was adding teeth and ears (he had a nub of ear originally). At this point, all I had was white paper, black blot and the red teeth and eye.  As I was thinking and feeling what was left, I saw a curvy line that suggested Red’s Hood and Cape. You’ve got to be kidding me! So I colored that white space in with red. The image needed unity so I brushed on the dark blue for sky and green for ground. The other black blot is the silhouette of tree branch(es). I did see a snake head hanging down in mid-image so I outlined it lightly. It’s just a side note, but now we have three characters in our story.

So the image was nearly finished. There were the two white spots inside the wolf’s body, that is where the text could be. Text had to be short and handwritten. I got a toothpick and dipped it into the ink and scrawled it out.

I considered captioning it “Red’s Shadow.” That’s a black and white energy. I’m telling you the story. “Who’s the Wolf” is the ambiguous energy. Who is the wolf? Who is the innocent? Who is the onlooker? Who’s zoomin’ Who?

There was also the option to leave the space empty.  The highest expression is to let you ask your own questions or the freedom to not ask any and move along. As the maker I am forcing you to do it my way.




dendritic duo

No, not new Superheros to keep track of, rather, two separate dentritic monoprints taken from the same blots.

I talked about the dentritic monoprint process I started playing with last week after seeing a video on Youtube by Shannon Green. On Thursday I pulled two prints, one from each glass plate, so they are both first prints. On the second plate I used a paintbrush end and did a swirly line through the main paint blot. Other than that, the prints were very similar, as similar as two monoprints can be. There are always differences of some kind caused by the pressure put on the paper, a slight shift in the paper or the type of paper used.

I also want to mention before I forget that what reads lavender-ish on the monitor is actually hot neon pink. The orange is bright neon orange. The prints are actually more interesting IRL than they appear here. Sorry about that.

The bird image was completed on Thursday. An urge to do a somewhat representative drawing predominated my mind that day.  Remember I said I was very afraid and had to hug Bunny-kins at the thought of working on this? The blots on these pages weren’t connected in anyway to each other. One huge blot, one smaller purple blot, one odd shaped grey blot and two teeny grey ones. It unnerved me.

I saw a parrot in the big blot and once I got the eyeball in it was easier to place a beak and outline the body. The way the neck was stretched out reminded me of a bird looking out of a hole in a tree so I drew some loose vertical lines in a fine pen. The grey egg-shaped blot needed to be contained. The idea of a baby bird hatching seemed a good story but I didn’t trust myself to be able to draw a baby bird. Plus there was that teeny grey blot above to deal with. I decided the egg was a body, turned the teeny blot to a face, drew a skinny creature neck between the two blots and had the beginning of a friendly guy with no limits on how kooky it could get. I gave him five deely-bobbers and suddenly he needed energy lines as well. I had that other teeny grey blot under the bird and decided he could have multi-fingered flower hands and drew him long squiggly arms. I think he’s trying to give the bird a hug but I don’t want to impose that on him. Perhaps he is measuring the bird’s head for a hat. Which couldn’t be easy because of all those fingers, but look how Edward Scissorhands adapted.

That purple blot at the bottom was worrisome. I turned it into an eye and it developed rapidly into the Stink Eye. I figure, in this odd world there is no rule that an eye has to be in a normal place, so I made a creature with three wimpy legs holding a substantial body with a Cyclops eye. EEEWWW.

I tried to balance the colors I added (yellow, orange). Now, I will admit that I have a major Neon Jones. Nobody was happier than I was when Neon came back. However, I do not like black with neon; it gives me a headache. I prefer to pair neon with grey and white. I love grey as a neutral. Grey and navy are my blacks. Sometimes I need the darkness of black but it isn’t my huckleberry.

Friday I wanted abstract expressionism. The bird drawing wore me out and the swirl on the second print was making me nervous. It dominated that blot and it didn’t form anything that I could work with. I didn’t want to add any colors, either. I started by drawing loose outlines around the shapes of the smaller blots. Of course they were all hanging in space individually, so I drew some bubbles and lines to connect them and that worked. Then I went back in and drew lines around the color in all the blots (except the faded grey at the left side). All the black outlines started to unify the drawing.

Now I want to talk about pointillism. Pointillism is drawing with dots. If I am in the mood to do it, I cannot get enough. I find it relaxing when I’m in the mood. If I’m not, it works my one nerve. In the past I actually did canvases in pointillism. Sometimes the medications I was taking gave me different energy and tolerances for certain methods. Right now doing a work of that size in dots seems like a fresh hell. But I haven’t used pointillism in so long, it was tons of fun last week.

The bird image was simple. The white part got extra fine black pen dots. The colored parts got white Sharpie® Paint Pen dots. The dots were small and lots of space between them. But the abstract was a different story. I knew after years of practice that creating different-sized dots adds movement, as does space between dots and solid dots vs. outlined dots. So I mixed them all up in this piece. I wanted to move the eye INTO the page, so I started with big dots on the left side,corner and top, then went to medium dots, then down to fine dots as I went toward the center. I used dots to outline the big blot, rather than lines. That set it apart from the other blots. Around the big dots at the left, I filled in with small dots. I left the colored and white pieces unmarked.

I like my use of white space in this image. For my eye, it’s just the right amount of resting room. The blots in this image have various possibilities. Is the large blot a bird? A tropical fish? I have no idea. I have no narrative for this piece. It’s beauty for me is the balance of color, size, detail, movement, line vs. dot.

So, now you have more ways to make and work into your dentritic monoprints. Expression vs. abstraction. Pointillism. Neons with grey. Go for it.


My Daily Art Initiative is detailed here. This post is to discuss the process of making the above pictured piece.

This image was made in one hour on a 5×7 sheet of damp Rives BFK printmaking paper. The background is Pelikan’s gouache paint. I used colors intuitively and when I was finished painting I held a small fan close to the paper to dry it. (Obviously the fan is completely enclosed in a heavy wire cage for safety).  It took longer to dry than I thought it would. Remember, I’m on a one hour clock.

If you’ve read previous posts you know I have been experimenting with walnut ink and ink crystals. I use a waxed paper sheet (like deli paper only more see through) underneath any inking projects; walnut ink stains everything. I keep the paper because, well, you know. Because it’s paper and it has walnut ink on it.

A cat, let’s say, Peter Pan, knocked one such walnut ink paper off my desktop. I can’t swear in a court of law that it was Peter Pan, but I have a strong feeling it was. In this case, and likely ONLY in this case, I should thank him for it, because as I was bending to pick the paper off the floor (in order to prevent a vaudeville-like slip resulting in a worker’s comp case AGAINST MYSELF) I distinctly saw a running wolf with it’s mouth open showing his teeth. It was the head and mouth that was the easiest for me to see…although the tail and back leg were also prominent. It was just the proper size for a 5×7. I copied it on my Brother All-In-One inkjet printer. I am going to pause here to discuss this printer.

After some discussion and research Bob and I decided to get the Brother Work Smart series model MFC-J885DW inkjet printer not too long ago. I have not had an inkjet printer for quite some time. Previously I had a Canon inkjet which printed very nicely when it would print. Which considering the print head failed after 10 hours of printing wasn’t very often. I was given the first one, and it printed nicely and so when the print head failed I figured it might have been used a lot before I was given it. Just a note: if your print head fails, it costs 2x as much to replace it as it does to get a new printer. So I bought a new Canon, and that print head failed as well, unfortunately after it couldn’t be returned. I gave up on inkjets after that. We all know why, but for the five of you out there that might not, I’ll go ahead and say why. It’s because that you can purchase an inkjet printer for $19.95 and it will print very nicely, and the print head might last longer than 10 hours, in which case you are grateful. But then the fun begins. Long about 10 copies in, the dinky starter cartridges of ink that came with the printer are all drained, then you have to replace them with full size cartridges, sometimes each color separately, but at LEAST two cartridges, one black and another tri-colored. Actually, it is better if the three colors ARE separate because at least then one doesn’t have to replace a tri-colored cartridge just because you got all into yellow for awhile and now there is no yellow left, just the other two colors that have to be tossed like the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Whether you have the tri-color refill or the individual refills hardly matters, because all of them are going to require a second mortgage to replace. You see, it’s the bait and switch deal. They pull you in with a cheap printer that’s head will fail right after the time you buy the refill inks.

So, we’ve struggled along with our most excellent laser all-in-one. Laser printing is most economical but, alas, just black and white copies. Actually, it is most economical but the toner cartridge, which will last well into the next Presidency, costs $80. Sigh.

It started to seem as if I wanted color copies. I considered scanning and sending to an office supply store; color copies have gotten less expensive than they used to be ($1). However, to do this I would have to scan each item. Meaning, if I had an inkjet all-in-one I could just photocopy which is more efficient. The Brother had great reviews and the ink tests and prices were decent. And it was a great decision because I seriously love this machine, for a bunch of reasons that I didn’t even anticipate. It is fast copying and printing. All good. It is wireless and it works. Very nice. It has a touchscreen that runs it. Wow. I don’t even need a computer on to use it. It saves right to a stick drive. I control everything it does on that touchscreen. And the scanning, oh the scanning. Perhaps it doesn’t have truly professional scanning options but who the hell cares? I can scan in about 15 seconds, with no computer. I. Can. Scan. In. 15. Seconds. And, because it’s Bluetooth wireless, I can go in the other room, use that computer, use Adobe and send it to the Brother.

In short, I am in Brother All-In-One Worksmart heaven. This could be the single, most revolutionary thing to hit my studio in a long time (besides me being in there). I am not kidding.

So back to the art. Blots on paper are odd. When you use the copy machine, sometimes the blots look different than IRL. Maybe it’s the difference in the paper texture, I don’t really know. I copied the blot but it didn’t clear up the image, it was almost the same. I did use the inkjet copy to trace the image of the wolf as I saw it and decided to use that tracing as my cut out. Remember, I’m on a one hour clock. If I wasn’t on the clock I might have taken the time to redraw on the original blot, but I didn’t have the time.

The wolf needed a context. With Little Red Riding Hood uppermost in my mind these days, he was placed in the woods. Just black paper strip trees. I found a tiny piece of red paper and I colored over it with a red Copic marker. I tried for some perspective by varying the depth of field of the trees. I finished with one minute to spare.

This piece could use more detail work. I might put some grass and stones under the wolf to get him further into the foreground. I would have to do something with where Red is. The watercolor background is not very suited to the woods, it is way too bright. Red actually looks like she’s standing on the edge of an orange cliff, not picking flowers for Grandma. One more step to the right and the least of Red’s  problems is that wolf. Yes, in it’s current state, all told, it is woefully inadequate. But it does have that urgency, not withstanding it’s flaws. And it got made, all by me, in one hour.

Ok, how did I get this image. Besides the inkjet and paper, I mean. A big part of the how is obviously the obsession and research into LRRH. Pursuing a search of LRRH in my local library’s catalog, I found a book called Picture This, Perception and Composition, by Molly Bang. I had no real grasp of what this book was about, but I requested it. Turns out, Ms. Bang had done some research of her own, into shapes and colors. I am talking extremely abstract shapes. Normally this wouldn’t interest me much, except that she used LRRH as an example of how to build a narrative illustration using ONLY simple shapes and minimal color.

Step by step, shape by shape and piece by piece she takes us through building an image. If the triangle leans in, it feels this way. If it’s smaller, it feels this way. What will make the wolf scarier? How can we put Red into more danger? She ends up using white teeth, mauve background, black trees and wolf shape. Red triangle for Red and red in the wolf’s eyes and a big lolling red tongue. OMG people. In a million years I would not have put this together, EVEN THOUGH, I’ve studied color and universal shape meanings for 30+ years. This is a book that demands re-visiting, re-reading and direct application over a period of time and many experiments.


This photo copyright 1991 by Molly Bang, from the book “Picture This, Perception and Composition.

It is obvious that this author knows her subject. She has personal knowledge and has used the technique with students of all ages. The book is simple because she made it that way. The concepts are complex, her presentation is digestible. Look at what I did, after just exposure to her concepts. I simply do not believe I could have rendered this work before. I urge you to give yourself the gift of this book if you are interested in the emotional, psychological and perceptional aspects of shapes and colors.

Astonishingly, this book is available used on Amazon for .01 plus shipping. You know where I’m going.

Afterword: I receive no compensation from Brother, nor am I an affiliate for Amazon. Molly Bang is a prolific illustrator of children’s books. The illustration from the book Picture This is used as an example for education and review only.

Color inspiration

Posted: March 22, 2014 in art journal, color study, opinion

paintswatchWell, this is no Degas.

What can you expect? Just when Bob and I go outside to blow the stink off after getting air conditioning installed for 2 days, to do some yard work, we got robbed. Once again, there was an uninvited idiot in my house. He/She/It stole Bob’s brand new phone, my laptop and kindle. I’ve been recuperating.

About a week ago I grabbed a handful of random old postcards and I sectioned out the nice vintage lithographed ones from the ubiquitous pictures of old motels and swimming pools. A couple of the things that I like about the old lithos is the paper, which is heavily textured and a linen-ish color, and the colors they used. I inspected a few and it seemed to me that the color palettes are limited and consistent from card to card. I set them aside and thought it would be cool to try and match those colors and do some work using that limited palette. Of course, when I went to Joann’s earlier this week I forgot the cards and I was in the paint aisle when I remembered I didn’t have them. But it was ok, because paint was not on sale.

It’s not that bottle craft paint is all that expensive, but it is more than it used to be (dirt cheap) back when I did tole painting in the ’80s and we used it for our base coats. The normal price was 4 for $1.00 then and it frosts my canastas to pay upwards to $2 a bottle for it now. So I went over to Michael’s today with coupons and a mission, WITH the cards in my purse, thanks very much. Sometimes the neurons ACTUALLY FIRE! Imagine my delight when I saw that the Craftsmart bottle acrylics were 4 for $2 on sale, and I had a 25% coupon for my whole order. I went to town matching the colors. It took a while and pesky customers got in my way but I persevered, and returned with awesome colors. Most are good matches and I can mix to perfect a few that are off.

The last time I bought craft paint I got current with extreme brights and some neons and glows. I had not bought bottle paints for so long that I was stunned by the gorgeous saturated colors available. I have been using them to exclusion in my journals. It seems like a waste to use expensive heavy bodied Golden acrylics as backgrounds in journals. I think my art making is worth Golden and I already own it, but I almost always scrape on my backgrounds and WANT the map or white underneath to show. I’ve been using a selection of Apple Barrel, FolkArt and Americana brands. Mostly I got extreme acids because I like my yellows and greens to make your eyes bulge out, your gums bleed and your back teeth hurt. Seems sadistic now that I write it but you know I’m right about this. I found this out about myself when I bought beads. I’d buy the ones that were left in the acid yellows that nobody else could imagine using. My gain, their loss, but I’m getting sidetracked.

Here’s what I like to do with paint to keep track of what I buy. I make separate catalog sheets by brand name and then write down the colors and put a small fingertip dot for a sample. This is helpful not only in the store to make sure I don’t double buy (if I like it ONCE, I’ll like it AGAIN) but also when I’m at the art table trying to match something. It’s just easier to do off a page for me, maybe not for you. Obviously, I open them because that plastic wrap around the top is made in hell and there is nothing worse than wanting to paint and having to find scissors to get that plastic off. Make sure you TIGHTLY close the bottle and that the flip lid is secure, and store them upside down. This is good when you are just fiddling around painting backgrounds or if you are trying to find a specific color in 40 bottles. If you don’t use them for a while, pull them out and give each bottle a shake while you are waiting for something to dry.

Now, I know there are prejudices against bottle craft paint. I’ve heard all the opinions over the years. A main draw back seems to be that peeps think the pigment load is too low. True, the pigment load is lower than more expensive paints. If I were painting canvases to sell, I ‘d use my Golden paint. Personally, I like the finish on bottle paints, especially on paper. They have a matte finish, a smoothness, that heavy bodied acrylics don’t have. Some peeps don’t like them because some pens and markers won’t write over acrylics. Copic markers always do and Sharpies do if the paint is completely dry and smooth.

Personally, I like the color choices. If I am careful to stay within limits, premixed paints work for me. I do not like re-inventing the wheel in the studio. I’d rather pull an awesome color out of a bottle and have it look like what it looks like. It doesn’t waste paint. I’ve wasted a LOT of Golden paint trying to remember how to get a good flesh tone and I just bought a gorgeous flesh tone today for less than .50. For me it saves time and money and my frustration level is manageable. Yes, I may have to put on a couple of coats, but I often do with more expensive paint as well.  Your mileage may vary but I’m 58 years old and the clock is ticking. And moths flutter out of my wallet when I open it these days.

On a totally different topic, here’s some stuff to check out:

Foster the People’s brand new release Supermodel. Oh my goodness, what a sophomore release, couldn’t be better. Hear this band evolve right before your ears.

Documentaries I saw on Netflix:

The Woodmans, the story of Francesca Woodman, photographer. Outstanding work, way before her time. If you like b/w photography, a must see. She specialized in set ups and nude self-portraits, very inspiring. You will not believe the variety of textures  in her pictures.

Gregory Crewdson, photographer, I believe it’s called Beyond the Limits. He does very elaborate set ups, in collaboration with lighting and set designers from the movie industry. Every single detail is planned and the images are extraordinary.

Don’t miss the Christopher Walken mash-up that Huffington Post made the other day. His dancing and some short vocals and gestures from a bunch of his films. I adore him and it is delightful watching him move over about 4 (can it be?) decades.

One thing that I love to do in my journal (as much so I can find them later as any reason) is color study work. I try to find some really unusual, prolific color choices in a piece of art or in ephemera, in this case some artists’ gift wrap from the turn of the century. I believe this was included in a collection of papers that I bought from Borders quite some time ago; they are unusual in the extreme, some of them so “busy” as to be hideously attractive which can move very quickly to plain hideous if the artist isn’t careful. This paper was the first one to catch my eye one day when I had the urge to do a color study. Here’s the way I go about it. I will take a medium, in this example the top color blocks are Neocolor II Caran d’Ache watercolor crayons which I super love and have a large set of. So I go thru the stash and pull out the closest matches to the colors used in the papers. I write the name of the color above the swatch. Underneath the boxes of color you will see some brush strokes where I did a more translucent sample. The blocks at the bottom are Prismacolor colored pencils. You might like to know the purpose of why I do these studies. First of all, I just like doing them, they are fun and spur me to get the supplies out and reacquaint myself to them. Secondly, they illustrate what a wild color scheme is actually made up of…perhaps when you look closely to do the study you see 2-3 colors there that weren’t obvious before. Thirdly,  when you lay the colors out to the side in boxes, they look really cool and nothing like the wild pattern you’re trying to study and fourthly, now I have a color palette that I never would have come up with on my own, that I can translate into my own painting or bead work. Plus, it is a palette that is quite original and not the fad or fashion, but it’s played itself out in front of you so you know that it (or a combination of some parts of it) are going to work for you. So the whole reason I show you this is for you to shake the dust off your materials and find a piece of paper or fabric or artwork that is a riot of color and sit down to match up and document that article. Maybe you can come up with another 4 reasons to do it that I haven’t thought of yet. If so, please LMK.