Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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The Evolution of a Norman Rockwell Cover

July 17, 2018

A major influence in the art work I make is the inspiration I get from great illustration art of the previous century. No artist ever achieved greater stature in that genre than Norman Rockwell. I recently came across a sequence of digital files that show the particular method he used to develop the idea for one of his many covers made for the Saturday Evening Post magazine. I stumbled across them out of sequence, but once I had them all collected, they made quite an impact to see how his final concept came together.

I was very familiar with the final printed cover, but when I found the first image above it didn’t register with me that it was the same idea, since it was so different from the final painting. I could tell it was a rough sketch, and had the format of a magazine cover, but that was as far as I could take it at the time. The reading I get on the scene appears to be a quiet evening setting with a young girl keeping an eye on the sleeping baby, perhaps her sister, while doing homework.

The next image I found was that of the girl wearing a blue blouse, the third image in the sequence. While I could immediately tell it was a preliminary version of the final painting, I still didn’t make a connection with the first image other than it was two pictures of a babysitter. Wanting to find a higher resolution image of this, I searched on “Rockwell babysitter,” and then found the second image. Suddenly the whole thing came together, as his final idea is fully developed. The quiet scene is now replaced with the tumult of a screaming child in her lap as she studies a pamphlet on babysitting. In the third image, he’s moved our point of view in closer, so that we’re not in a separate room with the crib. The furnishing are different, and he’s added a few more props, including bringing back the homework books now placed in the chair, and returned the clock now on the floor showing a late hour.

He brings it all home in the final painting by changing the color scheme again, and adding more details. If I can find a higher res version of the printed cover I’d like to see what the title says on the print hanging on the wall. Rockwell had amassed a devoted following of readers that loved to catch these sort of details, and would write in with their own impressions or when they felt he made mistakes, so he had to be careful, and he knew that holding their attention that way was of major importance.

So many of these works of art by the great illustrators of the past have been lost or stored away that it’s wonderful the see them in detail, especially when you can see how the artist worked out their ideas. Sometimes you need the printed page as well to see how they had to work with the limitations of the print medium, or that the original art has been damaged or destroyed to a point where the printed version is the more accurate example. A dream I have is a large gallery and library that brings all of this together for study and appreciation well deserved.

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My Painting on Exhibit in Round Rock, TX

June 26, 2018

This recent painting of mine has been entered into an art show here in Round Rock, TX. The show is called “The Big Show” for art that is 2 foot square or larger. It will be held at the Texas State campus. I understand the art is already on the walls, but the opening event will be this Friday the 29th from 6-8PM. The show closes August 10th. Come by and see!

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Paint Test on Tyvek Synthetic Fabric

June 11, 2018

Following up on the Tyvek fabric that I showed in my previous post, I wanted to show some paint tests on it using both oils and acrylic paints. In the photo above I painted a few sample swatches of each using different tools and methods. As a reminder, this is a 9×12 inch sheet of polyethylene fabric, “Tyvek” brand, mounted to mat board with acrylic gel.

For the oil paint on the left I used stiff a hog brush and soft sable, as well as a paint knife. Some areas were thinned with mineral spirits, or wiped down with a soaked rag. All of this worked out fine. There were a couple problems to point out, however. In the center yellow area, I used a stiff brush soaked with spirits, and scrubbed the surface hard. This caused the fabric to come unglued from the backing in that area (see the image below.) The other problem happened scraping lines with a metal paint knife. When I applied a lot of pressure it caused the thin fabric to tear. Although it is tear resistant, it’s not tear proof when using a metal tool. Otherwise, it works very well with oils. Since this surface is slightly porous, if your backing is a paper product I recommend sizing it properly if you will be using oil paint on this.


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In the acrylic paint section everything worked well with the range of tools I tested. This included the same type of brushes as used with the oil, a paint knife, a rag, and also acrylic paint markers (DecoColor & Molotow.)

Above are a couple things to point out about using acrylic paint. With a metal paint knife I was able to scratch through the paint surface rather easily after the paint had dried. It’s an interesting effect, but also shows that the adhesion is not perfect, but acceptable. This layer (left image above) of burnt umber was painted with a stiff brush in the top area, and again below it with water added. You can see how the water beaded up as it dried. When using a wet soft sable brush, this was less noticeable. The paint also takes a little longer to dry on this surface than it does on regular paper. After a minute or so I was able to wipe it off almost completely with a damp rag. In these closeups you can also see a small square grid pattern showing through from the fabric where the paint is thin. The square is only about 1 mm. It’s less noticeable in areas where the paint is more opaque.

Keeping these points in mind, I would still have no problem using this as a paint surface for oils or acrylics. Being synthetic, it wouldn’t have some of the aging or humidity problems that come with natural fiber canvas. It’s also very inexpensive, and comes in large size rolls. I may do another test using water-based paints of gouache and casein, as well as different drawing media, so stay tuned.

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Using Tyvek Polyethylene Fabric for Artwork

June 9, 2018

I recently purchased a large sheet of synthetic fabric that I wanted to experiment on as a painting surface. It’s called “Tyvek,” made by DuPont, and is a paper-like fabric made of polyethylene fibers. There are different brands out there that have different textures, and other features. The sheet I bought is 60×52 inches, and came folded in a letter sized envelope. I’ve seen rolls of it in larger sizes at hardware stores with “Tyvek” printed on it in large type. This was blank, and other brands in rolls may be also. This sheet is 43 GSM (grams per square meter) which is very thin, but it’s extremely tear resistant. Some other brands I’ve seen have a puffed up canvas-like texture, but this is smoother.

The folded sheet has creases, but I was able to mount it to a scrap piece of 9×12 inch mat board, and that removed the crease. In the picture above, the Tyvek board is on the left. I used an acrylic gel medium, and also painted the back of the mat board with a single coat to flatten it out when it dried, and then folded over the edges of the fabric to the back.

In this photo above you can see what looks like wrinkles, but it’s actually very smooth. These are fibers that leave wavy streaks of matte and sheen lines that looks something like wood grain. If you wanted to leave areas unpainted this would be seen, but an opaque coat of paint would hide it.

Here I’ve scribbled some ink lines to on the back to show an example of what that media looks like on this surface. Even though it’s soft to the touch, it does have a texture. You can see a grid of square lines running through it like a canvas weave. A thick paint layer would cover that, but thin washes would not. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but something to keep in mind. I used sumi ink with a brush, a PITT brush pen, and a ZIG Millennium marker. Markers draw well on this in general, but water based inks may bead up some. Metal dip pens don’t work so well, tending to snag on the surface. Dry media, like charcoal or pastels work okay, but this is a little too smooth to be ideal for them. Hard leads of graphite or wax pencils don’t work very well either.

Once I figure out what to paint on this, I’ll show an example of how it performs with paints. I may just paint example swatches and nothing in particular, but I’ll still wait for a later posting.

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Framemaking: Cleaning Dust On Acrylic Sheet

June 4, 2018

To follow up on the previous post where I assembled a frame for my painting, I wanted to show how I clean the acrylic sheet that will be part of the frame. If you’re fortunate enough, unlike me, to work in a space that doesn’t have carpeting, you’ll be less likely to get very much hair and dust on the sheet, where the static acts like a dust magnet.

The first thing I do is to work on top of a dark sheet of paper or mat board, so I can see the dust easily. I place the frame with the plastic sheet face down on the paper, and use a large paint brush to sweep the dust to the center. The sheet didn’t seem to be that dirty, but you can see the ring of dust I gathered in the center. Next, I wet a “microfiber” polyester rag with a little rubbing alcohol, and pick up the dust.

To finish up, I hold the plastic at an angle to a light source, and spot any missed dust or smudges. Be careful to not touch the face of the plastic with your fingers to avoid smudges as much as possible. The last step is to place in the backing, flip the frame over, and clean the front.

I’m using these window turn buttons to hold the foamcore on the back. I ran out of the flatter type of buttons made specifically for frames, which I’ve ordered. The local hardware store had these which will work if the order doesn’t get here in time; although they sit a little high off the back. The frame is now ready for a hanging wire and label.

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Assembling a Pre-Cut Frame for Painting

May 31, 2018

I recently received some pre-cut frames that I ordered online from Framing4Yourself. This is one painting I’m getting ready to enter into a show next month. Here I’ve just placed the pieces together to see how it will look when I glue them later. I was first thinking I would paint it white, but kind of like the raw wood, so I may just give it a shellac finish. We’ll see.

These frames came with plastic pegs that make the assembly very easy. Sometimes the pegs are “L” shaped, but these have an “H” shape that fit into two slots cut into the mitered corner. You first add a drop of glue to one edge, place the corners together, and press the pegs in flush to the back.

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Refilling a Pentel Color Brush Pen

May 8, 2018

In the above image I’m showing two Pentel Color Brush Pens. The one on the bottom is brand new, but the one on the top is an old one I’ve taken apart. The way Pentel sells these pens is that the bottom section can be replaced with another handle that is already filled with ink. That struck me as wasteful, and I figured out a long time ago how to fill it with new ink of my own choosing. Also, their old pens only came with dye based inks. They now sell a pigmented ink option, which is in the bottom pen here.

To refill these pens (this method works with the new ones too,) You have to disassemble everything. You carefully pry off the plug (D) from the handle (B), and then remove the two tubes (C) attached to the plug. I use a 1ml syringe to fill the handle with ink. It holds about 7ml of liquid. Don’t fill it completely full, so that there’s a little bit of air to push the ink into the brush top. Replace the plug on the handle without the tubes, and screw the brush top back on. On the new brushes, you are supposed to leave off the spacer ring (F) for the top to screw all the way down, but on my old one I needed to keep the ring between the top and the handle to make a good seal. Gently squeeze the handle until the top fills with ink. It will take a long time for the ink to fill into the brush, so I do this a few hours ahead of time. Replace the cap (E) to keep the brush from drying out. There are different size brushes available, too, including a flat style. I’ve seen other brands that have different sizes of flats, also.

You can refill these with any type of ink, but I would recommend not using a type that is waterproof, such as shellac or acrylic inks. These can dry inside the brush top and make it useless except possibly as a dipping brush. It is possible to use those inks if you give the brush a good cleaning after each use, but that can be tedious, and the inside of the top is hard to get completely clean. You have to fill the handle with water, screw the top back on, and squirt it through the brush a few times. Sumi inks work very well, and are available in a limited range of colors. Since they’re not waterproof, you don’t have to worry about leaving the ink in the brush. Fountain pen inks also work well, but are not pigmented.

Pentel also sells another similar style tool called a “Aquash” brush. I’m showing one here filled with sumi ink that’s been slightly diluted. This is mainly sold for watercolor painting, but will work with ink the same way I’ve described above. However, for watercolor painting you only fill the handle with water, not paint. This allows you to dip the brush on your palette and use different colors as you would with a regular brush. The water in the handle keeps a constant flow of water on the brush. To refill it you just unscrew the top, and add the liquid in the handle – no plug or tubes to deal with. When refilling it with ink, don’t press the syringe tight against the rim of the handle. Instead, leave a little bit of an opening to let air in, so the ink will flow inside properly. If your syringe has a needle, that won’t be necessary, but needles are a little harder to clean.