Have you ever tasted a new and delicious dessert, and later found out that it was actually relatively healthy? Food can surprise us, and art is no different. I’m constantly being reminded that pastels, oils and watercolors can be manipulated to raise an eyebrow and the question, “Is that really…?” Transparent watercolor falls within this category as well, as Linda Stevens Moyer can attest.
Category Techniques and Tips
Edinburgh (watercolor, 21×29) by Don Stoltenberg was a finalist in the Landscape category of the 2005 Art Competition.ART EDUCATION: As a child, I was taken to see an uncle who was a watercolorist and I was allowed to watch him work on a still life painting of a vase of flowers. I was fascinated, to put it mildly.
Q. I paint intermittently with watercolors and experiment with different brands of paper, which means I have a lot of paper that’s been sitting around for years. What are the best ways to store it?A. All papers are quite absorbent, so they’ll collect and expel atmospheric moisture continuously. Moreover, some papers can turn yellow and brittle as they’re exposed to atmospheric acidity (caused by air pollution, etc.
Q. I work on paper by first covering the surface with acrylics, and then using oil pastels on top. Sometimes I use a touch of thinner to smooth the oil pastels. Is there anything objectionable about this process in terms of longevity?A. The oil pastels will probably adhere to the acrylic paint without a problem, but there are some issues to consider.
Getting the Basics: Although I created Self-portrait (pencil, 9×13) in my studio, I used an ordinary household lamp to provide strong, one-sided illumination. Then I carefully observed and drew the contours, shadowed shapes and highlights to capture the three-dimensional forms of my facial features. As with most subjects, creating a likeness is mostly a matter of breaking down the elements and defining them with the contrasts of light and dark.
Q. I recently obtained some brochures at an art exhibit extolling the virtues of walnut oil. Ive asked several oil painters if theyve ever used or even heard of walnut oil and not one answer was affirmative. What can you tell us about the use of walnut oil in place of the usual solvents such as turpentine and mineral spirits?
Q. Ive been doing a lot of plein air painting on pieces of canvas stapled to 1/2-inch thick foam board. Now I want to mount them on hardboard panels and then trim the edges. Does the panel need to be primed before I apply the adhesive? What would be the best adhesive to use for attaching the canvas to the boards?
Q. I work mainly in acrylics and add final touches to my paintings with oil sticks. Since these are two different media, what can I use as a fixative or varnish to protect the oil stick portion from smearing? I prefer using a spray, if there is such a thing, since brushing the oil stick would smear it.
When painting the facial features, start by drawing the contour of the light and dark masses, and make this line expressive. Keep areas of light and shadow simple and distinct. Think of shapes geometrically, compare the direction and proportion of several forms at once, and squint your eyes to get the effect of what you see.
Q. Recently I tried painting on leather with acrylics. The paint went on beautifully, but I’m concerned about any long-term problems between the paint and whatever the leather was treated with.Jenny AustinScio, ORA. There’s nothing unusual about painting on leather. After all, you can find plenty of examples of painted utilitarian leather objects including horse bridles and such decorative works as gilded and painted stamped leather wallpaper.
Q. Is it safe to varnish traditional egg tempera paintings and, if so, which varnish should be used? What about nontraditional egg tempera—a mixture of acrylic paint, egg yolk, retarder and acrylic flow release medium?A. Varnishing a traditional egg tempera painting is usually not recommended. The varnish tends to saturate dark passages of the painting, causing any over-painting or corrections to show through in an undesirable way.
You?ve probably heard the eyes called the ?windows to the soul? many times, but I hope you?ve also noticed that this phrase is more than just a cliche. They got that label because eyes are such an essential part of the expression of an individual?s personality. When drawing a portrait, in fact, many artists begin with the eyes, but they can still be a formidable challenge for both the beginner and the experienced portraitist alike.
Q. Recently, one of my painted canvases was damaged in the upper left corner. To maintain the marketability of the oil painting, Id like to crop it (which would not detract from the composition), remove the canvas from the stretcher bars and glue it to a rigid support, such as wood or a Masonite panel.
The opportunity to sketch a paintable subject is usually unexpected and fleeting. When it does happen, the spontaneity of the moment often generates an energy that results in a dynamic on-site drawing. My challenge is to preserve this vibrancy as I develop the sketch into a more formal composition-a task which requires redrawing and recomposing the subject.
Q. Spring is here, and I want to capture her natural beauty. The trouble is, I can’t find any greens in watercolor that really look like the greens of spring. Any suggestions?A. I don’t think there is one shade of green available in watercolor that depicts the beauty of nature in any season. That’s why I’ve always mixed my greens.
Q. While taking a break from soft pastels, I started painting with oil pastels. Whats the difference between oil pastels, oil sticks and oil bars? Do any of these dry enough so I wouldnt have to frame them behind glass?A. Oil sticks (also known as oil bars, depending on their shape and manufacturer) are made of the same pigments and drying oils used in tube oils.
Q. I’ve always used turpentine for cleaning brushes, but a fellow painter told me he uses vegetable oil. He didn’t mention how he disposes of it or how he gets rid of the mineral spirits for the medium. How do you recommend disposing of the vegetable oil and the mineral spirit sediment? Is it safer to dispose of than turpentine?
Q. How can I get copyright protection for my artwork?A. Copyright was so important to the founders of this nation that the Constitution contains a provision enabling Congress to enact a copyright law. The First Congress did so, and copyright has been a part of this country’s laws ever since. Most artists believe they have some knowledge of copyright laws as applied to art.
My search for a temperature-sensitive color scheme led me to my current approach to color theorya pyramid approach. Start with a dominant base of two complimentary colors: blue and orange, for example. Instead of seeing these as separate colors, consider the whole passage a single color, or a bandwidth.
Midtones provide the support for the painting; they help to integrate all the shapes and colors. In many ways, they carry the painting. What are midtones? Let’s first clear up any confusion between “value” and “tone.” “Value” and “tone” mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. The tonal value of a color is simply how dark or light it appears to be.
Q. I’ve been painting in oil on polyester canvas for about a year, and I love the tightness of the surface. I was told recently, however, that the paint might not permanently adhere to the polyester. Do you know of any long-term testing done on this product? How should the polyester be primed for use with oil?