So it seems that studio still lifes are the order of the day. A fun group of fancy these three. Makes me want to clear that workbench off and grab a teacup.
This is along shot, because all of my artist friends are hard working folk, but today I nominate John Philip Hagen. So now, Betsy, Ken and John…shine off those archives and let the world see your beauty.
From 2003 – The Whipper In This one has only been seen once in a show at the Granary. I think it is providing insulation in our bedroom at the moment. It’s our log cabin living room and, if you’ve been there then you are in a very special group of friends and family. The painting upper left is a reproduction of one I did for the Follansbees of their front yard. Kinda fun to see that again. As of last night, that fireplace is still keeping us warm…
2005 – The Flyer Boy did I love painting that red. That mail bag was a victim of the major flooding we had a few years ago. Loyal friend Susan Douglas took it home and lovingly cleaned it and I just unearthed it yesterday for a new painting idea. Then I went up to the old studio, which is now my prop room, and found that jacket too. It wasn’t quite right for the new painting, but it was a solid yes for The Flyer.
So… this facebook thing is going around. If I get it correctly, an artist is “challenged” by another artist to post 5 days of paintings on said social media outlet and then to pass along this throw down, as it were, to 5 more artists.
Phyllis Disher Fredericks has called me out. Here is her FB page link, click here along with her Pinterest link for those who don’t have all that time to waste on FB, click here. Looks like I’m going to have to talk her into a website for the rest of you to see her wonderful world of still lifes and landscapes.
I’m stealing one of my faves to show here but I can’t find the title…Phyllis ?
I’m going to try and do this through the blog here since it posts to FB and that way we can get a twofer out of this. Things are rolling at the easel and, with a week of snow storms rolling in, I want to do nothing but paint paint paint.
I’ll take time out each day to post the three obligatory paintings, and selecting one from each of the fifteen years I’ve been at this, that should fulfill the task.
I’m going to challenge five artists, and remember that they have to have a FB presence or it won’t quite work. Dear Phyllis took a lot of care consulting her artist selections ahead of time to make sure they would like to play along. I do not have her patience, or her kindness of spirit so I’m just going to throw the dice.
Up before the sun Finn and I were treated to a glorious sunrise Full of color and promise and hope
Today is the inauguration of Tom and Frances Wolf as governors of our state. Big day in the neighborhood. They live in the little town over the creek and up the hill. I can see the smoke rising from her studio when her brushes are flying. The local firehouse is hosting a pancake breakfast. The bus for the school band just drove by on their way to play for the festivities.
I”m deeply proud to know these two human beings and excited to see what good will come of their tenure. Parades and balls have been replaced by art exhibitions to honor the creative heros in our state. Imagine that.
Stay tuned… Easels everywhere will be humming…
In honor of this, and other inaugurational mornings, here are the words of Maya, written for Bill’s first, may the simple hopes rise up to meet us all…
On the Pulse of Morning
A Rock, A River, A Tree Hosts to species long since departed, Marked the mastodon. The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no more hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness, Have lain too long Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spilling words Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me, But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world, A River sings a beautiful song, Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I and the Tree and the stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your Brow and when you yet knew you still Knew nothing.
The River sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher. They hear. They all hear The speaking of the Tree.
Today, the first and last of every Tree Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.
Each of you, descendant of some passed On traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of Other seekers- desperate for gain, Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot… You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the Tree planted by the River, Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree I am yours- your Passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you.
Give birth again To the dream.
Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most Private need. Sculpt it into The image of your most public self. Lift up your hearts Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change. Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister’s eyes, into Your brother’s face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning.
Fine Art Connoisseur just arrived in today’s mail. I always put down the brushes and take a quick peek while it’s hot off the presses, so it was interesting to find that editor Peter Trippi has written a feature article, “Celebrating America’s Great Collectors” and to read that, first up, among the two dozen written about, is an interview with collectors, Scott Allocco and Doug Clark…
Readers of this blog will know them to be dear friends of ours, but will now be able to learn, in this article, about their journey as serious art collectors. Doug and Scott’s generosity extends well beyond their patronage, but it was still a wonderful surprise to see that the magazine chose one of my paintings to illustrate their collection.
Oh the doors that they have opened. My brushes have all lined up next to the late night easel, and are bowing to you my friends. Ta
Let’s start the year off with this note from an artist in Michigan, Gail Hayton…
Hi Heather, I am one of your in cognito blog readers. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your work. I am a retired woman who went from engineering to art for a second career. I am mostly self-taught but have a degree in architecture for many years ago that basically gave me an undergrad in art. I was interested in your use of the Artboard gesso and bought a jar. WOW, it is so thick and heavy. I was wondering if you could tell me how you apply it. I have been using ampersand board, but don’t like it. I want a smooth surface, but one that has enough tooth that I don’t have to apply several coats of paint to get a solid look to my paints. I have recently branched out into doing some trompe lóeil work and had to use several coats of paint. That process takes so long and I tend to start forgetting what colors I mixed together. I am hoping the Artboard gesso may relieve this problem. Do you thin your stuff or what?
Before I answer, here is a link to her website so we can all see the work she is doing and perhaps other readers will have thoughts as well…Click Here to view
And here is the gesso she is referring to…
Art Boards Gesso…
I’ve hopefully made these pics large enough for you to read the label. It gives a most thorough explanation of why this gesso is different from most out on the market. I’ll also include a link here to Dick Blick, since that is my go to source for almost all of my art supplies. Click here
And no, I’m not a sponsor for either DB or ABs gesso, though I wouldn’t turn down an offer.
Late last summer I did a marathon of panel making. Here is a lousy photo of just a part of the stack of 40 plus boards which I am thrilled now to have ready to pull and paint on…
You can’t see very well, but these are the canvas covered Dibond panels which have been gessoed to Kansas and back and then wet sanded, with excruciating care, and finally “oiled out” with a thin coat of Old Holland raw umber. What I was trying to show was how thin the final stack is, taking up just a few inches to house dozens.
So, back to Gail’s question…
I too tried the Ampersand boards and was most unsatisfied with their finished surfaces to paint on. I eventually used them as test panels to try various gessos on the market and even then, they just didn’t measure up. As you can read on the label in photos above, this gesso is designed for panels. While it’s true that I technically am painting on a canvas, by the time it is adhered to the aluminum Dibond and then gessoed with many layers, the desired surface is as smooth and texture free as I can make it. The resulting panel is rigid and the sub structure of the Dibond is the most stable of any substrate available.
Unlike a canvas stretched over wooden support frames, there is zero movement on these panels. I’m no chemist, but I suspect that the Art Boards gesso, as it makes several references to being formulated for panels, and loaded with those “refined solids” , while providing a superior “tooth” … that delicious “eggshell vellum” surface might possibly crack under the bouncy movement of a canvas stretched over traditional wooden bars.
I can attest to the truth of every claim on their label. Good tone, great surface, creamy application, easily sandable, and love that tooth. Ah, but yes Gail, it is thick. And boy is it expensive. After years of experimentation, I have stumbled on this formula for gesso application.
For the first coat, I use a student grade product. Bought by the gallon, I’m satisfied with the Dick Blick version of acrylic white gesso. It is much thicker than others out there but still thin enough to cover well and quickly. I use a 3 or 4 inch wide beveled cheap plastic putty knife which spreads it on nicely without raised edges, (at least for the first several coats).
I let that dry overnight and lightly sand with an 80 grit foam sanding block, and then the second coat goes on. Repeat drying, sanding and recoating with a third coat, and I’m ready for the expensive stuff.
The thick creamy Art Boards gesso does indeed dry fast. And there is no easy way to do this, especially on a large panel, without some ridging from the putty knife. With each successive coat, the surface becomes slightly smoother and the weave of the canvas no longer hides imperfections. Believe me, this is the hardest part of the entire painting process for me. I work very quickly, keep the lid covering the tub in between panels, even sand the edges of the plastic tool to avoid divots which would leave marks. I carefully light the garage, and turn the panel often, looking for unwanted tool markings. Those 8 foot panels are the stuff of nightmares. The first coat of that good stuff is usually ok. Because of the chalkiness, I sand less aggressively in between coats, using a 120 grit block. But I’ve learned that two final coats are all it takes. Yes, I could probably get away with one coat of the Art Boards, but the second coat seems to level out some of those errant application marks. Then, it sits for at least three days to dry completely.
Anticipating a question, “why not use a brush”, been there done that and can’t handle the intensive sanding required to reduce the brushstroke markings down to the smoothness I prefer. Yes, I’ve tried to wet the surface so the paint can “flow” better, but that dilutes the gesso in unpredictable ways and defeats the purpose of buying a thick rich product.
The wet sanding process is where you can control just how much tooth you want. I use those same sanding sponges, probably a 120 or 220, and have a bucket of water and some junky terry cloth rags. With very little water, and working in one foot square spaces at a time, I gently sand until there is a slurry. Gently. It doesn’t take much but you can easily over do this…I have learned the hard way and had to redo many panels for lack of patience. Once you get that slurry going, you want to take the rag and kind of wipe it, smoothing it out, without lifting it.This too takes some practice. You want to keep the slurry moving until it starts to dry and pull and then ease the rag off the surface in one last swipe.
Yeah, I probably lost most of you a while back, and I’ve had other artist friends throw brushes at me in dismay at this stage of the explanation, but, with some practice, it is not so difficult. Hard on the old joints, but not rocket science, just tedious. After you spend a few hours wet sanding a panel, you start paying much more attention to smoothing out all the marks you can while applying those coats of gesso so you have less work to do at this final stage.
I will re-emphasize the “gently” part because it is easily possible to sand the tooth right out of this stuff leaving you with a glassy surface which will repel your paint. Been there done that. Easy does it. And a final very light sanding will help if you go too far. I can tell immediately, when I apply the raw umber as a ground, if I have sealed up all that tooth. Still have the option to rescue it with a good sanding but it is one step too far so… again with the patience.
I see that Gail is famous for her miniatures. There should be zero problem getting the gesso to lay smoothly and without ridges with one pass of a putty knife, but I’d still lightly sand between coats. I’m jealous.
Well that became a tome. But I needed a break. I’m currently mid-way through one of those larger paneled paintings and the old fingers were getting stiff. Typing has loosened them up but I’m thinking a night of knitting by the fireside might just reset all the gears.
Gail, if you’re still reading, thank you for your question, your kind words and your interest. I’m happy to answer any follow up questions and wish you the best of luck.
Yours smooth panels and flying brushes,
A quick follow-up…
This from Gail… I have 12 boards ready to go this week so I will study your blog and try this. The only question I have is that since you are applying so much gesso, to the point that the texture is gone, what purpose does the canvas serve? I am guessing it is only to give you a fighting chance of an even application of the gesso. Or does it somehow still aid the application of the paint?
Yes, I asked myself the same question about the canvas. The original use of canvas wrapped Dibond came from an article written by Ross Merrill of the NGA. He was looking for the most stable substrate for a canvas and came up with the Dibond. The archivist approach is that the canvas could, theoretically centuries from now, be removed from any support and maintain its integrity. I know of a few artists who are painting directly on the Dibond. It is powercoated with some enamaled paint process so the board arrives with a white painted surface. I sand that down to allow the gel medium to bond better when attaching the canvas. My hesitation is whether the gesso alone would bond sufficiently to that enameld paint to be “archival”.The bond of gesso on canvas has been proven over many centuries so I sleep better at night. Cheers