Welcome to My BlogThe latest news about my art, or just some musings that pop out of my head.
My wife, Tammie, loves to decorate our house for Halloween. For our back room, I did this 36″ x 36″ acrylic painting as a gift for her. It felt good to work with traditional brushes after working pretty much only with painting knives the past couple years. It’s the best way to work for me when I want to get more detailed. At the same time, all that knife painting seems to have loosened my brushwork up.
Anyway, here’s the finished painting. I had a lot of fun doing it, especially the skull in the full moon. The 2 cats are our cats, Neko and Athena. I titled it “It’s Halloween!” and, yes, I did get that title from the song by The Shaggs.
I’ve also made a YouTube video slideshow of the painting in its progressive stages, which you can watch below.
I know it’s early, but Happy Halloween!
Early this year, I started a new part of my life as an Adult Ed teacher of Acrylic Painting for the Farmington Hills Special Services Department. If you live in or near Farmington Hills, MI and have always wanted to try Acrylic Painting, you may want to check this class out. The class is on Wednesday evenings for six weeks. I try to make the class fun and informational.
Feel free to email me with any questions you may have on the class.
My alter ego is that of a graphic designer for One10 Marketing. I love my job. I help promote GM Accessories. Ironically, even though my day job involves marketing, I’m terrible when it comes to marketing myself.
For instance, I was interviewed by Ksenia Rychtycka for the Ukrainian Metro News a year ago, but haven’t gotten around to posting about it until now. Ksenia and I are both alumni of Immaculate Conception High School of Hamtramck. We didn’t know each other that well then, but a couple years ago, I bought her terrific book, Crossing The Border. I loved it and we’ve become friends since. I am extremely flattered to be featured in their publication and am thrilled to present the interview on my website.
I just hung up about 20 of my knife oil paintings at Christine’s Cuisine. It’s a terrific restaurant in Ferndale, Michigan on 9 Mile between I-75 and Woodward.
I’m especially thrilled to show my work here because the owner is, like me, of Ukrainian descent. If you stop by to see my work (which is all for sale), make sure you stay and enjoy great meal. I can personally vouch for their Ukrainian Combo Platter. Tell Christine and Natalia I sent you.
The temperatures this week have been very low. I attempted a plein air yesterday and had to quit after a half hour. Today, I’m playing it smart and doing a painting indoors. I took this photo of my backyard and saw all kinds of possibilities for a painting. An evergreen wrapped in burlap, shadows on the snow, a tree with berries that has snow covering the branches — lots of different subjects to choose from to make a good painting. Like plein air, the secret to a good painting isn’t just what you put into it from what you’re viewing, but also leaving out some of the things you see before you. I decided to concentrate on the small evergreen wrapped in burlap with my neighbor’s garage in the background.
I may be teaching a class in acrylic painting this winter/spring, so I thought I’d do a quick acrylic painting without the use of traditional brushes or painting knives. Acrylic is a very versatile medium that plays well with many fun tools. A lot of these tools can be found at a dollar store. A lot of items you may already have in your household could be used in a creation of an acrylic painting. It’s a medium that encourages one to be experimental with tools and execution.
I ventured around the house and found things like plastic canvas keys, small foam paint rollers, rags, an old toothbrush, sponges, and paper towel. I set up a palette with a few acrylic paint colors. I got a small children’s beach bucket that I used to use when I painted regularly with acrylic, and filled it halfway with water. I also got my spray bottle and filled it with water. A spray on my palette every so often helps keep the paints from drying out.
I found an 11′ x 14″ canvas and did a quick drawing with a basic number 2 pencil. I didn’t want to use a traditional art pencil. I wanted to make sure that the only traditional art materials used were the palette, the paints, and the canvas. If I wanted to be complete non-traditional, I could probably have used a piece of cardboard for a palette and all kinds of surfaces instead of a canvas. Acrylic will stick to almost anything.
The drawing on my canvas has a lot more elements than I ended up with in the final painting. I included the fence, as well as the tree with the berries on top. At the end, I simplified the composition greatly.
I thought I’d start with the snow. I applied some liquid blue acrylic paint directly to the canvas.
Then I got one of my small paint rollers and applied the blue paint all over the areas of the canvas that had snow on the ground.
I didn’t try to be too careful with the blue because I knew I would be painting on top of it later on after it dried.
I made a mix of ultramarine blue and crimson using a plastic canvas wedge. I didn’t mix them too thoroughly. In fact, I picked up some blue on one side of the wedge and red on the other. I then dragged the purplish mix all over the areas of the side of the garage. My intention was that the white garage would be in shadow, so I’d start with a dark cool color and then go over it with a lighter version. As it turned out, I liked the color that was applied and left it as is.
I applied some of the purplish mix as a shadow color for the wrapped evergreen, as well. It looked too dark, but I knew I would be going over it later. The purple provided a nice base.
I then took the same roller I used for the light blue and picked up some ultramarine blue from the palette. I took the roller and applied this darker blue to the top of the sky and to the bottoms of the snow hills. When it dried, I got a clean roller and made a mix of titanium white with just a little touch of yellow. With the roller, I applied it to all the snows areas that were not in shadow. With the little paint left on the roller, I added a light coating of it in the shadow areas, as well to remove their harshness.
Add you can see some got onto the left side of the garage. When it fired, I use the plastic canvas wedge to apply and scrape more of the purplish mix to the areas I didn’t want the white coating on. That’s the great thing about acrylic paint. It’s easy to correct quickly.
With a plastic knife I found, I mixed a green from the yellow and ultramarine. I added a little red to darken it. Using the same knife, I applied the paint to the canvas to indicate the evergreen sticking out from the burlap wrap.
I made a brown from the yellow, crimson, and ultramarine blue and picked some up with a rag wrapped around my finger. Using my finger in the rag, I rubbed the paint into the areas of the burlap wrap.
When it dried, I took the roller with the blue paint and picked up some more ultramarine to the roller’s edge. I applied it to the burlap to color the shadow area. I also tilted the roller to the edge and applied it to the left edge of the burlap to indicate the stake sticking out the burlap.
I wanted to suggest the rough texture of the burlap, so, I made a mix of a lighter bown by adding some titanium white to the original brown mix. Using scissors, I cut a piece of sponge. I applied the lighter brown mix to the burlap. I was hoping the sponge would give a texture to simulate the burlap. Unfortunately, that didn’t work as planned. The paint was applied too solid and it didn’t look warm enough. I let it dry and made an even lighter mix, except I added some yellow to it to warm the color up.
This time, I used a dry paper towel to pick up some of the paint. I was more successful getting a texture with the paper towel, as long as I didn’t have too much paint on it.
The areas with the snow were still too dark. I made more of the titanium white and yellow mix. I used the same second roller as before with that paint mix and applied to the tops of the snow, as well as over the snow shadows to soften them. The painting really brightened up with the added contrast. I thought the free looked too bright. Also, the garage itself still looked too flat.
The green was an easy fix. I squeezed some Pthalo green onto my palette and darkened it with the crimson. I applied it with the plastic knife on top of the brighter green areas. Now it looked more like our evergreen! Time to work on the garage.
I poured out some more of the liquid bright blue onto my palette. I cleaned my knife off and drew the edge of it into the pile of blue.
I then pulled the knife along the garage to make horizontal lines to indicate snow that got into the grooves of the siding. When the paint stopped coming off the knife, I’d wipe it and draw it through the paint on the palette again. Sometimes, instead of drawing the blade onto the painting, I’d just tap the edge onto the canvas to get a different type of line.
I wiped the knife off and used it to pick up some of the white/yellow mix. I applied it a little thickly onto the evergreen and to the burlap. The painting’s almost done, but I decided to make it a really snowy day.
I made a thinner mix of the titanium white and yellow. I mixed it together with a toothbrush. With the toothbrush bristles loaded with paint, I flicked it over the canvas to get a nice uneven spray. I applied it to the entire canvas.
Here’s the final painting, completely in about an hour or so. Acrylic dries so fast, I was able to cover up areas within a couple minutes with each step. And the only time I picked up a traditional tool was when I used a small brush to sign the painting. This was an exercise in fun. I don’t work in acrylic enough and hopefully I will experiment with this versatile medium again soon.
When I paint my plein air paintings, I stick with just one size — 11′ x 14″. I got this advice from Stefan Baumann’s YouTube videos. It makes things so easy. I have an EasyL Pro pochade box and a RayMar wet panel box that cater to these dimensions. I still have my old French Easel if I ever choose to work larger. My wife, Tammie, has suggested I also try painting small paintings, but neither easel works well for them.
This calls for a new pochade box!
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Ashton, my new portable easel created solely to paint 5″ x 7″ panels! I made him myself after checking out a few links on Google on how to convert a cigar box to a pochade box. Sure, I could just buy one, but that could set me back at least another 70 bucks. No thanks. I’m too cheap, plus building my own easel gives me a feeling of accomplishment and, yes, even a sense of it truly belonging to just me.
First I went to a local liquor store that also specializes in cigars, They were selling empty cigar boxes for only 2 dollars each. (Later, I found another store that gave them away free. If you plan on building your own, call a local cigar seller and see what it takes to get an empty cigar box.) I had my measuring tape with me to investigate each box they had. It was important to me that the box lid was recessed and could hold a 5″ x 7″ panel vertically and horizontally. I wanted the wood to be relatively thicker and sturdier. I wanted a nice deep bottom to hold paints. I couldn’t choose between 2 boxes and bought them both. Once I got home and did more measuring, I realized that the Ashton Churchill box would probably work better.
I then made a trip to the local hardware store for a few supplies. The hardware that comes on cigar boxes can be flimsy. Cigar boxes aren’t meant to be used permanently. I also bought a thin strip of wood.
Once I got home, the first thing I did was measure the insides carefully and cut the wood strip down to smaller lengths that would fit inside the base. I attached them to the sides using wood glue. After clamping the strips to the sides, I let the cigar box sit overnight to dry. The purpose of these strips was to add a lip for a palette to sit on top. Also, the wood on a cigar box isn’t very strong and not that thick either. Adding this strip would allow the sides to take on any hardware I would attached later.
The next day, I cut another small strip so its length and width would work well to the bottom of the inside top lid. It also a little extra wood to take the small screws I needed to attach the hinges with. Again, I clamped the strip and let it dry overnight.
The arrows point to the pieces of wood strips I glued on to help secure the screws later on. The strips on the bottom of the cigar box also provide a lip for the palette to sit on.
After all the glued on wood was dry. it was time to replace or augment the hardware on the cigar box itself. Cigar boxes are obviously not meant for any kind of permanent use. I marked where the holes of the new hinges would go. Then I drilled small holes at the markings. Then, I screwed the 2 new, stronger hinges to the back. I finished by prying off the flimsy, old hinge in the center.
The cigar box now opens and closes more securely, but I needed to secure the lid so it stayed open at whatever angle I wished. I put a bolt in the middle to hold the 2 mending bars together. Then I attached the mending bars to each side, screwing them directly into the cigar box. I finished it by adding a metal washer and then a black screw cap. Now by turning the black screw cap, I could loosen or tighten the bars allowing me to open the cigar box and securing it to whatever angle I liked.
The hardest part for me to figure out what how to keep a panel in place in the top lid. The solution I came up with was drilling 4 holes in the top lid and inserting 4 small bolts. On top of each bolt, I added a larger washer and then a wing nut.
When it’s time to insert a panel, I loosen the wing nut and insert my panel under the washer. Then I tighten the wing nut to keep the panel in place. By measuring the holes carefully, this setup will accommodate a panel placed vertically or horizontally.
I confess I’m not crazy about this solution. I’ve used the easel 3 times and it’s not working as well as I’d like. I’m going to revisit the links to investigate a better way to keep the panels in place.
To finish the pochade box itself, I drill a hole in the top right of the bottom of the cigar box. This way, I can insert my fingers and let the box rest on my left wrist while I paint.
Lastly, I need a palette itself. I found an old palette that I cut down to size so it would sit on top of the lip I made earlier perfectly. I kept the rounded edge, so it would be easy to lift out. I prepped it for painting by brushing 3 coats of linseed oil, letting each layer dry overnight.
Done! Now I can fill the bottom with the supplies I need to paint. I have a few smaller tubes of paint, narrowing them down to just 6 or 7 tubes. I bought a small bottle of Terpenoid. I found a few half decent brushes and cut their handles so they’d fit into the box. I couldn’t fit a rag or a little container for the solvent, so I did have to have a secondary small bag.
Time to paint
I was very eager to try Ashton out (yes, I calling my pochade box by the name branded on the top lid) and I had my chance last weekend. I took it with me to Mud Creek in the tip of the Lower Peninsula Michigan Thumb. Though, I normally paint with wood, I thought I’d do my first 5″ x 7″ as a brush painting. It’s been years since I painted in oils with a brush that I was eager to see how it would work for me. I actually found it difficult. By thinning the paint with a solvent, it also removed any opaqueness. I found it very frustrating trying to cover up paint with another color. The first layer would seem to swallow it up.
When I finished, I encountered another problem. From what I’ve read, once I’m done painting, I scrape the leftover paint off and wife the residue. After many uses, the residue dries to a nice sheen that will take future paint nicely. Until then, the paint has been absorbing a bit into the wood. When I wiped the palette clean, I got paint all over my hands and clothes. I’m thinking that in the future, I’ll go back to my method of wrapping my palette in foil. Then I can dispose of the leftover paint without the mess. I also didn’t like having to use solvent to thin the paint and clean the brush. I miss my painting knives. As such, my next two paintings were done with painting knives.
When I was done painting, I needed to be able to transport the wet painting back. I don’t have a wet panel carrier for 5″ x 7″ panels. Artist Rob Kulas gave me a great idea on using inexpensive frames with removable backs for panel carriers. Remove the glass and you’re set. I found this hinged double frame at Michael’s that works perfectly. At less than 10 bucks, I bought two of them, allowing me to transport 4 wet paintings. Plus I get to see what a painting looks like when it’s framed.
So now that you’ve seen Ashton, maybe you’re intrigued to build your own mini pochade box. The end cost for making it ended up maybe $15 at most — a far cry from the $70 an online art supply store was offering for theirs. You can’t get a better pochade box deal than that. It’s easy to transport and use. It takes me about 10 minutes or so to set up my EasyL. This box can have me painting a minute after I open it. The only set up is squeezing paint onto the palette. Another bonus is that I get get a painting done in only an hour. With a box like this, there’s no excuse to get a painting done, even if you don’t have a lot of time.
And the results…
Here are the 3 paintings I’ve done with it so far. The first two all done at Mud Creek, between Bay Port and Caseville, Michigan. The last was done at the boat launch in Bay Port, Michigan.