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Square is liberating

Who knew? All my artistic life I’ve painted on rectangles (paper, canvas, whatever) where one side was longer than the other. Not square, in other words. Well, for some reason I decided to try painting on a square canvas. Well, guess what? Square is liberating.

Rectangular canvases speak to me of landscapes, skyscapes, waterscapes … semi-abstract, but not completely. Somehow, a square canvas speaks to me of nothing, or rather nothing I recognize. It frees me to just put down some paint and see what happens. And then I do it again. The end result is almost completely unplanned. Liberating.


This is my first experiment with a square canvas … and a new color (red). I can’t exactly tell you how this painting happened. It just did. To counterbalance this, I started another square painting, this time with the red in the center and the white on the outside. We’ll see how that develops.

In the meantime I played today with alcohol inks on square canvas with an artist friend of mine. Two hours later…

Hmmm 8×8

Alcohol inks are hard to photograph, they’re so shiny. I’m not even sure if this is finished. I almost don’t know how to think about it. But it’s fun.

Bottom line: I’m liking these squares. Square is liberating.

Experiments are still fun

Experiments are still fun, even though the learning curve sometimes seems awfully steep. I briefly went back to watercolors (my original love) but this time I wanted to see if I could use them on gessoed canvas (I just happen to have a supply that I didn’t want to waste).

Someone on Instagram mentioned using watercolors on gessoed canvas with two coats of Absorbent Ground on top. Golden says Absorbent Ground is “opaque acrylic primer for water media” so nothing ventured nothing gained. I decided to give it a try.


Distant Trees 8×8

My first attempt turned out reasonably well. A lot of playing with it later, I discovered that it is really hard to get a smooth wash, unlike watercolor on watercolor paper. I liked Distant Trees, so I decided to try another one.

Tried again to get a smooth wash, and failed again. I like the final result, Moonset, even though it didn’t turn out as intended.

Giving up on smooth washes, why not just see what develops?

Sunset 8×8

Clouds don’t necessarily require smooth washes, so … not bad. I have a lot less control than I’d like but, hey, story of my life.

I had one more 8×8 canvas board with Absorbent Ground, so what did I have to lose?

Memory 8×8

Well, a lot, actually. The purple on the bottom was way too strong, so I tried toning it down with white. Didn’t work. Since it’s watercolor, I then tried running it under a faucet and rubbing the purple off. That worked better (you can’t believe how strong the original purple was) and then I added more white on top.

So none of these are disasters, but working with watercolor on Absorbent Ground was much harder than expected. The whole time I was saying to myself : “This would be much easier on watercolor paper.” But I didn’t really want to do that. What I really wanted was to get back to using acrylic on raw canvas.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Not my blackout

Soooo glad I live in the Bronx right now. I remember the last major blackout when I had to navigate from 34th Street to 231st Street via walking, hitchhiking, jumping on a bus and hanging on for dear life … and then climbing up 16 floors of stairs to get to my apartment. Blisters on my blisters. Never want to do that again. Whew. Not my blackout.

My sympathies though to the thousands of people going through this one.

Solo Show at Vintage Artists Gallery

My older (2000-2011), mostly representational, watercolors will be on sale during the month of July at the Riverdale Senior Services Center, 2600 Netherland Avenue, Riverdale, NY, 10463. RSS is open M-Th 9-5, Fri 9-4.

Since I have not really tried very hard to sell my work over the years, there still are many very good watercolors available. All are matted and framed, ready for hanging. I’m hoping this will free up some space for my newer acrylic on raw canvas paintings, which look very different.

This painting should show many Riverdale residents a familiar sunset view.


So if you’re interested in good but affordable paintings, come to the RSS Center in Riverdale in July.

Experiments are such fun

Experiments are such fun! I just spent two afternoons playing with alcohol inks, trying them out on gessoed canvas, Yupo and some kind of square tile given to me by the Art Students League in exchange for feedback on how well it worked. Well, the results are mixed but I’d forgotten how much fun experiments could be.

First, on canvas. I had trouble getting the ink to move around the way I wanted. I kept blowing on it with an angled straw, but all I got were these fingers of paint blowing randomly out from the center.


Next I tried the alcohol inks on Yupo, because I thought the inks would move around more smoothly. Well, they sorta did, but I still ended up with those fingers of paint. So far no cigar.

On Yupo

So I spritzed it with alcohol and started tilting the paper and blowing on it with the straw. Well, parts of this I love, but other parts are just interesting. Still no cigar.

Alcohol plus, still on Yupo

And then I decided to try adding alcohol inks to those tiles from the League.

On tile

Well, I’m starting to learn how to get what I want: those lines moving upwards in the upper right corner, the blurring of the yellow in the middle right. Spritzing alcohol on after the ink is down creates those lovely little dots. But overall, this isn’t thrilling me. I couldn’t get that yellow sun in the upper left to blur out (like a wet-on-wet watercolor) to save my soul.

Okay. So let’s try again on another tile.

On tile

Finally, it’s starting to look like what I want, like wet-on-wet watercolor. To get this effect I have to spritz on a lot of alcohol, so the ink swims in it. I’m already forgetting the details: I think I put the alcohol down first and then added the ink. But I’m not sure, so I’ll certainly have to do it again. And again. And again. The hair dryer certainly came in handy.

But this is giving me some ideas for the work I’m doing at the Art Students League with acrylic on raw canvas.

Experiments are such fun!