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Posts tagged ‘watercolor’

I’m not a scientist …

Lord knows, I’m not a scientist … anything but. But when I wasn’t sure how to paint the image I had in my mind, I knew it was time for an experiment. I’d been painting with watered down acrylic on raw canvas to achieve a misty, atmospheric effect. I knew that was what I wanted for this image, but for some reason was uncertain of how it was going to work. So I decided to experiment and try it on a smaller piece of raw canvas…

Improbable 11×14 Acrylic

As I’ve done many times, I tore off a sheet of canvas from a canvas pad. One side is gessoed and the other is raw; I simply paint on the back, or raw, side. When I taped it down to the foamcore board, I had to check to make sure I was taping the gessoed side down. And then when I put down the first water wash, it wasn’t acting like raw canvas … but I shrugged it off.

Since the image in my mind was almost monochromatic shades of gray, I decided to mix my own gray from Ultramarine Blue, Naphthol Red and Cad Yellow. Tested on paper, it looked good. I could make it lighter or darker by adding water (or not).

My first few strokes of gray on the wet canvas told me this would be a whole new experiment. Obviously, this wasn’t raw canvas. The paint was simply swimming around too much, like watercolor on Yupo. Clearly the manufacturer had gessoed both side of the canvas. To make matters worse, as I watched, the gray paint started to separate into its component colors. Was that because of the smooth gessoed surface? Was it the water? No clue.

I also had no clue what to do with what I had done so far. So I let it dry. Well, nothing ventured nothing gained, I picked it up the next day and tried to continue the painting. When I painted on top of the initial strokes, the paint didn’t swim around so much … and also didn’t separate so much.

Watercolor on Yupo years ago yielded some wonderful effects; this I wasn’t liking so much. About to write it off as a failed experiment, I had to reconsider when two artists whose opinions I value, said the painting “worked.”

Bottom line: It’s never going to be my favorite painting. And, though it was an experiment, I’m not sure what I learned, other than to avoid putting water-thinned acrylic on gessoed canvas. Oh, and to double check the surface itself. The self-mixed gray? I may try it again, next time on raw canvas, to see what happens.

They’re throwbacks … sorta.

The past two weeks in California visiting my son, his wife and their new son, were wonderful. It was good to get out of my small NYC universe, travel by plane, and finally see my new grandson. I believe in traveling light, so the only art supplies I took were a tiny travel watercolor set, a few brushes, a small (5×7) watercolor sketch pad. Definitely minimal. That’s the good news. The bad (sorta) news is that I had to paint with watercolor, something I haven’t done in years. So the six paintings I produced, well, they’re throwbacks … sorta.

I won’t show the first ones at all, since they really just count as practice. Funny, when I was transitioning from watercolor to acrylic years ago, all I could think was: “This would be so much easier in watercolor.” The last two weeks, all I could think was: “This would be so much easier in acrylic.”

The first one was California skyline seen from a car on a highway on the way back from somewhere. I made a few artistic modifications here and there …


The California hills are very brown and dry looking (my son says they look like that most of the year), so that was the origin of my second painting.

Again some artistic license.

I liked these last two enough that I may try turning them into larger acrylic paintings. Which is what I sorta wanted to do while I was in California.

Now that we can start traveling again, I may have to get used to turning initial watercolor sketches into larger acrylic paintings.

Experimenting on my experiments

As the pandemic continues and getting art supplies is not as simple as it used to be, I continue to experiment (using the supplies I already have). But my experiments are all over the place. I’m experimenting on my experiments.

I kept trying to achieve the loose effect I used to get with watercolor and then later with acrylic on raw canvas. So first I took a canvasboard, flooded it with water, and then dropped in some acrylic. When it dried, it WAS nice and loose … but kinda boring. So I tried to define the sky a little more, added the ground and had the white cloud overlap the tree tops. Voilà: my fantasy landscape:

Fantasy 12×9

I didn’t want to repeat the watercolor attempt, so I just tried to blend the acrylic paints directly on the canvasboard for a new sky and then added darker colors on thickly for the ground. More like a “normal” acrylic painting. Smoothing white on top made an interesting sky and then I made the water more active to balance it out: Ghostly.

Ghostly 12×9

My third experiment was acrylic on stretched canvas. I blocked in the basic colors using fluid acrylics and then stroked in the details using a bristly house painting brush: Moonlight. So far so good.

Moonlight 12×12

Last, but not least, I gessoed over a stretched raw canvas with a disastrous painting from last year, and then tried again to block in the major color areas. After that dried, I added the brush strokes using fluid acrylic: Ghost Light II.

Ghost Light II 18×24

I don’t know how many of these — or even which ones — I’m going to love when a little time has passed. The goal is not to produce paintings I love (although that’s okay if it happens), but rather to decide what technique I like enough to continue … or come back to.

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.

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!


It feels like forever, but I’ve FINALLY gotten my computer to function the way I want. 3 hours to get Adobe PhotoShop Elements installed and 4 hours with Geek Squad to get a variety of things to work … and I’m back in business.

I’m certainly not complaining about Adobe tech support or Best Buy’s Geek Squad. As a Luddite, I represent quite a challenge. And they were unfailingly polite and helpful. It’s just hard to get easy answers when you barely know what questions to ask.

Anyway, I can finally show some of my paintings from the last month:

Searching 18×29

This represents an abbreviated view of the sunsets I see from my living room window each evening (unless it’s raining).

Almost 18×29

I painted this in three separate sessions: the sky, starting with the golden-pink sun and moving up to blue/purple. Then I added the distant hills. The trees actually took about 4 hours to add (I have familial tremors and it’s hard painting almost straight lines with shaky hands). Finally I added the near hills to anchor the trees.

Water’s Edge 18×29

This took longer to paint because I didn’t have a clear idea where I was going and the painting just sorta evolved. And there were some errors that had to be corrected (paint spilled where it didn’t belong). Fixing anything with watered down acrylic on raw canvas is much easier said than done. If you know what you are doing, even watercolor is easier.

Speaking of watercolor, starting next week I will be back at the Art Students League in Frank O’Cain’s Abstract Watercolor class. It will be interesting to go back to my first love (watercolor) and see what I have (or haven’t) forgotten.

Thanks to everyone who came, bought or donated.

Well, the Gifts of Art fundraiser for Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer research was a success. A lot of people showed up, art sold, raffle tickets were bought and claimed, and a number of people who couldn’t make it to the event made contributions online.  Many, many thanks to everyone who came, bought or donated.

Among the sales were my two watercolors:


Croton     14×10

Croton grows everywhere in Florida, but notably around my mother-in-law’s house in Delray Beach, FL. Rose died in 2009 and this painting will forever make me think of her. Like the plant, she was bold, varied, colorful, and always interesting.


Elephant Ears

Elephant Ears     14×10

While in Florida recovering from cancer and waiting for my hair to grow back, my husband and I visited the orchid place (can’t remember the name) near the Morikami Museum in Delray Beach.  The large leaves of this plant caught my eye and they told me it was called Elephant Ear.  I loved the colors and the name made me smile.

I am so thrilled that my two paintings that made me happy while I was recovering from cancer will now make someone else happy.

My paintings in Gifts of Art Fundraiser for MSK Cancer Research at the National Arts Club on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016

Twenty-two artists (of which I am one) from the Art Students League are joining together for a Gifts of Art fundraiser for Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer research at the National Arts Club on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016.  Each of us will be selling 2 paintings and 50% of the sale price will go to cancer research. In addition to the good art, there will be good food, raffles and goodie bags.

This fundraiser means a lot to me since I am a  two-time cancer survivor. The two watercolors I am selling were both painted when I was recovering from cancer treatment. Both paintings signal to me the period when I went from being a victim of cancer to a survivor with a future.  I was in Florida, trying to grow my hair back and hoping it would be curly (it was, but not for long) and hoping I would stay skinny (again, not for long). (You know, there are worse things to worry about than straight hair and not so skinny.)  Both paintings are supremely positive, hopeful reminders of how fragile but wonderful life can be.

Here’s one of my paintings:

Elephant Ears

Elephant Ears

This plant, with its strangely appropriate but funny name, made me smile. And painting it kept me smiling. Worth its weight in gold.

I’ve reduced the price of each of my two paintings because I really want them to sell.  50% of the sales price goes to MSK Cancer Center, an organization I wholeheartedly support.

Please come to the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South (20th Street, west of Park) on Friday, Sept. 9th at  for a fun evening with good art, good food and drink, raffles, goodie bags.  I really really hope I see you there.

Nothing said: “paint me”

My last painting of the summer session at the Art Students League.  I didn’t like the set up, nothing said “paint me.”  What to do?

Well, I did what Frank (O’Cain) always tells us to do: you have to pick and choose what to paint.

So I pick a green vase, alter its shape somewhat, pick a few flowers, alter their shape and color somewhat, add some stems in different positions, and, well, it’s my last real painting of the summer session.

The good news: nothing is really what it seems. The bad news: nothing is really what it seems (but I DO remember what it really was).  Memory is a funny thing. All it takes is a trigger, however altered.


Circle        9×12        $600

My paintings help me remember. No matter how altered the image, composition, color … each painting contains a trigger that brings back the memory of what was. My body remembers painting it, and that brings it all back.