Upcoming Exhibition at Carnegie Gallery in Dundas

New Art Works by the Women’s Art Association of Hamilton

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Palette Knife – The Icing on the Cake

Acrylic landscape featuring paletter knife or painting knife painting with some sheep in a field with mountains in the background

Discovering The Freedom of Palette Knife Painting

Last week I was inspired by a video to do a landscape using palette knives; this week I decided to have another try. Some people say that it is just like icing a cake, which wasn’t helpful because I am the worst at icing a cake, but the motion is the same. In fact, if I was to ice a cake it might look a lot like the marks on this painting. lol

Unlike using brushes, the palette knife can be used by turning it in any direction needed, using it flat on with lots of paint, scraping paint off or using the edges and tip. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do it just as long as you like what you see. Give it a try.

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Advantages of Painting Knife

Tips on Using Painting Knives

painting knife landscape featuring man returning to farm
My experience with painting (palette) knife painting is limited but here is what I have learned. Here are a few tips on using the knives:

  • Create a textured effect by pressing the blade with paint onto the surface.
  • Using just the tip of the blade will produce small dots.
  • Pressing the edge of the knife down will produce fine lines.
  • Pressing the blade flat down into the paint will produce ridges.
  • Scrape back into the paint to reveal underlying layers.
  • Image 1

    Image 2

    Here is a picture (image 1- the wooden handles were bought separately) of my cheap set of plastic knives and (image 2) the set that I used to paint this landscape. You are allowed to use paintbrushes as well without cheating. I used a small flat brush to smooth out the house and barn. I used a wider paintbrush to give distance to the mountains.

    I really enjoyed doing this project feeling like a kid having fun at a craft. I struggle to get away from details and realism in my regular painting so this is very freeing. There was no reference photo so this one is pure imagination.

    Advantages of Painting Knives

    I discovered some advantages of painting with knives:

  • Cleaning the painting knife using paper towels is easier and less messy than cleaning a brush in water.
  • Eliminates dumping dirty water and refilling with clean.
  • Ease of color mixing.
  • For those of us that get lost in details, painting knife forces you to loosen up your work.
  • Teaches you to hint at details with expressive marks instead of painstakingly perfecting them.
  • Wonderful thick application makes colors very vibrant as well as making lovely texture.

So what are you waiting for? A plastic set of knives is inexpensive but the rewards are great. Tell me about your experience in the comment section.

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Finding Inspiration in Other Artists

making images in abstract art
This painting was inspired by one with a dark ultramarine blue vase and huge sunflowers with a book laying beside it. I was going for something more nostalgic calling mine Let’s Dance. What attracted me was the bright red, blue and yellow colors

There is a saying that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” yet not in art then it’s just plain stealing. It can happen easily enough when you look to other artists for inspiration and suddenly your work starts to resemble theirs. Copying another artist is a great way to learn but sooner than later you need to find your own style.

However, being inspired by the work of others can lead you to push your own art to greater heights:

Notice the kinds of brush strokes the artist is making. Find a subject of your own where you can apply the same kinds of marks. This is a great exercise to loosen up for those of us who paint very tightly.

making images in abstract art
Another way to copy an artist is to imitate their color palette. I’ve seen art that just jumps off the canvas at me because of the color combinations. There is no copy right law on the color wheel so you are free to learn from others often in ways you had not considered.

The idea for this painting came from an abstract piece full of soft colors and everywhere possible animals were drawn around the color shapes. I was interested in seeing what would develop from my color shapes – I call it The Crowd.

There is nothing wrong with borrowing the subject either since there are probably not many that haven’t already been explored. You can come at the subject from a different angle or perspective making it your own. A subject can be so compelling that you can do a whole series of paintings to fully explore it.

Figure out what makes the artist’s work interesting and then go through your pictures or take new ones and mess with them in your photoshop program.

So while it is acceptable to get inspiration from other artists’ work; it is not ok to steal it. There’s no need to steal because everyone sees things a little differently. Bring your own style and personality to your work.

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How to Draw Baby Faces

Charley Alice's 1st birthday
baby's first birthday

The Challenges of Drawing Babies

Babies are more challenging to draw than adults. I admit that I was apprehensive about the project.

Here are a few tips I found helpful on drawing baby faces:

  • Work from a clear picture, squirmy babies don’t make good live models
  • Babies are soft and rounded in their features
  • The eyes are bigger than adult.
  • Shadows need to be soft and light; build up color slowly.
  • The eyebrows start about half way down the face.
  • Half of the bottom half is where the nose belongs.
  • Eyelashes are a particular challenge. Use a sharp pencil, place it on the eyelid and flick it. This makes the ends tapered.
  • Eyes are seldom one solid color so make lighter areas.
  • Try not to draw a solid line around the mouth but carefully shade in the lips and like eyes make sure to have highlights.

It was a bit daunting to try to do justice to my beautiful granddaughter and although I can see ways to improve the drawing I’m happy with the outcome. Next time I won’t be so intimidated.

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Art in Chaos

Exploring the Same Subject in a Different Medium

Anyone who has watched any of the house renovation/flip shows knows that there are almost always some unexpected details. Ours came in the form of a strange hose attached to the sink plumbing that ran up into the ceiling. The superintendent (we live in a high rise condo) couldn’t say what it was for but insisted the engineer must poke his head through the hole in the ceiling that the contractor wanted to fix. We waited 5 days for the engineer to show up only to tell us it was nothing important but that we should just leave it. He didn’t even poke his head into the hole!

Then there was the 10-foot long counter top that 2 men dragged up 13 flights of stairs because it would not fit in the elevator.

We will have a functioning kitchen for the weekend but there are numerous little details for which the contractor must return later. One such detail is one of three pieces of crown moldings is different and needs to be returned.

a charcoal farm landscape with a white horse grazing in the field

charcoal on blue pastel paper

In all the chaos, I have been able to concentrate on some art. This is a willow charcoal sketch like the painting in last week’s post. Sometimes it is interesting to explore the same scene in different mediums. I like the colorfulness of the acrylic painting but there is something more arty about the sketch.
It’s not often I use charcoal to reproduce a painting; usually it’s the other way around.

chickens in front of old barn

Charcoal on copy paper

On the theme of farms and barns here is a preliminary sketch for a future painting.

All in all, it has been an interesting week and I have been happily sketching away in the other room. There hasn’t even been that much noise so my condo neighbors should be happy.

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What’s the Worse Space You Have Ever Worked In?

a horse farm landscape acrylic painting

As of last Wednesday, my condo has been under construction. We’re getting a whole new kitchen and later on also a renovated bathroom. In other words, my home is a bit of a disaster area now.

The farm landscape painting was finished just prior to the start of renovations. My intent for the 8 days of chaos is to work out some ideas for future painting or just to sketch for the enjoyment. Here is my current work space; not a pretty sight.
my chaotic work space

Picture me in the arm chair with my sketch pad in my lap and art supplies on the bed. The contract I signed states that a person over 18 must be present always. I don’t like it but I’m making the best use of my time. Where there is a will to do art, there is a way!

Of course, I did sneak out for an appointment on Friday; and, if questioned the legalist in me would have defended the absence by pointing out that there are more than a hundred people over 18 in the combined units of this high-rise building!

What’s the worse space you have ever worked in?

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How to Stay Motivated

How to keep the Creative Juices Flowing

Red Barns in a colorful fall setting.

Some artists can come up with unending new ideas, but do you ever worry that the creative juices will dry up? There are times when I’m at a real loss about what to tackle next but there are a few ways to unblock creativity.

  1. Ideas can come at the strangest time so have a notebook handy. Rough sketch your ideas quickly instead of writing about them but if you must write use lots of description. You won’t likely recapture an inspirational moment with a short phrase. A quick sketch is far better. Taking pictures of interesting ideas is a good way to spark the imagination later.

    My art teacher Cindy Wider recommended doing little doodles no bigger than 10 cm by 8 cm to help work out some ideas.

  2. When nothing seems to interest me, I go back to my first love which is landscape. You can seldom go wrong with a painting that contains an old barn. Whatever subject you find easy just do it. You will be amazed at how that sometimes gets you back in the game.

    If you’re struggling with a piece put it aside and do something easy and fun. The idea is to finish a painting so that you feel you have accomplished something.

  3. Getting away from it all for a short time works too. Sometimes we just need a break. This is harder for artists that must make a living at selling their art but if you’re not being productive maybe a break is needed.

Some people find putting music on helps but I find it distracting. It may help brighten a lousy mood but otherwise that doesn’t work for me but it may for you. How do you stay motived?

See also:
Increase Your Creativity With This Exercise
How to Unblock Creativity
12 Ways to Improve Your Creativity

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Can I Use Watercolor Paper with Acrylic Paint?

the birds' island at cootes paradise, Hamilton, ON

Can Acrylic Be used on Watercolor Paper?

Watercolor paper is great for acrylic painting and you don’t even need to gesso or prime it first. I do find that it takes a lot of water to get acrylic to flow evenly over watercolor paper. Remember that acrylic paint should never be diluted more than 50%. You can add a product like Flow-Aid Fluid Additive or Acrylic Flow Improver instead of water.

It’s best to use a weight of at least 140 lbs so the paper doesn’t buckle too much. I place the dry, finished work under a heavy object like a book to flatten the paper.

The advantage of using paper instead of canvas is the ease of framing it behind glass in an ordinary picture frame. However, good watercolor paper is more expensive than papers made for acrylic. If you use both watercolor Paint and acrylic paint then in my opinion acrylic works good on watercolor paper but watercolor doesn’t always work so well with acrylic paper. It’s a personal choice.

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The Back Story of a Painting

The Back Story

boys sitting on the dock fishing

The picture of Contentment

Paintings generally have back stories but sometimes the painting doesn’t depict the entire story.  Take this peaceful scene

of two small boys contentedly fishing; the back story is not one of peace but frustration.

While the boys always enjoyed fishing they did not enjoy empty fish hooks for long periods of time.  An adult may enjoy the experience of sitting quietly in a lovely lake setting but children want results.  After an extended period of no nibbles on the line the youngest child completely lost it.  It wasn’t the stupid fish that refused to bite but the fault lay in the fishing rod itself.  After exploding into a fit of anger he tossed the useless rod into the lake where it sank in a hopeless tangle of weeds never to be rescued.  So much for fishing.


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