The Illusion of glass

There wasn’t very much useful information on how to depict glass with acrylic paint but

A simple glass vase

A simple glass vase

looking at paintings with glass objects it became clear that there is no “glass” color.  You need to create the illusion of glass instead of painting it.

There will be a minimum of things to consider:

  • bright spots where light hits the glass
  • reflected colors of any objects near by
  • Anything behind the glass will be slightly distorted
  • The rest is just shades of gray and white
  • The outline of the glass is slightly grayed to give it a curved dimension and to account for the thickness of the glass
  • The diamond pattern in the glass is raised giving the impression of dark and light lines
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It’s Elemental – Upcoming Exhibition

“It’s Elemental”

Friday, November 14, 2014 is the opening exhibition at the Hamilton Conservatory for Arts on James Street South (across from the bus depot).   It’s Elemental is the theme for art by the Women’s Art Association of Hamilton on display November 14 to December 20, 2014.  Everyone is welcome.

homeless man asleep on park bench

Napping in Central Park

The theme “it’s elemental” brought to my mind the idea of something or someone exposed to the elements of weather.  What caught my eye about my man “enjoying a nap” was that he seemed to be homeless but had on a pair of new sneakers compliments of a New York City project to give out shoes to those in need.  Even if everything else in this man’s life was exposed to the elements at least his feet were comfortable.

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How to Add Texture to Art

Last week I read this article simplify Autumn Leaves With Clear Gesso about how the artist

Sun flower textured acrylic art over gesso

Acrylic on Mixed Media paper – textured with gesso $35.00

used clear gesso to add texture to tree foliage. I don’t have clear gesso but I do have white gesso so I decided to experiment but instead of doing a tree (and I have a fabulous tree to try with clear gesso) (another time) I thought I would try a flower.

First I slathered on the white gesso with a flat pallet knife and then I drew leaves in the wet gesso around a circle making the petal tips as rounded and smooth as possible. The center was dabble with a pointed pallet knife to make it look like the  eye of the flower. A stem and a couple of leaves were added. Once the gesso dried over night, I painted the back ground, the flower, stem and leaves and voilà – a very textured little painting.

Where Easles Fly

Acrylic on Mixed Media paper – textured with gesso $35.00

Where Eagles fly is also a painting with gesso for texture.  In this one I used a flat pallet knife to build the mountains with gesso and then with a pallet knife I made jagged edges.  The next day after the gesso was completely dry I started to paint.  The possibilities are limited only to your imagination.

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Does Price Mean Quality in Art?

Getting Quality For Your Money

We all know time is money so for maximizing our profits it might seem like a good idea to use cheap paint in our artwork. However, is it fair or ethical to sell artwork made with student quality paint or even craft paints especially fine art intended as an investment that’s meant to last many years?

Following is a breakdown of paint quality:

Student Quality:

  • less paint coverage, cheaper pigments, not as vibrant
  • more affordable price range but fewer colors
  • lower pigments and could have fillers
  • greater color shift
  • May crack and deteriorate over time

Artist Quality:

lovely winter barn scene

Artist Quality Golden Acrylic on mixed media paper acid free
5 x 7 inches $35.00

  • highest pigment levels hence more vibrant colors
  • smoother consistency and easier to spread
  • varied price range
  • widest choice of color
  • limited color shift
  • long life

Craft Paint:

  • Often bought at Wal-Mart or Dollar Stores these paints are made for crafts
  • These paints are thin, low pigment with a shorter life

Buyers Beware

When artwork is fresh off the easel it is difficult to see quality unless you are an expert. Nevertheless, over time, only artist quality paint and archival supplies will stand the test of time. Therefore, if you are spending a large sum of money on the artwork you should ask for a guarantee that only quality materials went into making the art. Quality material will include artist quality paint, primed canvas or other primed surfaces, archival matting and acid free. These quality materials will help to keep the artwork from deteriorating over time.

a winter scene

8 x 8 Acrylic Artist Quality on canvas $75.00

Each type of paint has its place: student quality paint is economical for those just learning and craft paints fine for arts and craft projects when the work is not intended to endure over many years.  It all depends on whether you are buying a decorative item that you might discard  when you change your decor or if you are making an investing in art.

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A Positive Spin on Negative Thoughts

According to psychologists, in any day a person will have an estimated 60,000 thoughts and many will be negative. Why is this? Well, I don’t know and neither apparently do psychologists. What I do know is this: negative thoughts do seem to prevail.

Here are some of the negative thoughts of the artist:

  • My art is not good enough to be shown here (insert whatever place)
  • I can’t make money at selling art
  • Artists have to be dead to be popular
  • My art is not worth much
  • I’ll never be as good as (whomever you are competing with)
  • I’m too shy to talk to people and promote my art
  • I can’t write a good artist statement
  • I don’t have time or resources
  • I live in the wrong place for success
  • There are so many other artists I’ll never get noticed

The bad news is that this phenomenon seems to plaque most if not all people.

The good news is that you don’t have to listen to the negative thoughts or treat them as important. A good practice is to dismiss them as soon as they arrive and replace with a positive thought. You can also remember Mark Twain’s humorous quote:

“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” -Mark Twain

The reason for this post is that I have been struggling to paint to a theme for an upcoming exhibition. Time is running out without any progress but I am not throwing in the towel. Three things can happen:

  1. I paint what inspires me and if that should fit the theme then I have an entry.
  2. I don’t end up with an appropriate entry for the theme so I don’t enter this particular exhibition.
  3. I find something that I already have and that I think will fit and take my chances.

Rejection isn’t the end of the world.  I’ve had success and failures and life goes on.

on the farm

It’s Elemental – I love to paint landscape

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Acrylic Color Mixing Tips

color wheelColor Mixing tips:

Tip # 1 Add Dark to Light

It takes a lot more of a light color to lighten a dark color. If I had known about this rule I would have avoided making so much paint that ended up going to waste; therefore, always mix the dark paint into the lighter in small amounts.

Tip # 2 Add Opaque to Transparent

Add a little opaque paint to the transparent because opaque paint has far greater strength than the transparent.

Tip # 3 Mixing Grays

You can buy various gray shades but mixing them using other colors is often better. Mix 1/8 black plus 7/8 white with a tiny bit of cadmium light or crimson red for a warm gray or thalo for a cool gray. Thalo blue and black also makes gray.

Primary colors which are red, yellow and blue when mixed make secondary colors. ( yellow and red makes orange; blue and yellow makes green; red and blue makes violet )

Secondary colors orange, violet and green mixed neutralize each other to make a gray.

Complementary colors are those opposite each other on the color wheel. Mixing complementary colors produces gray.

Tip # 4  A Little Black Neutralizes

When black is mixed with a color it grays that color to neutralize it. I often add a speck of black to red to get a darker shade. The same is true for a bit of black to green which tends to make the green a more olive hue.

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Is It Cheating To Trace?

How to Transfer an Image to the Canvas


There are several ways to get an image to the canvas. The first and the most controversial is to trace the image. The disadvantage is that the paper must be large enough to trace the image. Obviously if you are painting on a large canvas this method is challenging unless you are lucky enough to have an overhead projector.  Then you can size your image to fit your canvas and trace the image projected on to canvas.

Print Out

This is also a quick method but again limited to the size of paper your printer can handle. if your image is so big that it will take several sheets of paper to print then this method is awkward.

Like the tracing method, you can blow the images up to the size you need on the computer and trace using tracing paper from the screen. You can also cut your print out if it is just the shape and size you are after.

The Grid Method

Art Tutor Grid Image

Art Tutor Grid Image

The grid method is the preferred way to get a preliminary sketch on to  the canvas.  Above is an image from the Art Tutor program that lets you upload an image and apply a grid.  This way you can break the image up into little pieces that are easier to draw to scale and much less overwhelming than trying to figure out where each piece belongs without the grid lines.

You can lightly draw grid lines right on to the canvas.  Light pastel pencils work well for this or white conte chalk after you under-paint the canvas with a color that will let the white lines show.

The reason I don’t consider tracing as cheating is that I am not learning to draw but wanting to paint and tracing is a quick solution to getting my object to the canvas in proportion. If you’re doing portraiture then this method ensures accuracy.

Do you think tracing is cheating?

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Creating Great Impact with Gray Scale Images

Using a Gray-scale

The best way I know to check that you have the correct proportion of light, mid-tone and dark in your paintings is to convert them to a gray-scale.  The optimal ratio is 3:1 and not equal proportions. Ideally, your painting should have one dominant tone, one other tone and a bit of the third.  Here are a couple of examples of paintings that convert well to gray-scale:

grayscale tour boatTour Boat





Below is an excellent example of good ratio.

old barns

gray Barns

When a painting makes a vivid black and white image you know your tonal values are good.




Below is one that does not convert as well.

gray scale barn barn

The reason this does not convert well to gray-scale is that there is too much mid-tone and not enough dark.  The dark could have appeared in the trees and more variance in the field.




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Your Job is in the Studio

Your Job is in the Studio

If you don’t make art, you have nothing to market

I stole borrowed this saying from Alyson Stanfield at

In this blog Alyson talks about how the artist’s job is in the studio making art and that; although, we do have to take care of the business end, our primary work is to make art so we have something to market.  Makes sense?

Have you ever been so overwhelmed with all the other work surrounding an art career that must be attended? Is it any wonder that art making gets pushed aside or worse – comes to a grinding halt while we worry about posting to various accounts?

I only post once a week but if I haven’t completed any art in that week I will have no image to add to my post. A block of text is so boring!

It is only Monday morning, usually I don’t tackle posts until Thursday.  However, when inspiration hits and I think I have a blog post then it is a good idea to record my thoughts when they are fresh.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some art to create!

Small Paintings:

Fall Walk

Fall Walk

This painting is lovely but it didn’t photograph well.  The reason, I believe, is that I didn’t under-paint with a dark enough color so that the camera picks up the lightness.

Fall Path

Fall Path




The next image was under-painted with a very dark green and although there isn’t much dark showing the result is that the camera recorded the painting much better.

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Why I Like to Paint Small

Painting Small – Great Marketing Material

Recently I finished a 16 inch by 20 inch fall painting that just didn’t come together the way I had hoped. I’m still in the fiddling stage with this one.

Fall at Tiffany Falls

Autumn at Tiffany Falls

It is disappointing to spend a whole week or more carefully crafting a large painting only to discover that it missed the mark. Frustrating actually. However, that is a fact of life and as long as there are lessons to be learned then it wasn’t a total waste. In this case, possible a smaller version to test out the idea first would have been good?

And that’s why I like to paint small. These lovely little paintings can be put into matting, placed in plastic and sold inexpensively. Each of these only took an afternoon or so to paint, not that I was in a hurry, but let’s face it how long can it take to cover 5 x 7 inches of mixed media paper?

fall hills

Fall Hills 5 x 7





Recapping the advantages of small paintings:

  • Less time to seeing results
  • Smaller investment of time and materials if dissatisfied
  • Make lovely inexpensive painting to sell if satisfied
  • Test out ideas and techniques

    sailing Hamilton Bay

    Sailing the Bay

  • Handy example to follow should you decide to paint larger
  • Creates great marketing material to use as giveaways or other promotional opportunities
  • Feeling very productive!
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