Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oh what a day.

Don't wake me up... I was up late drawing and I do NOT want to go to work.
How many times have I called in sick this month? hmm...

Despite warring with myself,
my saintliness arrives.

After donning my halo, I go to work.

My day as a secretary begins. Goodbye art- hello data entry.

Stop the paperwork! No More! I tell you- NO MORE!

I wave the white flag.

Oh good.

Only 7 hours left.

Meet my alter-ego:: "Transformer Girl."

After a day of subdued misery-
I magically transform into Ms.Creative.

Not without a little help.

Thank God! I'm back.

A slight interruption.

And a few hours of rest before it all starts over again.

Image Sources:

Monday, November 8, 2010

No.2: My Ribbonrie Exploration

This is not exactly a Master or old school technique here, but dyeing fabrics has always seemed like a fun extension of the artistic realm. I have always been a fan of ribbons and have collected a variety of vintage trims. Wishing to replicate the color and look of vintage ribbon led me to rayon ribbons.

There are a variety of sellers online at etsy and you can see many of the single-colored rolls at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco for around .40 a yard. However to save money, I went to the source and purchased three rolls of 100 yards a piece. I also went to the local craft store and found Rit dyes on sale for about 1.17 a pack. Online they have a great dye color mixing chart which I looked at but didn't follow exactly. It is a great starting point but you will get the hang of it when you are doing the steps below.

  • Dyes (others besides Rit will work as well, but goodness they are cheap.)
  • Hug Seam Binding -Rayon Ribbon (standard white)
  • small bowls (1 for each color or premixed color shade)
  • large bowl
  • warm water
  • plastic gloves (12 pack at dollar store)
  • plastic wrap
  • microwave
  • paper towels
  • brush- (I used a small flat, synthetic brush)
  • small plastic snack bags (for opened containers of dye powders)
  • permanent marker (for labeling dye bags)

  1. Prepare your work area for a messy project! Lay towels down and get a cheap shirt and your plastic gloves on.
  2. Put small bowls out and fill half way with water. Sprinkle packet dye in (slowly). Using the brush- get all grits mixed in, and spread the dyed water up the side of the bowl to test the shade. You don't need much dye unless you want a bright or dark shade. You will have a lot of dye left over.
  3. In large bowl- fill most way up with warm water.
  4. Prepare yardage by cutting into 3-5 yard sections. (Optional but helpful)
  5. Drop yards into large bowl to get entirely wet. Take care to spread yards out so that the layers are not stuck together (as if rolled). They can get awfully tied up, so leave them on counter in bunches until you want to work with them.
  6. Gather one group of ribbon in your hand. Squeeze most of the water out.
  7. Holding it in your hand, dip one end carefully into the color. Squeeze out. (This can be beautiful with just one color and you could stop here for a light washed effect.) Look at color and re-dip in color if you want it darker.
  8. Using both hands, spread bunch apart and re-fluff it into scrunch ball.
  9. Repeat step 7 and 8 with another color. For darker colors, re-dip as needed.
  10. If you want to have spots of another color, use your brush to grab a bit of dye, and drop it on the fabric. This is great for lighter colors, such as rose with wine or purple splashes.
  11. Squeeze fabric into small ball in the center of a small sheet of plastic wrap. If there is a lot of excess dye, squeeze this out over sink or another waste only bowl. Wrap the ends of the excess plastic wrap around it. (Some people just place ribbon on plate and microwave it with plastic wrap cover. Afterwards they scrunch it into ball and put it in the corner of a bag to airdry.) Make sure you squeeze the ends of wrap tighter than what is seen in photo above.
  12. Microwave ball for 2 minutes.
  13. When it comes out you can let it sit or pull it out (if you are anxious to see the result like moi.)
  14. This technique will get a really fabulous wrinkle effect. They will be mostly dry at this point, but I let them air dry overnight on towels. The next day I wrapped them on my vintage Bingo cards to get them organized.
  • White will work really well as the starting ribbon shade. You don't need to worry about purchasing a whitener or bleaching as you simply limit the time the ribbon is in the dye or add more water to the bowl.
  • Reverse of white- put more dye in bowl for a truly bright or dark shade.
  • Red is a difficult color to get exactly the way I wanted it. I purchased a variety of red dyes including some from other brands (idye and Jacquard) but found that adding brown and black worked wonderfully for "antiquing" the Red to the desired shade.
  • Turquoise Blue is fabulous and works well with green/yellow; dark blue; black; browns and even pinks/reds.
  • Tip: Wash your gloves after mixing dyes and in between each ribbon color change. Getting splotches on finished dye totally sucks. :)
  • Tan is alright but I think Cocoa Brown is great as you can use if full strength or dilute it to a light brown which is good for a final "wash" over a different color.
  • Tip: Don't use dishes that you will reuse for eating.
  • Tip: Adding some salt to the dye will help it stay more permanent than heating alone.
What my husband would like to point out- "What you don't see in those pictures is the floor- covered in dye!" Yes! It is messy honey.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

No.1: Brushes- price and quality

Finding brushes can be a daunting and albeit exhilarating scavenger hunt. My eyes immediately navigate to the alluring, beautifully formed brushes that glisten with "Michelangelo Approved" written all over it. Of course, they bear a price tag which sends me with slumped shoulders to the other end of the aisle in which the student grade brushes await my grasp.
As I have asked myself time and again, when is it a good time to invest in quality and does that lofty price tag mean a better brush? In fact, with all these market-friendly books on Art How-To's which is right and which one do I trust?

I over-think all these things and I ask these same questions with what paints, pencils, varnishes, solvents, boards, blah blah blah, do I choose for my project-in-waiting?

So, I bring this blog in on my quest. Finding Master's Approved Techniques and Materials for me, the modern artist. Me, the girl who cannot afford Florence Academies and who wishes I lived there a few hundred years ago- sans Black Death and all that.

So first on my list... Brushes


STEP ONE: Choose your medium.
If you are short on money, go for the types of brushes that would apply to the most mediums you use. That being said, this is perhaps one of the most important tools you can purchase. Buying the cheapy sets are alright for craft projects, but getting poorly bundled brush hairs in your work can make your finished project look unprofessional and can be quite a pain when you finally see that hair and have to rework the area after you pried the hair off the piece.

So lets talk brush types...

"There were two types of brushes used by painters, one made by pig or hog, the other with fine hairs from squirrel or fox tails. ...Pinceaux (fine or small brushes) and brosses a tas (bristle brushes) and harbensel (hair brushes)" -Nash, Susie. Oxford History of Art: Northern Renaissance Art.

Bristle Brushes
  • Info: Coarse, natural hairs from hogs and boars. These bristle brushes are good for thick applications not detail, portraits. (Boars are from China, Switzerland, France, Russia, India and Balkan Mountains of eastern Europe.)
  • Fun Fact: Did you know that Michelangelo used hog bristle brushes in painting the Sistine Chapel? Hog Bristles were commonly used by many of the great Masters.
  • Great for: Oils, Acrylics and Lacquers
  • Production: Bristles are chosen from the backs of the animal (from neck to tail) and sterilized. Then they are gathered by hand, and set with an adhesive, are bound by a ferrule which is crimped to the handle.
  • Cleaning: The brushes are sensitive to harsh cleaning solvents (typically the strong odor ones). Use water, alcohol or mineral spirits or brush cleaning pink soaps.
  • Painting Surface: Porcelain, Unfinished woods, Canvas, Rough Surfaces; Clay or Hard Boards
  • Colors: Black, brown, grey or white (finest ones are natural white), some are bleached (which can be weakened by bleaching)
  • What to look for: Flagged Tips (like human hair's split ends or straw flayed ends) the tip has 2-3 points called flags. These flags enable the brush to hold more paint; lots of crimps in the ferrule; good straight-grained wood handles.
  • Avoid: Trimmed (no-flag) brushes, bleached white, single crimps in the ferrule (two crimps are a step up, not great.)
  • Starting Set: Purchase Small and Medium Round, Medium Sized Flat, Large Flat, Medium Filbert and Blender.
  • Sizes: not standard; each brand may vary from others.
  • Personal View: I like them for beginning my work, but I quickly switch to sable brushes that offer better blending.

Hair Brushes
including Sable Brushes (Mink, ermine, marten, kolinskie, weasel, squirrel, ox, fitch, goat, skunk, badger)

  • Info: Mainly for glazing and fine detail work or blending
  • Great for: Watercolor, oil, egg tempera
  • Production: wild Russian Kolinskies produce the longest hairs compared to those raised on farms; plucked, gathered, set, bellies swell to a fine point
  • Painting Surface: Canvas, Paper, Original (non-acrylic) gessoed wood panels,
  • What to look for: I heard a teacher mention once, that he would go into his local art store, and test them by washing them (swirling them in a cup of water) and when the stiff glue was removed- snap his wrist to remove the water, if the brush hairs came to a perfect point it would be a winner. Russian Kolinsky Sable are wonderful for tempera and watercolor. If you have the money, go for it. I also prefer the short handle varieties.
  • Avoid: Expensive brushes for your thick mediums (i.e. oil) as they don't last long.
  • Starting Set: A few that you like- preferably rounds.
  • Sizes: not standard; each brand may vary from others.
  • Personal View: Some of my favorites. They don't hold much paint which I love.

Form: comes to a standard rounded tip; round ferrule
Usage: use in all painting mediums, great for detail work, washes, pushing clay bole in tempera, and much more.

Pointed Rounds
Form: the tip is narrower than the standard rounds, with a sharper point; also detail rounds are shorter in length but still hold a lot of color
; round ferrule
Usage: Fine details, retouching, fills, short highlights and details

Form: square end, med-long hairs, flat ferrule
Usage: all medias, especially heavier bodied paints as it holds them better, great for edges, washes

Form: Similar to flats, however these have a curved tip and shorter hairs; flat ferrule
Usage: most medias, including oils, acrylic, decorative projects, lots of control available to artist

Form: Oval tip, medium to long hairs, long handles; flat ferrule
Usage: blending or softening edges, portrait and figurative studies,
Look for: Natural hairs as they pass the "wet" test and hold together better.

Form: similar to an actual hand held, asian fan which spreads from center ferrule; flat ferrule
Usage: Blending and smoothing out colors, portraits, decorative usage

Form: long hairs, typically small amount of hairs, often short handle which provides greater control; round ferrule (like pen tips)
Usage: Lettering, highlights, tempera highlights and fonts, even calligraphy,

Form: many sizes, flat and pointed flats, oval, rounded; mostly flat ferrules
Usage: washes, layering, watercolors, watering down and absorbing excess water

**Updates coming soon on more brushes.**

Pictures of brushes are from and Kalinsky