All posts by Nancy Reyner

How to Paint Large from a Small Model

Here’s one of my favorite painting techniques I call the String-Grid Method. Starting with a small to-scale model, you can enlarge it to a bigger size easily, gridding with string. This technique is from my book Create Perfect Paintings. First let’s explore why and when you might want to use this technique.

We are unique beings, and therefore we can find infinite ways to work through a painting from start to finish. In general, most painting processes fall into two categories based on the desired end result; control or surprise. If you have a specific vision in mind as to how your completed painting will appear, then the best process will be the one that offers methods of control. If you want more surprise, then flexibility is key for your process. Either way is valid, but acknowledging your choice in the beginning will cause less frustration later.

The String-Grid method is an example of a controlled process. When I am working with a client on a custom commission I usually need to submit proposals with multiple ideas. Making several small-scale, rough image layouts or models is one way to do this. Models can be made with mediums and surfaces that will differ from the final work. Images can be made from reference materials you find from your own archives or elsewhere. References can be photos, drawings, collages, postcards, or prints, found in magazines, on artists’ websites or through general internet searches.

Once a model is selected by the client, I can then use the following String-Grid method to make sure the final finished larger sized painting looks like the smaller scale model the client wanted. It is quick and easy to create and leaves no trace of the grid in the final work. Here are four easy steps.

Start with a Reference Model.
I made this small model fairly quickly, measuring only 6” x 4” (15 cm x 10 cm) with oil pastel on paper.

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 1. To transfer the image from the model onto a larger final surface, overlay a grid onto the model. Start by taping clear acetate over the model. Using a marker and ruler, divide each side in half, then half again, continuing to divide until grid sections are as small as you want, marking with a dot at each division. The more detail you have in your model that needs to be transferred, the smaller you need the grid sections to be. Now connect the dots to make the grid lines with a colored marker, seen here using blue.

 

 

STEP 2. Using a different color marker than the one used for the gridlines, trace over the image along general design lines. Here I used red.

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 3. Remove the acetate from the model, placing it over white paper to see the general design lines in red more clearly.

STEP 4. Grid your final painting surface. Using a ruler and pencil, divide the sides of your surface in half, then half again, marking the sides or edges with only a dot. This time, though, instead of connecting the dots with a marker to create colored lines directly onto the surface, use string to act as lines. To create string lines, hammer extra long (5/8” [16 mm]) metal pushpins along the sides of the painting surface and close to the top where each dot has been marked. Insert pushpins at a 45 degree angle to the surface, so string lines will be raised up from the surface. If your surface does not have deep enough sides, drive the pushpins into the front face, close to the edges, either through the canvas into the stretcher bars or directly into the wood if using a wood panel. Tie string around one of the pushpins nearest to a corner and continue to wrap the string around each pushpin until the grid is complete, securing it with a final knot around the last pushpin.

To begin the painting, dilute a light-colored paint and brush on your design using the model’s general lines and grid as reference. The string will be slightly raised off the front surface, allowing enough room for your brush to freely paint underneath. When your wash sketch is complete, simply remove the pushpins and string. Continue painting without the grid until complete.

Finished Painting
This gridding method using string accurately transferred the image from the small oil pastel model to this finished acrylic painting.

Nancy Reyner, Floral 1, 32” x 20” (76 x 51 cm), acrylic on canvas, private collection

For more painting techniques visit my website shop for videos and books. Also you can view free instructional videos on my website.

How to Paint Better

 

Create Perfect Paintings will enhance your artwork and creative process, easily identify and resolve painting issues, bring more attention to your work and extend its viewing time.  Ideal for those times when we ask “Now what?” or “Is it finished?” A groundbreaking book for artists with inventive ways to critique your own art!

Other helpful sections include how to resolve creative blocks, optimal ways to use both your right and left brain, clarify your vision, prepare materials, display your work, and even that tricky notion of how to balance creating art with career. With hundreds of insights, tips, illustrated techniques and ideas, Create Perfect Paintings shows you how to push your work to the next level by strengthening your perception, visual thinking and technical skills, regardless of medium, style or level of experience.

Keeping Your Paintings Original

As artists we are always looking for new ideas and inspiration. Browsing through the internet in search of images, glancing through art books or a visit to galleries and museums are common ways to get the imagination going.

Working too closely from a photograph, though, has its issues, especially if the photograph you are using is not your own art or photo. Direct copying from another artist is not only illegal, it can stifle your creativity and dull down your own work. Albert Pinkham Ryder said “Imitation is not inspiration, and inspiration only can give birth to a work of art.”

To keep your painting fresh and original while still using photographs, here is one idea that works for me. Pick out at least three photographs to use as references for a particular painting, instead of just one. By combining some aspects of each into a whole new image, you may come up with not only something original, but a total surprise.

Suggested Tips for this Process: After finding three reference images, choose one aspect from each image that you want to use for your own work. For instance, one image may have a color palette you like, another image can contribute an interesting composition, while a third contains a detail that catches your eye.

Here are 3 images I found that I liked while browsing calendars and magazines.

Image 1
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Image 2
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Image 3
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These three images are made by other artists, not me, so instead of copying them directly, I need to transform, distill or select from them, to create a brand new image of my own imagination. I decided to use Image 1 for its composition, Image 2 for color, and Image 3 for the gate in the foreground. I first changed the composition in Image 1 from its square format to horizontal, and moved the horizon line downwards by cropping the bottom.

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Next I mixed colors to match those found in Image 2. I painted a loose underpainting using washy (diluted with water) paint to get the general color scheme and composition onto the canvas.

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The underpainting includes my interpretation of the composition from Image 1, the colors from Image 2, and the gate from Image 3. Here it is refined further for a more realistic landscape.

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This was so fun I decided to try the same process on a new canvas to create something more abstract or non-objective.

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This painting uses the same aspects from the references as before, but results in an abstract. Compare these final paintings to the original three references. They have veered dramatically from the references, and transformed into something original. It has been said that nothing is original, since all artists will use, recycle or reinterpret from what they see around them, even if not consciously. We can’t help it, we are a product of our time and environment. The key is to strive to find your own vision, and subsequently make art that only you can make. Hopefully you may like this idea as much as I do, or perhaps can find your own method to use reference imagery in original ways.

I will be teaching a workshop in Santa Fe on September 30, 2016, exploring this and other methods to recycle and reinterpret imagery for painting. Click here for more information on that workshop, or click here to schedule your own private or custom painting session with me at my Santa Fe studio.

 

Painting Waves and Clouds

Waves and clouds are frequently included in my paintings. Here are some details of them, cropped from my work:
unnamedThere are two methods I use to get wave or cloud effects.

The first method uses washes on a glossy surface and is from p. 99 of my book Acrylic Illuminations.

(1) Make your surface glossy. Simply apply a coat of gloss medium over your painting when you are ready to add cloud or wave effects. If you are just starting with a blank canvas, first apply a paint color then the gloss medium. In my book example I started by painting the canvas a rich black color under the gloss. (2) When dry, apply a wash (60-70% water to any paint color using fluid paints, or 90% water if using heavy or thick paints) over the gloss, and (very important!!!) do not play with it – just leave it alone to dry. If you move the wash around too much it won’t work. When dry it should have puddled up into some interesting patterns and shapes. Most problems with this technique occur when not enough water is used. The wash should move around in a puddle when you apply it, and should stay puddled while it dries.

The second method to get wave and cloud effects is to paint them using good old classical painting techniques with paint on a brush. The old masters have been doing this for years. Most of my waves are painted this way, as the wash technique described above produces happy accidents sometimes, but uncontrolled effects such as these don’t work other times.

There is a myth that abstract painters can’t paint, or that traditional painting techniques are unnecessary to paint abstraction well. I do believe it is my classical painting skills I learned in art school, in workshops and through many years of practice that are key in getting my abstract paintings to work. I have dedicated most of my recent years using acrylic, exploring ways to invent new tricks and techniques for  unusual contemporary painting effects. These tricks are fully shared in my books and videos. I have not included traditional painting techniques in these instructional tools because those are already being taught. I figured I didn’t have to repeat it. I recently checked the internet and found many good instructional videos for traditional painting. We are fortunate to be living in a time where abundant instruction is free and easily accessible.

The waves and clouds I paint, compared to others I found online, tend to be softer because I blend them more, and with greater transparency because I add more mediums to increase their transparency. Both blending and transparent applications such as glazing are in all my books and most of my videos because they are essential painting techniques.

I like to make sure I use a combination of abstract tricks (like pouring) along with classical painting techniques in my work. That is one of the things, I think, that helps make the work intriguing. The waves and clouds, however, are painted traditionally. No tricks. No pouring, no hair dryer pushing the paint, no combs – (these are other suggestions from folks who emailed me asking how I paint them.) Just hours of mixing color and carefully applying the waves.

I attached a few paintings from other painters I found online using traditional techniques for waves and clouds.

These are from 19th Century French master Gustav Courbet.
imagescourbet1courbet2
from www.pixelcreation.fr
cloudswithhousefrom www.conceptart.org
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