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Special Award Winner Donna Gillispie

Artist: Donna Gillispie, Lake View No. 1, 4′ x 12′, mixed media and wood panels
Photo Credit: Linda Edge-Dunlap

I was recently given the honorable task to present an award to an artist included in the online exhibition HerStory 2017 Art Exhibition, curated by Renee Phillips, Director of Manhattan Arts International.

The show is intended to promote outstanding women artists, and runs from April 27, 2017 through June 27, 2017, featuring 63 selected artists.

For my special award, a main criteria was a painting that shows innovative paint application or playful experimentation. In addition to the quality of paint usage, there were other criteria I was seeking. The work should be visually engaging with contemporary design, and offer a uniquely personal story, situation or viewpoint.  I found all of these in abundance in Donna Gilllispie’s painting Lake View No. 1 shown in full at the top of this article.

I was impressed by the painting’s eye catching and riveting appeal and its epic mural size of four feet by twelve feet. Lake View No. 1 is a satellite view of Table Rock Lake, at the intersection of three rivers, located close to where the artist lives, and a place she frequents. The idea of the lake is imaginatively abstracted, and Donna succeeded in capturing the wide variety of colors she sees at the lake. From the sunsets through the four seasons, the work’s color palette reflects its shifting moods. On the far left are the colors for winter, then moving to the right is spring, summer then fall.

This detail gives us a hint of Donna’s passion and expertise with her use of mediums. Using an incredible range of materials Donna pulls them altogether in a cohesive and rich display. Materials include metal leaf (gold, copper, silver and variegated), watercolor, acrylic paints, gold leaf flakes, wood panels, acrylic gels and mediums, glass beads, paper. Watercolor paper is stretched first then woven to form the visible grid design in this giant painting collage. The two bands of color on the top and bottom are made with rice paper. Elsewhere in the work Donna uses tissue paper with gesso to texturize underneath the leaf. Smooth areas contrast texture, warm contrasts cool, and the woven paper grid expertly mimics the grid of the square leaf pieces, and mosaic use of multiple wood panels. Donna uses Fibonacci number proportions to create the swirl shape of the rivers. This painting is a rich mix of creativity, thought, technique and playful experimentation.

Donna Gillispie Bio:
Inspired by a childhood love of painting, Donna obtained a Fine Arts degree from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Since, she has consistently studied the arts through a lifetime of books, museums, and working alongside several nationally known artists. She particularly enjoys studying the Old Masters, with them finding a very effective way to learn about historic procedures, techniques and expressive content. While her paintings are often representational, Donna starts each one with an abstract design pattern. The compositions then evolve instinctively and are essentially arranged by putting together those shapes and designs which are related and connected to each other. She is often drawn to unusual perspectives and imagery. She also feels a painting can be a powerful tool of communication, invoking a plea to the viewer to join her in caring deeply about a subject. The area lakes near her home, have profoundly influenced her recent works, as she celebrates them with the joy of painting through color, form, and texture.

Link for more of Donna’s work

Link to view the HerStory2017  Exhibition

 

Free Your Creativity

This 45 minute interview of Nancy Reyner was taped on February 23, 2017, as part of Julie Merritt’s Mindfully Alive Retreat, an online series of interviews with artists on the topic of creativity. Nancy explains how all artists have creative blocks, and that they are a natural part of our rhythm. She explains what a creative block is, and reveals her five favorite methods to free a creative block when you get one.

 

A list of Nancy’s five favorite methods discussed in the video interview. These are also included in her new book, Create Perfect Paintings, published by North Light Books.

(1) Reconnect with your inner voice:
(2) Coaching, therapy and some DIY methods to self-therapy
(3) Practice positive thinking
(4) Avoid perfectionism
(5) Know how to take a break – and enjoy it!

How to Prepare Wood Panels for Painting

Why Use Wood Panels for Painting?
There are many types of surfaces that painters can use for fine art painting. Canvas on stretchers have been used for a long time, and wood panels even longer. Wood is stronger and more durable then the fabric of canvas or linen, and is therefore more archival. Contemporary painting techniques such as pouring paint (i.e. Jackson Pollock) and gluing collage-style are much easier with a sturdy level surface such as wood. (By the way, Pollock did not use wood for his paintings).

Proper preparation of an artist support is essential for producing long-lasting artwork. Raw wood panels need to be sealed prior to priming and painting, to keep moisture from getting to the wood causing warping and other damage. So once you purchase a wood panel you need to do two important steps before painting: seal to keep out moisture, and then prime to strengthen adhesion between the paint and wood panel.

Where to Get Wood Panels
If you are lucky enough to have wood working machinery, you can make wood panels yourself. Otherwise you can purchase commercially made wood panels from art stores, and online artist supply sites. Ampersand makes great panels of good quality. They are the only commercial panel company that I know of that properly seals and primes their panels called Gessobord. Less expensive versions are available through Dick Blick and other online sites. Commercial panels can come with or without cradled sides (separate wood applied to the panel to add depth to the sides), and with or without coatings (such as gesso or other primers).

I have two issues with commercially made wood panels. I like to work large and in sizes that are not standard. Since commercial panels only come in standard sizes, and only up to around 40″ per side, if you want a custom size, or something larger than 40″ there are not many options. Some commercial companies offer custom panels, but may take up to six months (not kidding) to get it to you. Commercial panels use hardboard for the painting surface. Hardboard can get very heavy when used for large sizes. I created my own brand of panel, Nancy Reyner Custom Artist Panels, only available through, Artisans Art Supply. These are high quality panels, custom made in three weeks or less to your size preference, cradled with 1 7/8″ sides, and made with a special poplar wood material that is super lightweight.

Preparing Your Wood Panel
Oil painters must seal wood to stop any acidic oil in the paint, from penetrating into the wood support, which can cause the fibers to rot. While acrylic painters do not have this same issue, sealing is still an important step if you plan to use acrylic paint, to eliminate Support Induced Discoloration (SID). SID is a phenomenon that occurs uniquely with acrylic paints. Supports naturally contain impurities that can cause an amber yellow discoloring to any light colored or clear acrylic layer that is applied to the wood, unless the support is sealed properly.

Sealing (sometimes called sizing) reduces chances for the wood to warp due to shifts in humidity, and therefore adds an important archival process to your artwork regardless of which painting medium you choose. Sealing also provides an easier surface to apply subsequent paint layers.

Sealers are often confused with primers. A sealer protects the underlying layer or material. It usually needs to be glossy (or non-absorbent) to properly protect by creating a barrier. A primer is a foundation layer that improves paint adhesion onto the support. Generally, a primer refers to a coating that prepares the surface for the acceptance of paint. Gesso is a primer and not a sealer. Gesso, when applied, has a satin or matte finish, is absorbent in nature, and therefore will not seal the wood unless multiple applications are used.

A general rule is to apply at least two coats of sealer directly onto the raw wood to protect the wood. Then apply primer to enhance adhesion, return tooth to the surface, and whiten the surface for optimizing paint colors you plan to apply over it.

Instructions to Prepare Your Panel
(1) Clean off any dust or debris from all faces of the panel including the cradled sides, first using a vacuum or air pressure if very dusty, then wiping clean with a microfiber cloth (or other lint free cloth) slightly dampened (with water).

(2) Lay the panel flat on a table, propping it up several inches on all four corners with jars, wood props, etc to allow for wiping away any drips, and ease of application.

(3) Apply a glossy acrylic medium over all exposed wood surfaces. Golden’s GAC100 is made especially for this purpose. It’s special thin formulation of polymer acrylic, applied over the wood, soaks in quickly and minimizes brushstrokes and texture.

Tip: Let one surface dry fully before flipping over to seal the reverse side. Drying times can vary. If dry to the touch with no tack, it can be flipped over without sticking to the props.

(4) When all exposed wood areas are sealed and fully dry, the wood will feel very coarse. That is because the wood grain gets raised with this first coat of sealer. Lightly sand all surfaces to smooth them using a 220 grit. There is no need to heavily sand, just an easy swipe with the sandpaper will suffice. Sanding blocks with a fine to medium fine grit are convenient for this purpose.

(5) Wipe the surfaces clean after sanding, then apply a second coat of sealer. Usually two coats of a sealer is sufficient, making the wood appear slightly satin or glossy in sheen. Optionally add more coats if you desire a more saturated seal. It is important to allow sufficient drying time (1 to 3 days) before continuing to prime or paint, so that the size can coalesce into a uniform film (especially important for oil painters).

(6) When fully dry after sealing, it is recommended to apply one or two coats of a primer, such as an acrylic gesso, especially to the front surface to regain surface tooth. Priming your panel, regardless of which paint medium you plan to use, will add a second archival process to your artwork, by strengthening adhesion between your first painting layer and the primer. Opt to prime all surfaces, including the back and sides, for a clean white professional look.

For acrylic painters, one coat of a better quality gesso, such as Golden’s Gesso, will add adhesion strength between the sealed wood and your first layer of acrylic paint. Lesser quality primers are satisfactory when used with oil paint.

Once the gesso is dry to the touch it is ready for applications of acrylic paint. Wait 1 to 3 more days for applications of oil paint.

Here is a link for more information on Nancy Reyner Custom Artist Panels

Making a Living with Your Art!

Making art is my career. It pays my bills while also being very fulfilling. Lately I’ve been asked to talk on panels and seminars on the topic of making a living with your art. This 26 minute interview,  was part of an online series called Starving Artist No More hosted and produced by Heidi Easley.

Heidi interviewed many artists from around the world, gathering tips for artists on how to make a living with your art. The series was broadcast free Feb 1-3, 2017. For more information on her series or to view the other interviews:  http:// starvingartistnomoresummit.com

And here are more tips from my book Create Perfect Paintings.

Career Tips for Artists

(1) Make the best paintings you can. Strive to make your work the best it can be. Put your best foot forward in all your efforts, not only with painting, but business aspects as well, such as your website, writing, your portfolio, showing up on time for appointments, following through with commitments, etc.

(2) Develop a clear vision. It’s important to clearly understand what you paint and why. Equally important is to envision how you want a career to relate to your painting. The book “The Answer” by John Assaraf, offers great ideas to create your vision.

(3) Stay open and positive. This is more work than it sounds. It takes a lot of effort to keep from whining, complaining, getting stressed and being negative. But once you create a habit of positive thinking, it releases an enormous amount of energy and adds confidence.

(4) Show your work. Online publishing sites allow you to create a small portable professional looking portfolio for very little cost. Carry it everywhere as you never know what opportunities will come up. Find ways to exhibit your work. Have an exhibition in your studio. Invite friends, and put a posting in the local paper. Ask at your local restaurants, banks and other public venues if you can hang your work on their walls. Donate work to public institutions like colleges and hospitals.

(5) Continually Seek New Venues. Always be on the lookout for better galleries, dealers, and agents to sell your work. Find artists whose work is compatible to yours online or in galleries you may visit, and read their bios to find out where they show. Research galleries, agents, grants and any other information you feel an affinity with to see if you can use these in your own search.

(6) Seek Advice From Experts. To allow more time for you to paint, use specialists to do the work you don’t want.  Use coaches for guidance, financial advisors for budgets, photographers for professional shots of your work, lawyers for contracts, web and other tech experts to keep your website running, and social media teams for publicity assistance.

(7) Stay connected with your team. Stay in touch with anyone who helps you in your career, especially your venues and dealers. Make a list of all those who help you, both friends and business associates. This is your team. Stay in touch regularly. Online correspondence is not enough. Add occasional team get-togethers such as a cocktail party in your studio, or a fun night out.

(8) Protect your time. Be aware and protective of how your time is spent. Eliminating one extra unnecessary activity in your day, such as watching television, can increase time for business tasks, or even more studio painting time.

Conversations with Artists

Hear inspiring conversations with artists on Art Fusion Radio, a new live radio program from Santa Fe on KVSF 101.5 FM. The program features interviews of Santa Fe artists and musicians, hosted by Ron Whitmore, co-owner of Santa Fe’s Artisan Art Supply. Here is NancyReyner’s interview, broadcast December 2016, with musicians Cynthia Becker and Don Curry.

Ron created this program to emphasize what he sees as a synergy between the two art forms. Each show features one local visual artist describing their path, process and work followed by a local songwriter performing live original music. The show is broadcast Thursdays from Noon to 1 PM, at Artisans – public invited. To see the schedule and hear more interviews, visit Art Fusion Radio’s website on SantaFe.com.

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.

Create Perfect Paintings

A groundbreaking book for artists with inventive ways to critique your own art!  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?”

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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Painting Surfaces – What Works Best!

Canvas or wood? This can be a tough choice for some artists. These two are the most commonly used materials, yet now there are even more choices such as plastic, metal, glass, ceramic, leather, paper, vinyl and cardboard.

Let’s start with the pros and cons of canvas and wood. Canvas comes in cotton duct or linen, while wood choices range from hardboard to panel. Both are fine for painting, but how do we choose what is right for us and our work?

CANVAS:

Advantages:

∙ It is lightweight, especially important for painting large.

∙ Canvas has a wonderful absorbency and woven texture if that suits your style.

∙ It can be used stretched over wooden stretcher bars for a tight bounce, or left unstretched to pin up onto walls or used on floors while working.

∙ For more information on selecting the appropriate stretchers and strainers click here.

∙ For more information on selecting the appropriate canvas click here.

Disadvantages:

∙ If you like to sand painted layers, or pour acrylic mediums over the surface as a layer, then the wood panels will be a better choice then canvas. For sanding or pouring you need a rigid level surface. The canvas when stretched on stretchers will droop if you sand or pour, and therefore needs to be propped up underneath for these techniques. Also, it can’t be easily moved if it needs to dry on a level place for a long time.

WOOD PANEL:

Advantages:

∙ As mentioned above, wood panel is already hard and rigid, and can be easily transported while layers are wet and still drying. A rigid surface is best for sanding and pouring techniques.

∙ It can cost less then stretched canvas. Canvas stretcher bars are made for reuse and are costly. A local carpenter or wood worker can make several wood panels at a time, with cost savings to the artist. Carpenters will generally charge per hour plus cost of materials, while purchasing stretcher bars and canvas have extra added retailer costs that are put on the final price.

∙ Wood panels can be made with different woods and braced to minimize warping.

∙ They are more sturdy then canvas. This means they will last longer than canvas given similar environmental circumstances.

∙ If you want to paint over an old painting on wood panel, it is easily remedied by sanding off any old texture and paint. I don’t recommend repainting over old paintings on canvas. It is difficult to properly sand the texture off, and isn’t as strong as wood panel for the added weight when applying extra layers.

∙ Confused about masonite, hardboard, and how to choose the right wood for panels? Here is a great article on just that, click here

∙ For more information on wood supports for painters click here:

Disadvantages:
∙ These can get heavy when working on large size panels.

CANVAS ON WOOD PANEL

You can also combine the two. Paint on canvas, then adhere the canvas onto wood panel. For more information on how to do this click here:

PLASTIC FOR PAINTING SURFACES:

This is a relatively new choice for painting surfaces. For more information click here.

For information on how to prepare the different supports mentioned above click here.