Here’s an article I wanted to share that has good advice on using metallic glitter with pouring resin. It is from a company that specializes in resin pouring products called Resin Obsession, and written by founder Tess DiNapoli. Enjoy!
How to Get Glitter to Suspend in Your Resin Pieces
Tired of your glitter sinking straight to the bottom of your resin molds? We feel that. Glitter is a gorgeous addition to resin jewelry and figurines, but it doesn’t stay put easily. Rather than giving up on the glam, here are a few different methods for making glitter behave itself.
Monitor the Temperature
Leaving your resin molds to set in a space with optimal temperatures is a smart tip to follow regardless of whether or not you are using glitter to make your creations. Resin is finicky and temperature-sensitive which makes it extra tricky. The material is happiest when it’s allowed to set in a warm area of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if you leave it in a place with a cooler climate, you can still pamper your resin and give it what it needs as it sets. Just allow your molds to set and dry in the warmest room in your home!
Cool or cold resin takes forever to set, and that time between pouring and setting gives the glitter more time to sink to the bottom. The point is that you should never try to add glitter when you can’t guarantee a constant 70-degree temperature!
Wait a Minute
The mistake most resin crafters make is that they add their glitter right away to the resin mixture. In theory, it makes sense: it’s easier to add glitter and stir it to distribute when the resin is still entirely liquid and easily malleable. Unfortunately, that’s partially why it sinks to the bottom.
There’s nothing for the glitter to hold onto, so to speak. As lightweight as glitter seems, it’s heavier than the resin. Without some kind of anchor or impediment keeping it suspended, it all sinks straight down to the bottom of the mold. If you want your glitter to be evenly mixed throughout the resin, you need to not use a “heavy” glitter. Instead opt for a fine, micro-glitter like Stampendous micro-glitter or something similar.
Many experienced crafters also recommend that you wait before adding glitter to the resin. Instead of adding your glitter right away, try waiting until your resin starts to gel! This is when the resin is not liquid, but it’s not quite solid either. To attempt this method, cast your resin and then wait until the resin is semi-solid — sticky and tacky but not dry. For some resins this can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes, for others it can take 4-6 hours — it all depends on the resin you use!
When your resin hits its gel-like stage, that’s the sweet spot for adding your glitter! Some crafters leave the glitter alone, trusting that it will sink at a more gradual pace that allows it to spread out. Others choose to mix the glitter into the semi-set resin. Be careful with this method, and use a small utensil and gentle stirring motions. In order to avoid air bubbles remember to smooth out the resin in the mold once you finish.
Experiment with the Sandwich Method
The “Sandwich Method” can also help you to successfully suspend glitter in resin. Much like building a sandwich, this method involves layering semi-set resin with glitter in 4-6 hour intervals.
With this method, you only fill your mold a quarter to halfway full upon your first pour. Wait until the resin gels and then return to the mold and add glitter to the semi-set resin. Again, you can either leave the glitter alone to sink at its own rate, or you can stir the resin a bit. At this point, you wait another couple of hours as this new layer sets and then return to add more glitter. Continue until your mold is full!
Try a Mix of Glitter
Using a mix of different glitters from varying brands may help you, as well. For example, we love Stampendous’ Micro Glitter and have personally found it to be one of the only glitters we can count on not to sink.
No matter which glitter you choose, experiment with different brands, textures, and sizes to find what works best for your project! Make sure to play around with each different type of glitter using your preferred pouring method to make sure the glitter plays nice with your resin craft.
Consider Pigmented Makeup
Still not having any luck with glitter? Why not get rid of it altogether? Besides, that stuff is the herpes of the crafting world. It gets everywhere and it’s hard to get rid of!
Innovative crafters have discovered that heavily pigmented makeup can do the same thing with a fraction of the mess. You also have a variety of color options to choose from which isn’t always the case with real glitter.
Hesitant to use your best makeup on your craft? Super pigmented resin powders like Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments also work as a fantastic substitute. Resin pigment powders are super-fine and lightweight, which means they’re unlikely to sink but that may vary depending on the brand. Just like choosing the perfect brand of glitter, experiment with different pigment types and pouring/setting techniques. In some cases, you may be able to add pigment to the resin right after you pour it into the mold. Play around with an assortment of brands and colors to see what works best for your craft!
How do you get your glitter to remain suspended in resin? We’re dying to know your tips!
Size matters. At least for painters. Small paintings appeal to us like a precious gem. Medium sizes self-reflect like a mirror. Larger sizes evoke an expansive space. The size of a painting significantly affects a viewer’s experience.
With this in mind I recently painted a series of small works that feel big. These are posted here, and will be on exhibit at Art on Centre gallery, Amelia Island, Florida on January 11.
Join me in Florida! If you’re in northern Florida this coming weekend, please come by the gallery Saturday and say hello. I will there as the featured artist for Artwalk from 4 to 7 pm Saturday, January 11.
Please preview the show here, then read further for tips on painting small but big.
Sun at Dusk, 6″ x 8″, acrylic & oil pastel on cardboard
Sand Dunes, 6″ x 8″, acrylic and oil pastel on wood panel
Autumn Chama River, 8″ x 10″, oil pastel on bristol paper
Violet River, 6″ x 8″, oil pastel on bristol paper
Golden Moon, 8″ x 10″, acrylic & gold leaf on wood panel
Stardust, 6″ x 8″, acrylic & oil pastel on cardboard
The Dream, 8″ x 6″, acrylic & oil pastel on cardboard
Before the Rain, 6″ x 6″, acrylic & oil pastel on wood panel
Candy Land, 10″ x 8″, acrylic & gold leaf on wood panel
How to paint small but feel big
I love painting large. There’s more room to dance around the painting, make dramatic marks and add big sweeps of color. Painting small has its advantages too. For instance its easier to work smaller when painting outdoors. Working small allows me to quickly move from one painting to the next. It also keeps me inspired by switching from large to small sizes and back again.
For this series of nine small paintings, edges range in size from 6″ to at most 10″. Even though these are quite small, I feel as though they depict a larger space. Here’s what I discovered helps small to feel big.
1. Think big. While in the process of painting, I am aware of how I feel, and imagine I am in an expansive space. I think about the image I am painting as unbounded by the edges of the painting surface.
2. Don’t stop at the edge. I prop up my paintings and make sure I have plenty of elbow room on all sides. This allows my arm the freedom to move off the edge, while applying a brush stroke. In this way the image visibly extends beyond the edges too.
3. Paint several small pieces at the same time. This avoids overworking any one piece in particular. Keeping them light, fresh and overburdened offers a more expansive spatial feel. In addition, paintings made together often work well as a series, since they tend to mirror each other. This compatibility means they hang well together in an exhibit, creating a larger presence.
4. Frame small paintings. Adding a frame expands the image, while also adding focus to the image. As you can see in this example, I added substantial size mats between the image and frame, along with 2″ width frames.
An even better title – How to give an art talk for your friend’s show (without losing your friend).
Sometimes it’s best to say no.
That’s what was going through my head a few days before my friend Gigi Mills had her solo gallery show. A select group of her collector’s was invited to a private cocktail party the evening prior to her opening. Brilliant marketing idea. And I had been asked to give a public talk about her paintings at this party.
How difficult can it be?
I was familiar with her work, and I’ve given public talks about art before. I said yes. I began writing out a plan. My mind raced, adrenaline pumped. Why was I so nervous? I wrote, rewrote, edited, rewrote again – and worried. Would my friend still like me in the morning?
I wrote for many hours – way more then I first thought would be required. I stuck with speaking from the heart and with my honest opinion. More importantly, I wrote with the intention to get the audience to LOOK – to spend more time with the paintings on display. That WAS the point after all, right? Anyway, spoiler alert – all went well in the end, I received several thank-yous from attendees, got into some fun and heated artistic arguments about a few of the ideas I presented, and paintings sold.
How to give a public talk without feeling nervous.
Not possible. At least in my opinion. Just be OK with the fear, suck it up, and do it anyway. It’s worth it. As an artist, it’s good to speak in public. Gets us introvert artists out of the studio, and practice talking about art. Whether your own – or someone else’s. Doesn’t matter. It’s all good.
Here is my draft for the talk. Keep in mind I encouraged audience participation – questions and interruptions – adding a lively banter and some additional deviations not in the draft. The artist is Gigi Mills. Her work is represented by GF Contemporary, an art gallery located in my hometown Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her show is titled Prima Materia on exhibit fall of 2019.
It began with the usual thank-yous and introductions…. I’ll spare you all that and dive right in.
I consider Gigi Mills a master painter and believe in her work wholeheartedly.
And here’s why.
When I look at paintings I search for an image that has PRESENCE – an immediate visual appeal, an impact, along with a sense of daring and originality from the artist. Generally, something of the unexpected. All of this I find in Gigi’s work.
I can tell this is a sophisticated audience, so please humor me while I start with a simple question – What is a painting? Basically, it’s an image painted on a flat surface. This definition however, would work for wallpaper as well as painting, right? Both are images on a flat surface. So here’s where it gets fun and tricky! Obviously (at least in my mind) wallpaper and painting are NOT the same. Good wallpaper designers create their work to be seen as periphery or background so the imagery will not upstage the people and room where it adorns the wall.
A painter on the other hand, wants someone to take notice. They want their painted image to be seen! And not just a quick glance, but indeed with riveting effect. So much so that the viewer will gaze at the work long enough to fully engage, make a connection with the painter, and in the end have a meaningful experience. A painting is a vehicle of communication between painter and viewer.
When looking at art I like to pay attention to my first response. Is it intellectual or emotional? Is the immediate impact a thought or a feeling? A painting can stimulate both,
but usually one is more immediate then the other. Andy Warhol’s soup can paintings give us a good example of an image that provokes an intellectual response. Yes they have aesthetic appeal, but Warhol’s primary intent I believe, is for the viewer to think about the relationship between commercialism, marketing and the art world. With Warhol, it’s the IDEA we probably notice first.
Gigi’s work on the other hand, is primarily emotional. Yes the images have narrative elements and can stimulate thought, but emotion is what hits us foremost. Do you agree? And it’s OK to disagree. That’s an essential aspect of art – to inspire discussion. Is there any particular painting here that you feel brings up a specific emotion?
Some emotions offered by the audience: mystery, intrigue, pensive, melancholy, tenderness, meditative, sense of awe, a stillness, longing, desire, wonder, solitude, aliveness, romantic, surprise, peaceful, spiritual, expansive.
Expansive – that’s an interesting one I had not thought of before. Can you point out one of the paintings that feel expansive to you? (Night Sky & Starfish, was pointed out as example.)
How to paint emotion.
The other day Gigi and I were pondering the question – How do you paint emotion? The first thing that came to mind was COLOR. Color is always contained in some shape – in both life and in art. For instance we look up at our seemingly limitless blue sky above but the view is cut off at some point – is framed by buildings, trees, etc. Even a Mark Rothko color field painting uses squares within squares, subtle though they may be. And ultimately all paintings are contained by the outside edges of the canvas its painted on.
Color and its shape or container. This pairing alone will convey emotion as clearly as a Shakespeare tragedy. Wassily Kandinsky was one of the first artists to write about this, back in the early 1900’s with his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art.
For Kandinsky, yellow held the sound of a shrill canary, while blue was a deep bass note. Put the yellow in a circle and the shrill is softened, while in a triangle with its sharp angles the shrill is heightened. Like the orchestra concerts he attended in Russia back then, he felt sounds conveyed immediate emotions and additionally held spiritual value. It was his life’s work to paint using color in abstract shapes, to recreate the emotion he felt while listening to a concert.
Recently Gigi paid me a visit all excited about just finishing a painting for her show. She had been working on this one very intensely. She burst in saying, “I found the perfect color – and now it works!” She went on about the many layers of color it took to reach the finale – the final effect, mood and feeling she was after.
I was reminded of Piet Mondrian, one of our masters from the last century, who had been known to spend a year on a single color of blue. Similar stories abound about other modern masters like Mark Rothko, taking lengths of time to obtain perfection in color. Just like Gigi, they understood the value of color precision.
Color & shape are major ways to express emotion.
This painting, Nude in a Blue Room is primarily cool. (Blue colors are usually felt as a cool temperature). Gaze at this painting and see what type of emotion comes up for you. Now imagine this painting swapping out the cool blues for warm colors – like reds or yellows. The mood would change drastically! Gigi’s paintings make frequent use of primary colors – red, yellow, blue. Left full strength and mostly unmixed, these colors can evoke bold primal feelings.
Pairing brights with neutrals adds sophistication and a sense of mystery. Gigi’s use of rich blacks and stark whites, recalls early black and white movies. Remember the way an old Alfred Hitchcock mystery movie felt? Like film noir the use of neutrals sets us up for a larger-than-life feeling.
Color layered over color will fine-tune emotion. Gigi often starts with a bright color, then layers over it several times to either intensify the color with more brights, or do the opposite and subdue it with neutrals – depending on the mood she wants to express.
Take a close look at the dogs in Calling the Hounds. We see a bright pink color that is still visible, raw and sketchy, not covered over with more paint layers. This same pink was also used underneath the expanse of gray background. Gigi calls this type of layering bright under quiet.
In Still Life with Blue Artichokes & Oranges, the small touches of rich bright orange are encased by neutrals – those soft muted grays. A riveting focus on the orange is like finding jewels in a treasure box.
Magic places to ponder that are easy to miss.
Another aspect that creates emotion is EDGES. I’m not talking about the edges of the canvas. Instead I’m referring to the place where one color shape touches another color shape within the painting itself. The edge between shapes. This is a magic place responsible for creating emotion, but often working in our unconscious and not visibly obvious.
For example, here is the image in full of Calling the Hounds/Morning, as well as an enlarged detail so we can more easily see how the edges are handled.
As I mentioned before, Gigi layers color to get the quality she wants. As each layer is applied, the overpainted color layer stops just a bit short of covering the underlying color completely. We can see this best at the edges, where the layers are revealed. Check out how the orange color of the shirt doesn’t quite touch the gray background, and instead leaves a bright hairline halo. Another example is found with the thin line of pink between the dogs’ outline and the background color. These small yet potent multi-colored places at the edge add a visual vibration to the viewing experience.
Reduce detail to increase emotion.
Another aspect in painting that expresses emotion is style and more specifically where it fits on the scale of abstract to realistic. For me, Gigi’s work rides the line between these. Since there doesn’t seem to be any universal definition for abstract or realistic painting, for our purposes let’s say abstraction minimizes detail, while realism relies more heavily on the addition of detail.
One of Gigi’s intentions is to show emotion without having to be totally graphic, without dotting all the i’s. She may start with a vision, then includes only what is essential to evoke a certain space or form. What is left out allows for more viewer interpretation, to trigger our own personal response, our own experiences and stories.
A simple horizontal line indicates where ground meets sky, or table meets wall. We see how adeptly she uses minimal detail – just enough for recognition. The more detail, the more the artist controls the viewing response. The less detail, the more open the painting remains for the viewer to interpret the image for themselves. As a painting leans more towards abstraction, the image gains more energy, adding to a deeper connection between artist and viewer. Imperfection plays a part to create mood as well. Gigi’s choice to elongate, exaggerate and distort forms, especially noticeable in the nudes and figures, adds a sense of the unexpected. This distortion reminds us that being human is about being imperfect.
What makes a successful painting?
Work that entices us to look deeply and to feel deeply. A mystery to investigate, a story to unfold, an intimate glimpse into the personal. We can analyze a painting with words, break it down into concepts, but this will never be the whole story. There are no formulas. Artists must constantly invent and re-invent. To use a formula means an artist doesn’t have to stay conscious in the act, or be that raw nerve that connects them through the work to the viewer. Using a formula for production, the work loses its edge and lacks spirit or soul.
Gigi calls her show Prima Materia – the base of all matter, coming from spirit or source. This title well expresses her desire for the images to go beyond their external form – the content or subject matter, be it a dog, horse, figure – and instead allow the inner spirit to be revealed. Another way to enhance the artist-viewer connection.
A painting that gets our attention relies on the openness of the painter, their vulnerability, being unafraid to share their inner side, their deepest emotions. Not just share, but bring it into tangible form. This daring I feel, is what makes a painter and their paintings great. When the artist goes deep and feels it in their gut, the viewer can too. A great painting, regardless of content, style or medium, will connect us to our experience of being human.
This is what attracts me so passionately to the work of master artist, my friend and colleague, Gigi Mills.
Which brings us to the end of my talk. Thank you for your time and attention.
Acrylic is an amazing medium for fine art painters. It’s not just paint! Acrylic research and development has taken acrylic far beyond what any other medium, like oil or watercolor, can do.
When we compare acrylic to all the other available mediums for painters, it is like comparing the computer application of Photoshop to an old fashioned typewriter. We can type something in Photoshop, but this program can do so much more. Imagine only using Photoshop to type a letter! We would be missing out on the vast possibilities that Photoshop has to offer. It’s the same with acrylic. To approach acrylic as if we are painting with oil or watercolor would limit the broad range of its painting potential.
The video excerpt below is about Acrylic Binders. It is from my course The Complete Guide to Acrylic Painting. It is the ultimate acrylic painting course, using self-guided video instruction.
The main difference between acrylic and the other painting mediums is its wide range of binder options. All paint is made of two basic components: pigment (color) and binder (turns the pigment into a paintable form).
Binders are also referred to as a “vehicle” or “medium”. They transform the pigment particles into a wet form creating a substance we can use as paint. Acrylic or polymer is the binder for acrylic paints.
Ever find yourself standing in awe (and confusion) at the long row of products in the acrylic section at the art store? It can be mind-boggling! Yet almost all of these products can be divided into two main types: paints or binders. As I mentioned before, acrylic paint combines color pigment with acrylic binder. These are called paints because they have color! Binders represent the rest of those products, usually without color, and can be divided into three main types; mediums, gels and pastes.
Let’s look into the three types of binders more closely. The differences between them are mainly about consistency, transparency and drying times.
Mediums are thin and pourable, smoothing the paint or surface. Gels and pastes are thick, adding texture to the paint or surface.
Gels and Mediums can be purchased in different sheen types, such as gloss, matte and sometimes semi-gloss. Gloss versions applied over a paint layer or color, will be transparent like the Regular Gloss Gel pictured on the left in the image below. You can still see the black lines underneath the gel very well. Matte and semi-gloss versions applied over a paint layer or color will look translucent or slightly milky, as seen in the middle image. Pastes are opaque, and will cover over paint layers like the Molding Paste on the right side of the image.
Each type of binder, as well as each paint color, has its own quality in terms of transparency versus opacity. You can change and customize the transparency or opacity of paints by mixing them with binders. The more transparent a layer or color is, the more “see-through” it is, allowing an underlying color, image or surface underneath to show through. The more opaque a layer or color is, the more it will cover up whatever is underneath. Adding gloss mediums or gels to a paint color increases its transparency, adding pastes to paint colors increases its opacity.
Adding matte mediums or matte gels to paint creates translucency offering opportunities to replicate wax and other veiling effects. Adding more or less of each of the above creates varying degrees of transparency, translucency or opacity.
Let’s look at glazes as an example. Glazes are made by mixing very small amounts of paint color into mediums. Substitute gels for mediums in this scenario to make contemporary textural glazes.
As you can see from the images below, when mediums and gels become dry, they clear up quite a bit, to something either transparent or translucent, while the paste still remains white and opaque. A small swatch of matte medium and matte gel are applied to the bottom of their gloss counterparts in the photo, to show the translucent quality of matte products.
Another consideration between mediums, gels and pastes are their different drying times. Adding gels to your paints will increase the open time, another way to say that it will slow down the drying time. Pastes dry quickly so adding these to your paints will allow for those paints to dry faster too. There are also some mediums that are meant to dry extra slow and are mentioned below.
Here is a list of my favorite painting products for each category. These are mainly Golden products as that’s what I use in my studio.
Mediums are usually thin enough to pour easily out of their containers. The gloss versions are white when wet, but dry totally clear. The matte versions dry somewhat semi-transparent. Mediums are pure polymer binder. Here are several choices I like to have around my studio at arm’s reach, with a list of how I use them.
Mix into paints to make them more transparent and/or glossy
Apply to a surface to seal it or make it glossy
Apply over paint to enhance colors
Mix into paints to make them more transparent and/or matte
Apply to a surface to make it more matte
Apply over paint to veil or mute colors
Acrylic Glazing Liquid
Use as a slow drying medium
Mix into paints up to 40% to slow down the drying to apply a color evenly
Apply to surfaces to work wet-in-wet
Mix into paints over 40% to make colors more transparent – into a glaze
Use as a very slow drying medium, same as other mediums.
Add to paint to make color more transparent.
Can be used with the matching slow drying paint line called OPEN. Can also be mixed with regular acrylic paint lines.
Golden has a line of 7 specialty purpose mediums, called GAC’s. I will write a separate blog article on these soon, and when posted will add a link here. In the meantime, click here to read more about them on Golden’s website.
In general, Gels start out in manufacturing as thin mediums, but are put through a thickening process to stiffen their consistency. They are usually packaged in jars or tubes, and can be handled with knives or brushes. Like unthickened mediums, the gloss versions are white when wet, but dry totally clear. The matte versions dry somewhat semi-transparent. Gels are pure polymer binder. Here are several choices I like to have around my studio at arm’s reach, with a list of how I use them.
Soft Gel Gloss
Use for same reasons as gloss mediums, but when texture is desired
Create textural glazes by adding color
Add transparency by mixing into color
Slow down drying by mixing into color
Use to make an Isolation Coat to protect one layer from the next, usually used directly under the final varnish layer. Mix 1:1 with water
Great glue for paper and objects
Apply over white grounds in places to act as a resist
Regular Gel Gloss and Heavy Gel Gloss
can be used same as Soft Gel Gloss but are thicker
Soft Gel Matte
Use for same reasons as matte mediums, but when texture is desired
Create textural glazes by adding color
Add transparency by mixing into color
Can use as glue for paper and objects where you don’t want gloss
Apply over paint for veiling or muting colors
Regular Gel Matte and Heavy Gel Matte
can be used same as Soft Gel Matte but are thicker
Clear Tar Gel
Use for pouring purposes in thin layers. Only dilute with water in dry climates and minimally. Avoid diluting to create marbleized color effects.
Pastes are made with polymer binder, like mediums and gels, however they have other ingredients added to make them thick and opaque. They are usually packaged in jars or tubes, and can be handled with knives or brushes. Here are several choices I like to have around my studio at arm’s reach, with a list of how I use them.
Light Molding Paste
Use as a white paint in mixtures to make tints but keeping colors bright
Add to paint to create fluffy absorbent textures
Apply to surfaces to increase surface absorbency
Apply as a “white-out” over painted areas you want to change completely
Add to paint to quicken its drying time
Coarse Molding Paste
Same uses as Light Molding Paste except it dries more transparent
Apply over painted areas to veil or mute
Use in stencils for relief texture
Add to paint to thicken and make more opaque
Apply over surface to create smooth slightly non-absorbent surfaces
Special note: Additives such as retarder and flow release are not acrylic binders. These need to be used in correct proportions as described on their product labels.
All binders can be mixed together with other binders, with or without colored paint. They can also be layered one over the other in any order. Binders can be added into paints to customize your paint. They can be applied by themselves on a surface to customize your surface prior to painting, during painting and after painting. Wow, right?
Linda Harbert, The School and It’s Environment, oil on canvas, 35.5″ x 47.25″
The journey an artist takes in creating their work has always interested me. From their first decision to create art to the point where they discover their work is uniquely theirs can take a long time. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, theorized it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any one particular activity. This includes painting, and therefore an artist’s journey will naturally meander through many phases. This is what intrigued me most during a recent conversation I had with Mexico artist Linda Harbert.
I first saw Harbert’s painting The School and It’s Environment in the online exhibition produced and curated by Renee Phillips, Director of Manhattan Arts International. I visit this site often, as it is chock full of super helpful artist’s information, much of it free to the public. The show, entitled HerStory, was on view from June 20 – August 20, 2018. By the way, there is a video on view now, with some of the show’s work, along with the top 8 award-winners’ images and statements at https://manhattanarts.com/herstory-2018/.
Renee gave me the honor of selecting a Special Awards winner for this show. My criteria was to find a compelling image, one that invites me to enter another world, and be visually surprised by what I find there. The show was of very high quality and therefore gave me many choices. I ended up selecting Harbert’s entry because of its immediate visual appeal. The image feels engaging and original and drew me right into an unexpected space with a sweeping and compelling eye choreography.
Harbert started her journey painting outdoors (in plein air). Madroño 5 is an example of her early work outdoors, where Harbert was interpreting directly from nature.
Madroño 5, oil on canvas 5” x 4”
Once she was able to procure a studio her work shifted to more abstract, but still contained recognizable elements of landscape and nature .
Red Leaves, oil on canvas, 35.5” x 23.5”
Gradually over time Harbert grew more interested in abstraction. She enjoys starting a painting with no preconceived idea but instead allows herself to move freely along with the process. Harbert says abstraction comes more from the gut and from feeling, as compared to her process with the outdoor landscapes. And she thinks it’s way more fun!
Untitled, oil on canvas, 48” x 33.5”
In her statement on her website, Harbert writes “My paintings have developed through time, still surreal in many cases but I am headed more and more to the abstract. I’ve become enchanted with the scraping and rubbing off of paint, the layers and the textures. I love making scratches and marks, wild and free. I’m delighted by any accidents that happen. I start with nothing in mind, just some wild strokes on the canvas. As I continue it grows into a feeling or a story. The painting tells me what to do and gives me the direction I should take. This is a more abstract, unconscious way of painting that I have come to love. It is challenging, exciting and best of all fun.”
Art has been a part of Linda Harbert’s life since she was a child. After graduating with a BFA in Graphic Design, she worked in graphics, display design and then to her own business in commercial sculpting. She made a two year trip to Ouito, Ecuador in her 20’s where she first painted watercolor landscapes and had two shows. Her love for Latin America was established. In 1997 she moved to Oaxaca, Mexico. It is here in the mountains of Oaxaca where she has taken up oil painting and has made it her new professional career.
You can find out more about Linda on her webpage here: https://lindaharbert.artspan.com/
The Ultimate Acrylic Painting Class · Self-Guided Video Instruction
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Nancy’s professional and easy-to-follow videos show you all the ways to use acrylic – from traditional painting methods such as glazing, stippling, color mixing and dry brushing, as well as NEW contemporary methods such as flinging, pouring, sanding, layering, and hundreds more painting tips to get successful results.
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Immediately upon purchasing the streaming version, you gain access to all materials. These can be streamed right away, or downloaded onto your computer for lifetime access. For your convenience you can also purchase the course already downloaded onto a hard drive, shipped to you, and accessible using any Standard USB (A) port.
What experience level can benefit?
Any level will benefit! All techniques are fully explained for a wide audience and range of techniques. If you are a beginner and serious about painting, this course will have you learning to paint with ease and confidence in no time! Perhaps you already have some painting experience in another medium – like oil or watercolor? Then this course will make it easy to transfer your process to acrylic. Even painters with years of acrylic experience will find new and exciting ideas, updated information, great tips to control results, and more expertise to resolve painting issues. Complete this course and get everything you need to paint successfully with acrylic.
Get quick answers to painting questions, such as
-How do I create interesting textures?
-What’s the difference between mediums, gels and pastes?
-How to create transparency in layers?
-What is pouring – and especially the new popular “cell” pouring?
-How do I make my work long lasting and archival?
-What are the best ways to imitate oil paint with acrylic?
-How to imitate watercolor effects with acrylic?
–and much more……
As an extra bonus, Nancy reveals at last her secret techniques to create her popular waves and clouds.
“I learned so much. This course has it all!” – Bonnie Teitelbaum, painter, NM, USA
“Nancy feels like my fairy godmother! I felt very insecure about my techniques. Now I know how to achieve any result I want.” – Phyllis Jaffe, painter, former art professor, Maryland, USA
“As an oil painter, learning about acrylics in this course introduced me to a world of new possibilities. I am now using acrylics as a base for my oil paints, as underpaintings to quickly map out a composition, for unusual textural surfaces, and to create effects not possible with oil.” – Rajul Shah, Painter, Japan/USA
“Nancy Reyner is an artistic genius. She has a vast knowledge of painting, materials and styles. With Nancy’s thorough instruction I resolved my painting obstacles and I’m more inventive.” – Janice Patterson, painter, Shoreline, WA, USA
List of Videos and Their Contents:
1. Introduction (23 min) About the course, best ways to approach learning, supplies
2. Acrylic Paint: A Whole New World (16 min) Acrylic properties, definitions, advantages, range of effects
3. Paint Viscosities (10 min) Viscosity comparisons: Heavy Body, Fluid, High Flow
28. Care & Cleaning of Your Brushes (6 min) Wash & store brushes properly to keep them looking their best
29. Pulling it All Together (48 min) Create a painting from start to finish using ten different layers of techniques
30. Conclusion (2.5 min)
If you are dissatisfied with the course for any reason, you can request a refund by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. All refund requests MUST be made within 48 hours after receiving your streaming course by email, or downloaded hard drive by mail. No refunds will be issued after that time. If you purchased the downloaded course, you will be responsible for return shipment of the mini hard drive prior to receiving your refund.
Nancy Reyner believes art is a rewarding pursuit and a powerful tool for transformation. She loves painting and assisting other artists. Nancy has over 30 years painting experience, authored four top selling painting books with North Light Books, received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and MFA from Columbia University. She has appeared on television for HGTV’s “That’s Clever”, and worked as a Certified Working Artist for Golden Artist Colors for 16 years. Nancy currently lives and paints in Santa Fe, NM.
To capture rich depth and atmosphere I use layering techniques, one over the other, visible in both of my paintings above and below.
Sea, Mist & Birds, 44″ x 36″, acrylic on panel.
The process of layering while painting makes it easier to add surface texture, subtle color shifts and a tangible depth. While layering is a simple concept, it can sometimes be challenging for painters. That is because layering techniques differ depending on which painting medium you use.
To best understand layering, let’s start with the idea of an open faced sandwich.
At the base of the sandwich we start with a slice of bread. In painting this would be our canvas, or whatever substrate we decide to paint on – cardboard, wood, panel. Let’s not count this as a layer, but just call it our base or starting surface.
From here we can begin to layer, adding our sandwich toppings separately, in the order of first mayonnaise, then lettuce, on to the tomato slice and lastly sprouts. Each of these count as a separate layer. So in this example, we could say the sandwich has four layers.
In another scenario, if we mixed all four of these sandwich ingredients (except the bread) in a blender we would end up with some type of tapenade or pesto. Spread that on the bread and this would all count as only one layer. Make sense?
So now let’s transfer this analogy to painting. We can add different materials or techniques individually one over the other, by waiting until one layer is dry before applying the next. Each layer could be the same technique as before, or a different one. In addition, a layer doesn’t have to cover the surface in its entirety. A layer can consist merely of one small dab of paint, or can involve thick overlays covering the whole surface. A technique does not have to be applied over the whole surface to qualify as a layer. Sometimes I may paint in only one small area and then need to wait until it is dry, before applying something else without smearing it.
I usually apply a primer or gesso over my substrate before I paint. This makes the surface white and also helps adhere the paint to the substrate in a stronger way. So that means before I even start painting I have already applied one layer onto my substrate.
As an example, let’s say I create a painting all in one day using oil paint. Since oil paint stays wet for lengths of time, I could theoretically paint all day working wet in wet, and essentially finish the painting using just one layer.
Since acrylic paint dries more quickly then oil paint, I usually use multiple layers with acrylic and extend my painting process over the course of a day or more.
Below is an example to create an acrylic painting using five separate layering steps.
1st layer – apply a background 2nd layer – add white
3rd layer – add yellow 4th layer – vary the range of color
5th & final layer – blend colors for soft edges to create volume
Layering steps for the lemon painting example above
1. For the first layer, opaque colors of green and purple are applied touching together with a hard edge to delineate the foreground from background. Let that layer dry.
2. Using Titanium White, which is very opaque, paint the shape of the lemon. This application of white will help keep the yellow color of the lemon to stay crisp and bright when it is applied in the next step. Yellow, without the white underneath, is not opaque enough to cover over the background colors sufficiently.
3. Here, for the third layer, add yellow over the white for the lemon.
4. For the fourth layer, a strategy for varying the colors is applied rather roughly. Instead of trying to get smooth gradations at this point, focus on mixing and applying a wide range and variety of each of the three colors: green, purple and yellow. Prior to this, the flat evenly applied colors do not help to create volume and space, but varying and shifting the colors will.
5. The fifth and last layer uses the same variety of colors applied in the previous step, but this time the focus is on blending them carefully for a more realistic appearance.
One advantage to working in layers, as demonstrated above, is that each layer can focus on obtaining one goal at a time, instead of trying to accomplish a full painting all at once in one wet layer.
Layering offers another way to develop a painting in steps, but is not always necessary or desirable. For example, sometimes I like to work wet in wet instead of separate layers. Pouring is a good example. Sometimes I like to pour an acrylic color out onto a canvas, then while it is still wet pour another color over it so the colors merge and puddle up together. While still wet, I can keep adding colors, mediums, and anything else I want until I feel it is finished. In this case I have created a painting all in one stage and in one layer.
One reason the term layering may be confusing is that just about every painting technique, process and medium I can think of deals in some way with layers. A layer can be very broadly defined. For example, a layer can be something wet or dry that you are then applying over something else that is wet or dry. Instead of using this very general definition, in this article I am offering something a bit more definite while still trying to keep it simple and usable. Please know, though, that this term is used in many different ways.
Layering techniques will differ depending on whether you are using oil paint, watercolor, encaustic or acrylic. When you paint with oil paints, due to the long drying time of oils, you need to make sure you are always applying a layer of paint that is more flexible than the one below it. This means that you can start off with a first base layer using oil paint mixed with solvent like a wash. Then over that layer (wet or dry) you can apply oil paint without any solvent. Continuing to layer, you can now apply oil paint mixed with mediums (oil mediums are fatty and therefore more flexible). In other words, you work with thinned oil paint in lower layers, and can fatten the oil paint up with mediums in upper layers, but not the reverse.
With acrylic you do not need to plan carefully like you would with oil paint layering. Any acrylic medium or acrylic paint, can be mixed into each other to make wet mixtures, and can be applied over or under any other layer, whether still wet or already dry. Lots of flexibility!
This means you can start with any form of acrylic – diluted or undiluted, plain or mediums added, and then add more acrylic products over it. This can be while a layer is still wet or dry, applied very thickly or thin, poured or brush applied – anything!
Acrylic loves to stick to itself, so as long as each layer is acrylic, then you can layer it on, over, under. When you start using mixed media (paper, ink, objects, etc – any non-acrylic material) along with layers of acrylic, you want to consider the material you are using and whether it will adhere to acrylic or not, and some other concerns (ie. is it waterproof, or will it smear when coming into contact with the acrylic, etc).
When layering it is helpful to think of transparency. If you apply every layer thickly and opaquely this will result in a very crusty surface. If that is not your goal, then I suggest to make sure that each layer continues to be visible in some way all the way through new layers, so that each has a presence, even if small or subtle, in the final image. In other words, each layer is applied with a sensitivity about letting the underlying layers show through. Allow more transparency in your working layers by adding clear mediums to the paint colors. If you are using opaque paint colors, leave some areas uncovered revealing parts of the underlying layer.
Watch my TV painting demonstration, creating a waterscape in seven layers, from HGTV’s That’s Clever. Click here to watch.
Oil pastels are still my number one favorite medium, even though I also paint with acrylic and oil. When working with oil pastels I feel as if I am able to combine both painting and drawing qualities using just this one medium.
First let’s make sure we don’t get confused between oil pastels and the other type of pastel – soft pastel. Both pastels offer beautiful appearances but are very different in nature. Soft pastels are sometimes mistakenly referred to as “chalk pastel”, but “soft pastel” is the correct term. Both oil and soft pastels are availble as small size chunks about 1 to 2″ long and about 1/2″ thick. Soft pastels consist mostly of pigment loosely held together with a small amount of binder. They are substantial and strong when you use them, but can create a delicate surface especially when working with many layers. These are most durable when used on toothy surfaces to grab the pigment particles, and will not work at all on smooth glossy surfaces. The pigments refract light in a way that no other medium does. This makes for vivid colors and a very attractive finish. The best way to protect a pastel painting is to frame it behind glass. Spraying with fixative will often remove white and light colored soft pastel.
Oil pastels are very different then soft pastels, but also provide a beautiful surface sheen. Oil pastels have a lovely creamy quality when applied to a surface, feeling (and looking) somewhere between lipstick and crayon. They are made with wax and oil, so they always stay workable, but do dry enough to be stable, and stay on the surface fairly well. Since they are always workable it is recommended to either frame them behind glass or spray fix them with any clear fixative when your image is finished. Oil pastels can be applied on just about any surface, whether absorbent or non-absorbent, matte or glossy, smooth or textured, painted or unpainted.
My favorite surface for using oil pastels is a smooth Bristol cardstock. Oil pastels are fairly small in size, and are best for small size applications. There are ways to make your own oil pastels in larger sizes, but I found that I liked using them as drawing materials in the small size they come in, which fit my hand better, and are easily portable. I like to use them for outdoor landscape work, creating a small (8” x 10”) painting, then using that small size painting as a model to later enlarge in my studio to an acrylic or oil paint work on canvas.
Above is a 24″ x 30″ painting I made using acrylic on canvas, based on the 8″ x 10″ oil pastel model below.
Working on a smooth surface means I can use one of my favorite techniques; scraping back the oil pastel to reveal the original surface or underlying layers of oil pastel. I like to build up layers of colors, one on top of the other, then using a slanted blade x-acto knife, I carefully scrape off one color after another until I like the way it looks. The knife can scratch in white lines if you scratch deep enough to the original surface. You can also blend them with a small amount of solvent on a brush and work into them like oil paints. I like the fact that oil pastels are non-toxic, so prefer to blend with my finger and skip the solvent. You can also purchase blending sticks, but fingers are warm and can blend easier. If you do use solvent you may want to work on a surface that is sealed by priming with gesso.
There are different brands of oil pastels, and each one has a different quality of creaminess. Since I like to build up layers, I avoid using Neopastels, which are gooey as lipstick, and don’t tack up quickly enough to allow multiple layers. My favorite brand is Holbein and they make a super wide range of colors.
The oil pastels can make a mess on your hands, but are easily cleaned off using a baby-wipe. You can also use baby oil and a paper towel, but baby-wipes are super convenience especially if painting outdoors.
Avoid leaving oil pastels out in hot sun for long periods of time, or stored where they will be exposed to very hot temperatures. I left mine in the back of a car for three days while living in Phoenix in the summer where temperatures outside get to 120 degrees. This meant that temperatures were even hotter inside the car. The oil in the pastels bled out leaving a pile of chalk dust, that could not be used anymore.
Try them! Happy painting with oil pastels!
Nancy Reyner, painter, author and instructor offers assistance to artists in a variety of ways. Click here for more info.
What’s a mixed absorbency surface?
It’s a great surface you can easily make yourself, to get interesting painting effects and texture right away, regardless of which painting medium you use! Read on to find out how to use this with your creative work!
To start a painting, a painter will usually begin with some commercially prepared substrate; such as watercolor paper, cardboard, primed canvas or primed panel. From there you simply start applying paint. No problem with this process! It’s quick and easy. BUT you may be missing out on a fun and wonderful way to create interesting effects, and save money, all from adding one simple step before applying paint.
Compare this image, using diluted paint on board with gesso
with this image, using the same diluted paint but on a on mixed absorbency surface
Here is a photo of the mixed absorbency surface before applying paint
How to create a mixed absorbency surface.
1. Starting with any substrate, follow any necessary procedures required for painting. For example, watercolor paper needs no preparation but can be primed with gesso to add strength. Cardboard, canvas and wood panels do not need any preparation if they are already sealed and primed. If the substrates are raw with no sealer or primer they will need some preparation. Apply a stain sealer and primer if acrylic paint will be used for overpainting. Skip the stain sealer but still prime if oil paint or other mediums will be used. Let dry.
2. Apply acrylic binders (mediums, gels and pastes) onto your substrate to customize your surface absorbency.
Let’s look into this further. Every substrate has its own unique quality of absorbency. A high quality piece of watercolor paper is very absorbent. This means it has lots of tooth, or places where diluted paint can sink into which creates an even layer of color. Absorbent surfaces are always matte, which is one way you can tell if a surface is absorbent or not. Touch an absorbent surface and it will feel slightly rough because of its tooth. Something glossy, on the other hand, like Yupo paper, glass or metal, is non-absorbent. This means there isn’t much (if any) tooth. Diluted paint applied over a glossy surface will bead up and create an uneven layer of color, sometimes looking marbleized or puddled.
In the same way that substrates will each have a particular absorbency or non-absorbency, acrylic binders come in a wide variety of forms, also offering a variety of absorbent and non-absorbent qualities. Acrylic binders come in three different forms: mediums, gels and pastes. There are many choices in each of these three categories, and this can sometimes get confusing. Just remember that every product, when applied to your painting surface and left to dry, will create a unique surface quality and absorbency. And just about ANY acrylic product applied onto your substrate will present a more interesting surface to paint on then using the plain old substrate as is.
3. How to choose which binders to use.
Mediums are generally pourable and fluid, gels are thicker and create texture, pastes are also thick and create texture. So if you wanted texture you would choose gels or pastes, while mediums will offer a smoother layer. As I mentioned before, each product also creates a different absorbency. Gloss mediums and gloss gels create non-absorbent areas on a surface, matte mediums and matte gels create a semi-absorbent area, and most pastes (except for Molding Paste) create an absorbent surface area.
4. How to apply the binders.
To make your own custom surface, start by choosing one product. Apply it at least 1/4″ thick as acrylic will shrink down in volume while drying by about 30%. If you don’t apply enough of the product, by the time it dries you will not have a layer that is substantial enough to change the surface absorbency. I like to apply the products with a knife so I can apply enough product. You can add texture or keep it as smooth as your tool and product allow. Let this dry at least one day.
5. How to overpaint the custom surface.
Once your surface is dry, you can now overpaint it with paint. Appropriately dilute your paint (water for watercolor, water for acrylic, solvent for oil, etc) and apply these “washes” or diluted mixtures over the dry custom surface. You can spray water over the surface or apply water in areas to allow washes to “bleed” or run into each other. On absorbent surfaces, the washes stay wet for awhile due to the large amount of water in the mixtures. This means you can keep applying paint, as well as easily remove paint. On non-absorbent surfaces it is best to add lots of water to the surface to create a puddle, apply paint quickly leaving it alone to dry into interesting puddles.
Left: Washes on gessoed surface
Center: Washes on a mixed absorbency surface
Right: The mixed absorbency surface before paint was applied
6. Mixed absorbency surfaces.
Once you master making a custom surface using only one product, try making a mixed surface by using three or more products. Pick an absorbent, a non-absorbent and a product somewhere in the middle. Apply all over the substrate, overlapping if you wish, so that the end result is a surface with a variety of absorbencies. Once dry, apply diluted paint over the surface to see how quickly the surface encourages all kinds of effects.
You save money because with this process you use very little paint (since it is very diluted).
7. My favorite mixed surface.
My favorite combination of products to use for a mixed surface is as follows:
First I apply Light Molding Paste in a few areas. This is my favorite absorbent paste, note this is NOT Molding Paste, but is a very different product by Golden called LIGHT Molding Paste. Other absorbent pastes I like are Coarse Molding Paste and Pastel Ground. After applying one or more of these absorbent ones, I can continue to apply other products while still wet if I wish. So next I apply some mid-absorbency products, filling in whatever areas are still uncovered, using products such as Glass Bead Gel, Molding Paste and Heavy Gel Matte. As a last step I apply the non-absorbent products. Anything that dries glossy will work. Whereve I apply gloss, it will act as a resist. When I apply a wash of color of the entire surface, the paint will resist off the gloss, revealing the white surface underneath. I create gloss lines (which will end up being white lines after painting) using Gloss Medium squeezed out of bottles. I create gloss areas (which will result in white areas after painting) using Regular or Soft Gloss Gels, and apply them wet over the still wet mixed surface I am working on. In other words you can apply multiple products in one session while all are still wet. You do not need to wait for one product to dry to add another. But you do need to let the products all dry on the surface for at least one day before using it to overpaint with the diluted paint.
Nancy Reyner, painter, author and instructor offers assistance to artists in a variety of ways. Click here for more info.
I love browsing Ted Talks online. It’s addictive! You can find an incredible range of topics, each limited to 15 minutes, offering the finest in the “Art of Persuasion”! One in particular, about our natural creative tendencies, caught my interest, presented by writer Young-ha Kim. I’d enjoy hearing what you think! Please write your comments below.
More suggestions on creativity: Click Here for “Creative Empowerment for Painters” an online course Click Here for video “Free Your Creativity”
Nancy Reyner, painter, author and instructor offers assistance to artists in a variety of ways. Click here for more info.
About the writer and performer, Young-ha Kim:
One of the premiere writers of his generation, Korean novelist Young-ha Kim weaves tales that speak to the thrills and challenges of young Koreans in our increasingly globalized and ever-changing world.
Translated by Clair Han
Reviewed by ChungHyun Lee
The theme of my talk today is, “Be an artist, right now.” Most people, when this subject is brought up, get tense and resist it: “Art doesn’t feed me, and right now I’m busy. I have to go to school, get a job, send my kids to lessons … ” You think, “I’m too busy. I don’t have time for art.” There are hundreds of reasons why we can’t be artists right now. Don’t they just pop into your head?
There are so many reasons why we can’t be, indeed, we’re not sure why we should be. We don’t know why we should be artists, but we have many reasons why we can’t be. Why do people instantly resist the idea of associating themselves with art? Perhaps you think art is for the greatly gifted or for the thoroughly and professionally trained. And some of you may think you’ve strayed too far from art. Well you might have, but I don’t think so. This is the theme of my talk today. We are all born artists.
If you have kids, you know what I mean. Almost everything kids do is art. They draw with crayons on the wall. They dance to Son Dam Bi’s dance on TV, but you can’t even call it Son Dam Bi’s dance — it becomes the kids’ own dance. So they dance a strange dance and inflict their singing on everyone. Perhaps their art is something only their parents can bear, and because they practice such art all day long, people honestly get a little tired around kids.
Kids will sometimes perform monodramas — playing house is indeed a monodrama or a play. And some kids, when they get a bit older, start to lie. Usually parents remember the very first time their kid lies. They’re shocked. “Now you’re showing your true colors,” Mom says. She thinks, “Why does he take after his dad?” She questions him, “What kind of a person are you going to be?”
But you shouldn’t worry. The moment kids start to lie is the moment storytelling begins. They are talking about things they didn’t see. It’s amazing. It’s a wonderful moment. Parents should celebrate. “Hurray! My boy finally started to lie!” All right! It calls for celebration. For example, a kid says, “Mom, guess what? I met an alien on my way home.” Then a typical mom responds, “Stop that nonsense.” Now, an ideal parent is someone who responds like this: “Really? An alien, huh? What did it look like? Did it say anything? Where did you meet it?” “Um, in front of the supermarket.”
When you have a conversation like this, the kid has to come up with the next thing to say to be responsible for what he started. Soon, a story develops. Of course this is an infantile story, but thinking up one sentence after the next is the same thing a professional writer like me does. In essence, they are not different. Roland Barthes once said of Flaubert’s novels, “Flaubert did not write a novel. He merely connected one sentence after another. The eros between sentences, that is the essence of Flaubert’s novel.” That’s right — a novel, basically, is writing one sentence, then, without violating the scope of the first one, writing the next sentence. And you continue to make connections.
Take a look at this sentence: “One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.” Yes, it’s the first sentence of Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.” Writing such an unjustifiable sentence and continuing in order to justify it, Kafka’s work became the masterpiece of contemporary literature. Kafka did not show his work to his father. He was not on good terms with his father. On his own, he wrote these sentences. Had he shown his father, “My boy has finally lost it,” he would’ve thought.
And that’s right. Art is about going a little nuts and justifying the next sentence, which is not much different from what a kid does. A kid who has just started to lie is taking the first step as a storyteller. Kids do art. They don’t get tired and they have fun doing it. I was in Jeju Island a few days ago. When kids are on the beach, most of them love playing in the water. But some of them spend a lot of time in the sand, making mountains and seas — well, not seas, but different things — people and dogs, etc. But parents tell them, “It will all be washed away by the waves.” In other words, it’s useless. There’s no need. But kids don’t mind. They have fun in the moment and they keep playing in the sand. Kids don’t do it because someone told them to. They aren’t told by their boss or anyone, they just do it.
When you were little, I bet you spent time enjoying the pleasure of primitive art. When I ask my students to write about their happiest moment, many write about an early artistic experience they had as a kid. Learning to play piano for the first time and playing four hands with a friend, or performing a ridiculous skit with friends looking like idiots — things like that. Or the moment you developed the first film you shot with an old camera. They talk about these kinds of experiences. You must have had such a moment. In that moment, art makes you happy because it’s not work. Work doesn’t make you happy, does it? Mostly it’s tough.
The French writer Michel Tournier has a famous saying. It’s a bit mischievous, actually. “Work is against human nature. The proof is that it makes us tired.” Right? Why would work tire us if it’s in our nature? Playing doesn’t tire us. We can play all night long. If we work overnight, we should be paid for overtime. Why? Because it’s tiring and we feel fatigue. But kids, usually they do art for fun. It’s playing. They don’t draw to sell the work to a client or play the piano to earn money for the family. Of course, there were kids who had to. You know this gentleman, right? He had to tour around Europe to support his family — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — but that was centuries ago, so we can make him an exception. Unfortunately, at some point our art — such a joyful pastime — ends. Kids have to go to lessons, to school, do homework and of course they take piano or ballet lessons, but they aren’t fun anymore. You’re told to do it and there’s competition. How can it be fun? If you’re in elementary school and you still draw on the wall, you’ll surely get in trouble with your mom. Besides, if you continue to act like an artist as you get older, you’ll increasingly feel pressure — people will question your actions and ask you to act properly.
Here’s my story: I was an eighth grader and I entered a drawing contest at school in Gyeongbokgung. I was trying my best, and my teacher came around and asked me, “What are you doing?” “I’m drawing diligently,” I said. “Why are you using only black?” Indeed, I was eagerly coloring the sketchbook in black. And I explained, “It’s a dark night and a crow is perching on a branch.” Then my teacher said, “Really? Well, Young-ha, you may not be good at drawing but you have a talent for storytelling.” Or so I wished. “Now you’ll get it, you rascal!” was the response. (Laughter) “You’ll get it!” he said. You were supposed to draw the palace, the Gyeonghoeru, etc., but I was coloring everything in black, so he dragged me out of the group. There were a lot of girls there as well, so I was utterly mortified.
None of my explanations or excuses were heard, and I really got it big time. If he was an ideal teacher, he would have responded like I said before, “Young-ha may not have a talent for drawing, but he has a gift for making up stories,” and he would have encouraged me. But such a teacher is seldom found. Later, I grew up and went to Europe’s galleries — I was a university student — and I thought this was really unfair. Look what I found. (Laughter)
Works like this were hung in Basel while I was punished and stood in front of the palace with my drawing in my mouth. Look at this. Doesn’t it look just like wallpaper? Contemporary art, I later discovered, isn’t explained by a lame story like mine. No crows are brought up. Most of the works have no title, Untitled. Anyways, contemporary art in the 20th century is about doing something weird and filling the void with explanation and interpretation — essentially the same as I did. Of course, my work was very amateur, but let’s turn to more famous examples.
This is Picasso’s. He stuck handlebars into a bike seat and called it “Bull’s Head.” Sounds convincing, right? Next, a urinal was placed on its side and called “Fountain”. That was Duchamp. So filling the gap between explanation and a weird act with stories — that’s indeed what contemporary art is all about. Picasso even made the statement, “I draw not what I see but what I think.” Yes, it means I didn’t have to draw Gyeonghoeru. I wish I knew what Picasso said back then. I could have argued better with my teacher. Unfortunately, the little artists within us are choked to death before we get to fight against the oppressors of art. They get locked in. That’s our tragedy.
So what happens when little artists get locked in, banished or even killed? Our artistic desire doesn’t go away. We want to express, to reveal ourselves, but with the artist dead, the artistic desire reveals itself in dark form. In karaoke bars, there are always people who sing “She’s Gone” or “Hotel California,” miming the guitar riffs. Usually they sound awful. Awful indeed. Some people turn into rockers like this. Or some people dance in clubs. People who would have enjoyed telling stories end up trolling on the Internet all night long. That’s how a writing talent reveals itself on the dark side.
Sometimes we see dads get more excited than their kids playing with Legos or putting together plastic robots. They go, “Don’t touch it. Daddy will do it for you.” The kid has already lost interest and is doing something else, but the dad alone builds castles. This shows the artistic impulses inside us are suppressed, not gone. But they can often reveal themselves negatively, in the form of jealousy. You know the song “I would love to be on TV”? Why would we love it? TV is full of people who do what we wished to do, but never got to. They dance, they act — and the more they do, they are praised. So we start to envy them. We become dictators with a remote and start to criticize the people on TV. “He just can’t act.” “You call that singing? She can’t hit the notes.” We easily say these sorts of things. We get jealous, not because we’re evil, but because we have little artists pent up inside us. That’s what I think.
What should we do then? Yes, that’s right. Right now, we need to start our own art. Right this minute, we can turn off TV, log off the Internet, get up and start to do something. Where I teach students in drama school, there’s a course called Dramatics. In this course, all students must put on a play. However, acting majors are not supposed to act. They can write the play, for example, and the writers may work on stage art. Likewise, stage art majors may become actors, and in this way you put on a show. Students at first wonder whether they can actually do it, but later they have so much fun. I rarely see anyone who is miserable doing a play. In school, the military or even in a mental institution, once you make people do it, they enjoy it. I saw this happen in the army — many people had fun doing plays.
I have another experience: In my writing class, I give students a special assignment. I have students like you in the class — many who don’t major in writing. Some major in art or music and think they can’t write. So I give them blank sheets of paper and a theme. It can be a simple theme: Write about the most unfortunate experience in your childhood. There’s one condition: You must write like crazy. Like crazy! I walk around and encourage them, “Come on, come on!” They have to write like crazy for an hour or two. They only get to think for the first five minutes.
The reason I make them write like crazy is because when you write slowly and lots of thoughts cross your mind, the artistic devil creeps in. This devil will tell you hundreds of reasons why you can’t write: “People will laugh at you. This is not good writing! What kind of sentence is this? Look at your handwriting!” It will say a lot of things. You have to run fast so the devil can’t catch up. The really good writing I’ve seen in my class was not from the assignments with a long deadline, but from the 40- to 60-minute crazy writing students did in front of me with a pencil. The students go into a kind of trance. After 30 or 40 minutes, they write without knowing what they’re writing. And in this moment, the nagging devil disappears.
So I can say this: It’s not the hundreds of reasons why one can’t be an artist, but rather, the one reason one must be that makes us artists. Why we cannot be something is not important. Most artists became artists because of the one reason. When we put the devil in our heart to sleep and start our own art, enemies appear on the outside. Mostly, they have the faces of our parents. (Laughter) Sometimes they look like our spouses, but they are not your parents or spouses. They are devils. Devils. They came to Earth briefly transformed to stop you from being artistic, from becoming artists. And they have a magic question. When we say, “I think I’ll try acting. There’s a drama school in the community center,” or “I’d like to learn Italian songs,” they ask, “Oh, yeah? A play? What for?” The magic question is, “What for?” But art is not for anything. Art is the ultimate goal. It saves our souls and makes us live happily. It helps us express ourselves and be happy without the help of alcohol or drugs. So in response to such a pragmatic question, we need to be bold. “Well, just for the fun of it. Sorry for having fun without you,” is what you should say. “I’ll just go ahead and do it anyway.” The ideal future I imagine is where we all have multiple identities, at least one of which is an artist.
Once I was in New York and got in a cab. I took the backseat, and in front of me I saw something related to a play. So I asked the driver, “What is this?” He said it was his profile. “Then what are you?” I asked. “An actor,” he said. He was a cabby and an actor. I asked, “What roles do you usually play?” He proudly said he played King Lear. King Lear. “Who is it that can tell me who I am?” — a great line from King Lear. That’s the world I dream of. Someone is a golfer by day and writer by night. Or a cabby and an actor, a banker and a painter, secretly or publicly performing their own arts.
In 1990, Martha Graham, the legend of modern dance, came to Korea. The great artist, then in her 90s, arrived at Gimpo Airport and a reporter asked her a typical question: “What do you have to do to become a great dancer? Any advice for aspiring Korean dancers?” Now, she was the master. This photo was taken in 1948 and she was already a celebrated artist. In 1990, she was asked this question. And here’s what she answered: “Just do it.” Wow. I was touched. Only those three words and she left the airport. That’s it. So what should we do now? Let’s be artists, right now. Right away. How? Just do it!