Sunday, July 27, 2008

Art Attack Puppet Show

My Broadcast Puppet Theater presented "Art Attack", a comic performance satirizing the "art world", in July at my Santa Fe studio. For those of you who missed it, here it is below!


"Art Attack" Puppet Show Video

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Painting Process Cycles

Someone once asked me if I go to my studio every day, or do I wait until I FEEL creative. It got me thinking and I came up with an idea about my creative process. I discovered that there are three different cycles in my process: Beginning, Continuing and Completion. (This may seem oversimplified – but identifying them really helped me get more productive in my studio.) The trick for me is that each cycle requires a different type of energy. Beginning requires an energy about freedom, continuing requires faith, and completion requires an energy about healing.

So, in answer to that first question, I do go to my studio (almost) every day, regardless of how I feel. BUT, when I get to my studio, I decide what to work on depending on how I feel. So the feeling of creativity takes on many guises. Sometimes I want to try out all new things, or I have lots of active energy and feel like doing many experiments. I always have lots of extra canvases and surfaces around (even a stack of cardboard will do) and I may launch several to a dozen new underpaintings or start-up paintings in one day.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed that I have too many projects, and just want to get into a sort of meditative or hypnotic type of working state. Then I turn all my canvases around so I can’t see the images, pick one of these to work on, and just focus my attention on that one particular painting. I can stay in one spot and just concentrate. This “continuing” phase is the toughest for me. Often the work has lost its initial surprise excitement, and hasn’t yet become something cohesive, so I just need to trust and have faith that by working on it one step at a time, one area at a time, it will start to form. Therefore, this stage requires faith.

Let’s say in a typical two month period of time, 60% of my painting days are spent doing beginnings (most of my energy loves fresh starts and new experiments), 35% of my days are spent doing the “continuing” part, and only 5% does the finish. That’s the last of the three, the completion phase. This takes a very particular type of energy. On these very valuable and rare days, I can see clearly what each painting needs to make it really soar. I will give that last finishing touch to several on one day – finishing them all! Then I go out and celebrate. It’s more difficult for me to work on one painting through all its cycles by itself. For me, having lots of other paintings to work on simultaneously takes the “attachment” factor out of working on just one. And then I can put my energy to its best use. When I have a commission to paint, I will paint it all the way through, but still take breaks to play on some other ones to keep the juices flowing. I find it easiest to work on one cycle for the whole day, and not switch. For instance if I spend several hours flinging paint in a freedom engaged session of “starts” I will not be as adept on that same day to try to finish a painting or two.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Choosing Gels, Mediums & Pastes

I often get emails asking about the differences between acrylic gels, mediums and pastes.
First, it helps to understand a general principle behind all paint and painting products.
All colored paints are made with basically two components: pigment - for color, and binder (also called medium, vehicle, and in the case of acrylic paints - polymer) which turns the pigment into a usable paint.

Any other product is usually some form of plain binder without any pigment, and is created to help customize your paint. These are used to change some characteristic of the paint itself, or to change a quality of your painting surface. The gels, mediums and pastes all fit in this category. Let’s start with gels and mediums. Gels are basically thick, while mediums are thin and pourable. Acrylic binder is naturally very thin and pourable. Most people assume acrylic is naturally thick – but it’s not. The thin quality of acrylic or polymer is not made by adding water or diluting. It just is naturally thin. So the gels and thick acrylic paints have thickeners added, while mediums have less thickener, and in the case of Golden’s specialty mediums, have none. (Golden’s specialty mediums are labeled GAC100, GAC200, etc. The GAC stands for Golden Artist Colors). All gloss gels and mediums are clear, while matte products have a finely ground white powder added to them, so they are often slightly cloudy or translucent. Pastes are thick and opaque.

Let’s look at how we could use them:

To change the consistency of a paint mixture you would add up to 30% medium to make it thinner, gel to make it thicker, and a specialty medium (GAC100 or GAC500) to eliminate texture altogether.

To make a colored paint more transparent you would make a mixture of paint with binder, but much more binder than color – about 90% binder and 10% color. You would add gloss gel (if you like texture) or a gloss medium (if you want minimal texture). For a very smooth enamel look use GAC100 or GAC500.

To make any color opaque you would add paste.

To cover over an area in your painting you would apply paste to the area (or white paint).

To create a textured ground use a gel with a knife. Gels have lots of thickener - and you have a choice of varying amounts of thickeners in the soft gel, regular gel, heavy gel and extra heavy gel (which has the most and therefore is the stiffest in handling).

To pour acrylic you would think of using a medium, since these are all pourable. However, there are 2 gel exceptions that are better for pouring: Self-Leveling Gel and Clear Tar Gel are both gels, but are pourable. I add small amounts of water to either of these, and pour over a painting to create a clear, glossy “surfboard” finish. I use minimal handling with these, in other words, I don’t use a brush or knife, but tilt the surface to move the “pour”. GAC800 is also a great pouring medium, and is the easiest to use since it isn’t as finicky as the other gels I mentioned, and will give the smoothest surface as it won’t crevice in fast drying climates – like out here in New Mexico where I live. Adding color is an option to any of these ideas.

My book, Acrylic Revolution, has over 100 acrylic painting techniques using gels, mediums and pastes. Click here to read more and/or order the book at a discount from Amazon. To see some of my work using a combination of pastes, gels and mediums click here.