Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Musings on Painting

“Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do.” This quote by Edgar Degas has been on my mind all day. I have found it to be so true.

When I first began painting, all I had to worry about was making the painting look "pretty". I used colors that pleased me and chose compositions from photos I liked.

Now that I have far more experience, I have learned that there's so much more to worry about! Sometimes I get really frustrated trying to create paintings with optimum composition, correct values, proper use of color and hue, and on and on it goes.

What do you think about this? Should one try to follow established "rules" to create art? Is it better to ignore the rules and simply follow your intuition and create something that pleases you? I want to hear your opinions!

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Friday, February 12, 2010

How to stretch watercolor paper

Stretching watercolor paper keeps it from buckling while you are painting on it. It is not necessary for 300-pound paper, but lighter papers will buckle when they get wet. 300 pound paper gets expensive, so many watercolor artists buy 140- pound paper and stretch it to a hard surface.

There are lots of ways to do this. Today I'm going to share with you how I do it. I drew some little doodles in my notebook to help you see what I mean.

You need a hard backing surface to stretch the paper to. I use gatorboard (aka. gatorfoam board). Gatorboard is similar to a super-thick piece of foam board, but it has a much stronger outer surface that will hold up a lot longer than foam board. It's lightweight, easy to staple (and remove staples from), and doesn't mind getting soaked, so it's perfect for this purpose. (You can find it at various art supply stores under different names, or you can order gatorboard from Cheap Joes Art Stuff, at my favorite place!)

Other supplies:
water, stapler and staples, masking tape or artist's tape, watercolor paper


1. First I cut my paper to the size I need, and lay my gatorboard flat on a table or counter.

2. Next I hold the paper under cool, running water in the sink or bathtub, moving it around until it's thoroughly wet everywhere on both sides. I really let it run over it for a couple of minutes on both sides, so it gets nice and soaked. (Some artists choose to actually soak their paper in a tub of water.) After I've done this on both sides of the paper, I hold it up by one corner and let the water run off until it stops running and starts dripping. Then I hold the opposite corner up for a few seconds, so the excess water settles back onto the paper more evenly (vs. being pooled in one corner).


3. Then I lay the paper flat on top of the gatorboard and start to watch what happens. (Note- loose sheets of watercolor paper should be the same on both sides. Paper removed from a block or pad may have a front and back side.) As it buckles (ie. creates big wrinkles or waves), I tug gently on the sides to flatten it back out. If some areas (like corners) are drying to the point where they lose their sheen while other places are still very wet, I'll mist them with a spritz bottle to make them shiny again. Once most or all of the paper has absorbed the excess water and is no longer shiny, it's time to start stapling it down.

4. I start stapling the paper to the gatorboard along the outer edges of the paper. First I put a staple in the middle of one of the shorter sides of the paper. Then I turn the board around, pull on the opposite side until the paper is taut, and put a staple directly across the page from the first one. When pulling the paper tight, I tug on it just enough to see it strain against the staple. If you pull more, it will tear the staple out. Next, I repeat the process on the longer two sides of the paper, starting in the middle of one side, then pulling taut and doing the opposite staple. I do the corners next, using the same process of pulling the paper taut each time. It's a bit like stretching a canvas or even something like a drum.

If by the time I've stapled the centers of all four sides and corners, one of the first staples needs to be adjusted, I just pull it out with my fingernails, pull the page taut, and put another staple in. For a large piece of paper, I'll often do 3 staples in the middle of each side before moving onto the corners, such as in the drawing below.

Once the centers and corners are finished, I simply go around the rest of the paper edges with my stapler, placing staples about 1/2-inch apart al the way around the page. If I do them too far apart, sometimes wrinkles/buckles will pop up between staples as the paper is drying and that's frustrating.


5. Next I just have to let the paper dry completely before it's ready to use. This can be sped up with a hair dryer, if desired. Don't try to draw on it until it's completely dried!

6. For a finishing touch, I tape the edges of my paper with masking or artist's tape, covering the edge of the paper and all the staples. This keeps water and paint from running under the paper while I'm painting, and also makes a nice clean edge all around my painting when I am done. When I finish painting, I simply remove the tape, pull the paper off the board, and remove the staples. (You can remove the staples first if it's easier. I have a tool that makes it easier to remove them after taking the paper off the board.)

Happy painting! Leave your comments or questions below... don't be shy! I want to hear from you!

My art:

Etsy shop:


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My first impressions of Etsy

I recently embarked on a new venture... the wide world of Etsy. If you don't know, Etsy is a website that provides internet "shops" to small business people who are selling their own handmade items, vintage items (at least 20 years old), or craft supplies. It's a little like ebay, except crafty!. It's a lot like a regular craft show, except online instead of outside, and instead of paying large booth fees, you pay a small listing fee (20 cents per item, for a four-month listing), and then a small percentage of the sale price when you sell an item (3.5%). There are no membership fees or other fees for your shop, which makes it very accessible for everyone.

My first impressions of Etsy? I love it! ♥

Here are some of the things I like so far.
The shops are well organized and easy to navigate. For each item you list, you are allowed to upload 5 photos for no extra fee. (If you've ever listed with e-bay, you'll appreciate that!) You are able to create all your own "shop policies" to determine how shipping, returns, and so on will be handled. There are tons of ways people can find items they're looking for, beyond the old search by name or category. My favorite tool is a page filled with dots of all colors where you can move your curser around the page, and when you see the exact shade of a color you are looking for pop up, you click on it, and then Etsy looks at the thumbnails of all the items currently listed, and shows you any items it finds that have a significant amount of that color. How cool is that??

However, I think the best thing I've found in my first few days at Etsy is all the information they have organized for you to read to help you be more successful. They have a blog and a forum, and they have compiled article after article in one place for you to find and read. These articles are immensely helpful, and it looks to me that they are all written by fellow "etsians" (Etsy buyers and sellers) who have been there, done that, and want to tell someone else how to do it the best way that they found. Very helpful!

If you have bought or sold from Etsy, I'd love to hear how your experience is or was. Don't be shy, let me know with your comments! I appreciate them so much!

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My new Etsy shop: