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 lesser weights of paper will immediately start buckling as soon as you add a wash to them. 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. 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 run the paper under cool water in the sink or bathtub, moving it around just until it's wet everywhere. Then I hold it up and let the water drain off of one corner until it stops running and starts dripping.

3. I lay the paper flat on top of the gatorboard and smooth it out with the sides of my hands, starting in the center and working my way out, pushing the excess water puddles off the sides as I do this.

4. I let it sit for a few minutes until the paper no longer looks shiny. (Tiny shiny areas are ok- you don't want it to get too dry.)

5. I start stapling the paper to the gatorboard along the outer edges of the paper. I start by putting one staple in the middle of each of the four sides, then work my way towards the corners, a few staples on each side of the paper at a time, putting the staples at the corners last. As I do this, I use the side of my free hand to smooth the paper and pull it taught.

6. Let the paper dry thoroughly. This can be sped up with a hair dryer, if desired, but don't try to draw on it until it's completely dried!

7. For a finishing touch I tape all the edges with masking or artist's tape. 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.

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

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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!

My artist
My new Etsy shop: