Thursday, May 8, 2014

Without expectation or judgement

It's hard to sit down and paint without any expectation or preconceived notion of the outcome.  It's even harder not to look upon that work with harsh criticism.
Yet, as part of my commitment to learning about my paints, that's exactly what I'm trying to do.

It helps me to approach each painting session with the intention of learning and the attitude of a scientist intent on discovery.  I don my imaginary lab coat, spread out my materials and ask "I wonder what will happen if...."

Ask that question enough times and you end up with something odd like this:

This little 4x6 board has a LOT going on.
I started with blending different colors of fluid acrylic with some glazing medium.  I scratched into the paint before it was dry.
I then covered half the board with acrylic ground for pastels (which makes a surface toothier and more suitable for drawing).  I used a variety of implements to make marks on both sides of the painting to see what difference the ground makes.

On a piece of glossy freezer paper I applied acrylic paint, let it dry, and then over the next few days applied three layers of soft gel medium.  When peeled off the freezer paper it makes a transparent "skin" which I adhered over the entire surface of the board.  Then I started playing with different glazes on top of that - trying out my new jar of "micacious iron oxide" and my new tube of interference paint.

It's kind of a hot mess, but it sure is educational.

To keep track of my experiments I'm writing notes on the back of the board.

This one is, among other things, an experiment in using crackle paste three different ways.

Here's one with graphite circles and an attempted image transfer.

This one started with a purposeful attempt at composition, and I've been displeased with it at every stage, but I keep adding layers of paint and glaze to see how it changes.

I find even when I don't like a whole piece I'm finding little bits that make me happy.

And then there's this one.
(Talk about your hot messes...)
It's kind of cracking me up.  It's got corrugated cardboard, modeling paste*, cheesecloth, fiber paste, and heavy gel medium, then a billion layers of paint, and another billion layers of glaze.

Then, because it wasn't ugly enough, I added a light wash of white, then glued down some circles that had been stamped on tissue paper.  This one will almost certainly end up in the trash bin, but since the canvas only cost me a dollar, and I already owned all the supplies, the time and materials are well spent on the learning opportunities this piece has given me.


Here's another oddly textured substrate with lots of paint and glaze experiments going on.

On this next one I'm testing three different mediums that came in a sampler of Golden products that I got on sale two years ago and never opened:  fine pumice gel, coarse molding paste* and fiber paste.
(*and how come some brands call it modeling paste and some call it molding paste, when they seem to be the same product?)

I was really liking the background of this next one, and wanted to try some kind of loose imagery on top to bring it all together.  I penciled in some leaf-like shapes, then applied ink straight from the dropper to go for a bold loose feel.
It's not done, but I don't like it.
I also don't care.

I used to be so afraid to ruin things.
When I first started making art, so many things happened by happy accident. I didn't know how I made them, so didn't know how to replicate them.  I was often paralyzed to take further steps because I doubted I could ever get that same effect again.

As I methodically and systematically learn about my materials, I have a lot more confidence that I can start over if I end up taking the painting in a direction I don't like.
Scribbling on the above canvas was a "nothing ventured, nothing gained" experiment.
I might have ended up with something I loved, or (as it happened) I might have ended up with a challenge to develop this piece even further.  Knowing I can cover the whole thing with gesso and start again (with reasonable assurance of successfully repeating the parts I like) is liberating.  There's less hand wringing and more action.

 I will continue experimenting with these pieces - adding layers, trying new techniques, obscuring some parts, enhancing others - ever curious about what happens next.


  1. 1. and wait'll you start moving through the GACs! ;)

    2. you have some phenomenal textures going on there Karen, I'm fairly ITCHING to get my hands (read: fingers) on'em!

    3. I did some textural experimentation last year then gessoed back over them all and used the substrates for paintings. so you always do that. if you want.

    4. fyi re: molding vs modeling ... maybe the company's specific names? I use Golden and they only call it molding.

  2. I actually was thinking about you yesterday and wondering how your painting experimenting was coming along - then here you are; sharing it all! I can really identify with the feeling of not wanting to mess up something you like - the 12x12 canvas I'm currently working on has gone through the exact same stuff as yours.....layers reaching a 'pretty' point, add one more thing and I hate it so then it's about 'what would happen if' in an effort to get back to liking it. I imagine most of us go through these steps periodically (me maybe more than others, but still)

    I can really see where your experimenting and purposeful use of different materials on different surfaces and grounds will give you more confidence when you DO have a specific goal in mind. Plus, it helps you figure out which products or techniques you particularly like and want to develop further. Okay, I'm talking myself into opening my horizons a bit too! :)

    I love seeing all your experimenting and using different color combos, etc. SO fun!

  3. There are a lot of cool ones here, but I think you should stick a stamp on that hot-mess-with-circles and send it to me. I like it!

  4. I'm completely in agreement with Leslie...the "ugly" hot mess piece is one of my faves! If Leslie decides she doesn't want it, I'll be next in line ;). But seriously, wonderful colors and textures!

  5. Love all your sharing, Karen...and appreciate it very much. MY favorite is your least favorite -- the one with the partially-drawn leaf/plant. Slap a stamp on it for me! lol

  6. do not throw anything away ! walk away from it ,put it away ,then look at it again objectively and you may see a way out. all of these look good so far - they may just be in that weird stage.
    and i love that you're writing stuff on the backs - what a great idea !

  7. Fabulous play! Glad you are keeping notes...I don't and can never reproduce some of the extraordinary accidents that happen when you are playing.

  8. So inspiring - a great reminder to keep experimenting!

  9. I will email you about which of these to send to me. I mean, which several.

  10. Like Terrie, I was thinking about you the other day.

    Of course, I was thinking about a lot of people. But it's the thought; that's my point.