Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Give thanks for paint tubes and other innovations

In the very first post on this blog, I wrote about how lucky I am to be a 21st century painter because I could walk into an art store and buy a tube of Lapis watercolor paint. No need to dig it up. No need to grind it myself. No need to fret about consistency from batch to batch. No worries about preserving it.

John G. Rand: Innovator

In May 2013, Smithsonian Magazine had a short but very informative article about the introduction of tubes for paint by "a little-known" American portrait painter, John G. Rand. Should you be hungry for more information about this innovator, look no further than a helpful article from the North Carolina Museum of Art: A revolution in paint.

Philip Ball's "Bright Earth"

Philip Ball's brilliant Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color sparked the "I don't need to grind it" insight. It is still a favorite book, and it sits on my night table. Full of delights and exciting (to me) material such as "Color Technology in Antiquity" and the shocking introduction of "Synthetic Pigments and the Dawn of Color Chemistry," Bright Earth also answers pesky questions such as "Who was Hooker of Hooker's Green?"

When making art, we stand (or sit) on the shoulders of innovators. Thanks to all of them.

Read this: Never Underestimate the Power of a Paint Tube (Smithsonian)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Nanoscapes' magnets: for learning, for fun or for money?

In my third year of image-a-day painting, I use these daily exercises to explore new patterns and designs, new materials, and new techniques.

Gels and TerraSkin since June 2013

Since June 2013, I've been gleefully exploring Golden Brand Gel Mediums (glass bead gel, tar gel, self-leveling clear gel, mica gel, black mica gel, fiber paste, and molding paste). Combined with TerraSkin, the tree-free paper that opened the door to Hummingbirds (and Friends) in Hyperspace, I've been on a three-month wild art ride.
Hummingbird in Hyperspace
on TerraSkin

Next up: magnets

Armed with 2x2-inch primed aluminum squares (thank you Jason Najarak), round magnets from Michael's (thank you, Layl McDill), a glue stick, some leftover Mod Podge and Golden gels, I expected to whip up some magnets to sell at the Saint Paul Art Crawl.

Not so fast.

Every good thing has a learning curve.

Making the cuts

What I'd imagined to be a great use for leftover watercolors or cut-up greeting cards, turns out to be an exercise in painstakingly careful cutting to match the aluminum squares. Not just snip-snip-snip and done, but not-unpleasant-but-not-very-fast cutting and matching, reminiscent of quilting.

Finding the right glue.

As much as I love a good glue stick, even my favorite archival stick was not a good match for this project. Call in the acrylic team (Mod Podge and gels), spread the glue, match the corners, press the paper to remove the glue ooze. Wait for the glue to dry.

Glaze the top and sides

Luckily for me, one of my prime artist directives is Painstaking Exuberance, loosely defined as relishing work in tiny spaces with tiny tools. Even Self-Leveling Clear Gel can't be troweled onto a tiny square so I used wooden skewers as applicators. I had also hoped to put glass bead gel inside some of the tiny shapes, but that will add an extra step. Maybe someday.

Glue the magnet to the back

Separating the round magnets from one another isn't as easy as I thought it would be. That, of course, is the reason that they are called "Magnets." Use a skewer to spread the glue on the tiny magnet. Carefully remove the glue that oozes out. Wait. Wait some more.

For learning, for fun or for money?

I've only made three of these, and I can't put a "price-per-hour" on them at the moment. I've learned a lot, so perhaps I will charge myself my hourly art-teacher rate and imagine that I've taken a class.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Susan Gainen at the Saint Paul Art Crawl: October 4-6, 2013

Gold & Brown Jungle Cat
From Hyperspace
Join flocks of  whimsical small friends and exciting geometric abstract nanoscapes at the Saint Paul Art Crawl. I will be in the Lowertown Lofts Apartments, 240 5th Street East, Saint Paul, MN 55101.

Art Crawl Hours:

Friday October 4 (6 to 10 pm)
Saturday October 5 (noon to 8 pm)
Sunday October 6 (noon to 5 pm)

Lowertown Lofts Apartments are a short stroll from the Saint Paul Farmers' Market. If you are a late market shopper, you can drop right in on Saturday and Sunday.

Ax-Man Gizmo 10th Gear
Juried in to Tieton 10x10x10 Show

Small Friends from Hyperspace

Come and see the Small Friends from Hyperspace that I have made with TerraSkin, a tree-free paper that I found at Wet Paint in Saint Paul. TerraSkin is made from 76% calcium carbonate, and paint puddles and dries instead of being absorbed as with traditional watercolor paper. One look at the dried puddles and it was clear that Hyperspace had come to Saint Paul.

The Hyperspace friends include a large flock of Hummingbirds, a few Hippos, a Safe, Skein, Sore, String or Team of Ducks (those are the collective nouns for ducks in the air, which I believe should include Hyperspace), and more.
Who? Me?

Other new work:

Color Block #1
  • Some (not all) of the Ax-Man Gizmo paintings are on blank note cards;
  • A parliament of watercolor and Lost Cave Painting of Saint Paul owls ("parliament" is the collective noun for owls); 
  • A new family of cats whose Prime Directive is to say "Who me?" when found to have made mischief;
  • Cats celebrating Halloween;
  • New excavations from The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul;
  • New abstract cards (Color Block #1);
  • Autographed copies of  Meet the LLLamas at a special Art Crawl price;
  • and lots, lots more!

And favorites, too!

Wild Parrots of Saint Paul
Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul
and original nanoscapes.

See you at the Art Crawl!!  I will be painting!

If you miss the Art Crawl, drop by The Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market to see more of my work.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ax-Man Project Gear 10: Exhibition Finalist

Ax-Man Project Gear 10
The Ax-Man Project Gear 10 is a finalist in Exhibition Without Walls' Your Choice On-Line Juried Exhibition.

Eighty-seven photographers, digital artists, and graphic designers submitted 473 images. Twenty-five were selected as finalists, and if you click through the images, I promise that they will take your breath away.  

My entry, Ax-Man Project Gear 10, was inspired by a Gizmo I found during an early-summer Ax-Man run with Layl McDill, my WARM (Women's Art Resources of Minnesota) mentor. I now know that the Gizmo is a tool that people use to measure wire diameter. 

The Original Gear 10 Watercolor

I used it to make post-card sized watercolor paintings that I scanned and then (gleefully) manipulated in Photoshop. See all 10 here.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Gizmo from Ax-Man: non-stop inspiration

As a lucky participant in the Women's Art Resources of Minnesota (WARM) Mentor-Protege Program, I get to spend time with my mentor, Layl McDill, an extraordinary polymer clay artist.

Third Gear Painting: Posterized

Third Gear Painting

Two weeks ago our monthly meeting/field trip took us to Ax-Man, a surplus store on University Avenue in Saint Paul, and to the Bell Museum on the University of Minnesota Campus.
6th Gear Painting

We went to Ax-Man because I'd had a tiny moment in the workshop of a very talented guitar maker where the walls were covered with (to me) unknown gizmos, gadgets, and whatsis that cried out to become painting templates. While Ax-man was short of guitar-making tools, it was long on pieces that inspired me to go home and paint.

From the Ax-Man came the Gizmo, and from the Gizmo came "10 Gears." Each began as a post-card sized watercolor that I scanned into Photoshop and manipulated to make digital magic.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Gourds & polymer clay: new techniques

It is important to learn something new every day, and my head if full of new stuff from two classes that I took on Saturday and Monday.

A Gourd Pin

Gourd Art and Kristen Treuting

"Water Movement" is a three-artist show at Vine Arts Center. Kristen Treuting's unique and beautiful gourd art is part of this show, and in her workshop, she let us loose with wood burners, lovely inks, and glue guns to create our own gourd art. Thanks, Kristen. (Note to cat owners: Some cats find gourd pieces very enticing. Hide your work.)

Polymer Clay and Layl McDill

Layl McDill is a gifted, visionary, and whimsical genius with polymer clay. Last night she conducted "Clay Play" with Silly Millies for mentors and proteges in this year's WARM (Women's Art Resources of Minnesota) Mentor program.

Canes and Canes
Tulip Fingers
Having had a deeply disappointing encounter with polymer clay years ago, I had always been curious about how to make the intricate designs actually work. Layl showed us that "noodles and blankets" were the secret, and the designs and figures that we all made were vastly different from one another, and all wonderful.

I can't wait to incorporate these designs into my paintings.

NOTE: Layl McDill is my WARM Mentor in the current Mentor-Protege cycle. I am deeply grateful for her enthusiasm and encouragement. If you check out her work, you'll know that she will never, ever tamp down my whimsy.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lost Cave Horse in Minnesota Watercolor Society Spring 2013 Show

Lost Cave Horse

The Cave Horse, one of the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul, was accepted into the Minnesota Watercolor Society's 2013 Spring Show.
The Cave Horse and the Cave Toucan were excavated from the Lost Cave  on Christmas Day 2012. The Cave Paintings are available from the small friends' website and on cool products at zazzle
The show will hang at the Minnetonka Center For the Arts, 2240 North Shore Drive, Wayzata, MN from April 4 to May 2, 2013.
The framed Horse is for sale at the Show for $300. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Taking a Break with Two Palm Trees

As I gear up to start a big painting of an as-yet-unknown subject, and continue to work on the (now) 50 Wild Parrots of Saint Paul Project, I took a break on Saturday to paint two tiny (5x5) palm tree paintings.

Palm Tree One (2013. 5x5 inches. $30)
Up North #3 (2008. Not for sale)
Although they reference some of my earliest nanoscapes' landscapes, I made these to play with granulation to give the sand under the palms some texture with paint, and to practice the traditional wet-in-wet watercolor technique in the leaves and sky.

Wet-in-wet is exactly what it sounds like: wet paint dropped onto wet paper. 

I made controlled puddles, and then dropped in a color or colors that I manipulated ever so slightly. Too much manipulation makes dull, muddled color. 

To purchase either of these paintings, please send direct email to susangainen@comcast.net and I will bill you through PayPal.  Thank you.

Palm Tree Two (2013. 5x5 inches. $30)


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Stars to Wish On

Little Star
All the Colors and Paths 1

Creative Consistency

When asked whether I planned the color placement in All The Colors and Paths #1, now hanging in Altered Aesthetics "Straight Trippin'" exhibition in Minneapolis, I explained that my choices are completely random. The only rule is that like colors cannot "touch."


From One Little Star

Making the Stars to Wish On images was a similarly random act. I scanned the Little Star and created a template called Nine Stars. Then I made copies, using some of my favorite Photoshop settings (vibrance, hue/saturation, color balance, invert, posterize, and photo filter) without keeping track of anything. If I liked a result, I saved it. I discarded lots of images because they just didn't work. These are my favorites. 

Blue Stars to Wish On
Red Stars to Wish On

Neon Green Stars to Wish On
Bright Yellow Stars to Wish On
Harvest Stars to Wish On
Turquoise Stars to Wish On
Purple Stars to Wish on
Orange Stars to Wish On
Green Stars to Wish On

Some of these designs are available on cool products at zazzle.comhttp://www.zazzle.com/susangainen/9+stars+gifts.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Musings on liking your own work

All the Colors & Paths #1, at Altered Aesthetics'
Straight Trippin' Juried Show
February 28-March 28, 2013

If you don't like your own work, how can you: 

  1.  expect anyone else to like it -- ever; 
  2.  get pleasure out of its creation; 
  3.  want to do anything other than use it for kindling. 

Will you love every piece?

Don't expect to love every piece. Because making art is a journey, there will probably be some odd turns or dead ends:

  1. You win inevitably make an awkward and damaging splash or drop the brush or do something that in the cold light of day makes you cringe. Learn from it, and enjoy the pleasure of making art. Forgive your child or your cat if one or both might be the culprit
  2. When you get a new paintbrush or color or other piece of equipment, your first experiments might be happy accidents that you love (and sell), noodlings that you will use as reference material, or something to  recycle by painting on the back.
  3. Not that this would happen to you, but in my earnest determination to get back to painting after being ill, I put a lot of brown paint in a place where, on reflection, it does not belong. Whether I can bring this painting back to where I hoped it would be, turn it into something entirely new, or trash it, is yet to be determined. What did I learn? When speaking a simple, declarative sentence is unmanageable, I should stay away from paint brushes.

Who is the SpokesArtist?

I am the SpokesArtist for my own art enterprises, each of which is dedicated to making people smile. I have no idea how artists who pour their angst onto their canvases think about liking their own work. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Six Winter Socks from the Nanoscapes' Archive

After four years of above-zero temperatures, in mid-January 2013 Minnesota plunged to a few days of high temps below zero. To celebrate,  I retrieved Six Winter Socks from the nanoscapes' archive. The tiny original watercolor which was made in 2008, is no longer for sale.
Six Winter Socks

This image is on a postcard at zazzle.com.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Two nanoscapes accepted into Altered Aesthetics' "Straight Trippin'"

The nanoscapes Fractured Glass 3 and All the Colors and Paths #1 were juried into Altered Aesthetics' 2013 "Straight Trippin'" Exhibition which will run from February 28 to March 28, 2013 at the gallery which is in the Q'arma Building at 1224 Quincy Street NW, Minneapolis, MN 55413 in the Northeast Minneapolis Artist District. 

Wild Triangles

Fractured Glass 3 is part of a series of watercolor paintings that answers the creative question "What happens when triangles go wild?"

I make these with my five-part Painstaking Exuberance process: (1) make a pencil drawing, (2) outline each shape with Winsor & Newton Davy's Gray, (3) paint inside the lines, (4) paint an outline for each triangle with a contrasting watercolor, and (5) paint a border for the entire piece. The paintings don't really come to life until I paint the outlines for each tiny triangle.

I have also used the triangles in a some of the whimsical creatures (small friends) in the Stained Glass Family, which includes Sarah Stained Glass Cat, The Stained Glass Elephant, Hernando Stained Glass Hippo,  Amelia Tall Glazed Window Cat, a Green Stained Glass Camel, and one of  the 7 Hippos Marching.
Fractured Glass 3 (22x33) Framed  $800

Bright Boxes

All the Colors and Paths is part of a series loosely called Bright Boxes which celebrate the depth of color achievable with watercolor while challenging space and perspective. I like to think that I am painting in two-and-a-half dimensions. Most (including this one) were painted on 300# paper which is like painting on felt or a very welcoming sponge.
All the Colors and Paths #1 (13x23) $350
Altered Aesthetics Gallery is at 1224 Quincy Street NW, Minneapolis, MN 55413 in the Q'arma Building in Minneapolis' Northeast Minneapolis Artist District. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Puzzle Maker's Choice: jigsaw, tile saw or paint brush?

Puzzle Pieces Work in Progress
I understand the addictive quality of working out a jigsaw puzzle, and have myself uttered the plaintive cry "Just one more!" when my parents were trying to call me to dinner or send me to bed.

There are no jigsaw puzzles in my house today: Too much space is devoted to painting, and Max the Kitten, who has already walked into wet gesso and spilled water onto a nearly-finished painting, would be drawn to puzzle pieces like a moth to a flame.

Having a "no puzzle policy" hasn't kept me from making puzzles, though. Typical puzzle maker's tools are either jig saws or (for the really ambitious) tile saws, however, my puzzle-making tool is a paint brush.

This work-in-progress puzzle is made with a 6H pencil and a Raphael Martora Sable #0 brush that I bought at Wet Paint in Saint Paul, MN.

Further reading: 11 Reasons To Do Jigsaw Puzzles