Saturday, April 11, 2020


 (Above:  Spring Blooms, detail.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

It took a couple years before I could say, "I'm an artist" without flinching, without self-effacing sarcasm, without feeling like a total liar.  It took Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, a twelve step program designed to recover (or in my case "discover") an artistic life ... to claim it ... with conviction and honesty.  That was back in around 2003 or 2004.  One of the reasons for my difficulties was the assumption that "artists paint".  Well ... I don't paint ... except when I do! LOL!

(Above: Stretched primed canvas.  57" x 33".)

I'm guessing that fiber artists with academic background have had a few classes in painting.  They've had color theory and introductory course on the principles of design.  They've been through critiques with professors and peers.  They know how paint is supposed to work.  I don't have such a background.  My background is as a custom picture framer ... which does qualify me to stretch canvas.  So, the first step in this commission was straight-forward.  The finished piece was to measure 60" x 36".  With a one-and-a-half inch moulding, the stretcher bars had to be 57" x 33".  So far, so good!

Yes!  This giant-sized canvas was a real commission by real people who will be paying real money.  Scary, especially for me, an artist who still does not identify as "a painter".  I simply gave in to multiple requests from a long-time, out-of-state framing client who insisted that I could create the painting she needed for an empty wall in her living room.  There was obviously a color palette.  It required an order of acrylic paint from Dick Blick.  Thankfully, I've learned a lot about the nature of acrylic paint while browsing Golden Paint's website.  I know the characteristics of "iridescent" and "transparent".  I also know that I'm more comfortable with fluids rather than thicker paints. 

 (Above:  Me cutting up sections of the client's dining room accent wallpaper.)

I took comfort in this commission because the client wanted the finished painting to coordinate with the accent wallpaper in her adjoining dining room.  I asked if she had extra wallpaper.  She had an entire roll left over.  So, I didn't really have to paint any flower; I just had to creatively cut them out and know how to adhere them to the canvas.  It was my job to successfully create a background using other colors in her room, glue the flowers to the background, and integrate the two layers through overlaying layers of paint.

 (Me ... starting the background.)

As nervous as I was, I had to begin ... approaching the large, empty white space.  I had a very loose sketch, a design plan, which was shared with my client.  The first step was to divide the background into shapes using fine iridescent silver and gold paint.  I applied the paint in swirls.

I took a photo each day ... for each step.  Every step required the paint to dry so that the colors didn't mix into a muddy brown.  Follow along ... day by day as the painting developed!

I added blue veins between the gold and silver shapes.

Hansa Yellow Light shapes were painted on top of the first layer.  Because the paint is very transparent, various shades emerged.

All the cut pieces of wallpaper were collaged on the background using matte medium.

Now, it was my job to integrate the wallpaper to the background ... to blur the edges ... to create a composition that didn't automatically say, "Oh ... she just glued the wallpaper flowers on a canvas".  The first step was to paint board strokes of iridescent pearl and transparent zinc white.  I made sure that all the edges of the wallpaper caught a little paint.  This began to blur the cut edges into the painted background.

Next, I sponged blue ... as if color radiating from the veining.

Then, I stippled lime green (a combination of the yellow and blue ... with quite a bit of white and matte medium) to further complicate both the flowers and the background.  I used a "shammy brush" (a tool made from imitation chamois leather) which made different marks from those applied with the sponge.  Later I used a wadded up paper towel to add thinned white zinc in places.

The final touch was to spray teal spots onto the surface with an old toothbrush.

Finally, the work was framed using a nice, deep, lacquer white frame ... measuring one-and-a-half inches in width so that the final dimensions were the requested 60" x 36".  Photographing the piece was problematic.  First, there are few walls at Mouse House (upstairs where we live or downstairs in "the shop") that aren't already covered from ceiling to baseboard with artwork.  Only one wall in the "art storage room" (upstairs back, former bedroom) is relatively empty.  That room doesn't get any morning light which would interfere with the camera and bounce off the iridescent paint; but in the morning, it is also rather dark.  The photo above was the best I could get ... and it catches light on the upper right corner despite my best efforts.

It is rather funny that the image I took with a ten-second delay is better ... but it has me in the frame for a sense of scale.

Very likely, the best photo was taken back downstairs ... with the piece leaning against my Wall of Keys where lots of my new, epoxy-covered pieces are still sitting.  From this vantage, I got good detail shots.  They are below.


Thankfully, the clients have received the PDF I created documenting the process of creating this painting.  They like it.  When they are able to collect the piece is anyone's guess. They are in Georgia.  I am in South Carolina.  We are both subject to "sheltering in place" guidelines, curfews, and closures.  But ... the painting is done!  It looks great!

I hope they like it as much in person as in an email message!  One way or the other, I did conqueror my fears about painting.  I managed a large canvas that really does coordinate with the client's decor and requests.  I feel rather good about it!  The title is Spring Blooms.  I signed it too!



Margaret said...

It's beautiful! And to think...wall paper. Hmmm...something new to play with. :-D

Sherrie Spangler said...

This is spectacular! What a lucky client.

Jan R said...

Beautiful piece, Susan.

Angie said...

WOW, your painting is breathtaking!! So beautiful! And taking us through the stages of how the painting actually progressed is fascinating. Alas, I have no artistic talent at all, but have always longed to be able to paint---and play the piano or guitar--neither of which can I do.

Catherine - Mixed Media Artist said...

I too have difficulty with "artist" although I do have Honours Diploma in Art and Creativity.

I mainly make mixed media nowadays and hence, I adopted the "maker" angle. I didn't want to be artisan as I felt that labelled somewhat oddly the "mixed arena" and yes I do paint from time to time. And I know a lot about colour mixing from a earlier career in wool/silk dyeing...

I love how you have blended "the wallpaper flowers" into the overall rather big "painting"...and I guess nobody will truly know. If you had just put your final work up for us to see, I wouldn't have known.

Thanks for sharing...

Ann Scott said...

That is beautiful! Thanks for the process pics, always fun to see. The close-ups showing texture, really good. I think when a person understands good composition, which you obviously do, that is key.