I haven’t been in a printmaking studio since college. Funny I spent Sunday with a young woman who reminds me of myself in my early twenties. What would you say to yourself if you could go back and offer yourself the guidance of your older, wiser self?
I met Mary Jo at the art show in Massachusetts this spring. Yesterday she gave me the opportunity to reconnect with a young vibrant soul sister. Before she left, she bought my Soul Sister painting. We loaded it and Embrace of the Mountain into her car, lot of hugs and promises to stay in touch. She had embraced her mountain too.
A magic fairy? I don’t know.
But today ~ you could knock me over with a feather! Who would have thought I would suddenly be the printmaker I was 45 years ago? Yet here it is, my first limited edition handmade print with inspirational story to inspire the Creator within.
And as I sit here finishing up this story, Rod Stewart is on the radio singing, Forever Young!
The story ~ The Magic Connection Between Painting & Dreams ~ is my story. I hope you will see yourself when you read it. So many people tell me stories of how their dreams have suffered at the words of others. I truly believe that this story is for you. Why else would so many tell me this story ~ if it were not my calling to help you rewrite it with a different ending?
The cover looks like hand painted fabric. Maybe that’s because it kind of is ~ my fabric. I printed my oil painting, A Lily Pond of My Own, on a sheet of uncoated domestic etching paper. It’s so soft and absorbent, it drinks in my pigmented inks like fabric. You can see in the photo below, how each of the folios is a different piece of the fabric.
The story is the thing. Last week it started as a blog post. This week it’s expanded into this first edition folio book. It would make a fabulous gift. I think I will give my daughters-in-law each one. They have August birthdays. I think I will give them watercolor journals to go with it. If you want one of the other eight, you can purchase one here>
The whole studio is turned upside down. Now I have a ‘clean area’ right in front of the presses. The not so clean area is still set up on the other side. This is where I create the special surfaces to print on.
I have been experimenting with the idea of creating a small edition of The Little Black Dress and Jack Russell. This is my last project before I leave for Tuscany. I finished up the Tuscan Sun folios today. They are ready to ship, so I am running a special sale of 20% Off with the code: JOYFUL. Expires Sunday August 23 at midnight.
Maybe The Little Black Dress with Jack Russell edition will come together tomorrow? I’ll put her in the shop feed if she does!
Painting quick and easy on-the-fly is simplest with watercolor and a pack or two of watercolor postcards. With a tiny watercolor palette in my satchel during my residency in France, I was able to create 15-minute paintings while waiting for lunch or resting on a park bench.
These magic postcard paintings are now a huge source of inspiration at home. See how just one of them led to a series of garden paintings>
Preparing for my Tuscan residency, three simple additions will make it even easier to bring home great paintings.
For Tuscan. I need light-weight, portable, easy and clean-to-use panels which can be mounted and displayed quickly when I return for the holidays.
I am staying in a two bedroom apartment 20 kilometers south of Florence in the heart of the Chianti hills. I don’t have a studio for two months. I paint en plein air and set my paintings up to dry around the apartment.
1 ~ Butterfly Panels
I’ve been researching the perfect, light weight panel. In France, I used pads of linen canvas 11 x 14, thumb tacked to the cork board in the residency studio to dry. Without a studio I need a rigid panel which I can prop up along the counter top or baseboard.
Butterfly painting panels are available ready made by a couple different manufacturers. I am creating my own with Multi-Media Art Board and linen canvas. To create them, I am making use of supplies I already have on hand for a fraction of the cost.
Multi media boards are paper impregnated with resin. This makes them archival, dimensionally stable and rigid ~ yet feather weight. A piece of heavy-weight cardboard behind them will make sure they don’t bend when I attach them to my easel. Yet they are rigid enough to sit up against the wall to dry without additional support.
There are several ways to use these for painting. They can be painted on directly with oil, acrylic, watercolor or drawing media. They can also be gessoed with white or tinted gesso for a more customized painting surface. The surface can be further customized by mounting canvas or linen on them. I am making some of each in different sizes.
2 ~ Mounting Canvas or Linen
Heat Press Method
To mount them, I used archival heat mounting tissue and my mounting press. I used up an old pad of linen 12 x 16s. I trimmed my mounting tissue to fit the linen, with a little excess on all sides. I put it in the heat press for a few minutes, then let it cool. When cooled, I trimmed each one to size., So far I have made some 11 x 14s and 12 x 16s. I will also make some 16 x 20s. These will all fit flat in my suitcase.
Wet Mount Method
If you don’t have a mounting press, you can use acrylic soft gel or matte medium to wet mount the canvas to panel. I used this method when I returned from France with my unmounted linen paintings. Finished oil or acrylic paintings cannot go in a heat press.
To wet mount, paint both sides with acrylic soft gel or matte medium. Lay them medium sides together and roll with a brayer from the center out to remove any air pockets. Wipe all excess medium away with a damp paper towel. Stack on a rigid table (covered with wax paper), interleave with wax paper, top with board, and weight with a heavy paint can. Allow to dry several hours or overnight. Cut to size when dry.
3 ~ Double Duty Gesso Panels
In France, I found a small watercolor palette and a stack of watercolor postcards fit perfectly into my satchel. On the spur of the moment, I could whip out my colors and paint . . . while waiting for lunch in a cafe or resting on a Paris park bench.
The only problem with this was that the watercolor postcards curled up. I could buy heavier watercolor paper and cut it into custom postcards. But maybe there’s something better . . .
It would be wonderful to have the same rigid panels do double duty for watercolor or oil (or drawing, acrylic, inks etc.) To do this, I am using Golden’s Absorbent Ground Gesso. I like this gesso because it has some tooth, so is also good for drawing with pen, pencil or charcoal. And guess what? It is intended for watercolor.
Since the multi-media panels (above) are white, they only need one coat. I also have some Guerrilla Plein Air Panels (also thin resin impregnated paper) which are brown, so they need two if you are planning to use watercolor on them. I am particularly fond of the texture created by the brush strokes in the gesso. This creates a much more interesting surface to paint on than a machined finish. I will show you examples of this in a later article.
The gessoed panels are for my small paintings, 5 x 7s, 6 x 8s and 8 x 10s. My larger oil paintings will be painted on canvas or linen panels.
Cradled Wood Panels for Presentation
When I return from Tuscany it will be November and everyone will be focused on holidays. I’ve researched and tested several presentation methods which will make a nice, clean, contemporary and quick to ship presentation for my finished paintings.
During my French residency, I painted small paintings on 300 # Arches gessoed watercolor paper. At home, I mounted some of them on deep, cradled wood panels with Soft Gel Medium. This worked ok, though it would have been easier to mount a thinner 140# watercolor paper.
Since then, I have tested mounting both the multi media and Guerrilla panels. I am pleased that they were much easier to mount than watercolor paper. They did not even require weighting while they dried!
So this time I will mount my 5 x 7s and 6 x 8s on 3/4″ cradled panels. 8 x 10s and larger paintings will mount better on the deeper 1 1/2″ ones. These will make it quick and easy for me to present my finished works for sale in a professional, ready-to-hang way.
Will this story inspire you
to pick up the brush
and try an experiment?
I haven’t thought about this postcard painting inspiration since I painted it two years ago in France. I found it stuck down in a drawer when I went searching for my Tuscan Sun watercolor. When I pulled it out, it looked better than I remembered it. I threw it on the worktable thinking I might mount it and hang it beside my bed.
It floated around on my studio worktable niggling at me for a week or so. Finally the urge to paint it again ~ bigger ~ became so overwhelming it distracted me at every turn. I figured if I just gave in and painted it I’d get it out of my way. Wow, was I in for a surprise!
When I set up the first canvas, two others nearby shouted to be next. I gave in and blocked them in with toned primer. Letting go never felt so comfortable!
It was then that I remembered planting a small water lily in a crock on my deck last summer. I had just moved it to a pond of its own because its roots overflowed the small crock. When I repotted it I discovered it had sprouted four lilies. Recognizing myself in the lily made me smile inside. Assured I was in the right place I kept painting.
It took a week or so to finish painting all three of these. Snippets of time between other obligations were hard to find. Yet each time I touched them ~they came to life ~ and so did I.
Hollyhock Dream led to Something Blooming, then to A Lily Pond of My Own. ~ I am astounded to see the abstract floral landscapes I painted in pastel as a young woman dripping with wet paint before me . I never dreamed I would find her again. I truly thought she was lost forever.
How is it that painting such a small insignificant watercolor could be such a life affirming action?
This is the inspiration that leads me to create The Painting Lesson Virtual Artist Residency. If my small story inspires one person to pick up a brush and stroke color on paper, to feel the color energy beating in their heart a little faster ~ my joy will double.