No Class for Winter Term 2014

I will be teaching this class again for the Spring semester 2014. Feel free to look through past entries on this blog to see what we cover in this class. I hope you join us next semester!

Week 14

Today was our last class. I wanted to use the last demo as an opportunity to introduce you to encaustic. Our class size and room aren't well suited for working with encaustic for a full project so I don't often bring them in. It is a wonderful medium and I know many of you would be interested in them so I do like to show them off every once in a while. 

Encaustic is wax. There are several different kinds of wax but the most common used for encaustic painting is bees wax. Encaustic paints are made with bees wax, powdered pigments and damar resin. The resin reduces "bloom" which is a cloudiness that can form on the surface of the wax as it cools. Resin also increases the melting temperature of the wax. 

The basic idea is simple: melt wax and brush it on to a rigid support like wood. I use a cradle and egg poaching cups to keep all my colors separated and melted. I use a separate small hotplate as a palette where I mix colors before I apply them to the board with hogs hair brushes.

I use a heat gun (fancy hair dryer) to melt and move the wax on the board. I also use a modified soldering iron with changeable tips and a mini travel cloths-iron to carve and melt the wax.  

There is a lot to learn about painting with encaustic so if this interests you at all you will want to do more research online. There are many youtube videos, website and books that will show you how to use encaustic. My intention was only to make you a little more aware of how fun and versatile it is as a painting medium. 

Week 13

Today was the third demonstration on this portrait. I wasn't able to get as much done as I had wanted before the demonstration but hopefully you got the idea of how I used the black and white acrylic to suppress some of the collage texture and establish the basic highlights and shadows of the face. 

Today I used oil paint to glaze on some skin tone color and to further develop the details of the face. Glazing can be used in combination with opaque techniques. For the highlights I used a more opaque white to make them stand out more. 

You can glaze with acrylic paint using matte medium to make your colors more transparent but as always the fast drying time really makes it difficult to get smooth blends and transitions. If you try glazing with acrylic err on the side of being too transparent because you can always add more layers. Once you get too opaque you can't  pull it back. 

I still have a lot of work to do on the portrait of my daughter. I will continue to refine details and add color with oil paint.  I will bring the finished painting in to class when I am done. 

NEXT WEEK: we will not have class. 

IN TWO WEEKS: will be our final day of class for this semester. I am going to bring in wax for you to experiment with. We will also have a short critique at the end of class. 

Week 12

This week I talked about how to use acrylic paint to start adding some highlight and shadow to the face. By mixing a little color with matte medium you can get varying levels of transparency. I built up several layers of transparent light and dark values to start adding three dimension to the head and face.

Another thing I was able to address with the layers of transparent paint was areas of high contrast that were distracting and creating unintentional focal points. I used the paint to light or darken areas of hight contrast, like a dark spot in a newspaper image. 

One thing I wanted to emphasize with this project (something I often focus on) is that there are many ways to alter or manipulate collage elements to meet our needs. It is easy to take the mindset that we have to use things as we find them. 

The things I demonstrated are just as applicable to creating abstract images. Use layers of transparent acrylic paint to reduce some of the noise of collage elements or to alter the value or color of parts of your composition. Painting transparent layers is called "glazing". 

NEXT WEEK: I will be doing more glazing but with oil paint. There are a few glazing techniques that work best with oil paint. I will have some paint for you to experiment with if you do not have your own oil paint. 

Week 11

Today we started a new project. Last week I asked you to decide on a portrait you would like to paint. This could be a portrait where you try to create an actual likeness of their image or it could be something more abstract. It could be an attempt at representing a feeling you have about that person or a personality trait that could be completely abstract.  

I will be trying for a pretty accurate likeness with my demo painting but all the techniques I show you will be just as applicable to abstract images.  

Today I started with a full-size printout (12"x16") of the face I am working from, which is my daughter Eden's face. I used tracing paper to trace the outline of the head hand and shirt. You might choose to trace more detail. I will be adding more detail to this tracing at a later stage but for the moment I just need the big shapes.  

I then placed the tracing paper on top of my canvas and decided exactly where I wanted the face to be. While holding the tracing paper in place I put red transfer paper between the tracing paper and canvas (just like you would with carbon paper - color side down). Then I drew back over the lines on my tracing paper to transfer the lines to the canvas. 

I mentioned two ways you could find and apply collage elements to the portrait: 1. you could cut or tare out pieces of paper to fit the outline on the canvas or 2. you could do a transfer drawing (just like we just did with the transfer paper onto the canvas) of a complete shape of paper and cut it out so it is the exact shape you need it to be. Using the tracing paper you can find the exact part of the paper you want to use for the shape you are making. 

I think we often get it in our heads that we find interesting pictures, cut them out and force them into a composition we find interesting. Using traced shapes and transfer paper allows you to have more control over creating the exact shape you need rather than relying on what you can find.  

In my demo I did a transfer drawing of the hand shape onto a piece of newsprint. So you will notice that the hand is one solid piece of paper while the other areas are a bunch of smaller pieces. There are advantages to both approaches.  

NEXT WEEK: there is no class.  

IN TWO WEEKS: come with you portrait already started. I would like you to have the basic composition done and the basic shapes already collaged in - no blank canvas showing. I will finish covering my canvas before next class. In my next demo I am going to show you how to use transparent layers of acrylic paint to fix values and reduce the contrast in your collage elements. I will provide you with acrylic paint if you don't have any of your own.  

Week 10

Today was the third and final day spent on our current project. This project was all about how to create the illusion of 3D space. We have talked about overlapping, size variation, atmospheric perspective, linear perspective, light logic and today I talked a little about some visual cues that come from photography.

A photographer can set a camera to have a small or large area be in focus. The further something is from that area of focus the fuzzier it will be - regardless if it is closer or further from the camera lens.

Our familiarity with these visual cues of photography mean that we can invoke them even in non-representational artwork. In my demonstration I used the letter M. I had already established a fairly clear focal point in my composition last week, so I decided to reinforce that point with this idea of photography focal length. The two "M"s I have near the focal point are in "focus" and the "M"s that are either closer or further from the in-focus "M"s get blurry. I also use size variation. 

I created the image of all the "M"s in photoshop and printed them out on a laser printer. The technique I used to apply the "M"s to my collage from last class is called "Photo-transfer". See below for a couple videos I made demonstrating this technique.  

NEXT WEEK: we will be starting a new project. In my demonstration I will be making a portrait. If you would like to follow along bring a photograph of a portrait you would like to work from. While I am going to be making a portrait that actually looks like a face, you can choose to do a an abstract portrait. You will be able to employ the techniques I demonstrate whether you do a face or not. Either way bring any collage materials you would like to use to create a mixed media portrait and bring a new surface to work on. I will be starting with fairly straight forward collage in my first demo. So be prepared to start collaging. 


These are two videos demonstrating photo-transfer. The first is the "how to" video and the second is the "why you would do this" video.  

Week 9

Today was our second class on this project. In my demonstration I continued our discussion about space. Last week week we talked about some ways we can create the illusion of 3 dimensional space. The three we discussed specifically were: overlapping, size variation and atmospheric perspective.  

Today I went into more depth about atmospheric perspective and also how value can be used to create space. Generally speaking when there is more "atmosphere" or moisture in the air things farther from the viewer will appear: 1. lighter in value 2. less saturated 3. cooler in color temperature 4. lower contrast 5. less focused or detailed (fuzzier).  

We can use those visual cues to create the illusion of more space even with our image is abstract. In my demo I tried to use many of these things to create the illusion of depth. Two ways to achieve these visual characteristics of atmospheric perspective are 1. Collaging layers of semi-transparent white tissue paper on the areas you want to appear more distant and 2. using a high-grit sand paper to rough up the image.

NEXT WEEK: we will continue to talk about space. Make sure to bring the projects you worked on in class today.  

Week 7

This was the third and final week working on our plaster project. For the demonstration I talked about different kinds of masking. Masking is basically when we put something on the surface of our painting to protect it from being altered by paint or anything else.

The two main kinds of masks that I talked about are adhesive masks and floating masks.

What I am calling "adhesive" masks involve the use of a material that has a sticky (adhesive) side. For example if you use masking tape one side of the tape is sticky and helps keep the tape in place and also provides more protection. In addition to masking tape there are many other kinds of tapes, films, stickers, sprays etc. etc. that can be used to create an adhesive mask.   

A "floating" mask is when you use a material that has not adhesive to create a mask. For example if I wrap my painting in string and then spray paint the surface, then string will create a barrier (mask) that will keep the paint from hitting the parts that are covered by string. Torn paper, cloth, cut stencils etc etc. - there are also many options for "floating" masks. In my demo I tore a piece of paper palette to create a chevron-ish shape and then used a brush to gently dabb paint across the painting where I had the mask sitting. I repeated the same process, moving the floating masks a little each time and I got a nice pattern of chevron-ish shapes moving down my painting.  

By the end of the class I had completely re-painted my demo painting, so you will see no evidence of my demonstration in the pictures but I'll post pictures anyway:) 

NEXT WEEK: we will be talking about how to create "space" in your collages. I want you to come having thought about a kind of space you are interested in making art about. It could be a literal kind of space like a landscape or architectural space or it could be something more abstract or metaphorical like internal space or psychological space. Bring any supplies you want to work with and any collage materials you think will help you create your chosen type of space. 

Week 6

Today I demonstrated five different acrylic mediums that can be used to get a really wide range of effects.  

The plaster surface that we developed last week has some very unique visual qualities that I discussed as some length. If you do not like the plaster look you can seal it with gesso or matte medium and get the paint quality you would expect with a gessoed canvas.  

The four mediums I demonstrated are: airbrush medium (most watery), Novaplex 235 (very watery), Novaplex 233 (watery), Nova gel (thick and transparent), and lightweight texture paste (thick and opaque white). The different consistencies will offer different ways to manipulate paint. You can get some really soft watercolor effects with the airbrush paints and medium. The thicker mediums give you a way to continue to develop the surface texture - or maybe to get rid of some of the surface texture of the plaster strips. Of course you can combine them all too in any number of ways.  

NEXT WEEK: will be the final class for this project. I will continue developing the same piece using many of the same materials, but a different technique. Come prepared with any supplies you need and the project we have been working on these past two classes.  

Week 5

Today I demonstrated a product I really like called Plast'r Craft. It is essentially cheese cloth that is coated in plaster. All you need to do is get it wet and smooth it onto a rigid support (masonite or birch ply) and let it harden. Once it gets wet and dries it will cure and not re-wet.  

In my demonstration I showed you some of the many ways you can use this material to create a textured surface. You can apply it just as a plaster coating, but you can also use it to create thick textures and 3D relief elements. I used a cradled panel to mold a box that I then attached to a plywood panel. I also created an interesting 3D shape by applying the plaster strips to a piece of aluminum foil that I had shaped. 

Hopefully you got a feel for what is possible. It is very easy to work with a creates a thin hard shell that is strong without being heavy.  

NEXT WEEK: we will continue working on this project so make sure you bring it with you. I am going to be demonstrating how to use a variety or acrylic mediums to paint on the layer of plaster. Bring your acrylic paints if you have any. I will provide you with the mediums that I demonstrate, so you will be able to participate even if you don't have acrylic paints of your own. The lab fee you gave me today will help pay for the acrylic paint I bring next week.  


I started molding a box with plaster using a cradled panel then attached it to another panel with more plaster strips. 

Texture I got by applying plaster strips to shaped aluminum foil. 

Week 4

This was our last week working on our first project. There was no real demonstration, rather we talked more about your projects and the ways you are finding to develop your artwork.  

We ended the class with a critique and I was impressed by the work you have done so far. Somehow I forgot to take pictures, but everyone did an excellent job. I was most encouraged by how you all appear to be developing you ideas into finished pieces. Great work! 

Next week we will start a new three-week project. I am going to demonstrate how to use plaster to build up a textured surface. I will provide the plaster but you will need to bring some kind of rigid support - a piece of masonite or birch plywood or art board etc. Something that won't bend or buckle. What I am going to demonstrate is really easy to do and I think you will really like it.  

As we begin a new project don't forget all the we have been talking about regarding developing ideas and subject matter. I always want you to be making work that reflects something meaningful to you. The materials and techniques I demonstrate are just tools to help you express or explore your own ideas and subject matter.  

Week 3

We did not have class last week because of Labor Day so this is week 3 but only our second class.  

Last class I asked you to go home and gather anything that might give you insight into what you would like to accomplish in this class. I also asked you to write a brief description of what you intend to complete by the end of the semester. Finishing is an important part of creating and I want you to be committed to completing a set amount of work. 

For my demonstration I used Nick as an example. He wrote a brief explanation about wanting to use stamps and maps. He also knew he wanted to work on a large piece of watercolor paper. That is plenty to start with. We talked about several different directions Nick could take this simple combination of elements. Having the actual physical maps, stamps and paper in front of me I was able to experiment with different arrangements and start to figure out what it was that I found compelling about those materials.   

I suggested that art making is a process of experimentation and discovery. Too often there is an expectation that we need to know what we want to make before we start and rigidly stick to that initial inception. Making art can be a great way to learn more about the subject matter and find new meaning if you loosen your grip on a pre-determined final result.  

So you were to take the stuff you have brought to class and start arranging, removing and refining the ideas that compelled you to bring the stuff to class. I can't stress enough that having the actual physical objects, pieces of paper, written notes, color swatches etc. is essential. This is a good first step in getting those ephemeral feelings, ideas and visions out of your head and into the real world.  

NEXT WEEK: we will talk more about how to refine your ideas into a single coherent piece. Bring all the materials you will need and everything you began in class today.   

Some works-in-progress from class:  

Week 1


Class Exercise: What can you do in a day?  

I will provide materials for today's class.  

If you have any questions you can email me:

In my demonstration I used "bleeding" tissue paper to cover and acrylic matte medium on bristol board.
I asked you to fill a whole piece of bristol board with as much variety as you could achieve using the bleeding tissue and matte medium.  

After about 45 minutes I had you trade boards with another person and then find an interesting composition within the area of your partner's board using four pieces of white paper to crop. Then you cut out this section and put it up on the wall for critique. 

With this exercise I wanted to emphasis that rendering and composing are two different things. Too often when we are rendering an image we are not thinking about how that image relates to the whole composition we are putting it into.  

For example if you are making a painting of a face is would be easy to not think about the parts of the composition that are not the face even though those parts are just an important to successful composition. You then might recognize that something is wrong but not consider that you might not need to fix your face painting (rendering) rather you might need to fix how the face relates to the other elements of your composition like the negative space around the face.

I also wanted to suggest that it is perfectly acceptable to address composition after you are done rendering. As we did in this exercise you can enjoy just playing with materials and then come back after you are done rendering to edit out unnecessary or uninteresting parts of your rendering to achieve good composition.  Addressing rendering and composition separately like this works better for some artists. 


NEXT CLASS (in two weeks): bring a short written description of what you would like to accomplish in this class. It doesn't need to be more than a sentence or two. I would like you to have a concrete idea of what you want to do. This may be simply to follow along with my demonstrations.  

Also bring anything you have collected that will help you achieve your desired outcome. This might include photographs of subject matter you are interested it, clippings from magazines with colors you want to use or paintings you would like to emulate in some way. It could also be a quote or other text that has inspired you. Bring it all to class with you. If you know what materials you need, then bring those too.  

Week 14

Today was the third and final class spent on this project. In my demo we talked about how I might make the narrative of my image clearer by creating more of a focal point and other indications of how a viewer should read the image. 

Some of the ideas we came up with were making the boys had a more saturated red, adding red (compliment of green grass) flowers to the ground around the boys feet for more hue contrast and adding a rope between the boy's hand the deer to create more of a direct visual pathway from the boy to the deer. I also tried making the rope a little light as it got close to the deer to see if that gradation would also help create more movement along the rope.  

We also had a critique. 

For the next project I want to focus on color. This week collect collage elements that have interesting color - find as wide a variety as possible.  

Week 13

Today we talked about light logic. I showed you how the photographs I am trying to combine each have their own "light logic" meaning our eye is able to discern form and space even though the photograph is flat because of how light appears to be interacting with three dimensional objects in space.

Week 12

This week we began a new project. For this project I asked you to bring in some photographs to collage with. My demonstrations will be covering some of the challenges that we face when trying to create a believable environment out of multiple photographs. 

In this first demonstration I talked about the need to align perspective in all the photographic elements you will be collaging. This involves finding the horizon line (eye-level) in each of the photographs we are collaging with and making sure they are all aligned in the collage. This doesn't have to be very precise but the more dissimilar the perspective is between collage elements - the less they appear to occupy the same space.

Next week I will focus on reconciling light logic and color. Make sure you bring what you started today with you to class next week.

Week 11

This was the final week on this project. In my demonstration I talked about glueing three dimensional objects onto your collage. There are many considerations to make when gluing 3D object. If you are gluing a piece of metal onto a collage you would want to make sure you clean it really well before glueing, first with paint thinner and then  alcohol to remove and and other oils. You would also want to consider the weight of the object and how sturdy your surface is. With non-porous materials like metal or plastic it is also a good idea to rough them up a little with some high-grit sandpaper so the glue has some tooth to grab onto. For heavy, non-porous objects you might want to consider an epoxy glue or crazy glue or liquid nails - something strong. 

For my demonstration I was glueing a straw and some foam so hot glue was sufficient and convenient. There are so many different materials and applications that it is impossible to cover everything in one demonstration so come talk to me if you aren't sure about a specific material you are working with.

Next week we will start a new project. I would like to do a project where we combine two or more photographs into a cohesive, believable, representational space/scene. So bring an image of one or more landscapes or cityscapes and one or more people or things or animals to put into that space. I am going to talk about ways to reconcile differences in lighting and perspective. 

Week 10

Today we continued working on the project we started last class. I demonstrated a couple masking techniques: 1. using masking tape for sharp straight edges 2. "floating mask" which means the thing we use to mask does not have any adhesive to hold it down.

Masking is a very simple concept and I think some of you got confused during my demonstration because I was too wordy in my explanation. Basically masking in art is the same thing as a doctor or workman putting on a mask. We are using something to protect part or all of our artwork. The areas of the artwork that are covered are "masked".

In my demonstration I used really thin masking tape to mask off one of my pieces of collage (above-right) and to mask a straight line in the middle of the other (above-left) collage. After putting down the masking tape I covered the edge of the tape with some matte medium. The matte medium will creep under the edge of the tape a little and help seal that edge so when I paint with color I won't get little globs of color sneaking under the edge of the tape - you get a cleaner line this way. 

Once the matte medium dried I used the pointy side of the brush to make a pattern of orange and yellow dots. In the above-right collage the masking tape protected one of the larger yellow pieces of paper from my dot pattern and made the pattern appear to go behind that shape. In the above-left collage I made a very transparent yellow by adding a lot of matte medium to the color. I also tore a piece of paper to create a "floating mask" this just means that I put the torn piece of paper down on my collage to cover the part I didn't want painted. So on one side I had the masking tape creating a sharp edge and the other side I had the jagged edge of the torn piece of paper. I painting my transparent yellow on the part of my collage that was exposed between the two masked areas. It is very subtle but if you look close you can see the part of the collage with a yellow glaze - sharp top edge and jagged lower edge. 

There are a lot of ways to create and use masks. Just remember that it simply refers to anything you do to cover/protect one part of your artwork so you can work more freely on a specific area of your composition or so only the exposed areas are affected by alterations you make. 

Said too much again!