5 More Mistakes I Made As An Artist

I find it very helpful to take stock at the end of the year, both of my professional triumphs and even more helpful, of my professional flops. Listing mistakes not only prevents us from repeating them, but allows us to learn from them and to recognize how we might not be who we are today without them.

Last year during this festive holiday season I wrote two blog posts outlining 10 Mistakes I Made As An Artist, Part 1 and Part 2. I find it very helpful to take stock at the end of the year, both of my professional triumphs and even more helpful, my professional flops. Listing mistakes not only prevents us from repeating them, but allows us to learn from them and to recognize how we might not be who we are today without them. 

  1. Not putting my best work out there. I have heard over and over again by many artists and art mentors that its best to put only your best pieces out there and keep and rework the unsatisfactory ones. But I wonder how many actually do this when pressed for time getting ready for a show? I’ve made paintings that are just blah and I can’t take the time to figure it out because I have a deadline and rush, rush, rush, it’s gone to Fedex and hanging on a wall with me cringing at the opening. What’s kind of silly is that some of these paintings are the first to sell at said opening, which makes me even more depressed because then I realize I can’t even judge the quality of my own work! The root of the problem lies in poor planning, poor studio discipline and poor time management. I may not be able to understand why my not so good paintings sell and the ones I love collect dust in storage, but I can do better at working on my time and studio discipline problems, especially before a show. 
  2. Not attending enough openings. Like a lot of us artist types, I’m an introvert and a bit of an empath. I don’t mind being around people for the most part, but interacting at openings truly exhausts me, as do many large group social activities. I also find it difficult to view the work at openings, which is what I really want to do when I’m there. But openings aren’t really for intimately viewing art, openings are for supporting the artist, discussing the art and meeting new people. A few years ago I decided to make a New Year’s resolution to attend at least one opening and/or one artist talk a month. Even though I go through a little social anxiety beforehand, I’ve pretty much stuck to it and the experience has been quite rewarding. I don’t stay long, but I make a point to interact, to ask questions and to introduce myself to either the artist or to a few others while I’m there. I’ve met many people, some of whom I now call friends. I’ve seen some amazing shows and created a new habit of sharing the work I’ve seen on my Facebook. It’s been a veritable win/win/win and instead of dreading openings, I actually look forward to attending them.
  3. Not taking enough art classes/workshops. I spend a good deal of my time sharing with and teaching others and although I learn a lot from my students, sometimes I want to be in the student seat, having fun and making a mess with new ideas, new products and new voices. I have only taken two workshops in the 15 years since graduate school-One with Lisa Pressman and the other with Laura Moriarty and both workshops were worth their weight in gold. I was at a crossroads in my work during each workshop and they both shook me out of my doldrums, I am grateful. But there have been many, many workshops I’ve passed over for one reason or another-mostly lack of time. One resolution I will add to my 2019 list is to take a workshop every year. I’m keeping my eyes open for unique workshops with well known instructors in plein air painting, oil/chalk pastels, markmaking, collage, creative writing, Chinese brush painting, mixed media, just to name a few. Suggestions are welcome. 
  4. Not taking enough risk in my art. If you read my recent post, The Evolution of A Mark, you’re familiar with my early creative development involving a career in textile design. Because of this, it’s ingrained in me to create with sale-ability in mind. I have pretty much broken this mindset over many years but it still lurks in the darkest shadows of the studio and poisons my creative mojo. For this reason, I have had many ideas I simply repressed because they were too risqué and that is more than sad!! I made a list of these ideas as I have recommended other artists do and I have made some things on that list, but wish I’d made more. Emily Hopcian of Unsettled writes “the moments we most remember — those which make our stories rich, our lives worth living and our dreams worth pursuing — are the ones where we just say yes. When we plunge head first into the things that scare the shit out of us.” I need to silence the little voice that screams NO, tells me that it’s a dust collector I’m creating and no one will buy it and for Pete’s sake, quit worrying if no one will buy it!! 
  5. Making work I’m tired of making because it sells. Many times during my career I have said ‘this is exactly the work I should be making right now’ and those times feel so good! But too many times that ‘right now’ passes and it’s time to move on but I don’t. I like my current work, but I don’t love my current work. I feel it’s work I should have made two years ago and did make, but I feel I’ve lingered in making it too long because it’s comfortable. I’ve done this many times over my 15 year professional career and need to cut those lingerings short, create and  experiment with abandon and do it more often. 

Listing these mistakes at the end of the year helps in creating your Studio Resolutions for the following year. Stay tuned for my 2019 Studio Resolutions List coming up in January and read this post and this post for my 2018 Resolutions if you need ideas for your own list. I look forward to reading some of your resolutions in the comments section as well as some of your mistakes. (The comments tab is located at the top left of this post under the tags.)

I am overwhelmed by the support Art Bite Blog has received this year and I am truly grateful for all of you! Wishing you the very best of this Holiday Season, see you soon in 2019!

Encaustic PaintSmash: Tips, Composition & Things to Think About

I hope you’ve been getting into the last two Encaustic PaintSmash How-To’s and having some fun with it. In my last post I discussed a bit about how to carve out a composition from the hot mess slather of paint. Here, I get a bit more detailed regarding composition, plus some tips and things to think about while you work.

I hope you all had a great summer and are getting into my favorite fall season. I love feeling the crisp air, moon and star gazing through clear skies and being inspired by those amazing fall colors.

Fall also inspires new ideas, techniques and methods. I hope you’ve been getting into the last two Encaustic PaintSmash How-To’s and having some fun with it. In my last post I discussed a bit about how to carve out a composition from the hot mess slather of paint. Here, I get a bit more detailed regarding composition, plus some tips and things to think about while you work. For a review of Encaustic PaintSmash, visit this post for a How-To to making an alternative encaustic brush from flashing material and this post for a How-To and video link on how to use it. Also, visit this post for my favorite tools in which some of the tools I mention in this article are highlighted.

Go to my YouTube Channel for fun PaintSmash videos demonstrating scraping, carving, color use and using alternative brushes.

  1. Some tips to keep in mind.
    • Glide, don’t scrape with the razor blade. Make sure you hold your razor blade at a 45 degree angle, not straight up and down. Resist the urge to dig in, rather think of the word GLIDE and not SCRAPE, as you work with the razor blade.
    • Focus on small areas. As you begin to scrape all that slathery paint may be a bit overwhelming so make sure you focus on a small area and then another. Don’t try to scrape it all back at once. Some areas may need a lot of scraping while others may need very little.
    • Frequently evaluate your work. Take it from the table and hanging it vertically. The work changes with every scrape and changes drastically when you hang it vertically. If you’re confused about where to go next in the scraping process, hanging the work vertically will help you see more clearly.
    • Clean your tools frequently. Heat the metal slightly and wipe clean with paper towel. Cleaning your tools keeps the blades sharp and you in more control over what you’re doing by cutting down on that annoying gunking up thing that sometimes happens.
    • Save your scrapings. Use scrapings as color and/or add to paintings for more texture. Some of your scrapings will come off in a colorful ‘ribbon’. Add this form right back into the painting, use it like collage to add a small amount of color elsewhere in the painting. Fuse it with the torch, use your fingers or brayer to flatten it down. Leave it as is or scrape it back with the loop or Sculpture House tools.
    • Take a risk. Don’t be afraid to remove too much or try to “save” certain areas. The worst is not taking enough off in one area in order to ‘save’…if you do that too much, all that deliciousness underneath will never be revealed! You have to be able to take that risk and if you do remove something amazing, you’ll just as soon find something else just as amazing.
  2. Composition in any painting becomes stronger with color contrasts. Be open to these contrasts as you scrape. Look for (in no particular order):
    • Complimentary color combinations. Get yourself and nice big color wheel and hang it in your studio for reference. Even though I have color wheel burned into my brain from design school, I still reference my studio color wheel constantly.
    • Quiet next to busy. You will find many busy areas when you use the PaintSmash method of painting. Make sure you are balancing these textured, busy areas with solid, quieter areas of color. If you find you have too many busy areas, add a solid area with a brush.
    • Neutral tones next to brights. Use your grays, whites and earth tones next to brighter areas to make those bright colors vibrate and the composition dance.

Just Breathe: The Importance of Taking a Break

I love my chosen profession and I really do feel like I’m always on vacation. Anyone in any profession who loves what they do feels that way and I believe it’s especially easy to feel like that as an artist. But when you’re working seven days a week, 10-12 hours a day, even though you love what you do, you’re actually not on vacation.

I never do this, I never relax and never, really….just breathe.

I am of the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” school of thought and therefore, have had no summer vacation since graduate school fifteen years ago. Being a mid-30’s emerging artist/adjunct professor/waitress at that time and many years afterward really didn’t afford me the chance to slow down. I hit the ground running after graduate school and even now after two years of retirement from university teaching, I still feel like I haven’t taken a breath. Without that steady teaching paycheck I have been very focused on the business of art, generating multiple streams of income and remembering to paint every once in a while! I just went beyond a monumental birthday and realize I’m in my Golden Years..lol..and I just need a little break. More important than that realization is that I have given myself the permission to take a break.

I love my chosen profession and I really do feel like I’m always on vacation. Anyone in any profession who loves what they do feels that way and I believe it’s especially easy to feel like that as an artist. But when you’re working seven days a week, 10-12 hours a day, even though you love what you do, you’re actually not on vacation.

So just for the short month of August I have decided to give myself a break from writing this blog. I will happily return, refreshed and full of learned words on September 5. In the meantime, I will be focusing on creating work for Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show happening September 14-16. This is a very competitive, professionally run show that has been consistently ongoing since 1928 and I’m so grateful to have gotten in since applying for many years. I must get to work and make a good impression.

Take a break, my weary friends, you can paint when it’s 30 degrees and snowing! Enjoy the rest of your summer and don’t forget to breathe.

 

 

 

 

Encaustic PaintSmash: Basic Scraping Methods

After my last PaintSmash How-To explaining application of encaustic paint with your flashing brushes, you likely think I’ve gone completely mad, creating hot mess paintings with no rhyme or reason….maybe…but my madness is only temporary. Now I’m going to show you how to reel it back in, gain control of the madness and pull an interesting composition out of those colorful layers using several tools and methods.

After my last PaintSmash How-To explaining application of encaustic paint with your flashing brushes, you likely think I’ve gone completely mad, creating hot mess paintings with no rhyme or reason….maybe…but my madness is only temporary. Now I’m going to show you how to reel it back in, gain control of the madness and pull an interesting composition out of those colorful layers using several tools and methods. For a little review, visit this post for a How-To to making an alternative encaustic brush from flashing material and this post for a How-To and video link on how to use it. Also, visit this post for my favorite tools in which some of the tools I mention in this article are highlighted.

Follow the methods below to pull out, reveal and carve a composition. Use a combination of all of the methods and tools described below. Look for contrasts; solid, quieter areas of color next to busier areas, complimentary color combinations, grays, whites and earth tones next to brighter areas of color. Stay tuned for my next blog post in which I delve into composition a bit further.

What You Need (Visit this post for a comprehensive explanation of the razor blade, clay scraper and double-sided scraper tool)

  • Razor Blade
  • Clay Scraper
  • Double Sided Scraper Tool
  • An Encaustic Painting Preferably on wood with at least 8-15 layers of paint.
  • Iwatani Torch and/or heat gun
  • Time & Patience Yoga breathing, Zen

Methods (Go to my IGTV channel or to my new YouTube Channel to watch me begin to transform a chunky hot mess, PaintSmashed painting using the techniques below) Watch this video to see me demonstrate scraping using all three tools I discuss in the last blog post.

  1. Cold Scrape Best done at the start of your studio day before heating the board and by using the razor blade as your main tool. Scrape slowly without digging or gauging, taking off thin layers, little by little. Observe the subtle changes taking place on the surface of your painting. This method requires lots of patience, do not rush the process, you will be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
  2. Warm Scrape Your surface should be warm, tepid, NOT HOT, which may cause unwanted smearing and smushing. Slightly warm the surface with your heat gun or torch and scrape slowly without digging using the clay scraper or razor blade.
  3. Soft Scrape Self explanatory, but must be mentioned and must be practiced. Most people start scraping way too aggressively and way too hot. Make sure you’re not overheating and if you find you’re taking too much off or gauging, practice lightening up your pressure.
  4. Hard Scrape This method is to be used only in the event that you want to remove lots of layers at once using the loop or Sculpture House tools. I usually do this in only one section of a painting when things get a bit too busy and I want to add a chunk of a solid color. This method can also be used when you want to completely scrape back or ‘murder’ one of your paintings.
  5. Carve Use the double sided scraper tool, needles and other pointy tools to incise and carve shapes into the layers. There is no limit to the fun you will have revealing the layers and shaping a composition by digging out lines, marks and carving shapes. Watch me carve out a form (short version) OR (long version) using the double sided scraper tool.

Workshop Highlight: Surface Design & Layers at Madeline Island School of the Arts

If you are a fan of my early work and want to know the secrets of how I made it, then this is the workshop for you! Madeline Island School is ranked among the top five art and craft schools in the country because of the quality of instruction and loveliness of the surrounding area that inspires creativity.

If you are a fan of my early work and want to know the secrets of how I made it, then this is the workshop for you!

ENCAUSTIC MIXED MEDIA: SURFACE DESIGN & LAYERS
September 24-28
Madeline Island School of the Arts, LaPointe, WI
WORKSHOP DETAILS & REGISTRATION

Nestle in to the secluded Madeline Island in an absolutely gorgeous part of the world on Lake Superior. Madeline Island School is ranked among the top five art and craft schools in the country because of the quality of instruction and loveliness of the surrounding area which inspires creativity. If you’ve heard anything negative about the weather there, it’s a fib the locals spread so that they can keep the awesomeness to themselves!! I’m absolutely thrilled to be teaching at MISA this year and hope you will join me. See some lovely images of the school and read more about MISA and their location on their web site here .

Some of the materials, techniques and process we will cover include:

  • Creating patterns with shibori on fabric or paper using indigo, rust printing and bleach discharge.
  • Creating marks with heated metal and wood burning tools (pyrography)
  • Creating ornamental and repetitive patterns using encaustic with collage, stencils, tjaps and candy molds.
  • The application of thin layers of encaustic for collage-learn how to get rid of those blurry/bumpy areas when collaging into encaustic.
  • How to effectively mix, apply and fuse encaustic layers to best utilize it’s translucency and depth.
  • How to cover a panel with any fabric or paper and work back into it with encaustic.
  • How to incorporate line and drawing into your encaustic paintings using horsehair and other mixed media techniques.
  • How to incorporate stitch into your encaustic paintings for exciting textural surfaces.
  • How to make a perfect encaustic photo transfer.
  • How to create a flawlessly smooth encaustic surface.
  • The magic of the grid and how you can use it to create exciting compositions.
  • We will also discuss the conceptual use of layers, pattern and repetition with images, books and actual paintings for inspiration.
  • And so much more…just like all of my workshops, this one is taught from an experimental, alternative, hands-on approach…one never knows what other techniques and possibilities might pop up during the workshop.
  • Also in the spirit of all of my workshops, we will spend a lot of time exploring the surrounding landscape for found objects, photographs and inspiration.

See the gallery below for some workshop highlights and workshop work from a similar workshop I recently taught at RF Paints. For more information and highlights from workshops similar to this one, see this post, this post, this post and this post.

 

Encaustic Paint Smash 101: A How-To Using Alternative Brushes

Whether you consider yourself a professional artist or not, you still need to loosen up and get back to your inner infant artist–this is how I arrived at Paint Smash. This is the first of a series of tutorials on the subject and covers the use of alternative brushes for encaustic painting.

I have been developing a new method of encaustic painting called Paint Smash–the method is not so unlike the same term used to reference infants playing with paint–but I’m a real artist, you see ; ) Real artist or not, I still need to loosen up and get back to my inner infant artist and this is how I came to Paint Smash. In my last post I confessed that I have slowly been giving up the use of traditional brushes for DIY alternatives when painting in encaustic. I shared with you one of my brush making techniques using flashing to form any brush shape and size your waxy heart desires. Using tools like my flashing brushes in conjunction with other tools like mallets, brayers, rolling pins, fists, fingers and whatever else you can find, I’m pushing, smearing, slathering, punching, modeling the paint onto the substrate instead. Encaustic is a unique painting medium in that it can be worked as a liquid, solid and semi-solid, which lends itself fantastically to paint smashing. This tutorial is the start of a series of Paint Smash techniques that I will share with you in subsequent blog posts.

Please stayed tuned for my next post, another segment of Paint Smashing in which I show you the amazing things that are revealed when you scrape back your Paint Smash. Super fun!

But before we discuss scraping, you have to learn how to use your new amazing flashing brushes, it’s truly deceptively simple.

What you need

  • A variety of DIY flashing brushes and/or metal clay scrapers and/or Venetian Plaster applicators (see this post for how to make flashing brushes and/or prepare clay scrapers for encaustic painting)
  • Encaustic paint in a variety of contrasting colors AND lots of white-a variety of whites is best.
  • A variety of traditional encaustic painting brushes-hog’s bristle or hake.
  • A torch or heat gun for fusing (torch is best for this technique)
  • 2-6 painting panels prepared for encaustic painting

 

How To Do (Scroll down for video links)

  1. Line up your traditional and alternative brushes on your griddle like you normally would for encaustic painting.
  2. The griddle should be nice and hot (up to 200-215 degrees, check your surface temp) the paint should be swimmingly melty.
  3. Line up your boards (at least 2-4) side by side or in a grid. Prepare them with a few solid areas of color that you can apply using any brush you like, but this part is easier with a traditional encaustic brushes. You can also pour the paint instead of painting and not use a brush at all.
  4. I always begin with a patchwork of blocks or a loose grid of overlapping strips of color in a variety of sizes, but you can paint anything you want. Whatever you paint, make sure you are painting over all of your boards with continuity and not making a distinction between separate boards.
  5. Fuse with a torch. Your painting surface should be nice and hot (but not smeary) after this fuse.
  6.  Using one of your alternative brushes, scoop/lift the paint from the griddle surface-you can use one or both sides of the brush. Your brush should bend/flex a little as you pick up the paint.
  7. Transfer the paint to your painting surface by slowly slathering it on sort of like frosting a cake. Flip your brush from front to back as you transfer the paint. Again, your brush should flex a little as you paint. These early layers will go on relatively flat, but subsequent layers will cling and this is where it gets interesting.
  8. Change to a contrasting color and repeat the alternative brush painting process several times.
  9. Fuse every 2-3 layers.
  10. After a few uses of your alternative brush, add some areas of solid color with your traditional brushes. Preferred colors at this stage are white or lighter colors or very dark colors that will contrast and visually ‘clean up’ the chaotic mess you’ve seemingly made.
  11. Continue painting in this way until you’ve built up 10-20 layers–10 being at the lowest points (the valleys) and 20 being the the highest points (the hills). In other words, your paintings should be highly textured and multi-dimensional, ready for their first scrape.

Want to see a video demonstration of these techniques?

To see a video of scooping the paint from the griddle and applying it to the substrate, go to my new IGTV (InstagramTV) channel (@lorraineglessner1)

 

 

Encaustic Flashing Brush How-To

Tired of spending tons of money on traditional encaustic brushes? Learn how to make your own alternative encaustic brushes using flashing with this simple how-to.

Last week I posted on Instagram an encaustic ‘brush’ I made out of flashing. Well, I got so many questions and comments on both Insta and Facebook, I decided to postpone my original plan for this blog article and write a Flashing Brush How-To instead.

I first began using alternative brushes about 2 years ago and have gradually almost given up traditional brushes altogether, although they still serve a purpose for now. With the alternative brushes the paint is scooped off of the palette and applied like frosting a cake. The painting process is much more free, fast and FUN! I’ve even renamed my paint process, ‘Smashing Paint’ or ‘Paint Smash’…stay tuned for my next post when I’ll discuss this process in detail. Since using these brushes, I don’t stress over painting like I used to and I uncover the most fascinating forms and patterns when I scrape away the layers after the wax is applied this way. It’s amazingly fun!

I’m always looking for new and innovative ways of working and I first experimented with alternative encaustic brushes using flexible paint scrapers, but soon found them clunky and difficult to handle. I then moved on to Venetian plaster applicators, which I still use, but I find them a bit stiff and I really only like the medium and small size ones. Many years before this, I had purchased flexible clay scrapers-the real thin ones. I had originally purchased them to use as scrapers, but they were way to flimsy so I just threw them in my tool drawer and there they sat for years until I was looking for some flexible metal. To protect my fingers from the heat, I created a thick padding of duct tape and Viola! I finally found a use for those scrapers! They are perfect brushes in that the application is direct-there is no handle, no separation between your hand and the brush itself, which gives you both more and less control….more because its direct and less because the brush doesn’t hold the paint the way a traditional brush does. This may be frustrating for some, but it is kind of the reason for using alternative brushes.

After using the clay scrapers for a while, I became frustrated with their limited size and shape so that’s when I started making my flashing brushes. I can make any size or shape with some tin snips and a little duct tape, which averages less than a dollar per brush. Just a warning, that these brushes are crude and rude. I haven’t been making them for very long and I’m open to improvement suggestions. But…I’m saving tons of money and making cooler work! Now you can, too, by following the simple instructions below. Scroll down below the instructions to see some brush images, works in progress and finished work made with these brushes. Have fun making and please share images of the brushes you’ve made!

What You Need

IMG_2271

 

  • A small sheet of flashing material available at any home improvement store
  • Sharpie
  • Thick work gloves
  • A metal file
  • Tin snips
  • Duct tape


How To Do

  1. Work on a clean surface so you can keep an eye on any tiny metal shards.
  2. Draw out your brush shape on the flashing with the Sharpie. You could also cut freehand, but the tin snips are clunky so it’s best to have a guide. Start simple, you can get more complex as you make more brushes. Also, make sure to leave an inch or two at the bottom of the brush for a ‘handle’.
  3. Put your work gloves on to protect yourself from sharp edges
  4. Use the tin snips to cut the brush along your drawn lines. Watch those scraps, they are sharp!!
  5. File the edges of your brush down a bit so they aren’t so sharp and you’re ready to make your handle.
  6. Wrap the bottom of the brush several times with duct tape-at least 3-4 layers and you’re ready to paint!
  7. Make sure you clean up those tiny metal shards with a dustbuster or something that picks up teeny things, they really hurt if they get into your skin.