Black Gesso Drama

At the beginning of last week, I had been back from Ireland for about two weeks. I was anxious to get started on a series of my experiences, but I couldn’t quite get to any concepts that called to me.

Also, right after I got back, my classes at the University of New Mexico started, including one new class involving texture and different mediums.

Black Gesso

One of the products that I wanted students to try was black gesso. I hadn’t used it for quite a while, but I thought the students would find it interesting. After demonstrating the use of black gesso, I realized that it was just what I could use to represent the enigmatic energy and mystery that I felt in Ireland as illustrated in the photograph, below.

photo showing how black gesso could enhance this photo

Down Patrick Head, County Mayo, Ireland. Photo by Tim Anderson

Here is a little description of black gesso: Historically, it is for oil painting. It was traditionally used to prepare or prime a surface so oil paint would adhere to it. It is made from a combination of paint pigment, chalk, and glue binder. Gesso would protect the canvas fibers, provide a nice surface to work with and give a little flexibility so the canvas wouldn’t crack if it was rolled.

Acrylic gesso doesn’t contain glue. Acrylic paints are non-corrosive and stable over time, so you don’t need to worry about the paint damaging the canvas, and therefore, you don’t need the glue in the mix. So in making black gesso for acrylics, out went the glue.

painting showing how black gesso adds mystery to an image.

The Mystery of Time, acrylic on canvas, 24x30x1.5 inches.

I use gesso on all of my canvases before I paint. It makes the canvas ready to accept acrylic paint. Without gesso, paint can soak into the weave of the canvas.

So this past Monday I began a canvas prepared with black gesso. I wanted to use it to let it show through in random places. I liked the effect. So off I went getting a feel for how to represent the beauty and power of the Atlantic Ocean, the breathtaking cliffs and all of those shades of green that I saw. The above painting is the result-the first in a series.

I would love your critique.

Mark-Making

This past week I was in Phoenix, AZ attending Art Unraveled, a creative week of workshops and an art retreat that takes place every year. I always like to take workshops and classes. It helps me to grow as a painter when I can be inspired by new ideas. It is an adventure for me.

I spent my time taking classes from the abstract artist Joan Fullerton. Her style was fun, interesting, and effective. It is her belief that “abstract art encourages the imagination to run free. Inner and outer worlds collide making a space for new awareness to grow.”

Joan taught several mark-making and layering techniques that were what I was hoping for. We worked in mixed media which included acrylic paint and medium, acrylic paint pens, oil pastel, charcoal and ink. Each work started with random mark-making. We then used our materials to create whatever inspired us.

Ann Hart Marquis-Abstract 2

Abstract 2, mixed media on canvas, 14 x 18 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

I worked on stretched canvas and watercolor paper. The paintings above and below are on stretched canvas. They both developed rather quickly, in about 1½ hours. They may be finished, but I never know when a painting is done until I have lived with it for a while.

Ann Hart Marquis-Abstract 1

Abstract 1, mixed media on canvas, 14 x 18 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

They seem a little busy to me. What do you think?

Under-Layer Painting

The concept of layers is something that I often think about. For example, people have many layers.  We are complicated. It is what makes us unique and interesting. Layers give each person their own individuality. I also like to think about the layers in my paintings which gives them more depth. I paint landscapes and when I think about them, I focus on the layers such as the earth, hills, rocks, trees and sky. It’s all these layers that give a landscape character and a story.

Under-Layer Painting

It always takes time to build layers regardless of where they originate. In painting, I like to begin with a particular color all over my white canvas. That layer will influence an added layer either directly or indirectly. I frequently can let the under-layer influence the color on top of it or I can let it actually come through the paint.

If I use a blue green tint for the sky, I may use that color other places in the painting, frequently covering most of it with more color. My paintings proceed in this manner.

I take time with my paintings, building up the layers allowing the colors to interact with each other. It gives the work depth and makes it unique. The underlying layers have a chance to come through and influence the scene.

By using the back-end of my brush, I can scratch out one layer to reveal another. These are like the scars in the painting which also tell a story. Or I can incorporate charcoal into an area and then use paint to set it, adding interesting darks to the composition.

Ann Hart Marquis-Vie Une Reve-under-layer painting

Vie-un Rêve (Life-a Dream), acrylic on canvas, 14 x 14 x 1.5, 2012. ©Ann Hart Marquis

My painting,  Vie-un Rêve, is an example of using many layers. It would be very difficult for me to recreate this painting because the individual layers make the painting and help to tell a story.

Limited Palette With Red, Blue and Yellow

Sometimes when we first learn to paint, it is suggested that we use a limited palette of three primary colors—red, yellow and blue. Some teachers think that limiting oneself to just a few colors teaches us how to mix colors correctly, see value and temperature, and encourages thought and planning in our color choices.

Besides making it easier to learn about color temperatures, using a limited color palette offers more color harmony, the ability to make grays without the muddiness and less confusion because of fewer color choices. I have painted with a limited palette before and I have always liked the feeling of just using a few colors.

Colors in a limited palette can still be warmer or cooler in relation to other colors. Since the eye adjusts to what it looks at, it doesn’t feel as though any colors are missing. There are cool and warm reds, cool and warm yellows and so on. Here is the first on that I created:

Ann Hart Marquis-limited palette

Red, Blue, Yellow, Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, Ann Hart Marquis

Last week during an artist retreat, we experimented using only red, yellow and blue and white and black. The object was to create different tints, tones and shades of the 3 colors. It was interesting and fun for me to play and to see if I could easily come up with complementary color combinations or triad color combinations.

Ann Hart Marquis-limited palette

Red, Blue, Yellow #2, ,Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, Ann Hart Marquis

Ann Hart Marquis-Red, limited palette

Red, Blue, Yellow #3, ,Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, Ann Hart Marquis

Acrylic Painting on Paper

I have been experimenting lately with different painting techniques, styles and layering effects. Since one of my goals is to play, to loosen up, I decided to use watercolor paper with my acrylic paints rather than canvas.

To me canvas means being serious. It means working until I have a finished piece no matter how long it takes because I have an investment in the outcome. That is not what I want to do at this time.

Acrylic painting on paper is a wonderful combination and has a lovely look and feel. Watercolor paper has many different weights, textures and colors. I don’t buy expensive paper because I am playing and experimenting. I generally like 300 lb. paper. This grade of paper or a higher grade prevents most buckling and sagging. It also looks good in a frame, however, it is not my intention to frame my paintings.

I first tape my paper on a piece of plywood using painter tape. I then gesso it. I like to cover paper prior to painting over it with acrylic gesso. It seals the paper so that the paint does not sink in. It floats on the paper like it would on canvas.

This week I cut a large piece of paper in half and taped  both pieces to my board so that I could use the same palette on both of them. Again, I was playing. I haven’t worked on two pieces with the same palette for a long time. Here they are with green Frog painter tape in the middle and around the sides:

Playing -acrylic and paper

Playing with acrylic and paper

Next, I separated them to see how they looked alone and added some finishing touches:

Ann Hart Marquis-New Mexico Winter #3-acrylic painting on paper

New Mexico Winter #3, acrylic on paper, 10 x 14 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

Ann Hart Marquis-New Mexico Winter #4-acrylic painting on paper

New Mexico Winter #4, acrylic on paper, 10 x 14 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis