“Good landscape painting translates into good figure painting.” – John Singer Sargent

This past weekend I ventured out of my yard to paint plein air and went straight for probably the second toughest corner in our little town.  The first being where our one stop light is. “Tough” because I prefer to paint alone in a quiet studio. But, everyone that stopped to see what was going on was gracious, positive and curious. It was also part of a local plein air event so I had a built in support system.

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Starting to lay in the color

Suggested Supplies:

  • Pochade Box – Purchase one or find directions on making your own here
  • Bag – To carry it all
  • Palette – I made one to fit inside my pochade box. But you might prefer disposable for convenience.
  • Paints – I prefer oils and I tend to use Utrecht brand more than others. I carry the following: ultramarine blue, thalo blue, cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, titanium white, burnt umber, burnt sienna and sap green.
  • Pencil/pen and paper – to draw out thumbnail before beginning on canvas.
  • Brushes – I prefer round and flat sable or synthetic sable.  I find traditional bristle brushes to stiff. I carry 3-4 brushes.  Sizes are not uniform across brands and I use a variety depending on the best prices.
  • Mineral spirits – I carry mine with three jars.  One to carry full of the mineral spirits another to pour it into, and the third to pour the dirty/used liquid. This way I can have it clean as needed.
  • Linseed Oil – I paint with oil to this is a must have.  I carry a small jar.
  • Canvas/panel – I prefer painting on stretch canvas to panels.  Either 8X10″, 9X12 or 11X14″
  • Umbrella can be handy but I prefer to seek our areas in the shade.  Making another item to carry eliminated.
  • Hat – The few times this year I have painted outside I was SOOO glad I had worn a hat and prevented sun damage.
  • Apron – Mine is one my oldest daughter made in high school.  It is covered in paint an worn but it is my go-to.
  • Camera – To take a shot of what you are working on in case you need to finish it later in the studio.  It can also help give you a fresh view of what you are putting on the canvas.
  • Sunscreen – I live in Kansas and I am so pale I burst into flames when I step outside. So, sunscreen is a must.  I look for 30 spf and higher.
  • Misc – Paper towels or rags, wet wipes, MP3 player with headphones and of course snackage and drink
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Pochade Box

A pochade box is a portable small painting box you can take with you when painting plein air. The one I made has a small palette that fits inside, holes to insert paint brushes while working, and room for storage of supplies.

If I were to buy a pochade box new it would cost at least $150. There are a number of blogs that show how to make one of your own with cigar boxes and I have a friend that smokes cigars and is generous with giving them away. You can also find them online or from smoke shops for $5-10.  I gathered my supplies over the course of a few months, here and there. In the end it probably cost me about $30 in supplies. As I said the cigar boxes were free and I already had the tripod. You could also look online at as http://www.freecycle.org/ in your area.

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Some of the supplies used

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More supplies!

Supplies used:

  • Three cigar boxes.  I had two the same and one oddball but similar in size to the other two.
  • Small Hinges
  • Small bungee cords
  • Eye-and-Hook closure
  • Odd scraps of cedar wood found inside of cigar boxes – for palette shelves inside of box and for inserting t-nut into. I fyour box does not come with extra pieces of wood, you can always repurpose rullers etc…
  • 4-Bull clips – 1″ wide
  • Skill Saw
  • Dremel Tool – with small drill bit, and sander attachments
  • Pliers
  • Drill – with a variety of size drill bits to for brushes
  • Linseed Oil
  • Rag/Paper Towel
  • Sandpaper
  • T-Nut – either 1/4X20 or 1/4″X20X5/16″
  • Wood Glue
  • Mending Strips – for hinge on side of box
  • Small Screw – to join mending strips
  • Wing-Nut – to fit small screw
  • Small flat screw driver – from set used for computer/sewing machine repair
  • Standard camera tripod with extend-able legs
  • Hammer

The first thing you will want to do is to replace the hinges and closure on the box you use.  The ones put on cigar boxes are almost always weak and break easily.

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Palette made from bottom of the odd-ball third cigar box

Take apart the third odd ball sized cigar box and with skill saw, cut a square palette that will fit into the bottom of the other boxes.

Draw out the placement for the thumb hole. Use a Dremel Tool attachment or drill to make a hole  in the center of the marked area. Using the Dremel Tool or Skill Saw cut out the shape desired. Note: Of everything, this step probably took me the longest.

Once you have the size correct of palette and thumb hole sand the edges down smooth with either sandpaper or with the Dremel Tool.

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T-nut inserted into wood with the tripod attachment

Inside of all the cigar boxes were thin strips of wood that could be pulled out.  I took three strips and layered them together with wood glue, clamped them with the bull clips until dry. It should be plenty dry in a couple of hours.

This create a piece of wood approx 1/2″ thick. I then used the skill saw to cut an approximately 2×3″ shape.

Drill a hole in the center of the wood with a 1/4″ drill bit.

Insert the t-nut into the hole and tap it down with the hammer until the larger flat side is flush with the wood.

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T-nut attached to the bottom

Attach the piece of wood with the T-nut slightly more to toward the top of the box as shown. Due to the wight of the lid and a small canvas it will help to balance it when on the tripod.

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Minding Strips Attached

I put the mending strips on one side only. But you can put them on both if you want. I may wind up later doing that myself. Attach them as shown.

When the box is open, remove the wing-nut, use it and the small screw to connect the two strips.  This will give you the ability to choose the angle of your lid, or easel.

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Palette seasoned with linseed oil and mending strips in use

I used several layers of thin linseed oil on the palette to seal and season it before using. I think it gave it a nice aged looked :0) To do so you simply rub in a thin layer of oil and allow it to dry, and repeat a few times.

This also shows the mending strips in use.

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Palette shelf

Figure out how tall to make your scraps of square wood to enable the palette to rest inside of the box and not sit taller than the edge.  Glue each in a corner with wood glue.

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Brush rest

Carefully take off the hinges off the other box that is the same size as the one you are using.  On one of the half drill holes to insert the handles of your brushes, while painting. You probably will not be taking too many brushes with you so if you have a variety of sizes of 5-7 holes that will be more than enough. Test them out with the brushes you know you want to use and make necessary adjustments.

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Inside of the lid

You need to do something that will keep the lid from smacking up against the inside of the lid. Especially when the palette is covered in wet paint, and you don’t want to have to clean it off each time out in the field.  To help with this I put four thick buttons, one on each corner area to act as spacers.  I plan on also using a piece of wax paper, to keep the lid and palette from sticking together during travel.

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Bungee cords

Three layers, one with holes for brushes, the box you just created, and the other side of a box.  Wrap all three with the small bungee cords to keep secure. Inside of the two outer boxes you can store your paints, brushes, rags, 4 bull clips etc…

Consider cutting down the handles of a paint brushes that do not already fit.

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Designated Plein Air Kit

I chose to have a designated plein air kit:

  • The box materials I just created
  • A small jar to carry mineral spirits
  • Pencil
  • Small jar of linseed oil (and/or any other medium I choose to use)
  • Rags
  • Canvas
  • Plastic bag (to place dirty rags into)
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Completed Plein Air Box

When out in the field attach the box to your tripod, take the two extra halves and attach them with the bull clips and use your lid as an easel.

NOTE: I have seen ones with special attachments for the easel portion.  And I may try something similar in the future. Right now I plan on working fairly small and as portable as possible so this should work for now.

If you decide to build your own or have already and want to share, let us know! Either post links below or email us at art@dianedobsonbarton.com

I have been working on a series of small paintings of vintage cameras.  Yesterday I completed the 7th one. I randomly placed them on my studio wall, as seen below.

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8X10″ Oil on canvas – Studies of vintage cameras

This past weekend I was honored to have received ‘Best of Show’ in the Chanute Art Gallery Annual Neosho Valley Art Exhibit.

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Steve Greenwall critiquing exhibit

I am slowly catching up on the work I became behind on while ill this past month. (Cold gone bad) I have also started running again, in preparation for a 5K happening in three months. I am SO out of shape it is not funny. Would be nice to not be the last one over the finish line!

How to have an even sheen on the surface of your oil painting without using varnish.

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Example of the uneven sheen on an oil painting.

To remedy this problem you do what is called “Oiling Out”.

Oiling out will accomplish two things:

  1. It will make the colors appear more saturated
  2. Even out the surface shine.

You CAN do the same thing with a coat of varnish.  But there are advantages to oiling out vs. Varnish:

  1. Varnish can be removed, it does not meld with the oil paint as an oiling out would.
  2. The oil is absorbed into the oil paint itself and becomes part of the whole.
  3. It can be accomplished as soon as the painting surface is dry to the touch. Whereas a varnish seals the surface in such a way that the painting must be completely dry all the way through, or it can create problems. So unless you paint very thin it can takes months for the painting to dry enough to apply a coat of varnish.
  4. You can also continue painting over the oiling out layer, where with varnish this is not suggested.

So how do you do it?

Supplies:

  • Lint free cloth such as cheesecloth
  • 1″ Flat Paintbrush
  • Mixture of either oiling mixture: 50% Artist Medium + 50% Mineral Spirits or, 80% Stand Oil + 20% Turpentine.

Process:

  • Dust off the surface of the painting with a soft lint free cloth
  • Apply the oiling mixture generously with the paintbrush, making sure to cover the entire surface of the piece.
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Applying The Oiling Out Mixture

  • Let it set for 2-3 minutes to allow the oil to absorb a bit.
  • Wipe off the excess with a clean soft lint-free cloth (Such as cheesecloth)
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Wiping Off The Excess

  • Place the painting in a clean dust free environment to dry, just as you would any oil painting in progress.
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An example of the sheen after performing the “Oiling Out”.

Part Five – Gallery Wrapped Canvas

Part Four – Facial Proportions

Part Three – Palettes

Part Two –  Mediums

Part One – Materials

Gallery Wrapped Stretched Canvas

Materials:

Canvas – Duck canvas or linen, (unprimed)
Stretcher bars – Or 1” x 2” pine
Staples or tacks –To attach canvas to stretchers
Staple gun – Type found in hardware departments
Hammer – Helps to make precut stretchers square and to tap in any staples that need it.
Square – L shaped, metal preferred
Sewing Scissors – be sure they are sharp!
Gesso – As a sealer/primer to be used on the canvas surface
Miter saw – Necessary to cut stretchers at a 45 degree angle. Box is less expensive and will work, but if you can afford it an electric miter saw is a wonderful time and energy saver.
Nail Punch – Optional – used to help make staples flush to wood in corners
1- ½” Nails – Optional – used to make corners more secure
2” Paint Brush

Sources for Materials

Dick Blick – www.dickblick.com
Michaels
Sax Arts and Crafts
Home Depot
Wal-Mart
Ben Franklin

Creating a Stretched Canvas

Choose size desired for a finished canvas. Keep in mind if you want to frame it with a standard size frame, you will want to go with sizes easily available. 5” x 7’, 8” x 10”, 11” x 14”, 12” x 16’, and 18” x 24”, anything larger would likely need to be specially made. You will find most commercial framers are willing to work with just about any size of canvas you wish to frame. But if in doubt, inquire with your framer.

If you are cutting your own 1”x 2”s, inspect them before purchase for bowing and/or excessive knotting. 1” x 2” usually comes in a length of ten feet. Most lumber yards will cut them down to a smaller size if it works better for you to handle. Some will go so far as to cut the 45 degree corners for you to length. But since this is ground for your art work, you will probably prefer to cut your own, to ensure a tight fit and correct size.

Once home simply cut the ends to meet in a 45 degree angle. Be sure to keep in mind the end measurement of your canvas will equal the longest edge of the corner when assembled.

How you actually attach your corners will depend if you purchased, or cut your own. ** See below if you have purchased your bars.

Lay the large metal square down on a flat surface. On the inside corner of the square lay down the stretcher bars against the edge. Lay down all four edges to be sure they are the right size, and double check for warping of wood and other imperfections. If they aren’t this is the time to make adjustments, not after they are attached to each other.

Before attaching to each other, BE SURE THEY ARE SQUARE! It works best to worry only about 2 pieces at a time, at this point. So remove two of the bars and concern yourself with just what is happening in the corner of the square

If you have cut your own, it works well to simple staple them together on both side. It is usually a good idea to put at least 2-3 lined up in a row.


Be sure that they are flush as possible with the surface of the wood. If not they will create a ‘bump’ on the canvas that is not a desirable end result. To do this tap with a hammer or use a nail punch. Be sure to recheck that things are still good and square. Turn over carefully and do the same process to the other side. Be careful when turning over that you do not cause the first staples to come out or twist. It is important to do both sides, so that there is adequate reinforcement.

When all four sides are connected, ensure they all are square with each other, an old carpenters trick is to simply measure from corner to corner crosswise, if they measure the same than they are still square.

**If you have purchased your stretcher bars they more than likely have tongue and groove ends. These ends will fit into each other and create 4-90 degree corners. Simply tap or push the ends into each other until tight and square. Your purchased bars also come with small pieces of wood called ‘keys’. These are pushed into the openings in the inside corners to help make it tighter and more stable. Some artist will also tap in a small nail, or staple the corners to ensure they do not move when stretching canvas on them.


Lay your canvas material onto a clean flat surface. Laying the stretcher bars on top, and measure around the stretcher bars about 3 inches of extra material on each side.

Starting on one edge fold the fabric up and over the edge of the stretcher bar, staple the canvas to the bar in the center.


Pull the canvas snug and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat on the remaining two sides. Be sure to pull canvas snug each time, before it is stapled.


Starting on the edge you began with. Place staples approximately 2” apart all the way around, except for the very corners. Then do this on all four sides.


There are several ways one can create a corner that will work for various needs. Our goal is to create one that will work for a professional looking corner, with or without a frame. If done correctly, you can paint around the sides of the canvas and hang it without a frame and it will appear professional, with very clean lines. No matter what style of painting you may have.

It may take some practice to get the hang of folding the corners and have a smooth edge. But take your time; it is well worth it in the end.

*Preparing to fold corner
*Folding corner
*Folded corner

*Folded corner from side

*Corner folded and snug, stapled down.

Priming Canvas

NOTE: If you use pre-primed canvas the following is not necessary.

Lay down your stretched canvas painting side up. Wipe away any stray threads or dust that may have attached them selves when stretching. If necessary use a damp cloth.

Going in one direction and using your 2” brush apply gesso to the surface. Be sure to paint the edges of the canvas also! Allow this first coat to dry thoroughly.

You can leave the canvas as it is for a slightly rough tooth surface, which works well for general use. Or if you want a rougher surface to paint you can add pumice, marble dust, sand, or about any other materials to the next coat to increase the surface tension. If you want a smooth surface, take fine sand paper and lightly sand the surface between coats of gesso.  Allowing the gesso to dry well each time.

Tip: Apply 1-2 more coats depending upon surface desired. Be sure to go a different direct for each coat of gesso. This will help to build a stronger and longer lasting surface.

*TIP – If you used cotton duck canvas and find a ‘dent’ anywhere on your canvas wish you can fix this with a spray of water on the back side of your canvas. Allow the water to dry and the canvas will stretch back into its original shape. If you did not use Duck canvas and find yourself in a similar situation, there are more high tech materials on the market, than our use of a water bottle. How you handle the situation depends on the materials used. We suggest you check with your art material supplier for products available and their use.

Part Four – Facial Proportions

Part Three – Palettes

Part Two –  Mediums

Part One – Materials

As I type this we are covered in a 2″ sheet of snow and sleet, and I don’t think we are done yet. This gives me a great excuse to stay inside and practice my “hermitude”.

This week I spent time on a head-study.  Working on it was a struggle.  I just could not get into it. You know that grove you get into as a creative where everything else disappears and hours pass before you know it? Yea, that didn’t happen. But in hind-sight I like some of the looseness of it. Although it seems very neutral and non-committal, it reflects my mood at the time. So I am going with it.

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NFS

Today I will be beginning the first in a possible series of vintage cameras. There is a turquoise colored model in particular I am interested. But, I do not want to go too far down the rabbit hole of still-life right now.

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Flowers in Feb

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Kansas Sky

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Chalkboard wall In work room always gets attention when people pop over.
I think it’s supposed to be a dragon?

 

Facial proportions can vary according to ethnic background and gender. Traditionally men have more angular faces and more pronounced brow just above the eyebrow line. Examine the images shown to see how the eyes fall in the middle of the entire skull, between the tip of the head and chin. In-between the eyes is a space equal to the width of one of the eyes. Halfway between the eyes and the tip of the chin is the line where the mouth opening will fall. Although the model on the left is a young adult female, the proportions are the same as an adult. Her features are merely softer and less angular than seen in an older mature looking individual.

Remember these are merely guidelines and will need to be adjusted to fit the subject that you are depicting. Below is that of a middle-aged male’s profile. When you are drawing a subject keep in mind where your light source is coming from, the same rules apply to drawing a human being as to drawing anything else. The trick is to be objective and to draw what you see and not what you think you know. Look at the subject carefully and try to look at the person you are drawing more than the paper you are drawing on. Always work from life whenever possible, if you can not find a model or do not feel comfortable doing so as of yet, just use a mirror and do a self-portrait.

 

Part Three – Palettes

Part Two –  Mediums

Part One – Materials

 

This week included a couple of head studies in oil, and an unexpected field trip.

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9X12″ Study Oil on Canvas

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9X12″ Study Oil on Canvas

I had a meeting to go to this week in Garnett, KS.  You can imagine how pleased I was to see that their Public Library also included an impressive Walker Art Gallery.

I did not plan ahead and only had my cell phone to take pictures. And well my cell phone takes terrible pictures due to the lens being scratched up. The collection includes Manet, Chihuly, John Stuart Curry and Robert Henri. Pretty impressive for our little corner of Kansas!

IMAG0102Example of a blurry cell phone pic of Manet.
Yes, THAT Manet.

Next week I will have the fourth installment of the “Painting in Oil Series” :0)

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