Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pink Liliums, Using Warm Glazing To Recede Objects

Pink Liliums  
11 x 14 inches.
Watercolor on Paper.
Collection of Librada Dela Fuente

Finding flowers to paint can seem like an adventure sometimes.  There was this one time when I was so fixated on some cannas growing by the highway that I had to stop and take pictures.  I was so engrossed in taking reference photos that I did not notice there was a fence and a house behind the plants.  The owners called the local authorities fearing that I was scouting their house to rob. I had to do some explaining but it was a good thing that happened too because now I'm more aware of the surroundings and make sure to ask permission first before I even take out my camera.  I also would sometimes travel to a place I've been told grows this and that plant.  Even friends and families support me in my hunts for they would call me whenever they spot beautiful and unusual flowers where they go.  My father, specially, is very supportive. He would often drive for me when I'm on a flower hunt and even offers to buy cuttings of plants that he thinks I would be interested in.  I'm very lucky to have relatives who support me in my interest.  I have a grand aunt in particular who I'm very grateful to.  When she learned that I paint flowers, she opened her garden to me and would send me home with the car packed full of plants that she thinks I would enjoy growing and painting.  And when I say packed full, I mean trunk is full and my passengers even have plants on their laps and cramping their legrooms. I can't help but smile as I drive us home with our mobile garden.  I cannot thank lola Badeng enough for opening such a resource to me.  Imagine our surprise when a cutting she gave my parents years ago suddenly bloomed one day and it was a jade vine.  Quite rare in this day and age.  First time also for me to see a morning glory in actuality.  When I learned that she likes to collect paintings, I made this to gift to her.  She liked it very much and I'm very happy when next I visited her house that she placed it in a position of honor, next to a painting of Mrs Araceli Limcaco Dans.  Don't you just love your lolas (grandmas / grandaunts).

About this painting.   One technique to show depth of field is by varying the temperature of the different planes in your painting to simulate how the subject would look in real life as affected by atmosphere. Often, guided by what we see in nature and in landscapes, we have been told to use cool colors to recede objects and warm colors to advance them.  I have often used this technique in many of my paintings.  Cool colors like the blues and the greens are very good for receding the background and making your warm floral pop out.  For this one though, I decided to use warm glazing* on the background and kept instead the cooler version of pink on the main flower or focal point.  I think it works just as well in making the main flower stand out.  The important principle is to play the warm against the cool colors.  If you use cool glazing to push objects towards the back, use more warm colors on the objects in the foreground.  If you are opting for warm glazing, remember to use cool versions of colors on your foreground to differentiate or show that it is not on the same plane as the background.

*Glazing is the application of a watercolor wash over an object or area in your painting to diminish its prominence or brilliance. Transparent watercolors are very good for glazing as these allow you to still see what is under the paint film clearly.  Glazing is not just limited to watercolors.  The technique is also used with the other mediums like oil and acrylic but the important thing is the glaze has to be transparent to work.  Glazing is like using colored filter on your camera lens to alter the temperature of the object and background you are viewing.  But unlike with the camera, painting allows you to selectively target specific areas within your painting to use this "filter" on. Glazes may be done using cool or warm colors.  For a clean glaze application  (your objective is not to disturb the underlying layer), make sure the area to receive the glazing has already dried.  Use a soft touch when applying the wash.  A heavy hand may provide enough force to displace already dried paint. If using multiple glazes, make sure also to dry completely in between applications.

While the original Pink Liliums is no longer available, prints of it may be ordered at Fine Art  America.   Follow the link to its page.  http://fineartamerica.com/featured/1-pink-liliums-karen-sioson.html

Thank you very much for looking

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Striped Orchids

30 x 40 watercolor I'm working on.   I mostly do my color mixing on the paper itself.  This one uses a limited palette:  Winsor Lemon, Permanent Rose, Permanent Sap Green, Cobalt Blue and Indanthrene blue. All winsor and newton artist tube watercolors on Arches cold pressed 140.

And here is the finished piece.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Framing & Hanging Your Artworks In A Tropical Country

Protection from Damp
Suggestions on how to frame and hang your artworks in a Tropical Country.

This is something that I have observed of artworks in a tropical country like the Philippines.  Artworks that are hanging may get mildew and mold damage over time, if not cared for properly.  It is because of the very wet weather that we have during the rainy season that dampness takes its toll.  (The Philippines has only two seasons: the dry (summer) and the wet season (rainy)).  During the rainy months, you won’t find anything dry outside and the air inside your houses can be charged with moisture.  Theoretically, framing and matting your artworks should have been enough to protect the artwork.  I’ve always thought myself that the glass should be enough to protect from dust and moisture and that the sealing of the opening at the back with tape should do the trick.  What most of us do not realize is that dampness can enter the frame from the not so obvious direction, through the surface of the backing.  I’ve come across the problem of walls getting water-logged and affecting the house paint during the rainy season before from our Design classes back in college.  But I did not correlate the phenomena with the problem with framed paintings until I began closely observing and after “operating” on a damaged painting.  I have always taken my early paintings to be professionally framed so I really have no idea what goes on behind the framing.  But curiosity always gets the best of me so I opened one.  I realized that the water damage started from the back (from the watermarks) and worked its way inside the painting.  The contact of the backing or its proximity to the wall surface must be what is causing the water to seep into the backing.  To test this theory, I started elevating some newer paintings  and some of my mother’s and sister’s framed cross-stitched projects.  After ten years, the elevated frames sustained almost no damage while the regularly hanged works got mildew and mold stains.  Hanged on the same wall, both quite some distance away from the nearest window.  

This cross-stitch of a leopard had its back (the bottom part at least) against the wall.  

While this fruit basket cross-stitch, I elevated from the wall with this stick pin used for maps.

I made my conclusion that simply elevating your framed pieces off the wall could do much for its protection.  I would recommend something more simple now for this purpose.  Use plastic bottle caps.  Attach them to the back of the painting with double sided tape to create “legs”.  Don’t worry, if you attach it further inside the painting, they will not be seen by your viewers but they would still work their magic.  These legs would create breathing space between the wall and your framed piece and will cut off the capillary action between the backing and the wall during the wet weather.   For small paintings, one for each corner will do.  For larger works, I add extras along the mid sides. 

See, barely noticeable.

I mentioned earlier that I operated on the framed painting and here is what I found out.  Contrary to what we have agreed on, one framer used adhesives to secure my watercolor onto the back mat.  A board with a sticker surface was used as a back mat.  When I questioned them later, I was told this is standard practice for cross-stitched works and therefore something they don’t think about twice for using on painted paper.  They are not familiar with the concept of acid-free materials so I’m surmising this adhesive is probably not up to standard.  It did cause a discoloration in the back part of the watercolor paper which later travelled to the front of the painting.  (Although I’m probably the only one who can see the “damage” :D)  The front two mats were glued to each other using clear tape which also came into direct contact with the painting.  As many of you probably guessed, when these office tapes yellowed over the years, the part in contact with the painting also discolored.  The painting itself was cut to within half an inch of the painted surface and again secured to the backing with clear tape on all sides.  So much for the 3 and sometimes 4 inch allowance I always put on my painting’s margins and for the specific instructions not to cut the said margin.  This is just a precaution on my part.  I was thinking if I placed this much space between the painted area and the edge, then if they used tape adhesives, I would still have some safety zone between the tape and the painted surface.   Anyway, lesson learned.  If you want something done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself.  

I looked for another framer and luckily found one that was very accomodating.   They didn’t question when I ordered a frame without ever showing the painting.  Just specified the window for the mat, mat width and frame type.  I just asked them to make the back fasteners the kind that you can bend open and close. 

Here are some solutions you can try to correct the inside of your framing if you’re not sure about the archivalness of your frame and mat.

1. Coat the inside surfaces that get in contact with your painting with gesso.  Gesso is basically made of calcium carbonate – a base substance.  By applying a layer of gesso on a mat, you’re creating a buffer layer between your painting and the board making the surface, acid-free.  I apply it to the base mat and the top mats on the side where they are in contact with the painting. 

2.  Use only acid-free tape.  Preferably the white paper artist tapes that have a built in adhesive on one side (like masking tape).  The brown acid-free gum tapes may be acid-free but the brown paper discolors over time.

3.  When attaching the painting, I do not directly glue the painting paper onto the mat nor use tape (even if acid-free) on the painting.  I make photo corners and side holders from watercolor paper left-overs.   I attach the holders with the white tape to the backboard to keep the painting in place.

Here's a sample of how I mounted and framed the wide format lavander orchids.  The holders close against the top mat once you put everything together.  One plus side is that should the painting be bought and the buyer not like the frame, you can take it out of the frame with no marks showing on the painting.  In effect, you have an archival storage for your unsold paintings.

Here you can see how the holders lock on the painting when you place the top mat (windowed matting) over the painting and bottom mat.

4. Also, make sure that the board used to close the back of the frame is covered with gummed paper tape.  I noticed that when you leave this part bare to the elements, it is conducive to water seepage.  Bare ply board, because of the exposed fibers.  Line this outside side with gummed paper tape.  Granted, the paper may also be absorbent.  But it is probably because of this absorbency that it ends up protecting the inside of the frame. The gummed paper tape also dries faster than the wood and perhaps sucks the little moisture that got inside out again.  Apply the gummed paper tape and make sure to dry it completely before you put the backing on the frame.

To close the back of the painting, use self-adhesive crepe paper.  Shown in the picture above is the use of gummed paper tape to close the painting but I have found out later this may not be the best tape to use for sealing the space between the backboard and the painting frame.  The gummed paper tape adheres securely only on wooden frames and panels.  It will lift when used on carbon composite frames.  I found out about the self-adhesive crepe paper tape when I interviewed my new framer framer on why his paper tapes stick so securely when mine lifts when it gets bone dry.  Easy mistake to make as both paper tapes look similar at first glance.  The crepe paper tape might also be called another name in other stores.  So I will include the general description.  The crepe paper tape is thicker, has a shinier surface and has a built in ready to stick side.  Shown below is the test I did with the crepe paper tape. I taped a corner and an edge and the adherence is still strong after 2 months.  So for general closing and dust sealing of the frame, use self-adhesive crepe paper  and for covering the backboard area, use gummed paper tapes.

Some concerns that you may have:

Does this method of attaching the painting make it more prone to buckling during weather changes?
After observing for several months, I did not see any buckling on the painting. I was told that this may be due to the fact that the painting is able to expand and contract and move within the holder.  Another plus side for not using adhesive directly onto your painting. Here's the wetcanvas forum link where we had quite an interesting discussion regarding framing and matting.
I felt more at ease after having read the input of Rose who also does framing. Thank you Rose.

Is Gesso ok to use?
Something only time could tell.  For now, it seems to be working well.  Once dry, the gesso did not leave smear marks on the painting. I did not see any mildew on the lavander orchids when I took it out months later.  There was also no mildew or any discoloration on the gessoed part despite the wet weather we've been having the past months.  I am still continuing the research and hopefully be able to get an expert's opinion regarding this practice.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Water Hyacinth

30 x 36 inches
watercolor on paper

I love big paintings. If not for the factor of the heaviness of the frame, I'd like to try painting a 4 x 8 or 4 x 12 feet watercolor. That's the size of the plywood sheets we have here that I can use as a backing. Of course, there's the expense of the paint to consider but if I get a paint sponsor and have an affordable alternative for framing, I may just go for it. 

I usually choose the flower I'll be painting according to the color I'm fixated in at the moment. I can't really say I was in a blue mood because people tend to associate blue with sadness. When I'm painting, I can't remember not being happy or not enjoying it. From the sketching, preparing the paper, transferring the drawing to painting, the purposefulness is calming and gives me a happy feeling. I like challenges and figuring how things work. The problem is once I get how it works, I can be distracted by other projects... other colors. Hence, the several months that elapsed between start and finish. But I think it did good too. The colors sank really well into the paper. When I applied the finishing touches, the previous washes didn't get disturbed by the brush passages. I wasn't worried about environmental damage, I kept the painting well protected in the meantime. I remembered it when I realized I needed the backing for another painting I'm planning. I think not seeing it for a long time helped me see it in a new light too and I was able to solve things that have stumped me before.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Step-by-step of my Oriental Painting-Inspired-Cloisonne

First oriental painting inspired cloisonne.
20 x 28 inches (approx)

I was able to take pictures of the painting in various stages and here is how it was done.

As with most of my paintings, I draw everything beforehand on Manila paper.  It allows me the freedom to move elements about, erasing and re-drawing several times, without fear of ruining the watercolor paper's surface.

I first map out all the major forms and design with pencil.

I would refine the drawings and ink them when once I am satisfied with the results.

Once the whole drawing has been inked, I proceed with transferring the drawing onto the watercolor paper.  

Shown above, the transferred drawing with its first application of gold acrylic.  While you can do the gold outlines last, I prefer to do it first because the first application is usually the messiest.  There is more tendency to make mistakes.  I use a ruling pen to apply thinned gold arylic and find that sometimes when the nib catches on the paper, your hand can jerk and go out of line or the paint would suddenly blot.  Acrylics are correctable while still wet but are almost permanent when dry.  Because I'm not worrying about watercolor paints already in place, I can erase mistakes easily by re-wetting the area with clear water and blotting with a tissue paper until the errant acrylic is erased.  The succeeding applications of gold outline gets easier because the ruling pen's nib glides onto the smoother first outline application.

In case you are wondering what a ruling pen is.  It functions much like a fountain pen and is used by draftsmen to create straight lines.  It is designed for use with inks which goes into the open barrel (space between the prongs).  You adjust the thickness of the line by rotating the wheel tighter or looser which narrows or widens the nib's opening.  You can use liquid acrylics with this pen.  Picture shows a recycled craft pen I use to inject acrylic into the barrel.   Use acrylic medium or water to get the right consistency for the gold acrylic so it will flow through the nib. 

Next, I would apply the watercolor.  The hard part for me is how to keep everything stylized and less detailed.
I try to imagine how enamel looks like and for each of the outlined spaces, I try to use only a single color and enhance the illusion of it being made from enamel, by applying a darker shade of the color next to where it touches the outlines only.  Next would be the re-application of the gold outlines.
I apply a minimum of 4 to 5 layers of gold acrylic to get that embossed look.  Requires a lot of patience but the result is worth it.   Make sure to dry completely in between.  Despite the thickness, the adherence between the layers is well and the finished painting even withstands shipping and storing in a rolled position.
So that is how it is done.

Thank you for looking

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cloisonne – The Beginning.

From being a watercolor purist and realist to incorporating acrylics, gessoes with watercolors and painting stylized florals, it all came about because of a gift. Actually, several gifts from my friend Rowena. On one of her visits to the country, she gave me a very beautiful painted silk scarf by the artist Haiying. She also gave me a gift set of silk paints, projects (silk squares with gutta drawn designs on it ready for the application of paint, the prepared projects also done by Haiying) and gutta paint. I must admit I had a bit of trouble trying on silk painting. It looked easy but the liquid paints proved hard to control as they spread by themselves with only the gutta holding them back. Inspired by Haiying’s work, I wanted to design my own scarf. Because I was still apprehensive about the new materials and really am just afraid of making mistakes, I felt I needed to do a preliminary drawing or design first before I would even dare touch the guttha. Of course, I would use the materials available to me which are watercolor paper and my watercolors. I had to go on a search and found gold poster paint from the local art/school supplies store to mimic the gutta on paper. The most difficulty I had was with the designing. I’m used to painting very realistically and am very meticulous with details. You can say I’m a bit of an obsessive compulsive when it comes to my floral paintings. But what looks natural and even impressive in a painting may not look so flattering in fabric. I had to adjust to seeing and painting things in their most basic or simpler but still recognizable forms and because I’ve earlier tried the silk paints, I knew the gold outlining would play a major role. My first attempt resulted in Passion Flower No.1.

Rowena liked it and requested I do more. So I explored other flowers and fruits too. Now the silk painting project is on hold because I’m having so much fun doing the paper version. Others who saw the cloissone paintings seemed to like it too. So now it seems this new style will be here to stay. For lack of a name to call the style, I started referring to it as faux cloissone as it reminded me a lot of works in cloissone. Later, after having learned that others have also painted in the same style and have used the term cloissone paintings, I dropped the faux before it. Everybody knew anyway it wasn’t real cloissone being made of paint and paper. The only changes I’ve made is replacing the gold poster paint with artist quality gold acrylic and using acrylic medium to make the gold outlining not only shinnier but more pronounced or embossed.
Below are earlier works in cloissone. These are not available anymore but which I included just to give you an idea on how it looked in the beginning.

Wild Vine 2.
Later, I would realize the plant/vine is actually a passion flower.

Sugar Apple or Atis.
My first try at painting fruits.

Red Flowers.
A few years ago, I took pics of a wild growing red flowered plant in the backyard. Never found out what it was called.

Close up of a passion flower.


This is the Filipino version of the rose. The plant has very fragrant blooms. Much stronger than those of the rose.

My plans for the future will include landscapes, portraits and still life in cloissone. But that may be a long way off still. I’m still doing studies at the moment and testing the lightfastness of the other metallic paints (copper, bronze).
Aside from cloissones, I will still paint in realistic watercolors.

Friday, May 28, 2010

More Cloisonne Paintings

All cloisonne paintings below are of the same size:
7.25 inches x 8.5 inches (painted surface only) with at least an inch border on all sides.
Category is Watermedia. Watercolors + Acrylics.

Red Chrysanthemums.

I think I'll be turning towards more oriental painting inspired designs. Enjoyed the making of this one immensely.

Yellow Cosmos     SOLD
I hope I got the name right. For this piece. I opted to color the leaves in shades of blue and purple to complement the color of the flower.
Now a collection of Miss Kristina Porter.

Thank you Kristina and I'm very happy that 5 of these paintings have found a warm home. Hi to Siana!

Fuschia Bougainvillea No.2    SOLD
Unlike the first one, this is completely covered with paint. The white acrylic I used made the background look enameled. Also falls under watermedia : watercolors and acrylic on paper.

Collection of Miss Kristina Porter

Yellow Cattleyas    SOLD
Playing with texture on this one.
Collection of Miss Kristina Porter

Passion Flower No.4

Passion Flower No.3   SOLD
Collection of Miss Kristina Porter

Chrysanthemum No.1    SOLD
Flowers are pink with purple middles. The gold outlining here is more pronounced. I've recently gotten my hands on an acrylic additive / medium which when used with the gold acrylic paint produces a very metallic and smooth finish. Layered on multiple times, it produces a more embossed gold outlining. I like how it imparts a sense of texture to the finished painting.
Collection of Miss Kristina Porter

Chinese Lantern No. 3
Delicate pink lanterns.

Chinese Lanterns No. 4
Lanterns are yellow orange in color amidst dark greenish-blue leaves. For this painting, I opted to fill in the background with white acrylic. I was going for the enameled look and am pleased with the results.

Fuschia Bougainvillea.
Pink to dark fuschia pink bougainvillea against dark forest green leaves. The dark colors bring out the gold very well.

Yellow Bougainvillea
Well actually it is an orangey yellow. Bougainvilleas are among my favorite subjects.

For my watercolors, I use Winsor and Newton Artist Watercolors and Daniel Smith Artist Watercolors. I use Reeves Artist Acrylic for the gold outlines and for the white background in one of the paintings.
All are painted on Fabriano Uno watercolor paper.

Thank you for looking.  

Monday, May 17, 2010

Clematis with silver outlines.

I've been experimenting lately with other water mediums. For this clematis painting based on pictures sent me by my friend Rowena, I used white acrylic to suggest texture on the flowers and as a fill in to the white background flowers. Silver acrylic was used for the outlines and for the textural effects in the the background.

Clematis with silver outline.
watermedia = Winsor and Newton and Daniel Smith Artist Watercolors, reeves artist acrylic in white and silver on Arches cold pressed watercolor paper.
size: 20.7 cm x 20.7 cm (8 1/8 x 8 1/8 inches) painted area only.
add 1 inch border