Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Musings on the Subject of Paint

For years I've painted with acrylics. Acrylics have been a good fit for me and I am very comfortable using them. I love them in the way you love your oldest, rattiest pair of shoes. I know the medium, what I can do with it, how the paint moves. When I am painting, it's as if they are are an extension of the paintbrush which is an extension of me. I like to blend and shade my colors as I work and I can do this better with acrylics than with any other medium.

I find that acrylics are forgiving in a way that watercolors are often not - if you make a mistake, just paint over it. And I do that a lot. I have multiple sclerosis and my hand shakes a lot, especially when I'm tired. I hold it as steady as I can with my other hand and I press it against the table as I work. If you've ever seen the cartoon of the writer with writer's block and trash cans overflowing with crumpled paper, well, you've seen my studio some days.

I've done some tole painting in the past, but I never really cared for the "folksy", country style that defines a lot of tole designs for myself. I prefer elegance to country, traditional to folksy, vintage to country bumpkin. So mostly I have simply painted.

One of my most favorite projects ever was our kitchen window (pictured on the right). We have a window over our kitchen sink that looks out into our entry hall. Before you point out that it's an odd place for a window, I should tell you that it originally looked out onto the driveway. We added onto our home several years ago and debated removing this window entirely but we were concerned that since we were going to be losing the exterior glass door as well, the kitchen might become very dark and claustrophobic.

I wanted to take advantage of a skylight in the entry way to bring light into the kitchen so we kept the window. For reasons I'm not entirely sure of anymore, I decided to paint something on it and ultimately, I painted a spray of pansies, wisteria, and forget-me-knots with acrylic paints. It was a challenge -- I should have used enamels, which are designed for painting on glass. Even adding a glass medium, I struggled. I had to layer the paint and it took... forever. Despite being directly over the sink in the heart of our kitchen, it has held up well, aside from a small chip needing repair. Six years later, it's still one heck of a conversation piece!

In case you haven't figured it out, I really like acrylics. Yet, I've gotten the impression, maybe mistaken, that most stampers don't. I thought there might be a reason for that, so I tried to follow the crowd. I tried painting with ink. Let's just say, I would probably have done better with crayons LOL. I tried colored pencils (two thumbs down for no elegance factor). I tried markers. I couldn't blend as much as I wanted to with them. I tried watercolor pencils. Better than the others, but not quite as good as acrylics. I tried colored pencils with mineral spirits. Watercolor pencils are easier and the end result is pretty much the same.

I have spent the last two weeks forcing myself to practice watercoloring and admittedly, I've gotten a little better at it. I've learned that "less" is "more". I've also learned that I'm not loving it more and would like to do it less. A search of the SCS forums showed only a few references to using acrylics to paint or stamp and most involved repurposing something, not card making. The vast majority of "painting" on cards, scrap book pages, and other paper crafts seems to be done with watercolor pencils or ink.

Today I was painting this gorgeous rose spray using watercolor pencils but the background and the frame had me stymied. I had ordered some LuminArte mica powder but didn't realize that you need a solution to mix it with, so my idea of a shimmery background with the pearl mica for this rose is still in the jar so to speak. Frustrated, I dug out my acrylics. Ten minutes later I had a luminous, shimmery background (Ceramcoat pearl finish). Ten minutes after that I had a shiny gold frame (FolkArt metallic gold).

Yes, the paper warped a tad, but it seemed to be more in the area of the rose, and it was certainly no more than what I find with watercolor pencils or even sometimes with just embossing. And I was doing this on plain old card stock since I am fresh out of watercolor paper. I simply ironed it and it was perfect once more. Any suggestion of warping in the photograph is the result of the paper sagging while I photo'd - I had to stand it up to get the angles correct to capture the shimmer.

Overall, I am pleased with the results and so that got me painting and thinking. Do "real" stampers only paint with ink or pencils? Am I breaking an unwritten rule by using acrylics to stamp and paint? Will I lose credibility as a stamp artist if I use acrylics? I don't know what the "rules" are about this but I'm glad to have "my" paints back. I love the luminous effect the water color pencils gave the petals of this rose. I also love the shimmery background and the lush gold frame supplied by the acrylics. What do you think?


Christi said...

Wow!! That painting in your kitchen window is stunning!! I also love what you've done today. You are an amazing talent!

Marnie (stamplady13) said...

Love your blog! Beautiful work. Adorable furry people. Magnificent garden!

As for whether you are breaking rules...there are no rules! The way I look at it, art is art. The important thing is if you enjoy the process and the product. Seems like both are workign for you, so why fix it if it's not broken?! :)

Angie Z ~ Duckwaddlequack said...

I'm running out the door but I just had to peek quick! These are so lovely and I'll be back later to check out your other posts! Have a fabulous weekend!

thinker said...

what do I think? I think that your painting(s) are stunning :) The only "rule" I've heard in the stamping world is that if you like it, go for it! I hope you feel free to continue using whatever medium works for you... who knows? Maybe one day it'll catch on & you'll have started a whole new trend in the stamping world?!?!?!

Jerri Kay said...

Cathy, I love both of these projects. I too love acrylics! Years ago our church met every Tuesday for "Fruitful Hands" and we painted with acrylics on wood. You are absolutely correct, painting with acrylics is wonderful, the colors blend beautifully. Now if I could figure out a way to use them on paper, I'd probably stop watercoloring. I have your same tastes, I prefer vintage, florals, dainty, etc. Folk and country are wonderful, but they don't appeal to me. Is the picture with the rose and frame stamped? It's gorgeous, I love the frame! If you painted your project on a thick paper, such as watercolor, you can lightly mist the back with water, sandwich it in between two sheets of watercolor paper, then place a stack of books or anything heavy on it and let it dry overnight. This is what I do when my watercolors buckle.

Cathy said...

Thanks, everyone, for such wonderful comments. Jerri, the stamp of the rose is #90339 Dragonfly and Rose from the Tapestry Studio Collection, by Stamps Happen, Inc. Isn't it gorgeous! The pictures don't do it justice!

I have started using more and more acrylics with with paper (bizarre as that sounds). I have some 140 pound Bienfang watercolor paper that my DH got at Staples. The store where I usually get my watercolor paper has been out of it for ages, so DH when on a hunt and came home with this. I usually use a lighter weight paper (110 pounds). This paper is much thicker (tough to cut out detailed little images though). I will be posting a card done totally in acrylics soon!