Friday, 30 April 2010

Mandala - Watercolor Monoprint

I made this painting last summer. Here I´v arranged the objects into a circle.  I didn´t want the finished piece to look too haphazard or random  - this is my attempt to make a composition and I am pleased with the result. I have used a flower head in the center and was surprised that  the delicate and fragile petals printed so well. Fern leaves are very satisfying to print because they have such a well defined structure - but it is worth  experimenting with all kinds of  plants.  The larger rounder leaves come from a garden birch tree. They refuse to lay flat on the paper and there is a hole in the middle where the leaf does not touch the paper. At first I was irritated by this but I think this also adds textural interest  to the overall picture.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Monoprinting With Watercolor

Fern Monoprint

Like many artists, the nature around me and my relation to it, is a source of inspiration.   I live in a forest in the middle of Sweden and spend alot of time wandering around with my dog and just being.  Ferns grow in abundance here, a reminder of our primeval, prehistoric past.

The technique of monoprinting is a very exciting one because one cannot predict the final result. Here´s how I do it:
I select plants and leaves - sometimes small twigs when I meander in the forest. When I come home I take a piece of heavy weight, fine grained watercolor paper and stretch it.  I spray the surface with water and let it soak in.  The paper should be damp. Then I take a large brush and saturate it with color - a lot of paint is used in this technique. Just drop pools of color onto the paper.  When the paper is full of color I arrange the leaves and other objects on the paper.  The pigment should still be soaking into the paper.  I study this process for a while because different pigments react differently.  Here I must help the painting along by adding more pigment here or there or dispersing color with a water spray.  When I´m satisfied I cover the objects with stones so they lay flat and are pressed onto the paper. The stones are also part of the composition they leave wonderful fascinating marks and add another texture to the painting.

Now it´s time for a cup of tea and a long wait.  I usually let the painting dry overnight - it might even take longer. I sometimes help it along with a hair dryer. Now the exciting part - removing the the stones and leaves and seeing what lies underneath.

You can see in this painting, by pressing the the leaf on the paper, wet paint is pushed away under the fronds leaving an almost ghostly photographic image. The outline of the fern is defined because the pigment collects there.

I love to experiment with this technique, it makes me feel like an alchemist looking for the definitive combination of paper, pigment, water and objects. Waterford paper lends itself to sharp well defined images whereas Fabriano leaves more diffuse marks.  Paper and pigments have their own characters and it´s my way to learn more about these wonderful materials.

Sometimes the results are not how I expected. The pigments can blend too much leaving muddy colors or the object did not print as I wanted or quite simply the composition is not good enough.  I keep these " mistakes" because the colors and textures are very interesting.  Here I´v used one of these unsucessful compositions  as a kind of collage,  I was intriged by the play of color the bottom right hand corner. It acts as a backround and frame to another work.

Here is a series of ACEOs I have made with birch leaves.

I picked these leaves from the forest floor at the end of autumn. I have kept mostly with earthy colors and greys; raw umber,burnt sienna, paynes gray and neutral tint.

Raw umber is a grainy pigment and leaves a kind of gritty texture on the paper . See on the top left hand side of this first picture.

When I can, I incorporate neutral  tint in these kind of painting.  It has a very special character - it spreads itself very easily over the paper and when it dries it leaves a well defined contour almost like an etched line.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Folk Art Bird Painting

An original acrylic painting 10 1/2" x 8 1/2" 27cm x 22cm
The diamond shapes are collage pieces from a gardening journal - I love these little clicks of color, with tiny details, they make the painting sparkle.
I usually have a very rough sketch of the compositional elements in my paintings, I add details as I go along and see how the painting develops. To help me be more spontaneous I paint a layer of burnt sienna over the white gesso - this way I feel free to mess up. Sometimes it´s a bit scary to paint on a virgin white canvas. I don´t mind too much if the brown shows through, I don´t always want my work to see too polished or artificial.
The decoration on the right hand side is derived from penny rag rugs. I often like to use motifs from traditional crafts, quiltmaking, embroidery, rugmaking and knitting. I am fascinated by these home crafts, these crafters have a long creative history of making wonderful works of art, often with limited means and materials. For me, they are the true heroes of the art world who bring design, color and imagination to ordinary homes.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Folk Art Painting - Tulip Bird

An acrylic painting on canvas 9 1/4" x 12 3/4"

I used to be a quilt maker and it shows in this painting. It reminds me of applique work. I enjoyed painting this. I limited my palette here to mostly shades of red and blue but the overall effect is very colorful.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

This is my dog Honey, 8 years old and still like a puppy. Most artists live an isolated life because of the nature of the work. Honey sits beside me when I´m painting - I never feel lonely. It is also a sedentary life and she makes sure that I get out and take regular exercise.

"She Knows What She Wants".

Honey was the inspiration for this painting. Acrylic paint on paper.

I wanted to depict her happy and colorful nature. My dog is a little bit spoilt and has a determined and stubborn streak - she knows what she wants.

Here is a moving poem by Rudyard Kipling which describes the attachment owners have with their dogs. It´s kind of sad and sentimental and has old fashioned values - but I like it anyway.

The Power of the Dog
Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair--
But ... you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long--
So why in--Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

The Power of the Dog
Rudyard Kipling

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Two Birds Yellow

Acrylic painting on canvas 9 1/4" x 12 3/4"

I finished this painting a couple of days ago. Now I can start another one - just waiting for the gesso to dry.