July 25, 2011

Painting and cats.

Trying hard to get these cat paintings done, but Monty seems determined to get in the way.


So far I have outlined three of these and haven’t ruined any of them, which is a good start…although I did have a near miss last weekend when I stood up after painting for a while and discovered that the end of my plait had been resting in a pot of black ink.  I’ll just add that to my long list of stuff not to do, along with keeping spray bottles of coffee lying around.

While I’m on the subject of painting though, I’m going to indulge in a post about materials that most of you will find boring. But it’s really cold and wet outside, and I have so much trouble finding the right stuff to paint with that I feel compelled to share it when I find something great; and I have actually found a few things lately that make my life as a painter a lot easier.

Firstly, any of you who work with paper will know that masking tape which claims to be ‘low tack’ is very rarely useful. Either it peels half your paper off with it after you’ve spent hours on a painting, or it’s so low-tack that paint seeps under areas that you were trying to mask. So I recently splurged on a roll of $20 masking tape, recommended to me by the nice lady at the art suppliers, and I am super glad that I did. The blue stuff you can see in the photo above is a brand called hyStik, and as you can see from their website, these guys are serious about masking tape. I bought the long-lasting one, which means I can stick my painting down with it and leave it there for 14 days before the tape starts getting harder to peel off. So far every time I’ve used it I’ve been able to get it off easily, with no paper tears or sticky residue, and all the edges I’ve masked with it have been perfectly clean. This in particular is of vital importance to me because of the paintings I do where certain parts of the image extend beyond the masked edge, like the wolfsbane piece I did recently:


Another thing I’m pleased with having found recently are brushes with ergonomic handles. One of the things I found incredibly frustrating over my one-month painting holiday was that after a certain period of painting or drawing, my hand was so sore, and particularly my thumb and middle finger where the brush/pencil rests, that I was constantly forced to stop and let it recover. Even layers of band-aids on both my fingers and the brushes are not enough to prevent this from happening, because I like doing work with loads of tiny details and have to use the smallest brushes, which also generally have the thinnest handles.

SO, I went hunting on the internet for brushes with fat handles, having seen some before in a similar post to this on the rather excellent Wandering Genie, and after hours of searching I found some. This picture is of larger brushes, but the handle on the 000 brush I bought is the same size.


Within Australia, these Roymac Purity bruishes are the only ones I can find (which is fine because Roymac make good brushes), but on Dick Blick in America I managed to find several brands that make a range of wide-handled brushes, mostly for detailing. I ordered a bunch of different ones that haven’t arrived yet, but they look excellent. The ones I’m most excited about are these:


The brand is Robert Simmons Expression Series, and these spotter brushes are smaller than any brushes I’ve found in Australia. They’re also a hell of a lot cheaper, like most things in the States, but the cost of having them shipped here cancels that out somewhat. So far the work I’ve done with the Roymacs has been far more comfortable so I’m looking forward to getting these.

Also making my life way easier these days is Saral Graphite Transfer Paper, which I only recently discovered:


Until now I have been using a glass-top table from Ikea with a desk-lamp underneath it to trace images onto my painting paper, and when I’m using toned paper or really thick card it doesn’t work well at all. For anyone who hasn’t used it, this stuff is re-usable and comes in a roll, so you can cut a piece that fits your paper and just trace right over the top of it. I’ve been using computer print-outs of the line drawing and tracing it though with a ball-point pen. The greatest benefit of doing things this way is that you’re not actually placing a pencil on the paper, and therefore avoiding the tiny grooves and scratches they cause on the surface, which annoyingly show up after putting colour down or rubbing something out.

I also just bought some stuff called Mask-It, similar to what Americans know as Friskit, which is a masking film for use with airbrushes and the like. Apparently it won’t damage paper and is useful for watercolour painting too. I haven’t tried it yet, but have some bits on these new cat paintings that I plan to mask out, so intend to try it in the next few weeks. 


If this doesn’t work though, I learned a good way to apply large areas of masking fluid from my botanical drawing teacher, which is to apply it with one of those rubber-tipped paint shaper thingies you can buy:


Anyone who has ever accidentally dipped an expensive brush into masking fluid will understand why it’s important to use one made of rubber, not hair.

So now that’s all off my chest,  I guess I’d better go do some painting. I have some technique/materials tips for graphite drawing that I might share down the track some times as well, if anyone finds this stuff useful. I’m always happy to share whatever knowledge I have with people who would like to know how I achieve certain effects in my work, and appreciate it when others do the same. The importance of good materials and knowledge of how to use them cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to painting and drawing, at least in my experience.


Lisa Friebel said...

Thanks for these tips Amy, I went art supply shopping on the weekend with a new shopping-list! I love your botanical drawings and all your process insights and sharing your mishaps. I've just started painting the birds and plants in my area - south coast NSW - would love some feedback if you have a chance. Good luck with the prints too, they're gorgeous and should do well.

Amy Duncan said...

Thanks for the kind words Lisa! Your paintings are really lovely, particularly the leaves and pods and things. I love that they're accurate but still loose - I have a lot of trouble being loose in my paintings and sometimes try to put too much detail in too early. Tried to follow your blog but blogger's being glitchy, will try again later! Hope the new materials go down well, it's always nice to discover things that make painting easier.

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