Project Friday: Dirty Brushes, Fun with Paint, and Working in a LARGE Journal

June 14, 2013

Above: A page spread from an 11 x 14 inch Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media hardbound journal. Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Sketch and DaVinci Gouache. I used a large filbert (about an inch wide) and a smaller filbert, about 3/8 inch wide) to paint all the strokes here. The image is too large to scan so I put it on the floor and photographed it. The light is a little odd and she looks more orange than she is. (It's Angela Lansbury—I'm still watching Perry Mason, but I needed some "comfort food" viewing and have been watching a little bit of "Murder She Wrote." I stopped to action to sketch this view.

I've mentioned before that my sketches have been getting larger and larger. It's that "Piecemeal Style" I've been working in. I just keep adding paper extensions as the drawing grows out of the paper size.

130515_AngelaLansburyLeft: Is a scan of what would fit. If you click on it you can see a bit more detail in the paint strokes. The color is more accurate in this image.

I decided that for my next journal I'd get the biggest one possible, which had paper that I liked. Making a journal this large would be costly because I'd have to waste a lot of paper to get this trim size with some sheets of paper. While I could use a 22 x 30 inch sheet with the grain running with the 30 inch length and get two pieces that were 22 x 15 and would fold with the grain to 11 x 15 it would mean I'd only get two pieces per sheet. I'd need 4 per signature which means I'd need two full sheets of paper per signature and with paper that size running about $4 or more a sheet it gets expensive quickly. Anyway, I don't enjoy binding books that large and since Strathmore already makes a lovely hardbound book with their Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media paper, I don't have to. (I wouldn't have had any place to bind it either as my worktable is stacked with stuff related to what's going on in the folks' lives right now.) So I went to Wet Paint and purchased one and got busy.


Left: Here's a detail view of one portion of the sketch. You can see thin and thicker applications of paint. And you can also see how I'm allowing my white brush to pick up other color when I'm moving around the face.

Opening this post is the last painting I made with DaVinci gouache. You can read about my final problems with DaVinci gouache here, and find links to my original reviews of it here. Today's image is actually the painting I did on the back of the Michael Kitchen painting, which caused that painting to start to redissolve!

I also wrote about my decision to not use DaVinci Gouache any more over on Artist's Journal Workshop. I did in fact talk to the grandmother and art mentor to my favorite 8-year-old and she thought he could have fun with the paint so it was packed up and sent to him. She knows the best ways to approach it so it won't put him off painting, but she knows he shouldn't use it in his journals (yes he has journals and goes landscape sketching with his grandmother).

130515_AngelaLansburyDetail2Left: One more detail portion because I think the eye is kind of fun to see up close.

But all this is background. I wanted to write today about playing with paint, pushing it around, which you can do even if the paint isn't your favorite!

As you can see in the details of the image I'm having a lot of fun quickly pushing paint around. There are thin underlying passages of paint that I worked in quickly and let dry (usually) before bringing in heavier paint. (You can work on other areas of the painting while a particular area dries.) There are layers of heavier paint smoothed in with other layers of paint, and there are layers of paint stroked on top of everything with a dry brush. 

This was all done very quickly with an attitude of play and "what can I notice?" I didn't worry about smoothing edges or hiding my brush strokes. I love seeing my brush strokes when I do this. They leave a trail that shows me how I was thinking at the moment.

I hope you have some time to play with paint this weekend, regardless of the type of paint you're using. I also hope that at least for one sketch you can let yourself go and not worry about your dirty brush (interesting things can happen) and not worry about making a perfect picture. Just work as hard as you can with your full attention, and ask yourself: "What can I notice?"

What can I notice about: the paint, the water amount needed (if the paint is watersoluble) in the brush or the paint; the paper, it's ability to take water, the length of time it takes to dry, the point at which I can add more paint to the paper (when I want to blend, when I want to cover, when I want to cover with a dry-brush effect on the final stroke; how dry paint has to be before I can go over it and not pick it up, pick it up slightly, be able to blend it smoothly (and how does the paper and paint on the paper look at each of those moments); what types of brushes make the types of strokes I want, how did I angle the brush to get that stroke; how can I make this form move away from me and look dimensional; how dark is this value; can I hide this pen line; do I want to hide this pen line; do I want to work in pencil because it will be easier to hide my lines; what works and what doesn't work; what do I want to try again; how does working large help or hinder me?

You get the idea. Have a fun weekend sketching and painting.


    • Margo
    • June 14, 2013

    What a fabulous portrait of Miss Angela, I recognized her immediately!

    I decided the whole false economy issue was at work here and in the midst of downscaling, again, I tossed all of my crappy gouache. Now when time permits I can relearn to use the good stuff, I think the learning curve might be a bit smaller. Thanks.

    Oh and a movie I had fun sketching from this week was The Mill and the Cross, about Bruegel, with Rutger Hauer, Charlotte Rampling & Michael York, lots of fun period costumes too if that floats your boat. Rampling’s face swathed in a veil and wimple was divine to do!

  1. Reply

    LOVE THIS PALETTE and the level of spatial depth you achieve. Know it was ANGELA before I read the post. The eyes and set of the chin are spot on!
    I think I will rent the PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE to draw because MAGGIE SMITH has another one of those great expressive faces with eyes that have seen it all.

    Must see that film noted by Margo above: love a painter movie!

  2. Reply

    Glad you enjoyed this one Margo. I’m so glad you decided the false economy thing was holding you back and are going to give good brands of gouache a shot! Just get a limited palette to test out, in either Schmincke or M. Graham gouache, and see what you can do.

    I have not seen the Mill… but it sounds very interesting and I’ll have to check it out.Wimples would be fun! Thanks for the heads up.

  3. Reply

    Ellen, glad you liked this one. I don’t normally use Phthalo blue so it’s a bit startling for me to look at this. But now that I’ve gone back to my regulars in Schmincke and M. Graham I’m thinking maybe I could sneak in a little Phthalo Blue. I’ve been using a lot more cobalt.

    Maggie Smith does have a fantastic face. I love that movie for a host of reasons.

    I enjoy movies about painters as well—though they aren’t always well done. But when they are it’s great fun to see them. I feel a list coming on…

    • Margo
    • June 15, 2013

    Hmmm…looking forward to the list.

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