Saturday, May 22, 2010

Traveling with Oil Paints

Above is my brand new, never used, Yarka easel. It's loaded with paint, brushes, spare parts, hand wipes, and even a few sheets of paper toweling, for packing. I took this photo last year, just before going to India.

This was the second Yarka easel I'd purchased. The first one was made when the Soviet Union was still the Soviet Union; and the one pictured above was made after the Soviet Union broke up. The first easel was a real work horse, but 12 years later, I purchased second Yarka as a backup,
and it was actually $5.00 cheaper, but not as sturdy!

You can see that it held quite a lot of painting materials.
If you were on my mailing list for emails from India last year, you will know that I left this easel in India with a fine young woman artist named Uma.

Here are some tips if you are flying with oils.
In the above photo you can see at the upper right, the small canister for turps. You cannot take solvents, or Liquin, etc., on a plane, not even in your checked baggage. If you use your turp can a lot at home, make sure that you take some time cleaning this turp can - Murphy's Oil Soap is great for this. Pu tin the soap, fill with boiling water, and let it sit. If your can is really dirty, you might have to repeat this several times. You will buy the solvents you need after you arrive at your destination.

In the photo, outside the easel, you will also see some plastic containers with lids, like you store food in. The ones I have, have snap on lids and are great for carrying oil paints. The paint tubes do not get crushed, and if they leak, your luggage is safe! Again, these should be packed in your checked baggage
and labeled with signs saying:
 Artist Oil Colors
 Flash Point 440 °F
The flash point is the temperature that something will burst into flame.
The higher the number the better off you are, but 440 °F
is the flash point for artist oil colors.
Don't use the words "oil paints", which could signal to the airline checkers that there is a petroleum based product involved. Artist oil colors are vegetable based oils, and are just fine for flying.

If you are traveling with pastels, on the x-ray machine, the pastel sticks look sort of like bullets, so let the folks know what you are carrying, and don't be surprised if you get a search.

I have had instances where I have been pulled aside and my backpack searched because of my solvent can. They open it, smell it, wince, then swab it, while I am asked questions about what it is. If this happens to you, don't panic. Let the person checking you know that you are an artist. They are usually pretty interested, and once the swab is complete, they give you your stuff back and let you go!
Sometimes they want to look at your sketchbook.

Now, I just take the turp canister out of my backpack, and send it through through the x-ray with my shoes. Much simpler. They can see it, you aren't "hiding it". So maybe no search.

Palette knifes, put them in your easel, put your easel in your checked baggage
tell the x-ray tech that you are an artist and that you have an easel in your baggage.

When you open your luggage at your destination, you might find a paper with a message about carrying hazardous materials. It's all normal.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Painting on l"Ile de Re, France

Fourth of July on the l'Ile de Re, France
8" x 10" - Oil on RayMar Panel
Copyright 2006 DJ Dawson

In 2006, I traveled to France with three wonderful women.
One I had only just met, the other two I'd never met.
Those three had met and formed a friendship
during overseas workshops.

Susie, lives in Columbus.
We are physically 30 miles apart,
but we rarely see each other.
Meg lives in Chicago, and Margie, she lives in Georgia.
If Susie and I never see each other, well, you know that
Meg and Margie and I never see each other.
Still we managed a 2008 reunion, in Georgia - and
added two more women, Janet and Elle, who also met at workshops.
They are all fine artists, who work hard and produce wonderful works.

This photo of me, with blonde hair, was taken with my camera by
a French tourist who possessed some photographic abilities.
I am using my brand new EasyL 12" x 16" easel.
Minutes later a wind blew up and a tiny sticker from the nearby antique shop
flew into my easel. It said, "neuf 65 Euros" - meaning "new 65 Euros".
I stuck the price tag on the the bottom right corner as a keepsake.
It stills lives there as a fond memory of that trip.
The glue is getting worn out,
and the sticker may someday fly away
to enrich someone else's memories.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My Gnome, My Sherpa, My Husband

"Art Matters" - Oil on Panel
Copyright 2006 - DJ Dawson

This was painted outside the Columbus Museum of Art. My husband, an avid reader and sherpa extraordinaire, shows up in my paintings quite a bit. Here he is on a Sunday morning with his paper, reading alongside the Henry Moore sculpture in front of the museum's Broad St. entrance. I wanted to post this for his birthday, May Day, but it's never to late to show him off and to say what a wonderful man he is.

The painting's title refers to the Museum's slogan.
We were given free t-shirts that day which said:

"Art matters, join the conversation."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How to Build a Hen House

"Hughs' Hen House, Grey Day
8" x 6" - Oil on Canvas, Copyright 2010

I did go back to paint the hen house last evening. I arrived at 4:30 PM, and the farmer arrived just after me. The rain had stopped but it was still cloudy. I set up and chatted with Mr. Hughs as he prepared to feed the chickens. He said, "They love bread. You'll see, they will fight over bread." I didn't see any fighting, but they all came running out of the house and gulped it down. Next he threw some grain on the ground. It was such a flurry of action. I decided to take this opportunity to make some small drawings of chickens in various positions.
The hen house drawing above is the study for the previous days painting. I had a blank page on the left side and filled it with more chicken drawings. I did use some of these little drawings in the painting. The rooster, who is considerable larger than any of the chickens, and the chicken standing next to him. Although I don't consider these painting perfect, I think they have a certain charm, and am enjoying the series. I am wondering now if the hen house is lit at night. There is a solar collector there, no pole with a light that I could see, but it would be an interesting painting. Still, I wouldn't want to go alone, I hear there are coyotes "in them thar hills!"

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hen House Redux

"Hughs' Hen House, Afternoon"
8" x 6", Oil on Canvas
Copyright 2010

I was so enamored of that hen house during the weekend workshop that I was eager to get back out there and paint it again. I'd studied it in the afternoon light while helping a student and said to myself, "I am coming back out here to paint it in the afternoon. I arrived at 2:30 PM yesterday, set up and went to work.

When I went to pick up my knife, I realize that my favorite palette knife was lost in my car somewhere in the plethora of stuff from the workshop. I used the newer model J-2, but it didn't feel or respond like my old friend J-2. A struggle ensued, and the above painting is the result.

Comparing the two, there are some things I like best in the morning painting and some I like better in the afternoon one. Today it's raining, but I'd really like to get out there and see what it looks like in the rain; see if the chickens do come out of that hen house. Time will tell. Rain usually comes with wind, and that would mean an umbrella in the wind. Not good.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Crazy For Color Workshop

Yesterday I wrapped up a 2-day workshop entitled "Crazy for Color". Below is my first day demo, a value study done on site at a wonderful abandoned farm in Ohio. All of the buildings are red with green roofs, perfect in my mind for a workshop.

"Grey Day Value Demo" - 8" x 8" - Oil on Gessoboard

After 10 days of great painting weather, Mother Nature turned, and the workshop was delivered in spitting rain, high winds and cold temperatures. That is plein air painting, but someone usually whines. Not this wonderful group, they got down to it and endured!!!

DAY 1:
While I set up my equipment I asked the students to start looking around for something they were interested in painting, and gave them instructions on doing a thumbnail of interesting shapes, using only three values. We had discussed the the importance of having an idea first - a poetic intent. This idea would guide all the consequent decisions they would make in the composing and painting process. While they sketched so did I. Once I had my idea and my value thumbnail I gathered all the students.

The demo started around 9:30 am on Saturday morning with winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour. I wore layers of clothes: a silk turtleneck, then a cotton one on top, and a scarf around my neck for extra warmth. On top of that, a hooded sweat shirt purchased after a trip on a tall ship in Michigan (if it's good for sailors, it's warm). Fourth layer, a cotton sweater, and topping it all off was my Dad's old hat, a sort of Alpine style hat with a little feather on the side and a fleece interior. Thick hiking socks and boots kept my feet warm.

I used a Loew-Cornell palette knife size J-2, my favorite knife. I've used it so much that it's pretty sharp on the edges. I've never cut into a canvas, but I have punctured or sliced my fingers by accident. I've owned it since the early 90's, and although I have since purchased others in this size by the same company, my original knife is my favorite. It just feels right in my hand.

My workshop was sponsored by Sunbear Studio, an:d I was not far from finishing my demo when Meredith Marten, owner of the studio, arrived to take some photos and to let my students know that they could come back to the studio for coffee and muffins. WOW! No sooner I was finished, they all took off "to use the toilet". We took a lunch break at that point, an hour early, 11:00 am instead of Noon. I heard that the class had mutinied and were not going back outside. They decided to do their value paintings in the studio from their thumbnails.

I got a chuckle out of this, and went with the flow. It was actually nice to have all the students corralled in one room, they couldn't get away, and I could get to them all easily. I worked with each student to make sure they had a poetic intent, and strengthen their drawings in terms of good shapes and values that would support their idea. By the end of the day, most of the them had completed an interesting value painting from their morning thumbnails. Those that completed the value painting quickly went on to work that same design in a color version.

Below is my demo from day 2.

"Huges' Hen House, Morning, 8" x 6", oil on canvas.

During my demo I talked about mixing the prismatic palette of colors and the benefits of using a limited palette. I had my thumbnail handy discussed it with them. The painting was started with a tone of cad red light thinned with OMS and wiped to a light pink. I laid down a few placement lines with the same color and switched to my palette knife. I painted and talked about what I was doing, and at some point the thought crossed my mind that I was taking too long, so I asked if they wanted me to just paint, or to talk as I painted, which would take a little longer. They said to talk. So I explained everything, every step of the process of my decision making and everything I was physically doing and as much as I could about what colors I was mixing. At times I couldn't tell them what colors I mixed together because I make great use of mixing from pile to pile to create subtle nuances of tones. At the end, I added some hens that had walked out. I said I hadn't had much practice painting chickens from life and one student said they were really just two triangles. She was right!

I think that this painting could benefit from a little more detail in the focal area, but I was more interested in getting the students working and helping them at their easels. It was a great day in the sun, but still chilly in the shade. I did my painting standing with the easel and painting both in the sun, no umbrella.