Posts filed under ‘Just for FUN’

Gillian’s Farm…FINISHED!

gillians-farm-final-012-large-hi-res1This is a photograph I took of the finished painting…but it looks much better in person, not surprisingly.

Since the last post to this blog I added lots of flowers — bluebonnets and black-eyed Susans and some wholly imagined dew-drop type blossoms on the long arching stems that I’ll name GumDrops because they look like candies — and I finished the animals.

The  important non-pictorial steps of the process, such as adding hanging wire and varnishing the painted surface for durability, are shown and described below.

You can click on the image of the painting and enlarge it, I believe.  It may not appear sharp as I did NOT take my own good advice to always use a tripod.






Because this painting is fairly large (20×24) and heavy and will be hanging near a baby’s crib it is super-important that the hanging wire is strong and secure.  A trick I learned when we owned the gallery and frame shop in Texas is to use TWO wires on the back…that way if one breaks (highly unlikely) the other will hold.  To make the picture hang level two picture hangers are used.

Here are the tools and parts I used.  The awl makes small starter holes into which the screw eyes are fastened.  It is important to NOT pre-drill the holes into which the screw eyes go because it is easy to make the holes too big and this will result in the screw eyes being loose and possibly pulling out. 

The best position for the wire is approximately one-third down from the top…in this case that’s about 6 to 7 inches from the top of the canvas along the 20 inch sides.  

The wire I use is super-strong braided picture cable and it is threaded through the screw eyes twice then wrapped on itself seven times.  Why seven?  “Cause it is a lucky number, that’s why!


gillians-farm-final-0101This is what one side looks like…ready for hanging.  See how secure? 








gillians-farm-final-014Acrylic paints are terrific, but even the same brand of paints will vary in shininess from color to color.  This is due to the different pigments used to make the colors…and this characterisitc occurs in oil paints too.  So, it is important to varnish the panting once it is dry to bring the entire painted surface to the same degree of shininess or matteness.  A matte surface tends to make the colors look lighter while a gloss makes the colors look deeper and richer…naturally, I think deeper and richer colors are more desirable so that’s what I went with.  This varnish also protects against UV light damage, but that really isn’t an issue with acrylic paints.  This varnish can also be used on watercolors, where lightfastness IS an issue.

I elevated the canvas on four small plastic containers to prevent the varnish from seeping around the edges and gluing the canvas to the table.  This photo shows the “gallery wrap” canvas, which allows the painting to be hung without a frame.  In this case, because the picture is hanging near the crib we don’t want a frame that would add weight to the picture ; additonally a frame might contain potentially harmful materials, such as metal leaf or lead-based paints.

Another advantage of varnishing the painting is to protect the surface from things that might splatter on it, such as spit-up or milk 😉


Here’s a detail of the finished painting…this is the lower right corner showing the hen and two chicks…and my signature.

I hope you’ve enjoyed watching the progress of this painting.  The was a  fun project for me…and I learned how versatile acrylic paints are.  I welcome your comments or questions.

December 20, 2008 at 8:40 am Leave a comment

Gillian’s farm…part three

Here are some more photos of the process of making a  farm scene painting for the bedroom of Baby Gillian.  My biggest challenge has been to try to keep this light and whimsical and not to spin off into too-realistic.gillian-farm-prt-three-1

So…the sign is blocked in and underpainted…the pig is there — and I like her placement — but her details need lots of refinement.  The hen and chicks needs more feathers and important little details like eyes and beaks.  The cows are fine — I won’t mess with them anymore — and I notice that they seem to be a cross between Holsteins and belted Galloways…so I’ll name them Belted Bethesdasteins 😉


Here’s a close-up…gillian-farm-part-three-4 you can see I’ve added lots more feathers to the hen and given the horse a mane and tail.  The chicks are fully feathered and beaked and have little eyes.







gillians-farm-4I’ve painted the sign background with matallic gold acrylic…it’s very shiny and I may decide to tone it down later by putting a dulling wash over it.  I’ve blocked out the letters with an opaque white paint and later I’ll add color.  I’m not keen about that little cartouche thing on the sign, so I’ll change that.

The pig has her various wrinkles and folds…and her hooves.  Now all she needs are some soft hairs added to her face and arms.


This is a good place to talk about the versatility of acrylic paints.  I tend to use them only for fun projects, but they can be used for serious projects, too, and I want to do that more in the future.  In this painting I have used them in much the same way I would watercolor…and acrylics can do that.  Watercolors are, as the name suggests, colors (pigments) carried in water…the water evaporates and the color remains.  Problem with real watercolors is that they are fragile on the paper…get the paper wet after the painting is done and -poof!- the picture is ruined.  Acrylics can be diluted greatly and used transparently,  just like watercolors, BUT they forn a tough plastic-y layer when dry and are much more permanent and completely light-fast, unlike watercolors.  Acrylics can also be used like oil paints and put on the canvas (or board or paper) very thickly (and in some parts of this painting I’ve done that).  Unlike oil paints, acrylics are non-toxic (unless you spread them on toast and eat them!) and don’t have fumes as they dry.  Clean-up is super-easy — just soap and water, unlike the turpentine needed to clean the brushes used with oils.  If you want to learn to paint, consider using acrylics, rather than oils.

Tomorrow I’ll post the last stages of Gillian’s Farm…and an image of the finished product.  I’m very pleased with the finished painting…stay tuned to see it!

December 18, 2008 at 11:56 am Leave a comment

Gillian’s Farm…part two

gill-farm-part-two-1The Gillian Farm painting continues…

I’ve made the roof and door yellow to blend with the wall color Lauren added in the nursery.






gill-farm-part-two-2I tried adding a weathervane to the barn roof, but the scale is wrong, so I think I’ll paint it out…







gill-farm-part-two-3This is how I figure out where the different animals will go in the scene…first, I draw them on tracing paper…






gill-farm-part-two-4Then I slide the drawing around until, in this case, the horse looks naural with the right scale…then I put a piece of graphite transfer paper (like the old carbon paper but not as waxy) under my drawing and draw over it to transfer the lines to the canvas…





gill-farm-part-two-6Here are the products I used to place the animals in the scene…available at any art store or online.







gill-farm-part-two-7Here are the animals placed in their farm surroundings…and underpainted.







gill-farm-part-two-8Here’s a close-up of the flock of sheep I painted on the far hillside…it appears that farmgirl Gillian is having a cozy fire in her little pink farmhouse 😉

(I’ll post Gillian’s Farm Part Three photos in a day or two…stay tuned!)

December 17, 2008 at 7:18 pm Leave a comment

FLOWERS, for some fun, for a change (a how-to)

Painting in any form is usually a very enjoyable pursuit or passion or obsession, but lately I’ve been doing so many tight and detailed paintings that I wanted to do something FUN.  Here is the finished product…and below you will find the steps.






Here’s what I started with: a 12×12 gallery-wrapped canvas on wooden stretcher bars.  These are available in many different sizes at art supply stores in your town or online.  The canvas comes already covered with gesso.

In the upper left corner you can see my bin of acrylic paints…and to the right are all my oil paints, which I have recently put in glass jars.

At this point in the game I didn’t even know which type of paint I’d use…then I remembered the previous day’s painting and the headache I got from, I believe, the paint thinner I use to clean the brushes.  So, acrylic.

toning the canvas with color

toning the canvas with color

I mixed red and hot pink acrylic paint and covered the canvas surface — front and sides — with it.

It is important to keep a jar of clean water nearby to rinse your brushes as acrylic dries very fast.  That’s oneof the joys of working with acrylic as opposed to oil paints, which dry very slowly.



blue + green = turquoise

blue + green = turquoise

Turquoise and red are one of my favorite color combos and are just about opposite each other on the color wheel.  Any time you put opposites together it creates an effect that almost makes the colors appear to vibrate.  Look for advertisements that exploit this to attract attention.  To make the turquoise I mixed a blue and green together.  Don’t overthink color mixing: if you like the color, use it…you aren’t the paint department manager at Home Depot…your color doesn’t have to match someone’s sofa.  Be loose!

spreading the turquoise

spreading the turquoise

Now the real fun begins!  I spread the turquoise paint with a pallette knife…this is difficult to control and I love the random wonkiness of the result.  I want some of that bright red to show through.  Interestingly, as the turquoise paint goes on, the red seems to get MORE red.

Look at that cool little scroll in the lower right corner of the canvas…


closer look at the serendipity scroll

closer look at the serendipity scroll

That scroll is what determined what I decided to paint.  Up to that point I didn’t know if this was going to be a landscape or a painting of a chicken or what.  But the scroll looks like the swoopy handle of a loving cup or a trophy, so I think:  ah, FLOWERS in a VASE.

With this spreading paint technique you have to decide to just STOP…it is so fun, the temptation is to keep spreading and cover up all that beautiful red.

painting the flowers

painting the flowers

I should probably have stopped between the last step and this one and taken a photo, but I was having such a good time I completely forgot.

You can see some of my tools here: the water bowl (which needs to be changed), my glasses and my favorite made-in-china enameled butcher tray that I use as a pallette.

I chose yellow as the color of my vase because it contrasts nicely with the turquoise.  The flowers don’t exist in nature, just my imagination…but I am going to try to turn those orange ovals into roses.

close-up shot of in-progress painting

close-up shot of in-progress painting

This photo shows a close view of the flowers.  You can see that they are made of loose (that’s the MAGIC word!) brushstrokes and layered colors.  Acrylics dry so quickly that by the time I had made all the purple circles, the first ones were dry enough to add the blue petals over the top.  I’ve painted three shades of green in between the flowers to suggest foliage, and I’ve added some leafy shapes at the outer edges of the bouquet.



Finished flower painting

Finished flower painting

Here’s the finished painting standing on its wide edge.  This can be hung frameless or placed on a shelf or table.  I like unframed paintings, probably because we owned a frame shop/gallery in Texas and if I never have to frame another thing it will be too soon.







closeup of flower painting

closeup of flower painting

Here’s a close-up of the finished painting.  I varnished it with a clear gloss arylic gel to make it shiny.  Certain acrylic colors are more matte than others and I wanted the surface to have a uniform sheen.  The gel gloss also seems to intensify the colors.

This was such a fun project and just what I needed after so much “tight” painting.  For mental health I’m going to try to do a LOOSE project like this every few days.

 Tell me what you think…and send me images of any paintings you do as a result of reading this post.

October 10, 2008 at 1:54 pm 1 comment

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