News for September
Interview with Inge Vandormael
Ask Ursula!Ask an Artist
by Ursula Vernon
We now begin an Ask The Artist column, where you, the reader, can ask questions! Today's questions are answered by our own Ursula Vernon.
How do you finish mixed-media pieces? Do they have to be varnished or protected in some fashion? Do you use a spray varnish or some kind of brush-on variety?
Honestly, it depends on the materials you use and how the piece is going to be displayed. If the piece will be framed under glass, then as long as everything is attached to the back, I don't worry about. If it's a piece that doesn't fit conventional framing or has wonky bits that stick out past where glass would go, then it's a little trickier. Acrylic paint and acrylic medium, which are my usual materials, are pretty durable. If you're working with lots of collaged paper or colored pencil, the sort of thing that might wear off or pick up ambient humidity and warp, it's good to seal it under SOMETHING.
My material of choice is either Liquitex matte super-heavy gel (which is also really good for adhering collage bits, and for creating peaks and textures) or plain 'ol Liquitex acrylic matte medium. I'll also use layers of clear gesso to seal colored pencil, which has the added advantage that the gesso gives you back a "tooth" to the surface, so if you've used so much colored pencil that it's hard and waxy and not taking color very well any more, the gesso fixes that right up.
I'm a little scared of spray varnishes. I'll use 'em for charcoal heavy pieces, but they're not predictable enough for my taste.
How do you sign paintings? Trying to paint a signature often ends up sloppy and unreadable; do you switch media or settle for signing on the back?
I wouldn't dare try to paint a signature. I'd need the world's smallest brush, and my handwriting is godawful. I don't know how oil painters do it. Since I fortunately do NOT work in oil, I use a fine or medium tip Faber-Castell PITT pen, which has a lightfast acrylic ink. Dries permanent, works on most surfaces, signs acrylic paintings just fine.
Do you have any advice for getting believable depth into a piece? Not perspective, necessarily, but depth in organic subjects like forests or caves.
Hmm. Well, this hearkens back to my Color Theory class, long ago in college (the class where I learned more about painting than any other, let me add) when we talked about atmospheric perspective. Basically, the farther away stuff is, the lighter and less saturated it is. So if I'm painting a forest, I put trees in the back that are soft and faded and much lower contrast than the foreground.
This is kind of a funky example, but the highest contrast bands of tree are in the foreground, and the ones in the back are much less saturated, so they recede more. I do this a lot with trees. Generally they are not quite this pink.
This effect has to do with particles, primarily water vapor, in the atmosphere. I didn't really think about it much until I moved to North Carolina, which is a wretchedly humid climate, and there are times when you drive down a long stretch of highway and it is a lesson in atmospheric perspective--everything close is sharp, and the trees get hazy and soft the farther away they are.
One year we had so much pine pollen in the air that the trees off in the distance were hazy and soft and YELLOW. It was unsettling.
In caves, you'd make everything darker in the distance, but the same principle applies.
Do you have trouble putting up your originals for sale? Have you ever had one that you couldn't part with? (Could you later?)
I like money. Money and I are old friends. And I have lived a life limited by very small studios until VERY recently, so my reaction is usually "Get this the hell out of here." (There is also the somewhat complex issue that while I like my art, my art is usually not the kind of art I like, if that makes any sense.) So generally the originals sell without a qualm.
Every once in a blue moon I will do a piece where something just clicks for me, and I don't want to sell it. Sometimes I sell it anyway, because again...money...and sometimes I regret it later. I couldn't tell you what makes those paintings special--they all seem to be completely unrelated to each other, there's no one style or anything, and I think it's just that sometimes I got some bit of it exactly right.
Occasionally I've held onto a piece for a while and then was willing to pull it down and sell it, either because I was broke or tired of it or desperately needed a piece for a convention art show.
Once or twice I've had a piece not sell for so long that I've gotten fond of it just through sheer familiarity. This is pretty much the same relationship I have with our beagle. Go figure.
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