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This is the eight and nine paintings of a series of small contemporary forests I am working on.

 

Septembre magique / Magical September
©2017 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic and Inks on canvas 10 X 10 in

 

Le jour se lève / Morning comes
©2017 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic and Inks on canvas 10 X 10 in

 

The previous painting of the series can be viewed here.

 

 

 

The development of “Septembre magique” was quite straight forward as can be seen here, I simply let the background work inspire me and kept the basic design from the beginning.  I loved the splatter and lines and how the paint spread over the canvas.

 

 

 

 

 

« Le jour se lève » presented quite a challenge because I started from a completely different place than the finished product.

 

 

 

 

First off, I didn’t like the background I started with. The color on the top left corner was terrible and had to disappear before I could start again. My aim was also to keep some of the scratches showing in the red paint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So with white gesso I went to make the offending colors fade into the background. My first idea was to have a lone tree reflecting in water on a lighter backdrop but after a while I found it looked like a large lollipop more than a tree and I played with the idea of going surrealist and refining this idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here I brought back the bright yellow and continued on the rocks. I kept on thinking about something I read before pertaining to the dreadful stage of a painting and not to get discouraged. You know, when you think you should just give up and abandon the painting?

 

 

 

 

Well, I told myself to push through and that this stage only means the painting is not finished. I stepped back and put it aside for a few days. When I returned with fresh eyes, I had to admit that this tree scheme was not coming together. Why not make a nice big sun reflecting on the water? I liked that idea and went with it and “Le jour se lève” was born and I am quite happy with it!

 

At this point, I’ll go through the last three paintings to try and find solutions for each of them as they are all presenting challenges.

 

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Here are some thoughts on varnishing and finishing a painting.

When the time comes to finish a painting, my varnish of choice is Kamar Varnish by Krylon. It can be used on oil or acrylic paintings, is non-yellowing and really brings out the colors as well as adjust the shine if you have used mediums for your painting. It also has another big advantage. It can be reworked over without any problem; the new paint will stick to it. When I purchase the varnish, I always put the date on the can (2016-07 in this case) and if I buy several can, I number them (1,2,3 etc).This ensures I use the older product first and finish a can before I start another.

20171016_093623

I always apply a minimum of 3 coats, sometimes 4. Since it is a spray varnish, it is important to shake very well and to wear a mask when applying, especially if you are applying the varnish inside. Don’t take a chance, it is very toxic. I usually apply the varnish inside to be able to control such factors as wind and dust. Make sure you protect surrounding areas and take the paintings outside to dry.

Coats are criss-crossed: First coat, horizontal, second, vertical, third diagonal. If I add a fourth coat, it will be diagonal contrary to third coat. This insures an even finish.

About self-levelling gel:

On a small painting, I tested some self-levelling clear gel by Golden (name changed recently to Clear levelling gel). This gel can be used on top of or mixed with acrylic paints, never use this with oil paints.

It says in the name that it is self-levelling and promises to dry to a clear flat finish but this does not work as you can see. It can also be used to increase transparency and sheen of acrylic paints and claims to impart levelling quality to acrylic paints it is mixed with.

I used this painting as an experiment since I needed to rework it. I applied the gel with a soft clean brush and waited for it to dry.

When it did, the surface was streaked with brush strokes and so were the sides. A real mess!

So in the future, I’ll use this for multimedia techniques, collage or mix with paint, because you can’t expect a good finish from it or use it as a coat before a final varnish if you want a smooth finish.

So this was an experiment and it kind of ruined this painting. Needless to say, I will not be using this product for any step involving finishing or preparing to finish any painting again.

 

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This is the sixth of a series of small contemporary forests I am working on.

Vers le haut / Moving upwards
©2017 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic and Inks on canvas 10 X 10 in

The previous painting of the series can be viewed here.

As I am tackling numbers 7 to 12, I am hoping to look at the subject with new eyes and find new ways to design my contemporary forests. Some things I could explore are putting more emphasis on shapes or changing the color relationships. I find myself thinking about values and intensity of hues and playing with this.

I also want to explore how I could apply the Notan principle in the next paintings. I could also play with the value contrasts. The key is often to just forget the subject and play with the shapes.

I’ve also thought about adding patterns in the background or adding calligraphy. The possibilities are endless when you think of it, all you need is to jump in and commit.

Perseverance is the answer. Working on a series is a great exercise for any artist wanting to move to a more personal level in his or her painting. I realize, even as I am resisting the exercise at this point, that it is neither a waste of time nor useless to continue down that path.

Working on a series often becomes a requirement in order to progress in our art, the whole purpose being to tap into our feelings and imagination. It goes without saying that since working on a series is all about discovering our own creativity, we should do so without any outside influence, either from another artist or from a teacher.

Let me know if you have tackled a series and if so, how you found it improved your art practice.

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This is the fifth of a series of small contemporary forests I am working on.

Le pic
©2017 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic and Inks on canvas 10 X 10 in

The previous painting of the series can be viewed here.

As mentioned in my previous post, after these paintings, it seems like I’ve run out of ideas to depict my contemporary forests in primary colors. Despite wanting to, I won’t give in and change either my subject or the colors I decided to use (how tempting).

On the contrary, now is the time to keep going and explore the “old” idea and see if a new original way comes to mind. So this is where I am today with this series as I am starting numbers 7 to 12 of the variations.

Surprisingly, as I aim to simplify the subject, I find myself adding more and more details with each painting and increasingly defining the trees, thinking of some of the abstractions not as colors and shapes but as clouds and background grasses. I see figures popping up in most of the completed paintings and I find myself wanting to emphasize these and characterize a story.

For some reason, my wanting to take a more abstract approach to painting seems difficult for me. It’s hard to take the realism out of me!

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This is the fourth of a series of small contemporary forests I am working on.

Lumineux / Luminous
©2017 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic and Inks on canvas 10 X 10 in

The previous painting of the series can be viewed here.

So how did I start this series and how can you start a series? It all sounds quite simple: all you have to do is pick an idea or subject and paint it repeatedly in as many ways as you can or choose a set amount like I did. Put your imagination to work and don’t let anything stop you from starting another painting and then another until you feel you have exhausted the possibilities or you’ve reached the amount you set for yourself.

At first it will seem like there are hundreds of possibilities and combinations and these are indeed endless, but at some point you find yourself getting bored and feel you’ve run out of ideas.

I must admit after six paintings, I have already hit “The Wall” and would be very tempted to quit if it wasn’t for the commitment I’ve taken about the series. I could easily switch to a new and fresher subject but I won’t. Like everything else in life, when it becomes harder, you can’t quit for this is often when a breakthrough is around the corner. So I won’t quit and continue, I will…

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I recently attended an art workshop in Montreal. I don’t attend a lot of workshops anymore, preferring to explore solo in my studio and perfecting my own techniques but every now and then, I try one.

In the case of that particular workshop, we explored image transfers, collage, multiple mediums to give special effects and mix with acrylic paints, stencilling with spray paint and resin application. It was a good blend of mixed media techniques.

I had already tried some of the techniques before, some were new to me and the atmosphere and the group were a lot of fun, the instructor knowledgeable. I am not particularly happy with my piece, especially for the fact that it would be difficult to modify anything at this point after the application of resin which I wanted to try.

My Art workshop experiment

But that’s OK because the point of attending an art workshop is to learn something new, be it a new medium, subject matter or technique. You have to go into a workshop with an open mind and should not be expecting to come out with a finished piece ready to hang on your wall. That is not the point of a workshop.

Often, workshop attendees are afraid of making mistakes, are feeling watched by the others and want to perform. They want to come out with an artwork worth keeping (after all, they paid for it) but this is not what workshops are for! Workshops are meant to take you out of your comfort zone, to let you experiment with the curiosity of a child, without expectations. It is the perfect place to watch what happens with whatever new thing you are trying. It is also the perfect place to learn from the other attendees’ experimentations and to share your discoveries.

The goal is to listen to the instructor, take notes and experiment just for the joy of it. Relax and enjoy the moment without expectations and you’ll really benefit from the workshop. Always walk in with an open mind.

Later on, if you enjoy the results, you can implement what you have learned into your own work or continue pushing what you’ve learned to the next level.  A workshop is a starting point, not an end. It opens up a new door in your artistic mind.

 

 

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Here is a piece of information I came across lately that could be useful for fellow artists.

 

First off I must say that I do browse photos for inspiration like all of us but I take my own photos to work from unless a client explicitly requests something specific or arrives with his or her own photo. It is not OK to copy someone else’s work whether photographer or visual artist unless you have permission and give credit where it is due.

 

In the sometimes nebulous world of copyright I always thought the best way to handle this is simply to not copy. Unknown to me before, there are two types of copyright notices that give us permission to use some photos. These photos have been posted by the original owners, photographers, artists and they posted these to sites for our viewing pleasure and to give us explicit permission of use if we want..

 

What you need to know about is “Creative Commons License”. There are several different types of license. One of them is the attribution license, where you can use the photographs as long as you credit the photographer and looks like this:

Attribution license

Attribution license

 

 

To find out more about this license and all the different types of licenses, see: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons_license

 

But what we are interested in is the category Public Domain or Creative Commons Zero (CC0). Typically, an artwork becomes part of Public Domain when the artist has been dead for a very long time. But for these photographers that are generous enough to share their work and give permission to anyone to use their work there is the CC0 license. By attaching this license with their work, they give up their right to come back and claim you could not use their work.

cco-licenseCC0 or public domain license

 

So here are a few websites where it is specifically mentioned you can use the photographs, add to your blog, modify into a painting, print and enjoy in your office:

 

Pixabay  https://pixabay.com

Unsplash  https://unsplash.com

Public Domain Archive  http://publicdomainarchive.com

 

You can also look on other sites like

Flickr https://www.flickr.com

or Free Stock Photos http://www.freestockphotos.biz

 

that will publish some CC0 licences photographs but some under other Creative Commons licenses also. So you need to be careful and verify the licenses before using anything.

 

Another item to verify is whether these sites have obtained model releases for any recognisable individual portrayed in the photo.

 

I hope this short blog helps with your creativity and search for beauty!

 

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