Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 2 (Part 1) 

Mixing Colors

Day 2 Supplies:

Your rub-out Mandala

Oil Paints:
Raw Umber (any brand)
Titanium White (Williamsburg preferably)

You will only be using brights during this part of the Mandala.  I only had 3 bright brushes to work with (1/4", 1/2" & 3/4" Wash/Shaders).  I recommend having a couple of smaller brights as it will help getting into the corners.

Thin palette knife (best for mixing paint)
T-shirt rags
Palette (round or square - whichever you prefer) or
Palette Paper (grey - not white)


Mandala Shading

Mixing Values

Here is the fun part - mixing values.  I haven't decided on what kind of palette I want so I have been using white palette paper which isn't recommended.  Colors will appear differently on white paper than they will on your painting - as you can see from the image, my lighter values barely show up.  This is why the grey palette paper is recommended instead.

I put Raw Umber on the far left side of my palette and Titanium White on the far right side of my palette.  Next I mixed my mid-tone which is to be a value half way between raw umber and white.  My Raw Umber is Windsor Newton brand and is a cooler shade than other brands.  The effect makes my mid-tone more of a putty color than a tan.  I think I like it better.

When satisfied with my mid-tone I mixed the other four values for a total of 7 different shades ranging from raw umber to white.  Along the way I had to change a lot and remix many of the values as they are all relative to each other.  This has been true both times I've mixed this palette.  Even after I started painting on the Mandala I had to remix some of the colors as the goal is to have as seamless a transition as possible between them.

Note that this time I didn't use any linseed or walnut oil.  The painting is to be done with the pure pigmented paint only - with no extra medium.  Oil would make the paint spread too much and that would interfere with the process which I will go over in the next post.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 1 


Mandala:  Rub-Out 
Day 1 Supplies:

20 x 20 canvas or canvas board

Oil Paints:
Raw Umber (any brand)
Linseed or Walnut Oil

Basic 2" brush for glazing

T-shirt rags
Palette (round or square - whichever you prefer) or
Palette Paper (grey - not white)
Workable fixative spray


Mandala Rub-Out

First:  Drawing the circles

I had seen the mandalas from other students at different stages.  The main consistency between them was how uniformly the circles were drawn.  I'd wondered how so many different students got the same symmetry - now I know...  My instructor, Dina.  Using a compass, a template, another mandala and some graphite, she drew the circles on the board for me.  She explained how mandalas are all about repetition as she drew one circle after and over another.  We used spray fixative to set the graphite lines - put on enough thin layers of fixative until you rub your finger over the lines without them smudging.  

Another trait I'd noticed about other students mandalas was that their canvases were often dirty - smudges and fingerprints all around the edges.  I told myself I was going to have a clean canvas by being very careful.  As you can see from my final image, I gave up on that dream early on...

Second:  Glazing the canvas

Oil down your palette board so that it's easier to clean.  I didn't have a palette yet, so I used palette paper instead.  I'd never even seen anyone use a traditional palette at Otis, so this was a surprising step for me to learn.

I squeezed out a little walnut oil and raw umber onto my palette and began mixing them in the middle with my 2" brush.  The amount of each depends on how dark you want to take your painting.  The more walnut oil used, the more transparent or lighter the paint will go on.  Walnut oil also helps the paint spread better so it was tempting to use a lot of it.

The goal is to cover the whole board with a glaze of walnut oil and raw umber without erasing the  lines.  Dina set the shade by starting the glazing for me.  I then tried to match how dark she got it and covered the whole board.  This step was pretty easy - finishing by brushing over the whole board in the same direction to line up the brush strokes.

Third:  rubbing the painting

Using a t-shirt wrapped around my index finger, I rubbed from the corners out in an arch.  Dina showed me how to start using a lot of pressure and taking the glaze almost all off.  Then as I moved from the corner I lessened the pressure on my finger gradually till I was a few inches away and barely touching the canvas.  This gave me a series of values from light to dark.

I repeated the process and was surprised at how hard it was.  My hands were not maintaining steady pressure on the canvas and that made it blotchy and uneven.  I also tended to over-shoot the lines with the edges of the t-shirt.  Dina said it was normal but I was disappointed that I'd not done better.  It's not a process where you can go back and correct too many mistakes.  I repeated the process as Dina put fingerprint dots on each of the starting points to guide me.

When all the corners were done I used a wadded up t-shirt rag to rub out all around the mandala.  I was told I could rub as much or as little as I wanted but just to be careful around the edges of the outermost circle.  On the center I was to take it all the way down as white as I could.  You can see that the paint had already started to dry and I wan't able to get it all off.

I only had an hour to finish the whole painting - the rush was due to the fact that this was actually my second attempt to do a mandala.  My first attempt was on a canvas I primed with cheap acrylic gesso.  It soaked up the walnut oil and paint very fast to the point where we could barely rub it off.  Cheryl Kline was kind enough to give me a new canvas board to work on so I wouldn't have to go home and start again the next week.  "Once you're here, you don't leave", she said.  I was glad in the end that I didn't wait till the next week.

College is not enough

For anyone who went to art school, hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Old Masters - only to came out with a degree and no painting skills... this blog is for you. 

 I was in my junior year at Otis College of Art and Design when a group of students from Pasedena Junior College transferred into Otis with mad painting skills.  While I was pretty good at talking about painting (I wouldn't give that up for anything), these new students made me painfully aware that I was unable to create the work that I wanted to produce.  I knew I was going to have to find another route to learn the skills I would need if I was going to find any satisfaction in my own work.

So here I am, after life happened and I quit painting for several years, finally setting out on my journey again to learn to paint.  A serendipitous turn of events led me to a small school called Kline Academy.  Located just north of Culver City here in Los Angeles, Kline Academy rests in a small apricot building on Motor Avenue.

3264 Motor Ave, Los Angeles, CA  90034

It was founded 5 years ago by Cheryl Kline, petite, gregarious woman who has studied painting around the world.  She wanted a place where anyone could go to learn the classical approach to painting.  I needed a job and just happened to have the odd mix of qualifications Cheryl needed to help her in the office.  I was hired and started immediately doing admin work and shooting and editing video.

I was intrigued by the quality of work I saw the students producing.  Often after just one or two classes the students would walk by me with artwork better than anything I'd produced at Otis.  I knew these were the skills I needed to move forward.  I could see the struggle in my own work and it was getting in the way of the beauty of the images I was trying to create.  I decided I was going to take classes as soon as I could.

The following posts are a chronicle of the journey I  am just now starting.  I want to learn to paint.  You get to start with me from day 1 and hopefully I won't embarrass myself too much by posting my work here for all to see and judge.  But I do want people to see what I have seen...  the progress made by students of Kline Academy, Otis and my journey to learn to paint.  If they can do it, hopefully I can learn to do it too.

Wish me luck...