Thursday, June 26, 2014

Overcome the Fear - Rock the Underpainting

When I started out painting and art journaling, my greatest fear was addressing the dreaded "blank" page or canvas! How do I start??? Now that I've been painting for years, I've learned to be BOLD and just throw whatever color interests me at the moment down on the canvas or paper surface to give a running start to the creative process... This exercise is especially helpful when I have a few minutes to spare and want to do something creative, but don't want to get into a whole painting. It's also a great thing to do with left over paint! Here are some underpaintings in my studio right now:

The underpaintings above are oil paint on canvas (from a canvas pad), collage 
and NeoColor II water soluble oil pastel on canvas, and collage
 on acrylic wash (from left-over paint) on watercolor paper.

Since I'm an abstract painter, my underpaintings are just about getting color down, collage and mark making like the one below. Generally, I use the colors of an underpainting as a guide for the colors I paint or glaze over top, however, traditional underpaintings typically use one color; grey, sienna, red iron oxide, sepia, yellow ocher, and others.

NeoColor II water soluble oil pastel on watercolor paper. 
Salt was added while the pastel was wet to give the spotted effect.

There are some great resources available for free online about techniques for underpainting, such as this blog post from Jerry's Artarama HERE and a YouTube video from The World of Art HERE. A few of my favorite examples of underpainting in books are the write up about artist Juan de la Cruz Machicado in Painter's Wild Workshop by Lynn Leon Loscutoff and the "From Drawing to Painting" chapter of Bill Creevy's The Oil Painting Book. Don't worry that the references speak about oil painting, the same techniques can be used for acrylic painting and other mediums, too.

I encourage you to pick up a brush with left over paint or water soluble oil pastel crayons the next time you have a few minutes to spare and give underpainting a try! Use it to add layers and interest to your artwork. Please share your experiences trying this technique in the comments below.

Happy Arting!  Tristina :D

Monday, June 23, 2014

On The Bench - Oil Vignettes

Thought I'd give you a peek at some of the latest small oil paintings on my home studio work table.

When I have left over pieces of beautiful thick paper, I use painter's tape to mosaic them onto a portable drawing table background. These first get covered with a layer of clear or white gesso or acrylic paint, then I glue down map pieces with matte gel medium.

When the glue is dry, I draw over the surface with Caran d'Ache NeoColor II water soluble oil pastel crayons and use water to spread the color around to create an oil-friendly underpainting. After that dries, I paint on the surface with oil paints using several different shaped palette knives, keeping the paint strokes expressive and using the palette knife tip to scrape shapes into the painted surface. I make sure bits of the maps show through the background to add mystery to the finished paintings.

I'm in love with my collection of used domestic and international postage stamps; I select one, coat the back with Dorland's Cold Wax Medium and stick it to the oil-painted surface, pressing down with a palette knife. Finally, I use a small brush to add my signature to the paintings. (Note that sometimes it is best to let the paintings dry for a day or two before adding the signature.) The paintings get left to dry for 1-3 weeks, then the painter's tape is gently removed at an angle to the paper edge for an exciting reveal!

Saintly, 8in x 10in
Coronation, 9.5in x 11in
Passage, 5.5in x 7.5in
Peace Rising, 5.5in x 7.5in
Fierce, 5in x 9.5in

A great solvent-free way to clean the palette knives and small signature brush is to put a dab of linseed oil on a Viva paper towel or cotton cloth and simply wipe them off. (I learned this tip in Vicky Perry's Abstract Painting book) I hope you'll try this quick, fun way to create expressive mini works of art. Please share your results in the comments.

Happy Arting!  Tristina  :D

Friday, June 20, 2014

Art In A Vacuum or Creative Community?

To feel like you're not creating art in a vacuum, it's important to connect to a creative community. Besides the connecting we do online through social media activity, where many of the people we meet are in far-flung places, I find it's gratifying to build local relationships with other artists, cultural support groups, universities, schools, museums and art supply stores.

Utrecht/Blick in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has been my local art supply store since they opened. I spend many hours in the store perusing on an almost weekly basis and have gotten to know well the store manager, Serafima, and her staff. Before Serafima became manager, I became friends with the previous store manager, Corinna, who is now in the Miami store. I have offered my time to both of them and done many art demonstrations over the years in their stores.

A few days ago I found myself heading to Miami to drop my daughter off for the day. Rather than take the long drive back home and have to return round-trip again later, I decided to stay in Miami and brought some art supplies along in the car to be sure my time waiting would be productive. I am always mesmerized by "public" painters, so thought a plein air painting session would be fun.

That afternoon I had the option to go to the beautiful Fairchild Gardens to paint, or, I thought, what about seeing if Corinna at the Miami Utrecht/Blick would allow me to set up a table inside the store to paint in the comfort of air-conditioning and share my painting passion with her customers? She and her staff graciously invited me in, so I spent a delightful afternoon with them sketching in Pastels, playing with Oils, and sharing my knowledge and techniques with their curious customers.

 Painting in Blick Miami store with dry pastels.

Dry pastel sketch on mixed media paper.

Abstraction of above photo with dry pastel on mixed media paper.

Starting another dry pastel painting on ArtSpectrum colourfix pastel paper.

I highly recommend if you haven't already taken the opportunity to make art in public places that you give it a try. Take a look in your community for potential art-friendly locations - restaurants, hotels, a local art guild, art supply stores, area art-walks or any place that would like to bring interest to their customers. Get creative and think outside the box! 

Then, simply ask. Don't take a "no" as a personal rejection, just keep trying. In the mean time, practice painting or drawing in front of people by setting up outside in a park or on a bench along a public road with lots of foot traffic. In no time, you'll become great at painting and talking about it at the same time in front of strangers... and may even find some fans! Be brave, put yourself out there, build relationships and experience how enriching your creative community can be.

HAPPY ARTING!  Tristina  :D

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Visit With Peace Mural Foundation

Yesterday my daughter Samantha and I went to Miami Beach to visit dynamic and prolific Artist Huong (Anna) at her Peace Mural Foundation Museum Gallery and view the spectacular Peace Murals that she has created through her own paintings and by inspiring intern artists from local universities, children, and people of all ages and from all walks of life. Find out more about the Foundation at

This one Mural for Peace consists of 2000 canvases and includes paintings 
with the word Peace written in 120 different languages.

As a refugee from Vietnam, Anna came to America with her son to escape from the ravages of war. Having experienced the effects of war first hand, she has made it her mission to work at educating people to think of PEACE as a priority in our lives and for the good of our shared planet. Her organization does this through ART!

I am grateful that Anna has asked me to help teach her university art student interns how to use the Pebeo Fantasy paints on 400 canvases for the Foundation's latest Save Our Oceans mural project to be unveiled in Miami in November! I have loaned my Reef Skull 1 and Prism's Dance paintings to the Foundation as inspiration for the interns, and they may be viewed by the public while visiting Miami Beach at the Peace Mural Foundation Museum Gallery, 1606 Washington Avenue. Open daily 2 pm - 10 pm.

One of my favorite murals (they are all gorgeous and provocative) in the museum is the Immigration Mural running the length of several walls. Here is an article on the Foundation website about it:

One of my favorite quotes from the Immigration Mural!

Thank you so much to Anna for her gifting Samantha and me the intaglios from the Immigration Mural series of a family and wise owl by the late Miami artist Joe Demarais and signing her Peace Mural poster for us! I'm so looking forward to working with Anna's team on the Save Our Oceans mural. :D

Happy Arting & Peace Out!  Tristina

Monday, June 2, 2014

Miami Utrecht 15 Year Celebration with Pebeo Paints

CONGRATULATIONS to the Miami Utrecht / Dick Blick Art Supply store for celebrating their 15th anniversary yesterday with special discounts and activities for store customers. According to store manager, Corinna Burrough, the Pebeo Paints demo I gave by far had the largest group of inquisitive artists in attendance! And, boy, did we have some fun!!!

Store manager Corinna with some of her crew members 
so excited about Pebeo Paints!

 Getting ready to start the Pebeo paints demonstration.

Pebeo demonstration in progress...

Tristina Dietz Elmes, Prism's Dance, 18 x 24 inches
Pebeo Prisme Fantasy Paint on Liquid Art Panel

Folks were excited to see the NEW Pebeo Liquid Art Panels and how the Pebeo Fantasy Prisme (honeycomb effect), Fantasy Moon (pounded metal effect), Vitrail (stained glass effect) and colored Resin paints are used to make poured paintings in the panels. I also introduced the beautiful shimmery Dyna Acrylic paints, bright Florescent Acrylic paints and the Pebeo specialty mediums (like my personal favorite, the clear / black / red / yellow sand Texture Gel). 

Tristina Dietz ElmesFlorescent Black, 22 x 28 inches
Pebeo Florescent Paint, Black Sand Medium and clear Glazing Resin on canvas.

The Cerne Relief outliner dimensional paints got a nod of understanding when I explained they can be used to create custom raised designs on any surface that can then be filled with the liquid Pebeo paints. And, at the end of the presentation the Ohh's and Ahh's came out when the artists saw how easy the Pebeo Metal Effect Leaves are to use on sticky Mixtion Guilding Paste.

I'd like to give a HUGE Thank You to all who attended, including some of my favorite students! ;)

Pebeo Vitrail, Fantasy Prisme and Fantasy Moon liquid painting + Glitter

Pebeo Gedeo Resin painting with Cerne Relief outliner accent + Glitter

Stop by the Miami Utrecht / Dick Blick store anytime to see the above 2 paintings that were left for customers to enjoy!

Miami Utrecht store manager Queen Bee Corinna and me. :)

Happy Arting!  Tristina