Ask the Artist!

It’s not really special, but I have no skills in anything useful like nuclear physics or organic stereochemistry. Art is the only thing I’m actually really good at. So if there’s anyone that is learning to do artwork or has a question about techniques, mediums, etc., I can probably answer it. I have a Graphic Design Diploma and I’ve taught Fine Arts courses. I can do and have done:

-Painting; oil, acrylics, watercolours and gouache
-Sculpting; clay (both by hand and thrown on a wheel), plaster, wax, wood and soapstone
-Drawing; pencils, pen & ink, charcoal, conte, coloured pencils
-Other mediums: Scratchboard (scraperboard)

So, I don’t know if I’ll get any questions, but I figured I’d give it a shot just to see if the only thing I’m good at is at all useful… :slight_smile:

What kind of watercolor and acrylic paints do you prefer?
What paintbrushes don’t shed fiber?

What is scratch board?

I did my first human portrait in acrylic.
It dried too fast.
What could I have done to improve it?

Is it much different to work with oils?
I got some for my birthday, but haven’t really expiremented with them as I’m finding the brushes a pain in the bum to clean. Is there an easier way to clean them than linseed oil*?

*If that’s what I even used…I have two bottles of stuff and that’s the only name I recall right now. :rolleyes:

Woo! Thanks for the question! I prefer transparent watercolours. You can get semi-opaque but I find the washes look cakey like children’s tempera paint. With the transparent you can add as many layers of colour as you need. As far as brands go, I really like Windsor & Newton. With watercolours, it pays to get the higher-end ones if you are serious about painting. The cheaper ones tend to fade faster and sometimes the pigments are not as soluble, leaving occasional dark dots of pigments with your wash. Avoid the cheap stuff.

Acrylics are a bit more versatile. You can get semi-professional brands (such as Tri-Art) for a nominal price, and the quality is nearly as good as the high-priced professional brands. Windsor & Newton is also one of my favorite acrylics manufacturers, but Tri-Art is quite a bit cheaper and is very good.

Nearly every brush is going to shed some bristles at some point in time. Again this is one of those things where you will have to go for higher quality to reduce the number of bristles shed. Nylon or hog bristle are tougher than materials like sable and are less prone to breakage. Also, the sleeve of the brush which binds the bristles has to be sufficiently tight to secure them. Here’s some tips to help avoid bristle loss:

-Don’t leave brushes soaking in water: this will loosen the glue in the sleeve. Also, don’t wash brushes in hot water, as this can cause loosening as well.

-Wash brushes with a brush soap and conditioner (I use the Master’s brand) to keep the bristles clean and soft.

-When painting, don’t grind the bristles into the canvas/other surface. This can cause them to fray.

-Always store brushes bristle-up. After washing gently reshape it with your fingers and let air-dry.

It looks like a piece of bristol board/card stock, and can be either black or white, and it has a satiny-looking surface. The surface is actually a coating which will scrape off with a sharp tool, showing another layer of paper underneath. Black board scratches away to reveal white, and white board scratches away to reveal black. It involves a lot of fine detail work and the scratched-off dust is kind of messy, but I enjoy it a lot.

When working with acrylics you can use an additive called Retarder which will slow down the drying time, leaving you more opportunity to work with it after you’ve applied it to the canvas. You just mix the desired amount in with your paint - it comes clear, so it doesn’t change the colour of your paint. Most art stores will have it.

Oils dry much more slowly, up to a month or more depending on the thickness of the application. Yes, they are more of a pain to clean. Linseed oil, however, is meant to mix with your paints to increase viscosity and thin them out, not to clean them. You should get either a turpentine-based cleaner or you can also get natural thinner made with orange oil. Solvents of these types are flammable and require good ventilation, though, so store and handle with care. Also, turpentine-based solvents should never be poured down the drain, as they will harm the environment.

It was the orangy stuff.
How does one dispose of turpentine-based solvents?

There is a special metal disposal can you can get to put your oily rags into. I’ve always had access to one so I’ve never had to look myself, but some hardware stores might have them. You can also ask your local waste centre if they supply them, and what their procedure is for disposing chemicals like these. Disposal procedures for hazardous materials might vary from country to country.

This may be a thread in and of itself, but I have an art project I need to work on and I’m not quite sure where to begin. Could I have your (or anyone else’s) advice please?

The end result will be about a dozen Oscar statuettes, except Oscar has been replaced by Superman.

I have a 11" action figure on the way from Ebay. I’ll break and glue him as appropriate to get him in the right pose. I’ll probably make the base of the statuette out of a couple of flower pots. What I need to do is somehow make a mold of this “scuplture” and produce statuettes that I can spraypaint gold.

This doesn’t need to be too high-class, and I’m a complete newcomer to working in any sort of three dimensional medium, but I’d like them to turn out as nice as possible (obviously).

How do I take an effective mold of my statuette? What would be easiest to cast him in? (I’ve been thinking plaster) Are there products for this I should consider, or a good website I can review?

Any nudge in the right direction is appreciated!!

If anyone is wondering, they’re centerpieces for a mixed-theme Oscars/Superhero going-away party that will be held in January.

Well, plaster of paris is probably the cheapest casting material you can get. I’ve never casted an action figure before so it might be a little tricky to figure out. What I would do is just before casting, make a mixture of vaseline and a little bit of varsol and paint the entire figure with it. This will give the inside of the cast a smooth finish and will aid in removing the cast once it’s dry. Get a plastic container about 2" deep and at least as tall/wide as the figure. Coat the container with the varsol/vaseline mixture as well. Mix the plaster according to the package directions. You’ll want it to be rather thick, thick enough so that you can press your figure into it but that it won’t sink to the bottom. Press it facedown halfway into the mixture and let dry. Remove and repeat the same procedure with another mixture of plaster but this time press him down halfway face up. Once dry you will now have two halves of a mold that you can join together to create “statues”. You will want to be careful that the two halves line up so your figure won’t be lopsided.

You can also make casts with something called Flex Wax. This is a block of wax rather like paraffin that can be melted and poured over your object. When dry, cut it down the sides with an exacto knife and voila, you have a cast. It is considerably more expensive, though, around $40 Cdn. for a 2 1/2 lb. block.

Have you tried alkyds? As far as I know only Windsor Newton makes them. They are really quite nice.

That was fast… thanks. :slight_smile: That sounds a lot more simple than I thought it would be. So, should I also be casting a straw or something so I’ll have a hole to pour plaster into the mold to actually make the statuettes? Seems like it’d be difficult to lay both halves face-up, fill them, and then try to sort of slap them together.

Yes, you’ll need to have a hole at the top. When your halves are dry you can chisel one on each half that connects to the top of the depression in the mold. Before you pour the plaster in you’ll need to join the pieces and bind them tightly, I usually use large rubber bands to join cast halves. When the poured plaster is dry and you take the mold away, your character might have an extra appendage on his head from the pouring hole; that you can just smooth down with sandpaper.

What is it about Prismacolors that makes them so special? I remember being amazed by them when an illustrator came to our school and demonstrated their properties.

Also, I’ve seen artists holding the pencil sideways, almost like a hammer, except that it’s held in the fingertips. Why is that?

Since most of the Q’s up to this point have been technical in nature, let me follow up with a creativity approach:

  1. When did you realize you wanted to make art for a living?

  2. How much of your skill is made up of natural talent, versus technical know-how? By which I mean, how much did you have to learn to do what you do, and how much just came naturally to you?

  3. Ever sold your work? If so, did it feel like “selling out” your talent? If you haven’t sold anything, would you ever like to?

How do you acheive smooth gradients (skies, clouds, water) and blends (facial tones and cloth, etc.) when using acrylics?

Do you agree with Salvador Dali that there are two kinds of popes, the respiratory and the digestive?

Prismacolors have more pure pigment in them. They are also much less waxy than the kind of pencil crayons school kids use. This makes them much easier to blend and the colour hue is more true to the colour each pencil is supposed to represent.

Holding the pencil in this style could be for a few reasons: when doing exercises like 30-second figure drawing, holding it this way helps the arm and hand move easier and more quickly. It can also be to keep the pencil out of your line of sight while you draw. Or, if you want shading or softer lines this is one way to achieve it.

  1. I think when I was about 12 I started to consider it to be more than a hobby.

  2. It’s hard to say exactly how much came from where. I think that things like representation of light and shade and general use of pencils was something that I developed pretty much on my own. I’ve always been able to draw most things (except monkeys, cars, planes and buildings…hee hee…don’t know why) from my head. Things like painting and sculpting techniques took training to do properly.

3)Yep I have, I can’t say I felt like I was “selling out”, though…I think it’s because I price my work generally pretty cheaply, partly because I want it to be affordable if someone really wants it, and also because I tend to work quickly.