Category Archives: Work In Progress

Painting on unstretched canvas

oil painting queen anne's lace
oil painting queen anne’s lace

So after doing some research on the expensive shipping prices for large canvases I decided to try to paint on unstretched canvas. This will make shipping much more affordable. For my mom’s gift, I can just ship them and then when I’m down there I can stretch them on stretcher bars. I’m not particularly handy but the stretching of the canvas seems doable- much easier than framing watercolors.

I purchased pre-primed canvas and made a test out of a smaller 16 x 20″  size.  That way I don’t waste too much material or time in the event that my stretching is a complete fail.  I did a few coats of acrylic washes and I did notice that there are some wrinkles, which concerns me, although it seems like this is normal from what I’ve read. I even tried to iron the canvas but it didn’t really do much. I think the only way to get rid of them completely is during the stretching process. I hope!

I quite like painting this way and I like how once it dries I can roll them up and not have my artwork take over all my living space.

 

oil painting work in progress on unstretched canvas
oil painting work in progress on unstretched canvas
Matisse kitty with winter daphne
Matisse kitty with winter daphne

Here’s my kitty smelling the wonderful scent of daphne which are such a treat because they bloom in the winter. I was making a lot of progress with my art  in 2018 but then my poor kitty Matisse got a UTI and I had to take a pause for over a week.  He’s been doing good ever sense (knock on wood) and hopefully the fancy food that I’ve been giving him will prevent him from getting one again.

 

Watercolor Painting: Cosmos Dance

Cosmos Dance Abstract Floral Watercolor Painting by Betsyness Art Studio
Cosmos Dance Abstract Floral Watercolor Painting by Betsyness Art Studio

Cosmos Dance, 2017, Watercolor,  12×16

So there are things I really like about this painting. I love the purple to blue wash and the orange to purple wash. In fact I think I should have just stopped painting right then. That’s what’s always challenging…knowing when you’re done painting.

Work in Progress: Oil Painting of Cosmos

I was experimenting with trying to create washes on canvas (here canvas board). It was less than successful so I painted over with white acrylic and am now trying to paint the cosmos in oils. I kept the big blue wash on the top exposed.

work in progress cosmos floral abstract oil painting
work in progress cosmos abstract floral oil painting

Studio Kitty with Lilies

Studio orange kitty with lilies
Studio kitty with lilies

Here’s Matisse the kitty posing with some white lilies. Is it me or is he looking a little chubby? :/ I am guilty of giving into his pleas for more food. I need to cut back on the kibble.

Oil Painting: Flowers for Paupau

Flowers for Paupau : Oil Painting still life abstract floral
Flowers for Paupau : Oil Painting still life abstract floral

Oil Painting: Flowers for Paupau

Here’s a dark moody floral painting perfect for the middle of winter. This is actually a piece I reworked with oil paints. I painted this in memory of  my late grandmother who passed away a few years ago.

The US is going through a cold snap, with much of the country experiencing sub zero temperatures. It makes me appreciate Oregon winters, even with all the grey and rain.

Here’s some pictures of the Charles River in Boston Massachusetts in winter:

Charles River in winter
Charles River in winter
Charles River in winter
Charles River in winter
Work in Progress: Acrylic Paintings

Meanwhile before I let myself hoard more art supplies I am going through some old art rejects and painting over old canvases. Most of these were acrylic paintings that I had painted a few years ago.

Here’s an acrylic painting I started, years ago. I think I was inspired by this canteloupe:

Work in progress: acrylic on board
Work in progress: acrylic and textured gesso on board
Canteloupe with seeds
Canteloupe with seeds

Here I am preparing the ground with a fairly solid color. It’s interesting to me how fastidious I probably was when I painted them originally and now I am just quickly painting over them to improve them. Just goes to show one shouldn’t treat paintings as too precious.

work in progress: acrylic painting
work in progress: acrylic painting

Art I Like: Word Art and some more of my watercolors

It’s flower season here in Portland. I have been doing a lot of fun watercolors.

Here’s one of some geraniums:
Geranium, watercolor on paper, 12x16

Geranium, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16

Foxgloves are biennials, which apparently means they bloom every two years. I thought this was a yet another weed in my front yard and recently I got surprised by these lovely blossoms.
Foxgloves, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12x16

Foxgloves, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16

I also grew a bunch of wonderful tulips this year. Here’s a view of the tulips when they get all floppy and flattened right before the petals are going to drop.

Spent tulips, 2017x watercolor on paper, 12x16

Spent tulips, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16

And I could take pictures of peonies  forever. I have peonies in my garden! Hot pink ones and these pink frilly ones (I think they’re Sarah Bernhardts?) I want to grow tree peonies but they’re like $80 a pot.

Peony bouquet, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12x16

Peony bouquet, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16

Last time I mentioned I painted a canvas with a lavender background. I wrote out that dream quote in yellow paint and then smeared it out. Not sure where this is going. I could see this one being used for a landscape eventually or maybe I’ll make it an abstract. This canvas is larger than the ones I’ve been working on.
Work in progress
The canvas is sitting on an unstretched piece of canvas that I found rolled up (my mother had dutifully saved everything of mine). I’m going to paint over it as well with oil. We’ll see how the shapes in the background play out.

I was reminded of an artist  that I like on Pinterest …Jenny Holzer. She writes memorable quotes and they are embedded in all sorts of places: billboards, movie theater signs, etched in marble, projected on a building, etc etc. I love this quote:

This piece is so fitting for today’s politics:

Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise from the series Truisms T-shirts (1980-)

Untitled Bench, Jenny Holzer, Missing Peace Exhibit

I had a drawing teacher tell me a long time ago, in a place far far away that my charcoal drawings reminded him of Cy Twombly. I was fortunate to see Cy Twombly at a retrospective I think at the Whitney Museum several years ago. He’s amazing. He embeds words in scribbles and gestural marks in a very beautiful and effortless way

Apollo by Cy Twombly

Here’s a recent watercolor of a peony with the word daydream scribbled on top. Nowhere near  as masterful as  Twombly but we’ll see where adding words in my art leads me. Don’t quit your daydream!

Daydream pink peony

Daydream pink peony

My glowing blue oil painting experiment

 

In my mood/concept mapping, I wrote down the words:

mystical
radiant
patina
residue
subtle, profound
fragile, ephemeral

not really sure where this is going but that’s the experience/aesthetic I’m working towards.

It is partially inspired by James McNeill Whistler’s tonalism paintings (there’s a great book by the Clark Art Museum) and I also saw his work in the National Gallery of Art in DC years ago.

I’m playing with all sorts of oil painting goop- gamsol, stand oil, cold wax, linseed oil. I am eyeing this strangely named medium, Neo-Megilp, although I am really trying to resist buying it to satisfy  my curiousity.  Artists of Portland…let’s meet up and try each other’s art supplies for the sake of our wallets!

I started with a dark transparent color, ultramarine. And wow is it glowing In fact, the painting actually really reminds me of a lot of the digital painting work that is coming out of ipads. Not sure if that’s a good thing, but I do like the texture, layering, and softness that is happening. I think I just need to ground the next one in a less artificial feeling color than ultramarine.

Also, this painting looks awesome in direct sunlight, but not as good in inferior lighting. I’m a little worried that all of my oil paintings are going in that direction…

Oh and I painted this on a prestretched oil primed linen panel that was on a major clearance at Blick. Boy could I get spoiled with this material!

 

Wednesday night oil sketches

AdobePhotoshopExpress_2016_09_28_18:10:35

Here is a oil painting sketch of Moolack beach where I’m trying to capture the wind blowing across the sands while reflecting the sky during low tide. I’m using Arches oil paper which in theory should be awesome. As someone with a full time job outside of art, time for art is always limited. I have been looking and trying  various  supports that will simplify the task of art production (prepping canvases or boards until I win the lottery and can pay for my own studio assistant) and give me more time to paint. Unfortunately the Arches oil paper is as unappealing to me as their watercolor paper. It has the texture of a bounty paper towel and it is WAY too absorbent—it somehow doesn’t let me to remove any paint off the paper which for me is one of the defining characteristics of the oil paint medium—it’s malleability and wiping-off ease. So anyways for this study, I’m not even trying to do much glazing or thin layers. I’m aiming for bold, thick layers which I would never do on a canvas or linen but I almost have to do on this oil paper. I also did an under layer of acrylic. Actually I think this paper should be marketed as acrylic paper because it is thick and it is pretty decent for acrylics. But the paper is way too expensive to use for just that purpose.

So far this painting is too aggressive and chaotic to me. On this paper it’s hard to make the subtle blends that the location really calls for.  This painting just goes to show you how hard it is to paint simply. I’ve been admiring Katherine Bradford‘s oil painting work for a long time. Her work uses the icons and imagery of children’s art….superheroes, boats, and simplified human forms..but the work is decidedly not childish…it’s beautiful and masterfully done. All the haters that look at this type of work and say I could do that…trust me it’s not as easy as it looks.

Katherine Bradford found on hyperallergic.com
Katherine Bradford found on hyperallergic.com
Katherine Bradford found on painters-table.com

I also did another oil painting study of Bandon beach. We went down to the southern Oregon coast earlier this month. I haven’t posted about that trip but stay tuned. It was AWESOME!!!

AdobePhotoshopExpress_2016_09_28_18:09:59

It’s at a stage where I like the looseness and softness (and the maroon color glazes) and I debate if I should continue and risk losing what I’ve already done by potentially overworking it. I’ll probably just keep going.

Emily Henderson, writer of the  design blog I read everyday, says that in the early stage of a creative career, it’s quantity over quality that matters. So in that spirit no point in being a perfectionist and being scared to ruin this painting….right now it’s about learning and exploring.

 

 

Lake oil painting study

I’m working on an oil painting landscape of Lake George at sunset. My goal was to use more vivid colors instead of the classic burnt umber understudy as the first layer in the hopes of capturing more glow and reflection. I also wanted to use darker transparent colors that I have not yet used before to ‘bridge’ the midtone, similar to the sweet pea study that I did a couple weeks ago.

Purple sweet pea oil on paper 12x16 framed

There I painted the flower petals a bright lavender first. Then I glazed with a darker transparent color over it to build the mid tone bridge. This process is different than the slow build of dark to light. We’ll see how it turns out for this landscape.

In the first layer I used montserrat orange by Williamsburg mixed with naples yellow.  Even though the trees are going to be this fabulous green orange dusky color, I used this amazing purple called dioxazine purple as the base color, it’s dark, transparent, and fairly balanced between red and blue. It’s like the sap green of purples.

In my second layer I brought out the sap green and a darker green mix made of sap green, burnt umber,  and ultramarine blue.

At this point I was really hesitant to go over with paint for the fear of overworking what I already liked going on. But as I ‘ve been listening to inspirational words over the past year, you can’t be afraid to ruin it and I just need to treat this as a study, not as a masterpiece. If it’s ruined oh well I’ll just paint over it.

Being bold with the darks really helped ground the painting and I’m glad I did that. I also was lent this amazing maroon dark purple shade- not really sure what color it is but I’ll have to find a way to mix that. I love using dark maroons and purples in watercolors too.

For the orangey glow of dusk kissing the leaves I started mixing the transparent red oxide and the brown madder in with my sap green.

 

 

Oil painting floral still life is done!

After being on the verge of done for what seemed like months (mainly because I would go weeks without touching it) I think I am finally done with this floral still life!

floral still life by Betsy Chang
floral still life by Betsy Chang

Well, I think I am ready to call it quits. There’s a lot I learned from this process and of course I have more questions.

My major learnings from this painting:

  1. Which colors are transparent
  2. Making things lighter by making the darks darker first

which gets me to my current conundrum.

This oil painting is darker than most of my watercolors. That’s not just because oils are more opaque than watercolors. It has to do with the fact that I chose a subject that had a dark background (which I normally wouldn’t try in watercolors because it’s hard to find good greys in watercolor) and my oil painting technique relied on a  mid tone foundation with layered glazes ….without really ever using the color white. Whereas in watercolor, the white of the paper shines through and keeps things bright.

So this oil painting is not only extremely hard to photograph- hello glare- compared to my watercolors. It also feels dull and heavy in normal inside light, while under a nice bright lightbulb or in the sun you can see this amazing luminosity and the feeling of glowing from within that drew me to using oils in the first place.

closeup of painting in sunlight
closeup of painting in sunlight

So I don’t have any Rembrandts in person to compare, but is this just how it is for oils? Do you need like museum quality lighting to fully view them and normally they are just meh? I don’t know if i I buy that…

If so that’s another debate. Watercolors feel flimsy (on paper) and they need matting and glass to protect them which gets expensive and cumbersome. Whereas oils don’t really need to even be framed, but are they just ghosts without strong light?

Which do you prefer? Oils or watercolor?

An oil painting still life’s (slow) progress

I was told that my painting looked finished even in its previous stage, but I wanted to further develop the peach colored poppy and the pink ranunculus in the foreground. I really liked what was going on with the background area near the camellia stem and blossoms.

I love watercolors and thinking about how that translates to the transparency in oil paints.  Oil paints excel at providing really great dark tones for luminous, transparent shadows. Certain colors are particularly transparent: alizarin crimson, ultramarine, and sap green. Sap green is the best green ever, it’s so balanced it’s like a neutral color that you could add anywhere. Some greens are too blue or saturated that they look fake when you use too much of them, but sap green is just so agreeable and you can use it even straight out of the tube. I’ve learned one way to make a great grey: mix sap green + alizarin crimson + naples yellow.

At this point in the painting, I’m feel really impatient to be DONE ALREADY.  I keep needing to be reminded not to rush ahead, and to keep knocking back the the shadows, using the darks and midtones. With the peach poppy, I ended up mixing more murky greys and browns and then blending them, than using this awesome salmon color I mixed from yellow ochre + montserrat orange + cadmium red.

To create the yellow stamen and pistil center of the poppy, I used cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, and naples yellow.  (Side note, mixing yellow ochre is good way to add the yellow hue without going too light in value.) 4 tones are needed to create 3 dimensional form, so I attempted to mix 4 ish yellowish tones. Again, I was feeling frustrated because I see this part being so clear and bright, but the first layer  feels very vague and fuzzy.

For the ranunculus, I’m using magentas for the first time in the painting.

 

Art Mistake #1: Getting ahead of yourself

Art Mistake #1: Getting too attached to one section of a painting. This is happens when you start working on one part of a painting and you get “ahead” of the rest of the painting. Like I did when I started going overboard and painting in all the details of the petals- I ended up making the blossoms too dark and too strong for the overall composition.


This also commonly happens when your foreground is really detailed and fully modeled, and the background doesn’t really feel cohesive and fully integrated with the foreground. You get so excited that you leave the background behind.

Ways to avoid it:

Don’t get too attached. I do this all the time. I fall in love with one color, or one texture, or the certain way the something looks. Be bold and willing to paint over something if needed to make the whole thing work.

Keep squinting and zoom in and out. This helps you check the overall relationships.

Early on, use a large brush and paint general areas of light and dark rather than trying to get so precise about the lines and shapes. Think of paint as stains at this point, so you’re not going too heavy on the paint.