The way I paint starts with the basic elements. In regards to creativity and the artistic nature, each person uses specific tools to create the art that is unique to them. Just as each artist chooses these items, there are reasons as to why. I developed a liking for specific tools over the years. Even though most of what I use, I already had. As my style matured, I really began to appreciate the tools I used and realized why I used them.
I started using water miscible oil paint about six years ago and have since stuck with it. I had played around with acrylic, watercolor and oil but found a fondness with the water-soluble oils. They work about the same as traditional oil paint but the clean-up is so easy; warm soap and water, that’s it! No harsh chemicals or the terrible smell of turpentine that never leaves the studio. Another amazing perk is I can use this paint like watercolor. Since it is water soluble, I can dilute it with a little water and use it similarly to traditional watercolor. But! (there’s always a but) If you do dilute it too much it can lose some adhesion to the surface you are painting on. This is definitely not good, so if you plan to test them out… tiny bits of water at a time: an eye dropper is really helpful for this.
The next step is deciding what to apply the paint to! I haven’t spent a lot of time using different surfaces for my work. However, I’ve always had an interest in using wood, specifically plywood. Since it is compressed chipped wood, the absorption of the paint on the plywood would give the surface a very unique texture and using recycled materials would be environmentally friendly. So, this is definitely something I am considering exploring but have yet to do a significant amount of research on. I currently use pre-wrapped canvas. I have not learned to frame or stretch canvas myself but it is definitely on my list of things to do! I find canvas to be quite a beautiful place to start though. I like the small amount of texture in the fibers and the pristine white surface to place paint upon. It’s like a warm towel from the dryer or a clean kitchen. It’s like a morning on my day off when I wake up on my own as the sun peeks through the window and I feel its warmth on the sheets. In that moment my mind is calm and clear. That’s what a blank canvas reminds me of.
Then I use that pretty perfect canvas to imprint all of my anxiety, fear, hope and love. Ah yes, this is how we get the paint onto the canvas. The brushes I use are such an important element to my process because they are the way I present color and the way I tell a story.
I use two main tools:
- 2″ straight edge pallet knife (found at most art supply stores, pictured on right and top of page)
- 3″ chip brush (found at most supply/hardware stores for about .99 cents)
You’re probably wondering why the hell do I use a cheap chip brush for the majority of my work. Well, it does exactly what I need it to. I have found it to be great for feathering and dragging paint. The chip brush allows blending without blotching or fully submerging the fibers of the canvas with paint. I find a great deal of beauty in leaving parts of the canvas bare, it’s a reminder of where that piece started and the journey it has endured. We all have moments of our past that helped define exactly who we are today. I don’t want to forget that.
If you want to talk about the soul of a painting, let us call upon the pallet knife. Each one of my paintings is predominately created by a pallet knife. I have found them extremely useful for creating definite lines and texture. This is precisely why I use them. It gives each piece voice, tone, and feeling. Sharper lines show more aggression, anger, confusion, or doubt. Softer flowing lines show calm, joy, or contentment. And most of the time these two are fighting with one another to create their own chaotic dance. When I first used a pallet knife I was so mad because I was trying to paint “snow” on a mountain from a silly video I had seen and it looked like shit. I got so mad I completely wiped off the snow and did it “my way” (which still looked terrible but I felt better about it, hah). But as I developed my style I became severely drawn to its intensity and ability to just fade away. Most of my work is in vertical lines so using a pallet knife makes a bolt textured statement at the beginning then slowly fades to its almost invisible end.
Such as life, nothing is ever perfectly balanced but we try to find balance still. The combination of using the chip brush and a pallet knife allows me to merge the gap between light and darkness and truly reveal what’s in between those lines. Of course, I use other paintbrushes to help me complete my work. I use various brushes of various sizes to put a couple of details in here and bring out a certain color there. Mostly I use a small fine pointed brush, a small flat tipped brush, and a rounded tipped brush but I have a selection of brushes so it varies. I use these smaller brushes for detailing, when I am nearing the completion of the piece. Many studio days will be spent with me sitting in front of a painting with a tiny fine point brush just barely placing the tiniest bit of color on this one section of the piece and then I’ll sit back and stare at the painting for an hour until I decide it needs just a touch more here or there. These are extremely important studio days. Although they are not spent painting excessively, these are the days spent letting go. I am letting go the emotions attached to the piece. I allow the fears, anger, hate, and bits of love to live in the paint on the surface of the canvas so that I no longer have to carry them with me.
The story I tell through my painting cannot be read with a glance. It must be felt. Each of us has things we must say and how we choose to say them is different. I speak from emotion and I do this through color, texture, and movement. I allow myself to process the events that happen and have happened in my life. None of these events are exactly the same, which is also why each one of my pieces can be significantly different from another. But this is a part of life. Growth. If we stay in the same place our entire existence, then what have we learned? That comfort is comfort? Yes, but what is fear and the absolutely terrifyingly beautiful feeling it is to conquer it? We’d never know that. And I definitely wouldn’t have started painting or be writing this right now. I want to conquer those fears. I can’t promise I will get over being terrified of snakes or spiders but hey, I feel like battling my mind and severe anxiety through painting is a step in the right direction.
I have found that being true to yourself is the most important thing in life. This requires honesty, self-awareness, and emotion. I hope my work ignites feeling, so you may open your eyes not only to your heart but also to your true self.