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Art Supplies Review: Ampersand Pastelbord

May 10, 2011

Last Friday I had some time to head over to Plaza Artist Supply in Rockville and check out their sale that is going on this May (not paid to say this… just FYI).

I wanted to also check out the pastelbord by Ampersand (I am also not affiliated with Ampersand.) that I saw a video about. I am going to do a short review of my first experiences with this new-to-me drawing/painting suface.

According to the Ampersand website, their “Pastelbord is a clay and gesso coated hardboard panel with a granular marble dust finish comparable to a sanded pastel paper except more durable and more versatile. It can be used with wet or dry traditional pastel techniques or with acrylics, and more! The coating is pH neutral and non-yellowing, making it a truly permanent museum quality surface.”

I watched a video of a woman demonstrating this pastelbord and was intrigued. I am known to mostly paint in watercolor, but I have been getting back into acrylics again. When I paint with acrylics I miss watercolor. When I paint in watercolor, I miss acrylics. This pastelbord sounded like it was going to solve that problem of being a medium two timer. I figured I can have big love for both watercolor and acrylics on the pastelbord. It sounded like I could use either medium in any way I wanted because of this special surface: clay and marble dust finish.

Well, it’s true. I purchased the biggest piece of pastelbord they sold and took it with me to my painting demo at the MAA Gallery in Wheaton Mall. I unwrapped it and felt its rough, yet inviting texture. It had a significant amount of “tooth” to it. It felt very texturized, but also smooth- almost like rubbing the surface of fine terra cotta, but not quite. I had purchased the white surface even though they have other colors.

Since the video said I could do some blending really well, I grabbed some light ultramarine blue and some water and started to apply the paint. VERY INTERESTING! The color that appears on the pastelbord is much different than what shows up on canvas board. It is brighter and it looks as if I am painting with watercolor. This effect can be controlled with the amount of water I apply to the brush or surface.

I am loving it so much already. I am still deciding where I go from here with this image, but I have a pretty good idea that it’ll be a landscape.

Next time, I’ll write about what pastelbord looks like with a combination acrylic wash and thinker acrylic application. I hope I inspired you to try new painting surfaces. This one is still new to me and the possibilities are exciting.

Acrylics on Pastelbord

Acrylics on Pastelbord


Ugh… Don’t You Hate it When that Video You Like Gets Taken Down?!

May 3, 2011
Painting with Light

Painting with Light with David Hockney

I was just about to write about a series of Youtube videos involving one of my favorite famous contemporary artists, David Hockney, and digital art.

Now, I found these videos a while back after doing youtube searches on David Hockney. They were awesome videos showing me something that I didn’t realize myself, a digital artist: this stuff has been around a long time.

If anyone has these videos. I’d love to see them again. Please let me know.

Transforming Art Trucks Across America

April 27, 2011

Just got my ear blasted when a kid in our building pulled the fire alarm. Loudest alarm ever. I can’t concentrate with the ear pain, so I’m catching up on art news instead of doing art work.

I just read about this awesome, traveling, mobile multi-discipline arts exhibit. This 18 wheeler transforms into the exhibit space. The exhibit itself is about who, what, where we are in America post 9/11, but not meant to be political. It is meant to provoke dialogue with towns across the country. The interesting interview with the organizer, Eric Fischl says it much than me.

Although, he is a bit harsh towards digital art (which I make), he makes good points about the general public not really understanding that art must be appreciated in person to get it’s intended scale, etc. This is the same sort of thing as David Lynch being offended by viewers watching his movies on small phones instead of in theaters. Although, I agree with Fischl, I also feel there is a place for digital art and it must not be dismissed. Art should be viewed where it was intended to be experienced, which could be on a phone, museum, truck, cafe, or home, etc. That depends the artist and the viewer.

Check it out:

Don’t worry it’s not too artsy fartsy. 🙂

Victoria’s April ACEO Picks

April 2, 2011

I have created a treasury in Etsy showcasing my Aprils picks or ACEOs. ACEO is short for Art Card Editions and Prints. They are trading card sized artworks. They have to be trading card size so that they can be called ACEO or art card. ACEOs are an economical way to put together an art collection. You can even get ACEO sized frames or albums. Some frames showcase several ACEOs. The small size of the work also helps save precious space in small homes or offices. I think the idea is nifty.

Victoria's Favorite ACEOs for April

Victoria's Favorite ACEOs for April

Watercolor Treasury

April 1, 2011

I am always honored to have paintings of mine featured in Etsy treasuries. This treasury in particular is filled with other beautiful watercolor paintings. Please take a moment to click on the various images to get a better look at each one.

Etsy Watercolor Wonders Treasury

Etsy Watercolor Wonders Treasury

Clearing the Air about Digital Art

March 27, 2011

There is somewhat a debate about what is acceptable digital art work in an art show this fall. I’ve been meaning to research and write about digital art. I haven’t quite finished my research into the history of digital art, but I do want to discuss misconceptions and explain how I create digital art. I will also talk about what might be questionable as an entry to an art show.

This is a subject that is near and dear to me. I am a “traditional artist” and a “digital artist.” At almost every event where my art is shown I get the question, “What are digital watercolors?” At art shows you list your medium on the label. When the viewer doesn’t see the label, but simply takes the work in I don’t get these questions. I used to hate answering the questions mainly because of the bias and misconceptions surrounding digital art to this day. I used to feel awkward about it, but I’ve come to peace with it. I see other digital artists like me and I readily advocate it now.

There are many pre-conceptions, myths,  and bias when it comes to digital art.

  • One of the main misconceptions is that digital art is easy.
  •  Others think digital artists manipulate images to create something.
  •  Many people think the art is made by clicking around with a mouse.
  • I hear, “Well, it easy to fix mistakes.”
  • There is also the myth that if you use digital software, the artist can’t paint with traditional paint.
  • Some might think digital art isn’t considered an original.

One of the main misconceptions is that digital art is easy.

In many ways, technology has made life more complicated. What would we do without out smart phones, broadband, etc.? But, have not any one of these devices wasted hours of our time for one reason or another? Well, nothing is easier than grabbing a pencil and paper and going to town. Going for paint, water, and a brush is not complicated either. But, it can get messy and expensive to purchase good supplies.

Painting digitally is not having to worry about making a mess, spilling paint, getting clothing dirty, or having a painting accidentally ruined. You also don’t have to wait for paint to dry. There is no need to keep spending money on expensive supplies that run out.

It gets tough when you need to choose your software. Not all do the same things; some have more intuitive interfaces than others. You also have to take into consideration the price of the software, a tablet, and stylus. The hardest part is getting the software’s tools to behave as you would have them behave had you used a traditional brush or pen.

There are lots of little adjustments to create endless possibilities for the types of marks that can be made. Options can be overwhelming and get an artist off focus.  A digital artist still needs real drawing and painting skills. They still need to be able plan a good composition keeping all the art elements in mind.

I will talk about the pros and cons of digital art in a future post.

 Others think digital artists manipulate images to create something.

Well some do. Some do the same thing with paper cut-outs and manipulate those images to create a new image and it is typically acceptable as collage or mixed media.

Yes, some people will take an image they found in a Google search, import it into some digital art software, and simply apply a filter that makes it look as if it was painted. That’s a sin in my book. There are others that may just apply some funky coloring to an image and call it a day.

There is already a lot of art and music that has been created by the manipulation of existing work. Paper collages, mixed media, pop art, and dance mixes, remixes, etc. are all based off of manipulating something that is out there already. The artist’s job is not to rip off the original and make it their own…. Not just change a few small parts and call it an original.

 Many people think the art is made by clicking around with a mouse.

Many older people are not familiar with how a lot of digital marks are made. In high school,  I think Photoshop was in version 3 and the only computer painting I knew was MS Painter and a mouse to make marks. There were no tablets or styluses. How horrible! 😉

By the time I reached high school, the art computer department was just getting going, but they had Wacom tablets and styluses for us to use instead of mice. One would drag the stylus across the tablet to simulate drawing with a brush or pen or moving a cursor.

There are different types of styluses and tablets. Some styluses are made specifically to mimic felt tip pens, markers, and pens. They can have thick or thin tips that are plastic, felt, or spring loaded. The tablets have changed since I first purchased my own. With a standard tablet you have to look at the screen while you are drawing on the tablet. The image and the tool making the mark are in different spots, but now if you have the budget or $2000+ to spare you can paint right on the computer screen/tablet. Now, with the iPhone and iPad you can use your finger or a stylus to paint right on either screen.  

I hear, “Well, it easy to fix mistakes.”

It can be easier, but if you’re painting as you would traditionally it isn’t as easy as one would think all the time. So it is a bit easier, so what… who cares?! Some people never paint traditional watercolor because they’re afraid of making mistakes. They paint acrylic instead. Imagine the possibilities when you’re free of the worry of making mistakes or going back years later and making major changes.

There is also the myth that if you use digital software, the artist can’t paint with traditional paint.

You could probably paint really easily with digital software without an art education. You can do the same with art supplies with no training. A painting software isn’t going to magically render you a painting… unless you apply a painting filter (which I already said was cheating). But with cheating this way, it is easy to see how cheap it looks. No one is fooled.

Some might think digital art isn’t considered an original.

Well, if one were to create art with software without ripping anyone off, it is an original as far many are concerned. You have a copyright on it. Some digital artists never print their work and it’s always left in a digital format.

There is much debate and I’m afraid I’m still confused about originals and editions when it comes to digital art because it is still gaining acceptance. Since I work in the traditional and also digital world, I do print my digital work as a giclee, a fine art printing method. Some pieces are one of a kind and no editions are made and others have a small print run with a low number of editions.

The thing about digital art is that it is many things to many people while the outcome is generally beautiful works.

 If no thought, care, technique or respect for the basic elements of art and composition you are probably going to get poor results.

I personally utilize a Wacom tablet and a stylus that I use as a pencil or a brush to create my digital art. I use software that simulates the process of creating with physical paints, water, and paper. I choose a color, a paint brush, a type of wetness, the roughness of the paper. Some people think it is easy to correct mistakes. I make sure to use my traditional art skills in my digital art (examples on my website). I have been doing digital art for 15+ years and I am amazed at how well software can recreate the experience of painting on the computer now.

I hope that the fact that part of a work’s process is electronic doesn’t hinder its acceptance. I think of electronic music having gone through this same struggle. Just because electronic music equipment can simulate real or new instruments doesn’t make the music less beautiful or “pure.”

 Digital art is an interesting subject and I’ll be posting more about it in the future.

Feel free to leave comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Do you have experience with digital art?

Did you have any misconceptions about digital art?

Do you have any other questions I can address in a future post? 

Feedback is your Friend

March 9, 2011

It is important to get Feedback.

We have to hear the bad with the good no matter how much we don’t want to.

Critiques are a great way to learn from other’s comments and their work and gain new perspective.

It’s never easy, but it gets easier.

I just came back from a critique held at a monthly meeting of the Montgomery Art Association. This month we had a watercolor teacher do the critique. I was a little embarrassed because I arrived a few minutes late and the critique was under way.

There was a varied assortment of media: oils, acrylics, watercolors, color pencils, and line drawings. The subjects were mostly landscapes (water), portraits, and flower still life.

I brought a watercolor of palm trees in Florida and an acrylic painting I’m still working on that doesn’t have a name yet. It is a highly textured painting of two fantail goldfish. One is swimming towards the other; both are above the anacharis plants.

I feel it is important to get feedback no matter hard it is to hear you need to keep working on something or that you need to make some adjustments. Feedback in general helps us grow as individuals and allows us to know what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong. We can learn from our mistakes and see things from others’ perspectives.

In college we had a critique almost every week for every art related class I was in. It can be nerve racking, but you get used to them (if they are done right). You don’t want a critique where there is nothing constructive said. You want to hear what is good and what is bad. What I liked about the critique this evening was that she said something to the effect that “we know you are good (or we know this is good), we want to talk about what is bad.” So we quickly identify what is working in a painting and move right into how we can improve it.

Art is subjective, but there are certain fundamentals to good art. The lady doing the critique discussed:

  • Line  
  • Shape and Form  
  • Value  
  • Space  
  • Color  
  • Texture

She also discussed how we all LOVE color. (if you know me I love color), but it is important to keep in mind all the other elements in their order of importance.

Many of the pieces received comments regarding, “harsh lines.” She was very concerned about softening harsh lines and not drawing attention to areas that didn’t need attention. OR not having a harsh line develop optical illusions that skew an otherwise correctly drawn perspective. She discussed how we don’t want harsh lines everywhere. It doesn’t allow for an area of focus, an area of beauty.

Most of us had to be aware of our negative space and make sure we were using it appropriately.

The topic of “artistic license” vs. painting strict reality came up as well. “An overcast day is not an excuse to not make light sources clear.”  

My paintings faired pretty well. My fish painting had very good texture and the fish were good (still not finished though), but the plants in the bottom corner were not quite there yet. It is suggested I add something else in the area that is open or add some darker blue. She also suggested trying things out in collage to see what would work. I may use Photoshop to test out placement of another plant or leaf. My palm trees painting didn’t get any comments for improvement. She was very pleased with it and my use of red in the palm trees and the placement of the trees. I am glad! I considered that painting finished and it is for sale. I just wanted to learn from her and see if she had ideas. It took me all night to paint and I was feeling unsure.

So, it’s never easy to have your work judged, especially after you’ve spent long hours toiling over your work. Nonetheless, it is highly beneficial to work through the temporary uneasiness to gain some perspective and reminders on how to improve your art. I couldn’t decide whether or not to attend… but decided one should never pass up the opportunity for quality feedback.