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Pastel Nocturnes That Pierce the Night

Today’s newsletter features the work of Christine Ivers, whose pastel nocturnes beautifully capture the warm glow that can only be seen at night. As you’ll learn in her following article, the technique she uses need not be mysterious to you. Read this, then preview Christine’s pastel painting workshops for free at There’s even an 8-minute demo of the topic she covers here–don’t miss it! ~Cherie

Painting Glowing Lights in Pastel by Christine Ivers, PSA-MP, IAPS/MC

It was by sheer accident that I stumbled across my love of painting night scenes. Actually, it was a rainstorm that precipitated that accident one night when I was eating at a restaurant. I had my camera and when we were exiting the restaurant I was fascinated with all the reflections and bouncing lights. I crossed the street, stood under an awning and shot many pictures of the street that night. Once I saw the photos I had to paint the scene, and I haven’t turned back since.

Painting pastel nocturnes | Christine Ivers,

Christine tells us that “Late Night Dinner” (pastel on Wallis Museum paper, 13×17) was her first nocturne. Click here to preview Pastel Painting Techniques Cityscapes at Night.

The more I painted the night, the more I learned about the incredible variance of illumination. Cool bulbs, warm bulbs and crazy colors in neon…From a simple interior fluorescent bulb lighting the interior of a building to the emanating rays of a stoplight saturating the darkness around it, I was determined to paint these images.

So I studied the lights. I took time to really look at what was happening and quickly realized that it wasn’t so much the color spectrum that made the magic (although so many of us love to play in THAT beautiful world of pastel). Rather, it was actually the value runs that created the dynamics of glowing light. And the astounding thing about that was that I only needed a total of three values to make the lights glow!

Painting pastel nocturnes | Christine Ivers,

Midnight Frosting (pastel on handmade textured Gator Board, 17×24)

Just look at the three “glowing” lights in the distance of Midnight Frosting (above). Three value steps created that illusion. Warm white, warm orange and a slightly cooler red made those lights sing! The same thing happens with the window in the right side of the painting. The source of this glow was a fluorescent overhead in a little beauty parlor next to my studio. Most fluorescent bulbs that businesses use emanate a bluish green light. I wanted to capture the interior, showing that I could see the ceiling of the room, thus the bulb is in the center of the window as I’m looking up and across.

The cast glow and shadows on the snow in the parking lot were made by lights shining off the back of the building and were very warm. If you look closely you’ll see there are many values that create that luscious warm-to-cool area of the painting. The transition to the coolness of the “glow” in the foreground parking lot then melts into the darkness of night. This is one of those paintings that painted itself.

Let’s look at a few close-up examples of different types of colored lights.

Painting pastel nocturnes | Christine Ivers,

This neon bulb glow is comprised on five values. You can see each step as it goes out into darkness. I chose not to go back and thoroughly blend the transitions. My final step was to reapply the soft cool white pastel pencil on the actual bulb. When creating neon glows be sure to have a starting point and an ending point. All neon light fixtures run on gas that is captured within the glass; they’re usually one continuous bulb going in and out of a background of metal to create the word or words for the sign. Since I wanted this glow to fade into darkness I chose the last color for the outer ring to be just one value step away from the black.

Painting pastel nocturnes | Christine Ivers,

In this glow example the illumination is coming from an overhead street lamp. There are many varied bulbs in city lamps and I love the green ones. This example also shows you how I placed the layers of value to travel out to the darkness. I could have used a few more value steps, as I did in the example above, but I wanted this glow to really pierce the night. The other technique used here is to paint the initial rings of color and then go back and forth with each value to blend the pastel. I only used the sticks to do this but you can use your finger or a stump to achieve a very smooth transition if required.

Painting pastel nocturnes | Christine Ivers,

No Smoking Allowed (pastel on Wallis Museum paper, 17×23)

In the painting above I was challenged with not only the glow of the exterior overhead lights but also by the refraction caused by the glass from the interior lights and reflections. In order to create the effect of that refraction I used random strokes that cut through the panes of glass so that the glows weren’t exactly round. Although all of the light sources seemed to be given off by the same type of bulbs, the painting had to tell the story of the interior versus the exterior lighting.

Painting pastel nocturnes | Christine Ivers,

Venetian Glass (pastel on handmade textured Gator Board, 18×24) PIN this!

The “stars” of this painting are the two glows in the foreground with one of them reflecting in the water. In order to make this work with the buildings I had to figure out how to paint the glows over the concrete and make the reflected glow in the water slightly less vibrant than the one above. Using the same methods as before, I just ran the outer rings onto the concrete. One was behind the building on the left so the light reflected on the building has a lighter value. The upper right glow obliterated the building because it was a light that hung off the side of the same structure. I purposely put two extra tiny glows in the back to tie it together.

I hope this gives you some insight as to how relatively easy it is to create the mystique of the night. ~Chris


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The Visual Thrill of Color | Acrylic Painting Ideas

Chris Cozen is back with guidance on acrylic painting for beginners! In today’s guest blog post, be inspired with ideas for experimenting with color. For a limited time, Chris’s Acrylic Color Explorations is included with Acrylic Artist (Summer 2016), Guide to Acrylic Mediums, and a set of disposable palettes in this exclusive collection. Enjoy! ~Cherie

Acrylic painting ideas | Chris Cozen,

‘Reflections’ by Chris Cozen, who says to “limit your pigment choices but push and pull them to develop all their nuances.” PIN this!

On Color and Acrylic Painting by Chris Cozen

Hello again! As always, I’m so pleased to be able to tell you all about my favorite subject–acrylics. I am all about color and that’s why I’m so happy that I finally took the time to gather up all the bits and pieces I’ve learned along the way and put them into Acrylic Color Explorations: Techniques for Expressing Your Artistic Voice so you could have them as well.

Acrylic painting ideas, color wheels | Chris Cozen,

Wheeling through color … PIN this!

When I was writing Acrylic Color Explorations I found myself making dozens of color wheels so that I could explore various red-blue-yellow pigment combinations. Each one was a marvel to me. What I learned from all those wheels was that acrylic color is infinitely malleable and easily tweaked and adjusted. I also learned that you can get by with a lot fewer colors if you fully understand what the colors you already have can do. Before writing this book I had never really considered keeping a color journal to record the discoveries I made as I intuitively mixed on my palette. I learned as I went along that a journal would help to encourage my own color explorations and push me to experiment more. I hope you will consider starting one of your own. You can follow some of the lessons in my book to get started or just experiment. I like using a bound journal with 140 lb. watercolor paper. This allows me to record water media explorations as well as straight acrylic without bleed-through. This sturdy paper holds up to collage, glazing and markers as well.

As always, when working with acrylic color it’s important use the best quality paint you can afford. I always use Golden Artist Colors but will branch out to include other acrylic products or alcohol inks for fun. Artist quality paints have the most pigment per ounce and are the most cost effective in the long run. If you’re just beginning, consider using “student grade” paint which has substantially better pigment strength than craft paints. One of the points I talk about in Acrylic Color Explorations is that you should know your pigments. Some are good mixers and others not so much. Whenever you add Titanium white to any color you will create a tint. The transparent qualities of some pigments will also be affected by the addition of white shifting them to opaque or semi-transparent. This is a great exercise to add to your own color journal.

Acrylic painting ideas | Chris Cozen,

Chris’s color journal for acrylic painting. Colors used on left side are Nickel Azo Yellow, Quinacridone Red, Cobalt Turquoise, and Titan Buff; colors used on the right side are Napthol Red Light, Transparent Pyrrole Orange, Paynes Gray, Titan Buff.

Color All Around

I’m living in the Northeast right now, which is a long way from California, where I usually call home. I arrived here in Ohio at the very beginning of spring. I was visually thrilled every time I went outdoors to see the variety of greens on display as the new leaves developed. Anything from gray green, to chartreuse, lime, blue-green and more. I ran to get my color wheels to see which pigments I could use to capture them. I keep them with my color journals so I’m always ready to record color when I see it. This kind of color exploration will really improve your ability to see and record the colors you experience.

There are all kinds of ways that you can explore color in your journal! One of my favorites is to choose three colors that you don’t ordinarily use but already own and then find out what they can do. First combine each of the colors with white and with black to create tints and shades. Then start exploring what happens when you mix two of the colors together, then two more and then the last two. Each of these secondary colors can have tints and shades as well. If you like mixed media, add your painted papers and collage elements to your color journal, or use an image as a prompt to explore color. I often draw on the top surface of my color pages just for fun. The pages of Acrylic Color Explorations can give you more than enough material to get you started in your own color journal.

Artfully yours,

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Talking Texture with Acrylic Artist Donne Bitner

In the summer 2016 issue of Acrylic Artist we feature Donne Bitner and take a look at her watercolor-like paintings of invented landscapes and seascapes. We caught up with Bittner to take a closer look at her work New Day Dawning. Here’s what she had to say.

New Day Dawning (acrylic on wood, 20x18)

New Day Dawning (acrylic on wood, 20×18)

Acrylic Artist: You’ve mastered the ability of creating watercolor-like washes with acrylic. Tell us about your technique.
Donne Bitner: I like to thin the paint with water rather than acrylic medium. After years of painting with watercolor it’s what I gravitate to apparently. That’s what gives my acrylic work a softer, more watercolor-like appearance.

AA: Your acrylic work painted using watercolor techniques has depth and great texture. How do you achieve this?
DB: My treatment of acrylic would look rather flat on a wood surface, so I spend time building a unique surface with depth, before I begin my painting. This acrylic painting on wood has a subsurface of spackling. I am also keen on using gesso, molding paste or joint compound. These materials lend a texture that gives the final work a 3-dimensional quality. I like the rough quality of the final texture.

AA: Do you have to prepare the wood before you can apply the gesso, spackling or compound?
DB: There is no preparation of the wood for these textures; they can be applied straight on the surface. For the joint compound I like to apply it, let it dry and then sand for a soft, smooth surface that still has some texture. Once the texture dries the paint is applied straight away. I think the texture gives the painting another layer of surprise.

AA: Are there special tools you use for applying the subsurface?
DB: No, no special tools are needed. A simple paint spatula will work. It’s like icing a cake. The more raised areas the more texture.

AA: Any words of wisdom you can share with an artist experimenting with gesso, spackling or gesso on wood for the first time?
DB: These materials are fragile and will chip so be sure to clean off edges in the wood. Acrylic medium can be added to make the spackling stiffer, although I never have used it thus far. Every medium has its peculiarities and you need to take the time to work with them and get to know them. This approach, with spackling, is not as indestructible as molding paste but there is a beauty to the paint over the texture that makes the extra care worth it to me.


To read the full feature article on Donne Bitner in Acrylic Artist, visit to order a copy of the Summer 2016 issue now.

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Announcing the Winners of AcrylicWorks 4 Competition

Congratulations to the 115 artists selected for North Light Books’ fourth annual Best of Acrylic competition AcrylicWorks 4: Captivating Color! If you see your name below, please check your email accounts (and junk boxes) for instructions on next steps. You will receive an email from us with the subject line “AcrylicWorks 4 Winner Notification” on Monday June 27th, 2016. A sincere thank you from Jamie Markle and the editors at North Light for sharing your beautiful artwork with us.

Best wishes,

Sarah Laichas
AcrylicWorks Editorial Coordinator

AcrylicWorks 4 Winners

  1. Aguilar, Marco | Soulmates
  2. Alfano, Jan | Juicer Gang No. 1; The Butler Did It
  3. Athanas, Denise | Within Bounds II
  4. Bell, Linda | The Spotted Cow
  5. Bennett, Rick | Vessel II
  6. Bharathula, Ashwini | The Resting Gondolas
  7. Bogart, Darien | Fireside
  8. Brandsema, Susan | Distant Thunder
  9. Breier, Chris | Early Spring
  10. Brunton, Desiree | Wholehearted
  11. Buckrell, Brian | Shoreline Monument
  12. Bulatovic, Suzana | Chicago Dream
  13. Bundock, Bruce | Summer In Ulster County
  14. Burman, Harry | Carol 2
  15. Capolongo, Bruno | Twilight (Pincushion Island, Muskoka)
  16. Carsten, Robert | Swallowtail (Sunflower Series)
  17. Cencula, Kathleen | Gone Fishin’; Not Quick Enough
  18. Cipolla, Susie | Off Season
  19. Hollenbeck, Laura Crabtree | Maddie
  20. Craig, Ron | Revised Night Shift; Pure Pork
  21. Dar, Sharon | El Moro
  22. Dizdar, Sanela | Rhapsody in Blue Rain; Nadia
  23. Dore, Rhonda | Naxos
  24. Duff, Nadyia | Up
  25. DuRose, Edward | Tranquility – Trumpeter Swans
  26. Ellery, Kim | Please Do Come In
  27. Fendley, Debilynn | Body Electric
  28. Ferrero, Tom | Above and Below
  29. Freeland, Dawn | Green Hills
  30. Frizzell, Charles | Ole Yeller
  31. Fuller, Ellen | Algae, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  32. Gallagher, Joan | Kohr’s
  33. Gardner, Janet | Peppermint
  34. Garlock, Jaclyn | I Bough You a Brand New Mustang
  35. George, Tricia | Symphony
  36. Girard, Theresa | Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie
  37. Gockel, Jimmy | Jimi
  38. Goettee, Michael | Red Butte With Tourists
  39. Golden-Musick, Mary | The Bask
  40. Goodnough, Sarah | Dancing With Courage
  41. Kerbs, Denise Granger | Emerald Eyes
  42. Gratiot, Robert | Gucci, Boston; Vintage Marbles
  43. Grayeck, Len | Spring Snow
  44. Grunau, Mel | Beyond the Glacier
  45. Hall, Angie | Day at the Lake
  46. Hershenson, Kenneth | Apple Jack
  47. Highsmith, Robert | Young Bison
  48. Hildebrandt, Kathy | True Colors
  49. Honerlah, Randy | Sun Splash
  50. Hughes, Sheryl | Owliver
  51. Jaster, John | Symphony in Color
  52. Kelly, Kitty | Hands of Time; Limelight
  53. Kemp, Linda | First Frost – Autumn’s Patterns
  54. Kiser, John | Pink Harbor
  55. Kling, Bob | Great Expectations
  56. Kohlman, Kevin | Quiescence
  57. Kovich, Loren | Turmoil
  58. Laidacker, Jonathan | Andra; Mike and Lo
  59. Lee, Diana | Tea Roses
  60. Lim, Tai Meng | Red Eggs
  61. Lin, Ai Di | Deliberation
  62. Livingstone, Ober-Rae Starr | Every Moment
  63. Madonna, Marissa | Hair Study
  64. Maimon, Yael | Tricolor Cat Asleep
  65. Mari, C. | Forces of Nature
  66. McMillan, Vickie | Love, Life and Community
  67. Mehaffey, Mark | Morning Glow
  68. Moncrief, Jo | Searching for What Was; Turbulence & Tranquility
  69. Morrison, Andrew | Across Octavia, 7th Floor; Yesterday and Today, Grant + Jackson
  70. Munoz, Ramon | Broadway NY
  71. nichols, r mike | Rambo
  72. Nisbet, Margaret | Beautiful Things
  73. Oberc-Habzda, Marzena | Elder Plant
  74. Osa, Doug | Southbound from Bucyrus
  75. Pelissier, Sandrine | Green Bouquet; Slice of Life 2: Louise
  76. Peluso, Mary | Fire Escape Dog
  77. Petillo, Bob | Jackson Square
  78. Peyton, Anne | Blue Sky of Autumn; In Perfect Balance
  79. Preston, Elizabeth | Life Bubbles
  80. Pytlos, Mark | Flaming Parrot
  81. Raffield, Natalie | 101 Zebras
  82. Rimpo, April | Freight Yard
  83. Robert, Val | Inner State
  84. Ruggles, Joanne Beaule | Blindness
  85. Rundle, Marguerite | Dunrholyn 005
  86. Runyan, Joyce | Fall Into Winter
  87. Sample, Esther | Between the Ropes; Last of the Storm
  88. Schmitt, Veronica | Catch of the Day
  89. Schreiber, Brent | Listen 2
  90. Smith, Jerry | Ripple Effect
  91. Starkova, Anna | Spring Is in the Air
  92. Stebleton, Robert | Retired Ladies
  93. Styler, Anda | Weathered Grey
  94. Sullivan, Jacqueline | Energy Emerging
  95. Sweeny, Robert | Las Paredes de San Miguel
  96. Szatkowski, Frederick | Fortress
  97. Talocci, Natalie | Peacock
  98. Thomas, Robert | House in the Sky
  99. Traeger, Kathy | Who Ya Gonna Call?
  100. Twiss, Elaine | Vintage Matcbooks
  101. Van Dyck, Randy | Tough Nut to Crack
  102. Vera, Rosa | The Scapegoat
  103. Vercruysse, Stephane | Couple and Pets
  104. Vininsky, Shernya | Purple Shadows
  105. Walker, Liz | Chaco Canyon Conversation
  106. Watanabe, Akiko | Angel Light
  107. Weingartner, Robbin | Winter Light
  108. Welch, JoAnne | Water Flowers
  109. Westerhold, John | Pipe Dreams
  110. Wicks, David | Cruisers
  111. Wilda, Steve | Honed to Imperfection
  112. Wilkins, Dominique | Hope
  113. Wilson, Jarrod | Petty’s Girl
  114. Wintermantel, Mikel | Vineyard Afternoon
  115. Zavez, Marsha | Dog Tired

   AcrylicWorks 2  


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The post Announcing the Winners of AcrylicWorks 4 Competition appeared first on Artist's Network.

Teaching Pastel in China | Robert K. Carsten Goes to Suzhou

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” said Irish poet William Butler Yeats, and pastel artist and teacher Robert K. Carsten would no doubt agree after participating as part of a team of international pastel artists invited to offer instruction to a group of art educators in China. The experience provided a view of what looks to be a very bright future for pastel in this part of the world.

A Summary of the Event From Robert K. Carsten:

If you take 100 talented and dedicated school teachers, introduce them to the history and practice of pastel painting so that they, in turn, can share their newfound knowledge and experiences in their respective classrooms—what do you have? Simply put, the planting of seeds that is sure to grow the awareness, appreciation and practice of pastel for generations to come in China.


First session teacher-students with staff, consultant and instructors.

This past spring, I was privileged to spend three weeks in the beautiful city of Suzhou, China, a city near Shanghai, as one of four international pastel instructors invited to be part of a team of professionals for an innovative, outstanding program. The event was sponsored by the beautiful Ming Gallery of Art and its well-designed Ming Jia Arts Education Center, as well as the Beijing Art Center, along with cooperation from the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS).

The participating artists used soft Mungyo pastels and Montmarte pastel pencils on Yi Cai sanded paper. An immense amount of work went into the planning and logistics of this comprehensive program. Many people were instrumental to the development and running of this pilot program, including: the professional staff of the gallery and educational center; Mr. Simon Yang Hui, consultant to the Ming Gallery; Mr. Yang Yan, who was involved with the promotion of the project and selection of the school teachers in Beijing; and pastel instructor and event coordinator Isabelle V. Lim. Organizers have invited instructors for an additional four instructional sessions later this summer and fall.


Master Hang Mingshi demonstrating a portrait.

All of the participating teacher-students came to Suzhou from the Beijing area for one of two separate one-week sessions, learning from a number of instructors, including: Hong Kong artist Isabelle V. Lim who taught color, movement and abstraction; Polish/French artist Jerzy Moscicki, who taught on light and precision in still life; Spanish artist Aurelio Rodriguez Lopez, who taught portraiture; and me, teaching about impressionist landscape painting.


Isabelle Lim instructing a teacher-student.

During the middle week, Aurelio taught a master portrait workshop, coinciding with his solo exhibition opening at the Ming Gallery of Art while Isabelle, Jerzy and I—along with Suzhou pastel master extraordinaire Hang Ming Shi, the Ming Gallery staff, and Mr. Yang Yan—lectured and demonstrated for teachers and students at three local schools: Canglang Xincheng Experimental Primary School, Suzhou No.6 Middle School, and Fangzhou Primary School. Each school gave us a tour of their wonderful arts education facilities and we viewed outstanding student work.


Jerzy Moscicki giving still life painting tips to a teacher-student. Interpreter Julie looks on to assist.

Also, during that week, we enjoyed guided tours of the river town Zhou Zhuang; walked and had tea on ancient Ping Jiang Street; visited the enchanting Humble Administrator’s Garden; and also toured the extraordinary new Horticultural Gardens by Lake Tai.


Robert Carsten gives pointers to a teacher-student as interpreter Alice assists.

China doesn’t have a long tradition in this medium. In fact, most of the participants had never used pastel before. Yet, I found the attention, enthusiasm and diligence of both teachers and young students to be exemplary—beyond my wildest dreams. Of my experience in this lovely city in southeast China, I would say that the hosts were most gracious; the teacher-students and young, school students were extremely motivated to learn; everyone was always helpful and friendly; the food was second to none; and the promotion of the pastel medium was first class. Suzhou is truly a pastel paradise with a very bright future.


Moscicki leads students as the audience of teachers and students watch at  Fangzhou Primary School.


Aurelio Rodriquez Lopez with master workshop student and portrait by student of Aurelio.


Moscicki and Carsten demonstrated pastels at the Suzhou No.6 Middle School. Consultant to the Ming Gallery Mr. Simon Yang Hui is pictured on the left as well as school administrators.


Students were presented with certificates at the closing ceremonies.






Robert K. Carsten, of Vermont, is an artist, teacher, writer and enthusiastic promoter of the pastel medium. Check out his step-by-step demonstration of a still life painting here.

The post Teaching Pastel in China | Robert K. Carsten Goes to Suzhou appeared first on Artist's Network.

Canvas Painting for Beginners: How to Prepare a Canvas

In a previous blog I discussed the different grades of watercolor paper so, in all fairness to the other mediums, this art supplies tutorial will give insight on how to prepare adequate surfaces for the opaque mediums: oil, acrylic and pastel.

In leading art stores you will find already manufactured canvases and canvas boards. Some are very costly, such as linen ($20 for a 12×16-inch canvas) and you can even find the same size in a dollar store ($2.00 for a 12×16) cotton fabric. Is the cost worth it? Are the cheap canvases worth the savings? I have tried the dollar store ones and realized some of them are under-gessoed so I add another layer of gesso. Shall I opt for the middle range? Artists are faced with this dilemma all the time so I feel my professional insight will help you make the right decision.

Canvas Painting for Beginners: Linen vs Cotton

Linen is the most costly of them all. Many professionals mention that their plein air paintings are done on this surface. This gives the impression they can afford it and are successful so you will often see the title of the painting plus “on linen” specified under their paintings. I admit, linen is more cooperative than cotton as a painting surface. But I don’t feel it’s worth the additional cost unless you are being paid for that painting or know you will sell it. The collector will feel more proud of the acquisition knowing you used the top materials. Duration isn’t a reason to justify favoring either cotton or linen because both use the same primers. Some artists complain that the weave of a cotton canvas is too mechanical, whereas with linen it is more random. Also worth noting is that many top landscape artists resort to dry brushing; linen lends itself nicely to these effects because some areas of the weave bulge more.

Canvas painting for beginners | Johannes Vloothuis,

Close up of linen canvas for artists. You can see an irregular pattern.

Unless you have money to spare I don’t think the expense merits working on a linen canvas for painting. Both cotton and linen canvases are either primed with acrylics or oil. Acrylic gesso-primed surfaces have a bit more friction, giving you more brush control for detail, whereas oil-primed surfaces are more slippery (Note: Do not use oil-primed canvas for acrylics.) Neither is better than the other. It’s personal preference. Both of these fabrics are either stretched and mounted on wooden bars or glued on cardboard boards and commercially sold. In my opinion, presenting a painting on a cardboard board looks cheap to a collector even if linen is mounted on it. It also will not offer enough protection against humidity or insects. Obviously stretched canvases will increase the price. Some artists like the spring or feeling of a tight drum of the stretched canvas. To me it makes no difference. As a side note, I feel too much instructional attention goes to art supplies rather than to the building blocks of good painting design. If you are competent in techniques, the surface is not much of an issue.

Canvas painting for beginners | Johannes Vloothuis,

Close up of cotton canvas for painters. The tooth is quite fine.

How to Paint: Preparing Your Own Painting Surfaces

Here are some options you can experiment with if you have the time to prepare your own painting surfaces and want to save a bundle, especially if you paint a lot. If you still want to use linen or cotton you can buy it by the roll, cut out your own sizes and then glue them to wooden panels. You can use acrylic gel medium as glue for a few units or buy a gallon of Miracle Muck glue if you intend to make them in series. Here the cost per unit will considerably drop since the labor is no longer factored in. Mounting these on stretcher boards is not worth the work, so forget that. The best option is to order an 8×4 foot birch wood panel at a lumber store and have them cut this panel into smaller units. I mostly work on 9×12, 11×14 or 12×16 canvases for outdoor painting and my online art demos.

Because lumber stores do not usually charge for cutting, the savings are substantial.These raw boards are good for absorbing the glue as well. You’ll end up with quite a few individual boards. Once you have these units you have the following two options:

  1. Paste sections cut out from a roll. In case you decide to paste from a roll make sure the size is a 1/4 inch larger on each side to compensate when the fabric shrinks when it gets wetted by the glue, then cut off the residue. This still takes some work.
  2. Gesso your own surface. Take into account that thin boards will warp when they become damp, so wet both sides when adding the glue or gesso. You can use 1/8 inch boards for small panels; 1/4 inch will be necessary for larger sizes; 1/2 inch for 24×30 inches or larger. Birch wood is light weight so these canvases are handy for transporting on a plein air painting trip.

Painting on Canvas for Beginners: Gesso Your Own Painting Surfaces

I find this to be the most viable option. Again the success of a painting is in your decision making (That’s where my online classes will benefit you), not the surfaces. I am a lazy artist and want to do the least work possible so I prefer to gesso panels instead of pasting canvas. There are three options:

  1. A flat, smooth non-textured gesso. This is suitable for fine detail such as wild life and portraits. Apply three coats and do not water down.
  2. A mildly textured surface. Gesso with Liquitex Super Heavy Gesso using a fine fabric roller. Do not water down. This will leave some pointed protrusions and will work well for dry brushing, which is a technique I often use to indicate foliage and grass in landscape paintings. Give a sanding after each coat so the protrusions aren’t too predominant. Apply only two coats. I find these prepared panels to work the best for small sizes.
  3. Heavy textured surface. This is an excellent option to show convincing landscape texture. You can save a lot of money on paint as well. I would use this for painting larger than 16×20 inches. The rule of thumb is small panels should not take on heavy texture for simplicity; increase the texture as the size get larger. Do your general landscape drawing on a first layer of Liquitex Super Heavy gesso done in a smooth application. Apply a second coat straight out of the container in the same manner and paint your shapes by applying heavy loads on your brush.

For example, a waterfall will have downward strokes following the water movement. Trees would take on broken, choppy strokes. Paint rocks with “band aid strokes” or even a palette knife with white heavy gesso. Remember, you’re emulating the actual colored pigment application. Pretend you are actually painting. Leave the smooth areas that will not have texture for contrast such as lakes, rivers and skies. It is important to have the smooth vs textured areas so the texture stands out when contrasted with the smooth areas.

Canvas painting for beginners | Johannes Vloothuis,

Sample of textured canvas with Liquitex Super Heavy Gesso

Allow it to dry a couple of days, then apply the paint but in this case you do not need to apply heavy paint because you did that already with the gesso, a great savings technique! Again, consider that a 12×16 panel may warp so wet the opposite side as you apply the first layer of gesso. This whole procedure will enhance the painting and help convey a 3-dimensional aspect.

Canvas painting for beginners | Johannes Vloothuis,

Toned canvas

How to Paint:Toning a canvas

Pastel paper is known to come in different colors. You can also tone your canvas before you paint. I use burnt sienna acrylics with very little water and apply a thin transparent wash over the white canvas. You can do this on any gessoed surface. The advantage of this is when you apply thin paint in the dark areas, such as in summer trees, some of that orange will glow through. I do this for green trees. You can also tone your canvas to a blue-gray in case you do a nocturne or foggy day. That cool background will influence the colors. This also helps you avoid having little white dots where paint didn’t completely cover the canvas.

Preparing Painting Surfaces for Pastels

Most of the time pastel artists paint on sanded paper. Some may not find this very presentable to collectors because the painting is done on “paper” and the artist may want to give them a more handsome, sturdy presentation. You can prepare your own pastel boards with a pastel ground sold in major art stores, then simply follow the instructions on the container.

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