Technique Tuesdays: Acrylic Mediums

Acrylic medium techniques are indispensible tools for mixed media, but let’s face it—these materials are not the most glamorous. But don’t count them out—gesso, gel medium, crackle paste, interference medium, and others can take artwork to new heights, adding depth, texture, shimmer, and eye-catching layers.

Leave it to our artists to come up with techniques that put mediums in the forefront, adding a special spark to all types of projects. Try the following ideas in your next project, and see how you can make acrylic mediums bask in the spotlight.

1. Gesso is the star of the show in Roxanne Evans Stout’s Art Lesson Volume 7: Gesso, the Final Touch. She says, “Gesso is a white, chalky art medium that can add the feeling of vintage plaster to your art. I’ve discovered that gesso can be much more than a great surface to paint or collage on. It adds a touch of white and an accidental, imperfect quality that can be very appealing.” For one technique on a collage on a small wood panel, she scrapes gesso on select area of the panel with a putty knife, applying it more heavily in some areas than others. If you’ve put on too much, remove some with a wet paper towel. Bonus tip: Practice on scrap paper to get the feel of how much to use. While the gesso is wet, carve into the thicker areas with a carving tool or the end of a paintbrush. Roxanne added text to one panel, and small squares to another. Rub an inkpad directly onto the panels to add a tint or stain, or use spray ink sparingly. Rub the ink with your fingers so it seeps into the recessed areas, adding depth. Remove excess ink with a paper towel.

Acrylic medium techniques featuring scribing into gesso from Cloth Paper Scissors Art Lesson Volume 7, 2016

Make gesso the star of your next collage by scribing into the medium while it’s still wet. (Art and photo by Roxanne Evans Stout)

2. Crackle mediums can produce cool effects on a collage or assemblage, but Tracy Weinzapfel artfully used it to add interest to a plain journal cover. In “Altered Sketchbook” in the July/August 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, her acrylic medium techniques include layering gesso, crackle paste and acrylic paint for a stunning effect. To start, brush gesso over the entire outside cover of a hardbound sketchbook. Then apply crackle paste (Tracy used DecoArt Media Crackle Paste) over the gesso, and allow it to dry completely. Bonus tip: The thicker the application of crackle paste, the larger the cracks. Brush on acrylic paint (Tracy used DecoArt Media Fluid Acrylics in analogous shades of yellow, gold, and red), and apply a thin layer of another crackle medium (DecoArt Americana Weathered Wood Crackle Medium). This helps simulate the look of old, cracked wood when it’s painted over. Add more color; by adding complementary shades of blues and teals, the reds and golds show through the cracks, allowing the crackle effect to really shine.

Crackle paste applied to a journal cover

Crackle paste adds depth and layers to a journal cover. (Art and photo by Tracy Weinzapfel)

3. Many artists use gesso as a primer for paint, but the medium has other impressive tricks up its sleeve. In her book Stencil Girl: Mixed-Media Techniques for Making and Using Stencils, Mary Beth Shaw shows two easy ways to incorporate gesso in a collage using stencils, producing an interesting layered look. For one technique, apply white gesso over a stencil onto a canvas substrate and allow it to dry. Apply a layer of Silks Acrylic Glaze over the entire surface. Wipe off the excess paint with a paper towel, and use a baby wipe to remove paint from the gessoed areas. The stenciled image will reappear, but will be slightly lighter than the background, making it stand out. For the second technique, apply gesso through a stencil onto a piece of paper. Paint over the stenciled page with watercolor. Cut out the stenciled image on paper and collage it to the canvas piece. Bonus tip: How much paint you remove is a matter of choice; dabbing here and there produces a mottled effect, while completely removing the paint reveals pops of white. Try both methods and mix it up!

Acrylic medium techniques using resists, from Stencil Girl by Mary Beth Shaw

Acrylic mediums can work as resists, adding a layered look to collages. (Art by Mary Beth Shaw, photo by Christine Polomsky)

4. Some acrylic medium techniques can provide a whole lot of shimmer for artwork. Jane Davenport discovered this when she experimented with Winsor & Newton’s Iridescent Medium in Art Lessons Volume 8: Tactile & Textured Mediums. Her tips: Blend the medium with acrylic paint to make any shade look metallic. When brushed over dry acrylic paint it has a pearlescent effect, and will add a twinkle to eyes and a shine to lips in a portrait. Used alone, the medium dries clear, but with a pearlescent sheen.

Acrylic medium techniques using iridescent medium result in shimmer effects, featured in Cloth Paper Scissors Art Lessons Volume 8

Acrylic medium techniques using iridescent medium result in shimmer effects. (Art and photo by Jane Davenport)

5. Layering mediums with paint can produce beautiful results, and experimentation is key. Some acrylic medium techniques result in absorbing paint and deepening the color, while others act as a resist, lightening shades or providing a see-through effect. Sandra Duran Wilson used light molding paste and semi-gloss and soft gel gloss medium in “The Painter’s Dance” in the March/April 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. Working on one section of an Ampersand Encausticbord, apply molding paste through a stencil over an acrylic paint layer. When dry, spread a layer of gloss gel over the molding paste. This area of the board now has varying degrees of absorbency, which will be evident when paint is applied. Since the molding paste is more absorbent than the gel,  the color values of the paint will vary. Use diluted paint in various shades to build layers of color and create depth. Sandra calls this part of the process an improvisational dance, because some paint is applied, then removed, producing a stunning effect.

Modeling paste and gel medium effects by Sandra Duran Wilson, featured in March/April 2016 Cloth Paper Scissors

Modeling paste and gel medium absorb acrylic paint differently, producing depth and dimension. (Art and photo by Sandra Duran Wilson)

6. Using acrylic medium techniques can produce a dramatic image transfer; Jodi Ohl used gesso and acrylic mediums to create a transfer in her book Abstracts in Acrylic & Ink. Using an Ampersand Claybord as a substrate, brush on an even, medium-thick layer of gesso. Press a black-and-white laser copy image into the wet gesso, gently pressing the image down. Place a sheet of deli paper over the image and burnish, making sure the image is adhered and there are no air bubbles. Let dry. Lift the first layer of paper by gently pulling the back of the sheet. Spray the remainder with water until the image becomes more clear; the paper should be damp. Gently rub the remaining paper fibers off the image, being careful not to take the image off. Seal the transfer with polymer medium. Tie your piece together by mixing matte medium with a small drop of Payne’s Gray acrylic paint and brushing it over the piece.

Image transfer using acrylic medium techniques from Abstracts in Acrylic & Ink by Jodi Ohl

Create image transfers using gesso, then seal them with polymer medium. (Art by Jodi Ohl, photo by Christine Polomsky)

Note: Starting next week, join me on the Cloth Paper Scissors blog for more great techniques!

Before you grab that jar of gesso, check out these great resources from the North Light Shop that will add even more acrylic medium techniques to your repertoire!

Discover a multitude of acrylic medium techniques in Art Lesson Volume 8: Tactile & Textured Mediums by Jane Davenport

Discover a multitude of acrylic medium techniques in Art Lesson Volume 8: Tactile & Textured Mediums by Jane Davenport.

Learn which mediums work best for a variety of techniques in the video Acrylic Painting Workshop: Mediums Demystified with Nathalie Kalbach

Learn which mediums work best for a variety of techniques in the video Acrylic Painting Workshop: Mediums Demystified with Nathalie Kalbach.

Discover how to create texture, create layered effects, and more in Alternative Art Surfaces by Darlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Duran Wilson.

Discover how to create texture, create layered effects, and more in Alternative Art Surfaces by Darlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Duran Wilson.

Chris Cozen shares her favorite acrylic medium techniques in the video Acrylic Painting Techniques: Creative Textures

Chris Cozen shares her favorite acrylic medium techniques in the video Acrylic Painting Techniques: Creative Textures.

The post Technique Tuesdays: Acrylic Mediums appeared first on Artist's Network.

Portraits of Holocaust Survivors by David Jon Kassan

Portraits of Holocaust survivors might well be considered the work of decades because truly surviving such a traumatic upheaval goes far beyond living through the experience. Surviving, in its fullest sense, entails thriving—going on to rebuild a life and, eventually, look back upon the days before, during and after the Holocaust to see the complex threads woven together as a whole. Now, more than 70 years since the fall of the Nazi regime, David Jon Kassan  has stepped forward to tell the stories and paint the portraits of Holocaust survivors.


Portraits of Holocaust survivors, by David Jon Kassan, at Gallery Henoch |

These portraits of Holocaust survivors by David Jon Kassan are part of the Edut Project. (Gallery Henoch, New York City). Portraits from left to right: Elsa Ross, Hidden Child, Roslyn and Bella (Roslyn Goldofsky and Bella Sztul), Sam Goldofsky, Survivor of Auschwitz


His portraits form part of the Edut Project (—“edut” being Hebrew for “living witnesses.” By telling the stories, based on personal interviews, and painting the portraits of Holocaust survivors, Kassan lends personal faces and testimonies to what might otherwise become standard text and nameless photographed faces in history books.


Survivors of the holocaust |

David Jon Kassan explains the Edut Project to 11 Auschwitz survivors of the Holocaust (only 8 of these survivors seen in photo). Hassan intends to paint all 11 survivors in one 8×18-foot painting.

Portraits of Holocaust Survivors: Louise and Lazar Farkas

Among Kassan’s portraits of Holocaust survivors is that of Louise and Lazar Farkas. Louise grew up in Northern Romania. Her parents led a comfortable middle-class life, producing dairy products and running a store; Lazar spent his youth across the border in Czechoslovakia and, as a young man, attended business school and then worked in the wholesale grocery business. For a while, the borders between Romania and Czechoslovakia were open, and Lazar would cross over to socialize, talking over coffee and walking the sidewalks with a group of young women, one of whom was Louise.

Descent Into the Holocaust

As anti-Semitism in German-occupied countries grew, Lazar was pressed into forced labor. Working from early morning to late night, he helped build bunkers. Heavy hauling jobs that would normally be performed with horses were consigned entirely to humans. The one silver lining was that, unlike the prisoners in extermination camps, these workers weren’t systematically killed. “They weren’t nice to us,” says Lazar, “but there was no gas chambers.”


portraits of Holocaust survivors: Lazar Farkas by David Jon Kassan |

Detail of an oil portrait of Holocaust survivor Lazar Farkas, by David Jon Kassan: The full portrait includes Lazar’s wife, Louise, also a Holocaust survivor. Kassan’s vertical palette is on the right.


Louise was about 20 when she was deported to Auschwitz: “A woman that was in power at the time liked my shoes,” says Louise, “and she took them and I had no shoes. I was barefoot. It was cold, northern climate there: it’s cold in the fall. We struggled.”


Gas chambers were a terrifyingly real presence in Auschwitz. “We knew we are to be destroyed,” says Louise.  She kept a protective eye over her sister who was five years younger—and not always inclined to listen to her older sibling. “We had lost our parents, and I felt responsible for her,’ says Louise. “We had no one. … There were several selections, but I held onto her. I didn’t let go. Even for—if it cost my life. Never let go of her. We lost the rest of the family. Five children—I was the oldest. Two of us survived.  … There were times that she would just sit down and she wouldn’t cooperate. She was young and didn’t understand what goes on. I dragged her. It was tough.”


Portraits of Holocaust Suvivors-in-process detail of Lazar and Louise Farkas by David Jon Kassan |

Detail of an in-process oil portrait of Holocaust survivor Louise Farkas, by David Jon Kassan: The full portrait includes Louise’s husband, Lazar, also a Holocaust survivor.



But the tides were turning against Germany, and security was unraveling. “We walked out of the camp. Just simply,” says Louise of her and her sister’s escape. “We had no place to go and no money and no food. We went from country to country from there.“


Lazar also managed to run away from his forced labor. “I wound up somewhere in Poland, I don’t know where,“ he says. For a time he hid in a farmer’s hay loft, but when the farmer heard that others had been punished for harboring Jews, he asked Lazar to leave. Lazar lived in the forest and met up with the Czechoslovakian army.He joined the army as a volunteer and ended up stationed in his hometown. He learned that people were escaping from the camps and wanted to look for Louise, so he found a bean that inflamed his eyes, making them appear as if he had glaucoma, and presented himself to an officer who sent him to a doctor. The doctor recognized the irritation from the berry but understood. “He knew what I wanted to do,” says Lazar, “that I want to get, so he gave me a paper that I’m free from the army.”


Lazar left messages for Louise that he was looking for her. They crossed the border in opposite directions on the same night, just missing each other. Eventually, Lazar found Louise and the two were soon married. His uncle in America was able to arrange for their immigration, and they settled in Brooklyn. (Louise’s sister wasn’t able to leave until a year later). Both spoke some English, but Lazar found getting a job challenging. One day, when Lazar was sitting on a bench, someone who knew him passed by. The two started talking, and the friend offered Lazar a job in the grocery business.


Portraits of Holocaust Survivors: D.J. Kassan paints Louise and Lazar Farkas |

David Jon Kassan painting Louise and Lazar Farkas’s portrait



Lazar and Louise had three daughters. Not wanting their young children to be traumatized, at first the parents didn’t talk about their Holocaust experiences, yet all could not be hidden. “I knew, for example,” said one, “that something terrible had happened because I had no grandparents. Friends of mine had grandparents; they had cousins. I had none.”


Not until the daughters heard about the Holocaust in school did they start asking questions and, little by little, the stories came out. Because the Farkus children attended a Yeshiva school and lived in a neighborhood with many other children of Holocaust survivors, they were able to absorb the information more easily. “It wasn’t that strange to me,” said one daughter. As all three grew older, however, they would grasp the reality of their parent’s experience more fully and work though how it had, in fact, affected them.

Full Lives


Portraits of Holocaust survivors: Louise and Lazar Farkas |

Louise and Lazar Farkas (oil on acrylic mirror panel, 46×42)


Meanwhile, Lazar and Louise built their lives together. Eventually, Lazar with three partners would own three grocery stores and two convenience stores in New York City. Louise kept house and cared for the children, but when one of her daughters entered college, Louise began taking college classes at night. She eventually earned master’s degrees in special education and urban studies. For 25 years she taught in the New York City Public High School in Queens, retiring at age 85. By the time David Jon Kassan interviewed the Farkas family and began the painting of Lazar and Louise for his series of portraits of Holocaust survivors, Lazar was 97 and Louise was 92. They have been married for more than 70 years. In the fullest sense, they have survived.


David Jon Kassan |

David Jon Kassan: The tattoo on Kasson’s arm is Hebrew for “heritage” or “roots.”

Read the full story of David Jon Kassan’s portraits of Holocaust survivors in the April 2017 issue of “The Artist’s Magazine.”


Take a sneak peek below at New Realism Oil Painting magazine, created by The Artist’s Magazine:




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Preview These Composition Tips to Empower Your Paintings!

Come explore possibilities for your art!

In this sneak peek from Aaron Schuerr’s video, Pastel Painting Master Class: Composition for Landscapes, Aaron takes you through the process of looking at a landscape and breaking it down into shapes that can be adjusted and moved around, putting the shapes back together in new ways that work together to create stunning paintings.

“Composition is simply a means to expression; the language the artist uses to share an experience. How do I respond to this place? What do I see and how does it make me feel? And how do I express that response in the language of art? This is the beginning of an understanding of composition.”
~ Aaron Schuerr

Try out a new idea with sketching

Hone in on simple basic shapes without worrying about color. In Pastel Painting Master Class: Composition for Landscapes, Aaron uses paintings that he has done and deconstructs them to show the underlying shapes and how they work together to create interesting compositions.

Painting Sample from Composition for Landscapes with Aaron Schuerr

Painting sample from Aaron Schuerr

Sketching tip from Composition for Landscapes with Aaron Schuerr

The landscape is broken down into a simple, geometric arrangement of shapes.

Try out values to see how your shapes interact

Once you have an idea of how shapes are working together in your landscape, you can use value to lead the eye through the shapes, further solidifying the strength of your composition. In Pastel Painting Master Class: Composition for Landscapes, Aaron uses a reference photo that he has taken on location and sketches the basic shapes in his sketchpad, then uses a range of black and gray value markers to assign value to each shape to create a strong composition. He can then use this value sketch as a reference to complete a painting.

Composition Tips for Landscape Painting with Aaron Schuerr

Use value to help solidify your composition when you work from life or from reference photos.

Hear all about Pastel Painting Master Class: Composition for Landscapes from Aaron himself in this video preview, then visit to stream the full painting demonstration and paint along with Aaron!

About Aaron Schuerr

Aaron Schuerr started his art studies at the Art Institute of Chicago and moved on to an art college in Scotland where he was introduced to mountains, the Highlands. Now based in Livingston, Montana, he works in both oil and pastel to portray the landscapes of the Rocky Mountains. Aaron is a signature member of the Pastel Society of America and the American Impressionist Society and teaches workshops both nationally and internationally. Please visit to learn more about Aaron’s work and upcoming events.

The post Preview These Composition Tips to Empower Your Paintings! appeared first on Artist's Network.

Studio Saturdays: Vintage Art Materials

I’ve never met an antique mall I didn’t like. No matter how dusty and musty it may be, I’ll happily paw through piles of old linens, boxes of buttons, and stacks of books to find vintage art materials. These treasures invariably wind up in my art journal pages, handmade books, cards, tags, collages, assemblages, and even wrapped gifts.

If you have a jones for junk, welcome. Today’s Studio Saturday is dedicated to the hunt for vintage items, and ideas on how to use them. I’ve been incorporating antique ephemera, hardware, jewelry, books, and more in my art since I’ve been making art, and I still can’t get enough. I love items with history that have been part of someone’s life, and I want to show that they have not outlived their usefulness. Things like hand-carved mother-of-pearl buttons, tatted lace, and ledger pages covered with handwriting are evidence of past lives, and should be honored. The challenge of seeing old pieces with new eyes never loses its thrill, and it energizes my creativity like nothing else.

Canal Street Antique Mall

Antique malls, like the Canal Street Antique Mall in Lawrence, Mass., is a playground for mixed-media artists looking for vintage art materials.

When I lived in Southern California there were sizable flea markets going on every weekend—one was even within walking distance of my house. Here in New England the season goes from spring to fall, so if it’s winter and I need my fix of old stuff, I head to the nearest antique mall.

I discovered one not far away in Lawrence, Massachusetts, called the Canal Street Antique Mall. This place is more than 30,000 square feet of happy, located in a massive old mill building that is a sight to behold. Inside, the place is filled with every vintage and antique item you can imagine, and it’s an artist’s dream.

When I come to a place like this I have just one strategy: I’m in it for the long haul. Don’t expect me to race through the stalls and be able to pick out a few things. This isn’t like running into Target for a bottle of Tide. Stuff is everywhere, and you have to have the patience and stamina to poke, survey, scan, dig, and wade through it all. This is not a place for wimps.

Sometimes I’m looking for specific vintage art materials to use in various projects: books to repurpose for journals, photos to use in an assemblage, linens for a textile collage. But I always leave myself open to whatever I may come across. And if it’s something that makes my heart skip a beat, it’s coming home with me.

A few basic tips if prowling through antique malls is new to you: Bring hand wipes, snacks, and wear comfortable shoes; a tape measure comes in handy for measuring; turn things over, look inside, and reach behind—you never know what you might find. Oh, and don’t even think of going with someone who can’t tolerate at least a couple of hours of this.

Since it was my first time at Canal Street, I did a quick survey of the set-up and went to work. I first spotted a small box of brass-colored metal label plates, which I can never resist. Ever. They’re wonderful for book covers and boxes, and these were light enough to bend. At $1 each, I got 5, but I should have picked up more.

Vintage brass label plates

I cannot resist brass label plates like these. (Photo by Mark Elson)

I then spotted this fantastic metal muffin tin with a raised design. These are great for assemblage, but I knew I wanted this for my studio to hold small vintage art materials like buttons, brads, etc.

Muffin tin for vintage art supplies

A muffin tin is perfect for holding vintage art supplies. (Photo by Mark Elson)

This cast iron pan would also be great for storage. I didn’t get it, but I thought about it for a long time. Can’t be greedy.

Wrought iron pan for vintage art materials

This wrought iron pan is also great for holding supplies. (Photo by Mark Elson)

This small wooden box with a sliding lid was too great to resist. Little did I know that it was hiding a sweet illustration inside. I have no idea what I’ll do with it, but I’m hoarding it for the time being.

Vintage wooden box

Assemblage? Mini diorama? Not sure what this will ultimately be. (Photo by Mark Elson)

These two books spoke to me—one is a ledger from 1905. A few pages were written in, but most were blank. All will be used. The smaller book is titled “Deskaide: The Silent Secretary” and is from 1941.

Old books can be mined for vintage art materials

Old books can be mined for all types of vintage art materials. (Photo by Mark Elson)

I love vintage wooden textile print blocks. Some people display them, but I use them to print. Acrylic paint works great—just be careful, some are fragile and can break.

Vintage carved wooden print block

Carved wooden print blocks can be used to stamp on paper and fabric. (Photo by Mark Elson)

Vintage metal and fabric tape measures are also difficult to turn down, and this one was no exception. The lightweight metal can be cut with tin snips, and the graphics are great. Pieces can be used for jewelry, to edge an assemblage, and to decorate books.

Vintage metal tape measure

A metal tape measure can be used for all types of mixed-media art.

So what did I do with all of these vintage art materials? Not everything has found its (re)purpose yet, but here are a few transformations:

I couldn’t wait to print with the wooden block. I tried it out on a piece of copy paper first, using turquoise acrylic paint. When stamping with these blocks, it’s a good idea to have a semi-cushioned surface underneath, which helps the block make contact with the substrate. I used some crafting foam.

Print made from a vintage print block

A practice print was made on copy paper over craft foam.

I then stamped on some watercolor paper I had left over from a previous project. I love the juxtaposition of the vintage stamped image with the abstract ink marks. This became a quick and easy card, layered onto cardstock and tied with a leftover scrap of hand-dyed fabric ribbon.

Card made with vintage art materials and abstract blocks

Combine vintage art materials with abstract marks.

The muffin tin quickly found its place in my studio, holding small things I use often, like vintage buttons, clips, beads, and waxed linen thread.

Vintage muffin tin for holding art supplies

This muffin tin really comes in handy for storing small items I use often.

A page from the 1905 ledger made a nice pocket for one of my art journals. I stamped over it, folded it, and glued it onto a page.

Vintage ledger pocket for an art journal page

I created a pocket from a ledger page for my art journal.

The covers of the 1905 ledger were in pretty bad shape—water stained and warped—so I decided to repurpose them and create a large art journal (this thing measures 8″ wide by 13 ½” high). While separating the pages from the book the spine cracked, so I cut what was left of the spine from the covers (and saved it for another project), created a new spine from fabric, and sewed in two signatures of mixed-media paper.

Pieces of the metal tape measure were cut with tin snips and used to frame a tintype I had in my stash.

Frame made from vintage metal tape measure pieces

Strips of the metal tape measure formed a frame around a tintype.

The corners were very sharp after cutting, so I snipped off the tiny points and rounded them with a metal file. Make sure you file in one direction, rather than going back and forth—that can create burrs. I recommend not skipping this step, as you can really jab yourself with those sharp edges. You don’t want anyone handling the book to have a painful experience.

Filing metal corners

Some vintage art materials need a little tweaking; file the corners of metal pieces to make them smooth.

I punched holes in the ends of the pieces with a metal punch, then attached the pieces with small brads:

Punch holes in lightweight metal with a hand-held metal punch.

Punch holes in lightweight metal with a hand-held metal punch.

Below the frame I sewed three vintage mother-of-pearl buttons to the cover, using waxed linen thread:

Buttons make useful and versatile vintage art materials.

Among vintage art materials, antique buttons are some of the most useful and versatile pieces.

And here’s the new book:

Rebound vintage ledger

The rebound ledger has a new lease on life.

I had a leftover piece of tape measure, and used it to create a choker:

Mixed-media jewelry made from vintage art materials

Vintage tape measure pieces can be used for mixed-media jewelry, too.

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, hit an antique mall, thrift store, flea market, or, if none of those are available, go online and see what cool vintage art materials are available. Then I challenge you to use at least some of what you find in your artwork. I guarantee you’ll have fun doing it.

If I’ve piqued your interest about working with vintage art materials, you’ll likely find these resources from the North Light Shop even more helpful! Our artists have fantastic ideas and techniques they can’t wait to share with you.

March/April 2017 Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

In the March/April 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, see how artist Cathe Holden created a stunning shadow box using vintage finds.

Creative Warm-Ups and Techniques video with Crystal Neubauer

Learn how to find and work with vintage art materials in this Creative Warm-Ups and Techniques video with Crystal Neubauer.

Stamped Metal and Mica Pendant video with Jen Cushman

Create a stamped pendant using a vintage tintype in this Stamped Metal and Mica Pendant video with Jen Cushman.

The post Studio Saturdays: Vintage Art Materials appeared first on Artist's Network.

Exhibition of the Month: John Steuart Curry’s Early Years

John Steuart Curry (1897–1946) became widely recognized in the 1920s and 1930s for his intimate understanding and representation of the people and landscapes of his home state of Kansas. Artwork from the artist’s formative years is on view in “John Steuart Curry: Mapping the Early Career,” an exhibition on display through May 13 at the Beach Museum of Art, at Kansas State University.

Along with such artists as Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, Curry was one of the most significant artists in the Regionalist movement of the 1920s and 1930s, which sought to use realism to portray the lives of everyday men and women in America’s heartland. Curry was born on a farm in eastern Kansas and studied briefly at the Kansas City Art Institute and then more extensively at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He worked for several years as an illustrator, switching his focus to fine art after a formative trip to Paris in 1926.

The exhibition explores Curry’s time as a student and early professional through more than 30 drawings, paintings and magazine illustrations. A major mural on loan from the Burr Living Trust of Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, forms a centerpiece of the installation, which also presents never-before-exhibited objects from the museum’s collection, which includes more than 900 works by the artist.

For more information, visit

John Steuart Curry Exhibition | Beach Museum of Art | Artist's Network

Sleeping Man, by John Steuart Curry, charcoal, 14 x 21 1/2. Collection KSU, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Manhattan, Kansas.

John Steuart Curry Exhibition | Beach Museum of Art | Artist's Network

Cattle Chasing a Threatening Dog, by John Steuart Curry, watercolor and black crayon on paper, 10 x 14. Collection KSU, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Manhattan, Kansas.

John Steuart Curry Exhibition | Beach Museum of Art | Artist's Network

Map of Europe, by John Steuart Curry, oil on canvas, 119 x 182. Courtesy Burr Living Trust, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania.


More from Artist’s Network: Learn a trick for painting birch trees, courtesy of artist Gina Lee Kim. More helpful advice and video demonstrations can be found at

The post Exhibition of the Month: John Steuart Curry’s Early Years appeared first on Artist's Network.

Too Intimidated to Start Painting? Don’t Be!

Beginner Paintings Are About Three Things: Surface, Brush, and Palette

The first time I tried to paint it was a disaster. I was in a class and I didn’t know what I was doing. I loaded my brush with too much paint, I didn’t understand how to mix colors, and I got overwhelmed super quickly. That does not have to be your story! Making beginner paintings is all about getting started the right way, and that means knowing your surface, your brushes, and how to set up a palette. That’s where the fun begins. So let’s discuss—so you feel at ease with your materials and can get to what matters—setting your creative vision free!

Choosing a Surface for Beginner Paintings

There are so many surfaces you can paint on:


-Cardboard (my personal favorite and it is easy to find!)

-Board (primed)

-Raw canvas or canvas that you stretch over a frame. You will need to prime this in order to paint on it, but the benefit is that you can make it whatever size you want.

Beginner Paintings Tip: Hold your brush where it feels comfortable--always--but bear in mind that the more you choke up to the bristles the tighter your marks. The farther back you grip, the more gestural, fluid your marks will be.

Hold your brush where it feels comfortable–always–but bear in mind that the more you choke up to the bristles the tighter your marks. The farther back you grip, the more gestural, fluid your marks will be.

*But our recommendation is to make your beginner paintings on a pre-primed canvas that is already on stretchers. That means you don’t have to spend money on primer, and don’t have to waste any time priming—you can jump right in to painting without delay.

What Brush for Your First Beginner Paintings?

There are so many types of brushes, but when you are starting out, go with just one:

A filbert!

Filbert brushes are rectangular-shaped with softened edges—an almond-shape tip. You can make so many strokes with a filbert:

-Use the flat edge for broad strokes

-Use the side of the brush for thinner, linear strokes

-Use the tip of the brush for the thinnest, finest lines

You will also find that filbert brushes are perfect for daubing Impressionist-style marks on your canvas, with soft edges that blend beautifully and are ideal for painting foliage or leaves.

Setting Up Your Palette

Every artist develops a personal preference for their palette over time, but the best thing to do is set your palette up the same way all the time so that you will start to reach for a color automatically, because it is always in the same place.

The number of colors you use for your beginner paintings is up to you. You can use just black and white, just black and white and one color, or up to 30 colors or more. That is up to you. We recommend reaching for a starter kit of colors (which usually include six or ten tubes of paint) and go from there.

Now you are ready to pick a subject and make your first beginner paintings. If that sounds good to you, download your free eBook on How to Paint that will give you all the step-by-step guides to your painting materials, painting texture, and fixing your mistakes!







The post Too Intimidated to Start Painting? Don’t Be! appeared first on Artist's Network.

Painting en Plein Air Across the Grand Canyon

The following article on plein air painting first appeared in Pastel Journal (June 2016)

by Aaron Schuerr

To step from pavement onto dusty trail is to cross an invisible line into the present. The idea becomes the act. After months of planning and preparing, this first step feels strangely improbable. The central question is this: Can I paint my way across the Grand Canyon?  

Painting the Grand Canyon en Plein Air | Aaron Schuerr,

Man and nature convene at Plateau Point. I bask in the shapes, color, light and shadow that can only be found in this particular spot at this particular moment in time.

Rim to rim, the trail is 23 miles long. A hiker loses about a mile of elevation before crossing the Colorado River on a suspension bridge and ascending to the opposite rim. The trail follows perennial tributaries so water is not an issue. Heat is.

My first attempt to paint the Grand Canyon literally brought me to my knees. I was so overwhelmed with the challenge of painting that although I stayed hydrated, I forgot to eat. Unbeknownst to me, the desert sun was leaching essential electrolytes from my system. The next morning, I awoke with what felt like the worst hangover of my life. I learned that I suffered from hyponatremia, colloquially known as water intoxication. The remedy was simple: Pringles and Gatorade. I learned to take the canyon seriously.  

Every time I paint those distant landforms, I cannot help but wonder what the canyon is like up close.


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I am too restless to stay at the rim; I need to go down. I have allotted six days for this traverse and need to carry everything on my back—tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, water bottles, clothes, first aid kit, stove, cook kit, food and outdoor painting gear. I carry nearly 60 pounds.   

In cool predawn light, I descend through a mixed forest of aspen, pine and Gambel oak, stopping the moment the sunlight first touches the cliffs. It is my signal to paint. I begin with a stroke of dark green to indicate a pine tree, and then add a few touches of red for the cliffs. So it begins.

Plein Air Painting in the Grand Canyon: Day Two

Already I have passed through a land full of surprises, simultaneously vast and intimate, lush and austere. In the morning I hike the spur trail to Ribbon Falls, a hidden gem of a waterfall accessed through a narrow side canyon. On the way, I stop to pick prickly pear fruit, violet bulbs that grow like fat bruised thumbs along the edges of cactus paddles. I carefully break the fruit off and scrape it on a boulder to remove the needles before peeling its leathery skin. The flavor is subtle, but the flesh is juicy. The simple joy of fresh fruit in the desert is worth the effort.  

Ribbon Falls is tucked in a grotto of overhanging red quartzite. An elegant wisp of a thing, it cascades from the lip and splashes down an oversized mound of moss-covered travertine. For the Zuni tribe, Ribbon Falls is a sacred place of pilgrimage; it is the womb from which they were born, rescued by the sun from the dark underground depths. Told to look the sun full in the face, the people cried in pain, and where their tears fell flowers grew. Cleaned and sculpted into human form, the Zuni people traveled forth into the world.  

Viewed from any angle—geologic, religious or artistic—Ribbon Falls is singularly unique: a lush, sheltered oasis in the desert. To cool off, I periodically leave the easel and take a dip in the creek. Here I discover a trio of surprises: a dipper napping only a few feet away in an alcove, a pair of frogs that look like they have been spray painted silvery-gray, and fresh mint growing along the creek.

Painting the Grand Canyon en Plein Air | Aaron Schuerr,

I painted this canyon landscape during a morning session near Cottonwood Camp on the way to Bright Angel Campground.

Outdoor Painting Adventure: Day Three 

At sunrise, the clouds part, and the fin of a towering butte is bathed in a tangerine glow. At the rim, I have had the luxury to return to a spot two or three days in a row at the same time to finish painting. Here I have one shot before shouldering my pack and covering a half-dozen miles to the next camp. I have to make it count, to trust my instinct and not fuss over details. My limited pastel selection forces me to think of color in relative terms, not for how accurately it matches the subject, but for how it functions in concert on the page.  

In the early afternoon light, showers bring welcome relief from the heat. I enter “The Box,” a dark and narrow winding gorge of 2-billion-year-old basement rock. To descend the canyon is to read from back to front, from younger rock at the rim to the bones of the earth at the bottom. I imagine time itself struggling to escape its primordial austerity.

Suddenly, I emerge into Eden, a lush riparian habitat interspersed with willow and cottonwood groves. Cliffs rise in impossible terraces up to the distant south rim.  As if on cue, the clouds part. A half-mile more, and I pass the cabins of Phantom Ranch. After days of solitude, I feel like I have entered the big city. As the only lodging below the rim, Phantom Ranch is a nexus for hikers, mule trip riders and river floaters. Just past the ranch, I cross a bridge to Bright Angel Campground.  

Painting Outside in the Grand Canyon: Day Four

A group of about 30 hikers gathers in a small outdoor amphitheater at Phantom Ranch where I have been asked to talk about my trip. “We are all moved and inspired by the scenery,” I say. “The only real difference between you, the hiker, and me, the artist, is that I ask myself what it is that makes a scene beautiful. Something about it stops me dead in my tracks. As an artist, I try to understand what that is.”  

I encourage the group to see the canyon through the eyes of an artist—to look for shapes, for the intersection of light and shadow, for a surprising color, for the glow of reflected light bounced into desert shadows. These are the ingredients for art. Later in the evening, two women run up to me, grinning and talking over each other in their enthusiasm. They had spent the evening “just looking, like you told us to,” and had seen the landscape afresh. “Everything looked different,” they said. “Everything looked new.”  

Painting the Grand Canyon en Plein Air | Aaron Schuerr,

Improvisation (9×12) captures the glory and majesty of nature, which I sought to explore and paint as I trekked my way across the Grand Canyon trail.

Plein Air Painting: Day Five  

From Indian Garden, I follow a spur trail to Plateau Point, overlooking Granite Gorge, with the Colorado River 1,300 feet below. The wind roars and light rolls like liquid mercury across the broad shoulder of Buddha Temple. Colors shift in chameleon fashion, and cloud shadows play hide-and-seek with Isis Temple and Cheops Pyramid. Painting this is jazz—improvisational and instinctual.  

I strike up a conversation with a hiking guide who cooks dinner on a backpacking stove. He tells me of the interaction of man with the canyon, of archeological sites hidden throughout. As I pack up in the waning light, he offers me dinner. “We have more than enough,” he says. I wipe the pastel dust off of my hands and eagerly accept.  

We hike back to Indian Garden under the bright arc of the Milky Way. Tomorrow I will ascend the final stretch to the South Rim. But for now, I gaze up at the impossible stars. Life below the rim moves to a slow, sacred rhythm, to the muffled beat of footfall on dusty trail in a vast wilderness.

From the easel, I have heard an even greater music, a song without words, a sweet harmony blending space, time and sensation. It is the music of the heart, the experience of gratitude.  

Bio: Aaron Schuerr ( is a plein air artist based in Livingston, Mont. Visit North Light Shop for his pastel painting workshops, available as DVDs and/or downloads!

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