Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Elizabeth Chapman painting with acrylic

Traverse, 36" x 36"
"Also, I believe that in selling my work a part of the price is offering quality materials to clients." ~Elizabeth Chapman

Missouri artist, Elizabeth Chapman, says it well when she explains how the quality of her materials makes a difference in what she feels she is offering the buyer.  The longevity of the piece is just as important as its aesthetic.  The canvas cannot warp and the paint needs to hold up to light, temperature and air pollution.  Although the brushes an artist uses are not going to be part of the final piece (unless they shed), one's brushes make a difference in how the paint lays on the canvas or panel, how the paint moves and how the details are defined.  The brushes help the artist achieve that final piece and build the reputation behind it.

New Dawn, 40" x 30"
Sometimes, though, the brushes that are the most used and loved become the best tools.  For Elizabeth, this rings true.  Some of her favorite brushes have been around the studio for years, and others are only used to sign her name or work just with her delicate watercolor pieces.  Since she primarily works in acrylics, and paints abstractly, Elizabeth relies not only on brushes, but also her inventory of tools for working paint on the canvas.  "I have found that rollers can be used to create various textures, as well as sponges, rags, hair combs, your hands, etc. . . so much can be found around the house and any hardware store," she explains. 

Juxtapoz, 30" x 40"
Elizabeth Chapman came to her current style in abstract expressionism gradually as she felt her way through painting florals to painting alongside music.  Once she left her work as an art teacher and decided to pursue being an artist full time, she dedicated the hours and effort to her painting as she did her 8:00 am- 3:00 pm teaching position.  In starting out, Elizabeth decided to pursue what she knew, what she saw others doing successfully, selling florals online.  Finding that the effort and money to frame and care for finished watercolors was too much, Elizabeth began to pursue more abstract pieces.  With encouragement from her husband and other artists, Elizabeth picked up the acrylics and intuitively began her abstract career.  "One morning, I walked into my studio and pulled out every canvas that I had previously purchased.  I proceeded to lay these on the tables that I had wrapping around the studio.  Next, I pulled out the dreaded acrylics and turned on some music.  What occurred next was a total surprise to me.  I painted to the music, intuitively and a painting appeared," she shares.  This was the beginning of her style, coming about with thoughts as to both the best use of her materials and the belief in herself as an artist.  Her path took shape as she followed her intuition in her career moves and in the studio.

Poise, 36" x 24"
Elizabeth gives hopeful advice to artists starting out.  "With their being so much out, there is a tendency to try to be someone else, especially when your starting out.  And this isn't always such a bad thing, as much is self-taught.  But, we are each created uniquely and therefore our visual expressions will be strongest when we give ourselves permission to be ourselves....if we will only believe in ourselves."  

Elizabeth Chapman's work is available for sale through Zatista, an online art gallery.  You can see her shop here: Elizabeth Chapman on Zatista

Keep Painting, 

For more brush information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Naomi Schlinke

Cliff Dweller,  12" x 24", Ink on Claybord, 2008
Naomi Schlinke shares sage advice for purchasing brushes, "Simply, choose the right tool for your intention."  

As in her advice, Naomi's life also follows the principle of choosing the best tools for one's intention.  Naomi Schlinke, now an Austin, TX artist, lived and worked as a dancer in San Francisco for many years before moving her career to visual art.  She savored her free time as a visual artist, being drawn to the concept that the art remains a tangible piece once it is created.  Her art reflects great, bold, movement -- almost as though the ink dances on the panel.  A life-long artist in one form or another, Naomi has always found a creative outlet, and the best tool, for getting her intentions out there. 

An interview with Naomi below captures her views on using the right materials.

When did you first call yourself an artist?
"As a six year old I felt transported by my attempts to dance and to embody the classical recordings that my parents played. As I grew older I tried to stay connected to that feeling of being transported. For example, around age ten, I recall blindfolding myself and lying on the floor in front of the stereo with music playing in order to subject myself to just this kind of experience. And even as I loved going to the pool in the summer, it was not to swim or play, but to take in the naturally occurring magic of the experience, the wonderful disorientation of being under water, the way the light bounced, and the tingly puffy feel of my whole body afterwards.

Side by Side, 40" x 60", Ink on Claybord, 2011
I wanted to stay connected to that feeling of being transported by putting it into something artistic. The practice of art had always seemed like the most reliable path to that kind of experience. The things that were created seemed to have special powers. I had a sense that art was not of the practical world, that it didn’t follow from the things that most people wanted or needed to do, like cooking, mowing the lawn, earning a living or having children. Artists seemed to do special things with their awareness, much as I had done as a child.Yet with all that I didn’t think to myself, “I am an artist.” I just thought I was being me. Among adults there is some social tension about who is “really” an artist. I think you are an artist if that is what you are doing with your life."
Corridor, 30"x 30", Ink on Claybord, 2010

What importance do your materials (good or bad) have in your work?
"What interests me most is finding the shortest distance between the nature of the materials and the image produced. Working with brushes as well as pouring, rolling, compressing, sanding, washing, and other events, I look for an image that appears to be occurring naturally like rain or snow, something that is perpetually in transition. I make use of the uncanny resemblances that occur, allowing them to resonate, suggesting a narrative dimension."

What types of brushes do you use in your work?  Size and shape?  
"I love brushes, the magic wands of painting. Sometimes I buy a brush like you would buy a new pair of shoes, just because it’s irresistible. I have always been drawn to filberts because they are great “gliders” and leave interesting end traces. But for a number of years I have also been using very wide wash brushes -- up to ten inches wide."

Do you have any special brush techniques?
"I think most of my brush techniques come from paying attention to a few questions relevant to the work at hand. How wet or dry are the brush and surface relative to each other? How fast is the stroke? Is there acceleration and deceleration? How much pressure? Is it steady or fluctuating? My choices are based on kinesthetic as well as visual feedback."

Do you have any advice on choosing brushes? 
"Simply, choose the right tool for your intention. To do that you need to be familiar with the properties of different types of brushes -- how firm/soft or springy/droopy is it? How much fluid does it hold? What kind of mark is it capable of? How long is the handle? And especially, how do your chosen medium and surface interact with that kind of brush? The golden rule I’ve always heard is, use the biggest brush possible for the job."

If you're interested in following Naomi's shows and artwork, check out her website:

Keep Painting, 

For more brush information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Paint Brush Highlights: Beau Blanc

"Portrait of Cosmo MacKenzie", 30 x 30 cm, oil by Lewis MacKenzie
Lewis MacKenzie, oil and pastel artist, created "Portrait of Cosmo MacKenzie", shown right, using Beau Blanc brushes.  Lewis is an artist working and living in Glasgow, United Kingdom.  His blog is a sketchbook diary of his ongoing work, studies and portraiture classes.  

"Beau Blanc" was the traditional name given to a European superior natural white boar bristle brush; it means "Beautiful White" in french.  A quite suitable name for this brush from Dynasty as it is an elegant, long natural bristle brush created specifically for oil and acrylic painting.  The brushes are comfortable, long handled with triple crimped seamless ferrules for resilience and long wear.  The tufts are interlocked construction of the highest quality chunking bristle.  

Oil painters need brushes that easily hold and blend paint on the canvas, can stand up to the pressures of solvents, and withstand the texture of linen or cotton.  Since natural bristle is known for its capabilities in oils, Dynasty found the best bristles in the world, combined them with the interlocked construction technique and created a superior brush for heavy bodied paints.

Beau Blanc are available in flat, bright, filbert and round shapes.  To see what sizes are available and where to purchase in your area, check out the Dynasty website section on Beau Blanc.

Keep Painting,

For more brush information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Jivan Lee

Standing Tree, 36" x 48", 2012
"Being an artist who lives to paint this world and its natural environment leaves me with profound gratitude towards all that inspires my work. As such, in addition to choosing the highest quality materials, wherever possible I also prefer those that are socially responsible and environmentally friendly." ~Jivan Lee

New Mexico based painter and instructor, Jivan Lee, builds his sculptural paintings with the best of tools and paint, keeping his mind open to what the subject matter has to say rather than what his intellect might say.  And, his process, art, and career have flourished.  

Since 2007, Jivan Lee took to painting full time.  After college at Bard and graduate school in environmental policy, Jivan found that painting had stolen his heart, and he blended his appreciation for sustainable, environmentally friendly materials with his love of the natural world.  In his outdoor studio now, Jivan captures the world with intense color, bold brushwork and a tangible presence to his work. His earlier work was "neater", he explains, "but everything changed when I move to Taos, NM."  It was a dream, and the work of painter, Louisa Mcelwain that brought him to using such strong brush and palette knife work.  For a time, Jivan wasn't even using brushes, but he is working now with a combination of knives and brushes.  Artist Lynn Boggess, another palette knife painter, exposed Jivan to the concept of sculpting on the canvas; "work that looks like reality from a distance, but up close it is just the color on the canvas," he explains.  It is this sculptural meeting between heavy bodied paint and nature that Jivan is known for now.  
Around the Bend, 24" x 30", 2011, Featured in Plein Air Magazine

In his work, oils have taken a precedence over any other paint, primarily because they are so basic and natural in themselves.  The walnut oil paint that Jivan uses is like putting "dirt on the canvas" he jokes, but there is some truth to that.  Getting down to the earth's vantage point is where he wants to be.  Jivan likes to connect with the world or person, set aside what he thinks he knows about something and see what is there to find, more than just observing the subject.  It is this perspective that takes Jivan to places other artists can't climb.  He finds what feels good to paint and just does it, setting aside the thinking for a time so that the devotion to the subject and it's intent comes across in paint.

Morning Daisies, 20"x 24", 2011
In his pursuit of natural materials, Jivan also uses natural bristle brushes for laying in large color mass.  However, synthetics hold up to the quick approach he takes, keeping their shape and retaining suppleness longer than natrual hair.  With such fast alla prima work, brushes need to be able to sit in a paint for a time, sit in the sun for a bit, and keep their resilience when washed or pounded on the canvas.  Synthetics are also easier on the animal environment and can last longer than bristle if cared for well. 

Besides the full time work of plein air that keeps Jivan in the NM environment, he is adjunct faculty at the University of New Mexico.  To see more of Jivan's work and gallery shows, log on to his website: or follow him on Twitter:  @JivanLeeFineArt

Keep Painting,

For more brush information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fine Art Brush Tips: Shedding

There is nothing more discouraging in your painting rhythm than when a brush sheds on your canvas.  Stray hairs leave odd marks during the painting and then are difficult to remove if they dry there on the canvas.  A flawed painting is not what one wants to send to a collector, gallery or potential buyer.  

So, it is first of all important to check out brushes when purchasing.  It can be natural for a brush, especially a natural bristle brush, to lose a few strands during the first rinse.  However, during brush shopping, test the brushes with your fingers by gently pulling on the bristles to see if they are tightly adhered.  In quality brushes, the bristles are both glued and clamped into the ferrule, and sometimes also tied.  So, a gentle tug should let you know if the bristles are there to stay.  Be wary if any come out at your touch.

Some retailers may take back a brush if it has been rinsed only, no paint,  before use.  Rinsing will remove stray hairs and the starch that is put on the brush during manufacturing to keep its shape during shipping and display.  If a brush falls apart during the rinse, it won't hold up to paint.  You can also comb out a brush softly before use.  If the brush loses a few hairs, it is possible they were either not glued in well or were too short to reach the adhesive in the ferrule.  So, the brush might be just fine, having shed all that it will.  However, if the brush continues to lose hairs, it is likely defective and you should contact the manufacturer. 

Lastly, care for the brushes as if you'll never buy another.  Some artists condition their brushes with lotion or hair conditioner; other artists use quality conditioning soaps for cleaning.  Everyone has their method of brush care, and if you want more details on brush cleaning, check out my prior post on cleaning.  Cleaning right after use will keep your brush in shape and prevent having to soak your brush for long periods if you've left it in dirty water or solvent too long.  Soaking a brush can sometimes remove hardened paint, but it also has a tendency to loose hairs in the ferrule as the adhesive often softens during soaking.  Cleaning immediately after use is the best way to keep your brushes happy for decades to come.

Resources:  Turner, Jacques. Brushes:  A Handbook for Artists and Artisans.  New York, Design Press, 1992.

Keep Painting, 

For more brush information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.