Friday, October 28, 2022

Studies, Warm-ups, Practice

Many artists have warm-up practices, or do a bunch of studies before plunging into 'real' work. This sounds like an obvious good way to start your painting session, so why haven't I been doing it on a regular basis? I dip into it once in awhile but have not managed to sustain it on any regular basis. Here is a post about quickies. It is almost THREE YEARS old! It is not the last time I engaged with small studies, but still. Here is a video on collage with scraps from almost two years ago.

One of the many things I learned - or re-learned - in my residency at Truro Center for the Arts is the value of this practice. Whether you call them warm-up pieces or studies, the essential aspect is that they are NOT art. They are your playground, a way to warm-up the hand, the eye, the creative muscle that makes visual decisions quickly. You don't have to show any of them to anybody. I don't keep a regular sketchbook as such because I like to work in wet media - paint or collage - and in multiples. I'd have to let one piece dry before turning the page. But these warm-up studies (I'll call them studies, or ├ętudes) are like a sketchbook.

Do you have a regular practice of working in a sketchbook or doing quick studies? I'd like to hear about it. Please comment below. What is the value of this practice you to? What format to you use?

Here are '├ętudes' from the last couple of weeks here. They are on various papers in various media, and the sizes are around 6x8" or 5x7", varying a bit.

Friday, October 14, 2022


 I was having a minor meltdown the other day, and looked through some notes I had written to myself recently. I vaguely remembered making notes on What To Do in a meltdown. I found this note:

Something about making marks with crayons to see what emerges. Making marks all day on a stack or a roll of cheap drawing paper. Mining whatever is in there, the subconscious, the hand and eye, or the hand without the eye. 

So I got out my crayons (Caran d'Ache NeoColor II) and started scribbling furiously over marks I had made with paint. Layering the crayon marks and less frantic lines in paint drew me back into the process. 

18"x24", acrylic and crayon on paper

18"x24", acrylic, graphite, and crayon on paper

18"x24", acrylic, graphite, and crayon on paper

18"x24", acrylic, graphite, and crayon on paper

 Of course, the Caran d'Ache crayons are water soluble, so they can smear when you paint over them. My trick is to apply a GENTLE coat of matte medium or matte acrylic gel to the crayon marks, CONTROL the smear, and let it dry completely before painting over. For graphite scribbling I like Lyra non-water-soluble graphite crayons. I also use ordinary pencils. You could add colored pencils and paint markers to this scribbling tool box. Avoid Sharpie Permanent Markers (they will bleed through subsequent layers of paint), and oil pastels (unless they are the last layer - they will not adhere to subsequent layers of acrylic paint). DO explore chalk pastels, charcoal (use fixative, outdoors, between layers), and various kinds of brushes with your acrylic paint. Golden High Flow acrylics and be fun to scribble with too, especially opaque ones. You can mix Titanium White High Flow into other colors to make them more opaque and lighten the value. Let each layer dry before adding more marks when using wet media. Work on several at one time.

Here are a few examples of last week's scribbles:

Black High Flow Paint applied with a brush. Spray paint on the left (black)

Black spray paint, turquoise crayon

Paint scribbles applied with brush and palette knife

This feels like Scribbles Part 2. You can see some of my 2021 scribbles on this page, along with some stripes and florals. One of the many themes or explorations I seem to circle back to is this layering of marks. Great way to loosen up, and lots there to discover.