Ruthie’s Acrylic Skins

Dear Liza,

I have learned something absolutely new from my friend Ruth Inman. She has found a way to re-use acrylic paints that dry on the palette.

Back when I first started painting, I was dismayed to learn that acrylics, unlike watercolors, become plastic once they have dried. Adding more water doesn’t dissolve them back into paint. This means that once that acrylic is on the palette, you need to use it, or throw it out. For my frugal self, this was bad news. But Ruthie discovered a way to make use of this dried paint.

First, prepare a background for your piece with acrylic paints. Any color combination that is complementary to the colors on your palettes will be fine. Let that dry.

Next, choose a few plastic palettes with good layers of acrylics on them. I use plastic food lids, so they sit around a lot and get re-used. Give the palette a spray of water. Make it wet, even a bit puddly, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, until it starts to wrinkle.

Using your fingernail or palette knife, gently ease the edges of the paint layer up. If it is a nice thick layer, it should peel up in one “skin”. But even if it tears a bit, it is useful.

If the skin is too big for your purpose, use your fingers to tear the skin into smaller bits. Look at both sides of the skin; the prettiest may be on the bottom.

While the bits of skin are still sticky and wet, press them down onto the background. Press firmly, but don’t worry if the edges are not all flat. The raised frills add dimension. They will stick once they have dried.


The trick to this sort of art is not to get fixated on what you intend the picture to be. The leaves of red flower on the yellow background was going to be a bit of landscape, but looked more like leaves. I turned it ninety degrees and added the flower.


These flowers looked better apart, so got trimmed and put on cards.

The irregular and colorful nature of the skins lends itself to flowers and leaves, but could also work as feathers for birds or maybe even mountains and landscapes.

I am happy with the results and will keep experimenting.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Another Art Challenge

Dear Liza,

My friend Ruth Inman gave us another challenge this week. It was to use text as a background for a piece of art. She offered some pieces of text to use, but I wanted to do my own. I used some stencils that I just got last week and went over the letters in waterproof ink.

I got my acrylic paints and an old credit card and scraped some color over the words.


The greens and yellows are a good start….


One thing I really like about art, and the artistic process, is that you learn as you go along. If something isn’t right, you work on it until it is. In this case, the pink made it even more Spring-y, but was way too intense. The letters were fighting with the colors! Help!

Auntie Bridgett suggested I put some white outlines around the letters, which helped a bit, but not enough. So I darkened the letters with some watercolor pencil and lightened the red bits up with tiny dots of Posca marker. It was better!

I still need to work on getting my stencils letters straight, but that will come with practice.

Have fun with your art!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Fun with Stencils

Dear Liza,

I am still doing the Art-Ober challenge with my friend Ruth Inman. The Facebook page is called “Art journaling Secrets Unleashed” and there are quite a few folks playing along.

Splattered and sponged stars

Some of the challenges, like “sea life” or “alcohol”, have connected with me, a memory or a place I love. But others are more generic, like “stars” and “circles”.

Color studies on traced triangles

So, for those, I have been trying out new techniques, new ways of making pictures besides just painting with a brush. Tracing, splattering, sponge printing… these are new to me and I am figuring them out.

Tuesday’s challenge was “pumpkins”. I like pumpkins, but couldn’t think of any interesting way to paint one. So I made some stencils. First, I painted the night sky and some ground in watercolors.

Stencil sitting on the background

Then I cut a pumpkin stencil and started layering on colors in acrylic. I used a brush, a sponge, and even that netting that is used to bag avocados.

Stamping acrylic with the stencil

The purple background kept showing through my orange, but I persevered, layering on the colors. Wanting to distract myself from the muddy looking pumpkin, I cut a stencil for the moon and laid down some white and blue with a bit of rubber mat. I liked how that turned out, because it was fine that some of the sky showed through.

Putting in the moon. The paper clip holds the stencil and keeps the page from curling

Looking back at the pumpkin, I realized it was muddy from the purple AND flat. I laid in lines for shadows with acrylic and when that didn’t work, tried some micron lines and Posca market highlights.

Better? Well, sort of….

But the darn purple still showed through! After a long walk to the market and lunch, Auntie Bridgett Spicer suggested an orange Posca marker to bring some really bright orange to the picture. It was finally good enough for me to stop.

Helped with Posca, for sure

If I were to do this same picture again, I would use the pumpkin shaped cut-out from the stencil to mask the paper way back when I put in the sky, so the pumpkin would have been painted on white instead of purple, which would eliminate the muddiness.

I still am not totally happy with it, but it is better. And better, every day, is all I can ask.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Painting Islands…. On Fabric?

Dear Liza,

Since I retired from teaching, my brain is like a kid in kindergarten, always finding something new. I opened a cupboard and found things to write about, so I wrote… for months and months.

Writing and writing..

Then I opened another cupboard and there was fabric, so I sewed.

Sewing and sewing…..

And now I have found the paint cupboard. First gouache, then watercolors. And, like a kindergartener, I have friends with ideas that feed my ideas. “Come join my painting group,” said Ruthie. I did, and it has been wonderful. Art, silliness, and learning all come together in the magic proportions that teachers strive for.

Painting little crabby friends….

I posted the islands I was painting and dear Elaine said, “I’ll bet you could put those islands on fabric, and maybe even quilt them.” Well, it turns out that you can paint on fabric with regular acrylic paints if you add a bit of “gac” paint medium. Auntie Bridgett had some, because of course she did.

I spent a day looking at maps of all the islands I love. The Big Island of Hawaii. Tom Sawyer’s Island at Disneyland. Treasure Island from Robert Louis Stevenson. Tiny Gabriola Island in the Strait of Georgia. Neverland. Sketch, reconsider, sketch.

Pencils first….

And finally I started painting my first fabric island. After smooth gouache and watercolors, the acrylic and muslin felt heavy and clumsy, but I kept at it.

The Big Island of Hawaii, as I have it so far…

I am still not totally happy with it, but I will get better if I just keep practicing. It seems a bit flat. Hmmmmm… Maybe I can add embroidery or even some beads. Maybe my friends will give me some good ideas.

Love,

Grandma Judy