THE ARTISTIC LIFE – Living the creative life in everything we do

Posts tagged ‘artist’

My Newest Oil Painting

I hope everyone is having a great week! I want to share with you the most recent addition to my oil painting portfolio, a 36″x54″ (big!) oil on canvas of a pastoral scene that I recently completed. This was created for a friend’s mom, based on the view from her house.

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Oil paintings by Jennifer Lycke

Non-toxic Oil Painting

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to live a more non-toxic life as part of my fight against thyroid cancer. Well, I’m also an artist. As I’ve just accepted a new oil painting commission, I’m researching ways to make the painting process safer and less toxic. As many people have become concerned about the health and environmental effects of the products we use, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned. So far, here are a few suggestions I’ve found:

1) Use good hygiene and cleaning methods. Definitely don’t put your brushes anywhere near your mouth. Supposedly, VanGogh ingested traces of his oil paints as he worked, and this may have contributed to his mental and physical decline. Also, try to wear gloves as you paint. I know in the past, I’ve been guilty of getting oil colors all over my hands as I paint. Even though I’d scrub my hands afterward, remnants of stubborn color would still remain. This can be absorbed into your body, along with any toxic ingredients, so you should minimize skin contact.

2) Use good ventilation. Outdoor Plein Air painting is great. If this is not an option, paint with as many windows and doors open as possible. Paint in a garage with the doors open. Or use a studio with a built-in ventilation system and/or lots of windows. Use fans and air purifiers as well. I have a small window, but also use a purifier and a fan to blow any fumes out the open window. Put a ventilation mask on if you are still concerned.

3) Check the ACMI (Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc.) labels. This is a non-profit association that tests for toxicity in paints and media. Look for the AP (Approved Product) certified nontoxic seal on your individual paint tubes (every color may be different, even within a specific brand or line of paints). Avoid the CL label which indicates that caution should be used. In general, avoid the Cadmium colors and the Cobalt colors, including Cerulean Blue. Lead White (also known as Flake White) has been banned in most countries because of its toxicity, now selling the safer Flake White Replacement color. Most major art supply catalogs and websites will indicate the labels for each paint color. For more information, see the ACMI website.

4) Avoid turpentine and most thinners and mediums. In my research, it appears that Walnut Oil is safe and a quality choice. There is also M Graham Walnut Alkyd Medium which is non-toxic, if you’d like a fast drying medium (oils such as walnut oil are not fast drying). I have a bottle of water soluble Stand Oil at home that has the AP label. There may be other limited choices, but use caution.

5) Use simple soap and water for cleaning your brushes and hands. My art professors in college suggested we use regular dish soap for washing brushes. This is easy on the budget, as well as health. I used to swirl the brushes into the palm of my hand with soap to clean them. Now I will use a clean surface, such as my palette, to swirl, to limit the skin exposure.

6) Make sure to close all paint and medium containers as soon as you are done with them and clean up thoroughly.

With these precautions, you should be able to oil paint safely and enjoyably. If you know of any more safety tips with regards to oil painting, please let me know!

10 Tips For Photographing Your Oil Paintings

10 tips for photographing your artwork:

I recently had an issue with a photograph of one of my paintings. The photograph was originally taken and uploaded in 2006 – 5 years ago – and it was too blurry and unable to produce a poster size high quality print. This reminded me of how much about photography I have learned in the last few years. I also can’t help but wonder if 5 years from now, I will look back and be surprised with how much I’ve learned in these 5 years. It is certainly a continual learning process. Here are 10 tips that I’ve learned about photographing artwork (particularly oil paintings):

1. Photographing artwork out on a deck or porch, generally provides the best overall natural light, unless you have heavy woods or trees that cause irregular shadows.

2. A generally cloudy or hazy day is actually better for photographing artwork on your porch or deck – it causes less glare and shadows than bright sunshine and the resulting shadows.

3. Direct lights/lamps on the artwork almost never work for me. They always seem to add shine and glare on the oil paints, which can misleadingly show up as a white area on the painting, even if it is actually a dark colored area of the artwork.

4. It may take some trial and error at the exact positioning of the artwork, to reduce glare off of oil paints (especially if you tend to paint with a lot of medium or have already varnished the painting). You also need to make sure there are no shadows affecting the surface of the painting.

5. Unless you are trying to show what kind of frame you’ve used, try to photograph the artwork without its frame. Photographs for show entries, print reproductions, etc, just need the artwork itself, not the frame used on the original. Also, the inclusion of a frame, even if cropped out of the final picture, will probably produce a shadow on the painting itself. It can take some time to properly remove (dodge) these shadows using Photoshop. Additionally, the accuracy of the photograph from the original will be reduced.

6. In my experience, no matter how hard you try, your photograph of a 2 dimensional artwork will never be completely squared to the photo. In the near future, I plan to write a post showing the step-by-step process I use in Photoshop to make the artwork look square in my photographs.

7. Do not use flash – once again, there will be problems with glare and incorrect coloring in the photograph.

8. Always use a tripod. The issue I had with that photo taken in 2006 was probably because of not using a tripod and the photo will be too blurry.

9. To reduce camera shake even further, use the camera’s self-timer or use a remote switch (either wired or wireless) to reduce the slight shake caused by pressing the shutter button.

10. Use a camera setting that has multiple focal points, such as Landscape or A-DEP settings, or adjust the F-stop to a higher number. You want the whole painting to be in focus, not just a portion of the painting.

Eleven Tips to Be Creative

Eleven Tips to Be Creative (I was aiming for Ten, but I guess I was feeling creative)

While this is certainly not a definitive or a scientific list, there are certain things I personally do to improve my chances of having a creative day:

1. Read about lots of different topics – I’m not very into “niches”…and have never liked being “put into a box”. After all, no one category or “box” can describe me, which is probably the same for most people. I get bored with niches and am interested in so many different hobbies and topics. Learning about various current events and varied topics not only keeps life interesting, but keeps one’s mind alert and creative. One’s brain starts to connect disparate ideas and topics and relates them in new and different ways.

2. Take different routes to work/school/shopping. I’m not a neuroscientist, but I realize that doing something differently and not in the same old rut makes those synapses fire away. New connections are made in our brains, which are then recharged to start thinking differently. Besides, you might discover that new gift shop that just opened or an enticing bakery that you never knew existed.

3. Listen to music. Different types of music. Jazz. Rock. Alternative. World. Pop. Opera. Heck, even Country. Also, listen to your favorite song from when you were a senior in high school. Listening to your favorite music from days of yore, not only brings back good memories, but stirs your mind. Every painting class I’ve ever taken played background music during studio time. Music stimulates the right side of your brain, which of course is necessary for creativity. iTunes, CDs, and the radio are great, of course, but if you have the opportunity to hear some live music – even better!

4. Window shop and browse catalogs and magazines. You don’t need to spend money for this. However, just looking at a myriad of items and products, especially colorful and/or creative products stimulates my thinking and gets me excited to start creating! And, if you can afford it, spring for that new dress or bedspread while you’re at it!

5. Look at art. Get to a local museum, gallery, or art fair. Galleries and fairs usually have free entry and even museums may be free (donations accepted) on certain days of the week. Whether you are an artist or not, nothing stimulates the right brain like looking at various types of painting, sculpture, mixed media and photography.

6. Make time to recharge. Allow a little bit of time each day for yourself to relax or participate in your favorite hobby. Most people can’t be creative 24 hours a day…I know that I need to have a bit of down time daily to allow myself to recharge, so I can then focus my creativity for those times when I NEED to be creative.

7. Practice the art of brainstorming…when trying to come up with a solution or a new idea, let yourself relax and just write whatever crazy ideas come into your head. Most of the ideas might be too crazy to act upon, but write them down nonetheless. Don’t be discriminating. Try to come up at least 20 ideas. Later on, you can go back and cross off the ideas that simply won’t work. But, all you need is for 1 idea out of 20 to be the solution you’re looking for!

8. If you’re going to watch TV, watch something educational or a do-it-yourself type of channel. Seeing people working hard at their creative products, whether it be decorating, home re-design, or cooking that delicious and nutritious meal in under half-an-hour, motivates me, teaches me, and usually gives me ideas.

9. Exercise. The solution to whatever problem I’m trying to solve sometimes comes to me suddenly while I’m taking a brisk walk or using the elliptical trainer. I guess the increased blood circulations gets ideas circulating in the brain too!

10. Keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be a diary, and you don’t need to begin every entry with “Dear Diary…”. However after receiving a Christmas gift of a blank journal, I began jotting down creative ideas in it whenever I would think of something. I realized that I’ve always been creative, but I often forgot my “inspired ideas” by the next day, because I never wrote them down. My brain would then move on to the next idea, but it would then leave a trail of forgotten ideas behind. Now I DO write them down, and I can refer to them anytime I want. It is improving the amount of action I take on these ideas. In fact, my idea for this blog was jotted down randomly in this journal…

11. Eat healthy and take your vitamins! Being nutritiously minded keeps one’s energy, brain and heart at peak levels. On the other spectrum, lethargy leads to fewer ideas, and, more importantly, less energy to act upon those ideas.

Dog Portrait Painting Finished

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I’ve recently finished painting a dog portrait I was commissioned to work on, from a set of photos. Galahad was a beautiful subject to work from. The recipient of this painting has a minimalist style for decor, so I thought a modern minimalist frame would work well. I couldn’t find the right finish in the frame I wanted, so after receiving the frame, I sanded and stained it in a Pecan gloss. I think it suits the piece. What do you think?

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to The Artistic Life blog!

As an artist, photographer, web designer, and graphic designer, I am always trying to be creative in various ways, using different outlets. Even when I’m not working on an art project, creativity enriches my daily life, by getting me to try new hobbies and be curious about many different fields, seemingly unrelated to art, but still related in some way deep down. I’ve never believed that art and design are luxury items that can be separated from the rest of life…they are part of living and closely related to science, math, music, philosophy, culture, history, religion…you can’t have these without art. Anything produced must have a design. It may be a poor design, but a design nonetheless.

I’ve heard many people say that they aren’t creative…I don’t think that’s true! Anyone can be creative and probably already are creative in ways they don’t realize. One doesn’t have to paint a masterpiece to be creative. Many people experiment with a new recipe, sew a dress for their child, problem-solve an issue in their lives, invent a new game to keep the kids entertained….there are countless ways to be creative in daily life and this should be recognized!

In this blog, I hope to touch various topics related to art, creativity, photography, design, cooking, travel, or new hobbies…or whatever creative outlet seems to be taking shape in my life at the moment.

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