Something Old, Something Blue

Okay, I am officially addicted to cyanotypes. The rich, Prussian blue, the high contrast style, and that lovely vintage feel come together to create such a unique final result that can only be achieved using this historic medium.

Cyanotypes were invented by Sir John Hershel in 1842, as a way to reproduce notes and drawings (blueprints!) This photographic process involves combining potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate solutions, and applying said solution to any absorbent surface- ideally paper or fabric. Objects or film negatives can then be placed on top of the sensitized surface, and exposed to sunlight. The surface is then rinsed with water and viola! You have a cyanotype!

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I made this one using a perfume bottle!

I’ve spoken before about how I love making monotypes to wind down from working on larger oil painting projects. Cyanotypes provide that same spontaneous thrill that comes from not knowing exactly how an image will turn out.

sun print Moss_ADJ_WWEB

This one was made using moss

You can buy kits with paper already sensitized with the chemicals (“sun print” kits,) which is what I used to make the above. This is a great way to try out the medium for cyanotype n00bz, but I personally got frustrated by how crappy and flimsy the paper is (it curls and buckles and you can never get all the little ripples out.) I decided to go hardcore and buy the real chemicals. Now, I can work on my favorite watercolor papers- which means I can work into my prints!

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worked into this one with some colored pencil

I’m excited to see how I could integrate this more into my core work. Right now, I’m just enjoying the thrill (and lamenting the occasional frustration) of experimentation with an unfamiliar medium. I get so overloaded with seeing digital photography everywhere online that it feels refreshing to make photos using such a highly tactile analog process!

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Burn After Painting

I’ve always been a bit of a pyromaniac. According to my mom, toddler-aged me loved to hold things against our living room lamp’s light bulb to set them ablaze. I actually ended up burning a hole in the upholstery of my Dad’s office chair once. I think it was a scientific curiosity more than anything- to watch the always unique distortion the flame provided to every victim I could offer up. I never would have thought that my proclivity for burning things would eventually coalesce with my art-making practice, but surprisingly, it has.

A common chestnut imparted by art professors is the idea of avoiding “preciousness” in your work. I was always warned not to see the work that I made, especially in class, as being too “precious” to mess up. It’s great advice, as you don’t want to let the fear of messing up a “good” painting through taking an artistic risk to prevent you from seizing said risk and, hopefully, arriving at a “great” painting. What bigger risk is there than providing the very real possibility of burning your entire painting to a crisp?

Burned Diamond WEB

 video of burning here . Diamond: Burn I | watercolor, crayon on burnt paper| 10×10″

I’d made a large-scale diamond painting on canvas a while ago, but I still didn’t feel that it really fit in with the rest of my work. I knew there was something else I needed to do to this diamond to make it say what I wanted it to say. Then I started to play around with some little sketches, and eventually the famous tagline “diamonds are forever” came to mind. Then I started to think about how my own work is, broadly, about beauty and the construction and maintenance of it, and how ephemeral those things are by their nature. Juxtaposing something that, at least through marketing, is thought to be eternal with a very obvious sign of decay seemed worth exploring. I applied this same general concept to my “Doe Eyes” series as well.

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video here. Doe Eyes: Burn I | watercolor, gouache, crayon on burnt paper | 5×7″

I’m excited to continue to explore this series of experiments. There’s something so beautiful about watching the paper curl and buckle under the flame. It’s unpredictable and uncontrollable- and I’ve actually ended up over-burning a few paintings that I had to throw away. After graduating (almost two years ago- hoo boy,) I’ve found myself drawn to approaches to painting and  art-making where I relinquish a pretty high level of control over the final product- such as with my monotypes, water media, and now, the unholy power of the flame.

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gif via tinarannosuarus 

Artbook of the Day: Vision and Revision

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Since I love playing with monotypes, and since I am so enamored with everything by Wayne Thiebaud, I immediately fell in love with this book while browsing amazon. Not many people know that Thiebaud actually has made a sizable body of work in printmaking.

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Wayne Thiebaud, Sardines, watercolor over hard-ground etching, 1990

It’s interesting to see his trademark subject matter and aesthetic translated into this medium-  a medium that is in many ways similar to painting. Interestingly, part of the “revision” of these works becomes apparent as Thiebaud works into the prints with other mediums, like pastel and watercolor:

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Wayne Theibaud, Six Candied Apples, watercolor over hard-ground and drypoint etching, 1990

The forward, written by Thiebaud, starts:

“I think the most compelling part of drawing and painting is the continuing thrill of learning how they can be made. Working on prints is an extension of this constant search.”

It’s this clear enthusiasm for the formal, raw process of painting that makes Thiebaud so easy for me to admire. A true painter’s painter… Who also makes amazing prints.

Back to Watercolor

Lately I’ve been back to doing a lot of small, quick abstract watercolor paintings. I think I need this to wind down after months of working on super structured and planned oil paintings in school. It feels good to let loose for a bit with a low cost, low risk medium. If a painting doesn’t work out, I have no problem throwing it away and starting a new one (something much more difficult to do after investing in a canvas painting.)

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 Untitled, Watercolor and crayon on paper, Megan Koth, 07/2014

I’ve been enjoying using mixed media, like pencil, stamps, and crayon, to add texture and visual interest.

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Untitled, Watercolor, graphite, and crayon on paper, Megan Koth, 07/2014

And I even managed to stumble upon some abstract flowers! Totally unlike me, but I like how they turned out nonetheless.

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Red Posies, Megan Koth.  Prints and more of this available at my Redbubble store!

Doing these little watercolors has always been a kind of palette cleanser for me to do between big paintings. I see it as the painting equivalent of doing stretches before a big race.

Using Yupo

It doesn’t happen very often that I use an art material I’ve never heard of  before. However, I recently was introduced to yupo paper. There are plenty of fancy papers out there, but this one is pretty unique: it’s made out of plastic. Yupo watercolor paper is made of polypropylene, is water resistant, and very durable.

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This is a quick self-portrait I did on the stuff. I used watercolor and acrylic, and as you can see, the paper retains the integrity of your brushstrokes sharply. The paper, before being sealed with a sealant, can also be wiped clean as many times as you want. It makes painting something like a self-portrait, something we have the tendency to nitpick over, with watercolor a little less daunting

I think Yupo is  great because it combines the need for intelligent working with materials/decision making with the option of completely erasing what you’ve done and starting over. A great way to practice with watercolor! Although, the paper isn’t absorbent AT ALL. The paint just lies on the surface. But, for all you paper fetishists out there, or water media aficionados, it’s definitely worth trying out.

Liquitex Glass Beads Medium

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Recently I wanted to try out a new gel medium to experiment with, and decided on Liquitex Glass Beads Texture Gel.

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Unfortunately, one of the first things I noticed upon using it is that it’s a bit difficult to control. I had a hard time trying to spread it evenly with a brush, as the beads started to collect in clumps, and using a palette knife means that the gel will collect in the space between the beads, losing some of the texture. However, I’ve found that spraying it with some water after using a palette knife is the best way to go (also, you have to remember that the gel will shrink when it dries.) The end result was a pretty cool texture:

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I’m sure if you wanted you could save some money by just buying some gel medium and mixing in some glass beads (or really, anything you wanted), but this medium isn’t really expensive anyways. I think this is sort of a “love-it or hate-it” kind of product, as it’s not really versatile. So, if this particular texture doesn’t intrigue you, there’s really nothing else you can do with the product. I for one can’t wait for this texture to make an appearance in some future paintings!

Revisiting Old Experiments

Last year I didn’t do a whole lot of my usual acrylic painting (my dorm room being so small and all) and started to experiment with watercolor. I took a watercolor class, and continued to do some little doodles in my spare time just at my desk (really the only surface in my tiny dorm.) I saved the small doodles I did, and recently dug them up and began working back into them not with watercolor, but with acrylic.

I already use watered down acrylic in a lot of my works, but using this same medium on paper is interesting (and entirely different.) I quite like watercolor, and it really takes me out of my comfort zone of working on a canvas and getting that immediate payoff of acrylic/oil paint. Working on such an absorbent surface is an interesting change of pace.

Most of the painting here was done in watercolor, and I added the orange dots (and a little more orangey-ness) with acrylic. I also added the dark blue lines with acrylic using a needle-tip bottle, and painted in the green bars. I like the mixture of the wispyness of watercolor combined with the crisp sharpness of acrylic. Working in mixed media opens so many possibilities! Revisiting old sketches and doodles can be really rewarding. Sometimes we do our best work when we’re not even in “work” mode, and just let our mind wander onto the page.