Let’s Try This Again, Part III

Bit by bit I’m moving along on this painting. I’m loving it, but my little one has decided naps are for chumps so I’m not getting to work on it much. That’s ok. Next week she starts pre-school so I’m trying to soak up every sweet, frustrating, fun, non-work productive, bonding, silly, frivolous, educational, and mundane moment with her. I have the rest of my life to work. Here and there, though, I have made some progress on it.

Last post I showed you my rub-out underpainting:

Now for the fun part- color! Here’s what I’ve done so far, plus a couple of detail shots.

Don’t you love skin tones? Look at all the colors in there- greens, pinks, violets- and I can promise you there’s not a bit of pre-mixed “Caucasian Flesh Tone” on my palette. Where would be the fun in that?


Ok. Let’s try this again

A while ago I showed you this in-progress picture:



with the promise that you would see it transform along the way into a finished painting. I lied. I didn’t mean to! Sometimes I just can’t finish a painting. There’s certainly something to be said for committing to a project; working until your idea comes to fruition; pressing on until the bitter end. But there’s also something to be said for stopping when you realize that what you’re working on just isn’t “you” anymore. That is not to say the same attitude should apply to every situation that bores you, or even to every painting, but of all the commitments you could flake on in life this is one case where the earth will not shatter, hearts will not break, and jobs will not be lost (unless, of course, it’s a commission- which this was not so I’m free to do what I want. So there!).

Now, let’s try this again with a painting I know I’ll finish- in part because I’m much more more in love with the subject matter. A portrait of my daily life.

To start I did a value study:


Value study on Ampersand Oil Paper, 6″x8″

A quick laying down of the lights and darks of my composition. This is done on a small scale (in proportion to the size and shape of the finished painting) quickly and loosely, with no gridding, no drawing, and no blending. The purpose of this step is just to help you check the balance of lights and darks in your painting. For example, this composition stands alone because it is primarily dark with a bright white center of interest. When paintings edge too much toward mid-range in value, they get dull no matter what your colors or subject. Value studies are helpful, though because you don’t get distracted by the pretty colors or elaborate patterns and you can really see the bones of the picture. So far, so good. And I’m not a bit bored.





Coming out of hibernation, continued

Step 2: Local color-


Loosely applied, basically just blocking out the different areas of the picture. At this point I’m trying to close my eyes to detail and just get blocks of color in place. I didn’t even work too hard to cover up my base color, since I want that warmth to ultimately show through.

Coming out of hibernation

February in Alabama is wet, cold, and grey. A perfect recipe for malaise. Will I hibernate? Will I huddle under the covers and whine? Will I crawl into bed with a pan of lasagna and try to get as fat as possible? Not this kid… not anymore at least. Let’s get back to work. And this time I think I’ll try things a little differently.


Step 1- Underpainting rub-out

Gamblin’s Solvent Free gel mixed with transparent earth orange (about 50/50).

The underpainting acts as a value study- letting me study the dark and light areas of the painting and decide if the composition is interesting enough to stand on its own without the color.

The paint/gel mixture is applied to the entireIMG_1194 canvas (or in this case primed panel) with a large brush, then, using a t-shirt rag I rub out the lighter parts of the painting, using varying pressure to get the gradations of value.

Stay tuned for more… unless I go back into hibernation mode. Then you can find me on the couch with a pot of chili.

My Virtuous Vice

I have a vice. It’s probably one a lot of you share. Like many vices, it’s hard to resist. It’s not normally seen as a vice. In fact, in this culture of more more more, it’s typically viewed as virtuous.


The following is a true story, and typical:

I put on moisturizer in the morning. While waiting for the moisturizer to soak in, I begin brushing my teeth. When I reach for the toothpaste I notice a cup on the bathroom counter than needs to go in the dishwasher, so toothbrush in mouth, cup in hand, I head to the kitchen. When I get there I realize the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, so one-handed (I’m still brushing my teeth with the other hand) I begin unloading the dishwasher. Teeth brushed, dishwasher half-unloaded, I return to the bathroom to rinse my mouth and put away my toothbrush. While there, I realize I never finished applying my make-up. Powder on, mascara out, I realize I never finished unloading the dishwasher. Mascara applied quickly, I return to the kitchen where I find my husband, unaware that the dishwasher was half-unloaded (because really, why should it be??) putting dirty dishes in the with the clean. Amidst all of this there is also some toddler juggling going on. This. Should. Not. Happen.


So, in a quest for sanity, peace of mind, and just all-around efficacy, I’m trying to rid myself of my multi-tasking ways AND as I’m going to tell you all about it (Didn’t you know I would?).

Now, where was I…

After finishing this painting-

IMG_0009Erin Hardin- Winter Warmth

“Winter Warmth” 24″x36″ Oil on Copper, $2000

I took a break from painting on metal for a little while. However, I just can’t stay away.

For the past year (among other things) I’ve worked on a four piece series commissioned by a customer as a gift for her father. Working in my “Reflection Series” style, I’ve been creating compositions to represent the four seasons. For Christmas last year, her father received this painting-


T.J.’s Winter, 12″x12″ oil on copper

For Father’s Day, he received this one-

T.J.'s Spring, 10"x10" Oil on aluminum

T.J.’s Spring, 10″x10″ Oil on aluminum

And now I’m about to begin the next in the series, summer. Join me over the next several weeks and I’ll show you how I go from this


Aluminum mounted on panel, ready for painting

to a finished painting.

Laying the Foundation…

I just got some beautiful new birchpanels from Micah Bailey of Oak Hill Farm (contact me if you’re in Alabama and want to order panels from him). They’re so pretty I almost don’t want to paint on them… but of course I will. First, though, priming.

As you probably know, you can’t paint directly onto wood with oil paints. In a nutshell chemical reactions between the oil and the wood cause the wood to disintegrate and the paint to change colors. Since I normally paint on metal or on pre-primed surfaces, I did a ton of research on how to prepare my panels. My best two sources of information were Ampersand’s website and the knowledgeable people at Gamblin Artist Colors. You can actually call Gamblin for technical support and they’re so so kind.

Just for kicks I tried a couple of different priming techniques to see what I prefer. I applied just plain ol’ clear gesso to one and Gamblin ground for oils to the other.

The gesso was definitely easier to apply and cheaper. But… I went with the Gamblin ground (btw, I swear I’m not getting paid for any of this by anyone). The reason- I love smooth surfaces and the ground (when applied correctly) gave me a super smooth finish. The process is a little picky, so here’s my best advice: a little goes a long way. I mean a really long way. Apply really really thin coats. Let it dry at least 24 hrs (if I put it on too thick it ended up being longer than 24 hrs). Sand, apply again. It says you just need 2 coats, but I actually did 4. Tada! Primed panel ready for some painting love.