Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Best Palette

When I started painting, I used the cheap plastic trays with multiple cups as a palette. And soon discovered that the tiny amount of paint they hold is mostly useless and they are hard to clean. I then switched to the wooden gesso coated palette boards. It worked mostly well, but it was hard to leave it on a surface while painting. It felt like I have to hold it! 

Once shopping in Ikea, I found a large window piece with glass that worked really well as a palette. I just left it on top of a cabinet by my easel, it was easy to clean with a spritz of water and a wipe with a wet sponge. However, if I forgot to clean right away, it was messy to move it to a sink and give it a full wash.

Recently I found a stack of 12 porcelain dishes - pasta bowls that I have been using for the last 2 months. One of the best finds ever! They are awesome in letting the colors stay true as I mix, I can either hold it or leave it on the table and the best thing, they are easy to clean even if the paint has completely dried! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Unexpected Award

It is not often that I paint on a theme that is given to me. I suppose the only time I do that is for commissioned paintings. After the big move however, I joined my local artists association and they had a show on 'Trees' starting in two weeks. I wanted to use that opportunity to show my work to this group and started working on a tree painting in my henna-style with lots of texture. 

Native Roots, 2014. Henna-style textured acrylic painting on canvas.
12" x 16". (c) Bala Thiagarajan, 2014

I was pleasantly surprised to find out a week after the show opened, on a random trip to the library, that the painting got a honorable mention. I am thrilled and looking forward to the next show with a Spring theme!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Studio Sneak Peek

Almost a month after our move to the new place, my studio is all set the way I want it. We have converted our second bedroom to be the studio, thanks to a friend's suggestion! Not only do I have a much bigger and better space, but it is also brighter, with a big window and two tube lights. What an upgrade after the last space I had in our basement. 


We were also able to furnish the studio with three tables and a book shelf from thrift stores and they are perfect for the space. Since it is a rental unit, I am trying to be very careful about not getting any paint splatters on the carpet & the walls.


In addition to the painting spots, I also have a corner for bead work, storage space under the table for canvas. I have three bins - one for blank canvas, one for work in progress and another for finished ones. I am so happy with the new set-up, I have been spending so much time in there and being very productive! Kalki totally approves the studio and has half-claimed it for himself too :)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring Fling

Last Sunday was the first show for this year and it was a small vendor fair at a local bar. It was good practice to pull out all the fair gear after the move and also do a quick indoor set up. I have another similar event coming up this weekend for a fundraiser. 


Unfortunately the event was not well attended and I barely made up the booth fees. I did three sets of henna - two for other vendors and sold three note cards. Still it was good to be out and about, making some contacts. Luckily, the event was only for four hours. 


Doing the henna was really fun especially since two of them had never done it before. The paste I used this time turned out to be very good. The stain below was after almost a day - a sample test I did on my palm. A week later, in spite of innumerable hand washes, the stain is still there. I hope the clients were happy with how the stain turned out for them!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A move and A Task

We moved to the suburbs of Chicago last week and the move was uneventful. However, the daunting task of unpacking awaits. We have downsized quite a bit and now the second bedroom is going to be my studio space. However it is filled with boxes from the office, guest bedroom, studio, rest of basement and the garage from the old house. I have started unpacking but it surely is going very slow! 


I was able to buy three new tables for the studio space before leaving Madison, in lieu of the counters I had in my previous one. Hoping to have a functional studio space here in the next week. 


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Progress on a Painting

In my last post I wrote about the steps in starting a painting. Today, its about the progress on the piece. 

Step 5: Filling in the outline. Usually I prefer to do this with one solid color if its an animal I am working on. I do dab on the paint thick in this step as I don't want to do multiple coats in small areas.


Step 6: The most tedious and fun step in the painting. Doing the textured lines. I love to use metallic gold and silver for the texture and use them as much as I can. I bring in more variety to the patterns here and also get to play with the thickness of the textured lines. I start in the middle and move my way out on the subject.


Step 6: Accents - in the octopus I used white dots around the animal to sort of give a relief and also used some metallic green dots in the background. 

Step 7: One of the most satisfying steps - signing my name! I actually write my name in Tamil, my mother tongue in the front. 

Step 8: Remove all pencil marks, correct mistakes. 

Step 9: Seal: I use a gloss or high gloss varnish to seal the painting. I usually do just one coat.

Step 10: Paint the sides black with black gesso. Steps 9 & 10 are something I learnt from people selling paintings on Etsy. I am so glad to have found these two steps that make my paintings look well finished and ready to hang. 

Step 11: After its completely dry, I put a hanger in the back, and with a sharpie write my name& website, sign in english with the year.

Now, its ready to go on FB and list for sale on my website :)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Starting a Painting

Over the last three years, I have been learning a lot about painting. As a self-taught artist, its been a steep learning curve starting with the most basic stuff on mixing colors to refining my techniques. And to top it all off, I had to learn how to properly finish a painting from Etsy! (more on this later).

Most of my paintings are done with acrylics on canvas and here is a quick look on how I do it and how I learned to do what I do. 
  • Step one is do a ground layer on the canvas. I prefer a very light yellow as the grounding background on my paintings. There has been times when I have skipped this step, started out with the colors I want for the background and regretted it. Using this grounding layer helps cover up missed spots later on, especially when there is only a thin layer of paint. In many instances, the ground layer would still show through, but be part of the background and add more depth to it.
  • Step 2 is doing the actual background. I have started to play more with my background colors than doing my basic stuff. My usual basics is doing a blend of tones of the same color with a mottled look (that might disappear once the painting is complete).
An octopus I am just starting today 
  • Step 3 is sketching out the subject. I start with a charcoal pencil for the initial sketch. I have learned the hard way about erasing the sketch lines after the painting is complete. Charcoal seems to be the most easiest to get rid off. 
  • Step 4 for me is to sort-of finalize the outline using a marker, usually black or brown. It is ok if there are small errors here, as the next step of filling in the subject can correct those. 
In my next post, I will write more progress steps and photos, as I work through this octopus!