A different ground

Fine art painting on fabric

This will be my first true “process” post. Normally at this time of year I am busy creating Original Art Handpainted on Fabric. This is one aspect of studio work and I have been doing it for a long time. I create up to 100 pieces annually that go into a few gallery shops for the summer and later for some winter season sales. I like to participate in crafts markets occasionally too because this is an opportunity to meet people who admire my work and buy my products. Thinking about new product ideas to showcase different forms of wildlife is an exciting aspect for me. This week I am mulling over the idea of terry cloth headbands as a new medium well suited to showcase wildflowers. My fabric work is unusual because it combines my deep love of wilderness and desire to share it with a quirky philosophy that says: original art should be a practical part of everyday life.

To process! There are myriad ways to be creative with paint on fabric. This is just my approach. The finished product characteristics I was looking for were durability and suppleness. Most of my fabric art is designed to be used every day so most are fully machine washable and dryable.

The fabric ground

I paint on a finely woven cotton. You can certainly use other fabric but I do not. I tried linen and wasn’t happy with the result. I have painted successfully on cotton canvas. Just remember, the finer the weave the finer the detail in your painting.

I pre-wash fabric before using to remove any sizing. Fabric should be as smooth as a baby’s bottom if you want a fine painting so iron it wet from the washing machine. To make it easier to handle, I rip the fabric roughly to sizes I plan to use before ironing. I rip rather than cut to ensure the fabric remains true to square for sewing easily.

Painting supplies and set up

This is not fabric dye. I use artist quality heavy body acrylic tube paint. I have also used acrylic inks on more expressive or abstract cushion covers where I want more intense but still fluid colour. I have even used puff paint on a couple of cushions.

My brushes are a variety of short-handled synthetic bristle brushes. Brushes seem to wear more quickly painting on fabric than they do on paper so I keep a good supply on hand. Plain water and fabric medium are the other basics for fabric painting. I use a squirt bottle of water to keep paint on the palettes wet. I also have a few scraps of fabric at the ready for testing colour mixtures.

Plastic welled palette of unmix tube colours
Unmixed or tube colour palette
View of colour mixtures for fabric painting
Mixtures palette

Since I paint on fabric a lot, I use two palettes. One is reserved just for unmixed tube paint and the other used to create mixtures of paint, medium & water. My palettes have tight-fitting lids. Kept wet, unmixed tube paint will remain viable for up to a week. The mixtures palette, I clean after each painting session. In the photo of mixtures you will see the individual wells with graduations of colour I prepare in advance. In this case for the robin’s wing I premixed five shades of greyish-browns as well as several reddish body colours. You may notice the white dots of unmixed fabric medium in one of the red colour wells.

Fabric medium fulfills two purposes. It controls the flow or bleeding of paint into the fabric. This gives you greater edge control. The higher the proportion of fabric medium in a paint colour, the more viscous it becomes. Especially important for me, fabric medium is a binding agent so that even extremely light washes will be permanent. Any medium dilutes colour so it will become more transparent. Where I want strong, opaque colour I use little or no medium and just enough water for the paint to become fully fluid. I want the paint to be absorbed by the fibre rather than forming a paint layer or film on the surface of the material. The only way to learn what proportion of paint, medium and water work best for you is to play with it.

Bev Mazurick studio set up for fabric painting

The studio setup for fabric painting shows the two palettes and the felt pad on my drafting table. Note the wet sponge I keep in the palette reserved for unmixed tube paint. There is the usual assortment of brushes, studio tools and supplies which I use regularly in fabric work.

Painting and finishing

My painting style is similar to watercolour on paper. I build layers of washes, some wet-in-wet, generally working from pale to build more intense colour. I am very conscious of the ratio of water to paint. I add just enough fabric medium to control flow as I need it and to act as a binding agent in pale washes. Generally I will mix several intensities or variations of colour before I begin painting so I have some options at the ready.

Fabric painting of a robin in progress
Finished Robin

Take a deep breath and paint. Draw sparingly. You cannot successfully erase without roughing the surface of the fabric. Even though most of my work is akin to botanical or zoological illustration and needs to be precise, I draw as little as possible. Sometimes I will simply use pencil dots as general indicators. I suppose a person could use tailor’s chalk which should wash out of the fabric but I haven’t tried.

Allow the work to dry thoroughly. I use masking tape and put it on the wall in my studio. Although the acrylic paint is permanent once dry, I heat set my work with an ordinary household iron using high heat and steam.

Heat setting fabric painting
Heat setting fabric painting with an iron

Passage Exhibition

Landscape by Bev Mazurick

New exhibitions opened throughout Casa on November 7, 2020 among them is a solo exhibition of my landscape paintings in the “Passage” gallery space. This presentation of landscape includes: traditional framed plein air paintings in oil; small, landscape-themed abstract colour studies, also in oil, and four contemporary, mixed-media studio landscapes. Exhibitions continue until December 21st. Casa is located in downtown Lethbridge and is open from 9 am to 10 pm Monday – Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm.

Viewpoints

Contemporary Painting

Viewpoints are an ongoing series of studio paintings unified by their focus on human-made landscape subjects which are geometric or architectural rather than organic. It seems that we attach far less aesthetic value to industrial sites or old alleys than we do natural places. Landscapes are something I enjoy painting and do paint regularly, developed either in the studio as contemporary mixed media work, or painted alla prima outdoors. Non-traditional landscape subjects also have grace and stories inherent in them just as worthy of artistic exploration.

I have been working on Viewpoints for several years now in tandem with other studio work. In terms of pure design aesthetics, graphic shapes and forms are a compelling point of departure in developing an interesting composition. Some are highly expressive or abstracted, others purely representational. Viewpoints often present drawing challenges but have also presented opportunities to explore different approaches to painting with oil.

Alberta Culture Days Disconnect

Catwalk Salon is one of my favourite plein air street scenes. I painted it during Art Days several years ago. The act of standing on a street corner each afternoon creating art became my way of connecting with the spirit of Alberta Culture celebrations and usually signalled the end of my plein air painting sessions for the year. Fall colour is at its most splendid so it can be a magical time for painters. Although not entirely because of the Coronavirus pandemic, I opted out of plein air painting entirely this year and I miss it.

I may not have been out painting this year but my artistic focus sure has been on plein air in recent weeks because of my involvement in two exhibitions. A juried group exhibition of plein air paintings is ongoing at Leighton Art Centre until October 31, 2020. (Details about the Leighton Art Centre exhibition were noted in the preceding blog post.) I am also preparing for an upcoming solo exhibition of landscapes at Casa. The Passages gallery exhibition at Casa in Lethbridge is coming up in early November. At Casa I will be exhibiting plein air landscapes together with small, abstracted, landscape-themed colour studies. Probably four of my recent expressive landscapes executed in mixed media oil will also be shown. Details about that exhibition will be in a future post.

A final shout-out here about Mortar and Brick’s exhibition which opened last night in Lethbridge. I made a point of seeing the work yesterday afternoon. If you have an interest in contemporary art, do make time to see the work on display there now. It is well-worth your time. One haunting painting in particular, by local artist Eileen Murray, captured my attention.

In The Open Air

September 12, 2020 to October 31, 2020

In The Open Air is the title of an upcoming exhibition hosted by Leighton Art Centre to honour the practice of painting outdoors or en plein air. As an avid plein air painter, I am delighted to see several of my paintings included in the exhibition. Among them, I painted Foothills Ranch Country, looking southwest alongside Highway 22, a few miles north of Lundbreck Falls.

Leighton Art Centre, which is located just southwest of Calgary, has several special events planned for the weekend of September 12 & 13 to celebrate their launch of In the Open Air and Alberta Culture Days. Check out the Leighton Art Centre website.

http://www.leightoncentre.org/exhibitions/exhibit/in-the-open-air-597

30 in 30 Daily Painting Challenge

I was challenged by an artist-friend in the Calgary Chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists to join other members in a daily painting challenge during January. The 32 small oils I completed last month are all to varying degrees, abstracted landscapes made with just a palette knife, using six premixed colours. A valuable colour exercise it proved to be – forcing me to think about colour relationships more deeply. If you paint or draw in colour, try this or a similar exercise to shake up your notions of colour.

I picked up designer paint chips from the local home improvement store. Each paint chip displayed three colours in combinations suggested by professional designers. I used two paint chips for each session. In other words, six colours. I premixed as closely as possible to match the paint chips and applied the six colours to describe landscapes – choosing a dominant, sub-dominant ranking down to accent colour notes. My rules were that I needed to use all six colour mixtures in each painting without tints, shades or blending. I allowed the white ground to show in some cases. However, as I continued it became more challenging to ignore white and explore direct relationships among the six colours. Since the designer colours rarely corresponded to a natural landscape I was also compelled to think more creatively and explore the gamut of colour characteristics. As seen below, it was also interesting to compare the difference made by my choice of which colours should dominate in cases where I painted two or more panels with the same colour mixtures. Some of the colour combinations proved to be unusual but quite lovely.

Colour exercise Jan 3
Jan 3 2020, colour study, abstracted landscape, oil painting on masonite panel, 6″ x 6″
30 in 30 painting challenge number 4
Jan 4 2020, colour study, abstracted landscape, oil painting on masonite panel, 6″ x 6″

Open Water & Deanna Beaujot

Deanna Beaujot’s,“Spring Graduates”, pictured here was awarded the Royal Talens Rembrant Award at the New England Watercolor Society’s 2018 Juried North American Open Show. The brilliance of her powerfully saturated colour first captured my attention in 2016 when we attended an art development class in Calgary. I am very pleased to congratulate Deanna on her acceptance this year as an elected member of Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour. Not surprisingly, Deanna Beaujot also gained accredited last year as an Associate Signature Member of the Federation of Canadian Artists. Visit her website at https://deannabeaujot.com/

Normally held in Toronto, this year’s CSPWC “Open Water” exhibition will be held in Alberta at Leighton Centre, near Calgary. The Opening Reception is next Saturday from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. The exhibition continues until October 27, 2019. For the Leighton Centre address or any additional information go to: https://leightoncentre.org

En plein air 2019

At Dinosaur Park this June with Sagebrush Arts Society, I just had time for a few watercolour sketches. Curiously shaped hoodoos and colour in the sandstone, ironstone and mudstone layers of the badlands are visually compelling. During August I paint with an ad hoc group of artists from all over the province. Although the week-long plein air retreat was established decades ago by members of the Alberta Society of Artists, it is open to anyone so please feel free to contact me if you are interested. The region chosen this year was southwest of Calgary in the Turner Valley area. Our time was largely frustrated by rainy weather. The image here is an oil I completed by the side of a road near Millarville. A storm was moving in from the Rockies. I am heading into the Castle wilderness area soon for a few more days of painting outdoors and late September should see me painting outdoors again somewhere in downtown Lethbridge to celebrate Alberta Culture Days.

Pacific Rim National Park

An alternate title for this blog post might be “painting on the rainy west coast”. This atmospheric oil study looking toward Meares Island from Tofino was one of two I painted recently on Vancouver Island. Compelling for me was the subdued colour and haunting softness of edges found in the morning’s light rain and heavy cloud. I wanted to capture this sensibility quickly, before the light changed. This quick plein air was completed in under an hour using just a palette knife. Initially I wanted to include some of the foreground harbour boats but ultimately decided to leave the detail for a studio work-up. Having lived on Vancouver Island, I knew that rainy weather was likely to be an issue. Fortunately I did capture many evocative photographs from Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and surrounding regions such as along the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet. So, although I painted very little, I consider the trip a success because I have lots of new, inspiring material for studio work – some likely destined for the Federation of Canadian Artists gallery in Vancouver.

Shadows From the Fire

Using new materials in her upcoming exhibition, Shadows From the Fire, Diana Zasadny explores the aftermath of the 2017 fire at Waterton National Park. Images are created through cyanotypes and large scale wire sculpture.

Among my favourite Lethbridge artists, Diana Zasadny has what promises to be an exciting new exhibition opening soon in the concourse gallery at Casa. Her control of colour was inspiring when I first saw her abstract paintings of our prairie landscape a decade ago. Those paintings are, in my opinion, both evocative and masterfully executed contemporary impressions of landscape.

I asked Diana about her upcoming show, Shadows From the Fire, a response in the aftermath of the devastating Kenow forest fire that ravaged Waterton National Park in 2017. In her use of new materials, Shadows from the Fire promises to be an innovative exhibition and Casa’s concourse gallery, with its vaulted, airy, space is perhaps a perfect venue for it.

In Diana Zasadny’s correspondence with me about the show, she noted that she was exploring new materials and methods specifically for Shadows From the Fire—among them, “the idea of wire sculpture as an alternate means of making a [large format] line drawing.” A trio of whitetail deer became her first wire sculpture. She also noted that, “Over 2018, I sketched and photographed the explosive super bloom of wildflowers at Waterton, making several trips to document the scene. In August, I took the opportunity to try another new method for me, cyanotype printing.”

Pictured here is a cyanotype detail. If you are like me—and need to run a google search to explain what a cyanotype is, Diana Zasadny’s new exhibition promises to be interesting. Follow this link to check out Diana’s own website https://www.dianazasadny.net

Shadows From the Fire – New Work by Diana Zasadny
Casa Lethbridge Concourse Gallery
April 27 – June 8, 2019
Opening reception April 27, 7:00 – 9:00 pm