Monday, August 30, 2010

Completed: Painting a Week, the First

Archangel Raphael by the hand of Sara Star

Here he is. My new painting for the Angels of Healing show at the American Cancer Society in Vancouver Washington this Friday. The name Raphael means God Heals.  Raphael uses the fish to heal and he is also associated with the healing waters of sacred pools. The orb that the archangel holds represents Christ.

Angels of Healing Benefit Art Exhibit
American Cancer Society
September 3rd, 2010 5pm to 9pm
2011 Main Street
Vancouver, WA 98660-2636
(360) 695-8215

Friday, August 27, 2010

Status: Weekly Painting, Week 1

I am nearly done with my angel icon for the Cancer Society Show a week from now. However, it is not finished. So I am just shy of meeting my first weekly painting goal.
I encountered a few issues that held me back with the gold leafing. The silver leaf kept sticking to parts where it had been gold leafed. So I had to re-gold leaf over the edges. Next time, I will do the silver leafing first because it is so tricky and the gold leaf behaves itself better.
At this point all that is left is some finer details on the wings, the fish and fishing pole and the ring around the halo.
I am confident that I will finish tonight, so I will be just a few hours over the weekly goal and I will post pictures on Monday!
So I have something to show you, I am going to share this Monastery Icon's Video that shows the process I use for creating an icon.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Studio Set Ups

I have had several studio set ups. In my first apartment, my roommate, April and I often painted with our canvases nailed to the outside shingles of the house, and then brought them inside to hang on the wall between sessions. Our little place might have been 500 square feet with three people living in it. On dry days painting outside was just fine. We were in college, so we could paint and store some of our large pieces at the university's studio. Most of our work was iconography and rather small so we could paint at the kitchen table.

Working at a small table
When we graduated, we moved right away into a bigger ranch house with a bonus/laundry room. We set up jumbo canvases against the wall and painted standing or sitting on the floor her and my two huge canvases side by side in the long thin room. On sunny days we hung the paintings on a derelict swing set to dry. Still we worked on small pieces at the kitchen table.

When April moved out with her fiance/now husband, I downsized to a miserable tiny apartment surrounded by trees. I painted on the floor by the french windows with bits of green tinged light coming in. The paintings made during that period needed considerable color correction after seeing them in real light.

Projecting an image in my tiny dark apartment

For a while I owned a house and I had my own tiny room for a studio with a good sized window with plenty of sunshine. I painted on a homemade giant easel and at a small desk. The DIY easel is made of two by fours and can support paintings five foot and taller. Over the top? Maybe.

Jumbo Easel by Ben Grosser (I built mine using his plans)

After a time, we downsized again. I paint in a large kitchen nook with picture windows on three sides. I was sad to have to put my jumbo easel in the garage, but I can use it there if I need to dry something large. For christmas this year my dear husband gave me a lovely sketch box easel and I love it. My studio set up is great. I have a large kitchen table for painting small works at, and next to it is my lovely easel. I get plenty of good light to see my work by.

Except, of course I took the photo at night.

My experience with so many various living situations, has made me really appreciate the importance of windows and a compact set up that can expand and collapse as space requirements change. Right now all my paints are in plastic drawers under the kitchen table. But in a larger set up, they might sit along their own wall. I keep stacks of paintings and canvases in kitchen cupboards and along the wall behind my easel. But in a larger room, they might have their own closet or be hung along the walls. Yet I'll take good windows over walls to hang my work any day!

My dream set up is a hybrid. A wall of windows with that coveted north light with adjustable venetian blinds to change the character of the light as needed. One wall would be ceiling to floor cupboards, counter with deep utility sink, and bookshelves to store my paintings, canvases, and paints in. The opposite wall would be white and installed with a gallery style hanging system, so I could hang finished works in rotation. My desk and easel would sit in front of my wall of windows so I could look out the window and paint. There would be enough space in my dream studio for a friend or two to set up easels and paint with me and for a model to pose.
Picture re-posted from

However, I can't let my dream studio stand in the way of my creativity. Regardless of the setting, I paint. Whether it be by the shady french doors or at the kitchen table, I must paint!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

American Cancer Society Angels Benefit

Deconstructed by Sheila Hutchison
The Neo-Romantics are hosting an Angel themed benefit for the American Cancer Society. 30% of proceeds from art sales will be donated to the American Cancer Society for cancer research.

Both of my mother's parents died of cancer before I was born. Sheila Hutchison, the artist of the Deconstructed Angel, is a breast cancer survivor and she volunteers helping others who have cancer through the American Cancer Society.

American Cancer Society Angels Benefit Art Exhibit
September 3rd, 2010 5pm to 9pm
2011 Main Street
Vancouver, WA 98660-2636
(360) 695-8215

Monday, August 23, 2010

Differences between Water Soluble-Mixable Paints and Traditional Oils

Painting with Water-Soluble Oils 

Water Mixable Paints are an inventive answer to the toxicity and flammability of turpentine and other noxious thinners. When I was first learning to paint in 2003, my teacher insisted that if we were to use oils in her classroom, we were to use the water mixable paints or odorless turpenoid with our regular oils.  She probably already had her fill of all things toxic. Teaching day in and day out with chemicals in the air was a deal breaker.

After experiencing the ease of Acrylic drying time for our fast paced assignments, the class all decided to stick with acrylics for the rest of our first year studies. Therefore, I didn't learn the principles of oil paints beyond the incredible basic: Don't paint acrylics or acrylic gesso over oils!

I want to re-approach oil paint for several reasons. Mainly, oils have a certain class that collectors appreciate, and they seem to be better suited for impressionist and and traditional painting. Also, I want to use those tubes of water mixable oils I purchased for that class and barely touched. I had this perception that water mixable paints must function differently than regular oils, and I worried that the instructional principles on oil paints would be useless to me.

I sought out articles and books about water mixable paints and mediums, and there were very few, considering all the brands and options for water soluble and mixable paints.

Finally, I found a well rated book especially about water oil paints, Painting with Water Soluble Oils by Sean Dye. Dye's book is incredible and unique. He includes reviews and shares color charts of all the then available brands of water mixable and soluble paints and mediums. Dye invited about a dozen different oil painters to try the water oil paints and compare them with similar paintings made with traditional oils. My big questions were answered, and I understood why there was so little written about the differences between traditional and water soluble paints. There is in fact very little difference.

The artists reviewing the various products noted that the paints sometimes needed a tad more (water soluble) linseed oil added to get the buttery consistency they were used to with traditional oils. But besides that, the water worked exactly in place of turpentine, only appearing more opaque when wet than turpentine, but drying to the same result.

Artists noted that their paintings appeared a tiny bit brighter in some way than the traditional oils but none seemed to be able to put their finger on why. I thought it over and I suspect that conventional linseed oil is probably a tad yellower than water soluble linseed oils. If you don't appreciate the higher clarity of the water soluble oils, I suggest lightly aging your painting with a final glaze of very thinned yellow ochre.

I have summarized here the few differences between painting with water soluble oils and traditional oil paints. However, for complete reviews of the different brands of water soluble and mixable paints, I highly recommend Painting with Water Soluble Oils by Sean Dye as the authoritative book on the subject.

As of the writing of this article, Painting with Water Soluble Oils by Sean Dye appears to be out of print. New copies are selling for inflated prices, but several dozen high quality used copies are available for bargain basement price.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Setting Challenging Art Goals

A painting per moon phase? Hekate by Sara Star

I am happily subscribed to a few blogs that feature daily paintings. One might guess that daily paintings wouldn't be very good, because less time is spent on them than longer paintings. However, that guess is wrong. A high rate of production seems to improve the work, and many of these daily paintings are lovely and fetch a decent price.

I would love to challenge myself in such a way. Regular painting has improved my work already. However, unlike the daily painting folks, I have a full time job. Perhaps for my purposes a weekly painting challenge would be more suitable.

So here goes nothing, I plan to finish^ a painting a week starting now, and I will reassess at the end of October whether to keep it up, slow the pace or speed it up.  Who knows, after two months of a painting a week, a painting a day might seem more feasible.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Donating to SCRAP

sSCRAP by CafeLatte under Creative Commons License

 Donating used arts and craft supplies to SCRAP in Portland is a great way to put your unwanted supplies to good use and help keep them out of the trash. SCRAP stands for the School and Community Re-use Action Project. Donated supplies are used in school programs and are also sold at the Re-use Action Center.

The Re-use Action Center sells your donated canvases, half used tubes of paint and glaze, wood panel scraps, fabric, pencils, and yarn for a few cents or a few dollars. It gets artists recycling and helps artists afford what are often expensive supplies when purchased new.

Donations to SCRAP are tax-deductible and helps artists, school children, and the environment by keeping craft supplies out of the garbage and available for use by kids and artists who need them at a very affordable price.

When I was at SCRAP today, I noticed they could use more card stock, paint brushes, and jars and bottles. They especially looked as though they had a shortage of primers and mediums. I came away with a box full of stretcher bars, used canvases, calligraphy pens, acrylic fluid paints, damar varnish, picture stands, and a pyrograph tool, all for less than 15 dollars.

SCRAP is open every day 11a-6p and is located on the corner of NE MLK & Stanton in Portland, Oregon. New SCRAP projects are being formed in Traverse City, MI and Washington DC.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


When I am preparing to paint a new picture. I start with an idea. Often it is a spin off from a biblical story. I often wonder what happened to some of the women in the Bible. How they dealt with tragedies. Women seem to have a lot of subversive power in the Bible. And I like to rethink what that power means.

After selecting a story and fantasizing about the in between moments. I begin looking for inspirations visual, poetic and musical. For my feminist saints series, I usually unite master sculpture, iconography, and photographs to picture their stories.
Collage of inspirations for my current project
I am not yet an accomplished draughtswoman, but the next step is still essential.  I make a series of concept drawings to work out figures, composition, tone, and colors. When making smaller paintings, I often skip most of these steps because recoloring things that don't work on a small panel isn't a big setback. However, my current project is five feet tall. I need to be very prepared for this canvas.
Conceptual sketches of figure, tone, composition, and color.
I haven't started on the large canvas yet. I must admit, I am a bit scared to. However, satisfactory preparations will make the final project go faster and more smoothly than if I jumped straight in out of a misguided sense of haste. Might as well do it right the first time, rather then spend hours fixing hurried mistakes. Above you can see two different color sketches, the smaller one was the colors I had originally thought would work, I even went out and purchased Naples Yellow Hue--that was a mistake, when I put it next to Iron Oxide, I realized Naples Yellow Hue is Iron Oxide with white added. And my original color plan was unbalanced. A deep blue sky will be more balancing and compliment the figure's scarlet dress better than a light sky.

During one of my consultations with trusted advisers (My husband, roommates and brother usually oblige), My brother pointed out that my sketches are much like the sketches of masters like Dali, in that they are ugly and messy. However, those sketches still sell because they have the name attached. But truly these initial sketches are for the artist, to work out problems and to make the final product a masterpiece. Although now and then a sketch turns out to be quite nice in its own right.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

August Shows

Recent Work at the Stray Gallery (painting by Sarah Morris)
Stray participated with a booth and the gallery opening.

 The Stray Gallery booth at Art in the Heart.

Live Mural Painting

Stephanie Hardwick and I painted this Mural of Bob Ross for the Fourth Plain Restoration Project at the Vancouver Washington International Food Festival. It was a lot of fun and he brings a smile to my face whenever I see him.
 It was my first time making a mural. We will have the opportunity to touch him up a bit. I ran out of gold spray paint for his halo, that needs to get fixed. And I want to sneak in there with some acrylic paints, using house paint is hard! And touch him up a bit. But I just love his big smiling face and the landscape in the background, painted in his style.

July Show

Recent work by Sara Star* and the Neo-Romantics at Stray Gallery in our New Location

June Show

Imagine what I dream about and what haunts my nightmares:

Nightmare with Crow by Sara*
Sara sleeping with Fey in a bed of her own hair by Sara*

May Art Shows

I showed with two other local artists at Lincoln Gallery
At Stray we featured drawings and chiaroscuro painting.

April 2010 Show

April 2010 First Friday, featuring paintings after Master artists.