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  • Writer's pictureKaaren Poole

Always Learning

One of the things I love about art is that there is always something new to learn. And not only was learning the the purpose of the project I finished last week, it was also the outcome.

I’m preparing to work on an art project video for Tamara LaPorte’s Life Book 2024 and so wanted to work out some of the issues I thought I’d encounter. One big one was working with fanciful night  skies.

These foxes (the animals will be different in the real project) were fun to paint, but the sky was the big challenge. I like working with transparent paints because I think the colors are brighter and more like the sky. so that's what I was going for.

 I was painting on board and began by covering it with two coats of gesso to get a nice white surface. By painting over the gesso'ed surface with transparent paints, the white would shine through—even though not a whole lot beneath the dark sky colors. Light would pass through the transparent paint, bounce off the opaque white beneath it, then come back through the transparent paint to the observer’s eye, almost like having a piece of colored plastic film or colored glass over the white ground.

So, that was the theory, and true but hard to accomplish. The problem was getting an even coat of the paint. Since the paint was transparent, any place where I’d happen to apply more paint would be darker while every place I’d apply less paint would be lighter. It’s nice that my intent was to apply an absolutely even coat of paint, but that’s so much more easily said than done. Also, I was working with three different colors, working with the darker for about the half top, then switching to the middle for the next couple of inches, then finishing with the lightest at the bottom.

Even though acrylic paints don’t dry lightning fast, they do dry fast and don’t tolerate a lot of re-working without turning into a mess. I left the first coat to dry before I was happy with it because I knew I was to the point of just making it worse. The next day I added a second coat to get it where it is now: not great, but acceptable.

I knew that all the stars and stuff I’d add to the sky would help draw the eye from the uneven color of the sky itself, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it any better with yet another coat. So, that was that!

By the way, I worked the sky over the entire piece. It was only when I finished with the sky that I transferred the outlines of the moon and foxes then painted those shapes with two coats of gesso for a base upon which to paint them.

It was only at the very end that I added the stars and sky stuff. And until then, the painting clearly wasn’t finished.

It needed a lot going on in that sky, so that’s what I did. I used colored pencil, white Posca paint pen, and Neocolor II water-soluble crayon. Then, at the very end, I put some Golden Pearl Mica paste around the top edge and the upper portions of the two sides. (This gel comes out of the jar nearly opaque white but the gel dries clear, leaving the mica flakes to glitter and gleam.) The mica actually comes down a little farther on each side, but my piece turned out to be a teensy bit wider than my scanner bed, so I lost those edges in the scan.

This was tons of fun to do, but it took patience. I think the worst of it was waiting for the sky! Because that was the best part!

By the way, the face in the moon is just smears of graphite.


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1 Comment

Stephanie Hardy
Stephanie Hardy
Apr 01

So gorgeous! And it is a treat to hear about the process, progress, and difficulties and wins in completing the art. This is awesome insight for when I work on your Life Book lesson this year!

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