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Chatting art materials, techniques and process.

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

Hello! Welcome back to my blog. I've been a bit slack with my blog recently as it's the first thing to slip when things get busy! With commission deadlines, personal projects and the podcast, it's difficult to find the time to sit down and write!

I thought to get back into the swing of things I would have a little chat through some of my art techniques, some of the materials I use and why I use them. I would say I'm pretty knowledgeable when it comes to art materials, as after my art degree I worked in a contemporary art gallery, then in an art materials shop which specialised in paper and now I'm a full time artist! This will be useful for anyone looking to order a Pawtrait and is unsure about what they're buying or for fellow artists looking for advice!

The following is a list of the art materials I use and why as well as a little advice!

Gouache Paint. I fell in love with Gouache the I first time I tried it and have been pretty much exclusively painting with it ever since. It's a water based paint in between a watercolour and acrylic in consistency. It dries incredibly flat and matte which is why I love it and why a lot of designers and illustrators work with the material as it's easily scanned and photographed. I like using it as enables me to build up lots and lots of detail. I don't really enjoy working in acrylic as the multiple layers tend to create a lot of texture when I prefer a smooth finish. Like acrylic and watercolour, it's a fast drying paint meaning you can work quite quickly when building up layers, and unlike oil, you don't have to wait weeks for it to dry properly. I use Designers Gouache Windsor and Newton as it's good quality high pigment paint but the price is fairly reasonable. There's also a vast array of colours so I'm always adding to my collection!

Paintbrushes. I tend to use the thinnest brushes I can find to achieve lots of very fine detail such as light across the fur, whiskers or eyelashes. The ProArte miniature brushes in 2/0 and 3/0 are great for this, and very comfortable to use due to the larger handle, this also gives you a lot of control over your mark making. I use wider brushes when doing background washes, or when I'm blocking in the colours of the fur.

Ink. I use Windsor and Newton black Indian ink to produce my Ink Pawtraits and my B & W Ink Portraits. I really like the intensity of the colours and the fact the packaging hasn't changed for decades! They're also very affordable and last a long time. I've spent a lot of time over the past year concentrating on my ink paintings as it's something I really wanted to improve on. I've learnt less is definitely more when working with ink. You can always add more but you can't take it away once it's done!

Paper. For my Gouache paintings, I use Daler & Rowney Smooth Heavyweight paper. It's acid free and 220g/m, which won't fade or change the colours over time and is dense enough to withstand a wet medium (it won't ripple). Usually, anything from 200g/m (this is the weight / density of the paper) is suitable. I love this paper as it's incredibly smooth which works as a really great surface for Gouache - meaning I can achieve a high level of detail.

When I use Ink however, I use Daler & Rowney Fine Grain Heavyweight paper. This works a lot better than the smooth paper as the ink settles much better into the paper rather than just sitting on top. The fine grain texture still allows me to achieve a good level of detail and doesn't ripple or bleed.

Easel. My slightly tatty table easel is from Daler & Rowney, which I got on sale from Cowling and Wilcox a few years ago. I'm not sure how I lived without it! Being able to sit up straighter while I work has really done wonders for my back. I also use gloss photopraph paper as a palette as I like being able to keep them at the end of the day. Previously to that - or if I'm working in ink - I used a plastic plate which did the job nicely. Each to their own but I personally don't see the point in spending lots of money on fancy palettes!

Wooden boards. I'm often asked whether I paint on canvas and I no longer do. I don't find them an enjoyable surface to work on. The texture of the canvas means I can't achieve a high level of detail and I find the colours appear almost dull. I work on primed wooden boards which are essentially wooden canvas's. They're braced so you can prop them up or hang them directly onto a wall. These are a little more expensive than my paper option as they are more expensive to source and take up more of my time than paper as I prime them myself. But in the long run when you factor in framing costs, it actually works out cheaper and you receive a higher quality painting.

Shipping. I ship my paintings flat as I would be concerned about the paper bending and cracking the paint. However, if I produced larger prints I would transport these in a cardboard tube. I use multiple layers of greyboard or card - usually 2-4 depending on whether it's going overseas. I hand make paper corners to protect from bumps during transit. This is then wrapped in brown paper. I always do my very best to ensure a painting reaches it's destination in perfect condition, as I care as much as the customer about it arriving safely! It's always nerve wracking to send something off as obviously once it's left my hands there is nothing I can do about the way it is handled. I'm fortunate that damage is a very rare occurrence (*touch wood!!*) and I've always managed to rectify the issue. It's just a shame that the postal service can't take the same care and attention that I do over my paintings. I usually ship worldwide with Royal Mail, or on occasion I use a courier, if the piece is particularly valuable or needs arrive quickly.

Composition/Sizing. I'm often asked by customers about what size Pawtrait they should go for. This very much depends on the reference photo as this largely dictates the composition of the painting. I'd recommend sending them over before ordering so I could better advise. For example, photos taken from above mean there's very little room for me to incorporate a pattern or scenery if that's the kind of painting you were interested in. If the only reference photos you can get hold of are taken from above, or you would like a full body Pawtrait, I would recommend going for a 'Classic Style Pawtrait' or a painting with a scenic background so I can paint the pet in situ. If you were after a detailed pattern or scenic background, a rectangular composition usually would work best, as it gives me plenty of room above the pet for the elaborate background. It is especially important reference photos are taken at eye level for this same reason.

Framing. Most of my Painting's come in standard sizes. A5, 8 x 10'', A4, 11 x 14'' and A3 ready made frames are usually stocked in most good home ware stores. I would however very much recommend getting in touch with a few local framers to have one specifically made. Often if you shop around for a few quotes they are surprisingly affordable, quick and are often cheaper than buying a ready made frame! The quality is infinitely better and you can choose from a vast array of colours and finishes which you can discuss with the framer. I personally love box frames and floating the painting within the frame. There is also special U.V glass you can request which protects the artwork from sun damage and fading. A well framed painting really does make all the difference!

Photography. All the images for both my website and for my social media channels are taken with my camera phone or my canon SX740 which I then edit on Photoshop.

Inspiration / Reference Images I made a very determined decision last year to be very wary of where I find inspiration from, particularity in other artists work. It's very easy to feel drawn to a particular colour scheme or theme you admire and try to emulate it in your style, but I think really authentic work comes from focusing your attention on your own past work and the world around you. Before, I would turn to Pinterest, artists reference books or Instagram for inspiration, now I try and find as many things as I can from my life or my own photographs and question whether a subject really feels like me before I start painting. Saying that, I think other mediums or artistic outlets can be interesting sources of inspiration, such as music or film.

I think this has really helped with my feelings of comparison, which I've noticed have definitely become less obtrusive this year. It's much easier to quell those niggling feelings of jealousy when you believe in the work your making, and it really feels authentic.

Well, that's just a bit of information I thought might be useful or interesting to know. Check out my previous blog posts for more artists tips!


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