Saturday, October 5, 2013

Abstract Cat: Step-by-Step

"In the Garden"   8x10" Acrylic on paper
This past weekend was a cultural event held every year called Doors Open. The Gallery in London, where I exhibit, has recently converted some of it's space into a workshop area, so they asked if I would participate in the event by teaching a short beginner class. I've never done anything like this before, but hey, I'm always up for something new. So, to prepare for this, I worked through a small painting, simplifying my "style" to something that would be pretty easy for a beginner to follow.

I took photos as I was going... mostly so I would remember what I did, but also so I could post it here afterwards as a refresher for my students. Unfortunately my plans to video tape didn't quite work out, but I have my working shots, so hopefully that will do. Here you go... "In the Garden", step by step.



Step 1: I always start on black. There are a few reasons for this, but it started as a way to avoid the paralysis that comes from staring at a blank, white surface. I worked in pastel for many years and developed a knack for working dark to light... it's unusual, yes, but it works for me.



Step 2: Add the whites. I don't just use a brush. I have brushes that i love, but I really will use whatever I feel like. You can probably see my hand prints in here (look bottom right), I've scraped some with an old credit card, and I've used my trusty fan brush to make some flower-like marks. I usually go for an equal white/black ratio, or if I'd like it darker overall I'll leave more black.









Step 3: Add some colour. I love the transparency of Tri-art acrylics (check the tube, it will be marked with a T for transparent), so that is what I have on hand. The paints at the gallery were a little more opaque, so things didn't work quite the same way. We added water to thin them out a bit. I add my colour the same way I do the white... with whatever strikes me. I added some white to my blue to lighten it up a bit, then scratched out some swirls with the back of my brush handle (see centre right). I've got a few layers going on here. If you are interested in this process in more detail, I've got a piece in progress that will be posted on my page on the Global Vernissage website. It's not quite ready yet, but will be soon.

Step 4 (not shown): the cat is cut out of paper. It's very simple, just a silhouette. I put the cutout over the most interesting part, the lower right corner, using it as a mask, and painted around it in white. Then I added in a little yellow and green around the head, to blend it into the background. Once you know how it's done it's pretty easy to see it. Go back and look... you'll know exactly what I mean.

That's me in the middle, my class working away.
Me, doing my thing.
My happy class, with their finished cat paintings. Every one was completely different. Awesome.