Thursday, September 24, 2009

Artists' Tree

This is how I've masked off my "paper" for my little 3" miniatures. The squares on the left side are too small, so I was just going to test paints in them, but then I realized that I could use them for teenier paintings that I'd cut out and glue to the front of a blank card to use as a greeting card. I paint in oils but the same method could be used for any medium. I always put a wash on my canvas so I put one on the "paper" too. *However, after taking this photo and posting it, I painted one more little painting and realized that my paper canvas was really soaking up the paint, so I went over the remaining boxes with a coat of gesso and that seemed to correct that problem a little bit.
This was the 2008 Artists' tree. Isn't it lovely? Connie did a great job of decorating it. It garnered $2100 in the auction. Below is a closeup of the framed mini's. Are you inspired yet?
I hope you're inspired. I know I am. Why am I posting this? We've been invited to participate in contributing paintings to be used as decorations on the artists' tree for the St. George Botanical Garden's Christmas Festival 2009. Our tree will be among several that will be auctioned off at a Gala Dec. 4 and remain up during Christmas Spoken Here Dec. 6.
I didn't participate in this project in the past because I paint in oils and didn't have any small canvases. I also am accustomed to painting much larger and that 3" square requirement daunted me. So I didn't participate and when I saw last year's gorgeous tree on display, I was sorry I hadn't. Through the year I've intended to try my hand at it but I knew I couldn't use canvas or masonite, so it wasn't until I recently discovered paper canvas that I realized that I had no more excuses. I also found out a few tricks from my fellow Palletteers. One, lady who does beautiful watercolors, said that she saves her paintings that "don't work" (I'm afraid we all have a few of those, huh?). Using a 3" frame she cut out of cardboard or paper, she holds it over her painting (that hadn't worked) to see what might make a good scene for a miniature. She draws a 3" square over the resulting image, cuts out that box, and a miniature painting has evolved. She can get more than one lovely mini out of some of her paintings that, as a whole, hadn't worked. I can't do that with my oil paintings because they're done on stretched canvas and once you cut them you have a limp piece of canvas, but those of you who work on paper canuse this idea. Another Palletteer uses masking tape and tapes off 3" boxes on a large piece of watercolor paper so that she might end up with 9-12 boxes, 3" each. Then when she goes to paint, she'll do different or variations on a scene in each of the boxes. She doesn't have to worry about the paint from one "painting" going into another because she's taped it. This I can do and, as you see in the photo above, I tried this with my paper canvas. As you can see, I came out with a few extra smaller squares on the side that I thought I'd use to test my colors.. and then realized that if I cut them out and glued them onto a blank card front, I'd have a greeting card with a nice original painting on it to send. So nothing is wasted: I like that. I tried out a test painting on it, using my 1:3 mix of mineral spirits, linseed oil, and damar varnish and I was amazed that it was dry to the touch by the end of the day. Wow! Oil painting on paper canvas works and there's no drying probem. *Since I first wrote that info above, I found out that I can use unstretched canvas or squares cut out of canvas, provided I glue the squares to a card stock backing.
I still had some questions, so I wrote to Connie Lemco, who's organizing this project, and asked her if the paintings should be exactly 3" squares or if they needed to have margins of any kind. She responded that exactly 3" is fine. They should be done on art paper (or in my case, paper canvas which doesn't have to be stretched). I'm assuming that they really don't want to take the time to cut out all of our paintings from a page so cut them yourself. Since they will be framing them in little gold frames, we don't have to do anything else to our artwork in order for the paintings to hang on a tree. I'll venture that any subject that could be on a tropical island would be great (so no snow scenes :^). I don't recall seeing paintings of any holiday subjects on last year's tree but I could be wrong. Oh, and don't forget to sign your little minis... although I think they add your name to the back of the frame, Ive always thought it makes a painting "real" when I see the artist's signature on it.
The artists' tree is one of several that are decorated by various individuals and organizations on island and bring in thousands of dollars for the Garden. The Artistree is always the most popular and usually goes for over $2000. Artists are invited to donate one or more 3"x3" works of art that are framable. Jake at Gallows Bay Frame will put them all in gold 3X3 frames. Connie Lemco is in charge of decorating the tree and hopes to have about 40 pieces, so we're encouraged to give as many as you wish-- there is no limit. Any medium is OK (including jewelry), and any subject is OK, as long as it fits in a 3X3 frame. Off-island Palletteers who would like to contribute can mail their work or take your piece(s) to Jake at Gallows Bay Frame, 5012 Starboard St., Gallows Bay, Christiansted, VI 00820, any time between now and Thanksgiving. Any other questions, email me at and I'll try to get your answers.
So today my "project of the day" is to fill those little squares with mini-masterpieces. This is going to be fun. Why not join me... you in your studio, me in mine... and we'll work together on it? Once you get started, you'll be amazed at how quickly you finish your teeny paintings (especially if you're accustomed to working much larger.. of course, almost any size can fall into that category, eh?). Begin with something you like to paint: clouds, the sea, a little Cruzan house, a flower, .. and then you'll see how those creativity thoughts get triggered. I'm ready!

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