Painting on Unstretched Canvas

Whether you are an artist or art collector, I have no doubt you know how expensive it can be to ship large paintings. When you are shipping very large paintings, you’ll probably even need to send the painting in a crate. I haven’t shipped many larger paintings up to this point, but since I’ve started painting on larger canvases, now I’m starting to think more about shipping options, especially for shipping art internationally, which can be extra costly.

One alternative is painting on unstretched canvas, which is basically just painting on a piece of fabric. There are several ways you can display paintings on unstretched canvas, which is simply canvas that hasn’t been placed on the wooden stretcher bars that you see on the back. I’m am sharing two of my favorite ways you can hang unstretched canvas paintings.

What’s nice about paintings on unstretched canvas is that you can loosely roll the canvas and ship in a tube instead of a big box or a crate. I can see where shipping tubes would not only be less costly, but easier to pack, too.

After purchased by the collector, paintings on unstretched canvas can be taken to a framer, who can then place the painting on stretcher bars, like the one below. However, I’ve also heard that stretching a canvas after painting on it can damage the piece. Displaying artwork on stretcher bars is probably the most traditional and most popular way of displaying a painting on canvas.

There are ways you can hang unstretched canvas, other than just adding stretcher bars and wire. One way is to install grommets, which Barbara Downs has done so beautifully in her collection of paintings here on her website.

Another method is to simply hang the unstretched canvas with push pins, as I believe that is how August Vollbrecht’s paintings are hung in this show at M 2 3 Gallery. I just love how raw and modern these paintings look.

If you are an artist who has experience painting on unstretched canvas, I’d love to hear about your experience. And if you are an art collector, I’d love to know if you would be inclined to purchase a painting on unstretched canvas, or if you are only interested in paintings that are already on stretcher bars.

– Lori

P.S. My Abstract Painting for the Absolute Beginner book is on schedule to be released on Amazon by March 15th, 2021.

Experimental 5-Color Palette

Close up shots of Heading Northeast, a 36×36 painting on canvas created from my most recent 5-color palette

Over the past year and half or so, I have been on a quest to find the perfect five-color limited palette. A limited color palette is when you use a very small number of colors straight out of the tubes, and mostly create all of your colors by mixing the manufactured tube colors. I talk about limited palettes in my upcoming book, Abstract Painting for the Absolute Beginner. But I’m sharing a little here too, and if you like this post, you would probably enjoy my book.

There are many reasons to use a limited palette, including efficiency, pocketbook savings, and helping you create artwork cohesiveness. I also believe mixing your colors makes your work look more unique.

For months I was using six tube colors, which included:

titanium white
cadmium yellow light
quinacridone magenta
turquoise
ultramarine blue
burnt sienna

Just in the past month, I’ve dropped the turquoise and replaced it with phthalo blue, because I can create a turquoise color by mixing the phthalo blue with a litlle cadmium yellow light and white. So I found turquoise (my favorite color by the way) taking up a spot on my palette that was unneeded. Now my palette consists of:

my new 5-color palette

From left to right:

titanium white
cadmium yellow light
quinacridone magenta
phthalo blue
burnt sienna

Did I mention I am testing my palette out to see if I can drop ultramarine blue? 🙂 We’ll see how it goes. I might still need to use ultramarine blue on occasion, but honestly the main reason I was using it was to mix it with burnt sienna to get black. I’ve found, however, that I can get nearly the same color by mixing equal amounts of phthalo blue and burnt sienna, as shown below. It does have a tiny bit of a green shade as the phthalo blue has some green in it, but it’s pretty close to black.

If you’d like to try using a limited palette, I recommend you use white, a yellow hue, a red hue, a blue hue, and a brown like burnt sienna. Play around with the colors and enjoy creating new colors. You’ll want a yellow, red, and blue hue (primary colors) so that you can create your secondary colors (orange, green, violet).

I love experimenting with color and think it’s simply amazing how many different colors you can mix with just five out-of-the-tube colors. Are you using a limited palette? I’d love to hear about it.

Be on the lookout for Abstract Painting for the Absolute Beginner to be available on Amazon by March 15, 2021. If you’d like to be notified when the book is available (it might be sooner!), sign up for my mailing list.

~ Lori

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Unleash Your Creativity: Free Guide

Living a
Creative Life

I believe everyone is born to create and be creative. In my guide, “Unleash Your Creativity: Living a Creative Life,” I share techniques you can use to help you rediscover your natural-born creativity. Below I share an excerpt with you. Sign up for my mailing list here.

I am a firm believer that nothing is created 100% out of thin air. In other words, I think inspiration for projects is usually found around us. Many artists find inspiration from other artists, the same goes for writers and other creative professionals. Maybe you like the colors in a shirt and use those colors as your color palette in your next drawing. Maybe you are inspired by the architecture in a small town and apply that architectural style to your painting of a street of homes based on your imagination.

You get this pdf guide for free when you sign up for my mailing list. Sign up for my mailing list here. Most of my examples in this guide are taken from my own art practice, yet they can be applied to anyone’s creative journey. Throughout the last few years, through trial and error, I have identified these ways to boost creativity. I sat down to write and tried to identify the top things that have helped me lead a creative life, not only in my painting, but in all areas of my life.

Duh Duh Dun Dun, 24×24″ acrylic on canvas

Even if you have been one to say things like “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” I hope to encourage and inspire you to believe differently — to start believing in yourself that you are creative. I’m not saying that you’ll instantly be able to solve every creative problem that faces you or that you’ll be able to paint a masterpiece after reading the guide, but I do hope that it will encourage you to embrace your creativity as you start to unlock your creative side.

Cheers,
Lori

My Creative Process: Part 1

Everyone’s creative process is unique as we are all on individualized journeys. Whether your creative outlet is painting like mine or something else such as knitting, cooking, or composing music, we all have a creative process that is unique to us.

Under the Sea, 8×10 canvases, diptych
available at the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana’s Holiday Art Sale

It used to be that I’d have 5+ in-progress paintings and I’d bounce back and forth between them. What I found to be true, for me anyway, is that I wasn’t finishing many pieces of art. This was also a time when I didn’t have enough experience to know that abstract paintings can go through many ugly stages before they become an artwork you are pleased with. So I would have tons of paintings in progress that honestly, were all in ugly stages. I would abandon each piece and move on to the next during an ugly stage, only to never even return to some of them.

About a couple years ago, I had an intentional plan to not start any new pieces until I finished the one I was currently working on. Surprisingly, I found this approach to painting more fitting for me, even though it was not easy to change my creative routine. Not only was I able to finish paintings, but my painting itself seemed to improve. While the journey I go through in painting a piece is important, I’ve found that the dopamine-producing event of finishing a piece is equally important. And the way I used to work was not producing many pieces.

There is a huge sense of accomplishment with each finished piece that brings me much joy. I find that starting and finishing one piece at a time (knowing I can’t start a new one until I finish my current one) provides the motivation needed to finish the piece. This motivation also forces me to work through the ugly stages instead of putting the piece aside when the going gets tough.

So how about you? Do you bounce around between many creative projects or do you start and finish one before moving to the next? Whatever your method, keep doing whatever works for you.

How to Create the Illusion of 3D on a 2D Surface

Oftentimes I think I am finished with a painting, when in fact, I am not. I thought I had finished the painting labeled Stage 1, above. about a week ago. A couple days later, I looked at it in my studio and just felt it wasn’t finished. Sometimes it’s just an intuitive feeling I get when I look at a piece and realize it’s not done. It just seemed so flat to me. I liked most everything about it except the flatness.

I am still working on the painting above and I’m adding a 3D feel to it by adding cubes and organic spheres. I’m not sure how many stages it will go through, but it seems as though it is definitely adding more depth to the painting.

Of course this isn’t the only way to add depth to a piece of work. I have a whole video lesson devoted to creating depth in abstract paintings in my online abstract painting class for beginners, “Relax + Paint.” The first session begins October 30th. This class will be a blast so join if you can. Learn more and enroll now by going to relax-paint.com.

Did you know you need just 3 colors to create the illusion of a 3 dimensional shape on a 2 dimensional surface? Yep, that’s right. For example, let’s discuss a cube. The easiest way to create a cube is to take a color and paint a square. Then create the shadow side with a shade (add black) of the color. Finally, create the side where your light source is coming from with a tint (add white) of the color. You can see two cubes in my painting above on the left side in the black area. I have enlarged one of them below.

Cube from Stage 2 of my painting

I am taking this painting to our “4 Artist Friends” paint session tomorrow to work on it some more. All four of us are painters and we try to meet every two weeks. Tomorrow is a paint session.

I might call this painting “Potato in Space” because I see a potato in the top right. 🙂

Can I mix different brands of acrylic paint?

All the choices in an art store can be so overwhelming and can leave you with more questions than when you first went in. Should I paint on paper, canvas, or wood? What kind of easel is the best? Do I need synthetic or natural hair brushes? Then you walk down the paint section, and not only are the colors endless, but it also seems the brands are endless, which is why I always stress using a limited palette and mixing your colors. See my previous post on limited palettes.

Let’s say you have some Liquitex ultramarine blue at home, but you’re really liking Grumbacher’s ultramarine blue, plus it’s on sale. Can you mix these? Yes. But even if they’re different brands of acrylic paint? Yes! In general, you can mix any brand of acrylic paint with any other brand of acrylic paint. There are also heavy bodied acrylics, fluid acrylics, high flow acrylics, and others, and you can mix all of them regardless of brand, color, and viscosity. One exception is that you might not want to mix open acrylics (which can be reworked with water after they have already dried) with other acrylics, because then the open acrylics might lose their properties. Just know, too, that if you mix two different paints with different viscosities, the thickness of your mixed color will be different.

The most important thing to mention here is that the same colors in different brands are not created equal. For example, turquoise in one brand might be brighter than another brand of turquoise. The biggest difference I’ve seen is with burnt sienna. Burnt sienna is much darker in the Master’s Touch brand than it is in Liquitex or Winsor & Newton. Just be mindful that when you mix the same color in different brands, you might get varied results. Despite this, you can still mix different brands and colors.

I can remember when I first started painting, I had all kinds of questions, many of which might be similar to your questions. I’m trying to get into my beginner mindset again, and answer those potential questions you might have. Over the next few months, watch out for my beginner artist posts.

Cheers,
Lori

P.S. If you liked this post, you might like my class that is coming up at the beginning of 2021 called Relax + Paint. Registration begins December 1st. You can sign up to be on my mailing list for the class, too, to receive news about it.

Free E-book: How to Create a Custom Color Palette

Hello there. I’d like to share something I recently created — a free e-book for artists who want to learn more about color mixing and creating a unique, custom color palette.

When I first started painting roughly ten years ago, I hardly ever mixed my colors, except maybe an occasional color with white to lighten it up. And I had the tendency to buy every color on the shelves that jumped out in front of me. Yes, that means I had tons of bottles and tubes of paint with really no rhyme or reason. When I painted, there was no rhyme or reason which color I picked up….but of course, I’m still a little like that as my paintings are emotion driven and I choose colors based on my intuition. But then I guess my intuition is the rhyme and reason. 🙂 The difference between back then and now is that I mix my colors to match my emotions instead of choosing a color that is as close as I can get to what I am feeling (out of the tube), which might have not really been that close.

Mixing my colors allows me to achieve a closer match to the color that’s representative of my emotions. I truly believe my colors look more unique when I mix them, too, and I think you’ll find that most artists mix their colors instead of using color straight out of the tube. Even though there is nothing wrong with tube colors, I think creating your own custom colors will set you apart from other artists, as no one will have the same exact colors as you.

In the e-book, I share with you the six colors I use out of the tube to make all of my other colors. You can use these same colors or through trial and error, create your own limited palette. I show you how to create your base palette with as little as five tube colors.

To sign up to receive my free e-Book, visit www.loririveraart.com/lriverapalette.

Hope you enjoy the e-Book and let me know what you think. Drop me a line and share how it helps.

Cheers,
Lori

Just Show Up

I love the above quote by Brene Brown. This is how I feel about the painting process. When I go for one or more days without spending time in my studio, I feel as though my “flow” has been interrupted. In painting, and in life, I believe that showing up is half the battle. I try to paint daily, but if for some reason I can’t paint, I try to organize and clean my studio instead. Just spending time in my studio is so important.

Having the courage to show up is the biggest, but most important hurdle. Sometimes I might not be in the mood to paint, but if I show up and spend some time in my studio, many times looking at other paintings I’ve finished will inspire me to paint. Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking a painting I’m not totally happy with, and painting over it.

Some of my best ideas come out of simply spending time in the studio. Being in there with no pressure to “produce” allows me to relax and let my mind wander. I have a nice and comfortable couch that I got from a friend, and I love sitting there while looking through reference photos and reading art magazines or books. This is really just as important as the painting process itself. Allowing my brain to soak everything in helps me gear up for my next painting session.

Sometimes I don’t feel inspired to paint at all. When this happens, I don’t wait for inspiration, but rather just go in my studio and start painting. To me, the act of painting is just as important as the end result of a painting. Many times, this is when I pour my emotions onto the canvas. Sometimes when this happens, something beautiful surfaces, and other times, the outcome isn’t so pretty.

Late Night Biscotti & Coffee
12×12 oil on canvas

Another thing I’ve discovered is that if I’m not feeling inspired to paint, that’s a perfect time to paint a still life — where my subject is already decided, and I can focus on improving my technical painting skills rather than relying on my imagination to paint an abstract.

What about you? What are some ways you tackle being uninspired? Do you spend time in your studio sitting, reading, or doing things other than painting?

Failing Beautifully

I have approximately 200 finished paintings in our home and my studio, and this number does not include the 200-300 I’ve painted over or sent to the trash because I wasn’t happy with them. Very rarely do I paint over a painting I don’t like anymore, and that’s because I’ve improved over time. I also plan to hang on to most of these paintings because many aren’t representative of my current work. But what does all of this really mean?

I was talking to a friend today who started painting a few years ago and she said that she wasn’t confident enough to put her art out there yet. I assured her that it would come in time and that in the beginning, for every 100 paintings I created, only about 5-10 were good. Maybe not even good, maybe more like just decent. I’ve been painting since 2009, but for the first seven years, I was painting very rarely because I was working and at home raising our daughter. I figure since 2009 I’ve averaged at least seven hours of painting time each week, and that number is underestimated I’m sure.

My point is that that equals over 3,500 hours and without all that practice and all of the failures, I wouldn’t be where I am today. For every failure, I have found yet one more way not to do something. I see failure as a measurement of effort; If I never fail, that means I am not experimenting and stretching myself to the limits. I truly believe you aren’t growing if you’re not failing at times, too.

I don’t like it when people ask me how long it took me to paint something, because really, the true answer is that it took me 3,500+ hours to create it! In art, all of your experience — all of the cumulative failures and successes — are what allow you to create what you create today.

Even though I’m a better painter now than 10 years ago, I do still produce bad paintings sometimes, and as weird as it may sound, I’m proud of them because it means I am pushing myself, as not every new technique I try is going to work out – as is the case with my “NOPE” painting above!

So practice as much as you can, fail beautifully, and revel in your eventual successes. If you fail enough, you will succeed!

Follow me on Instagram and Facebook @loririvera.art

Artist Tip: Creating a Faux Frame for Paintings on Paper

IMG-4320

Looking for a unique and low cost way to display your acrylic paintings on watercolor paper? Recently, I’ve been working with acrylic on watercolor paper and needed a quick and easy way to get them ready to hang in a show. I love what I came up with; I think they look professional, especially for how little it dinged my pocketbook.

Both of these paintings are on 8 x 8 watercolor paper and I bought a four pack of 10 x 10 cradled unfinished wood panels. They were only $16.04 with my 40% off coupon at Michaels, which made them $4.01 each. I purchased wood that was two inches larger than my paper all around to give the illusion of a 1″ thick frame.

First I painted three coats of white gesso on the front and the sides of the wood, and I left the back unfinished. After the last coat was completely dry, I applied Liquitex Gel Medium with a foam brush to the front of the wood, then laid down the painting and tried to center it as much as possible. Then I pushed down all over the paper with my hands to make sure it was sticking in all places of the paper to the wood. If you have a brayer or a rolling pen, you could also use one of those. I pushed down on the paper for about three minutes.

IMG-4362

I waited a few hours for the gel medium to dry enough so that I could wire the back. The cradled boards are perfect for two eye hooks and picture hanging wire. The last step was varnishing the painting. I took a soft cloth and added a small amount of Gamvar varnish to it and applied it lightly to the painting. It gave it a nice sheen.

I am so excited about this way of displaying my small paper paintings. If you try this, let me know how it goes and how you like the end result!

IMG_4360

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/loririvera.art) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/loririvera.art).

Top Five Tips for Beginning Artists

I am a visual artist living in Southwestern Indiana who publishes art related blog posts. Sign up to receive updates from my blog at the bottom of this page, and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram under @loririvera.art.

IMG-4147

I thought it would be fun to look back and see what my first post was on my Facebook art page. If you scroll through my photos, you’ll see that the first one was the left one above. To make sure I was comparing apples to apples (or as close as I could get), I took the one on the right that I created this year that is close to the size of the one from 2015, and is also abstract. I am happy with my progress and I can’t wait to see how much further I get by 2025!

Most importantly, though, is how I’ve arrived to where I am today. I am going to share what I think were the five most important things that got me from the 2015 painting to the 2020 painting above.

  1. Create art daily. Even if it’s just for a half an hour, that is better than nothing. When you do this, you are exercising your creative and technical muscles in your brain — or at least — that’s what I believe. On days you absolutely cannot make it to your studio/creative space to create, spend some time in that space meditating, cleaning, organizing, reading art books, or whatever you can do to stimulate your brain.
  2. Don’t compare your work to others’ work. Instead, compare your current work to your previous work. Every few months or every year, revisit some of your older work and see how far you’ve come. This is a difficult one, but it’s imperative, because when you compare yourself to other artists, it’s not fair to you or them. You might love their work, but they might have started their craft way before you. Not only that, I do think artists progress at different rates. Some artists pick things up faster than others, but there’s nothing wrong with that either. There’s no wrong way to make progress in art. It is an individualized journey and everyone’s path is unique!
  3. Set SMART Goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Oriented. For example, a SMART goal would NOT be “to paint more,” but instead “To create 100 paintings by the end of the year.” I only used 100 because that was one of my goals last year, and according to my records, I painted over 115 paintings last year. Are all of them big paintings? No. Are all of them good paintings. No. But did I paint some pieces that I am proud of. Yes! Not every painting will necessarily be your best.  I am a firm believer in setting SMART goals because those are the only ones you can truly measure. More sample goals include:
    • Participate in three art festivals by the end of the year.
    • Create a website to showcase my work by the end of the month.
    • Attain gallery representation with at least one gallery by the end of the year.
  4. Find at least one supporter of your work to give you honest feedback. Hopefully this person will be someone who can be honest about where you can improve, and what you are doing that is going well. For me, my family is my first filter, naturally I think because I talk to them daily. My husband will almost always have something positive to say about a work of mine, but also give me an honest critique and tell me what he thinks needs work.
  5. Take a class. Don’t be afraid to take a class…any kind of class. It could be drawing, painting, ceramics, or anything else you want more help with. I do believe that any kind of formalized art training will help you along the way. I say this because I have taken classes with a few artists. Even if you are a professional artist, there are always things we can learn from each other.  I really had to step outside of my comfort zone to take classes, as I had never really painted in front of anyone. At first it is really uncomfortable, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Now that I’ve shared my top five things that helped me get to where I am today, I’d love to hear from you. What has helped you in your craft?

Unblocked! – Overcoming Creative Blocks

If you are an artist, you have most likely experienced a creative block at one point or another and it is so frustrating! Or you may be working on a project that is not turning out the way you would like. In either case, I sat down today and came up with 10 things that help me when I am experiencing a block, and these may help you too. I’d love to hear from you if you try any of these, or if you have tried them already. Let me know if they work for you!

  1. Try a new art supply – Simply purchasing a new art supply can change up your creative process enough to get your ideas flowing again. When I purchased my fine line applicators, I found creating fine lines added a little interest and broke the monotony of my process. I guess it is worth mentioning here, too, that as artists, we have the tendency to get bored, and that means we can even get bored with our supplies. Short on money and can’t buy any new supplies? Alternatively, you can look around the house to see what kind of texture makers you can find. A fork, comb, caps…all can create interesting textures in your work.
    finelinetipapp
  2. Change mediums – If you are an acrylic painter, for example, try oil or watercolor for a while, or even add a medium such as modeling paste to create texture in your work. Sometimes simply changing mediums will open new doors with your style and techniques, and sometimes we just need a change of pace. After working with a different medium for a bit, eventually go back to your primary medium and see if anything has changed. Do you feel refreshed? Do you have new ideas?
    goldenpaints
  3. Change supports – One of my favorite things to try when things are not going as planned or if I am experiencing a block is to change the surface I am working with. I often change over to paper for a while after working on canvas for some time. Once again, it is a good change of pace. Not only that, doing the same thing on canvas and paper will often yield different results due to things like texture of the support. Any factor changed will often change your results, whether changing mediums as described above, or supports.
  4. Try a new activity – Sometimes it is good to clear our minds from what we are used to, break away and try something else. If you are a painter, try pottery, and if you are a sculptor, try drawing, and so on. This allows you to see things, such as shapes and colors, in a new light. Have you ever tried making your own pottery, then painting your pottery on canvas as still life? Even if you are not a skilled potter, try abstracting what you see in your pottery and paint that. This is just one example. Once again, changing an element of what we are doing changes the rhythm of creative flow, and then when we return to our primary medium, new ground can be broken with fresh eyes.
  5. Look at other art – I am deeply inspired by looking at other art. Seeing other color palettes, textures, and compositions, among other things, opens doors and paves new pathways for creativity. We can be inspired by other work without copying the work. In other words, all works of art are usually inspired by something else before they ever began. Art is not created out of thin air; there is usually always something that prompts the beginning of a new work of art.
    art
  6. Rework an old piece – Some of my favorite pieces end up being old pieces that I paint over. Let’s face it, we have some pieces we like more than others. Sometimes I take some of my least liked pieces and paint over them, allowing some of the underneath layers to peek through. That combined with the textures of the first few layers help build an interesting piece. When reworking an old piece, you are not starting from scratch, which changes up the whole creative process.
  7. Change your surroundings – Painting in a different room, changing your music, painting outside instead of inside — all of these things can help you break out and overcome your creative block. I remember having a breakthrough when I painted at our table while the new roof on my studio was being added. It is amazing how changing the slightest thing can alter our brain activity and help us create. Below is a photo of my beloved Amazon Echo. Love that thing! I often find that changing the genre of music changes the way I paint.
    echo
  8. Organize – If you are like me, your studio is often messy, and simply organizing your space can make you feel refreshed and ready to create again.
  9. Scribble – Have you ever just scribbled with crayons, paints, markers, pencils, or another medium? Of course we have all done that as children. But have you really tried it as an adult? Just let loose and free your mind. Scribble for fifteen minutes then go back to your work. While scribbling is not likely to turn into a masterpiece, it can get your mind unblocked since you are working like a child instead of an adult. Children are highly creative so try being one again for a bit! Children aren’t afraid to create and they don’t judge themselves the way we do as adults. So just try being a kid again.
  10. Take a break! – Give the creative side of your brain a break and cozy up in a hammock, make some hot cocoa and watch a movie with a warm blanket, or meditate. Rejuvenate, then return to your work later.

 

Hope these give you some ideas to try. As always, leave me a note if you liked this post, or if one of these help you get unblocked!

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Cheers!
Lori