Thursday, January 27, 2011
Behind The Scenes.....
I'm in the midst of a new experiment this week. I've had thoughts about doing this, swirling in my head for several months, not knowing if I really wanted to tackle it or not. But, this week, I finally decided to take the plunge and delve in. After all, I would never know if it would work or not until I tried, right?
Painting a needlepoint canvas is not an easy endeavor. Among many factors, one has to make sure the paint consistency is right...thin, but still thick and on the creamy side. One has to have the right brushes...my most useful ones are worn out, short haired, with stiff stubby bristles, good for scrubbing the paint into the canvas. 'Scrubbing' is a technical term, in case you didn't realize! Of course, nice pointy round brushes of various sizes are equally important, and the type of bristle is key on those too. They can't be too soft or too stiff. And usually, my brushes have all the enamel paint chipped off the wood handles from sitting in my jar of rinse water a tad too long. That said, I think that the deteriorated condition of the paint handles is also an important component as well!
The experiment I took upon this week was to create paper masks for all the design motifs in my composition. My normal way of painting this piece, (and the way I did the original) is to paint the design elements, and then paint in the background, carefully painting around each element. This is painstakingly labor intensive, but necessary. The idea of using paper masks and then painting in the background over the masks is something I learned about from the quilting world. Quilt artists who paint fabric often use this technique, making masks out of freezer paper. I have long wondered if it would work on needlepoint canvas.
First, I had to trace the components onto tracing paper and rough cut them out. Next, I pinned them onto the matte side of freezer paper with tiny stainless quilting pins used for applique. Then came the cutting out of the shapes with scissors and an exacto knife for the more detailed and delicate parts. I spent several days tracing and cutting, tracing and cutting. It was a nice change of pace, actually.
Today, I laid out my canvas on top of a sheet, on my bedroom carpet. Then, I began to lay out all the masks in the proper positions. As I would lay a few down, I took my steam iron on a hot setting, and ironed the paper to the canvas. It adhered quite nicely, although I did have to go back over some of the pieces several times throughout the process. Finally, after I got all the pieces ironed down, I took the canvas to my easel and hung it up.
The carpenter's gift to me got me to thinking about purchasing a good airbrush system, and one day, I did! It was expensive for sure, but I can't tell you how thrilled I have been to use it in many instances. What previously would take me hours and hours can be accomplished in mere minutes. That doesn't take into account the prep time it takes for these 'mere minutes' to occur, but I will say again, that I have been utterly thrilled with the time saving it has afforded me.
The above photo of cut out masks represents about 3 days of cutting...that is, working on it for 3 days, but not the whole days. I think I can narrow it down to 2 if I stick to task. But back to the next step of my experiment....
Today, as I mentioned, I ironed on all the paper masks. By the time I finished, it was 5:00pm...the time I normally wind up my work and think about preparing supper for my husband and myself. But, I was at a crucial point...I wanted to get the painting done while the masks were adhered to the canvas. I was unsure how long they would stay put! So...I flipped the switch on my compressor, and pushed the trigger on my airbrush. By darn, I had the background painted by 5:03pm! Wahoo! I knew it would be fast, but not that fast! What a thrill indeed!