Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Cobalt Studios: Summer Scene Painting #11

Cobalt Studios

Tiger on Velour
Our second to the last project was called, "You want me to paint THAT on WHAT?"  This was the first of two projects where we didn't have teacher demonstrations, but each of the teachers acted as designers and/or consultants for half the class.  For this project, Kimb was my mentor.

I had mentioned a week or so earlier that I had never painted on velour and wondered if they ever did such a thing.  Little did I know, there was a project in the syllabus where we painted on non-traditional surfaces, or alternate surfaces.  Turns out velour is more of an alternate surface because it has been used as a traditional surface for a very long time.  It's just not a regular surface I guess.  I dunno.

So when the assignments were handed out, I was given a small picture of a Chinese tiger painted in watercolor, and a piece of beige velour.  I had never painted on velour before, so I asked for advice.  Kimb suggested I use light sprays of plastic varnish in several coats to create a surface for the paint to lay on, rather than soaking in.  I had heard that paint soaks into velour rapidly.

For the project, we were also supposed to write out our suggested process along with questions we had from the teachers.  Once we had our process down, we had to schedule a few moments with our mentor and let them weigh in on it.

My maquette.  The paintbrush is in the picture to establish scale.  The velour at the bottom is the swatch

My Process
As I looked at this picture, I decided I would proceed as follows:

  1. Spray 5 thin coats of plastic varnish on the velour, allowing them to dry in between
  2. Make a transparency of the image
  3. Project the image onto the velour (pinned to the wall)
  4. Ink image onto velour with brown sharpie marker
  5. Lay velour onto floor
  6. Paint background "watercolor"
  7. Paint basic tiger and rock shapes
  8. Detail tiger with lining brush
  9. Paint foreground with one inch Purdy
  10. Create stencil for border
  11. Paint border
My process seemed to be okay.  Kimb questioned if it was a good idea to ink directly from the transparency to the velour without making a pounce first.  I have inked from transparencies for many years and I was and am confident in my ability to do that so I felt I didn't need to add that step.  I think she was concerned about the fuzzy part on the belly of the tiger and the front leg.  I had already decided to just make indication marks for that, rather than a hard, straight line.

Step #1:  The Test Flat
We made test flats for many of the projects we did at Cobalt.  This one was no exception.  After I had cut my velour to size, I took the excess and stapled it around a piece of homasote to create a test flat.  First I divided the test flat into halves and on one half I sprayed several coats of plastic varnish, and on the other side I left it pristine.  Then I proceeded to try painting with different thicknesses of paint and painting in different directions.

I found that thinner paint seemed to sink into the velour pretty rapidly but more viscous paint stayed on the surface.  I also learned that if you paint along with the nap of the fabric the paint lays nicely on it.  If, however you paint against the nap, the paint tends to bunch up under the nap or pile and creates a texture that I didn't want on this project.  I suppose there may be times when you would want that texture.  I didn't.

I also found that the non-varnished side accepted paint just fine.

The test flat

Step #2:  Inking and Layout
I sprayed several coats of plastic varnish on the velour and had to find stuff to do while I waited for it to dry.  I'm pretty sure that getting ready to paint on this project took longer than the actual painting of the project.

I made the transparency of the tiger on a copy machine.  I had to lighten the image somewhat in order for it to read.  Then I pinned the velour to the wall and situated the projector.  When I had the image where I wanted it on the velour, I began inking with a brown sharpie.  I was careful on the fuzzy parts of the tiger to only make indication marks instead of lines.  Kimb saw that and agreed it was okay for me to have not added the pounce step.  The inking was a success.

When I laid the fabric on the floor, I worked my hand back and forth on it and discovered the direction of the nap.  On the selvage edge of the fabric, I drew arrows in the direction of the nap and wrote, "Stroke this way," in several places, just to remind me how I wanted to paint the thing.

The tiger inked on the velour

Step #3:  The Background Painting
I decided to eyeball the background portions of this piece, rather than inking them in.  I chose to do so because they had a watercolor vibe in the original piece and didn't have solid outlines.  Using a brush on a bamboo, I held the image in one hand and painted with the other.  Typically I hold the image in my right hand because I am left handed. 

For most of the background, I chose to paint upside down as far as the image went because it was easier to find reference areas, and it also became about painting abstract shapes, rather than trying to copy exactly some mountain or such.  The whole painting was done with the velour on the floor and me standing up with a paintbrush in a bamboo.  Everything except for the inking and the stenciled border.

Background laid in.  Without detail, it looks ratty.  Note the arrows at the bottom right of the image.  Those were my nap marks

Step #4:  Tiger body painting
Next I painted the broad strokes of the tiger's body.  I noticed there was a highlight built in to the paint job in the original right where the tiger's body transitions from a horizontal surface to a vertical surface.  I decided to paint that broadly and let the detail bring it into focus.  I also noted there was a bright orange patch at the bottom of the body.  I painted these features in as I painted the body.  I had to paint fast because unlike other surfaces, the velour didn't allow the paint to move around very much.

Having never painted on velour before, I kind of questioned myself at this point of the process.  I wasn't sure if I liked how it looked or not.  I decided to trust myself, though and kept painting.  I knew that people had painted on velour for hundreds of years and so I would be able to succeed.  When I started putting the detail in, I knew I was going to be alright.

Tiger's body roughed in.  Beginnings of detail in rock, background and tiger.

Step #5:  Stripes
As I began detailing the tiger, I decided I would paint the outline with black paint, at least where there was to be an outline.  Instead of using black paint for the stripes, however, I chose to use Van Dyke Brown for those.  Van Dyke Brown is a richer color and tends to reflect light better than black.  Van Dyke Brown is the darkest color in the Rosco palette before you get to pure black.

When I painted the stripes and the outline, the whole piece came into focus and I knew I was going to like this piece.  At this time I also detailed the rocks and some of the background.

Tiger coming into focus

Step #6:  Foreground
For the foreground bamboo leaves and such, I used a combination of burnt and raw umber.  I laid the burnt umber down first so it would appear to be behind and in shadow.  Then I laid the raw umber down where it would look like it was catching a little light.  Burnt umber is kind of a chocolate brown whereas raw umber is a little more green.  The two colors work together very well in my opinion.

I used a one inch Purdy for the bamboo leaves.  I started at the base of the leaf and as I dragged the brush, I gave it a quarter twist so I could start wide and terminate into a point.  I painted the leaves quite fast.  It may have been the funnest part of the paint job.

Finally I did line work on the rocks in the extreme foreground.

Evidence that I actually did paint this thing with a bamboo.  Note the reference photo in the right hand

Ready for the border

Step #7:  Creating the Stencil the Metropolitan Opera Way
I learned many new skills while at Cobalt.  One of which was how to create stencils the way the scenic artists do at the Metropolitan Opera.  The scenics there taught Rachel and Kimb how they crafted stencils.  I like this way better as I can create a stencil in an hour and be painting immediately, as opposed to finding a stencil online, ordering it, paying for overnight delivery and waiting for it to show up.

The first step is to draft and draw the stencil on a piece of brown kraft paper.  Then you place the kraft paper upside down on a self healing cutting mat.  The next step is to secure the corners with tape.  When the kraft paper is secured, you begin covering the back of it with clear, two inch packing tape.  It's important to lay the tape down in such a way that you don't curl the kraft paper.  It's important to let the tape go beyond the kraft paper on all four sides which also helps to secure it.  Once done, take an exacto knife and cut along the edge of the kraft paper.

Then you turn the kraft paper over and repeat the process.  When the front is all taped, you then cut out your stencil with the exacto knife.  We tape the front last so we don't have to turn it up when it's time to cut out the design.  When the design is all cut out, then it's time to release the stencil from the green self healing board.

I chose a two part stencil to replicate the border from the image.  One stencil would be painted darker and one lighter.  Remember when creating stencils to factor in a repeat mark so you can make your stencil line up each time you place it.  It's also important to design in little connectors or paper sinews so the fine detail in the stencil doesn't curl and bend as you paint it, giving you unpredictable results.

Design laid out.  Note the repeat, diamond and oval

Tapeed back

Front taped and folded in half so the mirror image would line up

Cutting it out

Burnishing the tape

Step #8: Stenciling
For this application, I sat and knelt down.  I set up the stencil on the center line first so the medallions or major part of the design would be dead center.  Then I used a scenic fitch brush in a dry brush technique, straight up and down and gently painted the stencil in a circular motion.  I laid in the background or lighter color first, then I painted in the darker part last.

First stencil laid in

Second stencil laid in

Sides filled in.

When I was just finishing the line work, Rachel and Kimb walked in from their lunch and Rachel said one word about my project.  "Magnificent!" was all she said.  That was a great compliment from her.  I appreciated hearing it.  I wondered when this one was done, "How can this possibly get any better?"  I would soon find out.

I loved my time at Cobalt.  I would return again in a heartbeat.

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