Monday, November 16, 2015


Everyone at the meeting was very pleased to have Barb Smucker return this month to give our program, and a mini-workshop afterwards.  First, Barb put on her apron – because her painting is “messy”.  She told us about her thoughts and decisions as she studied in Art School, where she had to try all kinds of art and art projects.  She liked pastels and experimenting with watercolors.  Later on she started having trouble with the pastels dust getting into her lungs, and she opted to stay with water-based media, which she believes is uniquely beautiful.  Her goal now is to “not fuss too much, and try a lot of things”.  She mentioned a book called “The Confident Creative”, which encourages one to “know” your own self/your own work.

Barb is a daily painter.  She begins by doing “exercises” - don’t think much; just move your hand/brush/paint; put emotional feeling into it.  Later, when you begin to “paint”, let those feelings return.  Art is about “my story”; tell yours.  Ask yourself – What am I now taking an interest in?  Look for inspiration around you.  New ventures often cause us discomfort; but, just start where you are.  Barb encouraged us to just paint for Joy.  If you do something regularly, it will become more comfortable.

Lately, Barb has been using a limited palette, with a triad of colors along with black and white.  For the demonstration she used quin gold, quin red, cobalt blue, with white and black gesso; the gesso to get a “matte” finish.  Sometimes she uses freezer paper as a temporary palette; she also uses Press & Seal to cover her palette to preserve paint for her next session.  She uses big, inexpensive brushes.  She started by putting down water on much of paper, but not the whole sheet; she left some spaces.  Using almost pure gold and red pigment (warm), she spontaneously spread the paint over the page, turning her paper around on all four sides, to make sure that the colors made a balanced composition.  Members of the group were called to front to put more paint on the paper!   Let it dry.  Then, the fun!  She swirled; she dabbed pure paint; she squeegeed; she scraped; she splattered wet paint; turned the paper; put in unplanned lines; and then used an old curler to make some soft smears.  This was the First Layer!  By the way, she was using Hot Press paper, Fluid brand.

For the second layer, she started using some darker values.   Look at what you have; then “enhance” what you like using similar colors wax crayons.  Create some lines, darken places.  She had some more volunteers try out the crayons on the project.  She urged experimentation – what if I do this?   Then, she mixed some duller paint, and turned the paper to see where she felt she needed it.  Barb used some stencils that she made to remove some paint in places, and then used a bit of blue and black around the project.  Let everything dry.

For the third layer, Barb showed us how using the Basic Rule of “Working a Lot against a Little” worked on this Abstract project, and on some that she brought to show to us.  If your painting has a Lot of warm, use a Little cool.  If it has a Lot of round, use a Little straight, a Lot of light, use a Little dark, etc.  Sometimes she also adds some Mixed Media items to her project at this point.  At this point, carefully examine your whole page, and make decisions on what more is needed.   The final effort is to use a “mat” to move around over the whole project to find your amazingly spontaneous “Abstract” painting that you never thought you could do.

Barb was not finished yet.  She did a couple of Critiques, and then, after lunch, gave a wonderful mini-workshop for those who had signed up.  Workshop participants were pleasantly surprised with their Abstracts.

Barb now has a Studio at the Pendleton in downtown Cincinnati.  They have open studios and receptions on the Final Friday of each month.  

Submitted by Joyce Grothaus, Secretary, GCWS – November, 2015

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