Glued to a Project

Since I paint standing up and don’t use an easel, my posture has been on my mind. After several hours standing there, I hurt. Even if I move around a lot, stretch and stuff, by the end of a work (?) day my legs and back hur. It goes away pretty fast, but I think I need to get a stool on which to perch and maybe a legit easel.

I’ve been painting garden signs. No arty painting on the table at the moment. These are the recent projects, commissions:

The top is for my wonderful neighbor who gave me all those beautiful flagstones for the ever-evolving yard/garden. I offered her one of my paintings, and she told me that she really wanted a garden sign. Her garden is amazing. It’s a small park. Everything on the sign grows in the alley between our houses and hummingbirds have been a solace and distraction to her and her husband this strange summer. “Count Your Blessings” is a thing we talk about fairly often.

The lower one is a gift from my cousin’s daughter to her mom. I wish I had stepped back a bit because the “am” is too close to the “the” but OH well. As they say, paint and learn.

The coolest part of the lower sign, for me, was mixing paint. For YEARS I’ve had jars of raw pigment that I got on cheap at an art store that was going out of business. By years I mean like fifteen years. I paint the signs with acrylic paint and it hit me, “Hey wait a minute. I HAVE the color I need. I just need to MAKE it.”

I opened the box where I store my oil paints and some other treasures. In many ways, the box isn’t very practical for paints. My beloved Uncle Hank made it as a jewelry box for my Aunt Jo, and my Aunt Jo gave it to me. In the bottom, under the little tray that is supposed to hold jewelry and that holds my oil paints, are the six or seven jars of raw pigment.

Now I just needed a medium to mix the color into. Hmmmm…

I went online, of course. As I researched, a dim memory from the summer after 9th grade began shoving other thoughts aside. Mr. Dix, my art teacher in 9th grade, thought I should grow up to be a painter and arranged for one of my classmates and I to take classes from Mary Chenoweth at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Don’t ask me how I remember her name, but I do… The memory is a foreign country.

My mom wasn’t happy about this. First, she hated art and did not want me to be an artist. Second, she didn’t want to drive me down there twice a week. I went once. But in that lesson, I learned how to make acrylic paint which, at the time, 1967, was a comparatively new medium for fine art. It had only been around since 1959.

She taught us to take powdered tempera paint, put it into a bottle, add some Elmer’s Glue and shake it up. If I were British, I’d say, “And Bob’s your uncle.” My classmate and I then painted still lifes (good ones!) with the paint we’d made. When my mom said she wouldn’t drive me any more, my teacher offered, but OH WELL there went my formal art training…

Which begs the question, why didn’t I ride my bike?

Anyhoo….so yesterday, watching videos about making acrylic paint all of which talked about buying this medium or that medium, my one summer art class came back to me. “Fuck it,” I said, “Elmer’s glue.

I posted the above photo on Facebook, and a friend said, “What’s the dirt for?” I LOVED that because that brown stuff IS dirt. “Cleaned” dirt from Umbria, Italy. The paint worked beautifully, and I was grateful to Mary Chenoweth for teaching me this skill. You can see it outlining the blue below and the letters. It was REALLY nice paint, but I made too much. I learned that 1) a little goes a long way, 2) dry pigment flies around everywhere and is POTENT.

Mary Chenoweth’s point in teaching us this skill was that paint is expensive. That is absolutely true. The FULL price for the raw pigment was $11.00 fifteen years ago, so it’s probably more now, but an 8 oz tube of paint is at LEAST that much. I didn’t even use 1/4 the amount of paint I made and it made no dent in the amount of powder remaining in the jar. I don’t know if I’m going to get into the whole thing of making my own paint all the time, but I have learned that I can use these beautiful natural pigments.

34 thoughts on “Glued to a Project

  1. Oh my – you remember 9th grade art. A teacher who makes a difference stays put in the recesses of memory and it sounds like he may have set you on the trajectory to what you are doing now. I love that you can make paint. Good old Elmer’s glue – I never knew you could make paint with it. Maybe you couldn’t carry art supplies while riding your bike…just a thought.
    The signs are really nice – the grapes especially – I don’t know why, but they look like they were fun to paint (aside from you mentioning it). ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I love these, Martha — and they’re extra nice because you are bringing back ideas and techniques from earlier in life and using raw materials and ingenuity to make them ๐Ÿ™‚ !

    • Thank you, Janet! I like it very much when a painting is difficult and I don’t think I can do it. Then I do and I wonder “How did I do that?” ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. I love how memories come back to us. Things long forgotten still buried somewhere in our brains! Loving the garden signs. Wish you lived closer!

  4. The signs are beautiful Martha and I love how the memories came flooding back from your art class with Mary Chenoweth ๐Ÿ’œ

  5. Dirt (special dirt, but still) + Elmer’s glue = umber paint. Brilliant!

    All of the signs are wonderful. I have a feeling word-of-mouth is going to soon have you quite busy with commissions.

  6. These are delightful signs! I do like the grapes and the humming bird. But what I like best is your inventiveness and being able to recall a clever way to make paint!

  7. The signs are great! Wonderfully painted! It’s good to know you enjoyed working on them! Take care of your posture. =)

  8. Love your signs, and even more love your digging the memory of how to make paint out of deep storage. Playing with mud is fun, and colored mud, even better!

  9. I had an art teacher who told me I didnโ€™t do anything โ€œrightโ€. A lot of fellow educators would escape to libraries for peace. I love them; but my love was the art room. My tribe included the art, music, special education, English, and the cooks and custodians. Iโ€™ve bought all kinds of pastels and water colors. I paint rocks and create doodles and often, abstract things. Paper is my pride~whether pencil or other tools. I love โ€œcounting blessingsโ€ and the sign is beautiful ๐Ÿ’›. You deserve a good stool and easel~donโ€™t overdo it. When Iโ€™m REALLY into something I will sit it stand in the same position for HOURS (even if it hurts which makes me hurt worse~isnโ€™t that silly?). I remember mixing and I donโ€™t remember the glue. But I bet I have. How awesome you used your 9th grade recipe. Just perfect ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿป๐Ÿค—

Comments are closed.