“surface tension”

surface tension


I delivered another piece this week and it looks fabulous in it’s new home.  “surface tension” is a commission I took on following a show I held last month.  My new clients loved avalanche but unfortunately it went to another buyer that night; so instead they asked me to create something beautiful and unique for them.  Read below and see the awesome detail pictures that tell the story of surface tension.

This creation began with a visit to my clients home to view the space and see what size and color palette might work well.  They had a couple walls in mind and one of them was centered above the mantle in the main living room where they spend most of their time at home.  They actually had an existing framed piece in this spot but were looking for a change. In fact, they advised me that I could use the materials of this other piece if it would work.  I jumped at the opportunity to use this space and the challenge of using the canvas board and frame provided.  It ended up saving them a bit on cost, too!  Win-win! =)

As you’ll see in the final pictures at the end of this post, the room is mostly neutral toned with some burgundy and gold tones, and a bit of green accents in the plants and other décor.  I left with these colors in mind, but not having much of a style determined… they said, “put your Eric magic in it”.  What a compliment! (thank you guys=)

I was going to let the canvas and colors talk to me and keep an open mind about the composition until I felt something positive start to reveal itself.  First step involved wiping the canvas clean… pun intended!  I started with a plain layer of white gesso…

Next step was to see how different colors took to the canvas board and to see what textures I cant expect from by brush and tools.  I really enjoyed the feel of a sturdy surface under the meshed weave of canvas… my first time working on this surface!.  I’m glad I took these steps because even though the colors didn’t play out in the final work, some of the textures from these underlayers did have an effect on the ultimate outcome.  I also got to lay the frame over the top to see how these colors interacted with the wood to see what my dominate and complimentary colors would be.  Here are a couple shots of me simply laying down colors in random fashion…

One thing I had to be thinking about was that I couldn’t build up too much paint or finish coat around the edges or else it wouldn’t fit back into the frame/mat correctly.  In the end, and after a couple weeks pondering what to do, I decided the technique I would use would be a split-color dutch-pour.  I purchased some new paint especially for this and the Friday after it arrived I was in the studio prepping and getting everything ready.  As you can see I used several mediums on this one.  One of the features my client asked for was ‘texture’.  Since I was going with a dutch-pour the really only option for texture is to flow different viscosities and mixtures in the process.  I had my base enamel that I knew would create some cracking effect on canvas, but wasn’t sure if the canvas board would react the same.  I then used some Floetrol and yes, even Elmer’s glue for my other mediums.  I blended a couple reds to get a dark burgundy I like, had a cadmium yellow and light green picked out, as well as a copper metallic, and titanium white with some glitter to boot!

So the trick (as I’m learning) with this technique is really in the consistency AND amount of material used.  I have experimented enough on these to know the consistency needed… it is a mixture of paint, medium, and water; and all the colors have to have similar consistency in order for the colors to do their thing on the canvas.  What I found out on this particular evening is that too much material on the canvas can and will move around after you think you’re done; especially when working with an existing board that was less than perfectly flat when I began.  What should have been about a ~2 hour process turned into 5 hours of me nursing, tilting, and at one point completely redoing the entire center of the composition.  You heard me correctly… at one point I thought I had completed this and was very happy with the result; but it was still thick with paint in the middle, and so the lines and colors would continuously drift to the low spots… I tried to keep re-leveling in certain areas, to get the image re-centered, but to no avail.  At one point I literally cried out “Oh No! I’ve lost it!”  All I could think was “Nooooo!” I had to keep the majority of my work, but the middle was pooling into mud right before my eyes.  I wish I had a picture or video of the mess I was in.

So, I did what had to be done… I grabbed a handful of paper towels and mopped away a big pool of paint on one side of the centerline horizon.  I needed to bring in some different color to avoid more mud.  I quickly mixed up some dark green and fortunately had plenty of left over yellow, light green, and white.

What happened next was awesome…

I gently used the blower to mix the newest layers in this one section.  It turned out so fabulous that I continued and repeated it on the other side.  Again, the composition improved tremendously, so I went about connecting the two ends with a third mopping and re-application of mostly dark green and white, with some of the other colors, and by now a soft blue I quickly mixed up.  Hard to believe that the continuum of color you see along the horizon separating white and red was actually three separate re-dos that all came together!

These three detail pictures below capture what was happening up close in these three re-do sections…

I got one picture of the full image before I called it a night; still completely wet, but not moving on me anymore (I hoped!)…

When I took a look in the morning I was so  pleased to see that my horizon had stayed along the center line.  However, this was still VERY wet!  I am thinking that perhaps canvas board doesn’t breathe as much as stretched canvas and so it takes longer to dry?  What I could see in the morning was the red color drying along the outside into the beautiful burgundy I was hoping for… and the white at top was starting to crack just like it has on stretched canvas…

What I still didn’t know was what sort of textures I could expect in the center with all the different mediums I used; that wouldn’t reveal itself fully for another five days!  I was so anxious to share what I was seeing, but didn’t want to reveal the final image until it was all complete.  Finally the last bit of paint dried and revealed amazing deep cervices and ridges of texture between all of the colors.  One last step was I added two coats of gloss varnish.  This had dual purpose: first, it helps to lock in the cracked enamel so that it won’t be tempted to flake off; and second, the gloss finish illuminates all the bright colors in the image like they are still freshly painted wet!

So happy with the final result and so thankful to Trish and Roger for trusting me to create something fabulous as the new centerpiece in their home!


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