All About CANVAS

There are so many kinds of surfaces you can paint on; Hardboard, stretched canvas, canvas board and so on. I commonly use stretched canvas.

I lived in a place where none of these were readily available. The market in that village was literally only 200 meters long and forget about even buying paints. So I had to buy canvas when I was on holiday. One of the best things in the army is that you usually know someone who is in a place where he/she can buy canvas and there is usually someone passing by your town. So that’s how I managed to get my shipment. Of course now there is online shopping but you will be charged for shipping especially if you are ordering large size canvas.

As I was just a beginner I didn’t want to spend much on canvas. So I bought stretched canvas which was locally made by a store. They made their own frames in bulk and the canvas that came in bulk was hand stretched and nailed (not stapled) by some locally employed people who of course didn’t know much about how it was to be done.

I got these canvases very cheap and then after I removed them from the packaging one by one I noticed that these were flawed. The grain of the canvas was not parallel to the frame.

A canvas has grains like any cloth. This has to be parallel to the frame.

Linen Canvas Coarse Vignette Crumpled Grunge Texture Sample

Instead I saw a few which were mounted diagonally.

butterflies

It is unsightly and I don’t recommend painting on it

I also feel stapling is more effective than nailing a canvas to the frame to stretch it.

 A canvas is primed with Gesso which was traditionally used to prepare or prime a surface so Oil paint would adhere to it. Gesso is the same as a primer. It is made from a combination of paint pigment, chalk and binder.

The priming done on these cheap canvas that I bought was very uneven and has air gaps which looked bad and eventually opened up. The corners were not neatly folded either.

So remember there are lot of things you need to check while buying canvas

You also get fine grain, medium grain and coarse grain canvas. Buy fine grain for realistic art or airbrushing especially if you’re planning on doing a lot of detailing.

typesofcanvases

Medium grain is versatile. I usually buy these so I don’t have to decide what to paint in advance

The coarse grain takes up lot of paint. It is great for heavy textured paintings and knife painting.

The stretcher bars on which the canvas is stretched also comes in different types. I buy the standard 1 inch thick ones. The thicker ones are better if you can afford it and great if you don’t plan on framing your painting

You also get side stapled and back stapled. There is a bit of a cost difference. I buy the back stapled because I prefer not framing my paintings.

Well well, that is definitely a lot of information on canvas. I bet there is a lot more but this is all that I’ve encountered so far. Happy shopping.

Watch out for some awesome art shopping options also including online art shopping destinations in the next blog post. Don’t forget to subscribe. you can find social media links below and also checkout my videos on YouTube.

My experience with working with textures

One thing artists always do is to look at other artists work. My advice for budding young artists is to browse frequently, learn something new from what other artists are doing and try to implement things that you like. As an artist you have to always make sure that you don’t stick to one particular way of painting and say ‘That’s my style’. No, it’s not.  If you don’t experiment new techniques and try out new subjects, how will you know what your style is?

I made the very same mistake when I started. I decided I don’t like realistic art and I knew my drawing was poor , so I told myself and anybody who’d listen that Abstract is my style. ‘I don’t like very realistic paintings you know, I don’t like painting animals, I don’t like making portraits’. Excuses, excuses. That was all it was.

After I was done with the zodiac collection, I was in a dilemma. I didn’t know what to paint next. Sure the zodiacs sold well and it was a good way to make money, but that’s not what being an artist is about. It is not just about making money and selling your paintings. You need to explore. I was advised to make more zodiacs and I didn’t really like making more because I wanted to do something new. So I went to my old advisor back again. Google.

I found some really amazing paintings and I was interested by textures. You’ll see them in the pictures below.

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I was intrigued. But I didn’t know how to make it. I kept searching for ‘How to make textured paintings? What to mix with oil paint to get thick textures?’, but it is not as easy as you think. I dint get the answers I wanted to online.I found this medium called Texture White from Camel. But it could only be used with acrylic paint and I was not used to painting in acrylic. So I mixed a bit of acrylic paint with texture white and made thick flowers directly onto an empty canvas. Once the flowers dried I painted the background in oil and waited a couple of days for it to dry and then painted over the acrylic flowers with oil paint. Phew! A lot of work. Here is the first textured painting I made.

SD_Enchanted

It wasn’t until I got my ‘Oil painting for Dummies’ copy that I found the thing that you mix oil paint with to get thick textures. LIQUIN IMPASTO. It is amazing.

Art Tip: You can paint Oil over Acrylic but you cannot paint acrylic over oil because the acrylic would just peel off over time.

So enjoy, keep exploring and have fun!!

 

How I got to making the Zodiac collection

“Hey, what are you doing”, he asked as he saw me sitting on the sofa completely blank with my hands over my head.

“Nothing”, I said.

“Come on you look weird. Are you sad? Are you going to cry?”, he asked fearfully.

“No, I’m just wondering what to paint next”

“Just pick a nice painting from Google and paint”

“No, that wouldn’t be original”

“Who cares?”

“I care. After making one awesome original painting and selling it I don’t think I should make a copied painting, besides WHO’LL BUY IT? WHICH GALLERY WILL DISPLAY A COPIED PAINTING?”

That statement right there in capitals, that was what was holding me back.

I think most new artists hit this block after their first original or their first sale.

Worrying too much about who’ll buy, Trust me , you don’t want to do that. It will only hold you back. Your main goal must be to excel at what you do. Set goals. But don’t set big goals too quickly. Pick a photograph of anything; a bird, a lion, a beautiful landscape and just paint. See what you don’t know how to paint and paint that. I hadn’t really painted that many paintings. I was just six paintings old and I was worried about making money, whereas I should’ve been worried about improving my skill. After the amazing Lion painting I thought I was ready to start selling. Big mistake!

“Why don’t you paint zodiacs, it will definitely sell”, my husband said.

“You really think people will hang paintings of zodiacs on their wall? They might read their horoscopes every morning but buy zodiac paintings? I don’t know”

“What have you got to lose? Just paint them”

I wasn’t so sure but either way I took his advice. I still didn’t want to copy paintings so I started researching on different ideas. I was inspired by the various tattoos on zodiacs that came up on Google image search. So I took the idea of implementing that in my paintings.

I first made the Scorpio painting. It was a big favorite with so many of my friends. I’ve got lots of Scorpio friends. I wanted to incorporate the symbol too in the painting and so I did. I read somewhere that red favors the Scorpio sign and so I used the color Red. The scorpion was inspired by a tattoo.

SDZ_ScorpioWM

This is how I made most of my zodiac collection paintings. I used tattoos and the colors that favored the different signs. I even designed some tattoos.

My friends who saw the lion painting from my previous post said it looked like an improvised version of a glass painting and hence I used that as an inspiration for my Virgo painting.

SDZ_VirgoWM

I made most of my zodiac paintings like this and I sold most of them. My husband was right. People like hanging paintings of their sun signs. Well, I got enough to buy more paint supplies by selling a few of my zodiacs.

I also got a painting commission from a lovely couple for a couple zodiac painting Leo-Scorpio. It was a great experience. I enjoyed making this painting.

LeoScorpioWM

So come up with an idea or just paint what you love, what you dream about and you’ll keep learning. You’ve got nothing to lose.

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Just leave me a message for any painting inquiries.

Things you don’t want to tell an Artist

As a self taught artist, there have been too many unknown things I’ve had to deal with. The biggest among these is what people think about me.

Now personally I don’t care what people think about me but the annoying things people say to my face does matter. So here are a few funny things I’ve heard over the years. You will find the things you don’t want to tell an Artist in bold letters and my thoughts in italicized letters.

Conversation 1:

“Hi, I’m Sylvia.”

“Hi, What do you do Sylvia?”

“I’m an Artist”

“Oh, I paint too. But what do you really do? For a living, I mean.”

Really? Profession: Artist. Don’t you get it? I’m not an idiot to tell you my hobby when you ask me what I do.

“May I see some photos of your paintings?”

“Sure, here.”

“Oh wow, these are really good. Mine aren’t.”

Conversation 2:

Aisling

“Do you sell your paintings Sylvia?

“Yeah, I do””

“Are they original?”

“Yeah they are.”

“Wow! Give me the soft copies of your painting photos.”

“Why?”

“So I can print them and hang it on my wall”

“Oh. I sell prints too. Just tell me which one you want and I’ll have it printed for you.”

Oh no… I don’t want to buy. Just give me the soft copies. I’ll print them myself.”

Conversation 3:

“How much does this painting cost?”

“Rs. 15000”

Ans 1: “Wow! That’s expensive, not for the poor, eh?”

Ans 2: Really!! Don’t you think that’s expensive? What is your cost of material?

Sure! Just pay me the cost of canvas and paint. My original idea or design has no value, nor does the amount of time and energy spent on making something so beautiful on canvas or the years I’ve spent learning the skill.

Conversation 4:

“Oh wow! You’re an artist? Did you design that tattoo which is on your wrist?”my tattoo1

“Yeah I did!”

“Can you design one for me, for free?”

Yeah, I do that only for friends who genuinely appreciate what I do.

One minute you’re appreciating what I do and the next you’re telling me that my art isn’t worth paying for?

Conversation 5:

This is an incident that happened when we just moved to a new place; A conversation between my husband and his superiors wife.

“So, what does your wife do?”

“She is an Artist.”

“What is her medium of painting?”

“Oil on Canvas.”

“That’s perfect. There is an old painting in our guest room covered in mold. You can tell your wife to restore it. ”

“Sorry, she doesn’t do restorations and I don’t tell her what to do.”

Conversation 6:

“Hey, I love your paintings, maybe you can teach me sometime?”

“Sure, come over to my place for coffee and we’ll make an evening of it and make a small painting too”

After the lovely evening,

“You teach well too. Why don’t I send my daughter to your place twice a week, she can learn a lot from you.”

“I’ll let you know when I can move things around my schedule and make time for the class. We’ll discuss fees later.”

“Oh, no. Not for class or anything. Just for fun. To pass time.”

Sure. I’ll make time in my busy schedule twice a week(that’s two hours) for fun. To pass time!

There are so many hilarious things I’ve heard from people, I just wonder if they think before they speak. Do you ask a plumber if he’ll fix your tap for free? Or an electrician if he’ll light a bulb for you so you’ll tell all your neighbors about him. Word of mouth you see…

Then why do you ask an artist if he/she will work for free?

P.S:  The conversations above really did happen.

Go on and read a few more things people tell artists that he/she doesn’t really want to hear.

“If I had time and patience like you, I would paint too.”

Precisely why I’m an artist, I got patience and passion for art.

“I can paint that too”

Then go do it.

“It must be nice to have so much time so you can paint”

Yeah I don’t know how my day is magically 30hrs long.

“You should paint this, this, and that”

Maybe you should.

“A sea horse is not so big that a mermaid can sit on it!”mer2

Really dude, have you seen a mermaid?

“Do you know artist XYZ? Can you make a painting for me which looks more like his work?”

No. Go buy his art.

“Oh what is abstract art? You artists throw some paint around on a canvas and call it abstract art.”

Have you heard of something called Color Theory?

“Can I take a photo of that? I want to post it on my Facebook page. Maybe I’ll paint one when I find time”

I don’t know what to say.

Here is one question that a lot of people have asked me but it is not an annoying one and I’d like to answer it. Actually a genuine question.

“Why do you paint horses? Do you like horses? What is the meaning behind the horse painting?”

The truth is, a painting doesn’t always have to mean something. Sometimes it is just about how beautiful it looks on a wall. Horses are very good subjects to paint and I think they’re majestic. A painting can mean different things to different people. Art is Subjective. Just enjoy it.

Also, when an artist wants to exhibit her art she cannot display a landscape, a horse portrait, a mermaid and a portrait of a lady together because they don’t always go well together. It helps to stick to a specific topic like birds, pet portraits, zodiacs, jungle cats, fantasy, underwater world etc. when you’re exhibiting your art.

I hope you enjoyed reading this. I deviated from the flow of my journey but I think this blog was very important.

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Step by Step Progress of my Lion Painting and a bit more….

I made a few more paintings.

SD_2facedWM

This one I did while I was attending the one week oil painting class that I mentioned in the previous blog post. Anyway, for those of you who didn’t read it, I was actually looking to do something different from the others. So I applied my new found knowledge in this painting. I was very happy with the outcome. It was a copied painting anyway with a few modifications. Nevertheless I thought it turned out good. But I won’t forget to mention, I was still in the guest room at that time and I didn’t have an easel. I was using a chair to place the canvas board. But the true challenge was the cotton trees. We had lots of cotton flower trees outside the guest room and it was the perfect climate for them to shed the cotton. Oh how nightmarish. The flowers everywhere, plus the wind; the strands of cotton got everywhere. I don’t know how they got into the room but I had to pick at my painting with a clean brush every now and then to remove these strands which would stick to the oil paint and refuse to come out.

Luckily a house was available to us soon enough. And I had a new dog now with me; my furry little Foxy. Once I had unpacked and settled down, I made the painting I had mentioned in the previous post. Here are the step by step photos of the abstract Lion painting.

1 2 3 copy4 copy5 copy6Leo

I know that the pictures 4, 5 and 6 look the same but if you take a closer look at it you will know the difference.

Well, not much writing this time. There is a lot one can learn from progress photos and I hope these photos help.

Until next time…. 🙂

My learning sources

After dealing with all my health issues, yet again I was in a new place. Yeah I’ve got to move so very often; woes of being an army wife. This new place in West Bengal was unlike any other place I’d lived in so far. Surrounded by tea plantations and forest and it rained most of the time. But I reached there in the beginning of summer. I stayed in the guest room only for a month here because a house was available soon after we reached there.

Meanwhile when we were still living in the guest room, I heard about a one week oil painting class in the vocational training center conducted by an army wife. I decided to go. It was one of those typical classes where you have to paint what the teacher tells you to. She made us paint a Ganesha painting. Well, I asked her if I can paint anything else but she didn’t agree. She didn’t even let us choose our own colors. We had to paint the same image and she even told us what colors to mix. It wasn’t a total waste though.  There I learnt about mixing colors and working in layers and the basics which I didn’t really know. And yes, I finally learnt how to wash my paintbrushes. Can you believe it? After 4 paintings! We were also given reading material on a few oil painting tips. It was pretty helpful.

I then went online and downloaded ‘Oil Painting for Dummies’. This book is The Art Bible. I learnt loads from it. If you don’t mind reading, then I recommend it to everyone who wants to paint in oil. I don’t know what I would do without it.

The painting that I made after the one week class is my all time favourite. I sold it to my senior from school who now lives in the U.S. It took me about 4 weeks to complete it since I painted it in layers. And each layer took about a week to dry. But it was all totally worth it.

Leo

Mom and Dad encouraged me to pursue an art career after they saw this painting. And my friends loved it too. I got lots of likes on Facebook. I loved the encouragement.

My second big source of learning is YouTube. You find so many painting videos on YouTube; you don’t really need to go to a class if you live in a place where there are no painting classes. You can learn from the comfort of your own home anytime if you have a good internet connection.

They say ‘Practice makes a man perfect’. Well they are right. Time is your biggest teacher. The more the number of paintings you make, the better an artist you will be.

Do come back next week to see the progressive photos of the lion painting.

THE TRAGIC CHANGE- How I dealt with my health issues and still didn’t give up on art.

I enjoyed my time in Punjab. As unlikely as it is to find a Christian officer in the Indian Army, we had 6 Christian families in one place and Sundays were never a bore. We went to Church together, had potluck lunches and talked a lot. We made some great friends; ate Goan, Mangalorean, and Coorgi cuisine and had loads of fun and that made the most boring place on earth, the best. I shouldn’t forget to mention that I once visited Pooja (army wife and friend)’s house and saw these beautiful paintings at her place and fell in love with painting all over again. Inspiration! They were painted by her dad. Pooja too is a well know artist now.

I always say ‘Time flies so quickly when you are having fun’. We’d lived in Punjab for a little over a year and my husband was sent to a new place again just when we had moved into an amazing new house. I had to stay back in Punjab for a month or two until we got one allotted in the new place. I think I could’ve stayed with my husband in a temporary accommodation but I had to stay in a nice house for once, even if it was for a month.

A few days before he left though, I started having a sharp pain in my back toward the right hip. Pascal thought it was because I had just got an injection in my left heel because I had a very painful heel spur and I was limping so it might’ve caused the pain in my back. He left to the new place and I kept complaining about my back pain. I kept thinking that I had a sprain but I began to worry when the pain didn’t go away even after a month. I eventually packed up and moved to the new place. The pain increased and I kept ignoring it until one day when I was sitting in a chair for an hour and I started getting pain radiating down all the way to my right leg. Oh dear, I knew I was in trouble. I went to an orthopedic and he just sent me away with pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs. He told me to come back after a week if pain didn’t subside. I dint want to see his face again but there I was, a week and a half later with no change. He sent me away again with new drugs and back again I was at the hospital after a week. I got some scans and he didn’t find anything wrong with me. He had the nerve to tell me that it was all in my head. I just wanted to shake him and tell him ‘It is in my back and right leg you Moron!’

After another week of anti-inflammatory drugs, I went to the ortho doc back again and said, ’either refer me to a Neurolosurgeon or order an MRI scan’. The doc must’ve finally seen it in my eyes, the pain and anger and he made the right decision of doing both before I started yelling or crying. Within a week, I was done with the MRI and I was sitting in front of a doctor who was quite plainly telling me ‘You have Lumbar SpondyloLISTHESIS and that is causing a nerve compression in your right leg, hence the sciatica and I’m afraid you have to live with it for the rest of your life’. There it was, THE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE.

I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t cry. There was no fix. I was devastated.

Once I wrapped my head around what had happened (it took a few weeks), I finally called an orthopedic surgeon whom I trusted. He told me what physiotherapy I have to do and I followed his instructions. I went for physiotherapy alternating every 15 days. Not much change in my condition. I cried all the time. I was on bed rest for months which led me to put on weight. Pascal cooked for me after he came back from work, he helped me bathe, and he even fed me. He did everything for me.

I called the doc yet again and he said he could help me ease the pain. So Pascal took a week’s leave and we went to Punjab and the doc used to personally come and set up for my physiotherapy every day. A week of physiotherapy there and lots of multivitamins and my radiating pain was down by 75%. I was so happy. Some improvement is better than nothing right?

Things got better. I improved. Mom and Dad visited me. They stayed for a week. One evening, they suggested we go for a walk and I was shocked to discover I couldn’t even walk half a Km. But I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of bed if it wasn’t for that day. I then went to Bangalore for 3 months, joined the  gym, found a physical trainer who was also a physiotherapist and trained with him for three months. My life changed tremendously after that. I got better; I pushed myself too hard though, and was sick again for a while but now I know how to fix it. I know my limitations and I strive to do well.

There will always be people who do not understand me; they see my smile and joy and think ‘Oh this girl is just pretending to be sick, avoiding work, stubborn, doesn’t mingle, doesn’t socialize…etc,’ Yeah I’ve heard it all and I don’t give a damn. You can judge me. It only reflects what you are. If only you were in my shoe, but I wouldn’t wish it even on my enemy.

No matter what difficulties come your way, strive to achieve what you want. Don’t let anything get in your way. I cannot sit or stand for more than half an hour, I have to lie down or rest for 5-10 minutes every hour, but I still come up with excellent paintings and if I can achieve my goals, then you can too. 🙂

The next blog post will be more about art. Watch out for some good tips on working with oil paint. And a little bit about me 🙂

MY PAINTING TRAGEDIES – The many mistakes I made when I was teaching myself to Paint.

Besides smudging oil paint everywhere and getting it all over my clothes and stuff, I had a lot of other issues with oil painting. I couldn’t really paint much since I spent a month in Bangalore, back at my parents place. And then came leave. Pascal and I spent a while in Bangalore and then in Goa.

You would think I should be happy about marrying a Goan because of the holiday prospects. My friends so often kindly remind me ‘oooh, you’re so lucky; you’re married to a Goan which means every holiday you’re in Goa.’ Well, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It is just like dessert, you eat too much and you get sick of it or get zits all over your face. I wouldn’t say I’m sick of Goa, but the novelty has worn off. At least once a year I go there, spend all day everyday on Calangute beach; my in-laws own a business there. I go to Goa now only to visit my in-laws and to see the pure joy on Pascal’s face when he sits on a chair in front of D’Silva’s Shack facing the sea and enjoying his time away from all his work and of course I love listening to the waves.

Back again from leave I was in a new place now in J&K, the winter was unbelievably brutal. I made a heart painting. This one I made for myself. I wanted to hang it in my living room. I kept the painting in my spare bedroom to dry. A week passed and it wasn’t dry yet. I didn’t think that weather would have anything to do with the drying of oil paint. Two days later I checked again and I saw a thin layer of fungus over the surface of the painting. It was the end of winter and it was starting to get warmer, so I treated the painting like anything else that would get fungus. I put it out in the sun. The fungus disappeared after a day. I decided to put it out in the sun in my balcony every day until the painting dried. What I didn’t realize was that our quarter’s outer walls were being painted or whitewashed. Bam! Whitewash all over my beautiful heart.

SD_Love

I was so heartbroken. My first destroyed painting!

Just so you know, Oil Paint dries through the chemical process of curing and not through evaporation like most things do. The paint develops a skin of dry surface initially but the paint itself takes weeks or months to dry completely. I would also suggest painting in layers and not all at once when you are working with oil paint.

We took leave for a couple of days and visited the saffron fields in Kashmir; the only place in India where saffron grows. The saffron flower is beautiful. Fact: You only get three strands of saffron from a single flower.

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I finally painted this saffron flower over the whitewashed heart. Unfortunately I do not have the photo of the painting.

My next blog post will be about the worst part of my life and the challenges I’ve had to face.