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Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Artist: Mark Battista

"It is actually more cost effective to use good quality materials and get the most out of the hours developing their craft, rather than slow down their learning by limiting themselves with inferior products." ~Mark Battista
Madonna di Castello Buccino

Connecticut artist and teacher, Mark Battista works in a variety of media, interchanging watercolor, oil and charcoal depending on the subject matter and the feeling he wants to impress.  Mark's work flows out of his own photography, travel and experiences.  Currently, his work explores the universal theme of change. . . the changing landscape, its structures and its inhabitants.  In turn, Mark chooses the media best suited to represent the concept.  He shares further, "When interested in capturing a fleeting impression, gesture and specific quality of light, I often work in watercolor.  For my more finished images and images that I really want to explore details, textures and form, I use oil on Gessobord™.  The consistent surface texture of the Ampersand panels responds so well to washes, block-ins and fine detailed and impasto work.  The board surface allows the brush and paint to feel like an extension of oneself."  

For years, Mark prepared his own panels, as his former professors stressed the need to work on masonite.  Once teaching and family life set in, Mark needed a more efficient way to work, and his research looking for a pH balanced surface brought him to Ampersand.  "From the first initial wash, I knew that this was the surface that I was looking for.  I love the quality of the surface right bout of the box, but have also experimented with adding a few thicker more textured layers of acrylic gesso on the board for a less uniform surface," he explains.

Mark encourages his students to purchase the best materials they can afford.  He finds that good materials effect the work process and the final outcome.  "When using good grounds, brushes and paints, one can concentrate on trying to express themselves in the most honest way possible without spending time and energy dealing with inferior products and materials.  I also value those who purchase my work and believe in only selling images made on the best materials possible, so they will hold up over time," Mark shares.

You can see Mark's work in person at the Case Memorial Library Gallery in Orange, CT with the show Double Vision,  opening on August 7, 2014 and running through the month of August.  Mark is showing his photography alongside his paintings in conjunction with his nephew's photography.  Mark is also represented by the DaSilva Gallery and the Frame Shop Gallery of New Haven, CT.

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Painting in Watercolor: An Exercise using Aquabord™ with Karen Vernon

I've spent the last few years in quest of more brilliant reflective color and luminosity in my paintings. About two years ago, I paired the most satisfactory combination of materials to date. Working Ampersand Art Supply's Aquabord with Daniel Smith watercolors, I have achieved the deepest, richest color I have ever painted.

Painting on the Aquabord surface in watercolor is a joy since the surface is responsive and cooperative. On the Aquabord surface, the watercolorist can easily accomplish many of the more difficult watercolor effects created on paper. This museum quality panel has the absorbency of the standard cold press paper, without its limitations. Moreover, the surface allows the artist to control washes and color, and when finished, present the painting without glass!

There is a smooth surface similar to a hot press paper, but I prefer the textured surface of Aquabord. It works best for watercolors. One of the assets of Aquabord is the bright reflective quality of the white clay and the color that can be achieved on it. Previously, the watercolorist accepted a loss of brilliance in some colors as the pigment was absorbed into the depths of the paper. On Aquabord, the artist can create paintings of deep, radiant colors. This new surface allows the painter to create the softest washes, typical of those possible on cold press papers, as well as vibrant colors and textured patterns that are possible on hot press paper or bristle board. This fine art panel is also pH neutral and acid free.

After drawing the design on the Aquabord, begin by painting lush pools of water on the surface. If the value of the color is to be dark, use wet color rather than clear water. It is not necessary to wash the entire surface of the board with water, but rather choose to work in smaller areas. When wet, the natural surface darkens to a light taupe. This value change easily allows the painter to know which areas are wet and which are dry as the work progresses. The bright white color of the clay returns when the board dries completely.

Apply the water in thick splashy puddles, adding heavily pigmented color into the water as needed. With Aquabord, you need to work with your brush loaded up with pigment. Try not to go back into the wet area but allow color & water to drop down into the clay surface. Mix the color darker since the additional surface water will lighten the pigment value. A good, natural bristle, soft brush is useful for these applications. To achieve the best effect, keep the brush tip within the water layer rather than dragging it on the board's surface. This application results in an even, flat, layer of color as the pigment settles on the board. The Aquabord surface has a subtle tooth that is evident in the finished work. The texture, however is finer than that of a rough or cold press paper, creating fewer shadows on the surface and brighter color.

My palette consists of many colors. However, because I like working with the character of each pigment as it stays suspended in water, I will choose to use a pigment that will create the effect I want rather than manipulate the pigment, possibly destroying characteristics or color. A good example is created when Quinacridone Coral and Quinacridone Rose are richly mixed together and dropped onto the wet or damp surface. The two colors will move and separate, enhancing each other as the warmer red, Coral floats next to the cool red, Quinacridone Rose. Both pigments are transparent, intense colors of the same value and hue. Yet when mixed together, they create a subtle and sensuous transition that can only be achieved in this manner.

Try the following exercise on a small piece of Aquabord. Draw a couple of leaves onto the board using a hard lead pencil. Wet the board so it is damp as explained earlier. Apply cool green colors to your drawing while the board is damp. Let the water and color absorb in the surface and reach a slow crawl. Then wash Cerulean Blue across the area. After drying for a short time drop Hansa Yellow we into wet, onto the areas that are to be lightened. See how the warm yellow pushes the blue back and brightens the leaf. Now lift wet color with a soft, mostly dry brush in order to regain the whites.

As colors stack and the painting develops, return to areas and lift pigment. This allows altering of glazes, changing of values, and the creation of the desired textures and patterns. The surface of the Aquabord permits the careful lifting of layers of pigment value and hues to those colors below, bringing out sparkling underpainting for emphasis and contrast. Several tools can be used on Aquabord for lifting. A traditional round or flat nylon watercolor brush can be used. The nylon brush offers more resistance against the surface than a mixed bristle brush or a natural bristle brush. When more lift is required, a hog bristle acrylic may be used. Allowing the board to dry between each removal of color will offer a clear, more controlled lifting. You can also use tools such as sgraffito knives to cut into the surface and create sharp highlights such as on the edge of a petal.

When the painting is complete and totally dry, seal the finished artwork with several layers of Krylon® UV Archival varnish or other final spray. Even though the pigments used may carry the highest permanency ratings, all artwork should be protected against the damaging effect of light and the pollutants in the atmosphere. First, spray the painting with two to three layers of varnish in order to seal the pigment and prevent it from moving. This is enough to protect the painting. However, for a more even finish, brush two to four layers of Golden Acrylic UV Filtering varnish on top of the sprayed varnish. This varnish come in a matte, satin or gloss finish and can be used according to individual preference.

The complete artwork is framed much like a canvas might be without glass! I use silk liners on my paintings. I find the silk is more compatible with my style with a texture suited to water color. The liner provides the visual space around the painting much like that of a matted watercolor. Have fun experimenting. 

Written by Karen Vernon
~Karen Vernon is known for her phenomenal rendering of light and color in her watercolors. Her paintings have been featured in museums and galleries throughout the country and are represented in such notable collections as the Amoco Corporation. A retrospective of Vernon's work was done for PBS and she has been featured in American Artist Magazine. An exceptional teacher, she has taught watercolors over the last 30 years. One of her students says, "every time I finish my class with Karen not only have I learned a ton of new techniques, I actually can see my skills improve."

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mark Battista's Oil Painting on Gessobord

Figure 1
"The painting was inspired by a woman that was watching a procession in a small piazza in Italy. The title of the work is The Braid, Buccino, Italy by Mark Battista, oil on Ampersand Gessobord™.

I am usually inspired by a particular subject, light quality, shadow pattern or overall mood based on a life experience. When not able to work from life, I try to work from a combination of quick sketches, color studies and photographs.  I will often spend days creating quick thumbnail studies in order to work out the basic abstract underlying forms, value structure and elements of the design. All the detail in the world can not substitute for a well designed composition.

Once the design has been determined, I will sketch the drawing onto the Ampersand Gessobord. Sometimes the sketch is done with vine charcoal, working from large masses of shapes and slowly refined. Other times the sketch is done in pencil and generalized forms are slowly developed. A light series of cross hatched lines indicates shadows and planes of the face.

Figure 2
The sketch is fixed and then a very diluted wash of oil paint and turpentine is applied over the board. Occasionally, a rag is used to gently pat the surface if a less textured result is desired. The board is allowed to completely dry. (fig. 1)

Linseed oil is introduced gradually more and more into the linseed oil painting medium.  I begin painting in the large masses by establishing the major shadows, mid tone and light areas of the subject. Major value changes are adjusted and their relationship to each other is continually evaluated and adjusted. Often the background color will influence the skin tone and tonality in the clothing area. Many times the color of the background is brought into the color of the flesh, hair and clothing to help harmonize the colors. After the major forms of the face are established, I begin exploring the smaller planes of the face, taking care to observe the variation of edges and color changes within a form. (fig. 2)

Figure 3
The image is slowly built up with thicker layers of paint, less medium and more paint is used. Shadows are glazed down with more medium, while highlights are built up with thicker paint. The various layers which are cross hatched across the form begins to create a luminosity similar to that achieved in watercolor . Subtle changes in value and color are observed and recorded while allowing other areas of the painting to be less defined and more expressive. The work is allowed to dry completely  and a final varnish is applied. (fig. 3)"

Written by Mark Battista

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Claybord used as Scratchboard

Claybord™ can be coated with inks and used like a traditional scratchboard. The advantage to using Claybord as a scratchboard is that you can control the tonal variations unlike using a traditional black scratchboard. Claybord is also more forgiving than paper scratchboards. The surface can be scratched and painted many times without compromising the quality of the surface. Try this exercise and see how easy it is to do.

1. Begin by coating the panel with an even layer of India ink. The inks should be shaken and diluted slightly before applying to allow for even coverage. To achieve a very even coat of ink, an air brush should be used. If an airbrush is unavailable use cotton balls, paper towels, a sponge brush, or a large soft bristle brush to apply the ink.

2. Allow the ink to dry. You will see the ink absorbing into the surface. Your board will be dry in a few minutes.

3. Use a soft graphite pencil to sketch the image on top of the coated board. This sketch should be used as a pattern for cutting. It does not have to be very detailed.

4. Use a scratchboard knife like a pen to cut into the surface and remove the ink leaving crisp white lines. Additional scraping tools and steel wool can be used to render detail and create texture. Not much pressure is needed to remove the ink because it remains on the surface of the clay.

5. If necessary, more ink can be applied to an area to cover-up 'mistakes' and to allow you to begin again.

6. When finished, the board can be sprayed with a spray fixative like Krylon® UV Resistant Clear Coating #1309 (Matte) or #1305 (Gloss) and framed without glass!.

Written by Charles Ewing
More work and articles by Charles in upcoming blog posts.

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