From Vendors, tools & materials

Cat in Neighborhoods Inspired by Max-the-Cat

What a difference a day makes to a cat: October 28

Setting this cat in a bunch of neighborhoods is NOT like setting a cat among the pigeons. He is there to remind us all that we all look better, perform better, laugh more, and do our best work when we are surrounded by those from whom we can learn, which is a corollary of “every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it.”

I finished the pencil drawing on October 28, covered it with Liquitex Clear Gesso, and started to paint on October 29.

Cat in Neighborhoods Final Pencil Drawing
The pencil drawing is finished and the Cat in Neighborhoods is covered with Clear Gesso to prevent smudging.

 

Cat painting begins: October 29

The Cat emerges. Using a Princeton brush, Golden High Flow Acrylics, and Daler Rowney FW Artists Acrylic Ink, I began to paint. Bit by bit. Piece by piece. Space by space.

Cat in neighborhoods after one day of painting.
Cat in Neighborhoods gets its first paint.

Cat details

The Neighborhood Cat is on a 16×20 stretched canvas. His face, yet to be determined/designed, makes him part of the Clowder of Cats. “Clowder,” as you may know, is the collective noun for “cat.”

As you might imagine, Max-the-Cat — model, muse and snacks manager — is the Model for the entire Clowder. Some of the original clowder paintings are for sale. All are available as prints ($25) or cards-with-envelopes ($4 each). Contact susangainen@comcast.net. Billed through PayPal.

Spokescat Max: Model for the Clowder
Spokescat Max is the model for the Clowder of Cats.

Color storage: perennial problem

Color storage: what to do?

A mad obsession with paint colors creates a problem: storage. No surprise. I have a history of color storage issues.

Crayons out of the original box

When my color choices were among 24 Crayola crayons, the problems were about corralling the stubs. My Mother was not keen on crayon bits all over the house. Crayons ground into carpet are just not nice. Fortunately, during my Prime Crayon Years, the box held just 24 crayons.

Crayola 24 Pack
Crayola 24 Pack

Yarns by type and color

When my color choices were among a zillion colors of yarns, the solution was to bag and tag them by type (crochet cotton, other cotton, silk, acrylic, multi-color, wool), by color, and then by function (crochet, needlepoint). Many bags. Many many bags. I finally learned to put them into more-or-less clear bags for easy-ish sorting.

When I gave up needlepoint, I de-yarned myself, and gave the yarn and a ton of fabric to the amazingly creative beatrixjar.

Paintbox simply chunky from bloglove knitting
Paintbox simply chunky from bloglove knitting

Paints: tubes, tubs, bottles and more

When my color choices are among paints, I’m in trouble. Having begun as a watercolor purist (no acrylic touched my lips), only to pile onto acrylic and acrylic mediums, acquiring colors with abandon, I have created a massive paint-and-mediums pile-up in my living room studio. There are watercolors, acrylic paints and mediums, acrylic inks, airbrush paints, gesso in many colors, glass paint, glitter paint, and so many more.

My studio mates do not complain. Phil and Max run, walk, and jump over everything with dignity.

Tub of acrylic inks 2019
Whose idea was a 9×13 pan?

Still glad to be a 21st century artist

21st century artist loves color

Since beginning with watercolor in 2009, I remain in awe and in deep debt to the travelers, collectors, chemists, painters, manufacturers, and artists who painstakingly discovered and developed the colors that enable my work. The slideshow below has just a few of my favorite celebrations of color.

Blue Cave Cat from the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul
Blue Cave Cat from the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul
Paper Mosaic Parrot 3
Paper Mosaic Parrot 3
Klimt Bird #1: A Super Fan
Klimt Bird #1: A super fan
Top of the Tall Silo of Iowa
The Sail or The Unmade Bed
The Sail or The Unmade Bed
Climate Crusader Mardi Gras Frog from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul
Climate Crusader Mardi Gras Frog from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul
Tiny Dots Enhanced
Tiny Dots Enhanced
Pinky the First From the Clowder of Cats
Pinky the First From the Clowder of Cats
Big Neighborhood 2 Inverted 2017
Big Neighborhood 2 Inverted 2017
Friendship #4: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you're lucky.
Friendship #4: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you’re lucky.
Camouflage Hippo Seeks a Monacle
Camouflage Hippo Seeks a Monacle

In my very first post, I celebrated being a 21st century artist because I didn’t have to go to the ends of the earth to source materials.

My favorite out-of-the-way material is lapis lazuli, dug from the wild mountains of Afghanistan, not a healthy place for travelers. Genuine Ultramarine is created from lapis in a complex process helpfully described by Winsor & Newton (which inspired this post) is yet another reminder of the delight and ease of being able to walk into an art supply store (thank you,Wet Paint and Dick Blick), to talk to knowledgeable staff, make a purchase, and get to work.

If I had to embark on dangerous and life-threatening travel, (carry) smuggle rocks back to the US, grind them, mix the powder with chemicals to turn them into paint, and hope that I had made a paint of quality, that I would go straight back to needlepoint.

Painted Gemstones: Believe

Painted gemstones: road not taken

My interest in gemstones was sparked during a trip to see The Hope Diamond when it was introduced into the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in 1958. My Mother bravely packed her station wagon with Brownie Scouts, and we joined the mobs who lined up to see it. We snaked through the museum through the Hall of Gems, which was filled with what appears in bodice-ripper fiction as “dripping with pearls.” Inspiring and breathtaking.

But ever-so-slightly disappointing. It was billed to the public and to my tiny 8-year-old brain as the largest blue diamond in captivity. Not knowing that the key word was blueI expected to find a diamond the size of a softball. To my immense disappointment, it appeared to be the size of a quarter.

I missed the career off-ramp to “gemstone cutter,” and now that I’m hewing to my 65th birthday vow of avoiding activities requiring safety equipment or liability waivers, there will be no glass cutting, tile cutting, bungee jumping, and now, no gemstone cutting.

Whimsical wildlife documentarian paints gemstones

It is well within the purview of the Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian to paint gemstones and to apply a 2019 version of Painstaking Exuberance. I have paintbrushes, and I am not afraid to use them.

Multiple advantages of painting whimsical gemstones:

  1. No insurance penalty for using dangerous equipment: paint brushes, even the tiniest, are not lethal unless you are in obscure parts of mystery fiction.
  2. No need to consider the Laws of Physics: I never took physics, so I can plead ignorance.
  3. No need to consider colors that might not exist in nature: in my experience as an artist, nature’s color limitations are highly over-rated.
  4. No need to be limited by cost or size: a real five-pound amethyst crystal would be outside my art supply budget, it would pain my arthritic hands, and diamonds and rubies are out of the question.
  5. No fear of making a costly mistake: the ever-real possibility of dropping and breaking a valuable stone was always a deal breaker.

My first painted gemstone

Pencil on paper, covered with clear gesso. Tiny paintbrushes and Golden High Flow Acrylic. Paints and gesso from Wet Paint (Saint Paul) and Dick Blick (Roseville). Finished with a Micron Pen. #artfun

Painted gemstones. After pencil, paint, and clear gesso, I painted.
Painted gemstones. After pencil, paint, and clear gesso, I painted.                 Painted gemstones. Tiny brushes and more paint.Painted gemstones. Tiny brushes and more paint.
 Painted Gemstone More paint! More tiny spaces! More color! #artfun
Painted Gemstone More paint! More tiny spaces! More color! #artfun

 

Painted gemstones. More paint and colors. More facets. #artfun.
Painted gemstones. More paint and colors. More facets. #artfun.

 

Painted Gemstones.More colors into the tiny spaces. Clarified the facets with Micron Pen. #artfun #believeit
Painted Gemstones.More colors into the tiny spaces. Clarified the facets with Micron Pen. #artfun #believeit

New Hippo Camouflage Hiding Behind Art

New Hippo Camouflage: Hiding behind Creatures with Antlers

Spokescat Max
Spokescat Max: The hippos are coming.

For about six weeks, I was obsessed with anti-climate change convocations headed by Creatures with Antlers who were gathering inside the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul. I painted more than two dozen canvases and paint-on-paper pieces that were birds’ eye views of these meetings. It was time to stop.

With more of these images than I could possibly display (let alone sell), Max-the-Cat, my Model, Muse and Snacks Manager, said “The hippos are coming and they need a place to hide.” Never argue with your Spokescat.

Creatures with antlers birds' eye view repurpose: hippo camouflage
Creatures with antlers birds’ eye view repurpose: hippo camouflage

 

Create Hippo Camouflage: Cut Strips, Squares and Rectangles

With more than enough painted papers, it was almost easy to start. But not quite. I love all of these sheets of whimsical shapes and the intense colors from Golden High Flow Acrylic paint. Finally realizing that I could paint more sheets if I wanted, it still took a while to get up the nerve to begin to cut.

Toolkit: TerraSkin, a tree-free paper that doesn’t stretch that I buy from the always-helpful staff at Saint Paul’s Wet Paint, a paper cutter, good scissors (Fiskars), and a Uhu archival glue stick. Gotta have it: good light and a comfortable chair.

 

Hippo Camouflage 1
Hippo Camouflage 1
Hippo Camouflage 2
Hippo Camouflage 2

 

 

 

Hippo Camouflage 3: Got Legs
Hippo Camouflage 3: Got Legs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hippo Camouflage: what could it be?

Think of a Hawaiian shirt on colored steroids, melted crayons (before your Mom noticed that you had done this on the floor), adventures in microscope viewing, or for people of a certain age, a very pleasant acid trip,

Hippo Camouflage 4
Hippo Camouflage 4

Hippo Camouflage: it’s working!

Hippo Camouflage 5
Hippo Camouflage 5
Hippo Camouflage 6: All covered up
Hippo Camouflage 6: All covered up

What next for hippo camouflage?

This hippo, who has not yet shared his name with me, is taking the rest of the week off while being coated with Golden Glass Bead Gel and Golden Self-Leveling Clear Gel. He sent a message to two of his friends, noting that hippo camouflage is pretty cool. They will get to Saint Paul next week. They hope to arrive in time for Art in the Hollow, an amazing day of art and music and fun and food in the magical Swede Hollow. June 2. Be there. Rain or shine.

Grand Metaphor: Explains Everything

the grand metaphor: every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it.

Having made abstracts before I could define “abstract” (no art school), I think that I can be forgiven for creating backstories before I could conceive of the Grand Metaphor.

The Grand Metaphor connects the backstories

Friendship: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you’re lucky gave me an excuse to make tiny, interconnected bands using both very sharp pencils and tiny brushes. Each of these bands looks better because of how it twines with its neighbors.

Puzzle Pieces covers a space with interconnected shapes that invite bright colors. Although they don’t touch one another, they are closely related.

Friendship #5. Friendship: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you're lucky. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Friendship #5. Friendship: Complicated. Sometimes Messy. Beautiful if you’re lucky.
Puzzle Pieces Parrot: Wild Parrots of the Grim Winter of 2013,. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Puzzle Pieces Parrot: Wild Parrots of the Grim Winter of 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Original nanoscapes were a jump-off point for a new watercolor painter. I saw my artist pals who could get the spirit of trees, flowers, and mountains with a few whooshes of watercolor and realized that I could never achieve anything resembling their work. I also realized that plein air (outdoor) painters had to share space with insects and humidity — two things that I have dedicated my life to avoiding. Turning indoors and turning inside, I found shapes and spaces and their connections at the tip of my pencils and brushes, and never looked back.

The Genus Papyrus, a group of mosaic creatures who answer the question “What do watercolor artists do with leftover paintings?” They cut them up and make mosaics. The Small Friends’ Research Institute supports research in the Genus Papyrus, and continues to look for good habitat for these creatures: 3 parrots, a hippo, a horse, a cat, and a pig. They are wonderful examples of The Grand Metaphor because each piece fits neatly next to its neighbors.

 

Molecular Biology 115: an original nanoscapes
Molecular Biology 115: An original nanoscape
Herbert Hippopotamidae Papyrus (hippo) from the Genus Papyrus. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Herbert Hippopotamidae Papyrus (hippo) from the Genus Papyrus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sail or The Unmade Bed celebrated the brightest colors that I could create with watercolor and challenges perspective. Note: achieve Bright Water colors with lots of pigment and not a lot of water. Thank you, Russ Dittmar, Watercolorist Extraordinaire.

 

 

The Sail or The Unmade Bed: celebrates color and challenges perspective. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
The Sail or The Unmade Bed: celebrates color and challenges perspective

 

Find the Owl is simply #artfun. Tiny connected shapes and spaces intertwine to create a whimsical boulder hiding an owl.

Orange Flying Crystal is part of a series of six crystal paintings. Inspired by quantity time spent looking at the ceiling at Dulles Airport, these paintings began as doodles and grew into flying crystals that look as if they are ready to leap off the page.

Find the Owl Abstract Artfun. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Find the Owl Abstract Artfun
Orange Flying Crystal. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Orange Flying Crystal: One of six

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painted Stained Glass answers a question that may have troubled you for years: what happens when triangles go wild? The menagerie (family) of stained glass creatures who have stopped by my studio to sit for portraits and tell stories includes: a camel, cats, elephants, flamingos, frogs, hippos, horses, kangaroos, LLLamas (their spelling), parrots, pigs, roosters, a seal, and a warthog.

 

Painted Stained Glass Horse. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Painted Stained Glass Horse. All of the painted stained glass designs answer the troubling question: What happens when triangles go wild?

 

Conversations Connections began as a doodle on a postcard. Several professional pals spent time on conference calls trying to figure out the best way to network our friend into a different job. She didn’t get the job, but I was inspired. One of many pieces that began with a General Pencil 6H drawing. What a pleasure it was to fill in the tiny rectangles and squares with watercolor. A tiny Micron pen (several) made the tiny lines around each piece.

Conversations Connections. Doodling while on a conference call to connect a friend to a different job. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Conversations Connections. Doodling while on a conference call to connect a friend to a different job.

 

Paper Mosaic came to me at a perfect time. When I turned 65 I abandoned all activity requiring safety equipment or liability waivers, thus, no tile cutting, no glass cutting, and no bungee jumping. Paper mosaic — creating tile from paper and acrylic paint and mediums — can be done by anyone at home. I taught the 2017 6th Grade Graduates of Alice Smith Elementary School to make paper mosaic. They made this one as a gift to the school and it hangs in the building.

Mosaic Mural by Alice Smith 6th Grade 2017 part of the Grand Metaphor
Mosaic Mural by Alice Smith 6th Grade 2017

 

Yellow Paper Mosaic part of the Grand Metaphor.
Yellow Paper Mosaic uses tiny bits of acrylic paper and medium covered paper.
Minnesota map paper mosaic. After turning 65, I abandoned activities requiring either safety equipment or liability waivers. Make paper tiles with scissors! Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Minnesota map paper mosaic. After turning 65, I abandoned activities requiring either safety equipment or liability waivers. Make paper tiles with scissors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creatures with Antlers may have the longest backstory. The Pandas and Frogs from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul decided to expand the metaphorical footprint of The Forest to accommodate creatures from around the world who were being displaced by climate change. The “creatures with antlers” series was originally conceived as birds’ eye views of conclaves of creatures with antlers (including the Jackson’s Chameleon) who were strategizing about climate change. This story became much too complicated to tell all the time. I’ll get it into a book someday.

 

Climate Crusaders Creatures With Multi-colored Antlers 2. Originally conceived as a bird's eye view of a conclave of creatures with antlers meeting in the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul to strategize about climate change. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Climate Crusaders Creatures With Multi-colored Antlers 2. Originally conceived as a bird’s eye view of a conclave of creatures with antlers meeting in the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul to strategize about climate change.

 

Big Neighborhoods are three 22×33 paintings that are joyously self-indulgent, and, perhaps the clearest example of The Grand Metaphor. Watercolor and more watercolor.

Big Neighborhoods 2: every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it. Now covered under The Grand Metaphor.
Big Neighborhoods 2: every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it

 

Shameless Commercial Conversation

In a perfect world, everything would be available with one click. I apologize. Contact me directly to talk about images that you like or ideas that you’d like to explore. For example, paper mosaics can cover a wall and The Sail can be 5-feet long. I look forward to hearing from you.

Northstar Watermedia Artists’ Market Begins Today

Northstar Watermedia Artists’ Market at the MN State Fairgrounds

Celebrate the magic of watercolor with Northstar Watermedia Society’s members. Artists’ Market runs from May 19-21 at the Fine Arts Building at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Every artist begins with a tube or a block of paint. Every artist’s work is different. Come to be astonished. Enjoy free parking.

Explore Golden High Flow Acrylics‘ Fern Feet, aka Bloom

Learn how to add this feature to your work. On Sunday May 21 at noon, I will be present a demonstration focused on this feature of Golden High Flow Acrylics, and showing off the powerful colors of this line. I will also (again) thank Bonnie Cutts, our Golden Brand Artist in Residence, who reassured me that the fern feet were an actual feature of this paint that I’d picked up from a discount table at Dick Blick. I thought I’d gotten a bad bottle.

Golden High Flow Acrylic Fern Feet at Northstar
Golden High Flow Acrylic Fern Feet at Northstar

 

Paper Mosaic: Not Ceramic

The other part of my Sunday demonstration will be a step-by-step guide to creating mosaics from paper that look like ceramic tile. In my demo kit: gesso, watercolor and acrylic paints and mediums, TerraSkin, Golden Self-Leveling Clear Gel, offset spatula, scissors, and a heavy dose of imagination.

Orange 4-inch square magnet mosaic
Orange 4-inch square magnet mosaic

Multi-colored Antlers Community

Golden High Flow Acrylic Fern Feet: NOT multi-colored antlers
Golden High Flow Acrylic Fern Feet: NOT multi-colored antlers

Multi-colored antlers: a community

Multi-colored antlers did not appear in a fevered dream. Rather, in late April, I began a deep dive into Golden High Flow Acrylic which became Multi-colored Antlers.

High Flow is is magical paint that makes my favorite effect — fern feet (above) — and it has a double-plus-fabulous bonus of providing beautiful, clear colors that work as paint-from-a-brush, in markers, as a glaze, and anything you might imagine.

 

Community of Multi-colored Antlers: Antlers 1
Community of Multi-colored Antlers: Antlers 1

First Squiggles, then a community of Antlers

I start with a pencil (Kimberly General Pencil 6-H) drawing, cover it with Liquitex Clear Gesso, and wait 24 hours to paint. The clear gesso protects the drawing from smearing or blurring.

These shapes, first called “Squiggles,” are true nanoscapes, abstract designs that have been flowing from my brain since I first picked up a pencil. They cried out to be something more concrete and dignified. Now, to me, they are an overhead shot of a community of creatures with antlers (deer, moose, reindeer, caribou, Springbok, elk, Big Horn Sheep, Markhor, Saiga, Nubian Ibex, Bharal, Addax, Mouflon, Blackbuck, Oryx, Giant Eland, and Jackson’s Chameleon). As always, every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it.

Antlers’ Pencil Drawing

Antlers Pencil Drawing
Antlers Pencil Drawing

 Multi-colored Antlers 2

Multi-colored Antlers 2
Multi-colored Antlers 2

 

Vast Big Box Project: Art Meets Privacy

Vast Big Box Project

Inspired by a disturbing NPR piece about a very modern product called DRTBox that can scoop up data from up to 10,000 cell phones at once, I began the Vast Big Box Project. In the Inspiration Doodle, I imagined tiny boxes and circles representing individual cell phones, and even tinier interior dots showing the data available to DRTBox.

Vast Big Box Project Inspiration Doodle
Vast Big Box Project Inspiration Doodle

What is DRTBox?

The Hacker News reports that it is cell phone surveillance technology that can track, intercept thousands of cellphone calls, and eavesdrop on conversations, emails, and text. The Intercept.com/surveillance-catalog lists one version at $100,000. This is not a tool for a home-grown, backyard-basement hacker. This is a tool for law enforcement.

Disturbing?

Law enforcement can buy it. Evildoers can probably steal the technology or build something that can mimic its functions.

Questions for discussion

Scooping data from thousands of cell phone users is disturbing. Why? or Why not?

Just because you can, should you?

If the data that I put onto my cell phone boring and innocuous, what do I have to fear?

What if my boring cell phone is hacked by a Genuine Evildoer, not a basement hacker?

Do I want law enforcement to step in?

What is the Vast Big Box Project?

Beginning with blank canvas, a General Pencil 6-H, and a Mobius+Rupper Brass Wedge Sharpener, each part of the piece will be covered with tiny squares and spaces and even tinier shapes to indicate scoopable data. I will cover the pencil drawing with Liquitex Clear Gesso, which will seal the pencil and prevent smudges, and give me a paintable surface. I expect that this will project will fill a wall, presenting an overwhelming image of the length and breadth of this disturbing scoop-ability.

Big Box Project Tiny Prototype
Big Box Project Tiny Prototype

Thanks!

Thank you, Tracie Thompson, for introducing me to the idea of clear gesso.

Coloring pages have a heart

A Valentine heart coloring page

Drawing the first of the nanoscapes Valentine coloring pages was an unalloyed pleasure, as was painting the original ($100, limited availability at ETSY), and creating a digital print ($25, at ETSY). This 2017 Nanoscapes Valentine Heart is a dollar digital download at ETSY. You have choices: the original watercolor painting (get it before it disappears!), an archival digital print (Epson paper and ink), or a project (the coloring page.)

nanoscapes valentine 2017
Nanoscapes Valentine 2017 Dollar Digital Download at https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/SusanGainen/tools/listings/506928367

My pals have urged me to make coloring books for a decade

Adult coloring books stopped being a trend and coloring pages are now a tidal wave. I was a little slow getting to the coloring pages project, but I’m now at it all the time. I go everywhere with a pad of Bristol paper, 6H pencils, erasers, and a tiny brass pencil sharpener.

A collection of coloring pages

Common advice to writers is “go with what you know,” and I followed it. Making coloring pages based on nanoscapes’ designs lets me revisit the tiny shapes and spaces that I’ve explored since childhood with doodles, and with paint since I took James Boyd Brent’s Splitrock Short Watercolor Class in 2006.

Making a book to my satisfaction is much more complicated than I imagined, so I have made these pages into dollar (plus tax) digital downloads at my ETSY shop in the Adult Coloring Page section. Print them onto card stock. Get our your sharp pencils, tiny paint brushes, or pens and markers. Have fun!

Click to see the pages, then dollar download at ETSY

Click on each image to learn more about Orbs (an original nanoscape), Stacked Boxes, Boxes and Dots, Painted Knitted Metal 31, Demented Dominos, Stalagmites and Curves, Find the Owl!, Terrazzo Molecules, Friendship Bands, and Conversations Connections. There are now 24 coloring pages in The ADULT COLORING PAGES of my ETSY shop. I often add new pages.