From Micron Pen

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.

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.

Dots Progress Process #artfun

 

Zavier Camo Zebra In his Dot Suit Undercover at the Big Rock Candy Mountain
Zavier Camo Zebra In His Dots Suit Undercover at the Big Rock Candy Mountain

I love dots.Tiny circles that swirl around one another and nestle together to make interesting little worlds. I’m always inspired by tiny spaces, and I’ve covered pages and pages of paper with doodle dots. I’ve been painting dots with enthusiasm since 2009. Many of my whimsical creature friends are from the Dot Family including Zavier Camo Zebra, seen at left in his Dot Suit for an Undercover Assignment chasing confectionery bandits at the Big Rock Candy Mountain. But enough distraction —

This is how a dot painting happens…

Dots in the beginning

I always begin with a pencil drawing. Each of my dots is made with a General Pencil 6H, painstakingly going round and round. Selecting the first color is a big decision. I usually begin with red, but I knew that I wanted mostly blue and green in this piece, so I picked a blue and began.

The dark circles that you see are a 2B pencil. I wanted to see whether making dark outlines of dots would make a difference in the end. Spoiler alert: no difference in the end.

Dots get color

I used both watercolor and acrylic in this painting. I love them both, for different reasons, and I wanted to see if it made the any difference in the end. Spoiler alert: no difference in the end.

 

 

Dots get outlines

No dot leaves the studio without an outline. In a painstaking repeat of the pencil creation, I outline each dot with Micron pen. I used to do outline with a paintbrush, and for some reason that I don’t remember, I switched to pen. (Note to artists who probably know this already: I just learned that Micron pens are meant to be used like technical pens, and are best used held at a 90-degree angle from the paper AND used lightly. No heavy hand needed.)

 

Dots Get Outlines
Dots Get Outlines

 

All the dots and outlines
All the dots and outlines

 

Enhanced dots #artfun

Once I began to explore Photoshop (and filters on my phone and in Instagram) I never looked back. If I had a personal hashtag, it would be #artfun, which is something that I have every day.

Tiny Dots Enhanced
Tiny Dots Enhanced

Big Neighborhoods 2 in the New Year

Big Neighborhoods 2
Big Neighborhoods 2: each piece is waiting for its Micron Pen outline

Big Neighborhoods 2: nearly finished

Big Neighborhoods 2 passed an important milestone for the New Year. Each piece has color. All the watercolor is from tubes, from watercolor cakes, and from colors mixed on my palette. Careful and organized watercolorists might scream in pain if they knew just how random and unreproducible  many of these colors are.

Painstaking Exuberance 2.0

Big Neighborhoods 2 (22×33) extends a version of Painstaking Exuberance, my description of my most comfortable artistic process. I make a pencil drawing. In the past, perhaps because I was less sure of what I was doing, I would cover the pencil with Davy’s Gray, a very light watercolor, that would set the pencil and give me a launching pad for adding color. I’ve learned to skip that step and go right to color. Beginning with the brightest red, I add colors randomly, and finish each tile with an outline.

Using an easel

Yes. I have an easel. It is a storage and viewing tool that I rarely paint use for painting. Why? Three reasons: (1) watercolor drips; (2) arthritis in my shoulder makes standing painting uncomfortable and unproductive; and, (3) Max-the-Cat, who perches in Purrniture with the best view of my painting table, takes a dim view of the easel. The last time I tried to use it, he tried to climb up my leg and leap to the easel’s shelf. I surrendered.

Fave Brush: Raphael Kaerell #2 Flat

Unlike smaller pieces which I make with 00 brushes, each tiny tile here was made with a Raphael Kaerell #2 Flat brush.  This line of brushes is synthetic sable. It is tough and strong, and grabs a lot of paint.

After I take a deep breath, each little will get a Micron Pen outline. Perhaps black? Perhaps green or purple. Not a bad decision to make on the New Year.

Coming soon: coloring page

A blank 22×33 version of this painting will be available soon (next week).

Three abstracts: winners!

 

Three abstracts are winners. I am honored that three of my abstracts were selected for Still Point Art Gallery’s Rectangles, Triangles, Circles: The Shape of Life. This online exhibition is up from August 1-October 31, 2015.  It is also featured in the Still Point Arts Quarterly  (Fall 2015).

Inspiration

These paintings are all based on a doodle that I began making during lengthy conference calls with wonderful people who had gathered to help a dear friend and dedicated public servant network her way into a different job. We were ultimately unsuccessful (but in great support of the person who was selected). Our friend continues her public service (lucky people in her district), and I got an inspirational and winning design.  Every tiny block is connected to one or more blocks. Just like people in the world — connected. These watercolor paintings are all made with tiny brushes (double and triple zero), and Micron Pens. I am becoming very fond of the pen size .005 which has a .20 mm tip.

Conversations Connections 2015-2
Conversations Connections 2015-2 (12×12)
Conversations Connections 2015-1
Conversations Connections 2015-1 (18×22)

 

 Connections Between & Among Us: All In This Together (22x33)
Connections Between & Among Us: All In This Together (22×33) The image below is from the image above.
Tiny spaces ready for closeups
Tiny spaces ready for closeups

A painting for you

Any of these designs can be made for your space (tiny to huge) and in the colors of your choice. Contact me directly: susangainen@comcast.net.