Friday, November 16, 2012

Here is the finished product.  After drawing the anatomical parts with charcoal I did multiple thin encaustic layers (about 8) and then scraped down the texture.  There are a lot of "happy accidents" that occurred. Initially I wanted a smooth glassy surface to carve into.  But the bumps and little crevasses created an interesting "flesh" like texture.  I then carved the shapes into the encaustic and filled it with an oil slick enhancing the carving.  So what should be inside is now shown outside in reference to the object portrayed.  I really like how they turned out and they each have a clean black closed cornered clayed frame.  Let me know what you think. This is three of the four I will put up the last one when it is done.  They are for sale, so come and get your medical art encaustic!!! :)

 "The Drain" 30x30 in. (Medical Art Encaustic Brain) Flack Studio

 "The Electrician" 30x30 in. (Medical Art Encaustic Heart) Flack Studio

"The Plumber" 30x30 in. (Medical Art Encaustic Heart) Flack Studio

I titled them this way because I have a couple of friends that are Dr. and with the heart that is the reference they have used with each other.  Most of the sections I am enhancing show the support systems to the functionality of the organ.  The heart pump is only as good as its contractile function. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Encaustic Medical Art Paintings

Wow it has been a while since I have posted.  A lot has happened, my wife got a job and I went to Weber's Paramedic program, obtained my certificate etc.  I had to take Anatomy and Physiology before getting into the program so I did what I was told not to do.  I took Anatomy, Physiology, and Medical Terminology in the same semester.  I was able to pull off 2 A's and a B+ in Physiology... I was pissed, I was the 4th highest grade in the class and she stated she would grade on a curve but my grade did not change.  Either way it wasn't going to kill me to not get all A's.  I have been working as a Paramedic for Gold Cross in SLC and it has been exciting, and boring... but that comes with the job.

Anatomy was amazing and fun.  I was able to work on cadavers and man.... the colors, texture of a dead body is amazing. I placed in the back of my mind that I wanted to do medical art, and well.... that is where it stayed until a couple of months ago.  I started working with a new (to me) form of painting.  Encaustic! Encaustic is a mix of Bees Wax and Damar Resin, my ratio is 9:1 respectively   It has been a fun medium and very diverse, but I am going to do the encaustic paintings with my medical art and non-representational although I might do some representational pieces.

I did my first Encaustic painting that was of the vessels of the heart made up of ekg rhythms. It is 36x36 inches. I used Avr, and Avl in a normal sinus rhythm.  From a distance it looks like barb wire but when you get up close you can see all the P QRS and T waves.  I will post an image soon.
The current pieces I am working on are two hearts, vertebra, and the brain from 4 different views. I traditionally gessoed the 24x24 in. panels so the encaustic would stick (if you use gesso from Utrecht or that is pre-made it is acrylic gesso and the encaustic will not stick that well).  I then sanded down the panels so the surface was smooth.  I then drew the images on with charcoal and that is where I am at right now in the process.

This piece is Nodal Heart (title might change) but obviously a cross section of the heart.  When I do the encaustic over it I will carve where the SA and AV nodes are located then the Purkinje fibers etc... then place an oil slick in the carved out sections.  I am thinking to stay with black because I want these piece so be clean and contemporary.  Although a hint of red might look nice.

This piece is going to be of the heart vessels.  Basically where you see the fatty tissue that is where they will be located (they have to be protected :)). The same process as Nodal.

This piece shows the different views of the Brain even a sagittal view :).  The brain was fun to draw and very complex and I am still trying to figure out what I am going to do with the encaustic on this piece I was thinking of possibly showing the ventricles... .but we will see.

This last piece was the most time consuming due to drawing 72 vertebrae and the sacrum etc... Same as with the brains trying to figure out what to do.  I was thinking of showing the nerve endings but because there are 3 shown here that might be a bit much.  But it will come to me.

Overall I am pleased with the process and the encaustic will be really fun.  It will be very thin and semi transparent so the drawing will show through.  Why am I doing these paintings? I love anatomy and I have some friends that are doctors and they have expressed they would like original art associated to their field of work. It's a win win, I get to learn anatomy better, they get to have an amazing piece of original art.  I will update with the finished images when I am done.  Paint on!!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

substitute for turpentine, rule for oil painting, oils

Intro: I was talking with an artist this last week. I noticed her paintings looked pretty wet, so I asked her if she used any medium, or if she had varnished the piece. She said she couldn't use medium because she reacts to turpentine (aka mineral spirits, well kind of) so she cant use any while she is painting in oil. I asked her if she had tried painting with Acrylic, or water based oils (both of which I can't stand, but I don't react to turps). She said she doesn't like them. I asked her what she used to thin her paint and she responded "I use baby oil" I was taken back so I asked her where she learned to use mineral oil, she had heard it from another artist. So I am posting some information on oil and its painting properties, what should be used and what should be negated.
Oil Paints: Without going to deep in the subject and if you would like to learn more please read from Max Doerner's "The Materials of the Artist" pg. 96-142 he goes into great detail about Oil Mediums. Oil is a binding medium we place in pigment. If too much oil is mixed with the pigment it will create wrinkles in the paint. If too little oil is in the pigment then it is hard to paint with (even though some artists like Lucian Freud places his paint on a paper towel to dry it, then paints with it, or at least that is what someone told me). Some Oil's don't dry at all, some dry quickly, some yellow, some go black. Oil's dry simply by evaporation much like water except at a much slower rate. If you want your oil paint to dry faster place a fan by it, warm it up, and stick it in the sun (as a side note I would never stick my painting in the sun, this is how paint companies find out how permanent their paint is, the sun will yellow your painting quickly so unless that is what you are going for I wouldn't do it). If you want it to dry slower then place it in a room that is dark, cool, and has no air flow.
Here is the breakdown.
Cold Pressed Linseed Oil: This is the most common vehicle for oil painting pigment. It doesn't yellow that much when painted in thin layers, but when painted in thick layers like with a palette knife it does show signs of yellowing over time.
Linseed Oil can also be in a Sun-Thickened consistency, it is Linseed oil dried in the sun until is has the consistency of honey. It dries more quickly than standard linseed oil and gives it more body. Sun-Thickened oil is better than boiled oils and remains very elastic and rarely cracks.
Stand Oil (boiled oil with carbonic acid) is also usually made from linseed oil. It dries more slowly than raw linseed because they have absorbed no oxygen and it weatherproofs a painting when added to the paint.
Walnut Oil: A little more fluid than linseed and does not yellow as much, so it is better to use with light pigments, it usually dries a little slower than linseed, the downside is that it divides more easily from the pigment compared to linseed oil, so you get the watery look. Robert Doak, Blue Ridge Oil Paint and some other paint makers mix walnut oil with linseed to get the best of both worlds.
Poppy Oil: Dries slower than walnut oil and doesn't yellow as much as linseed. It gives a nice buttery consistency so it is good to use with Alla Prima painting. It is not recommended to be used in layers because it is known to crack. It takes too long to dry for a great under painting. It has also been known to turn soft after it is dry and go dark in value, and even remain sticky. So only use it with Alla Prima Painting.
ALL OTHER OILS SHOULD NOT BE USED! if you don't believe me read the book and do some experiments. Never use mineral oil with your paints, it never really dries and linseed does dry so you will get cracks and a dust magnet to the never drying oil (have fun cleaning it too). Castor Oil is the same, never use it as a substitute for painting or even cleaning your brushes. Use Turps to clean your brushes when painting, then dry off the brush using a paper towel so you don't thin out your paints too much.
Rule of oil painting: Paint lean to fat. Now what does that mean. You use mineral spirits to thin your paint (less oil, more evaporation) when starting a painting. The more paint you add to the wet surface the more oil (or medium) you can add to the paint. eg:
step 1: Oil and Turps (thin or fast drying paint)
step 2: Oil (straight oil and pigment or a little bit of dryer)
step 3: Oil and medium (slower drying medium)
step 4: medium and Oil (aka glazing, but this should be done when painting is dry)
If you are working multiple layers wait until the paint is dry, not just to the touch, but dry all the way through. A simple way to test is lightly press your fingernail in the thickest area of the painting if it makes a dent it is still wet.
Another way to look at lean to fat is fast to slow drying. If you use a color and mix a fast drying medium then your paint will dry faster and can be placed in the lower layers so long as you place a slower drying medium in the layers on top, like stand oil. If you use fast drying on top of slow drying then you will crack your painting, so paint thin to thick, fast to slow, or lean to fat.
Summary: So now that you understand why certain oils are used and others are not we can get to the topic at hand. What can you use as a substitute for turpentine to quickly clean your brushes between strokes. You can use linseed oil, walnut oil, or Poppy Oil (I personally would not use it). I would not use anything else (Castor oil, mineral oil (or baby oil), turenoid natural, or any other substitute), if you do you will be placing your painting at risk to crack or never cure. Just make sure if you are using linseed oil or walnut oil that you dry your brush before dipping it in your paint. Cleaning your brushes at the end of the day will be another topic of discussion. Please comment if you have found any thing different from what I have written by reading and personal experimentation.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Linen stretched or Linen on board

First off I need to give a preface to this topic. I have read a book posted in my last blog "The Materials of the Artist" that talks about this topic. I have also talked with Robert Doak
who is a very knowledgeable man when it comes to oil painting. I have also talked with other artists about this subject and they understand (on a large part) very little about their tools they use on a daily basis. Which is kind of frustrating. I am very impressed with Adrian Gottlieb, and Kamille Corry because of their knowledge in the field of painting and their tools. So here is a breakdown with the pros and cons of each surface to paint on both being linen because it lasts longer and doesn't flex as much as cotton.
Stretched Linen:
Pro1: This is the main purpose of linen you pull it tight around stretchers, rabbit skin glue a couple of layers let it dry and it gets really tight like a drum. Then you paint oil primer on it (because acrylic is absorbent, kind of like traditional Gesso) and let it dry for a couple of weeks. Or if you are using preprimed linen like Claessen's then you just stretch it.

Con1: Once stretched their is no backing to protect the canvas, this can be fixed by placing some foamcore or Masonite (very heavy when dealing with larger art) on the back
Con2: Cost is relatively low because stretchers are not that expensive
Con3: The stretcher bars warp, even really expensive stretchers, the most successful stretchers I have used are backed with Aluminum but they cost a pretty penny.
Con4: You need to go beyond the painting surface to have enough fabric to stretch which in my eyes is wasteful.

Linen on Board:
Pro1: Uses less linen than stretching.
Pro2: Because the linen is attached to a board it has a backing and is less easily punctured.
Pro3: It is harder for moisture to get on the back of the Linen and damage it (we are talking over 100 yrs of moisture)

Con1: The proper way to mount linen is time consuming and you only have some much time to do it because of drying time with the Rabbit Skin Glue.
Con2: If you use wood like stretcher they do warp, a light weight alternative is plastic (which you need to make sure is PH balanced) , Dibond which is aluminum on front and back with a plastic substance in the middle (about $100 for a 4x8 ft sheet, it is used for outside billboards, it can be purchased at Regonal Supply located in SLC but Aluminum adsorbs temps easily so keep it out of the heat), Gator Foam is the most used now days. It is PH Balanced, very light weight, and doesn't warp easily.
Con3: If you have someone build it for you it will cost a good amount. A good company I recommend is New Traditional Art Panel located in Northern Utah. They make high quality panels with a removable backing.
Side note for panels:
There are three major ways to attach the linen to panels.

Traditionally: (found on pg 39 of "The Materials of the Artist") The linen must be sized a little larger than the surface to be mounted on about 1/2 inch in every direction. The linen is dipped in RS (Rabbit Skin) Glue (Robert Doak recommends after you have soaked the RS Granule for a half a day and then heated it, and never let it boil, you should place half the amount of Titanium White pigment in the RS as you did Granule, eg: 3 TBLS of RSG, add 1.5 TBLS of TW. It helps it dry faster and you can see that you have covered the entire surface). Lay the linen on the board and smooth it out from the middle to the edges, after 24 hrs of drying you can Prime it with Oil Primer.
This method is more permanent than some contemporary methods.
Contemporary method 1 Permanent: (from "Landscape Painting Inside & Out" by Kevin MacPherson) He and others use PVA Glue which is PH Balanced but once you have glued your linen down it is glued down. (Also PVA Glue gets brittle after a while and it does not flex with linen, which provides a struggle when one is applying force and another is not, but then again that might just be with canvas stretching and not mounting to a board) All you have to do is Place the glue on the back of the linen and the front of the board for a great bond. Then you smooth out bubble from the center moving out and let it dry. Problem is if the board gets damaged or warped it is really hard to take off, I would not recommend this approach and never use a glue that is not PH Balanced it will eat your expensive linen or discolor your painting.
Contemporary method 2 Non-Permanent: This one took me a while to find information on. New Tradition Panel's uses this method. They use a PH Glue called BEVA that when heated up (about 150 degrees ) the glue releases and you can attach the linen to a different board. This is a great option in case any damage is done to the painting or the board. You can buy BEVA as a toxic liquid (use a respirator) or a dry mount. Another less expensive PH Glue is called Versamount and you can buy some from This is a dry adhesive and you activate it by heating it up, I have used an iron to heat it up between the linen and board, be careful not to scorch the linen, that would be bad. Most businesses that use the dry mount use a Vacuum Heat Press which costs a couple thousand dollars, this is the best method to attach a non permanent linen to a board.
Summary: I prefer mounting to board, I already have a protective backing, I can remove the linen if it or the board get damaged or warped, and it is light. To me it takes less time than stretching. For bigger paintings I will stretch with a hybrid stretcher bar of wood an aluminum. Robert Doak, and Adrian Gottlieb (on his website) do not recommend using preprimed linen or priming your own linen then mounting it onto a board. They prefer the traditional method, but I have not received a straight answer on why I could not stretch and prime my own linen then adhere it to the board. My thoughts are once it is stretched and primed, I can adhere it to a board, the canvas wont flex or crack because it is glued to a board. But they recommend stretching unless you like the hard surface. I do agree with them on preprimed linen, it is not the highest quality, it is just easy to buy it all done so we can paint.
But this is the foundation we are talking about, if the foundation is not good then you are not going to get a long lasting painting. I trust my what I build to be of the highest quality, I will not take short cuts. How can you tell if you have a good foundation? Try lightly bending a corner of the canvas placing the canvas back to back, if it is built correctly it will flex, if it is crap the linen primer will crack or flake off. Also linen needs to have a strong tight weave, not a lot of holes. If it does have holes (empty spaces between linen weaves) then get a different linen. RSG is used to protect the canvas from the oil and fill tiny tiny holes between the weave, not fill large gaps, it will eventually crumble because it has only its self to adhere to.
Now that this topic is off my chest I feel better, I hope that it helps some of you artists out there. If you want to learn more read the books I recommended last week, it is amazing what I have learned out of school.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

June Woman Figure Show and Books

So, Rive Gauche Gallery in Scottsdale is having a three man show from June 4th to the 17th. They mostly have cafe scene paintings of mine that they are putting in the show. I have more pieces that I am going to bring down that will hopefully go up for the show the day of the opening. I like working on art in a series, I have a hard time painting the same thing over and over, I need to leave an idea for a while before coming back to it because the subject matter bores me. I figure I will rotate ideas eg. chiaroscuro paintings, people in the park, cafe scenes, still life, and landscape paintings. I like painting everything because they are so useful for the next painting. If for example I don't know how to paint a landscape how am I expected to paint a figure in a landscape context? I feel like my still life paintings are the strongest right now because I paint them right in front of me. Currently I am using photographs for my figures and some landscapes. I know my work would be much better if I did it live but that also requires a large amount of funds, it is my preference but not a necessity.

I am reading a fantastic book, "I'd rather be in the studio" written by Alyson B. Stanfield. I am learning a lot about promotion and thinking outside the box. My understand was artists had to work with galleries to get anywhere. They can help but they are not necessary. Doing this blog is another thing she recommends. In short if you are an artist and you want to understand how to move your business forward I would recommend reading the book.

Another great book to read is "The Materials of the Artist and their use in Painting" written by Max Doerner. If you are interested in learning about how to make your own primed canvas and what your options are, pigments and their uses, anything about Oil painting, Egg Tempera, Mural, Pastel Painting, and their uses. I would recommend this book, I loved it so much I started my own experiments with pigment and mediums, drying time, clarity, and light fastness. I would love to teach a class based on this book because of all the necessary information that is contained. It was originally written in 1920 so he does not have any info on acrylic paints.

Friday, May 8, 2009

chasing two rabbits

Great news. I was listening to this motivational speaker (Larry Winget ) and he said something in his "Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life" book. If you chase two rabbits (teaching, and being a full time artist), both will get away. It sounded right to me so I made a decision, because really that has been my problem, which rabbit do I want most? I decided to paint, their is enough to do full time with painting and marketing myself let alone teach full time. I will teach a class here and there because I enjoy teaching but I am no longer going to pursue full time teaching employment at this time in my life.
I have also decided that I have what it takes to be successful at being an artist I have just made up excuses here and there. After I made this decision an interesting thing happened. My wife was at a park and started talking to a woman there with her kids, they got on the subject of art and my wife gave my website to this woman. That evening I received an email stating she was interested in looking at my art. I replied with my phone number and she called me the next morning to come over and look at my pieces. She came over at 10 in the morning that day and purchased a painting I had just finished days earlier, it was so freakin awesome. She was excited and so was I it was a win win. Later on that day another collector came by and purchased two of my pieces, wow was that a good day. So this just help validate my decision to paint more.
The mug shots have been on hold for a bit because I have a show I am preparing for in June. Once I am done I will continue on with the mug shots. I had a new idea for them I am going to do one of three options. Because I love painting in every style available to oil I might 1. paint each mug shot in a different style. or 2. paint the same mug shot in about 10 styled or 3. just paint each one the way I wanted to in the first place. I know I would be saying something different with each approach so I need to figure out what I want to say before continuing.

Remember (I am saying this to myself) chase one rabbit at a time, who knows eventually you might be able to catch both........ if that is my desire!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

recession proof artist

Wow, I thought I would be better at doing this. Thing is I get so caught up into working on my art I forget about everything else. It is only when I am bored or really passionate about a subject that I need to chat on here. This recession is not doing so well for us as a family. I have done a few commissions here and there but gallery sales have dropped like a rock. I asked my friend Jeremy Lipking how his sales were doing and he said he hasn’t noticed a difference. This got me to thinking. Are there really some people out there that are not getting affected by the recession, or are people with a lot of money really addicted to art? I love Jeremy’s art he is a master of his craft. I would like to see some more multi figure paintings but that is just me. How does one get to the point Jeremy is in? Whenever I ask him he just tells me that he was lucky, but he was also represented by a gallery that sold his work and never paid him. That also kind of happened to me with the exception on; they just hung my art and sold it. They didn’t try to move sales forward by advertising for me. When they did sell sometimes I wouldn’t find out the work sold until a year later when I was going to pick it up. Eventually they paid but come on, that is not good business practices and no this was not the Rive Gauche Gallery in Scottsdale, they have been fantastic.
I read an article from a gallery about selling art in a recession. The gentleman stated that it is a great opportunity for artists to get back into their studios and paint the things they have always wanted to paint and build their portfolio so when the economy builds again they can present their work to galleries and sell. I am sick of having to work with galleries to sell, there has to be a way that we can sell our work without a middle man and still be taken seriously. Lately I have thought about quitting art all together, which I know other artists have too. There are two things that keep me going. One is Bill Whittaker said to me that I will never be successful because I don’t have what it takes. The other is my love for painting. I think there are so many other artists out that are so much better than I. But on the other side of the coin, I am better than a lot of other artists. So I have come to a conclusion. I don’t know where I will be in 5 years or what I will be doing. I do know I will paint and continue to work hard in producing better art. I want my art to be more interesting and personal. I want my art to look like paintings not photographs, so I might produce less and paint more to get to where I want and if can support me then great. So how does an artist get through a recession? Just like anyone else, push forward and continue to work, it will eventually end!
McGarren Flack