Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Studio Safety

Posted by: Dave

I would like to discuss some safety issues in the studio.  Studio Safety is no laughing matter, unless someone falls and gets hurt, then it's a little funny. Remember not to believe everything you hear or read.  Do the research. I've been at plenty of art institutions whose students don't know the facts because they took the opinion of one person as the truth and never thought to question it. 

1. "Acrylic paints are safer than oil paints."  Wrong.  I can't tell you how many arguments I have had with people about this.  Many people assume if something is water soluble, then it must be safer.  If you have a tube of acrylic cadmium red and a tube of oil cadmium red, what do they have in common?  Cadmium.  The pigments, denoted on every tube of paint, are the same, regardless of the binder.  The only real difference is in fact the binder itself.  The most common binder in oil paint is linseed/flaxseed oil.  Remember, hippies put this stuff on their salads.  The binder in acrylic paints is...acrylic. Would you eat acrylic?  In addition, acrylic paints often use formaldehyde and ammonia as stabilizers.  Solvents can be harsh however.  That is why I wash my brushes with ivory soap and water.  Think soap doesn't break up grease and oils, watch this

Oil paint is essentially better in every way.  Oil paint has a higher pigment load than acrylic paint. As linseed oil has a smaller molecule than acrylic, oil paint is able to absorb substantially more pigment.  In addition, oil paint dries through oxidation, not evaporation, so it has a significantly longer working time.  Oil paints present a better (less transparent) refractive index than acrylic dispersions, giving more variety to paint quality.  Basically if you use acrylics, you eat baby puppies and are a monster.

2. "I don't want to wear gloves when I paint, waaaah"  Wrong.  Certain heavy metals, including Pantera, can be absorbed through the skin if there is a break in the skin.  Gloves will prevent this.  Keep in mind though that there is nothing you can do to stop Pantera from entering your system and poisoning you.  I have heard the argument that gloves prevent a tactile touch when painting.  Keep in mind that brain surgeons wear gloves, and what they do is just a touch more detail-oriented than what we do. 

3.  All pigments are dangerous.  Wrong.  There are a few stand out ones that need to be handled with more care than say earth tones.  Vermillion is mercuric sulfide; like most mercury compounds it is toxic. Vermilion is now produced by reacting mercury with molten sulfur.  Symptoms of mercury poisoning include sensory impairment (vision, hearing, speech), disturbed sensation and a lack of coordination.  It is a neuro-toxin.  Lead isn't much better.  It has the same symptoms a post college graduate does after moving back home. 

4.  "It's natural, it must be ok for you."  More hippie talk I see.  Lead is natural. Mercury is natural. Venom is also natural but getting a giant Portuguese Man of War stuffed down your pants probably doesn't feel too good, (probably a giant Portuguese man wouldn't feel too good either.)  My biggest annoyance is that natural citrus cleaner that people are told to buy to clean their brushes at art schools.  It's cleaning agent is derived from citrus peels, and contains D- limonine.  It's the same "natural" chemical found in pesticides.  Limonene and its oxidation products are skin and respiratory irritants.  No information is available on the health effects of inhalation exposure to D-limonene in humans, and no long-term inhalation studies have been conducted in laboratory animals.

4.  "Using a 12 gauge shotgun as a maul-stick is a good idea."  Hmm, I'm open to this one.

Monday, May 29, 2017


Since having my big headed baby things have slowed a bit with my updates.  The recovery time has been slow and its amazing to see what a baby has done to my figure, but the whole experience has been worthwhile.  It has been an interesting lifestyle change to say the least.  Luckily for me, having a child is similar to having a dog so it hasn't been all that hard of a transition.  Right now my kid's crate training is coming along nicely and I am happy to say he has been flea and tick free since we got him.

So, what have I been up to artistically you ask?  Been running with my series of "shooting animals in the face" and have decided to retire my painted face series once and for all. Thought I would show some progress shots from a still life I did last year.  One thing you may notice from this particular still life is that its done a bit more "on the fly."  Get it?...cause it works on two levels...because ducks have the gift of flight and it also relates to the spontaneity of the introduced objects to the composition as the painting developed organically.  Now before I go any further, I would like to make a disclaimer and say that no animals were harmed in the making of this piece, except a duck who was shot in the head then frozen, but that asshole owed me money so who cares.  Now I know this post wasn't an all that glamorous comeback after not posting for over a year, but remember, I'm a parent now so I get to blame everything I don't do on that.

Day one, laying in that paint. 



Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Workshop at the Florence Studio

Time to gush about our trip to Florence!  For two weeks I taught still life painting at the Florence Studio while Dave very good naturedly shouldered the brunt of the parenting responsibilities.  I'm going to overlook that one incident with the jarred puréed cavallo and go ahead and say he did a wonderful job.  Oh, and apparently my husband speaks Italian.  It wasn't quite a Fish Called Wanda moment, but I definitely had to stop and add a few dozen language points to the scorecard of a man who routinely makes up words and insists they're real.

The Florence Studio's rooms satisfied my ideal of an artist's space in Florence.  If I had a window like that in my studio I would just Vermeer it up in every single painting.  The school is located just a couple of block away from the Ponte Vecchio, so it's centrally located to all the cool stuff that an art nerd could hope to see.  We stayed at a really nice apartment not far away with my parents and sister+fiancé. 

I would have liked to fit in more museum visits, but I did fit in some really important ones.  First up was the Annigoni Museum.  Must see.  I had no idea how big some of these paintings are!

Zoologia La Specola.  Here we are in the cuddly plushy section.  The really hair raising part is the wax anatomy sculpture section.  It was a weird merging of the uncanny valley with bacon.

It felt inappropriate to take a photo of all that nude, writhing greasiness at the time, so I'm lifting a picture from the internet:

There were a couple dozens of these bodies, male and female, all in the throes of agony/ecstasy.  The female bodies were very virginal, with long braids and white veils.  If you're a Mutter Museum sort of person, this place is a must see.

And of course the Museu Moderna in the Palazzo Pitti, which contains mostly work spanning the 18th and 19th centuries.  According to the Museu Moderna, art never got more modern than Antonio Mancini, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Everywhere we went we got the most generous and friendly treatment.  It turns out the old part of Florence is besotted with babies.  It took me a couple of days to notice it, but they have a total Children of Man thing going on.  Nobody has babies in the old part of Florence.  Cooks would come out of the kitchen to deliver mini plates of cheese and bread for Bubs when we stopped at restaurants and rabid nonnas wanted to fondle and talk to him.  Everyone was nice to us because of him.  The next time we go to Florence the sprog will be bigger, so we're planning on taking a sleeping reborn doll with us in order to receive the same goodwill.

One more thing just to make you drool: our hosts showed us into the spectacular grotto-like antiques dealer shop below.  This still life artifact fun house was completely unidentifiable from the outside, which makes you wonder how many treasure troves there are like this.  We flipped our shit and bought the only thing in the place we could afford and brought it back to be the star of an upcoming still life painting.

I owe a huge thank you to Laura Thompson and Frank Rekrut, who run the Florence Studio, for hosting my workshop and showing me an insider's view of the neighbourhood; and of course to my students for joining in the fun.

For those of you interested in traveling to and studying in Florence, The Florence Studio offers a number of great workshops next year, including a workshop by Natural Pigments, as well as private teaching to fit a custom schedule.  It's a beautiful space in the heart of old Florence and Frank and Laura are warm and knowledgeable teachers. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Baby's First Art Show

The Fetus formerly known as Cletus tagged along with me to our regional annual art show hosted by the Cowichan Valley Arts Council.  I didn't observe any nascent art appreciation, but I have eighteen years to make him like art.

I was thrilled to receive to receive Best in Show for "Furs," but I have to admit that Cletus has done some rewiring in my brain.  Every time anyone said "Congrats!" or "Beautiful!" to me, even as I was standing right next to my painting, I assumed we were talking about the baby.  "Oh thanks!  He's two  months old!"  Facepalm.

Big thanks to Morgan Saddington, CVAC Office Manager and PORTALS Coordinator.  She put me on the radar of a local TV programmer, Daphne Goode, who put together this lovely spot about me just before the show opened:

[Before you all get up in my grill about painting with a baby, I'll have you know that at this stage in a painting I use oil only.]

And yeah, every single day is a totally idyllic day in the studio with a sleeping baby strapped to my chest.  Snort.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Summer Workshops!

There are still a few spots in my summer workshops!  These workshops are hosted in my home studio, which confers many benefits including the ability to step outside and feed my chickens when things get tense.  Also, you've always wanted to visit Vancouver Island, and here's your excuse.  I mean, you better do it before the Cascadia earthquake sinks the Butchart Gardens to bottom of Brentwood Bay.  But no worries, that earthquake's totally not going to happen while you're here.

Check out the link above (to my summer workshops, not the earthquake) and get in touch soon!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nexus Opening at Abend Gallery in Denver, CO

Tomorrow Dave ABANDONS his wife and small child to attend the opening of Nexus, a show presented by Abend Gallery in Denver, CO.  He has been diligently working away at co-curating this show for the past number of months.  Getting a bunch of artists to collaborate on a show is like herding cats, and getting a bunch of tattoo artists to collaborate on a show is like herding a bunch of insolent, authority-challenging cats.  Which is actually all cats, come to think of it.

Yes, Nexus combines paintings from artist and tattoo artists.  As you all know if you've been reading long enough, Dave tattoos part-time to pay the bills and maintain his street cred in the face of his background as a kindergarten teacher (it's really hard to undo that sort of history).  He came up with the idea to put together a show featuring paintings by tattoo artists and paintings by artists exploring or inspired by tattoo culture.

Renowned tattoo artist Joshua Carlton gave us our apprenticeships.  The hydro company has him to thank for our prompt bill payments each month.

For the five minutes that I tattooed, my eyes were opened and my innocence dashed.  I had always naively believed that painting was a self-evidently superior visual art form--nay, the ultimate visual art form!--and that the entire world was with me on that point.  But now I really believe that tattoo art is the dominant visual art form of our generation.  It's the one that is the most accessible, the most meaningful, and the most personal.  It's also a very competitive industry that attracts the best and most talented by rewarding artists with money and fame commensurate to merit.  Which is rather unlike some industries I know.

Which is to say, I hope these tattoo artists don't lord their superior cultural relevance over the rest of us painters at the show.  Sob.

Nexus has received some excellent coverage, although it will probably be another month before the gypsy caravan containing the above issue of American Art Collector Magazine makes its way to Vancouver Island.  The above image is pilfered from the Book of Face.  You can read more about the show here and you can view the catalogue here.  I wish I felt up to inflicting a crying baby on a plane full of strangers so that I could attend too.

Jennifer Balkan
James What's His Face Caffyn
Julio Reyes
Aaron Nagel

Friday, April 1, 2016

Introducing the Baby Formerly Known as Cletus the Fetus

Time to fumigate the crickets from this blog and get back to posting.  We've been a tad busy here at Painting Stuff to Look Like Stuff HQ, aka, the end of the sofa next to the side table that has my glass of wine on it.  I've made quite a few drinking jokes on this blog in recent months, but I was just throwing you off the trail.  You see, I haven't had much room for booze lately:

Dave and I welcomed James, aka Cletus the Fetus (working title), on February 25th.

Photo credits to my sister, whose smashed iPhone outperformed my semi-professional camera and its pricey lens during my stay at the hospital.  This little porker was 9lbs.  We weren't allowed to keep him in the hospital nursery in case he ate the preemies. 

And one week later:

We just wanted to dedicate one post to sharing our wonderful news with everyone.  And now back to blogging about painting stuff to look like stuff ASAP.