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Perfecting those strokes

Many many years ago when I first started decorative painting, all I wanted to do was perfect my comma strokes. I would even venture to say that I was “obsessive” about it. I must have painted hundreds and thousands of it on reams and reams of white and black art paper! I got the feeling that my brushes didn’t particularly like being used to paint on paper so I spoiled many brushes during this phase of my painting journey!

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with practising on paper. Its just not the best surface to practise on.

Paper or cardboard is an absorbent surface and so your paint behaves in a different way when you paint on it. You get to practise your strokes but the surface is different from the surface you will paint on. The better thing to do is quickly give it a coat of acrylic paint, dry it then practise on it. It loses the absorbency and it feels like you’re painting on your basecoated project. Its closer to painting on the real thing.

Better still, get a rectangular piece of thin MDF – e.g. the thickness you might use for a placemat – and basecoat both sides. I used to basecoat one with a black background and one with a white background. Later I started basecoating a couple with my favourite background colour (or flavour of the month!) and used them as my practise board.

The good thing about these MDF boards are that they are reusable. When I’m done practising on any of the boards, I just basecoat over it and voila, I have a fresh practise board. You can just keep doing this over and over again.

Of course if you want to keep your practise strokes as a keepsake or for future reference, the basecoated paper (or cardboard) is a better option.

At that time I also discovered Loew-Cornell Brush-Up Paper at my friend’s decorative painting studio and shop in Singapore. I thought it was a very unique product – its made of a specially-coated paper and you only need a brush and water to use it.

 Loew-Cornell Brush-up Paper

To practise on it, just dip your round brush, or any brush you want to practise with, in CLEAN water, remove the excess water by dabbing the brush twice on a piece of paper towel, then stroke away! You will see the strokes you’re painting on the paper. After a while, the water evaporates and you have all that space to practise on again. No traces or markings are left on the paper, unless of course you have used dirty water where you’ve say, washed your brush in. Just make sure you use clean tap water every time.

 Practising strokework on the Brush-up Paper

You get one piece in a pack and it measures 9” by 13”. I really treasured my brush-up paper! I pasted it on  a piece of cardboard so that it doesn’t spoil at the corners and its still in perfect condition this very day!

You can order the Brush-up Paper from any painting supply store on the internet.

Artezan students in Kuwait can purchase it at the studio. They’re only KD1.750 each. Hurry because I don’t have that many in stock!

She did it!

As a teacher, I feel really happy when a student gets highly motivated to paint AND she paints!

My Kuwaiti friend and student with whom I sat down and helped choose a colour scheme for her Hindeloopen project said she was going to do it when she went home, and she really did it.

I felt privileged to receive a blow-by-blow account of her progress with her blues three-toned hindeloopen tray project all day long. Via text message! A couple of days ago she brought over the finished tray project to show me and it was beautiful. She allowed me to share her adventure here.

Hindeloopen is easy to paint if you put your heart and mind to it – and provided you understand the simple principles and have developed the necessary strokework skills, of course.

The very first step - basing in the first strokes

The first stage is the easiest and involves involves painting every stroke of the design in the medium value of the chosen colour.

Stroking in the shadows

Next, the shadows are stroked in using the darkest value of the colour chosen for the project. These strokes are usually smaller than the base strokes so that the base colour shows through. These shadow strokes start to define the various objects whether they’re leaves, flowers or birds.

Painting the highlight strokes

The third stage involves lightening the medium value used as the base colour and using this to paint the highlight strokes.

The objects become more defined at this stage.

The completed Hindeloopen tray

And finally, the detail strokes are added in the lightest shade of all, almost but not quite white.

So there it is. Its really easy if you know how!

I knew she could do it and she proved she could do it. All on her own. Next week we will paint another Hindeloopen project in class in the traditional Hindeloopen colours and I’m sure it will be just as breathtaking!

Painting with confidence

It was a great morning shared with one of my Kuwaiti friends and students. Coffee and a conversation about our favourite topic – painting – is such a nice way to start the day! Its been a while since I saw her and she had a project she was trying to start. When we spoke yesterday I told her to bring the tray she wanted to paint and we’d try to sort out her issues.

This particular friend and student of mine is very talented and her passion in decorative painting is strokework. And why not – her brush work is very natural and she seems to be able to paint strokes effortlessly! When I first met her many years ago, she had found my decorative painting website and written to me. We met and she went absolutely crazy when she saw all the work I displayed in my studio.

She had everything one would need to paint projects endlessly – so many books, brushes and paints. AND she knew a lot about the various decorative artists and decorative painting styles. And she was especially interested in hindeloopen!

Having known her all this time there was only one thing that stopped her from painting as much as she wanted to – I think its called confidence…the confidence to put brush to paint to surface and paint away, and trust the project to turn out a beautiful work of art.

And if not? So what, start another project I say!

This time around, she had basecoated a tray with a light pastel blue and had even traced a Hindeloopen pattern on it. But she was still trying to find the right colours for the project. She had tried out a number of colour schemes for the tray and had done this by painting the design on a clear plastic sheet placed on top of the traced design. She wanted to make sure she had the right colours…she’s a perfectionist – JUST LIKE ME! LOL

When I was learning to paint, I was told it was OK to be a perfectionist but it was also OK to make mistakes. The adage “We learn from our mistakes” is so very true and its just as applicable in painting. Any kind of painting.

I’ve learned and discovered many new things from mistakes. Sometimes new techniques and sometimes new colour schemes. I call them “happy accidents”.

Anyway, we were determined that she would start painting this tray of hers when she got home. After discussing all the options and looking at the colour schemes she had tried, she finally decided to paint a blues three-toned hindeloopen, something like this coasters holder I had painted for myself.

Three-tone Hindeloopen Coasters Holder

Any hindeloopen design is usually painted first with a medium value (a mid-tone), then the shadow strokes are painted in a darker value followed by the highlight strokes painted in a lighter value. Finally, details are painted using a liner brush and the lightest value colour, almost white. The same principle is applied when painting hindeloopen in traditional colours.

We picked the colours then decided to try them on a piece of cardboard painted with the basecoat colour of her tray.

Colour swatch for Hindeloopen project

And voila!

This is the best method of determining the suitability of a colour scheme on a background. It doesn’t take a long time to paint a section of a piece of cardboard. And it gives you the confidence to start your project knowing it will turn out perfect!

Good luck with the project, my friend!

Leaves and nothing but the leaves

One of the best ways to perfect a new technique is to paint it over and over again. And the best way to practise is on a proper basecoated surface – not scraps of paper.

I always have several basecoated rectangular and round MDF pieces (which will make great placemats, by the way!) lying around. I use a couple of them as practise boards – whatever I was learning, I would practise painting them on these boards. When I run out of space, I would basecoat them again and start over.

I keep the other pieces as “emergency” project surfaces – you know when you have that itch to paint something and your creative juices are flowing and you have no time to basecoat one..

Sometimes the practise pieces actually turn out quite nice! Like this one when I was learning some new leaves. I thought why not, just freehand them on a round basecoated placemat I had lying around.

Leaves, leaves, leaves on a Placemat

I liked it so much I never basecoated over it again. I never thought that leaves on their own could make such a nice subject for a decorative painting project….

Leaves, leaves, leaves on a Placemat

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