WIP Snippet: Toned Ground

I realise this is a very unsexy image to share and yet… there’s just something about it. There’s something delicious about grabbing a blank canvas, choosing a yummy colour and transforming your white canvas into a solid colour. I love seeing them like this.

wip work in progress toned ground

To get art nerdy on you, this is what’s called a toned ground. Usually when working in acrylics I work from dark to light so my toned ground has always been black or darkest brown. With this latest batch of paintings I’m trying a lot of new things however and one of those things is not working from dark to light so I got to play with different colours for my toned ground, which was fun. It’s funny how much delight simple things like this give me. I enjoy them more than I have any call to.

Got 5 Minutes? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Acrylics to Begin Your First Painting

You could begin painting your first ever acrylic painting without knowing anything of course, like I did. You may even prefer to go that route and, if that’s the case, then all power to you. In hindsight however, these are the three main tips for beginners that would have made my painting sessions go more smoothly, had I known them.

Beginner Acrylic Painting

  1. The viscosity of the paint straight out of the tube is probably not what you want to work with, unless you want your painting to be very structural (that is, thick and textured and holding of the brush strokes). When I was a complete noob, I couldn’t work out why I couldn’t get good coverage – the paint was so thick it would drag across the canvas only covering the raised parts of the weave leaving the recessed parts un-painted unless I really scrubbed with the brush. It seemed like I must have been doing something wrong, I just couldn’t work out what. How hard can it be? Paint comes out of tube, paint goes on canvas, right? I also couldn’t achieve a uniform, level coverage without brushstrokes and ridges, again because the paint was so thick.

    The solution? There are many but the simplest thing to do is dilute your acrylics with water – but by no more than 30% or it won’t bind effectively to your substrate. If you need it even thinner than this mix your acrylic with airbrush medium. You’ll probably notice in art supply shops that acrylic can come in a “fluid” variety. This is paint that has been pre-thinned for you. Some artists suggest you buy one of each of your colours in heavy-bodied and fluid form but it’s a lot more economical to just thin your own paints.

  2. Acrylic dries fast! If I wanted to blend and blend and blend till my heart’s content I would paint in oils. As it is I still have to take measures to prevent my acrylic drying before I’m ready. I mix in a little bit of acrylic glaze with my paints and put a dollop on top to prevent them skinning over. I use a wet palette, which is just a damp sponge with palette paper on top. This then sits in a plastic container with a lid that I close between sessions. I’m also careful to not work the paint on the canvas for too long or bad, horrible things happen (I’m not always successful in this endeavour). If you do need a bit more time once the paint is on the canvas you can spray it with a mister and continue working. This will obviously change the consistency of the paint though. Finally, this may go without saying but don’t have your palette sitting in direct sunlight on a hot day.

  3. You might not know this yet but brush choice is intimidating! If you don’t think about it too much and just grab a bunch you will survive the crippling analysis paralysis. I advocate this in the beginning. Eventually however you will begin to wonder and ask questions like “why do some brushes have long handles and others short, or “what’s a hog hair or bristle brush”, and then my friend, it’s the rabbit hole for you.

    The good news is that because acrylics can be used like watercolours or oils (or as themselves) you can use any of the vast array of brushes you see in the art store! You won’t know what type of brushes you need until you work out how you like to paint anyway so I’d recommend buying a set of soft bristled brushes and a set of stiff bristled brushes – just touch them to work out which is which. If I’d had a set of stiff bristled brushes around from the start I would have worked out that they were what I should be using a lot sooner. Don’t worry too much at this stage about anything else, just have a play.

Now get cracking! Any other burning questions? Just pop in a comment below.

Nellie Windmill is Now Taking Commissions!

Oftentimes as an artist I get a lot of people telling me how much they love my work and that they really want to buy a piece but they don’t or haven’t yet. Most times the price point is inaccessible for them. But I also believe it’s because I haven’t created their painting yet. They might love my cluster balloon paintings but wish I’d paint a REALLY BIG one. Or maybe they’d like a constellation piece in a particular colour scheme. Or a smaller more affordable $50 painting!

I’ve given this a lot of thought. For all these reasons and because I genuinely think it will be fun, I am now accepting commissions!

There will be three ways in which you can customise your Nellie Windmill painting:

1. Subject

With most artists, when you commission a painting you know what you’ll be getting. They have a consistent subject matter – landscape, portraiture, still-life etc. The challenge for me (and you) is that I tend to paint something different each time. For this reason, I’ve chosen 6 subjects that I’ve painted before and am happy to paint again and again… and again.

Think of them as suggestions rather than limitations. If you don’t find what you’re looking for amongst them by all means, let me know what you’ve got in mind!

Commission Promotion Image Cropped

Commission Promotion Image Balloons Cropped

Commission Promotion Image clouds cropped

Commission Promotion Image Constellation Cropped

Commission Promotion Image Creature Portrait Cropped

Commission Promotion Image Tree Swing Cropped

2. Colour

Commission Promotion Imag Colours

Commission Colour Swatches

Choosing the colours is the best bit, right? Although I think for some having an infinite rainbow of choice could be overwhelming so I’ve taken the liberty of making some suggestions. If you have your own colour scheme in mind however, I would be thrilled to hear about it.

3. Size

This is where you can let your hip pocket decide or finally make me paint something BIG.

Canvas Sizes and Pricing

  • 4×4″ = $50.00
  • 8×10″ = $175.00
  • 10×10″ = $200.00
  • 12×16″ = $350.00
  • 16×20″ = $500.00
  • 20×24″ = $695.00

Well, big for me anyway. If you’d like to commission a painting on beautifully heavy watercolour paper instead of canvas or with different dimensions, please contact me for a quote.

Commission Promo Blog

You can find the commission listings in the new “Commissions” section of my Etsy shop!

What Happens When an Artist Buys a House and Doesn’t Have Anything to Put in it?

Settlement for our house is just around the corner – May 9th! – although we won’t be getting in until a few weeks after that. Having up and sold/got rid of our stuff to live nomadically in our mid-20’s, we’re in the very strange position of being in our early 30’s and not owning much adult stuff. We have a fridge and a washing machine and a bed but that’s about it. We don’t even remember what we stored when we left Australia but we’re presuming we kept our kitcheny stuff, such as it is.

It might seem silly, but ever since I was little I’ve dreamt of having my own home and curating every single item in it. I like that old adage of William Morris’ – “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” – but I don’t think it goes far enough. Something I feel strongly about is that there’s no reason practical items can’t also be beautiful. Even brooms can be beautiful. I also take enormous pleasure in well-made objects. So it’s actually pretty great that I’ve got a clean slate to work with!

“With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on” – William Morris

Since our offer on Piper’s Moon was accepted in January, I’ve very much been in this headspace. We’ll be living a very minimalist life for the first little while – nothing we’ve not done before – but I have been purchasing a few essentials. This is a hodgepodge of things I have bought or am hoping to one day buy for our home.

Mud Australia Ceramics Blog

If I had a collection of Mud Australia ceramics like this I would have nothing but open shelving in my kitchen and would probably have a hard time getting anything done because I’d be staring at the pretty all day long.

Bedding mosaic

Top: Evelina cushion, Left: Found on Pinterest uncredited, Centre: Knock Knock Linen, Right: House of Baltic Linen

I had my heart set on a luxurious looking deep plum duvet cover but couldn’t find any I liked so ended up settling on a natural linen look. I wasn’t sure about this aesthetic at all at first as i found it a bit too ascetic for a bedroom. When in doubt about a particular look I ask myself the question, “Will it make my house look like a witch’s house?” and if the answer is yes, then it’s a winner.

Writing Desk

I don’t have a studio table yet but I do have a writing desk! I’m thinking I’ll put it in front of the big picture window downstairs which overlooks our ginormous copper beech. Unfortunately I can’t share with you the link to where to get this desk because they’ve run out and they’re Australian-based anyway so it wouldn’t be relevant to most.

Possibly the only thing that excites me more than having a house whose every single detail I’ve curated is having a garden made up solely of plants I adore. That’s happening too. Wow. That’s another blog post.

The Centre for Lessons Learned | On the Fear of Disconnection

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote

This is more a lesson I’m trying to learn actually.

“Shame is the fear of disconnection. That something we’ve done or something we are makes us unworthy of connection.” – Brené Brown

I just really need to not give a fuck. I’m 32 this year, I think it’s about time I stop worrying about what other people think of me.

I need to learn that if I meet new people and don’t make any new friends it’s not a judgement on me as a human being. At worst it means I’m shit at making friends, which is true.

The Other Lesson I’m Trying to Learn

I was reminded of this lesson I’ve been meaning to learn when I was reading my book, “Anne of Green Gables”, this morning. Anne was fretting about doing and saying the right things at a dinner date at Mrs Allan’s and Marilla scolded her:

“The trouble with you, Anne, is that you’re thinking too much about yourself. You should just think of Mrs. Allan and what would be nicest and most agreeable to her”.

I once read an interesting perspective on shyness, which described it as fundamentally selfish as the shy person is only thinking about themselves and their own discomfort. I think it’s such an elegant solution to shyness to simply invert one’s focus. I’ve always admired people who are welcomers, who have a natural grace and put other’s at ease.

I’m feeling so good now you guys! This is why I write. I can’t think things through like this without writing.

And you thought this was an art blog.