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Childhood Flashback

Happy New Year friends! I hope you all welcomed the new year in style last night.

January 1st is a day when many of us set resolutions for the year ahead, and reflect back on the years past. I haven’t actually made any resolutions, but I did take a stroll down memory lane the other day.

Looking back into my childhood, there are 3 things that instantly jump out: (1) Arts and Crafts, (2) Full House, and (3) Super Mario World, in that order. In primary school, I pretty much lived in the Arts and Crafts corner. My favorite “toys” growing up were my coloring books and sets of colored pencils and markers. I never wanted to share these prized possessions. And I mean never!

That's me in the Arts and Crafts corner doing my thing in Grade 1

That’s me in the Arts and Crafts corner doing my thing in Grade 1

The only exception was with my fellow arts and crafts lover/next-door-neighbour/best friend, Evelina. We grew up together and pretty much spent all day every day doing some kind of arts and crafts. To this day, she is probably the only one who truly understands how much I enjoyed enjoy art.

My 5th Birthday Party. Those crowns that we're all wearing...we made those at the party lol

My 5th Birthday Party. Those crowns that we’re all wearing…we made those at the party at the arts and crafts table. Shocking.

I was always (secretly) jealous of her because I thought that she was much better at it than me so a few weeks ago when she told me that all she wants from me for Christmas is a painting, I was actually so humbled. In my eyes, it was like Picasso asking me to paint him something. I asked her for to list of her 5 favorite paintings of mine so that I knew more or less what she liked.

I first did a quick sketch on a 10×30″ canvas, and then used a palette knife to paint a background.

Can you guess what it's going to be?

Can you guess what it’s going to be?

Then I painted in the couple and the umbrella, added street lamps, and reflections on the ground as well as some shading onto the background. Low and behold, here is the finished product!

10x30" - Acrylic on Canvas

10×30″ – Acrylic on Canvas

And here’s a side view. As usual, I extended the painting along the edges so it doesn’t need a frame.

side

One of Evelina’s gifts to me literally made me laugh out loud. She got me a “glitter-by-number” arts and crafts set. Our childhood revolved around things like these, and she said that when she saw this at HomeSense, she immediately thought of me and had to get it. Not a word of a lie, I cracked it open as soon as I got home and probably enjoyed myself too much!

And yes, there is now glitter EVERYWHERE. And I mean everywhere!

And yes, there is now glitter EVERYWHERE. And I mean everywhere!

I know I said I didn’t make any resolutions for 2013, but after writing this, I’ve decided to make one: I’d like to embrace doing things I enjoy. Such as this. No shame. haha

Did you make a new years resolution? If so what?

What are some of your favorite childhood memories?

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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Scott and Heather’s First Dance

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the holiday season and had a very Merry Christmas if you celebrate. I know I certainly did! Now that Christmas is behind us, I can (finally) start sharing the paintings that were Christmas gifts for various people.

My best friend Shelby’s brother got married recently, so as a Christmas gift for her new sister-in-law, Shelby asked me to do a painting to commemorate their wedding. I was more than thrilled to take this on, although I will admit that I was a little hesitant since I don’t usually paint people, unless they’re very abstract. I knew it was important that the bride and groom look recognizable, so I figured it would be a good challenge. Shelby e-mailed me at least 20-30 photographs from the wedding so that I had an idea of the venue and of course all the people involved. We decided on a scene from their first dance, with all the immediate family members in the background.

Some of the photos that I worked with

Some of the photos that I worked with

I started by painting a rough background of the venue, which was inside a tent.

Background

Background

Then I added some details to the tent, such as the banners and windows.

Details added to the background

Details added to the background

Next, I added a first sketch of Scott and Heather.

Added a rough sketch of Scott and Heather

Rough sketch of Scott and Heather

Then I gave them some skin. How considerate of me.

Added some skin to the couple

Scott and Heather with some skin

Then I started adding the families in the background. I started with a rough sketch of the Mussers.

Starting to paint the Mussers

Starting to paint the Mussers

Then starting adding Heather’s family.

Heather's family

I worked on these 9 people for awhile, slowly building them up. I also wanted to add some of the décor from the wedding, such as a really neat table made out of barrels, as well as show the centerpieces, and a normal table.

Both families are complete

Both families are complete

And finally, the finished product:

18x24" Acrylic on Canvas - Scott and Heather's first Dance

18×24″ Acrylic on Canvas – Scott and Heather’s first Dance

Zoomed in on Scott and Heather. Aren't they beauts?!

Zoomed in on Scott and Heather. Aren’t they beauts?!

Zoomed in on Heather's family

Zoomed in on Scott's family

Zoomed in on Scott’s family

Side-view - I extended the painting along the 1.5" deep edges so that it doesn't need a frame

Side-view – I extended the painting along the 1.5″ deep edges so that it doesn’t need a frame

Side-view of the other side

Side-view of the other side

And again, the finished painting.

18x24" Acrylic on Canvas - Scott and Heather's first Dance

18×24″ Acrylic on Canvas – Scott and Heather’s first Dance

Congratulations Scott and Heather! I hope you two have a wonderful life together. This was a joy to paint for you two, and I hope you enjoy it 🙂

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Lighthouse

I came across a great quote today.

“People teach what they need to learn”

I couldn’t agree more. Whenever someone says to me that they can’t paint, I always convince them that yes, yes they can because you can’t be “wrong”. Everyone has a different style and if you paint what you see or feel, whatever that may be, it can’t be wrong. We all see and feel things differently and that’s what makes art so unique. In fact, that’s the whole beauty behind it.

I say this to people because I truly believe it, yet when it comes to my own painting, I often struggle with this. I have a hard time trusting myself that what I envision is “right” and will look good. Especially in the early stages of a painting, when it doesn’t look like much, I often what to give up and not finish it because I fear that it won’t be good enough when it’s done, and I’ll be disappointed.

I tell my friends at school all the time not to stress over exams or school and just do their best. What’s the worst that can happen? So you fail an exam, or a class, so what? You’ll take it again, and life will go on. Nobody cares, only you. So stop being so hard on yourself. I think I repeated this little monologue at least a dozen times in the last week, since we just had final exams, yet at any given time, I have at least 3 or 4 paintings on the go. Why? Because I’m scared to “ruin” them. I begin a painting when I have an idea, then the next day, I’m scared to make a brush stroke in fear of ruining what I started. So instead, I start another painting. And I keep doing this until (usually due to lack of space) I eventually convince myself to just go for it and paint.

I need to learn to take my own advice.

Advice one: you can’t be “wrong” when you paint, so just do it!

Advice two: Don’t fear failure. What’s the worst that can happen? When it comes to painting, this is so trivial. I mean realistically, you just paint over it! No big deal at all.

Oh so you came here because you want to see a painting and not read about my inner thoughts? Fine, here’s one for you.

I was inspired to paint this piece in the midst of studying for exams. I find studying for exams to be a stressful, dark, and lonely time – easily my least favorite time of the school year. I worked on this piece periodically throughout the exam period and it really helped me relax and forget about the typical exam stress. I started with the background using acrylic paint and a palette knife.

Background

Background

Next I started painting a lighthouse. I think I was subconsciously inspired to paint a lighthouse since it symbolises light and hope during darkness. Pretty fitting during exam time!

Lighthouse 1

Over the next week or so, I would dab at it whenever I needed a break from anything school related. I slowly added some details.

Lighthouse2

And eventually was left with this.

The final product. 18x24" Acrylic on Canvas

The final product. 18×24″ Acrylic on Canvas

 

Side view - the painting is extended along the edges.

Side view – the painting is extended along the edges.

 

Zoomed in view

Zoomed in view

 

Another zoomed in section

Another zoomed in section

 

To give you a better idea of the size, here it is above a small desk.

To give you a better idea of the size, here it is above a small desk.

 

Do you feel like you try to teach other people what you yourself need to learn? If so, what do you try to teach? I’m really curious if this is just me, or if this is common.

By the way, that quote is from the book “The Happiness Project” which I highly recommend.

 

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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London Ladies – Take 2

London Ladies? That sounds a little familiar now, doesn’t it?

You’re right, I have done this before. If you remember my post from Reading Week, I featured a painting that I called London Ladies. I didn’t talk much about it on the blog, but I painted that one for myself, of myself with my 3 best girl friends from London.

From left: Gill, me, Steph, Mouna

From left: Gill, me, Steph, Mouna

I grew up in London with these fabulous ladies (hence the appropriate title for the painting). I have known Gill and Mouna since the 4th grade, and met Steph in the 9th grade. Let me tell you a bit about the stars of this painting.

Gillian Heisz, CA, is the chartered accountant of the group. So we would expect her to be very organized, proper, and boring, right?. While she certainly is the first two, boring she is not! She is so funny without even trying (seriously, you are!), and also classy, confident, elegant and caring. Think Samantha Jones, but slightly less kinky…or at least, I assume… In the painting, she is wearing a simple blue dress, which in real life suits her perfectly. Simple, elegant, beautiful without trying too hard. That’s my Gill 🙂

Did I mention that she is gorgeous? Oh yeah, she is gorgeous, and single!

Did I mention that she is gorgeous? Boys, get in line!

Next in the painting, is me. I’m not going to dwell about myself here, but I’ll just mention the outfit choice. If you know me at all, you probably know that I tend to gravitate towards pink or purple clothes… That may be the understatement of the century. So appropriately, I’m wearing a purple dress in the painting.

I was shocked to find no pictures of me in purple...but pink is close enough and there are plenty of those!

I was shocked to find no pictures of me in purple…but pink is close enough and there are plenty of those!

The girl in the red dress would be my beautiful friend Stephanie Buono. We met on the first day of the 9th grade in our English class and I was immediately drawn to her laugh. If you’ve heard it, you know what I mean! It is ridiculous contagious and funny on it’s own. Not only funny, she is also super smart, caring, supportive, and appropriately studying to be a psychologist. She was my first ever roommate and we went through some rather interesting (think horrifying) experiences together in ‘Susie’ (what we named our apartment) which will probably haunt us both forever. I painted her in a cute red dress because she wears red often, and it looks great on her.

And she also has the best wardrobe ever! How cute is that dress?!

And she also has the best wardrobe ever! How cute is that dress?!

And last but certainly not least, we have the fabulous Mouna Hanna. The painting I’m going to feature in this post is actually painted for her, to put in her new apartment when she moves to Toronto. Mouna is the very successful lawyer of the bunch, and just got offered a new job in TO (congrats!). I could say so many great things about this girl, and have so many memories growing up with her that I actually don’t know where to start! I’ll summarize it by saying that she is just awesome 🙂 Seriously, the best! Funny, gorgeous, intelligent, loves wearing black, and has the most incredible shoe collection. Look closely in the painting, and you’ll notice the signature red soles that Mouna is lucky enough to own several pairs of.

You can't see the shoes, but they're probably Louboutin's

You can’t see the shoes, but they’re probably Louboutin’s

If you’re still reading, then you get a gold star, because this has been one long post, and I haven’t even made it to the painting I’m featuring yet! So here goes. This is London Ladies – Take 2, painted specially for Mouna.

As always, I started with a background, done with a palette knife on an 18×24″ gallery wrapped canvas.

background

If you’re wondering where I initially got the inspiration for the color scheme of this background, check out my shirt.

Colour Inspiration

Next, I added the abstract buildings of the background. If you look closely, you can see some chalk guidelines that I drew to the central focal point. I usually wipe off any that are left once I’m done.

Building up the background

Building up the background

Then came my favorite part: adding the stars of the show! I rearranged the order this time, because I wanted Mouna in the middle since the painting is for her.

From left, Steph, Gill, Mouna, and me

From left, Steph, Gill, Mouna, and me

And the finished painting:

London Ladies - Take 2

London Ladies – Take 2

This one is slightly bigger than the original one, and I put some more definition into the background buildings. Here is a side to side comparison.

Preference?

Preference?

To give you a better idea of the size, here is one with reference to my bed (which is either a queen or a double..)

I had to make my bed for this photoshoot...

I had to make my bed for this photoshoot…

Lastly, here is a side view. I used a 1.5″ deep canvas instead of the typical 0.75″ for more drama. I want this to be more of a statement piece than the original one. This also means it looks better unframed, since the painting is extended along the edges.

Side view

Well there she is! I hope you like it Mouna, and I can’t wait to see it in your new home.

Side note: Today is my fabulous mom’s birthday, so if you happen to be lucky enough to see her, please give her a giant hug and kiss from me. I won’t say how old she is, but let’s just say she is getting dangerously close to 50 (but doesn’t look a day over 20, right?!). Mom, Happy Birthday!!! You are the best and I love you beyond words. Can’t wait to see you in 15 days when I’m home!

Happy Birthday

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Unique Gifts for this Holiday Season

Click the image to go to Agata’s Art Corner on Etsy

[And if you enter coupon code Special20, you will get 20% off anything in my shop, because you are all special to me!]

Have you guys ever heard of Etsy? It is on online store where everything being sold has to be either handmade or vintage. None of that big-box Made-in-China junk. You can find the most unique and beautiful things on there and even request custom designs from the artists. It is a great place to shop for the holidays to get that one of a kind gift for that special someone.

It is also a great way to support independent artists. Yes, I am one of those artists, but I am also a consumer. If you are shopping for me this holiday season, check out my Favorites.

Most shops are offering deals between now and Monday, so now is a great time to check it out if you haven’t already!  If you check out Alisa Steady Art’s page, she has a link to many shops that are offering great deals. Happy shopping, and TGIF! Am I right?!

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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All or Nothing

If you’ve never heard of Leonid Afremov then you need to do yourself a huge favor and google him asap! He is a Russian–Israeli modern impressionistic artist who works mainly with a palette knife and oils. He has a very unique style and it is unmistakable. Oh, and just amazingly beautiful. Seriously. Beyond words. Unlike most artists who have to die before they become famous, he is still alive! Bonus. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of his work and am constantly inspired by it. Here is an example, courtesy of Wikipeida.

Leonid Afremov and his painting of the Venice Canal

If you can’t beat them, join them, right?! Well that was my inspiration for this next painting. I figured he’s doing something right so I might as well learn from it. So I can’t take all the credit for this painting… a huge shout out goes to Mr. Afremov.

I started out with a very rough outline for the background. Basically just getting some colour on the canvas.

Slowly started building up the background, added trees and some more colour overall.

Next I added some lamp posts

Then some light!

Lastly, I added some more trees and a couple under an umbrella.

This painting looks great unframed because of the depth

18×24″ Acrylic on Canvas. Here it is relative to my bed, to give you an idea of the size.

Zoomed in on the couple under an umbrella

Zoomed in on some trees.

Zoomed in on the lamp posts

 

So I think this concludes my “rain” paintings, at least for now.

On a side note, I tend to have two extremes in life: all or nothing. I either love you completely, or you are totally indifferent to me. You get all of my time and attention, or none of it. I’ve noticed this coming out through my art as well. For starters, I went from painting almost never (maybe 2-3 paintings a year) to pretty much pumping out 2-3 a week! I just can’t get enough of it lately. It has been such a tremendous stress reliever and the amazing feedback from everyone has been very motivating as well. I woke up this morning at 5:30am (even though my alarm was set to 7:30am) and pretty much jumped out of bed and painted until 7:30am (which is when I completed the above painting).

I don’t know how long this enthusiasm will last, but for now I’m just going to go with it and paint. Since let’s face it, there are far worse things I could be spending a big chunk of my time doing.

Ironically, this same “all or nothing” approach to life has prevented me from painting in the past. The last couple years I’ve been super busy, taking 6-7 classes per semester (another example of my all-or-nothing approach to life) so even though I often felt like painting, I would always talk myself out of it justifying that a 1 hour break is not enough time to paint, and it’s not even worth starting if I can’t finish it. In retrospect, it probably would have been a great way to take my mind off school work.

So what changed now? With only 4 classes this semester (by default, since that’s all I have left 🙂 ) I found myself with more spare time than I am used to. I considered getting a part time job, but then had a light bulb moment and thought that I’ve always loved painting but never felt I had enough time to fully pursue it. What better time than now? And honestly, I couldn’t be happier with my decision!

I seam to have gone off on a tangent here. What I originally wanted to get to is that life is about balance. I constantly have to remind myself that. So bringing that back to painting, how about only 1 more “rain” painting this year? Sounds good to me!

Anyone else struggle with finding balance?

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Don’t Want to Ruin My Shoes

Yup, another “Rain Painting”. Brace yourselves…

I like doing these because they allow me to just go to town with a palette knife. Don’t have to worry about staying in the lines, or being too exact, and after a long day at school, it is my favorite way to unwind. This one is similar to Rain, Rain, Go Away and Best Buds  but it is spanned across three 12×16″ canvases, making it three times as great!

As usual, I started off with a quick background.

Background using a palette knife on three 12×16″ canvases

Once that was dry, I drew some guidelines of the buildings in the background with some white chalk. Then proceeded to colour them in.

Finally, I added street lamps, a picture of a man holding a woman in his arms, who is holding an umbrella over them, and I added some highlights to the background. And voila!

To give you an idea of the size, I took a picture with my bed as a reference. It’s a double bed (or maybe a Queen…I’m not quite sure).

Close up of the left panel

Close up of the middle panel

Close up of the right panel. Do you recognize the buildings on the hill? Hint* in Ottawa, on a hill…
 

Zoomed in on the couple in the rain

View from the bottom. All the edges are painted so no frame is necessary.

So what inspired this painting, you ask? Well I bought a new dress this past weekend (okay, actually I bought 2…) and I have nowhere to wear it. It is pretty and red, just like the girl’s in the painting. Maybe if I wear it, a knight in shining armor will whisk me off my feet! In the rain, of course.

I’ve got three other paintings on the go right now (and only one of them has anything to do with rain) so hopefully I can finish those soon and share them with you here. School is getting a little busy right now since it is almost exam time, so I may be MIA for awhile.

I’m also working on 2 commissioned pieces, but won’t be able to share those with you until after the holidays, since the people who asked me to paint them would like to give them as a Christmas gift. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise since it might be for YOU!

Happy Wednesday folks 🙂 Anyone started Christmas shopping yet?

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Missing My Bike

I started this painting with no idea what I wanted the finished product to look like. I only knew that I wanted it to incorporate a bike in some way. I think this stems from missing riding my bike everywhere. Some jerk stole the front wheel off my commuter bike a few weeks ago, and I have yet to buy a new one for it.

I started with a 36×24″ canvas, and painted a background using a palette knife and acrylic paint.

I added the bicycle and some details to the buildings.

A table and chair for children maybe?

At this point, I didn’t know what else to add, but I knew it needed something. I decided to add a little outdoor cafe patio. Then I realized that the table and chairs are teeny tiny compared to the bike right beside it! Oops!

I actually took my road bike and placed it beside my kitchen table before I redid this part in order to have a frame of reference as not to make the same mistake again.

Okay, that’s more like it.

Lastly, I just kept adding small details in such as a lamp post, a lady walking along the street, some flowers, and some wine and cheese on the table. Before I knew it, my initial painting of a bike turned into one of a french cafe.

The finished product. 36×24″ Acrylic on Stretched Canvas

Zoomed in view of the cafe

I’ve always wanted a bike with a basket in the front.

Zoomed in on the (french) bookstore.

My favorite part about this painting is the contrast between the calm and quiet life of going to a cafe and reading a book, versus the fast paced life that many of us tend to lead. The busy and loud road is meant to represent that fast paced life, while the bicycle, the cafe, and the book store represent the other extreme.

On that note, I think I’m going to go read a book and have a glass of wine before I hit the books tonight. My manufacturing assignment can wait…

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Alexandra Bridge

I’ve always been intrigued by bridges. I don’t know what it is about them, but I find them fascinating. I remember going to Paris, and my most vivid memory is not the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, but rather going for a boat ride down the Seine River and going under at least 20 different bridges. The architecture of each one was so intricate and so different.

Some of the bridges along the Seine River

Ottawa is kind of similar in that regard. There are countless bridges that go over the Rideau Canal, and then several more that connect Ottawa to Gatineau. When I go for a run outside, I usually follow the path behind the parliament building, which then takes me into Gatineau. The last stretch of this loop goes over the Alexandra Bridge back into Ottawa. The view at this point is incredible. You see the locks along the canal, the back of the parliament building, and the Chateau Laurier.  It’s truly majestic. I’m pretty sure I usually have a ‘Runner’s High’ by this point too, so that probably makes me like it even more.

This painting is intended to be the first in a small series of paintings of bridges. Ideally, I’d like to do them ‘en pleine air’ […atrist speak for painting outside…] however it is too cold right now, so I worked from a photograph instead.

Photograph of Alexandra Bridge

Oil on Canvas – 12×12″ – I started by priming the canvas with a background of deep reds and purples. Then added some guidelines with chalk.

Then I started to build the bridge and add some blues to the water.

I added some more details to the bridge, like the side walk and the lines on the road.

I added the truss to the bridge.

The finished product!

Zoomed in view of the bridge. I painted all the detailed parts with acrylic paint since it dries faster so the colours wouldn’t mix too much.

Recognize the building in the background? It’s the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Although this painting isn’t all that big, it took a ridiculously long time to paint. In fact, I started this one mid-summer (however, it went untouched for at least 3 months after I initially began…) and only finished it today. The detail work takes a long time, especially since I’m a perfectionist, so I kept going back and redoing parts. I’m glad it’s done though. However, I’ll probably still go back and touch it up a few times…

Do you prefer realistic paintings or more abstract works?

I personally don’t like paintings that look too realistic, both from myself and other artists. I like when it is obvious that it is a painting, and not a photograph or a digital drawing. I like globs of paint, smears and smudges. I like having to take a step back to make out the image. Therefore, this is definitely not my favorite painting, but I like what it represents.

I already know what bridge is next in the series. I’ll give you a hint. If you go skating along the Rideau Canal, you will go under it near downtown. Any ideas?

 

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Inspiration

Sometimes inspiration strikes me in the strangest most unexpected ways. I used to struggle a lot with getting inspired (probably due to lack of experience too), so if I felt like painting, I would essentially recreate someone else’s work. In these cases, my ‘inspiration’ was either Home Sense or the internet. In hindsight, it was a great way to learn to paint and practice, but I always prefer when I have my own original inspiration.

The other day, a friend of mine (Hi Darren!) said that he likes my painting with the birds and the music notes, and thinks that perhaps something similar might look good in his new home. I’ve never seen his house, however I strongly disagreed. Darren is an outdoorsy, upbeat young musician, and that painting has a baby pink and baby blue background. I just didn’t see it.

However, that conversation immediately set off a light bulb and I got painting. And here’s what I came up with.

[Darren, no pressure to actually like it…but thanks for the inspiration! ] 

Acrylic on Canvas – 36×16″ (three 12×16″ panels)

Close-up of left panel

Close up of middle panel

Close up of right panel

Sides painted. No staples.

Top view of middle panel

Side view of right panel

 

All together again!

 

I don’t have any progress photos because I essentially did this one in one sitting. One long sitting…

Also, I should mention that no paint brushes were harmed in the creation of this masterpiece! This whole painting was done with a palette knife so it has a really nice thick textured appearance. Did I mention that I love painting with a palette knife? Clean up is sooo easy!

Lastly, I can’t think of a name for this one. Any suggestions?

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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