Friday, 24 October 2008

the space in between (unfinished)

'the space in between'
9"x12" acrylic on masonite

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Debbie Travis Vs. Liquitex

I love going to the art store but I hate paying art store prices for small bottles of "liquid gold". As a result I'm always on the hunt for "alternative" materials. There's been a lot of debate and misinformation as to whether or not acrylic house paints and their brethren can be used to produce quality art work. I hope the following will show there are limits to what materials designed to paint houses can do compared to artist quality materials. Although, as I also found, you may be able to get away with using materials from the hardware store in certain situations.
The story begins with a trip to the paint counter at Canadian Tire. I noticed that the "Debbie Travis" (of Home & Garden TV fame) paint line had quite a few items in the clearance shelf. A can labelled "Venetian Plaster" was the one that first caught by eye. I had the clerk shake it up so I could have a look. To my surprise it looked and smelled very similar to Liquitex's Flexible Modelling Paste. The big difference was that a pint of Liquitex FMP is well over $30 and same amount of the Debbie Travis material was only $10 (on sale)! Worth a try.
Colour: The Liquitex material is not completely opaque and has a beige colour very similar to raw canvas while the Venetian Plaster was very white in comparison. I'm guessing that the makers probably add a lot of chalk or similar calcium mineral as filler to make it appear similar in nature to plaster of Paris. Viscosity: they are both highly viscous, that is to say, thick and buttery, although I'd give a slight advantage to the Liquitex material. Dry Time & structure: Both were dry to the touch within about 45 minutes to one hour, thicker areas took longer to completely cure. Feel: both had an impasto medium feel to them and held their form well, my intention was to use them as texture layers as part of the underpainting so I have no idea what happens if you mix paint into either (probably a big mess).
My first test was to just spread them out of different materials to see how they performed. Test one was knifing out a bit of each onto a paint stick to watch them dry. I put a little pattern in to each and varied the thickness. Mostly this test was about establishing dry time. Test number two was to see how they did on canvas material. I spread a little bit of each out similar to the paint stick test. The Venetian Plaster seemed to curl the canvas a bit more as it dried but there may be other reasons which explain what I saw. No I'm probably in denial, it had to be shrinkage, a little bit at least.

After each swatch was completely dried and cured (12-24 hours) I used a knife to scrape each surface to check for durability. The Liquitex could be cut and carved. When I did the same test on the Venetian Plaster it reacted much like real plaster does it kind of crumbled and flaked. Fingers were powdery after handling it. The most damning conclusion is when I tested the canvas swatches. The Liquitex just bent like dried bubble gum while the Venetian Plaster cracked and flaked.
I had done similar tests comparing acrylic house paint primers to Liquitex Acrylic Gesso. The house primers varied in flexibility some worse than others but clearly Liquitex is using a formula which allows their products to bend without breaking -- something not only desirable but also completely necessary when painting on canvas. This is not the normal concern of a house painter because they mostly they paint solid supports (read:wood). This is probably the only place that Ventian Plaster has a use, painting on board. So if, and only if, you're do work on masonite or panel it "might" be a bargain. Then again it "might" just flake off after 20 years once the guarantee has expired. For some cheap fun and classroom experimentation it might be worth trying but for the keepers stick to using something a little better than the Venetian Plaster. ~m

Saturday, 18 October 2008

random, davinci, dali & bosch.

those are my four favourite painters. in order. herself, leonardo, salvador and hieronymus... but you mentioned desert islands and solitary works.

so i'd have to go with my own raccoon painting; not because it's my best - fuck, it's neither "good" (i painted it in a matter of minutes upon waking) nor "finished" (and may never be either) - but because it's based on a dream character that i loved so much that waking up was like a death.

(if my raccoon was disqualified for some reason, i would then want david's "split" painting. a red, angsty monstrosity that he gifted me when i moved away from manning park. i've had it for thirteen years and it continues to grow on me

(whereas most paintings begin to annoy me after about a decade)).

Friday, 17 October 2008

Canadian Culture

This was one of my first paintings after graduating from the University of Manitoba.
I like how paintings can mark time. Significant moments can be remembered, it's like seeing an old photo and knowing exactly when it was from.
For instance, in this case I was working at McDonald's and painting in my parents basement, which might as well have been a cave.
This painting now belongs to one of my favorite painters and it actually hung in the Winnipeg Art Gallery at one point.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

What's your favourite painting?

If you were stranded on a tropical island and had one painting, what would it be?
I think I would choose "Tangled Garden" by group of seven painter MacDonald. Okay, maybe not, but that might be one of my top choices for favorite painting, if I could narrow it down like that.


This one is Paula Rego's and it's called "The Dance". I love her work. She's a painter from Portugal that I've always liked.

My good friend from Winnipeg, Emmett, was the one who got me onto the favorite painting idea. His was without question, carnival evening (Henri Rousseau). I have been bugging him to get a computer, but I don't think he's online yet, and I wouldn't hazard a guess as to why he chose these moonlit clowns, but yup, that's what he likes apparently.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Tools: Making A Brush Cleaning Jar

I try to recycle as much as possible. What I've found makes a perfect brush cleaning jar is an old jam jar (they're also nice to drink cheap liquor from but don't ever confuse the two).
I like to keep things clean in my studio space, brushes especially since good ones tend to be expensive, I develop favourites and hate "killing" a good brush.
Tools: tin snips or tempered kitchen shears.
Materials: An old jar (keep the lid if you paint with oils) ; galvanized mesh 6 to 8 strands per inch (available at home supply stores. I get mine from a bee keeping supply store. You don't need much.)
Cut a strip of the galvanized mesh a width slightly smaller than the jar base and about twice the length of the base. In this case my finish piece measures 2 1/2" by 4 1/2".

Bend somewhere between 1" and 1 1/2" on either side at a right angle. This part of the mesh will become the feet of the brush holder/cleaner.

Flex the mesh and turn it sideways to fit it through the mouth of the jar which is smaller than the base of the jar.

Once the mesh is inside you should be able to rotate it and fit it into place.

Fill the jar with solvent or water to just over the bottom of the ferrule of the brush. When cleaning a brush the mesh allows you to work the paint out of the brush. If you leave the jar alone most of the pigment will settle out and sit on the bottom (more so with oil paints) and allow you to really stretch your cleaning solvent.
Note: those little yellow triangles in some of the shots are called "painter's points" you can get them at Lee Valley Tools great for keeping wet things (read: canvases or panels) from touching dry things. Allows you to paint all sides at once rather than have to wait for one side to dry and then flip. ~m

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Shape Priming

When painting semi-transparent light colours, like yellow or red, over dark colours, like blue or black, I prep an area with a bit of white, in essence priming the shape of the object. This allows me to block in with a easily repairable white, and at the same time loose no intensity to layering.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Being there.

I used my friend James's picture (not the photo here)as reference material. It always felt weird to me. I have never seen the ruins of Matera and somehow felt it wasn't right for me to paint, since it didn't have a direct personal meaning. Maybe this is just a hang-up I learned from school, I'm not sure. Has anyone else ever got that feeling?

Incidentally, now years later, it has a meaning for me. It is a painting of a good friends photo, and refers to something he/we thought of as beautiful (and hangs in his home).

(sorry for publishing older work, but I just recently moved, and don't have a new painting yet, nor a chord for my digital camera. I am very excited to paint my new surroundings, the majestically beautiful Terrace BC)

My Retutrn to Painting

For the past five or six years my art has been focused on illustration and digital imagery. Because I am a graphic designer, this way of working has become comfortable for me and in a professional sense it just seems logical. So in the summer of 2007 I felt I needed a new challenge and outlet for my non-work related projects so I started to paint again. The images below are a sample of some of the things I've been working on.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Flock Quebecois

Terry McCue with his painting

Terry McCue was invited to join us at the Graffiti Gallery by doing a workshop for some of the past Urban Canvas Program participants. I was one of the participants in the workshop as well. The subject for my painting was a female sparrow that I was feeding bread crumbs to. The original photograph comes from a series taken while on vacation in Quebec. The bird was very energetic, taking every advantage of my generosity and it seemed a shame to waste such a light moment.
The painting was painted on canvas, 24"x24", using gouache. The entire process took just under 3 hours to complete. Once it was finished, Terry McCue and I swapped paintings. I wouldn't value this painting as high as Terry would have priced his painting (some of his paintings sell for thousands of dollars) however I was very pleased with the final result. On the bright side, someone who admires my work now has an original and vice versa.

Terry McCue with my painting

Mike Valcourt
"Flock Quebecois"
Gouache on Canvas
24" x 24"

Acrylic on Oil


Being a new blog, I am just inviting anyone who I think I've seen paint before. I also am inviting all members as admins, which is kind of like total chaos in blog-land, but also has the most potential. Hopefully no one will get P.O'd and delete the whole thing =P. Feel free to invite any painters you know who might enjoy this.

Hummingbirds with plant, watercolor & ink, 2008