Monday, March 10, 2014

Grandmother's Garden

Grandmother's Garden
mixed media on 24 x 24 inch wood

Not too long ago, a very generous and thoughtful person contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in taking some vintage photos off of her hands.  She said she had quite a collection, but would never be able to use them all and wanted to find good homes for them.  I had no idea I would receive so many and I teared up looking at many past, women, children, families...and no one knows who they are anymore.  These photos are a treasure and I can't thank this person enough for thinking of me as a recipient.

For those who are interested in the process for this piece, read on...otherwise just skip to bottom of this post to see the photo that inspired this painting.

So about the process...

For this larger painting I wanted to try a combination of all the different techniques that have worked well in the past.  These are techniques that I love and frequently use, but not necessarily all at once.  I wanted to be sure to use all my favorite mediums.

Here is the shopping list:

24 x 24 inch wood 1/4 inch thick (cut by Home Depot)
white gesso - 1 thick coat
acrylic paints
oil paints
matte gel medium
scrapbook papers
acrylic ink
glazing medium
oil pastel
colored pencils
palette knives
flat brushes
detail brushes

putting it together
The wood was primed with white gesso first and allowed to dry for at least 24 hours. I then painted the entire surface with acrylic just to get the wood covered in color.  I blocked in the buildings, ground, sky, tree and figure, and then started the face, chest and arms also with acrylic paint.  I picked my basic color theme ahead of time.  It changed some as the painting progressed, but stayed pretty close to how it started out.

I cut long strips of paper for the buildings...the shed papers being skinnier than the house papers.  I also designed her dress with various papers.   I had to use tracing paper to help me get the size of her dress correct (lay tracing paper over the figure, draw the dress onto the tracing paper, cut it out and then use that shape to help you cut the scrapbook paper).  There may be an easier way, but this is all I know.

 All of this...buildings and  her dress were laid out while the board was flat.  This way I could stand over it and decide if the composition worked or not before gluing it down.

Just FYI:  Did you know that there are copyright laws for scrapbook paper?  The papers I use in my art come from large pads manufactured by Michael's Arts and Crafts and Hobby Lobby.  I checked with them a long time ago and they said that their paper is okay to use in art that will be sold...but you can't reproduce the paper to sell.  However, a lot of the singular sheets and other books of paper you buy have a copyright and you cannot use those in art that you sell unless they give you permission.

Back to the painting...over time I have decided that painting faces with oil is easiest because it can be blended so smoothly.  Plus I just love the way it soft.  Her face, neck, chest and arms are all finished in oil, but underneath is acrylic.  Her hair is in oil too.  I smeared in on with a palette knife and then slice into it creating a more stranded look.  Her hair bows are in oil also...those were the very last thing I added.

The grass is layers and layers and layers of acrylic paint and I had to get it right before the big white flowers were added.  Again, the shed is cut strips of paper.  I glazed over the buildings with a sheer earthy orange-brown.  The roof of the shed was painted and sanded, painted and sanded.  Sanding is a great way to add light to an area.  I also painted the table and chairs and added a few dots of different greens to make it look like a vine...keeping it very simple.

I lucked out with the paper for the is a wood grain pattern and as I laid glazes over it, it looked more and more like wood.  I kept spaces in between the strips of paper and this really added depth to the house.  When I first put the strips down, I put them against each other, but it didn't look right.  That's why you want to check your composition before gluing down the paper.  It takes time to get it to look right.  (I used the gel medium as my glue.) The windows are painted, there is no cut paper there.  

The most tedious part was cutting all these little leaves with an X-ACTO knife and then gluing them down.  I was going to paint the leaves, but the cut paper leaves seem to add to the depth and tie in with the buildings really well, giving the whole work a new cohesiveness.  I went over and over these little papers with the matte gel medium and also transparent green glazes so those little pieces won't come off.

I rubbed a thin layer of brown acrylic ink over her dress which gave it an antique look.  This is one of my favorite things to do to my art.  I learned this trick from Jane Spakowsky's class two years ago and I use it often.

The hardest part of this whole painting were those darn white flowers.  I have so much trouble painting flowers that look good.  I was finally happy with them after tracing the acrylic petals with oil pastel and going over stems and leaves with colored pencil.  That seem to do the trick by adding light to good places, but let me tell you they were tough to do because once they were down, it was a commitment since the rest of the painting was already finished. I think my heart skipped some beats prior to making that first mark of the petal...I was so afraid of ruining what was already done!

Thankfully it all worked out!

the muse
And here she is...the soul that inspired this piece.  Isn't that the sweetest smile?  I wonder who she was and where she is here and who took her picture.  Don't you?

More photo-inspired paintings to come.

♥ Lisa

PS:  Vic and I are celebrating 24 years of marriage today!  


  1. This is just a fabulous painting! You have such a wonderful way of capturing a feeling or a mood. Your paintings always evoke a feeling in me when I look at them. Beautiful!

  2. This is a wonderfull piece Seeing the photo that inspired it seems to enhance it somehow. I enjoyed reading your process. She has such a beautiful face and the flowers turned out lovely.

  3. Thank you for sharing a bit about your process. The end result is beautiful!

    Old photos always catch my attention, and I try to imagine who the people were, what they were doing and thinking. Wouldn't it be great if old photos could talk!!

  4. Grandmother's Garden is fabulous and I love all the juicy details about your process!
    How wonderful to be gifted the vintage photos! YAY
    And Happy Anniversary!

  5. i'm smiling at *all* of this... : ) and those flowers, wow...

    happy anniversary my friend...


  6. That one is so beautiful!
    I Love all the little details and especially the flowers in the forground.
    Great to see how you have made it.
    Superb work Lisa!

  7. Thank you for showing the process of this painting! It is truly wonderful! Scrapbook paper has copyright laws? That is crazy!
    I love the picture! It is so sweet! She is beautiful! And, your painting is beautiful!
    Big Hugs ;o)

  8. YES, I do wonder! and this painting is a WONDER, Lisa. Congratulations and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY. XOXO

  9. I love this painting and the photo. I just received some old photos and had the same reaction. I feel like the keeper of memories.

  10. I absolutely adore this painting!! I wish I could have it on my wall! My granny has a magical garden too! :-)

  11. Wonderful.A really special painting and i found the process steps so interesting. Thanks Lisa.

  12. BEAUTIFUL painting, Lisa! LOVE her dress....and such an interesting post!!

  13. Wow, this is quite wonderful!!! I think those abandoned people photos landed in the perfect
    home. I love what you did and How you did it-thanks so much for taking time to explain your

  14. I read every word, studied every picture, thought about every process, didn't quite get one of the later steps of "tracing of the flowers", plus seeing you are celebrating an anniversary. You are awesome. Your painting is awesome. Mixed media is such a blast. I did it in the past and may go retro soon. Hugs.

  15. Ciao Lisa,
    auguri per il compleanno del tuo matrimonio!
    Bellissima la foto che hai trovato e bellissimo anche il lavoro che hai dipinto!
    Come sempre trovo la tua creatività molto affascinante e armoniosa!
    Ciao, abbracci, Floriana

  16. Your art is beautiful; takes me right into it. Thank you for sharing your process! I'll be back, often, to visit.

  17. beautiful design...just love it! Happy Anniversary!

  18. Congrats on your anniversary. Love the process description. I figured that most scrapbook paper was copyright, so I try and only use my own gelli papers in my art. Mostly the combination of all this process is what makes the painting and your eye of course. Great photo inspiration, would have wanted to know this gal. xox

  19. I am back because I can't stop thinking about this painting. I have all of my oil paints packaged to give away. Now I am going to keep them. I didn't realize I could use them with acrylics. I am really inspired to try it. I have been worried about putting some of my pieces up for sale because of the scrapbook paper. I am going to check on the copyrights. Finally, I have been thinking about how to tell a story with my paintings and have been feeling stuck. I am going to look through my old photographs and see if I can create a scene with them. Anyway, you have inspired me! Thank you. Also, I really love this painting. I think it reminds me of my grandmother.

  20. WOW! That's all I can say. I love, love, love this piece, and I'm so glad you shared your process. The whole thing has such depth, and such cohesion. Truly lovely! (and I like it way better than the photo, which is sweet, but it's just a photo, and your piece!)

  21. Oh my, I am so glad you dropped by my blog and left a comment. I really enjoyed your blog post and love your work and inspiration. Great explanation too, and I know what you mean about looking at vintage photographs.

  22. Oh Lisa, what a beautifully beautiful creation. I love how you have also shared your process, and those flowers are so very perfect. I understand the angst of making a mess of something you are working on, but I am so glad you were brave and added the flowers, they are like the icing on the cake. Perfectly yummy! (congratulations on the anniversary)


Thank you so much for your visit and comment!