Fresh Daffodils by Melissa Carmon

Melissa Carmon art daffodil botanic drawings
Fresh Daffodils 3
Fresh Daffodils 2

Daffodil season is finally here!  

Interestingly, this is a flower that isn't so readily available on-demand.  Roses are available all the time, but a person has to wait for daffodils.  I am most of all drawn to their colors, which of course do not show in black and white, but I also find their forms fascinating.  There is an exuberance to these flowers that I love trying to catch again and again. 

Golden Acrylics Painting Workshop by Melissa Carmon

More than seventy acrylic artists came to learn about the inner workings of acrylic pastes, gels, and mediums at the Golden Artist Colors painting demo

More than seventy acrylic artists came to learn about the inner workings of acrylic pastes, gels, and mediums at the Golden Artist Colors painting demo

This morning, Jonathan (my husband) and I had a Saturday morning art date, and attended a workshop on the working properties of Golden brand paints.  Golden majors on acrylic paints (though they also own Williamsburg oils), and are committed to ever expanding the world of acrylic possibilities.  If you have ever visited the "Golden aisle" of an art supply store, you will know what I mean when I say the array is rather dazzling.  I was interested in gaining a more concrete idea of what the myriad of additives and mediums can do, and to see how these could apply to Jonathan's new series in acrylic. 

There were a handful of highlights that I'd love to share with you.  Mostly, the Golden Open Series of acrylics, which have a slower drying time, caught my eye because they are recommended for printmaking applications.  As most of you know, printmaking is part of my background and an ongoing interest of mine.  Living in a dry climate makes relief printing (such as linocut and woodblock) a bit of a trial sometimes, so the idea of using an acrylic paint with a long dry-time as opposed to block printing inks (which require attentive misting) is an appealing prospect.  

Samples from the Golden Artist Colors Paint Demo

Samples from the Golden Artist Colors Paint Demo

During the Q and A time, I noted a tip relating to Open Acrylics that was of interest-- if you mix Golden Open Medium with other Golden paints, it lends to them the properties of Open Acrylics to whatever other Golden product you're working with.  So, one doesn't actually need to go out and buy new tubes of Open series paints in order to get printing-- mix in the medium with what you already have.  Super bonus.   

Another noteworthy medium that was discussed is called GAC (Golden Artist Colors) 900.  This is an additive for making paints work with fabric.  I was amazed to feel how soft the paint was on fabric.  Furthermore, there was a fascinating example involving a chiffon-like fabric (below), and the painted area didn't feel hard, sharp, or brittle.  The GAC 900 works some pretty intense magic.   

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Overall the workshop was really valuable, and we learned a lot about how to use the various additives and mediums.  


Do you have a favorite medium or type of Golden acrylic paint?  Share your favorites in the comments below. 

Saints Series Progress by Melissa Carmon

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Welcome to the studio floor, where I'm sitting with a picture of myself and St. Benedict.  I was trying to show the scale, which only partially worked out, since in reality St. Benedict's head is about twice the size of a regular person. 

I wanted to give you little glimpse of how it's going.  Seven saints are nearly finished, and I'm beginning painting on the 8th saint today.  

 

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Here's a recent shot of St. Leo the Great and St. Benedict.  During the late winter/early spring, natural daylight in short supply, but the kind of painting and color work I'm doing is best in natural light.  The light was fading at the day's end, when I was working on Benedict's cloak.  I took this shot as I left the studio for the day.  


Botanical Drawings- Orchids by Melissa Carmon

Orchids, 8.5" x 10"  ink on paper by Melissa Carmon

Orchids, 8.5" x 10"  ink on paper by Melissa Carmon

My husband, Jonathan, bought me flowers for Valentine's Day, and I couldn't help but draw them. 

Orchid Chord, 8.5" x 11", ink on paper, by Melissa Carmon 

Orchid Chord, 8.5" x 11", ink on paper, by Melissa Carmon 

In Studio: Walnut Oil by Melissa Carmon

Walnut oil is a safer alternative to solvents  

Walnut oil is a safer alternative to solvents  

Recently, I've switched to cleaning my palette with walnut oil.  This oil has been of use to painters for centuries, and is famously mentioned by Leonardo DaVinci as an oil painting medium.   

Here I'm using walnut oil to clean my palette in the middle of a painting session.  Whereas in the past I would use a solvent like turpentine, walnut oil does just as good of a job, and does not produce harmful vapors.  

 

Cleaned palette, ready for work  

Cleaned palette, ready for work  

Above is the finished product- a clean palette ready to go!  

Manganese Mission Accomplished: How You Can find Genuine Manganese Blue, Or the Closest thing To It by Melissa Carmon

Melissa Carmon Art Painting Genuine Manganese Blue

 

Genuine Manganese Blue, an "extinct" pigment that is no longer manufactured, is part of an important part of the painter's color box.  In the last article, I shared why it's worth tracking down.  If you have a sneaking suspicion you'd like to try it, or even a strong curiosity, here we'll talk about tips to help you find the real thing.  There are two ways to go about finding this color: you can either buy the real thing, or try to get close, but either way you're going to ned a strategy.  Here's how to give it your best shot. 

On A Mission to Find Manganese Blue Paint

On a sunny afternoon last fall, I visited our local art supply store with a hope cherished in my heart that was, by all accounts, unlikely to come true.  My husband, Jonathan, and I were on a mission to find an old, unsold tube of Genuine Manganese Blue.  To give you an idea of what I was up against, production of this pigment had ceased by the 1980s, and the remaining stock in art supply stores had been all bought up by about 2007.  The idea of finding it on the shelf anywhere was a long shot.  However, there were a few things about our local store that made me think that finding old paint there was within the realm of possibility.  The first order of business was checking out their imported oil paint stock just in case there was an old tube of paint that had been highly priced (as an import), and as a result had never sold.  As I worked my way through the blue section, my heart leapt up as I saw the object of my search— “Manganese Blue" only to read the rest of the name, which ended with "...Deep.”  It was a mixture.  The Manganese Blue was genuine, but it had been pre-mixed with a shade of violet.  I looked longingly at the Manganese Blue slot, which was, naturally, empty, and debated whether I should buy the “Deep” variety.  Jonathan very generously thought I should give it a try, but since it was not pure Manganese Blue Pigment, I decided to pass.  Several weeks later, I visited the store again to buy supplies, and I happened to need a different color from the same brand of high-end paints.  For no good reason, I decided to double check the blues again.  Something on par with a miracle happened, and my eyes fell upon a single tube of Genuine Manganese Blue where there had been none before.  I did a momentary double take— it seemed logically impossible.  The manufacturer, Old Holland, no longer manufactures the genuine kind, so it could not have been new, but there it was, with correct pigment data for Manganese Blue Genuine.  This was what I can only call double luck-- not something to counted on again!  

The amusing part of this story is that my double luck came last, after going through all the other methods I am about to share with you for finding or approximating this beautiful blue.  So if you’re in need of something in the teal-cyan-cerulean neck of the woods, we’ll survey all the options of how to get there, so you can choose the route that’s best for you. 

Above is a comparison of all the blue paints available on the market, with the addition of Genuine Manganese Blue.  (For genuine Manganese, see the columns 2nd and 3rd from the right).  All samples are mixed with Williamsburg Flake White.

Above is a comparison of all the blue paints available on the market, with the addition of Genuine Manganese Blue.  (For genuine Manganese, see the columns 2nd and 3rd from the right).  All samples are mixed with Williamsburg Flake White.

Which blues are already on the market? In the previous post, I took a look at all the available blue pigments available to fine art painters.  


 

do you have real Manganese Blue?  how to tell the difference

Here’s the main tip on how to find Genuine Manganese Blue: check the pigment number on the back of paint tube.  Many companies sell Manganese Blue Hue, which is not the same thing.  To find the real deal, look for PB 33.  

Whether you want to find Genuine Manganese Blue on eBay or from a boutique paint manufacturer, or you’re looking for a substitute, knowing your way around pigment numbers is pretty much a necessity. 

What is a pigment number?

For the benefit of painters everywhere, the actual materials used to create a shade of paint are given a certain code, which you can find on the back of each tube (that is, if the manufacturer is a reputable manufacturer, and the materials are high quality).  If the pigment information is not disclosed, there is usually a reason, and it could be an indication that there is something to hide.

As an example of how to interpret pigment numbers, let’s take Phthalo Blue.  On the back of the tube, you'll see something like PB 15.  Think of the P as “Pigment”, the B as “Blue” and 15 is the number assigned to that particular chemical compound.  The company could name it Sky Blue or Cerulean, or whatever suited their fancy, but if PB 15 is on the back you'll know that the pigment in the tube is Phthalo.  There are several types of Phthalo (discussed below), so if you see PB 15:1, that's one variety, or PB 13:3, that's another.  Both will likely be labeled "Phthalo" on the front, but there are differences in the variety of Phthalo pigments.  Regardless of what the manufacturer labels the paints on the front of the tube, if you look on the back of the tube, you'll have a much better idea of what you are buying.   There are lists online of all the regular dyes, pigments and colorants in use, so during your travels through the art aisle you can easily find out what is used as a colorant in that particular tube of paint.

So, back to Manganese Blue.  Genuine Manganese Blue is PB 33.  Manganese Blue Hue is going to be a mixture of several pigments, like PB 15:1 and PW 6, for example.  Manganese Blue Hue is basically an approximation or composite of other pigments in an effort to get close to cyan.  However, it will never behave quite like the real thing, and will often include pre-mixed-in white.  Adding more white will not make the color "brighter" or more saturated, it will only make it duller and “whiter”.  

Here's a good tip in general: never buy a tube of paint with the word "Hue" in the name.  Check your pigment numbers and be sure about what you're buying. 

 

How to Find GENUINE Manganese Blue: Strategy

Here's a shot of the old tube of Genuine Manganese Blue paint (PB 33) that I found at a local art supply store.  Note how different Old Holland Manganese blue looks from Vasari (behind it, which is also PB 33).  Even though both are technically PB 33, they have been formulated slightly differently.  This picture also provides a good point of comparison between Manganese Blue and Cobalt Teal (PG 50) in the foreground.

Here's a shot of the old tube of Genuine Manganese Blue paint (PB 33) that I found at a local art supply store.  Note how different Old Holland Manganese blue looks from Vasari (behind it, which is also PB 33).  Even though both are technically PB 33, they have been formulated slightly differently.  This picture also provides a good point of comparison between Manganese Blue and Cobalt Teal (PG 50) in the foreground.

So, now you know what to look for (PB 33), but how do you find it?  Here are my favorite strategies for finding this rare hue.

Buying Genuine Manganese Blue

Since the original stocks of Manganese Blue were sold out of most art stores about 10 years ago, you’ll need a strategy if you’re going to go this route.  You might be able to find some online, but that means you’re going to have to compete with other enthusiastic artists on eBay and get really lucky.  At the time of this writing, a third option is available, which also falls in the “lucky” category since there is no telling how long it will last: Vasari is currently offering a limited supply of freshly made Manganese Blue.

  • Route #1: Buy it from Vasari.  It’s a little different color than the Old Holland variety, but Vasari makes great paint anyway.  Vasari has announced that they have “searched the world over” and found enough pigment for “several batches,” and states on their color index that it is, indeed, PB 33. 
     
  • Route #2: Ebay.  This is tricky, but you might be able to get different brands.  The trouble is that Manganese Blue Hue has gummed up the search results when it comes to looking on the internet.  It takes patient and careful work to find the real thing, and will likely involve lots of notes to sellers to clarify.  Be sure to write sellers ask them to look for the "little numbers on the back of the tube." That way, you'll know you are getting PB 33 and not a mixture. 
     
  • Route #3:  Art stores.  If they are a combination of being a little bit dusty and little bit overpriced, you might be in luck.  Look for Genuine Manganese Blue in the high-end brands (remember, PB 33), since these are more likely to be paints that were purchased a long time ago by the store but haven’t sold.

A note of caution: Bear in mind that Genuine Manganese Blue is also highly toxic (but so are many of the other most valuable colors on the palette, so it's in good company).  If that's a concern, that might be a reason to check out the substitutes.   


substitutes for manganese blue: Tactics

The color swatches below show how close other formulations can get to Genuine Manganese Blue

The color swatches below show how close other formulations can get to Genuine Manganese Blue

Ok, so in the hunt for Genuine Manganese Blue, perhaps cost or luck were not on your side, or perhaps you need something now.  Here's my best advice for getting close if you are after a better cyan.   

Tactics for Mixing Cyan, aka A Flowchart for Upping the Ante:

  • Tack #1: Try to mix cyan with whatever variety of Phthalo Blue in already your paintbox (I'm assuming you have this ubiquitous pigment-- if not, no worries, skip to tack #3 before buying some).  If it's unsatisfactory (i.e. you have to add a lot of white, and it gets chalky), proceed to tack 2. 
     
  • Tack #2: Mix whatever variety of Phthalo Blue you have with a little Cobalt Turquoise or Cobalt Teal (PG 50) instead of using white.  I used this tactic when painting the commission and it worked well.  If you are still wishing for something a little more cyan, proceed to the next step.
     
  • Tack #3: Dust off those pigment numbers again and examine which kind of Phthalo you're using.  If it is anything other than PB 15:3, it's time to take a trip to the store.  It turns out that this particular kind of Phthalo does the trick better than any other.  Mixing Phthalo 15:3 with Cobalt Teal or Cobalt Turquoise (PG 50) will get you the closest to Manganese Blue.  

 

Oh so many Phthalo Blues

There are many different Phthalo Blue formulations, and while most of them fly by the same moniker, "Phthalo blue," some lean towards red and others lean towards green.  It's helpful to know which formulation you have, and the most surefire way to do so is simply to check out the pigment numbers.  In the past, I'd noticed there were differences from brand to brand as to which formulation they chose for their "Phthalo" and how they chose to describe the color on the front.  Here are a few of the options: PB 15:1, PB 15:3, PB 15; 4, or PB 15:6. (All are Phthalo Blues, but each one has a slightly different property, or a different leaning).  To get very close to Genuine Manganese Blue, you’ll need to look for PB 15:3.  Below is an example of the notation on the paint tube.  Note that the front just says, "Phthalocyanine Blue."  On the back, note the right hand side where it says PB 15:3. 

There are subtly different formulations of Phthalo Blue, and the pigment number on the back will give you the most information.  The best Manganese Blue substitute is PB 15:3. 

There are subtly different formulations of Phthalo Blue, and the pigment number on the back will give you the most information.  The best Manganese Blue substitute is PB 15:3. 

As discussed above, the best substitute for Manganese is PB 15:3 mixed with Cobalt Teal PG 50.

*As a footnote to the discussion, many formulations of Manganese Blue Hue (the approximation commonly on the market today) are actually made with PB 15:3 and white.  The problem is, you can't get the white out of them.  In order to make a closer match to those Manganese cyans, you'll need pure PB 15:3.  To make it lighter, I would suggest starting by mixing in some Cobalt Teal or Cobalt Turquoise (PG 50), which is a naturally light pigment that looks pastel, but does not contain white.  Cobalt Turquoise leans green, so it both lightens and creates more of a cyan color.  This is a much more expensive pigment than something like Titanium or Zinc White, and that might be one reason why it is not sold as a mixture. 

*As another aside, I have read that PB 17, sometimes called Peacock Blue, is a fantastic substitute for Manganese Blue, but I have not tried it myself.  It seems to be a lot rarer and harder to find than PB 15:3, and may be out of production.  If you've worked with it before, I would welcome hearing your thoughts. 

manganese mission accomplished

By the way, Jonathan won the husband-of-the-year award. :)  He bought me some freshly made Genuine Manganese Blue from Vasari as a birthday present!  What a guy!

By the way, Jonathan won the husband-of-the-year award. :)  He bought me some freshly made Genuine Manganese Blue from Vasari as a birthday present!  What a guy!

 

In sum, I am pleased with what Genuine Manganese blue adds to my palette, and also pleased that PB 15:3 (especially when mixed with Cobalt Teal PG 50) can come so close.  However, there is something that will always be intriguing to me about the idea that some paints are not duplicable through other means, and that they have a specific note that others can try to approximate, but can never really add.  

Have you experimented with genuine Manganese Blue, or any of its substitutes?  I would enjoy hearing what's worked for you below.  

In Search of the Lost Cyan: Manganese Blue by Melissa Carmon

How do I find genuine manganese blue paint art Melissa Carmon painting

Blue.  There may be lots of blues in your paintbox, but have you ever noticed that one is missing? The gradient of a blue sky isn’t quite the same without a bright blue cyan.  Genuine Manganese blue, pictured above but unavailable today, was once a staple in artist’s paintboxes.  This "extinct" pigment, can almost be replicated… but not quite.  You’ll soon know how to get as close as you can, or find the real stuff… if you’re lucky. 

This is part 1 of a 2-part post on why you might be interested in Manganese Blue Paint.  Part 2 will cover how to find it.  

In Search of Cyan Paint

I was working on painting a brilliant blue sky, which was to be the backdrop painting for a newly-made world, when I realized that no blue in my paintbox (demonstrated below) made for a good cyan.  Cyan is a blue that is bright, vibrant, and leans toward green.  Cyan is easy enough to create in printing inks, so why not pigments?  I decided to take a trip to my local art store to ask an old college art buddy of mine about this section of the color gamut.  What he said as we examined every blue available confirmed my suspicions-- there really isn't much at this end of the gamut as far as paint and pigment.  That day, I purchased Cobalt Turquoise (far right in the graphic) to help approximate the color for which I had searched.  

Missing Cyan.  Above, a comparison of blue paints to show the pigments currently available to painters.  From left to right: Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue (Genuine), Phthalo Blue (15:1), Cerulean Blue (Genuine), and Cobalt Turquoise (Genuine).  None of the above pigments is very close to a true cyan- an intense blue-green that is both high value (lightness) and high saturation.  Manganese, currently unavailable, is not shown here.  

Missing Cyan.  Above, a comparison of blue paints to show the pigments currently available to painters.  From left to right: Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue (Genuine), Phthalo Blue (15:1), Cerulean Blue (Genuine), and Cobalt Turquoise (Genuine).  None of the above pigments is very close to a true cyan- an intense blue-green that is both high value (lightness) and high saturation.  Manganese, currently unavailable, is not shown here.  

The Limitations of Blue Pigments In Opaque Painting Techniques

If you are interested in cutting to the chase and surveying your options for the blues available, feel free to skip ahead to the next paragraph.  If you aren’t quite convinced about the lack of cyan pigments, what follows may illuminate the problem.  To understand why Manganese is helpful, or why one should work to find a good substitute, it's important to note that the need for a better cyan is most noticeable when working with opaque paint handling techniques.  I painted for years before noticing the need for a high-saturation cyan pigment besides Phthalo, and it wasn't until I worked on commission in gouache that I began to miss it.  As an opaque kind of paint, gouache presents its own set of benefits and limitations, and in other media (oil, acrylic, or watercolor) cyan is not so dearly missed.  The standard greenish blue is either Phthalo Blue, which is certainly capable of cyan tones when used in a transparent way or Genuine Cerulean Blue, which has a cyan look but is often not very saturated.  As a closer match to cyan, let's look at Phthalo.  When it's undiluted, Phthalo blue looks almost black, and a person must either thin it down (to create transparency) or add white in order to mix something like a light cyan.  In direct gouache painting, the best option is to mix Phthalo with white, which makes the blue less saturated.  So, all of this leads us to a quandary:  in order to get Phthalo to closer to cyan, at least in gouache, a person has to add copious amounts of white.  This makes the blue duller, less saturated, and less leaning toward green.  In short, no cyan. 

A Brief Review Of All the Blues in the Paintbox: Or How Close can Blue Pigments Can Get To Cyan?

Ok.  So here’s the picture (no pun intended).  Following the graphic below, let's talk through the options.  

The Full Gamut of Blue Pigments, Including Genuine Manganese Blue.  Above, you can see that two different brands of Genuine Manganese Blue are compared, and both yielded a closer match to cyan when mixed with white than the other blues.  

The Full Gamut of Blue Pigments, Including Genuine Manganese Blue.  Above, you can see that two different brands of Genuine Manganese Blue are compared, and both yielded a closer match to cyan when mixed with white than the other blues.  

From Left to right:

  • Ultramarine Blue: As a cyan mixing color, Ultramarine is out of the question, as it is a royal blue that leans more toward purple.  This is known as pigment PB 29. 
     
  • Cobalt Blue (Genuine): Genuine Cobalt does not lean as far towards purple as Ultramarine, but it will result in even less of a blue-green color than Phthalo blue.   Adding yellow to blue to mix a "green-blue" out of Cobalt will only make the resulting mix duller (a basic principle of subtractive color mixing).  This is pigment PB 28.  
     
  • Phthalo Blue, short for Phthalocyanine Blue: This is the go-to blue for approximating cyan.  However, this can best be done using transparency, which is not really a feature of opaque painting methods.  Since this color comes out of the tube almost as dark as a black, one must mix it with white to reveal it's "true blue" tones, which lead not to cyan, but a duller, less saturated, bright baby blue.  It takes a lot of white to raise it to a light cyan… often destroying some of the vibrant blue-green character and making the mix a chalky pale color.  Mix as I might, even with the addition of yellow (not pictured here) I could not achieve a bright blue-green.  The color was either too dark, too muddy, or too chalky. There is a catch regarding the capabilities of Phthalo, but more on this later.  Usually Phthalo is pigment PB 15 or PB 15:1.
     
  • Cerulean Blue (Genuine): As a pigment, genuine cerulean is a little “dustier" in its coloration (emitting more red and yellow in its spectral profile than other blues).  It won't get any "brighter" than it comes out of the tube, and mixing it with white or yellow will further dilute the blue-green hue that it possesses. True Cerulean is pigment PB 35. 
     
  • Enter... Manganese Blue (Genuine): First, many companies sell “Manganese Blue Hue” and that is not the same thing.  Genuine Manganese Blue, no longer manufactured, is a clear, bright, and punchy blue that leans toward green, and requires much less white than Phthalo in order to lighten it.  If working in opaque media, this property can be useful.  (There are other reasons that people like it, for example in watercolor— even though that is a transparent medium— but that is outside the scope of this post).  I feel it comes the closest to cyan.  If you look at the third row, note how much more "blue-green" the Manganese Blues are compared with the standard Phthalo or the Genuine Cerulean. Two brands of Manganese Blue Genuine are shown here: Old Holland and Vasari. You'll know Genuine Manganese Blue since it is labeled as PB 33.  
     
  • Cobalt Turquoise or Cobalt Teal (Genuine): The last in line is, in truth, a green, but a green that leans far enough in hue toward blue that it can be helpful.  Before I decided to track down some genuine Manganese Blue, I mixed Cobalt Turquoise with Phthalo to get close to the cyan shade I was seeking.  The resulting mixture did not have the same dullness as mixing Yellow into the Phthalo (there is a technical explanation for this), nor was it as chalky as simply adding white, as the Cobalt Turquoise does not contain white, but is naturally a paler pigment.  This pigment is PG50. 

The Secret Manganese Short-Cut

Now, I am going to cheat, and give you the answer your soul has been longing for, which is, what’s a person to do if they can’t find Genuine Manganese Blue, but are dying to paint those cyan skies?  

Before we discuss finding real Manganese, here’s the secret.  There one particular formulation of Phthalo that comes very close, but you’re going to have to hunt for it and do some label reading.  

[Read this in your head as a whisper, because I am giving you the secret password: It’s PB 15:3.] If that doesn’t mean much to you, never fear.  Stay tuned for the next post.  

In the next post, well also discuss how to to find genuine Manganese Blue for yourself.  

So, have you had trouble painting those cyan tones?  I'm interested in hearing if you've also noticed this missing color swatch from the painter's color gamut.      

Show installation at Everyday Joe's, downtown Fort Collins, June 1-30, 2016 by Melissa Carmon

Melissa Carmon and her artwork at 144 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, CO

Melissa Carmon and her artwork at 144 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, CO

Here are some behind-the-scenes shots of my recent installation at Everyday Joe's in downtown Fort Collins.  This is such a fun place to show artwork-- I love the backdrop of the brick interior, the high ceilings, and the natural light that pours in from above.  Work will be on display for the month of June!  

Come check it out at 144 S Mason St., Fort Collins, Colorado!

Melissa Carmon installing artwork for her show at Every Day Joe's Coffee Shop in downtown Fort Collins, CO. 

Melissa Carmon installing artwork for her show at Every Day Joe's Coffee Shop in downtown Fort Collins, CO. 

new Series Behind the Scenes by Melissa Carmon

Two of the twelve panels, ready for painting

Two of the twelve panels, ready for painting

This marks the beginning of my next series! 

This project has been in the planning stages for months, and it's exciting to finally enter the production phase.

The first problem that needed to be solved was the issue of a suitable substrate.  My vision for this project required a large size, and initially, it looked like the only way to do it was to build the canvases by hand (in the same way that I did for the RECLAIM show).  However, I was able to find a company that makes panels in the dimensions I'd hoped for--  an unusual size I'd never seen sold before anywhere else.  

Gessoing is patient work.  

Gessoing is patient work.  

These panels are made of birch wood, and are unprimed, so careful application of several coats of gesso is necessary to separate the oil paint layer from the wood.  However, every brush stroke leaves a bit of dimensionality, so for a smooth surface, I have to combine several techniques.

Have questions about the series or the priming process?  

Feel free to ask me on Twitter at @melissacarmon or comment below!

 

 

 

Art Commission for HID Global by Melissa Carmon

Tom Stephens, and Melissa Carmon celebrate the installation of Carmon's work at HID Global in Westminster.

Tom Stephens, and Melissa Carmon celebrate the installation of Carmon's work at HID Global in Westminster.

At the end of November, I finished a nine-painting commission for HID Global.   If you have a key card, to school, work, or a government office, there is a running chance that there are three letters embossed somewhere on it that spell HID.  And if there are other letters on your card, there's a pretty good chance that HID is responsible for the technology inside of said card, anyway.  They create hardware and software for the security industry, and we the people basically rely upon them to secure many of the people and places that we hold dear.

This project was an adventure for me, as it was my first commission for a corporation.  There were two particularly interesting components to this work: first, it involved research into cryptography, security, and circuitboards.  The second was that the project had a lot in common with aims and concerns of public art. 

Earlier this year, I attended a Denver symposium on public art, where several of the presenters touched on its history and the current ideological climate surrounding its production.  The idea of listening of the population that will have to endure the presence of the finished work seemed to be a dominant theme. 

Since this commission was going to be installed in an R&D site in Westminster, one of my primary goals was to create something that would connect with the engineers who work at the site.  Tom Stephens, the Engineering Manager and visionary for the creation of this commission opportunity, was the liason between myself and the other decision-makers at the company.

The concept we went with went through several iterations, and in the end, we went with something artistic, yet concrete: abstracted, yet accurate depictions of products that HID makes.  I was especially intrigued by the more visually complex pieces, which ranged from the inside of the card readers, to specific circuit boards, to the charts that describe the interactions of radio waves.  The aim was to include a mixture between the insides and the outsides of the elements across the series so that there would be visual variety in the colors and shapes. 

 

It was a joy to install the work and meet more of the engineers who worked there.  My favorite interaction was with a hardware engineer.  When asked if the circuit board painting in question was visually accurate, he paused a moment and scrutinized the painting.   After a few beats, he said, "This piece needs a little more solder."  Then he added, "But that's true in real life," and shot me a smile.  I have a hunch that there are probably a handful of things that I overlooked in my interpretation of the circuitboards (all of which engineers would be "voted most likely" to find), but we had a delightful time.

It was a joy to work with the different people and different personalities I encountered along the way. 

A big project entails big thanks: to Jonathan Myers, who took many of these pictures and provided essential assistance in varying forms along the way, to Tom Stephens, project visionary and liaison, to the leadership at HID, to Mike Carmon, Sheri Carmon Miller, Brad Miller, Nathan Epperson, the team at Fort Collins Plastics, and many others who helped make this project a reality!

The Visible Edge of Art by Melissa Carmon

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“For the artisan, craft is an end in itself. For you, the artist, craft is the vehicle for expressing your vision. Craft is the visible edge of art.” 

--David Bayles, Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

The Visionary's Point of Contact: Materials

As a painter, naturally, I am very interested in paint.  Materials fascinate me, because, as David Bayles says in his book Art and Fear, materials are an artist's point of contact with reality.  They are the physical intersection where vision meets expression. 

Painting is part chemistry and part aesthetics: there are hundreds of pigment combinations, a dozen mediums, as many additives, and a nearly infinite variety of ways to mix and match layers, glazes, and impasto techniques.  For the painter, it is not just a matter of having the right materials, but also developing the ability to use them.

Whether one's art is conceptual or figurative, traditional or not, craft is the means by which one's art is expressed.  For an artist there is always a translation of the idea at hand, and craftsmanship (or lack of craftsmanship) is part of the expression.  Craft impacts the maker (because it is intimately related to the process of making), and it also impacts the audience, because it is inseparable from the context by which an idea is conveyed. 

The Crucial Ingredient (That You Can't Buy at Jerry's Artarama)

There are lots of good things one can buy at Jerry's-- LOTS.  Using quality materials and learning about how materials work is important, but craftsmanship supersedes just  knowing what to buy.  A friend and fellow painter, for whom I have a lot of respect, recently gave a painting demo for our artist group.  He noted at one point that he actually uses "Walmart brushes" to create his work. This would come as a shock to most people who have seen his paintings, but the take-away here is that it isn't about the brush, it's about the brain that learned how to make virtuoso art from the cheapest of synthetic brushes. Beginning artists will often try to glean information on the brands that an established artist uses with the mistaken hope that successful painting is simply a matter of being able to afford the right materials.

While avoiding the wrong materials (cheaply made or poor quality) is genuinely helpful, the right ones will only get an artist so far.  I am an advocate of using excellent tools--even at the student level-- since good tools prevent needless frustration. However, what a growing artist really needs to acquire is the skill of craftsmanship, which pairs a knowledge of materials with experience in using them.  

A combination of research and experience will give an artist that magical ability to capture some part of their vision in paint, charcoal, wood, or stone.

A painter's mind is formed by hundreds and hundreds of hours of painting.  After hundreds of hours of painting, and with a little guidance, the painter's artistic vision develops, and a knowledge of how, when, and why he uses those paints and those brushes emerges.  The painter develops a language for creating their work.  Knowing when to buy that $100 tube of paint, or whether to use disposable synthetic brushes is a necessary foundation, but it just the beginning.

 

Denver Art Opening: RECLAIM Show, Artist Panel Oct 27th, 2015 by Melissa Carmon

Here are several shots from opening night at the RECLAIM show.  If you're in the Denver area, feel free to drop in Oct 27th 7:00-8:30 PM for our artist panel and a talk by philosophy professor Carl Raschke.  

Both Jonathan and I made pieces for the show.  To the left is the Spirit of Reclamation, and on the right is Jonathan's painting, Beyond Breakers.

Both Jonathan and I made pieces for the show.  To the left is the Spirit of Reclamation, and on the right is Jonathan's painting, Beyond Breakers.

Melissa Carmon Art Spirit of Reclamation Opening

Spirit of Reclamation, by Melissa Carmon

Jonathan Myers Art Beyond Breakers Reclaim Show

Beyond Breakers, by Jonathan Myers

Denver Art Collective

The Denver-based arts collective that we're part of. I absolutely love these guys!

Our friend and fellow artist, Garrett

Reclaim Show

Spirit of Reclamation by Melissa Carmon

Spirit of Reclamation by Melissa Carmon

Spirit of Reclamation, by Melissa Carmon. 35" x 57" Oil on Canvas

"Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. 'He that will lose his life, the same shall save it," is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of every day advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in alpine guide or a drill book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage, even of quite earthly or brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice."
"He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine is strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in the spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying."
-G.K. Chesterton

The theme of the show for which this painting was made is the concept of reclaiming.  While researching this concept, I began to think about the preconditions necessary for reclamation.  When something needs to be reclaimed, it means that something else has overpowered it at least once. For example, land that needs reclaiming has been over powered by a negative force (like a flood, an oil spill, or toxic waste) that has damaged it.  In people's personal lives, sometimes things are stolen, killed off or destroyed.  Areas that need to be reclaimed are areas of brokenness: perhaps where there has been abuse, failure, addiction, doubt, betrayal, negligence or malice.

In order to reclaim something, a person has to exercise determination. It requires bravery to confront a foe that has beaten you once, and it requires a certain kind of faith-- perhaps even moxie-- to decide to take back that ground.

I was searching for models who portray bravery, and it was an interesting exercise to think through the people I know who I would categorize as brave.  It was additionally difficult among those who came to mind to find someone who had a brave-looking face.  I finally decided up on painting my grandpa. 

There is a lot to say about my grandpa, more than can be said here, but suffice it to say that he was a fabulous model. 

 

The Spirit of Reclamation will be on display at the Denver Seminary Bridge Gallery from August 24- December 8, 2015.  


Drawing Life: Wade, in Triplicate by Melissa Carmon

Wade, 20 minute life-drawing, 18 x 24 by Melissa Carmon

Wade, 20 minute life-drawing, 18 x 24 by Melissa Carmon

Life drawing is one of my favorite exercises.  For one, a person is not just drawing one image... A person is melding two (due to binocular vision).  This accounts in part for the subtle difference seen in drawings made from life and those made from photographs.  

Our eyes, of course, take in two different images of the three-dimensional model before us.  It demands a lot of energy, not to mention there is the pressure of the clock.  You can't tuck the model into a notebook and save the drawing for later.  And they aren't going to sit there forever, especially in a pose like this:

The mind is an ocean.  A river.  A sea.  18 x 24" 30-minute life drawing by Melissa Carmon

The mind is an ocean.  A river.  A sea.  18 x 24" 30-minute life drawing by Melissa Carmon

I can see in the mark making of the next picture that I was beginning to flag and get tired by the end of the set.  But here is the last picture anyway, because there is something in it that I like. 

 

We Work So Hard, We Never Stop; Measure Your Soul From Bottom to Top.  (Some words by Howard Finster). 18x24" 20-minute life drawing by Melissa Carmon

We Work So Hard, We Never Stop; Measure Your Soul From Bottom to Top.  (Some words by Howard Finster). 18x24" 20-minute life drawing by Melissa Carmon

Something about it reminded me of this old photocopied page from a book on Odilon Redon, which is taped to my wall: 

 

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Drawing Life: Dan and Andrea by Melissa Carmon

Dan is a Geologist  (And Secretly, A Pro Violinist), 20-minute live drawing, 18"x24"

Dan is a Geologist  (And Secretly, A Pro Violinist), 20-minute live drawing, 18"x24"

With live drawing you are on the clock, and every stroke counts.  Every mark either gets closer to the form or, like a bad subterranean guide, leads you farther from your destination, and makes it more difficult to find your way back.   

Last week, I drew Dan and his wife, Andrea.  As many of you know, I nearly became a geologist at one point in life, so it was interesting to hear from a working geologist.  

 

Andrea, 30-minute live drawing, 18 x 24

Andrea, 30-minute live drawing, 18 x 24

Notes on technique:  I decided to use both graphite and Conté crayon for Andrea's portrait, which is why it's a bit lighter overall in tone. It's an experimental effect, and one I might use again.  Personally, I love the matte finish of Conté, as opposed to the shine of graphite, but each has a different range of effects where it can really perform well. 

 

Denver Art Opening CORE Gallery Annex June 2015 by Melissa Carmon

Art Opening, Denver, CO

For those of you who were at my Portrait show this spring in Fort Collins, the Portrait of Steven will look familiar.  This was my first opening in Denver, at the CORE Gallery Annex on Santa Fe.  I had the privilege of showing with a group of Denver-based artists as part of an art collective.  What a great team to be a part of!  Thanks everyone for your good work. 

Denver's Month of Photography: Painting the Town... With Wheatpaste by Melissa Carmon

This spring, we joined up with a class at the Denver Art Student's League to participate with Denver's Month of Photography.  For those of you who are as yet uninitiated (as I was before this last March) Denver gets covered with street art in the form of photography. 

Jonathan and I contributed about six images each to this project. This is our finished work (with the help of the rest of our team) outside of the Denver Art Student's League on 2nd and Grant St. Some of you may be bummed to find out that our late night street art escapade was totally legal.  Viewing the finished work by the light of someone's headlights gave it a little more of the colorful flair of the real deal, but it was all on the up-and-up. :) 

Our first wheatpasting project with Denver's Art Student League, as part of Denver's Month of Photography.  This project was installed at 2nd and Grant in March, 2015.

Our first wheatpasting project with Denver's Art Student League, as part of Denver's Month of Photography.  This project was installed at 2nd and Grant in March, 2015.

Above: Jonathan applies wheatpaste to a photo installation at 2nd and Grant St., Denver.

A close-up of one of the pictures we installed; the center picture is by Sherry Castella.  Denver, March 2015.

A close-up of one of the pictures we installed; the center picture is by Sherry Castella.  Denver, March 2015.

The above pic comes from one of our friends and fellow artists, Sherry Castella.  Of all the pictures we submitted for the project, including our own, I think hers was my favorite. 


We recently had the opportunity to participate in another wheatpasting project in Westminister (near Denver) through a Denver-based arts collective.  It just so happened to work out that we decided to do one large picture for this one, and the picture that was chosen ended up being one of mine. Jonathan set the type, and the pic below shows our friends who took on the hard work of installation.  Well done, team! 

Design for a large, multi-panel wheatpaste installation in Westminister, CO (near Denver).  Design by Jonathan Myers, photo by Melissa Carmon.  

Design for a large, multi-panel wheatpaste installation in Westminister, CO (near Denver).  Design by Jonathan Myers, photo by Melissa Carmon.  

Multi-panel wheat paste installation executed by Sandy Ceas, Jennifer Thye, Garrett Larson, Harriett Maggi Olds, and several others in May 2015.

Multi-panel wheat paste installation executed by Sandy Ceas, Jennifer Thye, Garrett Larson, Harriett Maggi Olds, and several others in May 2015.

Artist Talk on Color Theory, April 4, 2015 by Melissa Carmon

  Melissa Carmon will be sharing the science behind her approach to color theory at an artist talk at Living Fire Gallery, where her work is on display.

 

Melissa Carmon will be sharing the science behind her approach to color theory at an artist talk at Living Fire Gallery, where her work is on display.

Color and Neurological Perception

During my recent talk at Living Fire, we were able to delve into the key theories about how we perceive color neurologically.

  A page from Johannes Itten's book on color.  

 

A page from Johannes Itten's book on color.  

I still remember the day I found this illustration from Bauhaus theorist, Johannes Itten.  I was in high school at the time, and was reading through Itten's Elements of Color.  This illustration has shaped the way I use and understand color ever since.  This was part of the information presented at the artist's talk, since it an excellent illustration of the relationship between hue and value.

Melissa Carmon Myers Artist Talk on Color Theory at Living Fire Gallery

For the sake of demonstration, I distilled Itten's chart, and made a value scale that roughly corresponds to the hues found in a rainbow.  

  Melissa Carmon giving an artist talk at Living Fire Arts

 

Melissa Carmon giving an artist talk at Living Fire Arts

Other topics addressed at the artist talk included simultaneous contrast, non-native color usage, and color relativity.

The participants were the most fun part of the morning.  A big thanks to everyone who came and made the event such a delight.


Curious about color? For speaking inquires, drop me a line in the contact section of the website. 




New Portraits on Display March 7-April 5, 2015 by Melissa Carmon

Melissa Carmon Myers Art Opening March 2015

 

Art Opening: March 7 from 5-7 PM

Living Fire Gallery
1119 W Drake Rd, Fort Collins, CO 80526


Subtle lines and careful attention to detail combine with bold, Warhol-like colors in Melissa Carmon's show, LOOK.   Crafted with poetic line work, the arresting portraits bring together a Renaissance regard for form with Post-Impressionist color theories to create emotionally compelling likenesses of the subjects.  This departure from Carmon's previous approach to more formal portraiture fuses together disparate eras of art history and theory.

Using non-native colors, Carmon composes each portrait out of a limited color palette as a study in the interrelationships between the given color’s hues and values.   The background color of the paper dips in and out of the subject’s skin tones, tying together foreground and background of the pieces.  Form is not sacrificed, despite the flat, graphic appeal of the work, and in some of the portraits the faces display a sculptural dimensionality. 

In addition to the emotional and aesthetic use of color in Carmon’s portraits, the artist explores color phenomena that relate to our neurological perceptual apparatus.  In Portrait of Brooke, the eyes of the subject appear brown to most viewers, even though none of the colors used in the portrait mix to form a brown shade.  In Portrait of Steven, the blue and purple skin tones of the subject are accepted by most viewers as feeling compelling, and surprisingly normal.  

Carmon’s work draws upon her extensive studies in the field of color theory. The theory of simultaneous contrast, first articulated by the French scientist, Michel Chevreul, and studies in the relativity of color, following the work of Joseph Albers, are cited as two of the artist’s primary influences.

Carmon’s interest in color has lead to works that are both scientifically interesting as well as technically astute.  Along with the color portraits, examples of the artist's accurate and expressive line work are included in the 25-piece show.

Melissa Carmon's artwork will be on display March 7 through April 5, 2015

Portrait of Jonathan Myers by Melissa Carmon

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Sunlit (Portrait of Jonathan Myers), 19.5" x 24", Acrylic Paint Pen and Acrylic Wash on Paper, Melissa Carmon

The only color to choose for Jonathan is yellow; or at least, it is the first color, and most obvious.

This portrait is part of a series I've been working on which explores "non-native color"-- an entirely different way of thinking about color than what I've done before.  I'm planning several other pictures to explore a similar approach.