Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Family Farmhouse

After a slow few months of art production due to the lovely symptoms of pregnancy, I'm finally back at my desk! With a baby girl kicking at my belly whenever I squash her against my art table, I have recently completed this family farmhouse, bringing together about twenty photos to include many family memories of a very kind lady.

In order to incorporate so many features, I approached the piece with a leaning towards folk art rather than perfect realism and proportion. I used the same set of colors throughout the painting to keep the images together as a whole. My sweet client and I are both happy with the finished piece, and I am looking forward to beginning my next painting!

Family Farmhouse, 18x24 soft pastel on board

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Upcoming Shows!

Come out to Park Lane in English Village, Mountain Brook from 4:00-8:00 this Thursday December 1st for the annual Mountain Brook Art Association's Holiday Show! This is a fun event with delicious food and drinks catered by Kathy G. Come browse great art and buy some unique holiday gifts! I hope to see you there!

For the month of December, I will have over 20 pieces on display and for sale at Brookwood Medical Center. Look for my art in the main lobby and the doctor's lounge!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Roman Columns

Roman Columns, 18x24 Soft Pastel on Board

Here is the fourth installment in the Italian series done by commission for a private collection here in the Birmingham area. My husband and I took a photo of these dramatic columns in the Roman Forum years ago, and I have always thought they would make a beautiful pastel!

Monday, August 22, 2011

View from Fiesole

View from Fiesole, 24x36 commissioned pastel

This is the newest addition to one of my most gracious client's collection of pastels. "View from Fiesole" will hang with the "Trevi Fountain" and the "Spanish Steps." And there is one more pastel of Italy to come, so stay tuned!

The Trevi Fountain, 24x36 Soft Pastel

The Spanish Steps, 30x30 Soft Pastel

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Coast of Maine

The Coast of Maine, 16x20 Commissioned Pastel

I love the challenge of drawing the ocean, and especially the ocean spray as the waves crash upon the dark rocks. This piece is similar to my earlier pastels of the Scottish coast, with the wonderful contrast of darks and lights. I love using the many blues, greens, and whites intermixed with the unexpected hints of burgundy and ochre hidden in the water. The rocky coast in this particular piece was very interesting, with its striated texture glistening in the sun.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Paper from the Past"

At an art show last spring I met a fellow pastel artist and, after some discussions about techniques, we did a paper swap. I gave him a piece of Sennelier La Carte pastel card, and he generously gave me a large sample of a pastel cloth. I like to call this one "paper from the past," because a) he bought it a very long time ago and can't remember the brand, b) after research, it is very hard to find information about pastel cloth, and c) it doesn't seem to be made much anymore, if at all.

I discovered two possible sources for pastel cloth, which comes in a roll and is a synthetic, unwoven fabric, with a coating similar to sanded papers, that will hold layers of pastel. NY Central Art Supply and Sennelier both make/have made a pastel cloth.

The cloth can be cut to the desired size, but needs to be mounted or secured in some way to keep it from curling. It can also be stretched like a canvas. Since I was experimenting, I just taped all four sides down with masking tape.

I cut several pieces and taped them down to a board and decided to try a few things. First I layered some pastels, browns, oranges and ochres, and painted with a brush and water. Then I added details of a lily in my yard. The result pleased me well enough: the paper held the layers well, the water did not affect the paper adversely, all brands of pastels that I tried worked fine (Sennelier, Rembrandt, Gallery, Derwent pastel pencils). 

5x7 Soft Pastel on Pastel Cloth

For the second "test" I tried a simple picture with my usual techniques. Again, the results were satisfactory, but I felt that the texture wasn't as deep as I usually get by layering on Ampersand Pastelbord or Sennelier La Carte pastel card; the colors blended just a bit more.  

While I enjoyed trying and learning about a different surface, the benefits of pastel cloth, mainly the texture, are overshadowed, in my opinion, by the downside of it being a cloth. My "verdict" is biased because of my preference for a hard board or card on which to work, and it seems like an unnecessary step to mount the pastel cloth on a hard surface when I could just buy another surface with a similar texture that is already sturdy.

With pastel cloth being hard to find, and made somewhat irrelevant by the numerous types of sanded papers that can also be used with wet or dry mediums (such as Wallis Paper), it may be more convenient and less frustrating to try another surface.

But to those who already have pastel cloth, or like the ability to stretch or mount it onto the size and surface you want, you can create some beautiful pieces of art!

Check out the art by my friend Daniel Curry, who has done several pieces on pastel cloth and so kindly shared some with me!

View his work at www.dcurrycreations.com

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New Minis!

In preparation to list on Etsy, I've been making some new mini pictures! Here are a few of the 3x3 pastels which consist mostly of "the birds and the bees," with the occasional snail or other tiny creature thrown in here and there!

These pieces range in price from $35-$45 depending upon the frame. The pastels are drawn on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Paper and sprayed with a fixative for durability. All birds are native to Alabama, and any bird can be drawn on commission at the same price. These make great gifts!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

SpectraFix Pastel Fixative

I have recently begun using a new pastel fixative introduced to me by one of my very talented art students Jenny Thornton. SpectraFix Is "a natural milk casein pastel fixative" that is non-toxic with no odor, and you can even spray it inside! It is pretty much alcohol and milk protein...it comes from cows! See?

The SpectraFix website describes the ingredients:

"SpectraFix blends art-grade milk casein with water and pure grain alcohol adding a tiny amount of isopropyl alcohol (to please the Federal Government rendering the grain alcohol undrinkable). The alcohol evaporates rapidly taking the water with it, leaving a thin film of casein which quickly dries to a protective matte surface. Even though it is milk protein, it is not subject to invasion by opportunistic organisms, as 9000 years of use as an art medium testifies."

The spray dries without darkening the colors (but don't douse it...I sprayed it lightly a couple of times about a foot above the picture, letting it dry in between coats.) I sprayed it heavily on a piece to test it, and was surprised at the little color change...while the alcohol evaporated the colors lightened almost to the original hues. I do employ heavy spraying on images that I want to deepen the rich colors and contrast, but do not recommend heavy spraying for pieces with a lot of delicate or light colors, or on something where no color change is desired, such as a portrait.

I was initially wary over the pump application, fearing that it would splatter or spray inconsistently, but when applied with a fine mist and allowed to dry between coats, I haven't experienced any trouble.  As with any fixative application, you may occasionally have a small spot appear that doesn't completely dry; this is easily fixed by adding the appropriate pastel to the spot.

The thing I find most fascinating about this spray is the history of it's ingredients. Casein has been used by artists throughout history, including my favorite artist, the French Impressionist painter and pastelist Edgar Degas. 

"Casein is simply dried milk protein and has been used for over 9000 years as a binder for pigments. Cave paintings in Asia and ancient Egytpian tomb paintings are the greatest testament to its archivability, with colors still firmly adhering to their supports with brilliant clarity of hue after literally thousands of years! No other painting medium has such an ancient and demonstrable history of stability and permanence. 

Casein has been widely used by artists since that time including medieval illuminated manuscripts, Gustav Klimt’s ‘Beethoven Frieze’, Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’, Ben Shahn, Thomas Hart Benton and many more. Since the introduction of acrylics, casein has fallen by the wayside, but it was the original foundation for the development of acrylics. It was an early type of plastic (when combined with formaldehyde) and was used for decades to make buttons, handles, trays and all manner of colorful items.

There is also great evidence that Degas used different formulations of casein as a medium and as a fixative, including liquid solutions into which he would dip his pastel stick. He was a close friend of the artist Luigi Chialiva who patented a pastel fixative using casein and alcohol back in the 1890s, and one can hardly doubt that Degas would have been instrumental in its development and popularization

If you give SpectraFix a try, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mini Portraits

Portraits don't always have to be large! This trio of portraits were done in pastel on 4x4 inch peices of Sennelier La Carte Pastel paper. It's a different sort of challenge, working small with chunky pieces of pastel, but it is a challenge I enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pair of Horses

Pair of Horses
16x20 soft pastel on Pastelbord, $350 framed

My newest piece...

I've been wanting to draw horses lately. Drawing a horse's body, with it's distinct muscles, long legs and neck, is very different from drawing a cow or a sheep, with their stocky, thick bodies. The light glows off of the horses sleek curves; the gracefulness of the animal invites me to pause and reminisce, to think of the wonder in our world, the beauty in the family of things, of which we are a part. I think of the freedom of childhood, the rush of life. Through the beauty and being of a horse, I feel an echo of emotions, a connection to something unspoken.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Eclectic Art Escape

This Saturday July 30 from 4:30-8:00 the Eclectic Art Social Club will hold it's first art show, exhibiting a variety of unique art for sale by 7 Birmingham area artists! The show will be at Escape Day Spa in Crestline Village in Mountain Brook and will feature:

acrylic abstracts by Cecily Hill Lowe

oil paintings on metal by Erin Hardin

collage and jewelry by Dariana Dervis

unique mixed media paintings and other creative pieces by Sunny Carvalho

ceramics and paintings by Chi Roach,

jewelry by Marjorie Gilkey,

and pastel paintings by me, Mary Liz Ingram

There will definitely be art for every taste! We will have refreshments, door prizes, and spa giveaways! Spread the word and bring your friends!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wedding Chapel

10x10 Soft Pastel on La Carte Pastel Card

Down some beautiful winding country roads outside of Columbus Georgia, and down a narrow road through a canopy of trees, we came to a sunlit clearing wide with spring green grass, surrounded by a just distant circle of thick trees and a vivid blue sky. Perched atop the grassy hill shone a gleaming white old chapel, relocated to the spot by the landowner. This dreamlike, private location was the setting of a perfect small wedding a few months ago...simple, elegant and gloriously bright. An artist's dream come true!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Escape Day Spa

Artists are always looking for new ways to share their art, and to merge the message of their art with the right location. Recently, I have taken some of my art to Escape Day Spa, a peaceful new spa located in a quiet house-turned-buisiness just off the main street in Crestline Village, Mountain Brook, Alabama. I like to convey a sense of peace and stillness in many of my pieces, so such a relaxing location seems a perfect fit. Below are a few of the paintings currently displayed (and for sale!) at the spa.

Waterlilies, 4x4 and 5x7 Soft Pastels

Joy, 8x10 Soft Pastel

Ocean Cliffs, 14x18 Soft Pastel

The Empty Tub, 18x24 Soft Pastel

Monday, June 6, 2011

Southern Cottonfield

9x12 Soft Pastel on Pastelbord, Commissioned

For this piece, I combined several elements from previous pictures to suit my clients wishes...the swirling turquoise sky, the rust colored trees, the gray barn, and a Southern field full of cotton.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Farmhouse Wedding

Marion Farmhouse, 9x12 Soft Pastel on Pastelbord

Warm Spring days and June approaching... cue weddings, weddings and more weddings! This Spring, my daughter was flower girl twice, and we attended 3 weddings in a month! My cousin was married in April on a beautiful family farm in Perry County (Marion, Alabama to be precise) on the steps of the old farmhouse.

What better way to commemorate the day and make a unique gift than a portrait of the wedding location! If you are searching for the perfect wedding (or anniversary!) gift for your friends, your family, your spouse, or yourself, send me the photo of your wedding location and I will turn it into a lasting piece of art!

Visit www.MaryLizIngramArt.com for pricing and more information.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stipple Paper by Bee Paper

Smooth, sandy, rough, scratchy, thick, thin...and stippled! As I've said many times before, there is a plethora of pastel surfaces and textures upon which great art can be made. The newest paper sample I've tried is from Bee Paper Company and is called "Stipple Paper," thanks to my friends at Forstall Art Center. The paper feels smooth and slick to the touch, with a finely pebbled surface. I decided to try a small portrait with several types of pastels to get a good feel for this new texture.

Here is my result:

5x51/2 Soft Pastel on Stipple Paper

I used five types of pastels: my usual favorite, the very soft Sennelier Pastels; the slightly harder soft pastels by Rembrandt; a variety of soft pastel pencils; a black Conte pastel; and an inexpensive set of square soft pastels.

To compare the application, on the image below I used all five: starting from the top left, the black is the square pastel, then the Sennelier in the top center, bottom right is Rembrandt, bottom left is the Conte. I sketched out the mage in a brown pastel pencil. All pastels adhered well with minimal excess dust.

I rubbed some blues in with my finger to begin the sidewalk, and filled in the black.

I finished up the piece by using Sennelier to finish the background, pastel pencils and Rembrandts for the face, Rembrandts with Sennelier highlights for the hair, and Sennelier for the shirt and clover. I was pleased with the result of the Stipple Paper and appreciate that all the types of pastel worked so well. I also enjoyed the sleek yet pebbled texture, and prefer it over the spotty texture you get from a traditional piece of pastel paper, such as Canson or Mi Tientes. From a sillier place in my mind, I like the paper because of its name..."Stipple Paper"...its just fun to say!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Village Art Festival

About a week ago, on that unusually cold Southern Spring weekend, I participated in the first Village Art Festival at Brookwood Mall in Birmingham, Alabama. Wonderfully organized by the Birmingham Art Association and the mall, for me the show was a success. My booth was full of art and placed outside, across from restaurants and a flowing fountain.

As "supervisor" of the Kids Zone, I have to brag on the organizers whose creativity and forethought set up the best and smoothest kid's art area I have ever seen. The families who participated had a blast, and were very excited to take home their own art supplies!

My large pastel "Shepherd's Hut" finally found a home, and I made lots of great connections to other artists and art lovers.

I also acquired a sample of pastel cloth to experiment with, courtesy of a new friend whose art will be highlighted in a post to come!

A second show is being planned for next year...I recommend participation to artists and the public!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Colourfix Suede

Recently my friends at Forstall Art Supply gave me a sample of the very new pastel paper Colourfix Suede to try out. At first touch, it feels like a smooth suede, as the name suggests, very different from the rough sanded textures I usually choose. 

My first experience with the paper showed me that certain pastels and techniques work better than others. Using very soft Sennelier pastels, I found that the softer, creamier pastels adhere better than harder pastels; a lighter touch yields better results than my usual heavy-handed layering.

4 1/2 x 7 soft pastel on Colourfix Suede

While it did hold layers well, more blending occurred than on sanded papers, maybe less blending than basic pastel papers (paper sans coatings). 

I had trouble getting my beloved Sennelier black pastel to adhere.

Unsatisfied with my first attempt, I did a bit of research and found that Colourfix Suede is great for the delicate Pan Pastels and fans of pastel application via soft tools and fingers (toothier surfaces can irritate fingers and damage applicators). Pastel pencils are also supposed to work well on the fine surface. Because the suede surface is applied to a watercolor paper, an underpainting (using paint to create a colored base for the pastel piece) is said to work well on this paper. 

With this new information, I tried a second piece, using several techniques and types of pastels.

4x4 Soft Pastel on Colourfix Suede

For the sky I applied the pastel with my fingers, rubbing the Sennelier pastel color onto the paper. This is as close as I could get to a Pan Pastel application. Again, the creamier pastels transferred more color. I used pastel pencils and Rembrandt pastels for the landscape. The pencils went on the paper well, and I was very surprised at how much color adhered with the Rembrandts, which are a harder pastel and usually not my favorite. The black went on darkly like I wanted, even over layers of pastel. On this paper, I would definitely reach for my Rembrandts!

As usual, I will say that all surfaces, pastels and combinations of the two yield different results. If you want a paper that will hold layers and result in a creamy, smooth painting, this paper is for you! If I use this paper in the future, I will draw with Rembrandt pastels and save my Senneliers for my sanded papers and boards.

Colourfix Suede is available in 6 colors, and black and white.