Art Adventures

Posts tagged ‘Pike’s Place market paintings’

Surprisingly, during my stay in March, the Seattle sun shimmered brightly over Pikes Place Market. Looking for dinner inspiration, my friend and I ventured into the market’s colorful fray. As you can imagine, this place is one of my favorite markets for visual inspiration. Texture, pattern, people, smells, and chaos flood the senses. If you haven’t been there, vendors sell fresh produce, flowers, seafood and other items in both outdoor and indoor booths. On sunny days (which can be admittedly rare depending on the season), light illuminates areas of produce, casting interesting patterns and shadows across structures. Anyway, we were poking along very slowly through the market. Every few feet I took a dozen or so photos, diving into a fit of photo-frenzy, as everywhere I looked, there was painting potential. I especially love the signs. The signs kill me every time. “Don’t Touch Me, Don’t Squeeze Me, Until I’m Yours”, one sign prudently announced. Even just the price signs are fun with their proud proclamations of freshness and their loose printing.

“We will clean your crabs for free,” one sign in the seafood area claimed. That, mixed with the crab’s crabby look, made this photo a “Must-Paint”. This poor crab, he is as crabby as can be. “Cooked” indeed.

cooked photo reference and drawing

Photo reference and drawing for “Cooked”

I began by changing to a portrait orientation for the painting, to make it more dynamic. The crabbiest crab in the forefront needed to be the focal point, and arranging the canvas into a portrait orientation allowed the focal point to be more prominent in the lower LH 1/3 of the canvas.

Cooked first wash

First wash, “Cooked”

The Texi-Plexi surface had been created in advance using a plaster tool pulled through the wet gesso, for texture (no shells;)) and sprinkled salt, to give the snow/ice structure. This painting came together so easily, so quickly. Once I had the plan in mind and the drawing set, the colors fell into place as my brush danced along the surface.

I absolutely love it. Hope you do as well.

Cooked copyright

“Cooked” 11×14 watercolor on Texi Plexi $275

“Cooked” is available at Hood Avenue Art Gallery in Sisters, Oregon, for $275. Make sure you stop by and check out this little crabby crab.

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I have a thing…with string.

Or I do, at least, in my new painting.  Flashback: It all began with a simple photo of radishes at Pike’s Place Market in Seattle.  A HUGE batch of super-red, stacked radishes, that is. Bountiful, and bursting forth with string-like roots snaking every which direction. Argh!  I’m having an aesthetic fit!!  Calm down, now, Beastie.  Hmmm…the radish roots seem very string-like, me thinks.  How about some thread, adhered to the surface of the plexiglass, echoing the stringy-roots?  And, because sheet music’s grid-like structure could add contrast to the circular radish forms, I’ll add it to the background (though I somewhat regret that later).

After 2 weeks of non-posting(C’mon, Sarah, get it togetha! You made a promise to yourself to paint a painting and post about it weekly!  Sheesh! What can I say, I spent time with my boys and my husband at the Oregon Coast. No posting…but you all were in my mind the whole time.  Really!), I set out to begin the task of strings and radishes singing a tune on plexi.

Here is how the painting came about:

A detail showing squares of sheet music and string adhered to the surface of the plexiglass

A detail showing squares of sheet music and string adhered to the surface of the plexiglass

Moving ahead with my initial ideas, I gessoed over the sheet music and the string and drew in the composition.  In my photo, the composition was somewhat split in half in the top, where the 75 cent sign was; a big no-no in the rules of composition.  I added another sign above and slightly to the left to shift the weight to the left.

When I finished the drawing, it looked pretty crazy. There were pencil lines everywhere. Along with the string and music squares, I could hardly tell what was where…how…who? Not sure if it would turn out at all.  The string caused most of the confusion, but I kept my hopes up.  Stringing me along, it was, with hopes of grandeur.  Keep going, Sarah! Don’t lose hope! However, with all the chaos facing me, I worried I might lose the white roots of the radishes.  There was so much going on.



Pre-painting drawing. Kind of crazy, I know. Can you tell what’s going on?

The roots were an important piece of the painting, but I wanted to paint quickly.  Solution? Frisket the roots! Frisket is a masking fluid, applied to a surface of a painting to resist paint, then later removed.  Anything beneath the frisket remains unpainted.  So I could paint all the radishes at once without being concerned about keeping the roots clear of paint. Good enough, and I’ve used it plenty of times in the past, for whiskers or hair, especially. You can see the slightly glossy frisket painted on the roots below:

Detail of radish root showing applied frisket

Detail of radish roots showing applied frisket.

At this point, I remembered a horrible fact. I had used frisket once before on a gessoed plexiglass painting, and it DIDN’T REMOVE!  Just like Bazooka gum on a shoe! Yikes! Ruined the whole painting.  The tacky stuff adhered, in a weird way, to the gesso. It had been an old jar of frisket, though. I tested a corner on my painting where the offending material resided.  I touched a corner of it with the rubber remover thingy.  It lifted up, and, similar to those rubber glue things that attach pseudo credit cards to advertisements you get in the mail, it pulled up beautifully.  Whew, whew, whew!

Sheesh!  The stress of the art beast!

Loading a 2″ wide wash brush, saturated with varying amounts of sap green and quinacridone red, I placed the dark green mixture directly into the leaf and dark radish shadow areas. Immediately, before the green dried, I covered the radish area with the 2″ brush, fully loaded with quinacridone red, working around the green areas, but letting it all bleed together.  I then worked quickly to lay in the green onions and celery.  Here is the first wash:


First wash of radishes, green onions, and celery

Hmmm…the radishes look like a big red blob!  If I place some red below the sign in the lower RH corner, it might fix The Blob.  It helped.  After it all dried, I went into the radishes again and pulled out their circular shapes.  I let that layer dry, then, crossing my fingers, removed all the frisket.  Hallelujah, it released!  The radishes looked pretty good, albeit still a little confusing. I ignored that thought, though, and worked on the signs and detail in the onions.


After removing the frisket, I worked on the details of the veggies and the signs.

Can you see the string fling thing in the green onions? Kinda cool, huh? Maybe it will all be okay? The upper RH corner seemed to lack confidence, though, and I struggled with the music grids.  I whited it all out a little with gesso and still wasn’t happy with it.  Huh.  Fight fire with fire. Maybe in this case, less is NOT more!  I cut up more music and glued it on, hopefully making it all seem more intentional. HA!


Adding more music to the upper RH corner.

After the matte medium dried, I added more string and covered it with a light layer of gesso.

Here is an up-close detail of the strings by the green onions:

Detail of string near green onions

Detail of string near green onions

Finished painting, below:

Radishes and String Music

Radishes and String Music, watercolor on plexiglass, 22×30

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the results of this painting.  As you can see, I’ve added tomatoes at the upper top LH corner to echo and somewhat subdue the dominance of the radishes.  My focal point is in the 75 cent sign/green onion/radish area, where I’ve provided the most detail, the darkest darks, and the white of the sign.  Everything else is the supporting cast for this area.  My favorite area, though, is the green onion area.  I painted these super-fast, I love the strings winding around them, and they come off looking fresh and real.  I also love the tomatoes in the upper right. They are very loose, painted in one wash, beginning with the green tops and working around the green with deep, warm red. The great thing is, they LOOK like tomatoes (hmmm…must…do…tomato painting next…).

Hope this inspired you to get out the paints and feed the beast!  Let me know what you have been working on!  Thanks for reading and supporting this post. 🙂


Hoo-boy.  This painting refused to cooperate.  Fighting through a “boring” comment, wrestling with too-dull-red oranges, and a square composition, I forced my painting to sing. I think.

I’m still not sure if it turned out okay, if I have to be honest.  It was a struggle from the get-go.  Over the week, I read an article that refreshed my somewhat muddled brain about color theory.  I LOVE color theory, but I had forgotten about some of the finer points, having not painted for three years.  So I set about designing a painting based on the complementary theme of Blue Green vs. Red Orange, Orange, and Red.  I also challenged myself to a square canvas.  I had a berry photo that I thought would work well here, playing off the grids of the background and containers with the circular form of the fruit.  Here’s the start:

Starting with a square canvas of plexiglass, I drew in the berries.

Starting with a square canvas of plexiglass, I drew in the berries.

You can see the grids of collaged paper in the background in my messy (but come on, it’s creative, so it’s messy) studio.

Next step, flinging paint:

Laying in the red orange colors

Laying in the red orange colors

This is the fun part, laying in super-charged colors next to each other and letting them run. Looking back on this, though, I chose to paint with Daniel Smith’s Napthol Red, which, though it is a nice color when wet, becomes a little dead when dry and is very staining.  I wish I had gone with my usual, the friendly, the colorful, the happy Quinacridone Red from Daniel Smith.

Mixing Napthol Red and Cerulean Blue

Mixing Napthol Red and Cerulean Blue. The complementary colors are placed right next to each other while they are wet.  You can see them beginning to bleed into one another and create not only a blurred line, but interesting colors and texture.

I love mixing the super-charged colors next to each other and watching the action.

The first wash:

First Looks:  Blocking in the colors

First Looks: Blocking in the colors

Okay, okay, this is a horrible photo, but you get the idea.  You can see where I’ve blocked in the colors and let them bleed together.  I began to get a feel for the composition here, though  I wish I had done my usual thumbnail sketch with this piece to get a better idea with value placement and composition.  Hmmm…it’s not singing and I’m not so sure about it, but I’m trudging on.  Like I always say, every painting has it’s teenage phase.  Sorry kids…

Mid-way through the painting.  I've created some detail in the fruit forms.

Mid-way through the painting. I’ve created some detail in the fruit forms.

This painting still didn’t sing.  I wasn’t if it was the colors or the layout or what.  So I did the smart thing (?), I presented it to my teenage son.

“Well, Mom.  You know?” (tap, tap, tap on the ITouch).  “What?  What do I know?”  “You know…(long pause)”  No, I really didn’t know.  That’s why I was asking him.  A bit difficult when his eyes were so trained on his little screen thing.  “Earth to son…what do you think of the painting?”  “Yeeeaahhhh…it’s a little boring, Mom”.  Sheesh.  Like pulling teeth.  But it gave me an idea.  Which was the whole point.  Remove the oranges.

Releasing the oranges from their somewhat "boring" location on the painting.  Covering the oranges with gesso.

Releasing the oranges from the painting, with their somewhat “boring” location, their dead color, and their too-straight horizon line. I covered the oranges with gesso, thus sending them to orange heaven.

Go away, oranges!  You are too boring and add nothing to the painting.  Too much orange and blue fought one another.  When using complementary color schemes, one color needs to dominate.  The oranges and blues were too equal in amount and intensity.  Also, the orange line on the horizon was too straight.

Post orange removal. You can see that I also took away the area in the foreground.

Post orange removal. You can see that I also took away the fruit in the foreground. Does it look better?

What do you think?  I looked at this for a day.  Took it back to the son, who was involved in an ITouch game with his brother. Both were engrossed in the game, both were semi-involved with the conversation, both thought the painting was still boring.  What is it with this boring thing?  I’ll tell ya what’s boring.  How about playing on the ITouch for hours? How about that being boring?  Huh? Huh? Deaf ears.  Anyway, my solution:

Rectangles added to the background and foreground.

Rectangles added to the background and foreground.

When I’m in Pike’s Place Market, there are many windows, signs and square containers.  I always like the window/rectangle grid in my work, and added them there, reminding me of the windows and adding a counter to the round fruit. The grids, hopefully, also removed the “boring” word from the painting’s now-established identification.

Alas, I had to noodle some more:

Finished for now.

Finished for now.

I removed the rectangles from the foreground, so I had a sense that the containers were on a surface.  I also darkened the area in the lower LH corner.  I haven’t come up with a name for the painting yet, but darned if I WON’T call it “Boring”.  What do you all think?  Was this painting a success?  Have any ideas for a name?


Gesso prep for Grapefruit Splash

I started a new painting this week!  I love how this one turned out!  Watch my steps to get inspired.

Grapefruit Splash Prep Work:  Starting with the photo, below right, I applied gesso over an old painting on plexiglass.  While the gesso was still wet, I pulled a plaster tool through it to form grid-like patterns on the painting surface.  Vertical and horizontal lines add contrast to the organic shapes of the fruit, as well as texture and structure to an otherwise organic/spherical composition.

Once the composition was drawn in, the fun began.  Crazy painter alert!! Watercolors were flying everywhere!  I have to remember not to wear my “good” clothes when I do this.

Grapefruit Splash First Wash

Grapefruit Splash First Wash

Here is the first wash, using the big watercolor brush you see in the photo, which keeps me loose.  The composition sings in this, with the focal point in the lower LH third of the painting.  I’ve chosen a contrasting color theme of purple and yellow.  My thought here was to paint a high-value painting, with the deep dark purple in the upper LH side providing a stark contrast to the yellow grapefruit and push the lights to seem even brighter.

Grapefruit Splash Second Wash

Grapefruit Splash Second Wash

I LOVE the cut-open grapefruit sections! As I painted, I noticed my whites needed to be brighter.  With watercolor paper, it can be difficult to retrieve whites once they are gone. On a gessoed surface, I can either wet the paint and remove it with a damp cloth, or, as in this case, paint over it with watercolor ground or gesso:

Applying gesso over the areas I want to be bright white

Applying gesso over the areas I want to be bright white

This gave my white patches on my grapefruit a clear, bright white.  I also brightened up my sign in the same manner. After it dried, I sanded the edges slightly and went on painting, carefully avoiding the white patches.

Concentrating on the focal point, I added detail to the grapefruit sections.

Concentrating on the focal point, I added detail to the grapefruit sections.

Since the focal point is the cut section of grapefruit, I paid special attention to it’s detail, making sure the brightest colors, whitest whites, and most convincing attributes were here.

This close-up shows the detail and structure the gesso grids provide to the painting.

This close-up  illustrates the detail and structure the gesso grids provide the painting.

Final product.  This painting was so much fun that I couldn’t leave it alone until I finished.  Well, sort-of.  A week passed from start to finish, with work, family time, laundry, and the inevitable dirty floors.  Does this painting inspire you to get the paint out?

Finished! Grapefruit Splash. Watercolor on Plexiglass. 21x31

Finished! Grapefruit Splash. Watercolor on Plexiglass. 21×31

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