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  • Pattern Magic: an Intermediate Block Printing Workshop March 17th

    Sunday March 17th join us again for Pattern Magic, an intermediate block printing workshop!

  • Pattern Magic: Intermediate Block Printing Workshop

    Ready to take your block printing skills to the next level? In this intermediate workshop: • Learn the secrets of getting started with repeat pattern design without using technology! • Dive into the basics of creating repeat patterns with relief printing techniques and start thinking about repeat patterns and geometry in a whole new way • A minimum of beginner's level experience with relief printing is required to join - such as you have carved a block and hand-printed something at least once before

  • How to Varnish a Painting

    You've completed your latest masterpiece, and now you want to know how best to protect it from sun, dust, and greasy fingers. Please consider properly protecting your work, especially if you plan to sell it. Why Varnish? I often hear artists say that they don't bother varnishing their work. As a framer, I also see firsthand the dirty condition artwork is in after sitting in a buyer's house for five, ten, thirty plus years. As an artist, we must expect that it will need to be cleaned at several points during the work's lifetime. It's our responsibility to provide artwork that has a stable and preferably water-resistant surface. As well as protecting your artwork from physical dust and grime, varnish also helps to shield your artwork from UV rays. All light has damaging UV rays, and even in a dim room your art may fade over time. Using high quality paints that are lightfast will significantly help, but you should also consider protecting them with an archival UV protective varnish. Different types and brands will offer different levels of UV blocking, so it's important to do your research. We've all seen artwork or collectibles with the signature faded away because the pen they used to sign it wasn't lightfast. Another reason for varnishing is that most paints have varying surface finishes. Artist oils and acrylics range in gloss level depending on the colour. For example, earth tones are usually very matte, while vibrant transparent colours can be glossy. Unless you are very meticulous about adding the same amount of painting medium to each part of your painting, your finished piece will likely have glossy and dull areas. This is especially true with oil paints, which dull as the oil cures. Traditionally you would varnish an oil painting with gloss to return the colours and values to their intended look, though nowadays you also have the choice to varnish them satin or matte. Any artwork that is too fragile to wipe with a damp cloth, should be displayed under glass. Even under ideal circumstances, they will still get dusty over time. Extra care should be taken with mixed media paintings that use water-soluble mediums, alcohol ink, pastel, etc. *For example, if you use Posca paint pens, they should be spray varnished to seal them. They can run if you wipe them with a damp cloth or if you try to varnish them with a brush-on varnish. Most people are not willing to take their painting to a conservator to have them professionally cleaned, and instead opt to do it themselves. You should expect that paintings will be wiped down, likely with a damp cloth. Choosing a Compatible Varnish There are hundreds of different styles and brands of varnish, so picking the correct one can be daunting. Just like painting mediums, everyone has their favourite which works best for them. I have tested MANY brands and types over the years, so here I will list what I found works best for me. When deciding on your varnish, the most important thing is to consider the medium of your artwork. Not all varnishes are compatible with all painting mediums. There are two main types of varnish: "Archival" varnish, and craft-grade acrylic varnishes which are not archival. When something is referred to as archival, it means that it is meant to preserve and protect your work for an enduring period of time. In the art world, archival and acid-free are terms you should look for if you are interested in keeping your work looking good for decades. If you want your artwork to maintain value and be collected, you should definitely plan to protect it for years to come. Paper, tapes, glues, varnishes, etc which are not acid-free will yellow over time and cause irreparable damage to the artwork. Natural varnishes such as Dammar will also yellow over time, so I would avoid them unless you are trying to follow a specific traditional technique. In the past, this meant that varnish had to be removed and reapplied over the lifetime of the painting. Most modern varnishes are synthetic and are made to resist yellowing, though they should still be removable for conservation purposes, in case the varnish fails or is damaged in some way. Archival varnishes are always removable. Craft grade and less expensive acrylic varnishes are usually not removable and don't list any UV blocking capabilities. They will still protect the artwork from dust and dirt, and even-out the finish, so if you are on a tight budget they may work for you. I recommend spending a little more for the UV protection if you can. People often choose to hang artwork in sunny locations, so it's not worth risking it in my opinion. *Resin also falls into the craft category, even though it looks nice at first. It can be prone to yellowing or cracking, and is not removable, so it is not considered to be archival. Acrylic Paintings: The vast majority of you will be trying to decide whether or not to varnish your acrylic paintings. Most paint brands recommend that you DO varnish your acrylic paintings. Golden paints have done extensive research on varnishing acrylics, and if you want to deep dive, please spend some time on their website here >> The most reliable brush-applied polymer varnish for acrylic paintings we found was Winsor and Newton professional varnish. It doesn't require dilution, which simplifies the process. It is available in Gloss, Satin, and Matte finishes. Our second choice is Gamblin Gamvar Varnish, which works for oils and acrylics. The easiest spray-on varnish for acrylics and oil paintings was Krylon Archival Spray and Winsor and Newton Professional spray varnish. An "Isolation Coat" of acrylic medium is recommended when varnishing acrylic paintings. This is a thin, clear layer of acrylic medium which will act as a barrier between your painting and a removable varnish. It also makes sure to seal in any absorbent areas in your paint film. Uneven varnish application is usually due to parts of your painting being more absorbent than others, so the varnish is sinking in instead of sitting on top. This is also what usually causes cloudy areas when using matte or satin varnishes. Golden recommends water-diluted soft gel gloss or their pre-made "Isolation Coat." Learn more about Isolation Coats on Golden's website >> Oil Paintings: Not all varnishes can be applied over oil paintings. Always check the label to make sure a varnish is compatible with oil paintings, or you may run into trouble with adhesion or cracking. Look for Mineral Spirit Acrylic or varnishes specifically made for oil paintings. The easiest to use and apply with a brush is definitely Gamblin Gamvar, which has no smell and cleans up with soap and water. The easiest spray-on varnish is Krylon Archival Spray or W&N Professional Varnish, followed by Liquitex Soluvar spray. Lastly I would choose Golden Archival MSA, which offers great protection, but has a strong odour, difficult to open cap, and the most visible spots on the surface of smooth paintings. Watercolour: Usually I would recommend putting watercolour and gouache paintings under UV protective glass to protect them. If you want to display watercolours without glass though, I definitely would apply a varnish. The best way to display watercolour paintings without glass is by painting on an Ampersand Aquabord, or using Watercolour Ground onto a panel(t's like gesso made for watercolours). I personally choose to use a spray varnish on watercolours, to reduce the chance of the colours lifting with brush application. You want to use MSA varnishes, because water-based ones may cause the colours to run. For watercolour it is usually recommended to use a matte finish to maintain the paper-like appearance. Krylon Archival Matte spray, Winsor and Newton Professional Matte, or Golden Archival MSA Matte spray work well. Alternatively, if you want a rub-on varnish, you can use a cold wax such as Gamblin Cold Wax or Dorland's Wax Medium. Please note that there is conflicting information about whether it's toxic to apply. Wear gloves and dispose of any rags immediately, as it contains solvent. They claim that it is non-yellowing, though I would use caution as they are made with natural dammar resin(which can yellow over time). Spectrafix is another brand which makes a casein and bees wax spray, suitable for watercolour and gouache. The spray bottle style can leave speckles, so we recommend the non-aerosol sprayer. Pencil Charcoal and Pastels: Spray Fixative is recommended for most dry media, as they do not set. Fixatives have received a lot of flack from artists however because they can alter the look in some cases. The most common complaint is that it changes the look of highlights. I recommend testing thoroughly before using them on your finished work. Tips for Success: Shake can thoroughly and make sure it isn't too cold Stand the work up right, so that larger globs fall and don't land on the paper Hold can about a foot away from the artwork Start the sprayer off the side and glide over the artwork(protect for overspray) Use a light hand, in several very thin layers If you find it changes the highlights, apply when you are almost finished, then touch up any final details after fixing There are two types of fixative: Workable (you can use it part way through your process and keep on working on top) and Final (usually a sealer with UV protection). I've had good results with Krylon Workable Fixatif and Winsor and Newton Professional Fixative. You can use fixative on pencil, soft pastel, watercolour, watercolour, etc. Some artists use it to set charcoal or pencil before painting over it. They also make a special fixative for oil pastels(which never cure, so you will need to seal them if you display them without glass). Spray Varnish or Brush On? Once you decide on what type of varnish you need for your specific medium, you can then decide on how you want to apply it. Most types come in both spray or brush-on versions. Each have their pros and cons, so I will discuss them below. Brush On Brush-on application is great because it can be done indoors, so you aren't limited by the temperature and weather outside. If the varnish has fumes, you will still need good ventilation and/or a respirator. Liquid varnishes are thicker in application and take longer to dry. Brush-on varnish requires more supplies and a dedicated work-space to get a good result. You will need: Good quality varnish brush(preferably synthetic) Disposable cup or glass jar Stir stick Drop cloth/cover for your table Brush Soap or Paint thinner(depending on your product, always read label instructions) Gloves Paper towel or rags Respirator if fumes are a concern Thinner/distilled water if product is concentrated *Some people like to use foam applicators for varnish, but I have always found they cause foaming or bubbles. It's great to test different methods and see what works best for you. My favourite brush on varnish that works with oil or acrylic paintings is Gamvar by Gamblin. I like it because it's so easy to use. There is no smell or fumes, and it cleans up with soap and water. Read more about it on their website here >> It comes in Gloss, Satin, and Matte finishes. They recommend doing one thin layer, so a small amount goes a long way. Gamvar Varnish brushes are my favourite varnish brush, due to how dense and yet soft the synthetic bristles are. If you clean it properly, it will last you for years. Gamvar varnish can be used on oils as soon as the paint film is firm. The oils continue to cure through the surface, so it isn't necessary to wait the full cure time. This makes it the most popular for those working on oil painting commissions for example. If you want a thick, protective coating on your artwork then Golden MSA brush-on varnish is for you. This varnish is rated to go outside, and offers the best in UV protection. It does have a lot of fumes, and the formula is concentrated so you also need the Mineral Spirit Acrylic Solvent to thin it to your desired consistency. Regular paint thinner or odourless mineral spirits are not strong enough to dissolve it properly. I found this varnish to be the most difficult to apply consistently, but with practice you can get great results. This varnish works on both oils and acrylics, though you will need to wait until an oil painting is fully cured. How to Clean your Varnish Brush Wipe as much as you can off onto paper towel or a lint-free rag Wash with brush soap and warm water. Swirl it in the soap and use your gloved hand or a silicone brush washer to remove as much of the varnish as possible I find that there is always a bit of residue left no matter how diligent, so I then soak it overnight in Winsor and Newton Brush Cleaner and Restorer. Put it in a metal or glass container, and only fill it about halfway up the bristles. It will dissolve the glue in your brush and take the paint off the handle if it sits in it. Rinse with warm water the next day and lay flat to dry* Spray Varnish Spray varnish is great because you require less supplies, you can do it outside, it dries super fast, and it's easiest to have invisible coverage. Several very light layers will look almost invisible, but will still provide great protection as long as they are applied correctly. You will need: sheet or cardboard to protect surroundings from over-spray A well-ventilated area outside or in a garage Respirator if fumes are a concern The spray-on varnishes that work best in my experience are Krylon Archival, Winsor and Newton Professional Varnish, Liquitex Soluvar Spray, and Golden Archival Varnish. Each of these can be used for acrylic, oil, or watercolour paints. For oil paintings, they must be fully cured for 3-6 months(depending on the thickness of your paint) before using a spray varnish. The most invisible coverage were the Krylon Archival and W&N Professional. The Liquitex Soluvar and Golden Archival have a thicker appearance. I especially noticed more spray texture with the Golden, though this was on a very smooth painting. How to Spray Varnish Work outside or in a well-ventilated area with a respirator Make sure the can isn't too cold before you begin Cover the backdrop and ground around the painting with cardboard or other material, protecting at least a foot or two around the painting from overspray Shake the can for a full two minutes, especially matte or satin so that the matting agents thoroughly mix into the varnish. Stand your work vertically against a wall or support. This allows larger, heavier globs to fall and not land on the picture when you spray it. Always test the sprayer, pointing it away from your picture and make sure the flow is even and consistent. Always start the spray off the side of your picture - glide over the picture - and end the spray off the other side of the picture. Never start the sprayer directly on your image(best way to get uneven spray marks). Work from side to side, overlapping slightly, one thin layer. Don't forget to do the sides of canvases and panels as they are the most handled areas. Let each layer dry for 10-15 minutes. Turn painting 90 degrees and repeat the process. Do this 5-6 times for a thin layer, more is you want a thicker coating. If working with matte, too many layers may make the image cloudy, so it may help to do the first few layers in gloss or satin and finish in matte. 4-5 layers of matte have never been a problem for me though Always test a new product on a piece you aren't super invested in.

  • Intro to Block Printing Workshop January 2024

    Join us January 28th from 1pm-5pm to learn Block Printing with Rose Stardust

  • Intro to Block Printing Workshop: Holiday Edition

    Join us for this holiday themed block printing workshop!

  • October 2023 Customer Appreciation Event

    Gift Basket Winners Will be Drawn October 27th @ 5:00pm **Congratulations to the Winners!**

  • How to Transfer a Sketch

    So you are ready to start a new painting and you've drawn out your design in your sketchbook... Now, how to transfer that to your canvas or panel? There are a number of methods you can try, and we'll explain them below. My favourite method is to scan the image and trace it out with drawing software. This is great because you can scale up or down your image to any dimension before printing it and transferring it to your canvas. You can also try out different compositions or colours before committing it to the final copy. This only works if you have access to a scanner and printer though, so first I will explain the traditional methods. Tracing Paper and Transfer Paper People often confuse "Tracing paper" with "Transfer paper". Tracing Paper is a thin translucent sketching paper which you lay over your drawing so you can trace the lines. Transfer paper (or graphite paper) is a thin sheet coated on one side with graphite or carbon. You place the transfer paper in between your sketch copy and your new surface. When you trace over the sketch, the graphite is transferred to the surface below. Whether you free-hand draw or print out your sketch, transfer paper will be helpful in copying it to the final surface. Tips: Transfer paper comes in different colours. Graphite is the most common, which is totally erasable. Coloured graphite is available by Saral such as yellow, non-photo blue, and red. White is common for use on dark areas such as black backgrounds. "Carbon paper" is similar and usually less expensive, but it is NOT erasable. How to use Tracing Paper: If you don't have access to a scanner and you don't want to ruin the original drawing, you will want to use Tracing Paper to make a second copy. Place a sheet of tracing paper over your drawing. Tape it down to the drawing so it doesn't shift as you're tracing it. Use low-tack tape that won't damage your artwork. I use Scotch brand "Magic tape" as it peels off very easily. Trace out your entire drawing onto the Tracing paper. Un-peel the tracing paper from your drawing. Place a sheet of Transfer paper, graphite side down towards the new surface, and place the Tracing paper sketch over top. Tape all three together gently. Trace over your sketch again with a firm stylus, such as a ballpoint pen. You can use a contrasting colour if you find it easier to see where you've already done. Peel off the tracing and transfer paper, and the drawing will be transferred onto your new surface below! Make your own Transfer Paper If you don't have transfer paper on hand, you can make your own! Colour all over the back of your sketch copy(or any thin paper to put below your sketch) with a soft dark pencil. I used a Blackwing Matte pencil as the graphite is very smooth and dark. You can also use powdered graphite, powdered charcoal, or charcoal. Evenly coat the back of the drawing with adequate graphite. Using the same method as above, trace out your drawing copy, pressing quite firmly. Once you're sure you traced every line, peel back one side of the tape and make sure it's transferred properly before taking it off completely. How to Scale Up Your Drawing Using a Grid Those methods work great if you need to copy it the same size, but what if you need to make it bigger? If you can't digitally upscale your drawing, you may have to do it manually. Drawing it out again on your canvas without a guide can be difficult, especially on large canvases (or even something as large as a wall mural). Traditionally, artists would use a Grid to upscale their drawings more easily. Blocking-in shapes in smaller areas at a time will help you to more accurately reproduce it without distorting the image. For example, I often find that I draw the subject too large or too small when I don't make a solid plan before getting started. 1. Determine the "Aspect Ratio" of your Drawing Before picking out your final surface, you will need to know the aspect ratio of your picture. The aspect ratio of an image is calculated by "dividing its width by its height." Examples: A 9"x12" drawing has the same aspect ratio as an 18"x24" or even a 36"x48" canvas, because it divides evenly within it. This aspect ratio is 3:4. A 5"x10" or a 6"x12" drawing both have an aspect ratio of 1:2 and would work on canvases with the same aspect ratio(such as: 10"x20", 24"x48", 30"x60", etc.) You will want to pick a surface that is the same aspect ratio as your drawing, for this method to work best. 2. Create a Grid over your Drawing Determine what size you will make each square of your grid. I find that it's easiest to use one inch, because canvases are sold in inches in North America. My drawing is a circle, so it has a 1:1 ratio, and can be scaled up to any size circle. The same would be true of a square. Tape a piece of Tracing Paper onto your sketch securely Mark out the top and sides Divide your drawing into even rows and columns Use this grid as a guide to recreate it on your canvas 3. Recreate the Grid on your Canvas or Panel On your chosen surface, you will also draw a grid. Instead of one inch squares, your scale will be proportionally larger to fit the new size. So if your drawing is an 8" circle and you need it to become a 16" circle, you will need to draw each square in the grid 2"x2" in size, because we are making it twice as large. I used this method to scale up a 9"x12" value study to a 36"x48" canvas for the final painting ➣ The small test canvas is 9" wide, with each square being one inch on the grid. On the large canvas each square will have to be 4x larger(because 9 divides evenly into 36 four times). Each one inch on the small canvas will become a 4x4" square on the large canvas. So on the small canvas there are 9 columns, one inch wide - and on the large canvas there are 9 columns four inches wide. The small canvas will be divided into 12 one inch rows, and the large canvas will be divided into 12 four inch rows. 4. Redraw your Picture Following the Grid Draw your picture again, but use the grid as a guide to help you recreate it proportionally. You can even divide each square further to help you redraw it accurately if needed. This makes it much easier to piece together elements in the drawing in relation to each other, especially with complicated compositions such as ones with architectural elements and so on. It takes some time, but this is a really accurate and helpful method for complicated pieces. Transferring from a Print-Out If you are tech-savvy and have all the gadgets, the easiest way to reproduce your sketch is to scan or photograph it, and then print it out. If you have drawing software and a tablet or iPad, you can trace it and make any final adjustments too. This is my favourite method, because you can print it to the exact size needed without much hassle. 1. Print your Sketch to Scale If your picture is larger than your printer, you may have to splice it together. For very large pieces I usually draw it out using the grid method, because it's a lot of paper to print and stitch together. 2. Tape it to a sheet of Transfer paper Make sure you keep the messy graphite side facing down towards the table Trim the excess. Tape both down to your panel securely. 3. Trace out your Sketch Using a firm stylus, trace out your sketch. The graphite from the transfer paper will copy it to the surface below. This method works great for canvas, wood panels, paper, etc. Tip: You can reuse graphite paper many times with continued effect, because the lines will usually be in different areas. A roll should actually last you a very long time. Use low-tack tape so that you can un-peel it and reuse it again next time. Tracing Paper and Transfer Paper Explained:

  • How To Prepare A Wood Panel

    Preparing a support properly is the first key to a successful painting. If you are just painting for fun, you may not think it's important to work with archival materials, but as a framer I often see prized treasures come in with irreparable deterioration over time. If you want your paintings to last, preparing the surface properly in the first place is the key. Certainly you need to consider this if you plan to sell your work. Acrylic Gesso is absorbent by nature so it acts as a good ground for paint to adhere to. This means that it isn't providing much of a barrier between your surface and your paint. Prior to using gesso, you want to seal your support with a barrier. Traditionally, artists used rabbit skin glue for this purpose. Today it is usually PVA or other chemical "sizing". Even paper is sized to prevent ink and paint from absorbing into the fibres too much. Why Seal before Gessoing? Sealer(also known as "size") is a barrier between your support and your paint. When you apply paint to a support it will absorb down into any porous layers. If you are oil painting, this is troublesome as the solvents can slowly deteriorate the wood or fabric support over time. It also causes the glossy oils to sink in further, and show on the surface of your painting as dull patches which can be hard to remedy. For acrylics it it very important because of "Support Induced Discolouration". What is that, you may ask? It is usually observed as a yellowing appearance on light coloured or clear areas of acrylic. If you haven't properly sealed the wood, the paint will absorb down into it. Then, as the paint dries by evaporation, the moisture will move back up through the paint film bringing with it any contaminants from the wood. Whites and pale blues will take on a yellow look. Techniques such as paint pouring are especially prone, as you are flooding the surface with a large amount of liquid which takes hours to dry. There is no real way to fix improperly sealed supports once the problem occurs, so it's important to start your painting off correctly in the first place. Wood panels aren't the only surface with this issue, it has been observed with all supports including canvas or linen. I know it's easy to be impatient to begin your new project, but it helps to have several supports prepared and ready to use at any given time. How to Prepare a Surface for Painting Step 1. First you want to give the panel a light sanding. I use a sandpaper block which I made using plywood, ATG double sided tape, and two different fine grits of sandpaper on each side. Sand with the grain of the wood, and smooth any loose fibres or scratches. I always sand the edges and sides a little to smooth them out as well. Once you have sanded it to your liking, wipe all surfaces down with paper towel. You can moisten it with water, but I like to use Isopropyl alcohol so that it doesn't raise the grain of the wood. Make sure you remove all sanding dust and any dirt or hairs. We sell Gotrick brand wood panels, which are made in Canada out of birch wood. They come in different shapes and sizes including rectangles, circles, and triangles. Step 2. We will be using Golden Acrylic's GAC100 as a sealer. You can also use Golden gloss medium, though you may see more brush marks as it's a bit thicker. Many artists seem to use Matte medium, though Golden claims that the glossy ones create a better barrier(matte finishes are a bit toothy and absorbent). Apply your sealer directly to the wood panel, following the grain of the wood. I like to use a large, soft, synthetic brush. Coat the entire surface: front, sides, and back. Tips; Allow the front to totally dry before flipping it over to do the other side. It should be a bit glossy and shouldn't have a tacky feeling to it when it's ready for the next coat. Putting down a piece of parchment paper or non-stick surface helps when flipping it over. Once the first layer is dry, you can lightly sand any raised grain, wipe clean, and then apply a second layer to all surfaces. Step 3. Next you want to prepare the surface for painting. Here I am using white acrylic gesso as a ground. If you want to keep the colour of the wood, you can use clear gesso. There is also black or tinted gesso available. Try this; Add a little bit of acrylic paint into your gesso to create your own tinted gesso. Always keep the lid of your gesso(and acrylics) closed as much as possible. Try to keep it out of the threads of the lid, or it will be hard to open later. It can also create little dried chips which leave flakes in your surface. Use a clean painting knife or other tool to scoop out what you need. Don't dip your brush straight into the tubs, as they can go mouldy with excess water or contaminants. Decide whether you want to paint just the front, or also the sides, and maybe even the back of your support. The nice thing about wood is that you can leave it the way it is and it adds a warm, natural feel to your piece. Black edges are a classic choice, as is white. You can also wrap the painting around the edges for a creative "unframed" look, or just paint it a solid accent colour when it's done. Make sure you do at least two layers of gesso on the surface you plan to paint. Three is better, especially for oil painting. I like to lightly sand in between layers. To minimize the grain of the wood, I alternate which way I paint on the gesso, and which direction I sand. For the final pass, I lightly sand in a circular motion with fine grit sand paper. Of course if you want a more textured appearance, you can omit sanding altogether, and even add the gesso on thickly with rough bristle brushes. Sponges or rollers can create interesting textures to work on. Experiment and find what you like best for your style! Watch the Process in Action:

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