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Questions & Answers #3 - Including My Story of Art & Healing

Oct 07, 2019

(Just a heads up! The times are about 45 seconds off ...)

00:09 Jed: I can't believe that this is the third live Q&A that we're doing and I'm  super excited about where we're at with Acrylic University. I'm thrilled. I'm honored to be part of Acrylic University, to be the founder of Acrylic University, but to have so many amazing people be part of it and I've been looking at the Facebook group recently. I know that there's a lot of people who are doing stuff but aren't necessarily posting everything to Facebook. I get so happy when I see people and what they're working on. 

01:42 Jed: This is Plein Air magazine and you can see on the cover this beautiful painting. This was actually painted last year but this was the grand prize winner in the annual show. This painting won $15000, it beat out hundreds, thousands of other paintings that were all submitted all throughout last year. So Tom Hughes won $15000 at the Plein Air Convention last year. But you know what's really awesome about this? This is an acrylic painting right here. And I was reading inside. He writes about it a little bit, and he paints in oil primarily, but he likes to paint in acrylic.

But I just thought, "Isn't that awesome, that we have this acrylic painting that beat out all these other paintings and won $15000?" Because I don't know if you're aware of this but you are part of the acrylic revolution. This is not just one little thing that's happening, this is a movement that you're part of.

03:19 Jed: I got a chip on my shoulder. I developed it a few years ago when I was trying to be in these competitions and I realized everybody out there was painting in oil ... 

04:12 Jed: I was having all these people come up to me and they would say, "Your painting's acrylic?" They'd be surprised that it was an acrylic painting they'd say, "Oh it looks like an oil to me." And I knew that they were trying to be complimentary and nice, but after a while, it kinda got annoying because I was thinking, "Why do you think that acrylic paintings can't be awesome and amazing?" That doesn't make sense to me.

04:53 Jed: So I developed this chip on my shoulder. There were a few times when I thought that my painting was worthy of recognition or worthy of a prize. And I thought that the judge of the competition was very biased and so I got this chip on my shoulder. "Man. I want to prove to the world that you can do anything with acrylics. That you can be the best painter in the world, and you can work in acrylics," because I want to change the perception of it. This painting is awesome because it's proof that you can do anything in acrylics. You can paint outside.

06:03 Jed: So I am thinking about these questions today and I want to share a little bit more of my story too. But what we have going on is you can submit your questions on Tuesdays and to the Facebook thing, or if you're not on Facebook, you're watching this live on the site, just email us back when we send out that notification. I do my research and I try to give you the best answer I can. And it doesn't have to be directly related to painting techniques, although those are great and awesome, and especially if you have ideas like one of these is asking, "Hey, can you do a lesson on perspective? I'm struggling with perspective." That's Laura. Laura, yes, we will do work on perspective because that will be helpful.

And I'm looking forward to getting individual lessons done, but also building more into course work and things like that. So perspective is one that we've had on our radar and wanted to do for a long time. We love getting your ideas and your feedback. And she has a couple ideas on kind of having buildings in the foreground, and something that would show perspective. So I think that, that'd be really great.

Using a Isolation Coat When Varnishing

07:37 Jed: Jan asked a couple of questions regarding varnishing and he had watched the quick-tip video that you... That we did last week, we put up there. And so if you haven't looked at those, we're gonna keep adding to that and there'll be really helpful practical things that you can apply immediately to what you're doing. We did one on varnishing last week.

His question was, "I've noticed that some artists use an isolation coat and between finished painting and the varnish. Why do they do that and is it because they want to remove the varnish in the future?" And yes, that's exactly why people do an isolation coat. 

09:11 Jed: You wanna make sure that your paint is completely dry. Then you put on the isolation coat. It can be several layers of that because you have to get that built up. Then you put on the varnish. I think that it's a little bit different than the kind of varnish that I use. It's actually a removable varnish. So you have a coat in between the actual pigment and the paint that's on there, and the varnish coat. So if somebody in 500 years is looking at your painting and saying, "This is incredible. I wanna see what it was really like before age came," (although I'm telling you with acrylics, you're going to be better off than with anything else) but maybe there's some dullness or the varnish has gotten a little bit yellow and they want to take off that outer layer of varnish. They are going to rub that down and there's going to be an isolation coat there. So when they remove that, they're not going to accidentally start getting into the actual paint. They're going to just get into the isolation coat and then they'll put on another coat of varnish and they'll be good. So that's when you want to preserve your work for thousands of years. Use the isolation coat as a way to protect it in that way. You can remove a varnish later.

 10:44 Jed: I've never actually used an isolation coat and maybe I need to start because I need to start thinking about the future generations way down the road that are gonna want to have my work. But it is a really good thing and there's a good article I'm gonna post in there that you can look at. Good question.

How Do I Simplify My Painting?

Dorena asks about simplifying. "I squint and squint, but always seem to get into the details of the painting and add everything, especially plein-air." She says, "Thumbnails help, but what else can I do to simplify my painting?" That's a tendency that we all probably start out with and have to fight against. We have to figure out how do we actually work to keep our paintings loose and vibrant rather than getting into every detail. It starts with having a simple thumbnail. There's two other ideas that I'm going to give you as advice. One is:

1. Use the biggest brush that you have. Stop taking out the little brush. You will probably do a better job of keeping the big picture and seeing the big shapes. So that's the first piece of advice is.

12:50 Jed: Try to hide them from yourself. If you're tempted to get out your small brushes, don't even bring them out, especially at the beginning of your painting, just use your big brushes. I bring out small brushes at the very end. There might be a time when I need it earlier, but usually I don't. I really don't need small brushes until I'm pretty close to the end of the painting.

2. The second is not really a "how to" but it's a way of looking at your painting to make sure that the big picture is good. If you start getting off track with making too many small detailed marks, this would be a good way to get back on track. Use your phone. Take a picture of your painting. If you take a photograph of it and you look at that photograph on your phone, there's two things you can do.

14:07 Jed: First, you can make that black and white and see the values really easily. And secondly, you can just see the shapes and the design really easily. And if you can't see the design really easily, if it looks scattered and kind of all over the map, you probably haven't simplified your design enough, and you'll do better by bringing out your big brush again and trying to simplify some of those shapes.

So, one is a proactive thing; bring out your big brushes and hide your small brushes to keep your paintings more simple.

The second is a way to safeguard; and that's to bring out your phone and use it to look at the image and your painting in a very condensed way that will help you see if it's simple. I will help you see the design, and if the design is strong enough. When I take a picture of my painting and I see it on my phone, it changes everything about it. I notice things that I didn't notice when I'm looking at the whole picture.

Wet to Wet Blending Techniques

This is an example of a painting in which I used a wet to wet technique on the rainy street. This painting is called "Rainy Night" and location is downtown Indianapolis.

15:36 Jed: And here's another question that's really great, from Jan. It's about blending, and it says this, it says: "Can you discuss wet to wet blending techniques?" It's very challenging to blend wet to wet in acrylics, because of the fast drying, especially outside, compared to dry brush blending. So, good question. I do dry brush blending quite a bit. But what I would recommend is using a spray bottle. If I want to blend wet and wet I wait until the painting is dry, or the surface is dry. Maybe at the beginning of the painting I want to do this. Or it could be halfway through, and I want to start a new section. Or I want to have a place where I blend it. I will spray it down, and let that be on the surface when I'm putting my paint down. It's going to evaporate. It's not necessarily going to affect the paint long-term in any way, because it's going to evaporate.

17:01 Jed: But what it will do in the short term is it will keep that paint a little bit wetter for a little bit longer, which will allow me to blend another color back into it. And I find that this is super helpful for me, inside and outside, because often, when I'm painting outside, I'm usually painting a little bit smaller. And it might be easier to keep the things blending well, because it's a smaller thing. But if I am inside, I might be painting on a big painting, and I might need to blend something over a larger area, so it's still really helpful, inside even.

Often if I'm inside I'll place my painting horizontally because I find that that way the water won't run down. If I'm outside I'm not usually as worried about that, because I'm usually not painting over such a large area. So, I'll just spray it. It really does help with wet to wet blending. You can do it after the paint is down and then and spray water on top of it, and I do that too sometimes.

18:16 Jed: But if you're not careful that paint will get reactivated and it's very easy to make these splotchy marks on it.

A Question and Story

Regarding the question we asked: "How does art affect you? What impact has it had on your life?"

19:50 Jed: What impact has it [art] had on your life? I'm going to tell you a little story from my life. About 10 years ago I was in a really bad place. I'm going to show you this painting right here. It's a very significant painting for me because of what it represents. And you see that it is a tree.

I was struggling with an addiction and I had hurt Renae really bad. I was at this really low point where I thought I had wrecked everything to the point that our marriage was wrecked. I didn't have anything that I really could look at and think, "Yeah, I see a lot of hope here." I didn't have a lot of hope.

21:33 Jed: Some stuff had come out and I was in this hard place because I'd hurt Renae so bad and my family and other people. I found myself in my art room by myself. I was painting all day. I had nobody to talk to except God, because I was just by myself. And so, I just painted and I prayed, and I painted that painting right here. This painting right here, which is a tree that is on my parents' property where I grew up. It's not the most beautiful tree in the world. You can see it's got a broken part.

But there was a passage from the Bible that came into my mind that day, and it was about how God can bring healing into your life. How He can make you like a tree that is strong and that is actually helpful in the world. It was a glimmer of hope in a really dark time for me. Now things didn't just magically get better. But I felt like it was this interesting time where, on that day, in that circumstance, I was painting, and God met me in that place. That's why, if you ever come to a workshop of mine or you ever see me teach live, you'll see that I always kneel down before I paint.

23:41 Jed: And it's because of that day, where I feel like art and spirituality were connected for me. That's just part of who I am now. It's part of my life, part of my story, and part of the hope that I carry, because I feel like that was a turning point in my life. It's been really cool because some of you also shared some of your reasons for doing art and we've had other people in the past that have shared. We've come across so many people in workshops and classes who have stories of how art has been really significant for them in a time of wounding, hurt or sadness. 

Jan Young says, "I've lived with a chronic illness for many years, and art has become one of my happy places of refuge and serenity." And there was another person who replied to her and said, "You know, that's the same thing for me." And I know, early on, a few months ago, Shawn, a member of Acrylic University had said that he had been in Afghanistan and had PTSD, and that art had become a way for him to find healing one canvas at at time.

25:18 Jed: And there have been other people. There's a woman who comes to classes locally who was bit by a bee and it turned into this allergy that was very debilitating. For whatever reason, it shut down her body. And art was, over time, the only thing that actually helped her. She couldn't even talk. But for whatever reason, she was starting to do art, and she was able to do it. It connected something in her brain, and it did something that none of the other treatments could do. And it actually helped her to start to be able to talk again and to be able to live again.

I'm really curious about this, because I feel like there's this connection. That we are creative beings and we're made to do art. There's scientific proof that it's good for your brain to do art, to be creative.

26:32 Jed: I'm gonna read a couple more of the things. I know that each of us has our own story, and I'd love to hear more of your story of how art has been significant in your life. Jan said, "Painting is relaxing and a joy for me. It transports me to another world without stress, and problems, and I'm enjoying the process of learning." That's incredible. I feel like one of the things that's cool about art is that it's an engrossing kind of endeavor, where we get involved and we lose track of time, and we can enter that other world. It's a relief sometimes from the pressures that we feel, or the circumstances that are surrounding us. Art is healing in so many ways, and I love also what he said at the end. He said, "I'm enjoying the process of learning."

27:50 Jed: There's a really great quote that I share often with workshop students. An  artist named Harley Brown. "You know, the weird thing about art is that we have this goal, and we'll never actually meet our goal because we always will have something more to work on. We'll always have something more to strive toward. But the cool thing about that is that it makes us perennial students. We will always be learning." And he says, "If you're always a student, then it will give you a youthfulness, it will always give you a youthful spirit. You're learning, you're growing, you're doing something that's moving you forward." It's this other part of art that I love. You're a student and I'm a student. And because of that, we'll have this youthfulness to our life that is actually incredible. And at the end, he says, "Your friends and family will marvel at you because of your youthful spirit and because of your growth."

29:08 Jed: I love being part of it this with you. I love that you're those kind of people. You're not sitting around, just like letting life pass you by, you're not being idle. You guys are the ones that are moving forward, you're trying new things, you're learning, you're growing, you're expanding your horizons. You're discovering new things about yourself that you never even knew. And to me, that's the coolest thing in the world so. It's really fun for me to have this time with you all and I hope that it's meaningful to you too. And I hope that we can continue to interconnect our lives and help encourage each other in our own creative journey.

30:32 Jed: Sometimes some of us are going through really hard times and we're not able to be doing as much creatively as we would want. And that's a time when we can encourage each other. It's not a time to make somebody feel bad but it's a time where we can come alongside each other and say, "Hey, I get it, I've been there. Is there any way that I can help? Is there any way that I can encourage you?" And hopefully, we can be there for each other in that way.

We're hard at work here. You guys don't always see what we're doing, but we're constantly working on Acrylic University. I've got a big show coming up. We've got our Art Access program that we're doing, and we're going to be bringing on some students. A portion of the money from the painting sales is going to be devoted to helping these kids come on to the Art Access program.

31:41 Jed: Once we get some of the ground work laid, we'll be bringing on different artists. Thanks for being part of Acrylic University. This is not just a online lesson or classroom. It is a movement. This is something super awesome that you're part of, and I'm thrilled that you are here. Thank you, guys. We will catch you next time. Have a really good rest of the day!


Isolation Coat: