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What are V. Notes?

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V. Notes are dailyish thoughts and ideas related to art.
I might post a series of pictures, a technique, an idea for a project, or some philosophical rambling. I try to make these emails relevant, but they’re not pre-planned, and they’re not perfect. They’re just thoughts in the moment, take ’em or leave ’em. Hopefully they’ll spark some thoughts and help get your artistic juices flowing.
Initially started as a way to give my students more information outside of class, V. Notes is now read by hundreds of people every day. If you meet another artist with connections to the League, V. Notes might be a way to spark an interesting conversation.
Welcome to our little V. Note community!

Ruthie V.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO V. NOTES.  (You can easily unsubscribe if you change your mind.)

Product Review: Gamblin’s Cold Wax vs Renaissance Microcrystalline Wax Polish

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What does wax do for an oil painting?

In addition to the protective qualities of a top coat, wax unifies the surface of a painting. Each pigment has varying degrees of matte and shiny, and each brush stroke can have slightly more, or slightly less medium, resulting in a painting with “flashing” or uneven shiny/matte spots. The wax evens out the surface so it’s all a consistent finish. The wax completes the painting.

Why choose wax instead of varnish?

I prefer wax over varnish because of the ease of application, and the instant application time. Traditional varnish requires a 6 month dry time, and I’m usually hanging my paintings right away. As much as I had wanted to love Gamblin’s new Gamvar, I’ve had a few problems with getting it as thin and as even as required to cover and dry perfectly in one coat. The whole varnishing process, and varnish’s potential interactions with the paint, stresses me out. Every artist knows a story of varnish having a chemical reaction, or re-activating some area of paint, and ruining a completed work. In the stressful time before a show, the last thing I need are problems, so I avoid the whole mess and opt for wax. It’s dependable, it’s fool-proof, there’s no clean up, and it’s generally a calm and enjoyable task.

Gamblin’s Cold Wax vs Renaissance Microcrystalline Wax Polish

I have some loyalties to the Gamblin brand. As a Portland company they’re local to Seattle. The products are good prices, and they have a way of selling exactly what I need. Quality materials, no snobbery. I’ve been using and recommending the Gamblin Cold Wax as a top coat for people’s paintings for years. I was recently handed a tin of something new, though, and I might change my recommendations. See below for a comparison.

Gamblin’s Cold Wax Medium

Gamblin’s Cold Wax Medium is a buttery paste, made from naturally white unbleached beeswax, alkyd resin, and odorless mineral spirits. It can be mixed with the paint to make oil colors thicker and more matte, or applied as a top coat. You can work on a painting after it has been coated, or remove the wax with odorless mineral spirits.

This product smells like bee’s wax, and feels very friendly. The wax goes on easily with a soft rag. I then smooth it out with the side of my hand, or on a very big painting, I employ the soft side of my forearm to work out the rag and finger marks. It does still leave some application marks, so I try to coordinate the application with what compliments the painting (horizontal, vertical, criss-cross, diagonals, and circles for clouds.) It takes a few passes, but it’s easy work, and pleasant with the bee’s wax smell. 24 hours later, I can take a soft cloth and buff the wax to a satin finish, then it’s done.

Renaissance Microcrystalline Wax Polish

I don’t hear about many painters adding Renaissance Microcrystalline Wax Polish to their paint, but I do see a lot of people use this for furniture refinishing, antique restoration, and museum work. It’s an effective non-acidic treatment for most metals, and wood. It’s also recommended for paintings.

The same consistency out of the can as Gamblin’s, this product smells like something out of your dad’s garage. Although they don’t list the ingredients, it’s pretty clear this is a petroleum product. It’s not an unpleasant smell if you like engines and socket wrenches, but it ain’t for eatin’. While it’s the same delicious buttery consistency as it’s scooped out of the can, it goes on smoother and thinner than Gamlin’s wax, it kind of melts into it.  I apply it with a soft rag. Once gently rubbed on, it leaves no application marks, and requires no buffing later. Because it “melts,” I don’t have to work it in or even it out as much, and the job of waxing is completed in less time. Because it needs no buffing the next day, it’s done in one step instead of two. Looks like the frantic day before a show just got easier, and that’s a big win for me. Open a window. The smell of dad’s garage dissipates after a couple hours.

Painting by Lendy Hensley, wax by Ruthie V, studio table by Claire Putney 

My choice

The Microcrystalline Wax Polish went on easier, and with no application marks. That’s a big win for me, as is skipping the second step. I’ll still use Gamblin Cold Wax as a medium to mix in with my paints to make them more matte, and thicker viscosity, but unless smell is a factor, I’m switching my top coat to Renaissance Microcrystalline Wax Polish.

Both are good products, but the Renaissance Microcrystalline Wax Polish is my winner!

Hey art supply companies – As of today, these V-Notes are emailed to nearly 800 subscribers, posted to our Facebook page, and read by countless more on our website. I’m going to be doing more of these product reviews, so feel free to send me your samples, especially if your name is Escoda.

Art Scam Emails

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Image above from Agora Gallery’s post “How to Recognize an Art Scam” 

In the last week, I’ve received 2 art scam emails. They read as personalized letters, including the title and size of my painting, mid paragraph. Neither email asked directly for anything, so no red flags, not right away. Below is the first email I received. I deleted the second, but they both followed similar formats:

Hello There,
          My name is George Barbara from California. I actually observed my wife has been viewing your website on my laptop and i guess she likes your piece of work. I’m also impressed and amazed to have seen your various works too,  You are doing a great job. I would like to purchase one of your paintings “Emptiness – 68 × 60, Oil on linen”, as a surprise to my wife on our anniversary. Also, let me know if you accept check as mode of Payment.
Thanks and best regards
This painting is the largest painting I’ve ever made, and when “he” said the title along with the brief story about his wife it … well…. I’m an artist so it did actually paint a picture for me. I could see his wife at the computer, and I could see her imagining the painting hanging on her big off-white wall. I was flattered, and yes please send me $5k for the biggest painting I’ve ever made, thank you. I can see how people fall for this stuff. Before I got excited I searched Google for some of the text, and versions of the same letter appeared in many other artist’s posts, including Maggie Sharkey, a new Leaguer. (It helped that the bad news came from a friend).
Have you received one of these? Or something else? Please help protect another artists. Share the letter and your story in the comments section below this post. Your story might help someone, like Maggie’s post helped me!

A Drawing is a Record of Your Engagement

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Drawings by Ruthie V.

I received a very nice letter today. It’s about line, and how one League artist improved her quality of line – not by thinking about improving the quality of her line directly – but by checking in on her level of engagement with the drawing. It’s a nice letter. Enjoy.

Dear Ruthie,

While not a newly invented art term, you gave us a perfect definition of “line” last summer. It’s far more evocative of line in art than the more common Respectable Definitions like, “an identifiable path created by a point moving in space,” or “lines are marks that span a distance between two points.” I think it was genius, and because it has helped me.

“Line is a record of your engagement.”

It was so lovely that I wrote it down, (or did I record my engagement with it with short lines that formed words?) and it has helped me in figure drawing the past couple of weeks. I see a noticeable difference in the quality of my line in relation to my level of engagement, and it can change in an instant. When my mind flits to something that isn’t the subject, my lines reflect it. I think it’s helping me be less judgmental and a bit more objective about my work. I can look at some drawings or parts of drawings and see, or even remember, where I felt most or least engaged. It is easier for me to work on my engagement with the subject than it is for me to think about how to make a lovely line.
In college I had a figure drawing teacher that constantly bugged me to improve my line quality, but I was at a loss for how to work on it, and became less and less engaged with the class. If only I had had your off-the-cuff definition in my pocket…
Shari Heege

V-cabulary: Bump Hunting

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Bump Hunting – A figure drawing technique in which an artist not well versed in anatomy compensates by looking for subtle bumps in the model’s contours. These bumps can be slightly exaggerated to articulate bones, tendons, fat, and muscles beneath the surface of the skin.

V-cabulary is a new dictionary of invented art terms that would not be used in a school of respectable reputation.

SAL Challenge Champions

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Michele Yanow

In January we sent out 30 days of Creative Challenges. I heard that many of you were doing the challenges at home, and a few of you were outgoing enough to post your projects to our facebook page. It was a thrill to see them every day. Thank you!

I had promised there would be awards given for Creative Champions, for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. I was very surprised to discover the Challenge was a tie shared by six participants! Each of the six will receive a $100 gift certificate for art classes at the League. We’re looking forward to making artworks with you. 

Creative Champions:

  • Madeline Mimi Torchia Boothby
  • Anne Miller-Strandoo
  • Lena Lena Magdalena
  • Michele Yanow
  • Rikki Dale
  • Berkeley Parks

Strange Mail Received

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In January we did a series of creative challenges. January 15 was “Strange Mail” an invitation to “let standardized paper and implements be darned. Mail us something strange.” And you did!  Here is our postman, posing with one of Strange Mail pieces (he had previously shoved it under the door because we don’t have a mailbox, and when I am not there our mail is delivered through the gap between the doors. He said this particular piece wouldn’t push through the gap, so he tried to push it under the door, and I found it there, jammed between the mat the weather stripping like a filthy wad of garbage. I tugged at the corner of this wad and discovered this garbage had a stamp. A stamp!! On a dirty painting rag! And because it was not standard, someone had to hand mark the postage to say it was used. This is great. This stamped, marked, and immortalized painting rag has found a new home here. Thank you Michele!

Another difficult object was delivered with $7.20 postage due. I dug into petty cash and paid the carrier $8. He had no change, and I was fine making a donation to the system. I opened the package, and what did I find inside? $8 worth of stamps. How ironic.

This letter (below) arrived after another creative challenge (day 26) suggested a project from a vocabulary word – a word that means words that don’t mean anything: asemic writing.

Not realizing what it was, I did try to read the envelope, and then the letter, squinting at the return address, wondering who this person was who could not make their own address understood, while the League address had been so clear. Opening the soft brown letter paper to find more illegible script, I then realized it wasn’t to be read, it was to be an immortal piece of Strange Mail. And so it lives on our shelf. Thank you!

Note the Andrew Wyeth postage stamp. The stamps on each of these mailed items were quite extraordinary.

Mimi Torchia Boothby sent us this interesting thingy bobber. This is the kind of object that causes me to wonder if it’s just a collection of colorful metal and screws, or if it’s part of an actual useful thing, something that everyone knows what it is except me. We’ll see if I get a flood of emails saying “Duh, Ruthie, it’s an electronic ski boot clamp. Obviously.”

Rikkie Dale sent us this fun pop-up card from Japan. While it did not quite count as fully for Strange Mail points because it came in a standard envelope, it did bring delight to many of us here at the League. When you press a button at the top, lamp lights flicker, haunting bells chime, and a cat yowls.  Very cute.

Big thanks to everyone who sent us Strange Mail. We hope nothing was sent and not received. If you ever have a Strange Mail you wish to send us, please do! We wouldn’t want the postman to think we are only a receptacle for valpak coupons.

Disclaimer: we’re not responsible for anything at all ever.

Seattle Artist League
10219 Aurora Ave N.
Seattle, WA 98133

SAL Challenge 31: Shadow Doodles

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Vincent Bal

Place an object that makes an interesting shadow, and use the shadow as the beginning of a doodle. Share your work to this post on our Facebook page. (#salchallenge). See more of Bal’s shadow doodles here.

The January Creative Challenge: 15 minutes, once a day, for 30 days – BONUS DAY

Late entries welcome! You have until February 3, 2018 to post any of your work from previous days. $150, $100, and $75 art class gift certificates will be awarded to the top 3 creative champions.

Strange Mail

We received a few small and wonderfully odd pieces of Strange Mail as part of this month’s creative challenge. Thank you! The mailman recognizes us now, and says hello. I’ll post these oddly postaged bits in the next couple of days.

SAL Challenge Day 30: You Need Glasses

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Suzanne Saroff

Set up a backdrop (to minimize visual clutter), and place an object or objects behind water glasses so that they form an interesting composition. Adjust lighting as needed, move things around for maximum effect, and crop for composition. Feel free to submit your work in the form of a photograph or a drawing/painting. Share your work to this post on our Facebook page. (#salchallenge). Thanks to Berkeley Parks for sending in this excellent example of distorted food through water glasses, photographs by Suzanne Saroff. See more of Saroff’s work here.

The January Creative Challenge: 15 minutes, once a day, for 30 days.

SAL Challenge Day 29: Narrative

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I learned from the fabulous Suzanne Walker that this narrative painting “The Story of Joseph” by Biagio d’Antonio uses space as a representative for chronological time. The painting illustrates a story that follows a sequence clockwise around an ellipse, starting at the upper left. The scenes that happened farther back in time are shown as farther away (and higher and smaller) in the background, and the scenes that happened more recently are closer (and lower and larger) in the foreground. Characters repeat from scene to scene.

Today, draw/paint/print/collage a narrative, in which individual scenes follow an elliptical “C” or “S” shaped curve, with the first events farther away (and higher and smaller), and the next events following a curve to get closer (and lower and larger) on the page. Share your drawings to this post on our Facebook page. (#salchallenge)

The January Creative Challenge: 15 minutes, once a day, for 30 days.

What would you like to see in V. Notes?

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We are almost at the end of this 30 day challenge, so I’ll be coming up with fresh topics to post. Our mailing list has grown by several hundreds of people this month, and I’d like to hear from subscribers. Why did you sign up for V. Notes, and what kinds of posts would you like to see in your inbox?

  1. Drawing, Painting, and Printmaking techniques
  2. Spotlight on artists and artworks
  3. More regular creative challenges
  4. All of the above
  5. Something else:  _____________________

Please post your thoughts here, in the comments section of this post on our website. Thank you for your feedback!

-Ruthie V.