Sharing my work

There is lots of advice out there on the web and in the real world for artists.  And some of it is good advice that I know I should follow, some not.

Artists are often advised to share their working process and make it public.  This comes under the heading of good advice.  It can help to build a following.

This is, I think, because watching an art work come to life fascinates many.  I  understand that, but for more than one reason this is the one thing that has always been hard for me to do.

In the first place, I know that every painting I make won’t necessarily be finished, and I want to choose what to do with it afterwards.  Possibly destroy it or just gesso it out and start again. This is a part of the creative process that many people I know find hard to accept.

And since I start with an under painting and build up layers often without any rigid plan, many elements will change before the work is done.

My most recent acrylic painting on canvas has the working title ‘Starry, starry cosmos’.

A detail from an early stage of a painting that is an imagining of the cosmos in teals and blues with multicolored stars and planets. By artist E.M.Schumacher.
A detail from an early stage of an acrylic painting on canvas, ‘Starry, starry cosmos’ by Elma Schumacher.

It keeps changing;

A detail of one stage of a painting that is an imagining of the cosmos in teals and blues with multicolored stars and planets. By artist E.M.Schumacher.
A detail from a later stage of an acrylic painting on canvas, ‘Starry, starry cosmos’ by Elma Schumacher.

There will be more changes yet before I finish it.  I need to create more depth, create deeper, richer colors and add some lively, light-reflecting details to surface of the paint.

There’s much more work to do, and from now on I’ll try to share more of it as I go along.

A new MOOC and more.

Last night I stayed up too long (again) and this time I am going to blame it on  In their own words; ‘Kadenze brings together educators, artists, and engineers from leading universities across the globe to provide world-class education in the fields of art and creative technology.’

This site provides MOOCs aimed at artists of all stripes who want to use technology to create their art.  Lovely idea, I say!

Naturally I had to sign up for a couple of courses.  Kadenze has a free option which allows you to watch videos and take part in the discussion forums.  Their paid option offers a lot more, including assignments, feedback and  certificates of completion. This costs $7.00 US a month.  If you want to take credit courses from select Universities that’s $300.00 per course.

Me I’m happy for the opportunity to watch the videos and check out the discussion boards.  I watched a few videos from  the Introduction to Programming for the Visual Arts with p5.js course from the University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Arts.

Mostly I wanted to see if I could use these videos for a quick reference for p5.js but I don’t think that’s going to work for me. I need to get a book for a quick reference, because otherwise I just end up watching videos and getting nothing done.

It’s time for me start on projects of my own and finally leave the online learning for spare time.  Not that I ever have much of that.  I am still painting and working on my ‘Escape from Earth’ series as well as a large canvas in acrylic.

Here’s my studio wall again, with three mixed media pieces on paper nearly finished and one waiting for me to decide on the next step.

Elma Schumacher's studio wall with the 'Escape from Earth' series in progress pinned on the cork boards.
My “Escape from Earth” series under construction on the studio wall.

Last week in the Studio

I’ve been away from my art blog for so long because I’ve been focused on learning to code lately and I haven’t spent nearly as much time painting or drawing as I would have liked.

So this week I decided that I needed to set some goals for myself and get busy making art. There’s no point just being mad at myself and getting nothing done!

I decided to start a new series that explores my interests in space exploration and maybe new technologies too, while also looking at some of the problems we make for ourselves here on earth.  Whew.  Big themes here!

In terms of media, I wanted to return to what I was most comfortable with.  Mixed media on paper, drawing and painting with mostly water soluble media.

Here’s where I started; the first layer of media on my paper with watercolor washes.

Elma Schumacher's studio with 4 works in progress pinned to the wall.
Here’s where I started; with heavy watercolor paper and boards on the studio wall.


Code or Paint?

Lately I’ve been more than a little obsessed with learning to code.  MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) make this possible for me; something that I’m more than grateful for.  Living where I do, going to college is not even remotely possible.  It’s too far for me to drive.

These days I want to learn new things so that I can use those tools to make something.  I’m not sure if it needs to be ‘art’ or just a way for me to communicate an idea. Likely both.

I’ve been trying to learn to code for a long time now.  Not always successfully.  The first course I tried was on Coursera and I was blown away by the quality of the course, but I didn’t finish it.  After about week four I just couldn’t keep up and after a while I finally gave up on that one.  Even that little bit helped to build a foundation to learn on though.

With ‘The Introduction to Computational Arts’ course offered by Stony Brook University on Coursera I started to learn Processing and things slowly began to make sense. Dan Shiffman’s videos on Vimeo are really helpful and entertaining too.  I’m still working through them.

A processing exercise - a screenshot of my first interactive program - UFOs. . .
A processing exercise – a screenshot of my first interactive program – UFOs. . .

There are so many resources for learning to code online that I think I went a little bit crazy after that.  Decided that maybe I should learn some Java as that’s the language that Processing is based on.  Found a fantastic course on Udemy – Java for Complete beginners by John Purcell that I might finish some day just because I think the course is incredibly well done.

And long before all that I learned some HTML and CSS just to make building my own websites easier.  JavaScript: Understanding the Weird Parts by Anthony Alicia is what I’m working through on Udemy right now.  That and FreeCodeCamp which is one of the most thorough and well developed free educational opportunities that I have found on the web.

So much to do.  So little time.  But I am focusing on my goals in spite of myself.  And not making a choice between painting and coding, though I have finally narrowed down my choice of languages to Processing and JavaScript.

I’ll still be doing both.  One day hopefully combining it all!



Paint and directions

I’ve always enjoyed painting.  After a winter of mostly working with paint and drawing materials on paper, I’ve been getting back to working with acrylic paint on canvas.

The problem has always been though, that I will develop one style on paper, one that feels more like drawing than painting even though I will use paint there as well and then when I turn to canvas something else emerges and I’m back to square one.  I end up feeling the need to develop a completely different style with paint on canvas. I think that is because I enjoy the textures that acrylic paint will allow me to create.

Last week I spent much more time than I had planned on a simple, small triptych.  In this painting I created textures using Golden Fiber Paste, their Coarse Molding Paste, Self Leveling Gel and Gel Medium in separate areas of the painting.  Since I was also working with contrasting areas of bright color the contrast in textures is not always that strong, but it gave me a feel for the different possibilities.

Detail from 'Pink Moon Triptych' by Elma Schumacher. Landscape image with a large pink moon over colorful hills and pond.
Detail from ‘Pink Moon Triptych’ an acrylic painting by Elma Schumacher

I’m not sure where this piece will fit into my new body of work, but sometimes it is important just to explore possibilities.  And maybe this piece will be a backdrop for a video project I want to try next winter.  Who knows?  But I’m sure it was time well spent.




Watercolor vs Acrylic

Last week I finally gave in and bought a set of watercolor paints for myself; Windsor and Newton Artists’ Water Color in tubes.  I love them.  Great quality and I also got lucky and found most of the colors I wanted on sale.  Now that I have a good variety of pigments and colors it won’t break the bank to add to the set once in a while.

Tubes of water color paint and an underpainting created with watercolor washes depicting a spray of flowers.
My new watercolor paints and the beginnings of a new mixed media piece.

I have been holding off buying them for years because I just kept telling myself that I could achieve the same results with my acrylic paints. Admittedly I was telling myself little white lies to keep a tight lid on my art supply budget.

While there aren’t huge differences between washes created with acrylic paint and washes created with watercolors there are certainly some.  I didn’t realize how much I missed working with watercolors until I started working with them again a few days ago.

The textures are finer and more varied with a watercolor wash than with a wash created with acrylic paint and I even find it easier to manipulate the washes because the binder in the acrylic paint does not seem as fluid.

Since water colors don’t become insoluble in water once they dry you can also blot off some of the color in an area that you find has gotten too dark, even after the paint has dried.  Not possible with acrylic paint.  The paper also remains more absorbent with watercolor than it does with an acrylic wash; I found it easier to draw over the watercolor with ink than I did over an acrylic wash. With pencil and conte though, I don’t find much difference.

There are times where it might make more sense to work with an acrylic wash though; for example if you are trying to seal in an area so that it is no longer water soluble.  Since I’m always mixing up my media, I have also found acrylic paint useful when I am working over an area of pastel or conte with my brush.

I don’t think that I actually prefer one over the other, but I did miss my watercolors and am happy to have them back.



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