Do you remember the two-man saw I was commissioned to paint earlier this year? Well, the same collector has commissioned me to create another really cool project. This time it was a fantasy style map of private hunting, fishing and recreational area known as Vagabond that he’s a member of. This collector might just have the ultimate man cave artwork wall, don’t you think?
The photo below shows the saw I painted and the empty spot to the right is where the framed map will hang. Isn’t that handsome? Now let me show you how I created it.
When he emailed me to inquire about the Vagabond map, I had an idea of how I’d create the aged look from scratch. It’s a 16″x20″ piece painted on heavy weight paper. Of course everything is always an experiment and that’s part of the fun. That is until you get so far along in the process and don’t want to screw it up.
I cut out the paper from a larger sheet. This stuff was so heavy, I wasn’t able to roll it and ship it in a tube for fear of cracking it. However, this turned out in my favor. Happy accidents as I like to call them.
In the photo below, you can see my progress. The two small pieces are samples I created, the one on the right being way to dark. These all are taken while the paint was wet. If you’ve ever painted a wall, then you know it always dries lighter. But this isn’t the case for acrylic paint. It dries darker. Once again though, experiments can go awry. These layers are created a day after each other because they had to dry and we’d had a lot of rain.
Screw the rules, this one dried lighter! (below) I was using acrylic inks and they behave differently than paints I guess. It made a great base though.
At this point, I knew I was going to be using black in for the markings on the map. I also knew I had to hand paint the Vagabond logo in with this ink as well – something that sounds all well and good until my old eyes are trying to focus and keep my hand steady! These conditions made me think about what I needed to do next. I had to be careful, too much more paint and it would be too dark and I’d have to start over.
So I came up with a glaze. I mixed a glazing medium and a couple of different shades of umber and brown and developed the perfect concoction of aged animal hide. At least I’m pretty proud of it. Except that it looked a little wonky. It wasn’t flat anymore. Hmmm… what to do?
Now remember the happy accident reference I made earlier? Here’s how it came about. In the beginning, unbeknownst to me yet, I had grabbed the wrong paper off my top shelf without realizing it. A stupid mistake. Everything was fine with the washes of acrylic ink because they were applied so lightly, it didn’t sink into the paper. But when I started adding water to the back of it, my paper looked more warped than I expected. Wondering what the heck was going on, I was starting to wonder if I had used the watercolor sheets, this was acting like drawing paper. Oh shit.
Trying everything to smooth out the paper, I spritzed the backside with water trying to coax it to lay flat – which would work with watercolor paper. Then I dried it with a hair dryer while smoothing it with my hands. I talked nice to it. Then I screamed at it. I prayed, I cried. Nothing was working. Finally, I taped it down to the cleanest and flattest area in my studio. Feeling increasingly alarmed, I patted it, smoothed it, smeared it… I was making it worse. It just stretched further out of shape the more I tried to smooth it out. I was in denial. This couldn’t be watercolor paper. See the warping in the form of shadows below.
Vagabond – oh why?!
I had one chance left to save it and that was to wet the entire paper while taped down (called sizing the paper and this is usually done before painting in watercolor) and let it dry. Well, after getting it more wet, it looked horrible! It was all warped and sad.
After telling myself, I’ll just have to do it over, I had an idea. I’d pile up all my heavy books on top of it and just have to wait it out until it was dry to see if that smoothed it out. It was humid as all get out, too. We’d had rain for days and my studio had flooded again. Yay me. I had two dehumidifiers and fans going all at once.
Defeated, I went upstairs to greet my son from school and get ready to start the mom and wife shift now that they were home.
Hopeful, I gave it a full 24 hours. I went back into the studio. Hesitantly, I started to remove all the heavy books and discovered it was still kinda wet. Not only was it still damp, it was all wrinkled up! I had made it dry with flat wrinkles! Does that even make sense? F*ck me.
Excuse my language, but honestly if you’re ever in my studio as I paint you’ll hear a slew of profanities exiting my mouth when things aren’t going my way. It’s a character flaw but it is what it is. I embrace it.
Now during this freaking out phase, I had been talking with two of my closest artist friends about what to do. We use Marco Polo, which is a video calling app for your phone. It records the videos you leave to be watched either live or later. I took the video from that conversation showing the wrinkles right after I pulled the books off and here it is:
Here’s the results – wrinkles and all.
Wait a minute.
Wasn’t I just trying my hardest to age this paper? Well it sure as hell looks aged now. Frankly, I don’t think I could’ve added the wrinkles in a more perfect spot had I tried. It actually felt like a piece of leather or animal hide. It must’ve been from the glaze. It turned out to be a happy accident because I kept my client informed of what had happened and gave him the option to have me redo the paper but he was happy that it looked wrinkled and old – it made it more authentic looking.
I was perfectly fine with redoing it if he had wanted. It wouldn’t have taken me long now that I had the process down. But in the end, I really feel this looks best.
So the rest is just inking in the trails and boundaries.
a few more details
Then a few more and the addition of trail and road names and it was finished!
I’m still waiting to hear that the Vagabond map made it okay to my client’s home. Hopefully, he’ll send me a photo of the finished wall with the map all framed up nicely and in it’s place of honor. When I get it, I’ll share it.
Making art is always an adventure. Sometimes, I get bumps and bruises and sometimes I skate through. This time it was both.
I enjoy taking on these strange and wonderful commissions, so if you have something you’ve dreamed up and want created just get in touch with me through my contact page.
Update! Here’s the photo of the finished wall area with my saw and my map.
Learn more about me on the ‘About’ page under the additional links menu. I’m an artist – a painter mostly and an avid gardener. I paint a variety of subjects including birds, koi fish, my gardens, ponds and flowers as well as anything having to do with nature especially trees and tropical scenes. I also enjoy painting abstracts and have started created more and more of them. My most favorite thing to try to achieve in my painting is is mystery and telling mystical stories.
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