Tag Archives: artist’ tools

How to make a wooden wet painting carrier

selfie with homemade wet painting box

selfie with homemade wet painting box

DIY:  Wet Painting Carrier

I needed a wet painting box that would travel long distance.  Inside a small boat, on a trailer, bouncing down a thousand miles of highway.  …And I wanted it to survive the trip.

Sure, there are commercial wet painting carriers available, and plans shared on the Internet for cardboard varieties.  Most of them, though, are for canvas panels, and I prefer the gallery wrapped, heavy-duty duck, inch-and-a-half thick canvases.

IMG_1113So, I made my own.  They’re the four boxes sitting on top of my first try, a lovely lightweight shelving frame that would have fit perfectly between the bench seats on the boat.  I was finishing it, when my husband asked, “Will that fit through the door?”


Back to the DIY Project (no need to dwell):  For panels, wood supports, or thinner canvases, you can adjust the spacing on the dividing rails to the width of your support–but do add a bit of wiggle room.

Here’s how:  Select Your Size of Canvas, and decide how many you’ll wantstructure_2_close.up to carry on a field trip;  for the inch-and-a-half thick type, a box made of 6″ wide boards (which are not really six inches wide but we’re not in charge of that) will hold three canvases each.

Procure Your Lumber (the small box shown on top is made entirely out of scrap 1×6 pine boards, but the larger boxes are made from lighter weight, half-inch thick poplar boards and quarter-inch oak panels).

Measure and Mark.  I kept it simple (nobody comes around, asking me for dovetails).  Both top and bottom were the width of the canvas plus a quarter-inch tolerance (or a bit less).  Both sides were the height of the canvas plus the depth of the top and bottom boards.

I cut the wood and held the side board against the bottom board on a flat surface, drilled holes, and screwed each into the edge of the bottom board.

Dividers.  I used 99-cent, quarter-inch basswood from Michaels to basswood_divider_close.upmake rails along both sides.  There was just enough room for my three inch-and-a-half deep canvases, three basswood rails, and a bare eighth-inch extra in each space.

I plan to lay the boxes flat in storage, so wet paintings will be “shelved” facing up, and that extra eighth-inch might minimize smearing or sticking on the long trips home.

basswood_dividerMark, Glue, and Tack Dividers.  I started by laying the first basswood rail along an edge of each side.  This rail prevents the top of the wet painting in that slot from touching the inside of the completed box.

Next, I measured and marked, and glued and tacked in the two remaining rails.

Once the other side had its matching rails, I tested the rail spacing, and let it dry poplar_large_lay.inovernight.



Only the two side boards received basswood rails.


Paneling is where I really slipped up, as you’ll see.  Theoretically, it’s simple:  cut your quarter-inch thin panels the same length, and your box will be square as long as your corners are square.

Ummm…  Maybe it was that quarter-inch tolerance, under “Measure and Mark?”

Moving on, it turns out that leftover window oops_wet_painting_carrierblind parts–the unused bits of wood squirreled away when a blind is cut down for a short window–make nice shims.  One could, uh, use shims.

Glue and tack as needed to correct any mis-steps which might cause one canvas to want to fall upon its neighbor.

If this is the case, use the slimmest possible shims.  …And, before the glue dries, make sure the canvases still fit in their slots.  Better yet, re-think my quarter-inch tolerance!

IMG_1109Finishing with stain and varnish was important to me because of the abuse I expect to heap upon these boxes.

I used leftover porcelain knobs from a kitchen project, plastic cable carriers as turnbuckles for the lids, and sewed some old webbing to brass D-rings to serve as straps.  For salt-water painting sites, I bought stainless steel screw-in tie-downs and stainless steel screws, but the SS snap hooks for the straps are costly.  I bought only one set;  the others are plated.  Brass snap hooks would work around salt water, but the hardware stores in my area are selling bronze in place of brass.  I’ll expect to replace the plated hardware.

Travel safe!


Art Works for Robyn Brown

Robyn Brown & her wallFor Robyn Brown, applying her artistic talent to daily life is as simple—and as complex—as building a stone wall.  She’s shown here with just such a wall, which she built recently.  “There’s a creative aspect to everything,” she said.

She should know.  Robyn has designed at least a dozen homes on graph paper and, together with her husband, Chris, carried the design process through to completion for most of those homes.  The two make a team that handles nearly every aspect of construction.  For the stone wall, Robyn said, “We brought four or five loads of stone, hand-picked from Hoadley Quarries, and Chris tumbled the rock, built the scaffolding, mixed the mortar, and hauled it all while I laid the mortar bed and set the stones.”

Robyn is self-taught in nearly everything she does—with the exception of one drawing class and, beginning a year ago, the Partners in Painting class at the Owen County Art Guild.  Most often, she finds her own answers intuitively or at the public library, building an artistic life from a series of thoughtful, self-reliant solutions to questions as diverse as home schooling her children to laying that mortar bed.  Her resourceful nature, in fact, reflects the pioneer spirit of her forebears, the historic Spring Mill State Park Hamer family.

As a child, she learned to love art by watching her older sisters, who exceled in painting.  For Robyn, it was ceramics that caught her interest first, and painting later.  Then, for decades, crafts of all sorts, projects with her children, and building construction kept her easel idle.  Last year, when she began painting again, her experiences in real life paid dividends;  her skills transferred easily from “cutting in” the color of a home’s walls to refining her brush strokes on canvasses.

Her acrylic on canvas, Frog Pond, was created by combiningFrog Pond 2 photos of lily pads, fish, and a frog, for use as subjects.  “I love doing the preliminary backgrounds first,” she said, “because it’s fun and freeing to ease into the details of the painting.  If it doesn’t work, to me, it’s like a wall with an archway that’s too small, or a stone set in place wrong.  You just re-do it.  You need to step back and look at a painting, just as you need to step back and look at a wall.”

DSCN2283The Wave is another example of her acrylic on canvas works.  It was inspired by a double-page photograph by David Miller, in a book titled Oceans.  “I loved it, and I had to own it—it was the moodiest wave I’d ever seen,” she said.  “A friend tried to contact the photographer to purchase a copy of the photograph for my birthday, but she never got a response.  So, I had to buy the book.  I thought it was so perfect!  I didn’t add anything of myself, except my name, when I painted it.  It’s as close as I could come to an artistic representation of the original, and the largest painting I’ve ever done—two feet by four feet—so it was daring, but not difficult.”

Her work on an earlier painting with a fog element, and on Frog Pond, had taught Robyn the technique of using a natural “sea” sponge to create effects, and it helped to build foam on The Wave.  However, when she tried the natural sponge on the walls of the home she and Chris are currently constructing, she was not impressed by its effect.  So, she stepped back, and started over.  Using a synthetic tiling sponge instead, watering down the paint, wringing out the sponge and rubbing it on the walls, she achieved a beautiful muted, old-world effect.

“Art, in my opinion,” Robyn said, “is fluent.  It runs through the fiber of who you are.”

Robyn Brown occasionally shows her artwork at the Owen County Art Guild;  the guild is located at 199 West Cooper Street, Spencer, IN.  Her paintings, as well as those of all the artists featured in this series, can be seen in color online at http://www.lauraleffers.wordpress.com.  The guild’s phone number is  812-829-1877.

Art Works for Naomi Dickey

Naomi and Indian ChiefArt communicates for Naomi Dickey, shown here holding her oil on book back, Indian Chief.  “It’s the connection with people—it thrills me down to my toes,” she said.  “When I’m painting, and someone comes along and tells me that my work reminds them of some place they’d been, it makes me happy.”

Indian Chief, which she painted from a photograph of a chief wearing war paint, was a challenge;  Naomi had only attempted to paint a face once before.  “It’s important,” she said, “to improve and grow with anything you do, if you want to pursue it.   So I push myself to do better—I never want to be stagnant.”

Purple BushesPurple Bushes, another oil on book back, and Hay Bales, oil on canvas, provided a connection at the Coal City Festival recently, as people watched her paint and asked where she saw the hay bales.  “There are no mountains in Coal City,” Naomi quipped, “and no hayHay Bales bales, either.  I answered by pointing past my easel, and saying, ‘Don’t you see that?’  But I really could see both the scenes I was painting.  They’re in my mind—it’s my world, and so I threw in the purple bushes, just for fun!”

The idea of using book backs as painting surfaces came from Naomi’s world, too.  She’d been preparing an old set of encyclopedias for recycling, and realized that high-quality books have sturdy covers.  She was out of canvases at the time, and decided to gesso the book backs for use in practicing brush strokes.  By now, Naomi and other members of the Owen County Art Guild have used prepared book backs—or faux canvases—for a year and a half, and she reports that they seem as viable as commercial canvas boards.

Naomi was introduced to artwork as a child because of her older sister’s talent.  One of her fondest memories, she recalls, was watching her sister—then fourteen—create sunsets using bits of chalk and construction paper.  By the time Naomi was grown and about to be married, she was already an oil painter.  Through the years of raising children her husband, Gary, never forgot her talent, and even built an easel for her.  He always encouraged her to return to her artwork, and often tuned in Bob Ross (of “happy little trees” fame) on public television, for her.  Naomi loved watching the soft-spoken Ross, and was hooked all over again.  On her 57th birthday, they went together to buy canvases, paints, and brushes.

After Naomi had completed twenty paintings, she took them to the art guild, hoping for a professional opinion on whether she should quit, or go on.  “BJ Bennett took a look, and told me what I might need to work on,” Naomi said, “and she wanted to keep one of my paintings for the gift shop.  She encouraged me to start a painting class and, a couple of months later, I became Barb Bauer’s first student in the Partners in Painting group.”

Sailboats and Houses, oil on canvas, was painted from Sailboats and Housesa 1950 lithograph by Vera Andrus, published in the American Art Review, which Naomi had been reading.  “I kept flipping back to it,” she said, “and looking at it again.  I was drawn to it because I love water, shells, and boats.  But it was in black and white and, in my mind’s eye, I kept seeing it in color.”

About her artwork, Naomi said, “I don’t consider myself a professional artist, but I try to conduct myself in a professional manner.  I have a studio, and I show my work.  Painting is a lot like life, I think.  It gives me perspective.  You have to step back and look—with life, and with art—at the lights and the darks, the grays, the movement and the shading.  We’re all works in progress—we all need a fresh perspective now and then.”

Naomi will exhibit her work at the Owen Valley Winery beginning on Sept. 20th;  a public reception honoring her is scheduled from 2-4 p.m., September 29, 2013, at the winery.  She will also set up to paint en plein air at the Winery’s Harvest Moon Festival on October 26th.

Naomi Dickey’s paintings range in price from $25 to $160 for larger canvases, and $10 for paintings on book backs.  She can be reached through her Front Porch Studio, 812-859-4746, or at f.p.s.nedickey@gmail.com.

Art Works for Terry Urban

Terry UrbanTerry Urban, an iconographer who signs her work “By the Hand of Terese,” believes that the creation of art is a spiritual experience.  Spirituality is a priority for her, because her finished work will become a sacred image.  The word itself, “icon” or “eikon” (from Greek), means “image,” and in an historical sense refers to religious images painted on small wooden panels.   “Creating an icon,” Terry said, “is a prayerful, multi-step process which begins with research, and each step can take days or weeks to complete.”

Coptic Jesus, acrylic on wood and seen here with the artist, is an example of her explorations into the cultural diversity within iconography.  The Coptic faith is ancient—established by St. Mark the Evangelist in 56 AD—and its icons exhibit large-eyed, naturalistic figures.

In contrast, Terry’s icon Our Mother of Perpetual Help Our Mother of Perpetual Helpexhibits elongated figures—a more familiar Byzantine style of icons.  The fifteenth century original of this icon is housed at the neo-Gothic Church of St. Alphonus Liguori, on the Via Merulana, in Rome.

Terry was literally raised in the arts, in an apartment above her parents’ art store, and spent her free time mingling with its patrons and learning the trade within its walls.  Her interest in icons was piqued early when, as a child, she attended church with her grandmother.  “The Mass was in Latin,” she said, “and the priest spoke to his parishioners in their own language, Polish.  So, while the Mass itself was beyond my understanding, the sacred images and icons taught me.  They communicated and enthralled me.  Besides my family, I have two passions—theology and art.”

Terry holds a Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology St Therese of Lisieuxfrom St. Mary of the Woods, and threads her life with her faith in every one of her endeavors.  “St. Therese, who was known for her ‘Little Way,’ is my patron saint.  She offered every small act of her life to God, and I painted St. Therese of Lisieux to honor her.

“Icons are sometimes referred to,” Terry explained, “as windows into the sacred—they provide a visual spiritual connection.  The Apostle, St. Luke the Evangelist, is believed to be the first iconographer, and this two-thousand-year-old art form has continued to adapt to express the Living Word.  The work to create an icon combines the skills of research, drawing development, woodworking and board preparation, gilding, and painting.  Along the way, grounds—base coats—and clay must be mixed and applied.  Going back and forth from technical to fine work involves the whole person.  And, once a piece is finished, I know it is a gift and I accept it with gratitude.  The entire process ends in a prayer of thanksgiving.”

Terry’s iconography “toy box” includes compasses, scribing and ruling pens, burnishing tools, sandpaper, vodka—which removes bubbles from the clay underlayment, creating a surface for gilding—and a hammer.

She begins an icon by scoring her prepared wood to enhance the absorption of the ground.  Next, she applies cheesecloth, then homemade gesso—made of hide glue, calcium carbonate, and water—by hand, building and curing each layer.  She then sands the ground, working to a fine grit.  When she’s satisfied, she transfers her drawing and incises lines to guide her hand.  Where the icon requires gilding, she applies a red earth clay (bole) by “floating” it, and dries, sands, and burnishes the clay, preparing it for the gold leaf.  To gild, she first breathes on the clay to moisten it, then adheres the tissue-thin gold and burnishes it purposefully to create directional effects.  Finally, she can begin painting, moving from dark colors to light, layering the acrylic paint in multiple fine sheets to create the icon’s rich, inspiring colors.

“When you’re painting icons,” she said, “you work from dark—chaos—to the light, which is the Divine.  Even the final touches are laden with meaning.”

Terry’s master’s degree in theology effectively makes her a lay minister;  her talents allow her to serve in St. Therese’s “Little Way”—by providing a window to aid the faithful in seeing the Divine.  Each icon, for her, is a spiritual journey.

Terry Urban’s icons will be on exhibit with BJ Bennett’s repurposed materials sculptures, in a show entitled “The Sacred and the Profound.”  Their two-man show opens August 11, 2013, with a reception from 2-4 p.m. at the Owen County Art Guild, 199 West Cooper Street, Spencer, Indiana, and runs through September 9th.  Terry can be reached by e-mail at iconepainter@aol.com;  the guild’s phone number is  812-829-1877.