What kind of wood do you use? And where do you source them?
I like to paint on wood panels, for it's soft warm tone and natural flowing organic grains and patterns. Each panel is unique and distinct, and is inviting to the eyes.
I currently get my wood panels custom made by local panel makers, DUHO Studios. I pick out the wood veneer sheets, and then they are laminated on to MDF panels (MDF tends to warp less than solid wood). The surface is then sanded down to a fine soft touch.
I like to use maple, elm, and birch wood (veneers pictured below). The surface is less porous and textured, so it is easier to draw fine detailed lines. Sometimes I use other types of wood.
You can also find ready-made wood panels/canvases at art stores. Or you can find wood sheets at hardware/lumber stores. Just make sure to sand them down properly, and try not to store them upright or in damp places to prevent warping.
How do you prepare the wood surface before painting on it? What kind of varnish do you use?
After the surface is finely sanded, I draw directly onto the wood with pencil (see next Q for drawing details).
After the drawing is complete, I use a spray fixative to seal the drawing, so it doesn't rub off. I use Fixativ Lascaux.
Then (this is important!) I use an acrylic gel medium to further seal the drawing and makes the wood surface paintable. I use Liquitex Matte Medium. It's like a clear gesso. Without it, the wood would soak up all the paint and it might bleed through to unexpected areas. It's hard to control paint on raw wood. Use a wide flat brush and give ita nice even coat. To prevent streaks and too much texture, you can dampen the brush with water, so it flows more smoothly. And make sure you coat while the panel is laid flat, not upright on a easel. Give at least two coats, and let it dry in between each coat. Now you are ready to paint!
After completion, I use a varnish to seal and protect the piece. I use Windsor & Newton Satin Varnish.
What is your drawing process like? What tools do you use?
I like to have parts of the pencil drawing to show through in the final piece, so I spend a lot of time and develop a detailed drawing. I usually do a small rough sketch on paper; I like to figure out the details later. I then draw directly onto the wood, and develop the image. If I were to work on a large piece (or a mural), I will do a more detailed and complete drawing on paper, scan it, and then project it on to the wood or wall. I use an Epson projector connected to my laptop to project.
It's important to know, that my drawing phase takes a good amount of time. It's impossible (for me, at least) to get the lines right where I want them on the first try. I start off with a rough messy sketch for general placement and composition. Then I use a kneaded rubber eraser to gently erase those marks until slightly visible. Then I draw over those lines with more definition, continuing to tweak here and there. Gently erase again and repeat until you have your lines where you want them to be. Patience is key. Sometimes it will take me a full week to get the drawing phase complete.
*If you paint thick or if the pencil lines are covered in the end or if you like a more untamed rough look, then maybe a detailed drawing isn't necessary for you.
I use a mechanical pencil with 0.5 mm lead, and use a variety of lead hardness/darkness, ranging from 3H (light) to 3B (dark). I use a standard HB lead for the initial drawing. And use lighter leads for subtle toning and shading, and use darker leads for bold lines and emphasis.
What kind of paints, brushes, etc. do you use? What is the painting process like?
These are the basic colors I use: Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, and Titanium White. By mixing a combination of these paints you can pretty much create most colors. Sometimes I may add a Turquoise, Violet, or Green into the palette. I try not to use black, by mixing Ultramarine Blue and Raw Umber.
Some artists use Linseed Oil or other mediums to mix with oil paints for more flow, but I just use a bit of Turpenoid. This is because I don't use thick layers of paint. I keep an open jar of turpenoid, and mix it with the paint on the palette to thin it out; like diluting. I use thin washes and glazes of paint and build up those layers gradually. I usually give the entire surface a thin transparent coat of medium toned color. Then I slowly bring out the lights and the darks.
Acrylic Paints: With acrylic paints, I like to use Golden Fluid Acrylics, because it's not thick/goopy and flows smooth and is manageable. A slow-drying fluid helps keep the paint from drying too quickly on your palette. I also keep a small water spray bottle handy, to spray my panel before and/or after applying acrylic to help blend in smoothly.
Recently I've been using both acrylic and oils. I use acrylic to build a tonal base foundation. I'm finding it more efficient to use acrylic first because it dries quickly and I can continue to build on top of it. Then I use oils over the acrylic by applying thin coats of color. Oils have a more richer quality in color, I believe. Acrylic over the oil won't work.
Brushes: I use all sorts of different brushes and go through quite a lot of them. I do like using Robert Simmons white sable water-color brushes for fine rendering. I'm fond of Simple Simmons, especially the Angled and Filberts. Trekell brushes are nice too. The above are used mostly for my in-studio work. If I were tackling a large piece or mural, I'd use larger bristle painting brushes. The best thing to do is just to try a few different types and see which works best for you. To clean oil paint from brushes, swish them around the jar of turpenoid, and then use The Masters Brush Cleaner at the sink with warm water. Acrylic paints are easy to clean with just water.
Do you use reference photos?
Ever since I was young, I obsessively collected magazine cutouts of images that pleased me. Fashion spreads, ads, photographs, illustrations, paintings, a certain model, a face, a pose, hand positions, colors, lighting, moods, anything and everything. If I liked it, I kept it. This also helped me develop my taste for images; a ‘type’ I am drawn to. Now, I have several computer folders of images collected online. If I need a certain eye/lip/nose shape, hand pose, body pose, lighting, etc, I go search for them in my folders, and piece together what I need and improvise the rest.
*If you are currently studying to draw, though, I highly suggest learning from a live model. Drawing from photos is good practice, but nothing beats what you can learn from a three dimensional real human form.
How can I purchase an original piece? Do you take commissions?
All purchases go through the galleries. I try to do one solo a year, and a few groups shows, at various galleries. Please contact the galleries to inquire about originals. You can check my upcoming shows HERE.
I currently do not do commission work. I may do so in the future. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line 'commission'. I will keep an eye out.
How do you feel about people getting tattoos of your work? Is permission required?
You're free to get whatever you like. No permission from me required. Just a nod my way would be appreciated.
Maybe a #audreykawasaki on Instagram would be great!
What inspires you?
When I was a teenager, I use to obsessively scrawl away in my sketchbooks for hours. Drawing was not my job back then. There were no deadlines, pressures, or judgements. I wasn't doing it to impress, or want of recognition, or of competition. I drew, because it excited me and I enjoyed loosing myself in it. I drew, because creating something from nothing fulfilled and rewarded me. I drew, because on those pages I could be as loud, fierce, vulgar, and weird as I wanted to be. I felt so much insecurity and uncertainty back then, and drawing was my way of output and release and making sense of it all, instead of bundling it all up inside. It was therapeutic in many ways; it healed and guided me.
Now, when I am feeling uninspired or blocked, I think of her, the young me. I think of her, with all her vulnerabilities, flaws, and weaknesses. And I think of her managing to find a way to cope with all the turmoil that come with adolescence. I realize those years helped shape a foundation for who I am today. And I try to recognize and reinforce that initial passion I felt. That initial thirst for drawing; that focus, that obsession, that drive, and hope. And I continually try to remind myself to tap into that; that raw uninhibited energy of making something. It's very introspective and personal, because it comes from somewhere deep inside, and I think it's important to understand it. And yes, I realize I must sound pretty melodramatic right now. But hey, what's life without a bit of soul-searching once in a while!
Aside from the above, I try to figure out what specific parts of drawing/painting I love and I am good at. I can't expect myself to be an expert on all the aspects of an image. So I hone in on specific parts, and try to develop that and let that grow and thrive. For me, I love drawing lines and I love painting faces. That is what I'm good at and that is what will come to the forefront of my work.
I love carefully positioned and thought-out lines. I love playing with line-quality, details, shapes, patterns, textures, rhythms, and flows; each with a specific purpose. I enjoy seeing what my line marks can do to the composition, balance, and unity of the piece. It’s like a puzzle to me. It’s a problem with many possible solutions, but the key is finding my own unique one.
Then comes the faces, and all it's subtle tones, shading, rendering, and colors. I love layering the thin coats of paint, and playing with it's delicacy. I love watching her slowly develop and come to life. There's always a moment, in the early phases of painting, when she 'appears' and is alive and real to me. It's a magical little feeling!
But honestly, this 'What inspires you?' question always stumps me. It's similar to 'Why do you keep doing what you do?". I think it'll continue to stump me for the rest of my life. There really isn't just one answer, and it probably always changes depending on where I'm at in life. I'll come back to this again at a later date. ;)