Sunday, August 17, 2008

Brayer Paintings

Turquoise Dance
10" x 7" on 140 lb. cold-press watercolor paper

The last few weeks I have returned to daily brayer paintings. How much I like them, how much I have missed doing them, and how much I learn from them!

When I first started painting on weekends, I missed it and wondered how I could continue to play with paint during the week. Instead of working on large works on canvas, I began filling 10” x 7” spiral journals of watercolor paper with quick little paintings. But setting up and cleaning brushes afterwards took a lot of time, too, so I searched for tools that would clean up quickly. Soon, palette knives and brayers were employed.

What, you may ask, is brayer painting? Basically, I take a 4” soft rubber brayer, some heavy body acrylic paints, some texture tools and roll out layers upon layers of paint. Then I press, scratch, and stamp different materials onto the paper to create something.

excess acrylic paint rolled on 60 lb. sketch paper
handmade stamps in left corner

Ever since I began my art blog in May, I have fallen out of the habit of doing a quick painting or two a day to play, to see color relationships, and to discover themes. I learn something from doing these fast exercises. While they do not always result in pretty paintings, these brayer paintings often stir ideas and emotions suggesting themes, textures, or color combinations leading to larger works.

Finishing up this California 2008 journal sketchbook, I am back doing mini-paintings several times a week and have some results that amaze, astonish, and engage me. I am more happy and relaxed because I am closer to my paints and more receptive to any kind of results, good or not-so-good.

I’m on the road of discovery and since I love to learn, it's great fun. Working more frequently brings more creative fires to the surface instead of being banking them down, waiting for more time. And I discover more things if I work daily, even for a short time.

excess acrylic paint rolled on 60 lb. sketch paper
handmade stamps in left corner

Here are a few things I’ve discovered recently:

  • Make a ghost image on the smooth, 60 lb. sketch paper opposite the 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper page by closing the book while the paint is still wet.

  • Clean off the brayer by rolling excess paint onto that sketch paper. Could be the start of an interesting work. The paper doesn’t buckle as much as I thought it would. How would fluid acrylics work instead? There’s another experiment.

  • Reuse the protecting freezer or wax paper (used behind the main working pages) by
    a) applying gloss or matte medium to the watercolor paper and rub on the dried paint b) rubbing off dried paint areas onto wet paint paper. The one below was unintentional, but I love the results.
10" x 7" on 140 lb. cold-press watercolor paper
Often, I feel more like a print maker than a painter, rolling out paint layers and pressing items into it. Other times, I am astonished at results from mostly random, quick-decision, small-format pieces. Imposing a strict time limit, I can by-pass that pesky critic often lurking within every artist. By not planning each page, by opening myself up to any possibilities, by randomly making textures, I often access the mystic process of creation. Sometimes, images appear that move me deeply, that suggest things unconsciously, that make me feel I have touched another realm.
Life Continues
10" x 7" on 140 lb. cold-press watercolor paper

In the past, I felt that immersion when I was seriously, steadily writing. So focused on developing characters and plot for a novel, I often was an instrument for creative powers of the universe. I feel that much more as a visual artist. When it happens, I get a little psychic thrill/chill. Imagine plugging into a great universal repository of thoughts and feelings and higher powers. Some images, even in a corner, suddenly appear and I am amazed it came from me. This jolt channels through me, energizing and guiding my articulation. Again, others might not see this as it might be a patch in a murky puddle of paint. Although the piece might not be worthy to hang in a gallery, the act of making it releases some force within me, and contrarily, outside of me.

Does this make sense to any of you? Have you, too, felt such feelings?
What a wonder that such an easy painting technique can be so transcendent.
10" x 7" on 140 lb. cold-press watercolor paper


  1. Your brayer paintings are lovely Gina.
    I have often called that feeling you are talking about as a blue spark that goes off in one's brain - it IS an electrical feeling. So when you say you are 'plugging' into something - I know just what you mean!
    (Thanks for visiting my blog)

  2. Thank you, Theresa. It's great to know another artist has felt that almost-indescribable feeling!

  3. I'm so glad you lead me back to your blog. This is a lovely post and I know exactly what you mean.
    Your brayer paintings are beautiful and sensitive. Turquoise Dance is stunning enlarged.

  4. Thanks for visiting, Robyn, and your kind words. I'm slowly reading your art blog and loving what I'm finding there!

  5. Bravo, Non-conformity!!!
    "Life continues" reminds me of Paul Klee, whose work I love!
    This is so inspiring, Gina!

  6. So glad I've inspired you, Mary. That piece wasn't working and, as a last-ditched attempt to save it, I grabbed white paint (which I often don't use).