I am frequently asked about how to work with oil paint mixed with cold wax medium, especially on Instagram (you can find my Instagram at DaynaLovesArt). When I post videos of my process, I get a lot of interest and questions. Since I recently taught two four-day workshops in oil and cold wax at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, I thought I would post a series of photos of the process. Thank you to several of my students for taking photos and generously sharing them with me.
A beautiful comment from Angela, who has taken my class several times:
It was amazing to see you obliterate a piece, reveal fabulous lower layers and ultimately create your incredible composition. Seeing you do this in class was huge? The lesson in itself was the best possible, teaching us more by showing, creating and telling us your thoughts throughout. Angela
*This demo piece went on to become this painting:
If you are interested in more information about what I’m doing, books I recommend, techniques, shows, workshops, etc., please subscribe to my monthly newsletter by clicking HERE. In my September newsletter I will be sharing about my recent Personal Art Retreat, all the work that goes into creating art behind the scenes and sharing about the book Creative Authenticity.
I had an idea for a painting I wanted in my show at Guardino Gallery. I envisioned a grid of smaller paintings hung together to create a large 40×40 inch piece of art. I decided the small paintings would be 8×8 inches. But the initial problem was how to hang 25 paintings in a manner that would allow me to work on all 25 at the same time, as if I was actually painting a 40×40-inch piece of art. My studio assistant came to the rescue. He devised a system using Velcro. He attached Velcro to the back of the 25 8×8-inch cradled panels, then matched up the other piece of Velcro to the wall, allowing all of the paintings to hang together, but could easily be removed for me to 1) paint the edges, and 2) work on each piece individually when it became time to resolve each piece as a single painting.
After I secured the 25 panels (thank you Art Department for ordering so many boards for me), they were primed with fluorescent pink and orange acrylic paint by my studio assistant. I decided to start the painting process using acrylic paint to get lots of layers of color and marks. It was such fun to paint across the surface with grand swaths of paint, and occasionally pull the panels off the wall to wrap paint around and onto the edges.
After a few layers of acrylic, I switched to oil paint mixed with cold wax, and began enhancing and adding more layers, words, and marks.
Last fall, I received the email that always thrills and humbles me: I had been selected by Donna Guardino to have a show in the Main Gallery at Guardino Gallery in June of 2022. I didn’t celebrate too long, but instead studied the schematics of the gallery, the wall spaces to be filled, pulled together a batch of boards, and got to work.
The getting to work initially meant prepping the boards for painting. I knew early on that I wanted to pair art quotes with vivid colors, so right from the beginning these elements were prominent.
After all the boards were prepped (with massive help from my studio assistant), they were ready for paint to be applied.
This part of the process required many layers of oil paint mixed with cold wax. The dominant theme was layers of paint with the writing of quotes in between the layers.
After several months of work, the pieces began to take shape. Some boards got scraped, some were finished, but then I decided they weren’t finished so more layers were applied. Writing was always present, but it was in the last six weeks of working that I began applying the words more boldly on the surface of the painted surfaces, and these turned out to be my favorite pieces.
And before I knew it, it was time to stop painting. The oil and cold wax needed time to dry, cure, and set before applying a final coat of cold wax. For the month of May, the paintings were in my studio, in the hallway, and in our bathroom just resting.
Today as I put together this post, all the paintings have been moved to the main floor of our house. They are being prepared to be wrapped and loaded into a van we had to rent to transport the 44 paintings (yes, 44!) to the gallery in the morning.
The show hangs on Wednesday, May 25, and opens on Thursday, May 26, with the opening reception from 6-9 pm; the show will be up through June 26. An added bonus is you can see (and shop) all the pieces by going to Guardino Gallery’s website.
I have too many flippin’ journals all going at once, so what am I thinking starting another one. I am a sucker for journals. At the current time I am actively working in several. Follow me . . . .
Color Journal: A place to keep track of colors I like, the brands of colors because not all colors are the same, what happens when certain colors are mixed together, formulas of colors I like, and the Pantone color of the year (this year it is Very Peri).
A small painting journal where I have combined paintings with art quotes on the opposite page. This has been in process for the past couple of years.
A vintage book where I wipe off excess paint from my palette, clean off my brushes on the pages, glue in leftover tidbits, and experiment with quick ideas that pop into my head.
Visual Journal: This 9×12 inch journal is my hard-working jack of all trades journal. I take notes in it when I take a class, record ideas for a painting or a show, sketch out ideas, and take notes at art meetings. This is my official visual journal and has been a key part of my art practice for many years. The journals are lined up in my studio with little tags indicating the dates covered in each journal.
Collage Journal: An old composition book where a student kept notes and did engineering types of drawing, and also glued in tests and notes. I use this journal to create collage compositions right over the writing and drawings. The glued in papers I have torn out, but gluey residue peeks through on many of the pages.
Junk Journal: I created this big chunky book out of hundreds of pieces of old papers, collage materials, and ephemera, and created three signatures (or was it four? the journal is thick). The junk part was my use of junky papers, but then I have gone back in and embellished the pages, fleshing out more complete collage compositions. I have been working on this one for months!
Covid Journal: When Covid hit in full force in early 2020, I took one of the junk journals I had made and recorded milestones and statistics for the first full year of our lockdown. Every once in a while I will go back in make a note or update the statistics. Sadly, I am entering the third year of entries.
Travel Journal: Anytime we take a biggish trip, I maintain a travel journal. My most recent travel journal was done in September when we spent a couple of weeks in New York. I used a handmade artist journal and cut and glued paper and ephemera from our daily excursions.
Which brings me to January, 2022, and the decision to what I plan to do regarding a journal in the new year. In 2019 I committed to painting a painting a day in a 9×9 inch journal and somehow I pulled it off. Sometimes I was playing catch up, but for the most part keeping that painting journal got me into my studio. Every. Single.Day. (And it took seven journals to get through the year.)
A few of my favorite paintings from my 2019 journals:
In deciding what kind of journal would be most enjoyable, I flashed back to 2012 when I used “The Open Daybook,” a perpetual calendar book, edited by David P. Earle. I remember buying this big book of a journal at Monograph Bookwerks (fine art books, objects, + ephemera), located in NE Portland, and I was so excited to use it to record what I did every day for a year. Each page has original art by 365 artists (actually 371 as some worked in groups), so the imagery and graphics were always a treat.
A few of my pages from 2012. My entries were short and sweet, but really captured in detail how I spent my days.
That year of record keeping got me to thinking about what kind of journal I would keep now, ten years later. I keep a lot of visual journals (obviously, from the list above), and I have a calendar on my desk. But what if I kept my own sort of Daybook, a cross between what I did today, but coupled with a sprinkling of collage, dabs of paint, imagery, ideas, quotes, and what is on my mind (now there’s a scary thought). I liked the sound of this combination and I just happened to have the right journal for the job (cue the dramatic music), a chunky beast of a journal, built by Leather Village craftspeople.
I wrote a private preamble on New Year’s Eve, then jumped in on January 1st.
We laugh and we laugh and there is nothing else like it in the world.
A beautiful opportunity presented itself last June and after giving it some deep thought, I accepted a commission to create a painting in honor of a loved one who had passed. My collector (and friend) knew she wanted the piece to include collage and paint, but was open to how I would incorporate the two. We met at my house a couple of times to look through photos, passports, music, and ephemera, which all represented an interesting and rich life. I got a better idea of what she was thinking and proposed that I include words throughout the process, along with an initial layer of collage. It was agreed that the words and collage would imbue the piece with the spirit of this person, but the next layers would be an abstract landscape to reflect the color and vibrancy of a life lost too soon.
After I had a chance to go through the stacks of materials, we met again to make a few more decisions, giving me clarity of which original documents I would use to energize the painting. I decided I would create two paintings alongside each other so my collector would have a choice between which piece resonated with her the most. I chose to work on cradled panels: 24×36 inches and 30×40 inches.
Over several months, the two boards were painted, writing added, a second layer of paint, bigger and bolder words added, and then a complete layer of collage, with just snippets of the underlying words peeking through.
The process of alternating layers of acrylic paint with words continued, and eventually I began to focus on the composition, moving toward an abstracted landscape. I was pleased, but not satisfied, so in a fit of knowing I wasn’t finished, I took both boards to the back yard and using an electric sander, sanded the surface of both paintings, revealing the various layers as I sanded. Snippets of words, paint, and even some of the earlier layers of collage were revealed.
It was around this time I decided I would switch mediums and move to applying layers of oil paint mixed with cold wax. The vibrancy of oil and cold wax and the rich luminosity of the materials seemed like the right choice. I took the smaller of the two boards with me to Sitka Center for Art and Ecology in early September, where I was teaching a four-day workshop in oil and cold wax. I taught during the day, and then when the students went home for the night, I went into the studio and worked on the 24×36 inch piece, building layers of oil and cold wax.
When I got home, I continued to work on “Trying So Hard to Listen,” with more layers of oil and cold wax.
I completed the 24×36 inch piece on October 4, 2021, and titled it “Trying So Hard to Listen.”
I had also started to add layers of oil and cold wax to the larger piece, “On My Journey Home.”
The larger piece, 30×40 inches, was completed on my birthday, October 14, and I titled it “On My Journey Home.”
My wonderful friend and collector decided she wanted both of the paintings and in mid December, the paintings were delivered and hung. It was such an honor to see them hanging, knowing that they each had multiple layers of images, words, and paint and reflected emotional energy, love, and memories of a life well lived.
A journey of discovering that I love people, I love myself, I love my secrets.
In my last post, Little Paintings, I shared how I painted small oil and cold wax paintings on Arches Oil Paper by taping small squares of the paper to a large piece of newsprint or butcher paper. I briefly mentioned how I remove the tape . . . . this post is what I do with the tape that I removed.
Over the past couple of years, I have saved and collected all of the pieces of tape I have removed from the little taped down paintings. (Do you think I’m a bit compulsive? Or obsessive?)
I am always amazed by the beautiful little abstract paintings on the pieces of tape, sometimes even wishing I could paint a larger painting using the pieces of tape as inspiration. . . . and then inspiration struck. What if I used the strips of tape to create an abstract painting? I like stripes, I like color, I like abstract, and I like recycling and reuse. I started auditioning the strips of tape. Before too long, I had a pleasing arrangement and composition and I started gluing down the strips.
For my first piece, I mounted the tape pieces onto a 4×10 inch cradled panel.
And hung it in our brightly colored kitchen at the House of Color in Astoria.
By then I was smitten so I forged ahead and taped down strips of color onto four 6×6-inch cradled panels.
These four pieces have been added to my online shop and are $100 each (which includes shipping in the US).
We spent the last two weeks of September in Brooklyn, New York, so of course I logged our trip with a Salvage Collage junk journal.
I didn’t make my own journal, but used one created by my friend Laurie at Black Dog Studio. It came with a nice variety of papers, including some heavy watercolor paper, so I was able to adhere all kinds of papers, post cards, street fliers, and whatever paper materials I could scrounge. It was a bit more challenging on this trip because during a pandemic, there isn’t as much print material as usual. But being the scrounger and junker that I am, I managed to cobble together a pretty interesting journal.
We rented a tiny Airbnb apartment in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. I set up my make do studio on a tiny desk in the corner of the tiny bedroom with a nice view of the fire escape and the Manhattan skyline in the distance.
I hunted and gathered each day, my piles of possible fodder growing and expanding, and I used the bed as a place to sort.
Every night after a day of exploring Brooklyn (or Manhattan), I returned to our apartment, where I cut and pasted the scraps I gathered during the day, into my journal. The journal began to take on a life of its own. I didn’t keep a chronological travelogue, or even write about our days. I just ripped, cut, and glued, creating a collaged journal with visual reminders of our first big trip in three years.
On our return trip, we turned a two hour layover in San Francisco into a three day layover (so I could see the Joan Mitchell exhibitat the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). My travel journal just kept growing, setting up my studio on the desk in the corner of our hotel room.
I am pleased to offer an article written by guest Howard Collins. Howard is my spouse of 49 years and for the past year, the business manager for my art practice. Howard is my number one fan and his taste in art has evolved through the years, which prompted him to write this article for my blog.
“Ugh.” “I don’t get it.” “That’s weird.” “What’s the point?”
These words have admittedly come from me about abstract art.
My gradual transformation into appreciating and loving abstract works has taken time. Unlike the acquired taste for kombucha, which took real effort and perseverance, coming to love abstract art was more evolutionary than effort.
My early years of art appreciation was not as a result of education. It was more akin to “Me like, pretty,” when I saw something that caught my eye. But art has always been important to me regardless of my ignorance. My eye was attracted to precision, to realism, to clarity, and realistic portraits. In walking through museums, I was attracted to and spent as much time as I could looking at the details by various master artists. I always gave a short glance at modern, contemporary, and abstract art, but never much time and clearly little thought.
However, I subtly found myself spending more time looking at impressionist art and less realistic works. Monet blew me away. Here was realism without precision and detail, but beautiful nonetheless. This was a style of art without precision, but collectively, the strokes created beautiful compositions. My eyes began to look at the art of other impressionists and marvel at their beauty. Without warning I began to spend even more time looking at non representational art. My world of art appreciation exploded.
Dayna’s taste in art has always differed from mine. I began to look closer at pieces and artists to whom she was attracted. It stretched me to look at works that I previously would only glance at and rarely see. Vertical and horizontal colorful lines, unusual compositions, and figures in ways that had usually left me cold, now drew me in.
Modern art, cubism, angles, distorted figures all called me to view them in a way I had not felt before. I found Pollock, Kandinski and de Kooning, and a renewed interest in Picasso.
And therein lies the difference for me. I felt the art. An emotional response rather than mere appreciation of the art. Feeling what the piece was sharing with me, allowing the piece to talk to me. This was a moving experience and was totally unlike viewing realistic works. As strange as it sounds, listening as a piece talks to you is quite normal. Explaining how this works for me is difficult, but it is real. For me works of art talk to me through their composition, arrangement, color and form, which cause an emotional response in me.
My eye views abstract art and its perceived disorganization in different ways. At times I seek to make sense of the abstract lines, shadows and colors by seeing what I can see. At times I take in the whole of the abstract and free myself from my realism tendency; and then at other times, I pick a small portion to see what I can see and hear from the art. If I bring an attitude of openness, it allows the painting to express itself and for my eyes, brain, and emotions to react.
I have to interject a side story here. We recently talked to the maintenance engineer at The Dundee Hotel. I told him Dayna was the artist of many of the works hanging there and his eyes lit up. “Did you do the pieces in the conference room?” he asked Dayna. “Yes,” was her reply and he said: “I have questions for you. I’ve studied them.” We walked to the three painting and he wanted to know if the images he saw in them were intentional. He saw birds, a cow, and other animals throughout her works. Dayna laughed and said “Don’t show me, I’ll never be able to not see them.”
He was astounded to hear that Dayna had not intentionally included farm animals in her abstracts. He was trying to make sense of the abstract work though his interpretation of what he saw. By the way, he loved the works and his appreciation came from their composition and his interpretation, and not by the intention of the artist.
In my wasted youth, I thought Picasso was odd, irrelevant, and not really worth looking at. Even today not all of his pieces move me, but many do in a way I would never have thought possible. His humor is outstanding. I stood before a Picasso series created during the last months of WWII and I was laughing. They were optimistic, playful, joyful and irreverent. Yes, I was the only one laughing, but that’s me. They were simply magnificent.
Then there is the power of abstract. There is power in the stroke, texture, form, composition, and message. With or without a representational image, abstract work speaks and conveys a message. In part, the power comes from eliminating a common scene or picture for our minds to see. We are engaged to interact with the artists’ work. Just as letting our children play in a dusty pile of dirt, they create games, form roads, and valleys in their minds, which they translate into the dirt pile; just as we get to create from abstract art.
Amazingly, the power of abstract art endures beyond a single viewing but continues over time and changes as we see different elements as we change. A piece of Dayna’s work, Singed by Fire and Light, hung in my office for three years until I moved my office home. Every day this piece spoke to me, every day it gave me something. Sometimes it spoke to me as a whole, drawing me deep inside; sometimes from a small section, sometimes from hints of color revealed from the sunlight pouring in the window. I miss this piece terribly. It now hangs beautifully at The Dundee Hotel, where I am writing this piece and I’ve literally hugged it.
I still appreciate and enjoy realism and impressionism. But abstract art, with a big thank you to my wife, attracts me, speaks to me and fills me.
Artists Dayna admires:
Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Elaine deKooning, Cy Twombly, Robert Motherwell, Robert Diebenkorn
Artists I admire:
Mark Rothko, Willem deKooning , Jackson Pollock, Picasso, Kandinski, Dayna Collins
I declared the past eight days an Artist in Residency, self proclaimed because my husband hopped on a jet for the east coast to visit his nieces and I had eight days to myself. I often hem and haw, do a little of this, a little of that, throw in a load of laundry, check out Instagram, read emails . . . . before heading to my studio. Last week I still did some of those things, but I made it a priority to get into my studio. It was a little easier last week not because Howard was gone, well, that was part of it, but because of the oppressive heat. My painting studio is upstairs in our 1926 house so the old furnace ducting doesn’t allow the air conditioned air to reach the second floor, making the upstairs pretty unbearable by noon.
So I made it my mission to get up there every morning and do something, anything. I had a productive week, getting a few things out of the way that I needed to do, but more than that, I painted. I painted just for the joy of painting and spreading paint.
On the first morning, I did a warm up using scraps of brown paper bags from my recent #100dayproject. It felt good to revisit being playful and loose while painting on unimportant little bits of paper.
Then I got to work. One of my projects was to simply gesso a stack of boards for a class I’m taking in July.
I spent a little time most days painting with acrylic on a repurposed canvas and recording my progress.
I prepped panels with plaster, which required multiple steps: acrylic, plaster, sanding, sealing . . . .
I wove these steps into my mornings, allowing things to dry overnight, ready to tackle the next day. One morning I did a reset in my studio, moving things around on my collection of rolling carts, causing a traffic jam at one point.
I was finally ready to pull out the oil and cold wax and start painting. Home again. . . . the smell of the wax, the feel of the materials as I mixed and spread the buttery concoction . . . .
Many layers of oil and cold wax were applied. It was a time of experimentation, to play, to try out different ideas. I finished a few, several are still in process. Some are on boards, some are on Arches oil paper.
My show, Turns of the Kaleidoscope, officially opened on Friday night, May 7, from 5-8 pm. It was part of Salem’s First Friday Art Walk and the weather was perfect. With more people vaccinated and things slowly opening, there was a steady stream of friends and art lovers throughout the evening.
The evening was magical and I’m sharing a smattering of photos that give a peek into the celebration of the opening of my show (which runs through May 29th).