Painting Tips and Tricks
  • Texture Gel product review: White Opaque Flakes

    As I work with more acrylic paint brands and paint-related products, I am becoming pickier about their quality and effects on my paintings.

    Along with sand-based texture gels (ugh!), I have added another product to my “Never Again” list: White Opaque Flakes.

    The product looks like small angular (but flexible) pieces of plastic, similar in appearance to crushed egg shells. They are suspended in a clear gel. As advertised, they dry as White Opaque Flakes.

    My problem with this product is this: once dried, some flakes are anchored to the canvas, and others aren’t. The little flexible pieces tend to flap around, ripping off and revealing paint layers underneath or tearing apart my foam rollers.


    I find it difficult to make this product “mesh” well with my painting style. It applies clumsily: either thin, spotty and unstable layers OR blob-like impasto with sharp edges once dry. Perhaps this is an effect some artists want for their paintings, and that’s cool, but I can confidently say it’s not for me. 

    Now I’m stuck with a painting that I quite liked, until I realized the White Opaque Flakes were not securely fastened. I refuse to sell a painting that is at risk of breaking down…if a collector purchased this painting and, say, some flakes got ripped off by a passerby’s sweater, I would be mortified. I pride myself on delivering artwork that will stand the test of time, and that situation is unacceptable.     

    I scraped off as many “floaters” as I could this afternoon with a palette knife and abrasive sponge and applied some gloss gel overtop to (hopefully) remedy this situation. Tomorrow I plan to peel off any rebels with tweezers and kiss the old painting goodbye to start fresh. I just hope I don’t have to ultimately throw the canvas in the trash…


  • My Dirty Little Secret...

    What is the best way to achieve dreamy, effortless colours that melt into each other on the canvas?

    There is more than one way to achieve this effect, but I have found one easy way: Instead of washing away those beautiful (and sometimes expensive!) acrylic paints, try layering paints on top of your “dirty” roller/brush and just keep on painting. The wet-on-wet will cause the fresh paints to be deposited immediately and with further reworking of the brush/roller the older colours will blend into the foreground. Make sense? Beautiful AND frugal!  

    A word of caution: be careful not to get too crazy about colour mixing…choose them wisely, or else you might end up with some dull, muddy tones in the end. A good rule of thumb: don’t deviate too far from your initial colour palette…that way the blending will look natural on your canvas. Colour contrast is nice and can create some powerful eye-catching effects, but it typically looks best when applied in a controlled setting. 

    Happy painting, peeps!

  • Got Wood?...Experimenting with Birch Panels!

    I was eager to get started on my FosterMAK painting for Elevation Gallery’s One White Wall Project and needed to find a 12”x 12” gallery canvas to get started. Inglewood Art Supplies was sold out of their stretched canvasses in that particular size, so I picked out a different style of support: Birch Panels!

    Panels are new to me. Unlike stretched canvas, they have a rigid, unforgiving surface. If I was working with inks or transparent mediums, I would be able to see the grain of the wood beneath my painting (very cool). Given that I use a decent amount of water in my normal painting process, I was concerned about the wood warping…

    The solution: a few coats of Gesso primer (I only have white gesso, but it is also commonly available in clear or black)! The primer would eliminate the wood grain from showing through, but it would seal the panel from any moisture-related issues. The edges were not sanded down well, so eliminating the splintery bits was an additional step. Once I did that, it was “smooth sailing” ;)

    Surprisingly, panels are more affordable than I imagined they would be: $11.26 each, versus $11.76 for a canvas of the same size. Inglewood art supplies is a great place to shop because they give 20% discounts with every bundle you purchase (3 or 6 per bundle, depending on the size of your support)…taking advantage of this everyday discount is a dangerous game to play if your studio has limited space!  (*ahem*)  

    Time to add some texture to these flat surfaces and infuse it with some COLOUR!

    I’m curious to see how this project goes, and if wood panels will become part of my regular inventory. Panels may be preferable to large stretched canvasses (by large I mean >3ftx3ft), because their rigidity won’t lead to sagging. When working on canvas, I have to be careful that I don’t inundate the painting with too much water or fluid acrylics…the heavy load causes stretching, and the fluids can pool in the middle and create unwanted visual effects.

    Cheers to trying something new!   

  • Dollars and Sense – Part Two

    A common question that many artists struggle with: How much should I charge for my work?

    Art supplies are expensive (as I tried to illustrate in Part One of this series), but artists also have to consider the price of further education courses, transportation costs and participation fees for art shows throughout the year, studio space rental fees, and your most precious resource: your time! If you are a full-time artist, you have to factor in the cost of benefits, health care coverage, and vacation pay, too. Few people that enter the fine arts field are able to survive (let alone thrive) as full time artists. Like me, many artists work at a completely separate job and have a very different identity to make ends meet. Geologist by day, painter (and crazy cat lady) by night!

    Again: how much should you charge for your work?

    Obviously, artists want to make sales (so they can create more art!) and they don’t want to discourage people with ‘hefty’ price tags…it’s a delicate balance to strike. Many artists haven’t done a particularly good job at justifying their price tags, and I think many consumers are unaware that the manufacturing costs for original artwork can be so extreme. 

    If you are in love with a piece of art but can’t afford it, I highly encourage you to talk to the artist about it! They will be flattered by your compliments and who knows…perhaps you two could work out a deal! Belinda Fireman offers art rentals for her paintings (a great concept which I might adopt in the future! Check it out: Many artists can afford to be flexible with their payments and/or prices (so long as you’re not a dick about it)

    Chances are, many artists feel a tinge of guilt requesting the prices they do---BUT THEY SHOULDN’T! A lot of time, effort, and love went into creating that piece of art. Don’t make them feel crappy about earning a living wage.

    If you are an artist struggling with charging an appropriate value for your work, just remember these two weird facts to avoid any guilty feelings:

    This tiger shark (preserved in formaldehyde and displayed in a tank, titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living) was purchased by Steven Cohen, an American hedge fund manager and 106th richest person in the world, for $12 million in 1991! Artist (pictured here): Damien Hirst. Damien was not a “starving artist” who rose to international stardom…he was sponsored and his famous piece was fully commissioned by Charles Saatchi, an art enthusiast and British businessman (also the owner of the world’s largest advertisement agency in the 1980’s. Current net worth: $100 million).

    Do you have any millionaire/billionaire sugar-daddies to help your artwork make international headlines? Neither do I!   

    This large, colourful abstract painting by famous German artist Gerard Richter, titled Abstract Bild, sold to an anonymous bidder for £30.4 million in 1986 (equivalent to ~$46 million US today). “The records keep being broken and every time my initial reaction is one of horror even if it’s actually welcome news. But there is something really shocking about the amount,” Richter said. (No kidding! At least he has remained humble about his fame and fortune.)

    Perhaps you found this blog depressing, but that was not my intention! I was merely showing that people are willing to pay for the artwork they enjoy, even if the art seems absurd to some, even if the price is absurd to some. Keep believing in yourself and don’t get discouraged!  

    Related blog entries:

    Prices are about to increase (and I'm not talking about oil)

    Taylor-made Commissions

  • Dollars and Sense – Part One

    Rational Taylor says: “I should use all the art supplies I have in my existing inventory before I convert my painting studio into a baby nursery”

    Pregnant-brain Taylor says: “I have a few months left before the baby arrives, I might as well go shopping and stock up while I still can!”

    It has been an expensive morning. After meeting my friend Eva for brunch, I swung by Inglewood Art Supplies to pick up a couple essential items on my shopping list…

    Well, some things were on sale, so my preggo-brain decided I should buy them. "Screw the nursery," I told myslef, "I’m going to paint-it-up while I still have the space!"

    This is what $127.41 worth of art supplies looks like.


    …it’s not a lot of stuff, right? Are you surprised? Considering three of the items were on a really good sale, $127 is for these materials is considered a bargain. This is the typical $ amount I spend every time I visit an art store. A canvas and a few paint tubes add up really quickly, especially if they are of professional artist quality (vs. student quality). For example, the little bottle of Golden fluid body iridescent gold paint pictured above was $38.00 (thankfully 50% off, which was why I could justify its purchase. It’s really pretty…)

    In my studio, I have one small storage unit with three shelves, loosely dedicated to three stages of my paintings: Starting materials, middle, and Finishing products. I would like to introduce you to my “Gold Mine”:

    1) The Starting Drawer (the bottom): Includes various tubs of acrylic gels and modeling pastes, salt and other texturizers. (Not pictured: gallery wrapped canvasses x 6, tissue paper, giant tub of wall spackle, drop sheets, rubber gloves, knee pads, CD player, painting aprons and studio clothes)

    2) The Middle Drawer: Includes tempera paint powders in 4 colours, metallic paints, foils, and powders (along with face masks), green painters tape. (Not pictured: 99% rubbing alcohol, atomizer, water bottle, about three dozen acrylic paints in all the colours of the rainbow, 4 cans of acrylic spray paint, brushes, rollers, saran wrap, paper towel, brush cleaners x3, acrylic glaze x2, paint retarder)

    3) The Top Drawer: Includes D-hooks, hanging wire of various strength, Thank you cards, business cards, sharpies and acrylic paint pens, needle nose pliers, gloss varnish, varnish brushes, show tags and fancy string (Not pictured: spray varnish, measuring tape)  

    You may only see a colourul canvas and wire...but there are a LOT of materials that go into each finished painting! 

    Read on: "Dollars and Sense - Part Two"

  • Landscape Experiment

    Why bother being an artist if you can't experiment? 

    I was a little nervous attempting to create a landscape piece without losing a part of my identity. All of my paintings these past couple years have been VERY abstract, very open to interpretation. I wasn't sure if I was ready to try something different, because I do feel fondly about the abstract art genre. However, this was an opportunity to shake things up a little, while still maintaining an air of abstraction (MOUNTAIN AIR, that is! Hardy har har) 

    These two paintings took a long time to finally figure out a workflow. They had very humble beginnings in my garage last summer (throw back photo below. Fun fact: one landscape didn't survive and ended up becoming Mini Meltz Massacre!), and I was thankful for the space to paint three large canvasses at once. It was also the first time I experiemented with spray paint, and loved it! That's part of the reason why the skyline looks so purdy.

    After several months of work, I'm happy to announce that Alberta Beauty and Alpine Meadow are finished and ready for a new home. It has been fun, but I'm eager to get back to my roots :)  


  • Magic Mist & Local Shout-out

    My spray bottle does seem to create magic when I paint. The water seems to melt into the acrylics and soften up the edges, making the paint flow freely and dance on the canvas. I use a lot of water most days...sometimes I want it to be special.

    If I want to transform my boring old tap water into Magic Princess Water, I add a secret ingredient (courtesy of Calgary's own Silk Road Spice Merchant): Rose Water! This stuff smells so heavenly I'm tempted to dab it all over like a perfume. It makes the painting process even more enjoyable.

    *Spritz, sniff! Spritz, sniff!*

    If you've never been to The Silk Road in Inglewood before, I highly recommend a visit. Just go in there and sniff around. They carry five different types of cinnamon, from all over the world! That's just crazy! I challenge you to go inside the store and not buy a thing...pretty sure it's impossible.

  • Second Life

    Second Life

    Painting is not simply an additive process. There are situations that require smearing, wiping, and lifting of paint to achieve a certain effect. I was taught to use paper towels as the ‘go-to tool’ for this method, but have always been plagued with guilt over the waste this creates. I have even gone so far as to keep the soiled paper towels and let them dry, only to attempt to re-use them until no more paint/water could possibly be absorbed. And then I will finally dispose of them.

    I am aware that painting could not (easily) become a waste-free process, but I try to minimize my impact whenever possible. This has become a mild case of hoarding: collecting old tissue paper from birthdays/Christmas, bubble wrap, packing sponges…Shane’s old pajama pants…

    The Story:

    Shane’s PJ pants were threadbare, with rips along the side hems where the pocket linings could spill out into the world and expose a small patch of flesh. When he wore them, he looked like he sprung out of an episode of the Trailer Park Boys (minus the beer belly). I could feel my face scrunch up in disbelief when I stared at his pocket linings, and playfully (aggressively) tried to grab them and rip apart the seams so he would be forced to replace them, but Shane knew. He would sprint away just out of my reach, laughing as he retreated to the basement with coffee in hand. It was infuriating!

    The pants had been in a longterm relationship with Shane long before I entered the picture, and that was nearly 5 years ago. I don’t want to know how old they really are. They were dangerously close to disintegrating each time he washed them, and when he would don them around the house I would always cry out in horror: “When are you going to get rid of those things?!”

    So when he made the decision last weekend to finally replace the leg rags, I was ecstatic. His old PJ pants laid in a heap on the floor, begging to be tossed into the garbage. But not before I had my way with them!

    I didn’t think it was possible to make these pants look any worse, but when I’m through with them, they won’t be recognizable anymore.


  • Photography Gripes

    Photography Gripes

    Some of my favourite paintings have a lot of texture to them. The ridges and valleys of different textural mediums can manipulate the paint in various ways, creating some interesting features. Such beauty is difficult to capture through the lens of a camera, and it's a real shame. How can I explain this disappointment to you? Here are the steps:

    1) After several days (or weeks...sometimes months...) of numerous colour washes, texturizing, colour lifting, canvas manipulation, paint splatters and powder dustings to get the composition juuuuust right, you decide it looks fabulous and apply your signature (yay!)

    2) You apply 4-5 coats of varnish, with drying time in between. This preserves the paint for longevity, evens out the tone and reflective properties of certain areas, and makes the colours pop. 

    3) You lavish the painting in love and compliments ("GAWD, you look good! You are going to be the prettiest painting on the wall, aren't you?? Yes you are!"), name it, date it, sign the back, and apply hanging wire. It's finally FINISHED! And like a proud parent, you're ready to send your baby out into the world feeling confident it will steal the hearts of everyone who sees it. 

    4) You photograph your painting in all its glory, and it sucks. It just fucking sucks! There are hot spots from the glossy varnish, the colours aren't quite right (yet when you try to edit them in Photoshop you just make the situation worse), and all of that beautiful texture on the canvas looks flat as fuck. All of your hard work and confidence just kissed you goodbye and exited out the back door...

    5) You begrudgingly post the 'representative' photo on your website and pretend you are happy with it. When in reality, you keep quiet like it's your dirty little KNOW those photos suck, but you shouldn't admit that to your audience. (Thankfully, I don't believe in censorship, so there you go. LET THE TRUTH BE KNOWN!)

    So, as you can see, I get a little frustrated when it comes to showcasing the final product. If you like one of my paintings but aren't 100% sure about it, please come see it in person. It's so much better in person! 

    Copper Porphyry (shown above) has a lot of juicy details, but the photo does not do it justice. Thankfully, I took a few close-ups to highlight some of these stand out features! (These photos suck too, but when you can't give quality you might as well give quantity...)

    Enjoy :)

  • Metallica!


    Working with metallics is a relatively new experience for me. I have always loved how they look in paintings – so rich and luxurious! In the past, my attempts to incorporate metallic paint into my art has usually ended terribly… the colours became very dull and finish was matte-like…definitely NOT the effect I was looking for!

    Making metallic paint look subtle (but awesome) has been my steepest learning curve to date. Even after learning these tips from the lovely Samantha daSilva, it is still a struggle:

    1) Never mix them with opaque acrylics!

    2) Student-quality acrylics dry VERY pale and subtle, so you end up using more…it’s better to invest in higher pigment artist quality paints when working with metallic hues

    3) Powdered metallics are great for intensity, but tend to float above the water/paint base until it’s dry…so be careful not to remove it when attempting to lift paint away from the canvas (or drip it off the edges!)

    4) In some cases, old makeup can be an appropriate substitute! (Almost makes me wish I never tossed my lime-green eyeshadow from my teenage years!) 

    Here are a few images from my latest WIP, showing the 'before' (powder sprinkle) and 'after' (sprayed with water) reminds me of T-1000 from Terminator 2!

  • Patience is a that I do not possess!

    PACING  (a poem by anxious Taylor)

    Little painting, 


    What will you become? 

    You are in the realm 

    of the unknown...

    When will you say you're 'done'? 

    These are some of my resuts from an afternoon of painting, wrapped in plastic. Who knows what it will look like when the sheet is peeled back...

    In my humble opinion, the most difficult part of being an artist is practicing the art of PATIENCE and knowing when to step away! 

  • Nine Collector Tips from Nine Canadian Gallery owners

    Collector Tip #1:

    “The biggest hurdle for many first time collectors is getting past the price of art. But remember

    it’s one of the few purchases you’ll make that will hold or increase in value over time. Amortize

    the cost over 20 or 25 years, and factor in the dividends of pleasure it will pay you every time

    you look at it, and buying art is a bargain.”

    Collector Tip #2:

    “Learn to trust your own tastes and don’t get caught up in hype and trends. Good art endures. If

    you’re moving or redecorating, consider reframing or rearranging your art. Educate yourself

    with the guidance of a qualified art dealer.”

    Collector Tip #3:

    Bugera recommends that first-time collectors look around the galleries, develop your own taste

    and listen to the dealers talk about the artists. But in the end buy what you love rather than

    what someone may say is an investment, because art as an investment is always a gamble.”

    Collector Tip #4:

    “Use the internet, Facebook and Twitter to search out new artists. Don’t be afraid to email or

    text the artist or the gallery with questions, to find out about new work and upcoming

    exhibitions. Enjoy the thrill of the hunt – however, you choose to hunt!”

    Collector Tip #5:

    “Research is an enjoyable aspect of art collecting. Attend “meet the artist” receptions; read

    reviews in newspapers and magazines to see what critics say about the artist or the genre that

    interests you.”

    Collector Tip #6:

    “Don’t hesitate to visit galleries often — they’re free. It’s one of life’s great pleasures. And if you

    see something you like, ask the staff whether you can try the painting at home before you

    commit. Layaway possibilities are also worth asking about.”

    Collector Tip #7

    “Most reputable galleries offer a trial period, where you can take a work home for a period of a

    week, maybe two to see how the work fits into your space. If you’re interested in a piece, don’t

    be afraid to ask the gallery if you can take it home on a trial basis.”

    Collector Tip #8

    Don't be concerned about too much art. It's fun to take down pieces and replace them with

    something else, then bring them out and hang them In a different location to see them in a

    different light or context. Go ahead and play curator with your collection.”

    Collector Tip #9

    “Purchase pieces of the best quality possible. Not all works by a given artist are equal;

    developing an eye for quality is critical to building a strong collection. Better to buy a

    well-executed smaller piece, than a less well-executed large piece. Taking courses to learn more

    about art techniques can be useful.”


    (Photo Source)