Author Archives: matthew

Focus on Education: Floating – by Rebecca Baer

Floating color is a method in which paint is applied to the surface using a sideloaded brush. Paint is picked up on one edge of the brush and is then blended thoroughly on the palette until the paint has transitioned across the brush to gradually fade before reaching the opposite side. When sideloading an angular brush, the paint is always loaded on the long side, or “toe,” of the brush. The short side is referred to as the “heel.” The success of this technique relies heavily on choosing the appropriate supplies, and just a bit of practice. For floating, I prefer to use an angular brush that is composed of both natural and RB1100Series.gifsynthetic hairs. Although suitable for general use with a variety of mediums, our RB Classique angles were developed specifically for this purpose. Many brushes can "look" the same, i.e., have an angular cut or a particular type of handle. Hair content is what gives a brush its characteristics and makes it perform in a certain way. Most brushes commonly used for floating are purely synthetic and float as well as a plastic bag. If you struggle with floating, your brush may be the culprit. My brand of choice for paper towels is Viva. These are softer and more absorbent than other paper towels on the market. Absorbency is important when you want to blot your brush to remove just the right amount of water for floating and is also key when you want that perfectly wiped brush for stenciling or dry-brushing. The only comparable substitute that I have found are the blue shop towels sold by hardware and home improvement stores, though I don’t know whether they are any more economical than Viva. GP60In addition to your brushes, the palette you choose is also significant. I use the Compact Grey Palette exclusively. It uses half the table space of a standard paper palette as it measures just 5.75” x 8.25”. While the footprint is smaller, the sheet count is much greater, including sixty sheets, so you replace it less often. I am partial to this disposable gray paper for several reasons. First and foremost, every sheet is a uniform value consistent throughout the palette. To date, I have not used a paint color that I was unable to readily see its blending path on this gray palette. When blending on the gray palette, you can clearly see the color transition allowing you to adequately judge the quality of your blend or float before taking it to your project. This may not seem to be critical, but a poorly blended float on the palette will not magically perfect itself when applied to your surface. If you can’t critique your blend on your palette, you will spend more time fixing the glaring inconsistencies that become ever-so-visible on your project. The soft, neutral gray value of the palette also allows for accurate value judgment when mixing colors, especially those that are toned. These muted colors can appear muddy when mixed on a white palette, which can cause misjudgment of both value and intensity. Some suggest a sheet of black paper beneath a white palette to be comparable, but I have not found this to be the case. While the dark underlay reduces the intensity of the white paper, it does not mimic the desired mid-value gray. Before leaving the subject of palettes I want to touch on wet palettes. For many of the techniques that I use, a wet palette is not only not preferred but can be detrimental to the success of your painting because it alters the moisture content in your brush. I do not use them. Floating Tips
  • Use a generous squirt of a floating medium such as Easy Float in your water to facilitate blending.
  • Use less paint! Excess paint will spread too far across your brush before being fully blended.
  • Don't hinder your success by using substandard supplies or the wrong tools for the job.
  • Practice on cardstock and keep your worksheets as a gauge to document your progress. Start with a baseline using your current supplies before changing to the recommended items so you can see how they affect the outcome and the improvement in your skill level.
  • Several thin layers will produce a smoother, more even float than one heavier application.
Floating exercise
  • Add a squirt of Easy Float to your water. This acts as a lubricant, assisting in blending your floats. It also slightly extends the working time, allowing you to modify and reshape the float as necessary.
  • Place your Classique brushes in the prepared water so that the bristles become saturated.
  • Place one drop of paint on your gray palette. Using just a drop of paint will help control the amount of paint you pick up when loading your brush. It is imperative that your brush not be overloaded in order for the paint to blend smoothly and transition to water.
  • Hand and brush position are also important. Hold the brush with your hand positioned well back from the ferrule so that the handle remains low and close to the surface. The handle should be held at about a 30-degree angle to both your palette and project. Holding your brush in an upright position will push the paint into a line and not allow it to blend.
  • Keep the water side of the brush clear for quick fixes when your float extends beyond its intended area.
  • Begin by wetting the brush in the basin water. Blot the brush lightly on soft, absorbent paper towels such as Viva brand just until the shine on the brush disappears. The brush should not leave a puddle on the palette when blending but must remain damp enough for blending without the hairs separating.
  • Next, pick up a touch of paint on the toe of the brush and begin stroking the brush on your palette. Blend in a single path on the palette to work the paint into the brush moving into the path rather than away from it. Turn the brush over to blend the paint on the other side. When the blending path on the palette shows a smooth and gradual transition from paint to water, the brush has been properly prepared for floating. Remember, a poorly blended float on the palette will be a poorly blended float on your project.
  • Check the angle of your brush and make sure you are using the full flat area of the bristles while blending and floating. Use a bit of pressure while blending the paint but then switch to a feather-light touch when applying the float to your surface.
  • Always allow the prior float to dry before proceeding with connecting or overlapping floats. Failure to allow the previous layer to dry will result in paint lifting creating a very difficult-to-fix hole.
Stop struggling with floating. Fantastic floats require just four items and practice to begin your journey to flawless floating.
  1. Start with the ideal floating brush.
  2. Lubricate your water. Easy Float
  3. Use the recommended absorbent paper towels.
  4. Choose the palette that lets you see your work clearly before moving to your painting.
Rebecca Baer is an accomplished designer, author and international instructor. Find her at the 2013 SDP Conference in St. Chalres Ill. where she will be teaching two classes. Also, look for her new store, Artisan Life & Style, opening April 2013! Learn more from Rebecca at “Frolic on the Fox”, SDP’s 41st International Conference and Expo where she will be teaching two classes.
0095 Saucer Magnolias Banner Tuesday 1-8pm baerOne 0165 Christmas Song Wednesday 1-5pm BaerTwo
Teachers: Do you have a tip, trick, or technique that you would like to share? We would like to help you promote yourself and your business, and we are now accepting submissions for the SDP blog. To submit, email your article idea to We look forward to helping you grow your business!      

Focus on Education: Burnishing and Varnishing by Nilda Rosa Rodriguez CDA

In a previous Focus on Education article I mentioned several of the surfaces I like to use with colored pencil, Pastelbord being my favorite. In this article I will talk about mediums and varnishes, both important factors in determining which surface to choose. Which medium do I use with colored pencils? I like working with surfaces that have “tooth,” or texture as I apply many layers of pencil that will be contained between the grains of tooth texture and will not rub off the surface. I use the product Gamsol to help blend and fill in the tooth of the surface. This process is called burnishing and it will give your piece a beautiful richness. The product Gamsol is an odorless solvent. I prefer using it versus other solvents as I am gbn00095allergic to many mediums, but this one does not bother my allergies. Gamsol is also used to thin oil paints and for studio cleanup of brushes, palettes, palette knives, etc. How to Burnish: Method 1: Using heavy pressure with the pencil to blend the pigment and flatten and fill the tooth of the surface will produce a slick and shiny surface, but it will not allow the addition of layers. Method 2: Using a colorless blender will have the same effect as using pressure with pencils. It will bring the wax of the pencils to the top of your surface, but it will not allow the addition of layers. Method 3: Applying Gamsol, using it to blend your piece and fill in the tooth, will enable you to continue adding layers of pencil. Why use Pastelbord? Pastelbord is a hard surface that allows solvents. You also can burnish it with pencils without risking making a hole in your paper. Pastelbord also permits varnish. How to Varnish Pastelbord: Step 1: Burnish penciled areas with a colorless blender. Step 2: Varnish your piece outdoors with four coats of Grumbacher Final Varnish Gloss Spray for Oil and Acrylic. Let dry for 30 minutes between coats. Step 3: Varnish with two coats of J.W. etc. Right Step Gloss Varnish. Let dry for 30 minutes between coats. One final thought on finishing: Your piece will have more value if it is not framed under glass. Varnishing removes the need for glass and allows the true colors of your work to be seen. Some surfaces and methods will work better for a painter’s specific goals, so experiment with various methods and find what works best for you. Learn more from Nilda at “Frolic on the Fox”, SDP’s 41st International Conference and Expo where she will be teaching three classes. Nilda Rosa Rodriguez
PassifloraClass 0620 Wednesday, 1pm to 4pm Jingle BellsClass 0670 Friday, 11am to 1pm Garden InspirationClass 0415 Saturday, 8 am to 12 pm
Teachers: Do you have a tip, trick, or technique that you would like to share? We would like to help you promote yourself and your business, and we are now accepting submissions for the SDP blog. To submit, email your article idea to We look forward to helping you grow your business!      

Juried Art Shows and the Benefits of Competition By SDP Publications Editor Jay Staten

We are now just days away from the deadline for entry into the Pampered Palette Juried Art Exhibition sponsored by the SDP Foundation. The concept of a juried art exhibition got me to thinking about why, as artists, we feel the need to exhibit our work. Entry is far more than simply winning awards or possibly selling a piece. If your primary focus is mastery of your art form, then I put to you that there is an enormous value to be had by entering a juried art show. In my personal experience, it is about pushing myself to hone my skills that will take me to the next level in my art. When I have entered juried shows in the past, I saw my art improve. Even more important, I saw my art change in subtle ways. Often, it was through preparing a piece for show that I explored new approaches to how I did things. For example, I have always been one who used a great deal of black. A few years ago, while preparing for a competition, I started experimenting with Black Plum and Black Green, instead of traditional black. I love the versatility I gained with these slight variations on the black theme. Ultimately, it comes down to what Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, calls "determined practice." If you put in 10,000 hours of brush time, you will get better, simply by putting that time into the art form. But when you challenge yourself to be the best and compete against the best, you achieve excellence and rise to the top of your game. The focus of competition can enhance your skills overall. It is in human nature to want to excel and be the best. In reality, we are competing every day, whether we know it or not. When I have put myself to the test of being evaluated against my peers, it has led me to extraordinary satisfaction with my art, plus I've won a couple of prizes along the way. I've never entered a competition because of prize money or because I think that I might sell a piece. For me, art exhibitions are about bringing art to an appreciative audience. By exposing your art to an important community of art lovers and artists, it becomes a give-give relationship. Additionally, I begin to see my art through someone else’s eyes. That is a true gift. Often, I become so wound up in my own work that I lose all concept of how the piece works as a whole, or how the colors play to an audience. Watching others look at my art gives me a new perspective. I'm amazed at how much everyone is willing to share during an art exhibition. It is always an honor for me to see other artists appreciate my work and my commitment to the art form. Take the next step—join your peers in competition. Challenge yourself to putting your work out there. Make sure your entry is postmarked by December 17, 2012. Send your entry form, fee, and photos on CD to: Society of Decorative Painters Pampered Palette Juried Art Exhibition 393 N. McLean Blvd. Wichita, KS 67203 Or go online at If you have questions, please contact: Jay Staten at or (316) 269-9300 ext. 112 Matthew Clagg at or (316) 269-9300 ext. 115