Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Crimson and Cobalt at Sally Centigrade!

This pretty much sums it up; there's a cool group show happening at Sally Centigrade in Denver, and this Thursday, October 20th is the opening and artist's reception!

The Boy Who Took the Moon for Himself (detail crop). 
Acrylic on wood panel.

I'm happy to be a part of this great crew of artists for Crimson and Cobalt:

Andre Lippard, Axe Haka, Christopher Stewart, Erin Andrews, Grace Lang, Jess Brick, Johnny Acurso, John Van Horn, Justin Ankenbaeur, Ryan Morse, Tom Bond, Rabies Babies, Tom Sarmo, Victor Escobedo, Vinni Alfonso, Wizard Bong

If you are in Denver, or here for a visit, I hope you can come by and check out this unique show at a gallery I love!

Click on the links below for more info:

and their site:

Thanks for reading!


Monday, October 10, 2016

Aesthetical Zoological at Valkarie Gallery!

The Cranky Bird Theatre Production of The Old Curiosity Shop (detail)
On this post I'm featuring a few details of larger paintings I've been working on for an upcoming show at Valkarie Gallery.
The Art Lovers (detail)
I've done a number of larger pieces for this show, and I'm excited for you to see the paintings. I'll also have many smaller works, as well as ready-to-hang prints and unframed drawings!
I'm showing my new works along with the fine works of Karrie York and Mike Kloepfer. I love both of those artists and their works, and I am sure you will too.

A Lucky Catch (detail)

The show is called Aesthetical Zoological, and features all of our takes on the subject of animals, and I've thrown a few creatures into the mix too.
The Magic Book (detail)

I sure hope you'll come to the reception, meet us, and check out all the complete works!

Here's the scoop from Valkarie Gallery:

October 12 - November 16, 206
Opening reception Friday, October 14, 6 - 9pm

Time to get out your party hats and fancy pants, then grab your favorite critter and head down to one of the of best animal themed shows to hit Denver since the opening of the zoo back in 1896.

Resident artist Karrie York along with guest artists Tom Sarmo and Mike Kloepfer are sure to make you laugh with these wonderful portraits of some of our favorite furry friends.
 If you missed the link to Valkarie Gallery above, here's their Facebook Page. Click on both links for lots of info about this amazing gallery.
Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

First Friday at Helikon Gallery (My New Studio Included)!

Last July, I opened a new studio at Helikon Gallery, one of the best and most fascinating galleries in the Denver area!

It's in the heart of the RiNo Art District, and an amazing, welcoming place--packed full of illustrative art, and more!

There are two main galleries within Helikon...

...both are stunning and inviting spaces.

There's also a great retail area, full of art and complete with a coffee shop.
Plus, the long and open halls of Helikon are lined with art as well!

And from Tuesday through Saturday, artists are in their studios upstairs, working away on their art! All gallery visitors are welcome to stroll the art-filled halls, enter the open studios, and chat with the artists.

It's a great way to spend a day indulging in art and you'll be supporting Denver art and the folks who make it available. It's completely free--there's no admission charge!

This week, the doors will be open for First Friday until 10 pm. You can check out two shows: Four Whales and a Dolphin by artist Sierra Barela and and Splat! by Natan Lawson.

And you can visit with me and all the great artists of Helikon during open studios.
Here's the link--click on it for more info: Helikon Gallery
Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Challenges and Surprises

Character design sketch

Kept seeing the "Make the art you want to see" quote on Facebook. Guess it was originally by a fellow named Austin Kleon, and it was actually "Draw the art you want to see".

Just as repetitious ads and billboards make me want to scream with boredom, I get weary of clever quotes quickly. People complain about cat and food photos on Fb, but my top thumbs-down vote is with quote-cliches.

Still, Kleon's phrase sticks with me, because it is a challenge. Doing just that is not easy. 
In actuality, I try to draw the art I see in my head. It's never exact. But enjoyable nonetheless, because the drawings are different enough from the visions to keep surprising me.

And that's about it.

Thanks for stopping by :)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

An Acrylic Gouache Painting Sequence

Goofing around in a watercolor sketchbook produced this toothy-but-friendly fish. It was done with a scarlet Colerase pencil, then outlined with a Pentel brush pen (with a permanent ink cartridge).

Been wanting to try a reverse-color acrylic painting, and also a set of Acryla Gouache paints given to me by a friend. I painted each section with the compliment of the colors I wanted each section to end with. I used a flat brush for most of it and kept the paint-strokes rough, leaving a lot of the preliminary layers showing through. A round brush was used for the highlights on sand and the trusting worm.

It was a fast and fun process, and I definitely want to do more experimentation. This little bagatelle is one of my pieces for Aesthetical Zoological at Valkarie Gallery this coming October!

Thanks for checking in :)

Monday, September 12, 2016

A (New-to-Me) Rackham

Arthur Rackham. From Poor Cecco, by Margery Williams

I've studied Rackham's work since I was 16, and I'm not alone in the fascination--
his work is everywhere on the internet, and rightly so.

Many of his images are reproduced over and over, and I sometimes have to force myself to study those with fresh eyes in order to re-appreciate them. That's always worth the effort, because those pieces have become classics for a reason. 

When I find one I hadn't previously seen though--what a pleasure! This one, from 1925, is more colorful than many of his works. There's a lot to check out here--the use of the black silhouette, the wooden dog and crate which keep the eye from wandering out the corners of the page, and the sweet watercolor work on the up-turned bottle. But I most love his use of the faded characters in the background. The delicate greys and those spider-webby ink-lines are pure genius.

Thanks for the visit!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

DIY: Frameless, Ready-to-Hang Art and Print Mounting (In Ten Steps)!

Want a good, solid method for mounting works on paper or prints?
This do-it-yourself method results in ready-to-hang artworks without the hassle or expense of matting, framing, and glass!

I use the ten-step sequence that follows for all my works on paper, and it can be used for prints as well.  I'll guide you step-by-step to get great results that don't break the bank!

But first, a Materials List (the brands I prefer are in parentheses):
-A Large Work Space, covered with paper if needed
-1" Flat, Soft Brush (Winsor & Newton Sceptre 606) used for  both glue and Acrylic Gloss Medium)
-Silicone Pastry Roller, 2" wide (optional but effective)
-X-acto knife
-Spray Bottle filled with water
-Three Small wide-mouth Jars; one each for water, glue, and acrylic medium
-Paper Towel 
-Parchment Paper for baking, pre-cut into squares slightly larger than artwork
-Books or similar weights
-Cradled Hardboard Panel (Blick Studio Birch Wood Panel, Cradled)
-UV Protectant Spray Varnish (Krylon UV Archival Spray Varnish 1375 Gloss)
-Rubber or Nitrile Gloves
-Liquid Adhesive, clear-drying (Lineco Archival Quality Neutral pH Adhesive)
-Sanding Block 
-Acrylic Gloss Medium (Liquitex Gloss Medium)

Optional (for a hard, glossy, non-"tacky" finish):
-Clear Varnish (Liquitex Soluvar Gloss Varnish)
-Small Jar for the varnish
-1" Flat, Soft Brush (Don't use the same brush you used for the glue and Gloss Medium)
-Paint Thinner

Once you have all the materials and are used to the process, you'll be able to mount a great many artworks (I often do a bunch at the same time) quickly and inexpensively!

Tip: Practice on a small, non-valuable print first--it's a good way to become familiar with the process, if you are unsure.
Step One: Seal the art or print
 Seal the piece with spray varnish, outside or in a spray booth (to keep the stuff out of your lungs) and wear gloves (to keep it off of your skin). Let the artwork dry for at least a couple of hours. I wait until the smell of the spray varnish is gone. 
(Whenever you are mounting an artwork done on paper (watercolor, gouache, pen and ink, mixed media, or a print) it's important that you seal the art with a couple coats of spray varnish to ensure that nothing will bleed during the process.)

Step Two: Set up the work area
While you're waiting for the spray varnish to dry, arrange your work space, because you don't want to be scrambling for tools or materials once you get started. Above is the arrangement I set up every time before beginning. 
Clockwise from lower left: cradled hardboard, silicone roller and artwork/print, two or three pieces of pre-cut parchment paper (they tend to roll up), liquid adhesive in a small, wide-mouth jar, a jar of water in which to clean the brush at intervals, and spray bottle filled with water, 2" flat brush, roll of paper towel and a couple wads of damp paper towel (seen on top of the jar), and a length of paper towel on which to work.

Tip: If it's a very dry or hot day, and you are mounting a larger artwork or print, it's a good idea to run a humidifier in the work room for an hour or so before you get started. This allows more time to glue, adjust, and mount the piece.

Now you're ready to mount the art!

  Step Three: Pre-wet the cradled wood
Spray the cradled wood surface (away from the work space) and then even out the water on the surface with your fingertips. Set aside.

Step Four: Pre-wet the art or print
Spray the back of the art/print, and even out the water on the surface with your fingertips. It's crucial that you make sure the edges and the corners are evenly damp.

Tip: If the art/print curls up, I gently uncurl it face-down onto a piece of paper towel on the work space.

 Step Five: Apply the glue
Working quickly, spread glue onto the cradled wood surface, then do the same on the back of your artwork or print.
On both surfaces be sure there is glue all the way onto the edges and corners of both the block and the paper.  Try to apply a thin, even coating--too much glue will squirt out the sides when weighted, too little and the artwork won't adhere properly. Still, it's better to have too much as excess can be cleaned off.

 Tip: If the glue seems sticky as you apply it to the wood, lightly re-spray it with water and then add a bit more glue. This will make positioning the paper easier once it is on the block.

Another Tip: If your artwork is on a heavier, absorbent paper like watercolor paper, you will have to use more glue. This will allow more time to move the print into alignment on the block, but may also cause more glue to squirt out the edges when weighted.

Step Six: Position the art
Carefully position the paper onto the wood surface. If the wood surface is damp enough, you will often be able to slide the paper into position. This step can be tricky, but if you work quickly and there's humidity in the air, you should be able to lift and re-position a few times.

Step Seven: Adhere the art
 When you are sure of its position, place a piece of the pre-cut parchment paper over the artwork and smooth down with your fingers, making sure to press firmly outward from the center, all the way to the edges and corners.

Optional (but helpful): Use the silicone roller; again working from the center outward. This effectively presses every inch of the paper to the wood.
A bit of excess glue will probably squish out along one or all of the edges at this point, so now is a good time to gently clean the edges using a wad of the damp paper towel.

Tip: If your artwork has stretched to slightly larger than your wood block, no worries. The extended edges can be trimmed or sanded off easily once the piece is dry.

Step Eight: Weight the art and leave it to dry
Set your mounted artwork face down on one of the already pre-cut-to-size pieces of parchment paper. Carefully stack books and/or weights on top. Check the edges once more for excess glue and wipe with more damp paper towel if necessary. Let dry. I give it a good eight hours, depending on the weather/humidity. Now's when you turn off the humidifier :)
Tip: If your artwork is on heavyweight paper (like 300 lb watercolor paper), it won't want to lay flat onto the block when you try to position it--but no worries! In that case, the extra glue will usually allow you to move the block until the art is aligned after you lay it upside down.

 Step Nine: Trim and sand
 When the piece is dry, trim or sand the extended edges (if any) with an X-acto blade or sandpaper block. After this I like to gently sand (chamfer) the edges and corners of the whole mounted block--a purely personal choice.

Step Ten: Apply acrylic medium
 Brush on an even coat, taking care not to over-brush. Just put it on quickly and even it out. (If your artwork is on absorbent paper, a second coat may be desired, but make sure the first coat is completely dry.) A layer of Gloss or Matte Medium gives the art a protective coating. (It's also absolutely necessary if the optional, final varnish of Soluvar is desired.)

 It's crucial that you carefully apply the acrylic medium over the sides, edges, and corners to seal them if you are going to use a final coating of  varnish, or the varnish will leak into the artwork paper and leave stains.

 Optional: A final coat of Soluvar
 Acrylic Gloss (and Matte) mediums tend to stay slightly tacky, even when completely dry. I don't like that at all, so I use a final coating of Liquitex Soluvar on all my mounted artworks (and on all my finished acrylic paintings). Soluvar dries quickly and gives the artworks a very hard, non-sticky finish that resists dust and is easy to clean.

You will need a soft brush, a wide-mouth jar for the Soluvar, paint thinner for cleaning the brush, and gloves to keep the varnish off of your fingers. I like to set the varnished art on a piece of parchment, or on top of a jar. That way if the Soluvar (which is runnier than acrylic mediums) drips, it won't stick to a table top or surface.

Here are a couple of finished pieces, and one in back waiting to be mounted. Add a couple D-rings and hang wire for easy wall hanging.

Hope this gets you on your way to some great, frame-free, ready-to-hang art.
 Feel free to email me with any questions you might have at tom@tomsarmo.com

Thanks for checking this out--hope you found it helpful!

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Favorite: Lyonel Feininger's Kin-Der-Kids

From The Kin-Der-Kids, by Lyonel Feininger
Right before art school, I ran across this picture in an anthology. It was infatuation at first sight, mostly because it instantly recalled W. Heath Robinson's illustration of Uncle Lubin in his balloon, but also because the characters and composition of the frame are perfect. 

Nonsensical and illogical art and literature have always been fascinations, and this phase of Feininger's works is electrifying to me. The comic ran in the Chicago Tribune on Sundays from April 1906 to November 1906.

The expressionistic figures are creepy and humorous, and the dialog is hilarious. I love the Aunt's quaint comments, and the cat's observations just kill me.

Mother of Moses!

 This frame from the strip is another one that hits the sweet spot.

There's a Dover edition of the complete strip that you can find here:

If you aren't familiar with Feininger's other works--which include paintings, woodcuts, and intriguing wooden toys--be sure to look into them. There's a lot of info to be had, and this link gives a good take on Feininger:

Thanks for checking out my blog!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Five Hundred and Forty

The Cranky Bird Theatre Production of The Old Curiosity Shop (detail).

This is my 540th blog post.  I want to sincerely thank everyone who has followed and read this blog over the past 8 years. Writing an online journal can seem like navel-gazing at times, and trying to avoid that is challenging when posting at least once a week. Still, it's been helpful to me to keep a record of my art-life, so thanks for sticking with me!

The painting detail above is from my latest work for an upcoming show at Valkarie Gallery in October. The finished size of the piece is 18" x 24", and it's exciting to be showing this and other large pieces along with works by artists I admire.

 Soliloquy, ca. 2010
I was pretty happy with this theater-themed piece done 6 years ago, but am pleased by the evolution and improvement in my newest works.

I'll be posting details about the Valkarie show in the near future, and hope you can come and see all the works. In the meantime, check out Valkarie Gallery --they have fantastic new shows every month!

This month's show features the fine work of Hallie Packard
Don't miss it!

Thanks for supporting the arts, and again for staying with my blog all these years!


Monday, August 15, 2016

Plein Air in Telluride, Colorado

Painting on location in the park at Telluride. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Morse)

This summer I had a chance to hit Telluride for three days of plein air painting with a couple of Denver Illustration Salon members; Clay Brooks and Ryan Morse*. I made progress fast, from the sorta-sad first paintings to the almost-there paintings near the end of the trip.

We arrived in town at about 5 pm, and were painting by 6.  I'd decided to try gouache for the trip, and had pre-grounded most of my paper with a greyed reddish color. I'm new to the medium, but not unhappy with the attempts.

Every day we were up early in order to bag as many paintings as possible.

It rained off and on the whole time...

...but the clouds were nearly as dramatic as the scenery. Here's another view from the top of the Gondola...

 ...and another. What a place! (Photo by Ryan Morse)

The few remaining shacks in the gentrified town gave me my favorite painting of the trip.

The rain was steady on the last day of painting...

...but it was a good one anyway.

Unfortunately, I had painted under a green umbrella, which totally skewed my color choices. I'd also made the poor decision to experiment with a blue ground. Still, the falls and surrounding landscape were so gorgeous I can't complain. And I was learning quite a bit about what not to do, too.

(Photo courtesy of Ryan Morse)

The trip was initiated by Clay, who was there for the Telluride Plein Air Festival. Here's all his work from the trip on the first sale-day of the festival (my last day there).

Yeah, it was still raining at the beginning of the sale. (Photo courtesy Ryan Morse)

When I got home, I still had the plein air itch, so the maple tree in my front yard was a great, (although more-ordinary-than-Telluride) subject.
The previous three days of continual on-location painting had helped tremendously. I'd gained confidence, and solutions and techniques were still fresh in my memory (unlike the forgetting I tend to do when painting on-location only once a week or so).

*One of Clay's oils from the top of the gondola.
 Be sure to check out  Clay Brooks' site

*A couple of Ryan's oils from the trip. Click for Ryan Morse's site

And thanks for reading!

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