Monthly Archives: March 2016

Unicorn Art Show 2, Opening April 7, 2016

digital painting of a unicorn at the top of a hill on a winding path through the woods
"Glimpse of the Unicorn", digital painting, 12"x16"

I'm pleased to announce that I will be participating in the second annual Unicorn Art Show.

My piece, "Glimpse of the Unicorn" is inspired by a special place in northern Minnesota. It is a digital painting and I will be offering limited edition prints in two sizes.

The large image size is a 12"x16" Giclée and is printed on 13"x19" fine art archival paper using archival inks. The run will consist of 10 Artist Proofs and then 25 limited edition prints for a total of 35 prints. There will be a matted and framed large print on display and for sale in the show.

The smaller version will be 5"x7" and printed on heavyweight, bright white, matte paper, using Epson DuraBrite Ultra inks. This smaller size will have 5 Artist Proofs and then 45 limited edition prints for a total of 50 prints.

Date and Time of Show:
Thursday, April 7, 2016
5:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Edit: Casket Arts First Thursdays are actually 5 to 9pm but the opening lasts till 10 pm.
After 9pm the doors will be closed and no more shall be admitted.
Being First Thursday there will be a lot of awesome things happening in the building, including music!

Leg Up Studios - Casket Arts
681 17th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413


yellow wolf eyes floating in pine boughs a part of red riding hood picture by christine mitzukWhile in art school I desperately wanted to learn how to make things look real. One of the instructors said to me on several occasions, and I'm paraphrasing here, "is it (the drawing) believable"?

Lately this idea has come to the foreground for me and I'm questioning what "believable" means to me.

Does believable mean that a thing looks like it has dimension, like it exists in space and has a logic to it? Does that logic have to be similar to how things work in the real world or can there be a logic within the world of the picture?

Or does believable mean that it is recognizable as a real person/place/thing?

Or that it seems "right", that the picture has a certain confidence and intent about it even if it's a more abstracted or highly stylized picture?

I can go after accuracy and work to make something look "right" or real but does it serve the picture? Is all that information working together to make a whole idea or story instead of accurate isolated pieces of information.

I think it's all these things but I get to choose how I wield the tools. Sounds like fun to me! I've been enjoying looking at how other artists do this. There are so many wonderful examples out in the world, here a but a few:

Le Chevalier aux Fleurs (The Knight of Flowers)  by Georges Rochegrosse

Bobby Chiu's art

Bill Carman's art

Deb Kirkeeide's animal paintings

Yoshida Hiroshi Avenue of Sugi trees

John Harris' art


a photo of books about picture compositionI'm working on improving my composition skills. I'm taking a class and the instructor suggested Andrew Loomis' book "Creative Illustration". I read this years ago and am re-reading it. There's so much useful information crammed in its pages!

Anyway, I thought I'd share a few other resources I've found helpful for composition. There are TONS of resources out there and these are what I've found so far...

"Creative Illustration" by Andrew Loomis. Chock full of helpful information. Luckily it was republished in 2012

"Picture This: How Pictures Work" by Molly Bang. If you're not keen on classic composition, give this book a try. She approaches some principles of composition in a more hands-on, pictorial way. You'll need some construction paper and a glue stick to experiment with the exercises. I found this worth while.

James Gurney has interesting and informative posts on his blog. He has a series about composition He mentions "Pictorial Composition: An Introduction" by Henry Rankin Poore (a Dover Publication) which is a more traditional take on composition and then explores eyetracking of pictures through scientific study to test some of the traditional composition "rules". It's a very interesting read!

"Composition: A Series of Exercises in Art Structure for the Use of Students and Teachers" by Arthur Wesley Dow. He covers the idea of Notan and value design. I'd like to revisit this one.

"The Five C's of Cinematography" by Joseph V. Mascelli. I forget where I saw this book suggested, it might have been James Gurney's blog. It's a helpful, different way to look at composing a picture. I haven't finished reading the book yet but what I have read was useful - thinking about where my "camera" is within or outside the scene.

Stapleton Kearns, a professional landscape painter, suggested this book, "Composition of Outdoor Painting" by Edgar Payne. I borrowed it from the library and made my way through a good chunk of it before it was due. What I read I found very helpful and insightful, especially the parts regarding choosing what you want to emphasize in your picture instead of trying to record nature as it is. Mr. Kearns also has an interesting art blog.

If you have other resources you've found useful, please post them in the comments. I'd love to know about them.

I've been told not to paint with regular cooking oil. It's isn't a drying oil. Instead of just accepting this I got curious.

raw umber oil paint test swatches to test drying time of raw umber by itself, with galkyd lite, with walnut alkyd, and with cooking oil by christine mitzuk
Raw Umber oil paint swatches to test drying time of paint, paint with mediums, and paint with cooking oil.

Yesterday I made a little test. I used Raw Umber oil paint (it's one of the faster drying oil colors on it's own). The brand I used has alkali refined linseed oil as the vehicle for the pigment. I used a piece of acrylic primed cotton duck canvas. As for thickness of paint, I covered the canvas so none could be seen through the paint but not so thick that I left brush strokes (except for one accidental spot on the Walnut Alkyd test swatch).

I painted the swatches about 2pm yesterday and checked them about 12:30pm today. Here's what they're like today.

Raw Umber Oil Paint, just paint. Dry to the touch. A little paint came up when I wiped the swatch with a piece of paper towel but not enough to see the canvas.

Raw Umber plus some Galkyd Lite (by Gamblin). Dry to the touch. No paint came up when I wiped the swatch with a piece of paper towel.

Raw Umber plus Walnut Alkyd Medium (by M. Graham & Co.). Dry to the touch except for the one spot where left a slight buildup of paint. That one spot was a little tacky and a teeny bit of paint came up when I touched that one spot. A teeny bit of paint came up when I wiped the flatter area of the swatch with a paper towel, barely discoloring it, but not enough to see the canvas.

a test swatch mixing raw umber oil paint with cooking oil to see if it stays wetRaw Umber plus cooking oil (I used a store brand I had lying around that's made from soybean oil). Tacky and wet. Quite a bit of paint came up when I wiped the swatch with a paper towel. I'm curious if this will ever dry so I'll check it again once a day for the next few days and then maybe once a week for a few weeks. Maybe results would differ if this were a different cooking oil. I still wouldn't recommend painting with cooking oil. We'll see what happens.

March 16, 2016 Update: I checked the swatch of Raw Umber mixed with cooking oil again one and two days after the original blog post.

March 10, 2016 (one day after the post). the paint was only slightly tacky to the touch and very little came up on a paper towel (only a slight discoloration of the paper towel).

March 11, 2016 (two days after the post). The paint was dry to the touch. Only a faint, whisper of color rubbed off on a paper towel dragged across the swatch.

This result is different than what I expected. I thought it would take weeks if not months to dry. Why?

The cooking oil ingredient is "soybean". According to "The Painter's Handbook: Revised and Expanded", by Mark David Gottsegen, 2006, "It [soybean oil] dries much more slowly than linseed oil but has been successfully incorporated into synthetic binders to ensure flexibility (see p. 79)". So soybean oil does dry but slower than linseed oil which I suppose would explain why this swatch dried slower than the swatch of just paint. However, I would NOT use regular soybean oil for painting. As far as I know, it isn't refined into a professional grade oil painting medium so I doubt if a painting created in such a way could be permanent. I want to be known to create quality, professional oil paintings so I will NOT be using this oil to paint with. I will stick with using professional grade artist oil painting mediums.

Mr. Gottsegen also writes about "semidrying oils" (which include corn, olive, peanut, and other types of vegetable oil"  and "nondrying oils" which include motor oil or castor oil (see p. 77). He points out that both these categories of oils are impermanent and should not be used for painting. I think he makes a very valid point that although these materials might be less expensive, "is your reputation worth the money? (see p. 79)."

If you want to know more about art materials, how to stretch your own canvas, how to protect and store art, artist health and safety, I highly recommend this book. It's my go-to resource for topics like this blog post. Gottsegen, Mark David. "The Painter's Handbook: Revised and Expanded". New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2006.

3 framed ink drawings by christine mitzuk
Ink drawings created especially for MarsCon 2016 in Minnesota.

There's less than a week away to MarsCon in Minnesota! I'm very excited to be one of the creative guests of honor and am looking forward to participating in the events.

I created three original pen and ink drawings for the convention's program book. The original art will be on display and for sale in the Art Show (matted, framed, and ready to hang).

I'll also be doing an oil painting demo (solvent free!) on Friday and Saturday in the Art Show.

3 ink drawings by christine mitzuk

My Rough Schedule

Note: you do need to register for a badge for the convention to participate in any of these events.

Oil Painting Demo in the Art Show, 3 - 4:30 pm
Opening Ceremonies, 7 pm
Artist Reception, 9 - 10:30 pm

Artistic Process, presentation of my process for picture making for both traditional and digital, including the maquette from Bear Falls. A brief digital painting demo to follow. 10 am
Oil Painting Demo in the Art Show, 1:30 - 4:30 pm
Art Auction, 7 pm
Figure Drawing with a fabulous costumed volunteer, It will be a mini workshop where I'll share some of what I teach in my figure drawing classes. 10:30 pm

Artistic Inspiration, panel discussion with a collection of creatives from different fields, 3 pm
Closing Ceremonies, 4 pm