Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mermaid Two

On December 9th, 2013, granddaughter Amira turned two.  I started her birthday painting a month before her birthday but didn't finish until one month after it. Contributing factors to the failure of the first attempt were not fully planning the layout (in a preliminary drawing) the mermaid was too small on the page, had serious anatomical issues and I have no idea why I opted to use so much yellow in an underwater scene?

MERMAID TWO   acrylic mixed media   20" x 16"

After ruminating long and hard, I still found myself unable to figure out what to do to rectify my mistakes. Time ran into Christmas preparations, plus I took time out to construct the journal (of my last post). I let it slide over the holidays but was adamant that I would deal with the painting immediately afterward. It had to be competed and in the regular post before my surgery date, January 17th. Mermaid Two arrived in Maryland while I was still in hospital, the day after my hip replacement.

Adam made a video of Laura helping the adorable Amira open her painting which you can view here. I love that Amira thinks the small mermaid is herself and the big one is Mummy!  

Pencil drawing 20" x 16"

After finally concluding there was no hope of salvaging the first mermaid I gessoed over her, multiple times. It was a relief to have made this decision; to proceed with a totally new concept!

Removed from the painted background, contact paper pieces served as patterns for the tails, etc.

Contact paper, Mac-Tac as we called it in the olden days, is a shelf liner (clear is best, with a pattern for visibility) available at any hardware store, was used as a mask to preserve the white areas of the mermaids. With these cut out pieces of contact paper in position I flooded the panel with water. Then, I dropped, splattered and manipulated thalo blue with small amounts of cerulean blue acrylic paint into the water, to create the patterns of underwater. 

When dry, I thought it was all just too blue so I washed thalo green over it further developing the mottled effects and textures. The sand is real, added by shaking it through a strainer onto wet gel gloss medium.  

Once I began painting the featured mermaid I realised that the rock upon which her shell sits was too short, indicating that adding the sand, when I did, was premature! I was able to scrape off the desired amount of sand and repair the area with more painting.

From purchased, hand made, reptile paper which was a textured, solid, royal blue I cut the tails (and the bras). It tinted easily and nicely with the thalo colours, a little dioxazine purple and Daniel Smith's duochrome mauve. Interesting how the paper curled when I made it wet - thankfully curling in a convex fashion. To me, this enhanced the look.   

The open shell may not be an oyster but it begged for a pearl, so I painted one in it!

The seahorse, black and turquoise coral were stamped on with commercial, rubber stamps. The dolphins are hand painted. The two dimensional shells are cut-out photocopied photos tinted with the blue and green thalo colours. Their shadows are painted onto the sand. I added more sand plus collected and purchased real shells. Using Sculpey, I built the starfish first by making a mould of one I bought in Hawaii (which was too orange for this painting). Using the mould I made a white starfish which I coloured the shades I needed it to be.

I have a feeling you're going to want to see what MERMAID ONE looked like.

Well, I'm not too proud to show you ... 

She's "Way Below the Ocean" ... never to be seen again!


  1. That video of Amira as she opens her mermaids is just precious! She's delighted with it, as she should be; it's a wonderful addition to her 'Gran paintings'! Love the progress photos, too!

    1. Many thanks, Win. I love the video ... I play it often!

  2. Beautiful Alice.... the video is a gift back to you!

  3. From concept to kisses! I loved the journey, and although I also loved mermaid 1, this last version featuring mommy and Amira surely is fresh and very imaginative! Very special keepsake from Gran!

    1. Thanks, Shannon. This painting was an especially challenging journey. Glad I took it. I learned a lot! It was gratifying to see it all come together in the end!