Erika Allison's Artastic Blog

Breaking the rules… or not

Executive Acres

Posted Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Executive Acres, oil / mixed media on panel - Dimensions: 24 7/8" x 32" x 1 3/4"

I usually don’t know what a work is about until I’m done with it and have it titled.  I concentrate on design, composition, color, texture.  I view it in all directions.  I turn it upside, sideways and back up again, checking to see that I have a good composition.  I feel that if one has a good composition the painting will work in any direction.  Of course, I eventually have to settle on a direction that I think works best – or that I like the best.  Then, I’ll start studying the painting to see what I “see” in it.  Abstract work invites the viewer (including the artist) to see what he/she sees in it.  Different viewers can see different things.  Eventually, something will hit me, a title will come to mind and I’ll know I’m finished.

In this painting I felt like I was seeing outer space.  Maybe planets, asteroids, the unknown.  And, there’s all this talk about space travel, the new frontier, etc.  Private companies are talking about trips into space.  And, of course,only the very wealthy will be able to afford this kind of adventure.  I’m thinking maybe a home on a new planet takes the place of the big house on the hill.  But, then, you may see something altogether different.  One of my artist friends sees a moon pie!  She’s from the south, in case  you couldn’t guess!

This original oil/mixed media painting can be seen at R Space Studio in The Arts Factory, 107 E. Charleston Blvd, Ste. 125, Las Vegas NV through February.

Mixed Media – What?, Why?

Posted Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

What is mixed media? Very simple – more than one medium used in a single work. It can be any medium you like to work in, PLUS another, or several other, media. The first I was aware of mixed media was many years ago, as a student. It seemed to refer to using pen and ink in a watercolor. It seemed to me that it was used to “save” a less than stellar watercolor. Some dark india ink lines here and there, perhaps outlining something in the painting, brought out what was missed in the handling of the watercolor. That was then. Now, I like to think that mixed media is far more exciting than that…and not a saver of a loser painting. It creates excitement in a painting because it’s often the unexpected.

My “main” medium at the moment is oils. I love the feel of oils, the smell, the textures that can be created with the oils. I like painting on a hard surface. It allows for lots of punishment, as well as the ability to have found objects attached. You can nail or screw found objects. You can glue materials or found objects. You can cut uneven edges. You don’t have to use a frame.

I like experimenting with the mixed media. What do you NOT expect to find in an oil painting? Maybe colored pencil. Maybe paper. You’re limited only by your imagination. Sometimes, you find really interesting results. And, sometimes, not. But, you only find those exciting results by trying things.

The end result of a mixed media painting should be a GOOD PAINTING. The mixed media should not be the star. It should be a supporting actor, so to speak. It’s only one part of the finished work. It should add to the painting, enrich it, make it more interesting than if it had not been used. But, you still need that all-important COMPOSITION!


"Artists Asking Permission"

I’ve been enjoying using watercolors in my exploration of mixed media. It has different possibilities. I love paper. And, I love watercolor. I love the luminosity of the colors and the expressiveness of the “happy accidents” that we love to find in a watercolor (assuming it’s not a portrait!). It’s fun to think of what doesn’t belong in a watercolor…and wonder about the possibilities. I have to say that the availability of so many new watercolor pencils and crayons really sparked my interest. I have several brands of both. Each seems slightly different. You get different results, depending on how you use them. If you use them on wet paper you get different results than if you use them on dry paper and then wet it or spray it.

I discovered several years ago that black acrylic gesso was available. I thought, “How cool!” Then, I thought – well, you paint over gesso. It’s just a means of sealing a painting surface. So, you wouldn’t see it. Why use black gesso? Next thought: what would happen if I used it on paper? Could it be used in a watercolor? Not likely that the watercolor paints themselves would do much over black. But, what about those watercolor pencils? Crayons? How would they look? It was a starting point for me in using watercolor in mixed media.

Actually, everything you try is a starting point. And, then, you go from there. What will the results be this time?


"Awaiting the Harvest"

Fun With Titles

Posted Friday, May 4th, 2012

I like a good title.  It makes me try to connect the title with the artwork.  I wonder what it means.  I look at the work, see what I see…and sometimes wonder what it was that the artist saw.  Does the title spell out exactly what it means?  Or, does the title pique your interest and make you wonder what the painting is about?  Is it a serious painting?  Is it tongue in cheek?  What does it mean?  I really hate untitled works.  I sometimes just move on to the next piece because there was nothing to make me think and wonder.  I guess one could argue that the work itself should make me think.  I suppose that would be valid.  But, it’s so much more fun to be poked and titillated.  To me, the title is a part of the work, an important part of the work.  Granted, you don’t want to spell out the entire meaning of the work and explain each mark and color.  Mystery is part of the appeal.  And, each viewer may see something different in the work.  I like that.  Each viewer’s interpretation is valid.  But, a title can be a starting point to get the thinking going.  It can suggest something that the viewer can then follow – or not follow – to some conclusion.  Maybe there isn’t actually a conclusion.  Maybe, getting one to think is all it’s about!  Whatever.  Makes no difference.  Maybe it’s just a personal thing with me.  I like titles.


My painting, “Sign On the Dotted Line”, has a title intended to make one think.  What can that be about?  Where’s the Line?  I don’t see a line!  I see a bunch of dots…large ones, small ones, scattered about…  Whenever I’m asked (or told) to sign on the dotted line, I feel like I’m signing my life away.  Now, it’s written in stone.  Now, I’m bound to this or that.  No flexibility here.  No excuses.  No getting out of it.  It’s signed, sealed and delivered.  Now, I’m beholden.  Signing on the dotted line is a serious and everlasting thing!  There’s always fine print.  Usually, an interpreter is required.  There are way more words than necessary, in fine print, that you’d better understand.  Hah!  Lots of luck with that!   So…I think I’m adding a little levity to the serious act of signing.  Where is the line, anyway?  Not only is everything in fine print that I don’t understand, I can’t even find the line!  Wouldn’t you know it?  “They” have all the control.  And, you can take it from there.  Whatever you see in the painting is okay with me.  But, I gave you a starting point, something to ponder…


Sign On the Dotted Line




If you’re going to paint in a series you must know what it is that you’re painting about. You know where you’re going. That’s counter to my usual method of working. I usually don’t know what a work is about until I’m finished and it’s titled. When I come up with a title, everything falls into place and the meaning reveals itself to me.

I do have one series that I started several years ago and I keep adding to it when I’m moved to do so. I didn’t start out with series in mind. That idea came to me after I’d completed the first one and titled it. My “Twelve” series now has six paintings in it. I don’t know how many will ultimately end up there. The possibilities are endless. I like that!

My latest painting in the series is “Twelve and Twelve More”, a 10″x10″x1 5/8″ oil/mixed media painting on panel. It’s actually a variation on the theme of “twelve” because it actually contains twenty-four! It has twelve circles (the original premise), but also has twelve bars. I thought that was a fun variation.

"Twelve and Twelve More" by Erika Allison

"Twelve and Twelve More" - oil/mixed media on panel, 10"x10"x1 5/8"

Back to the beginning: I painted a 16″x16″x1 5/8″ painting containing twelve circles. The challenge was to make it interesting. The inspiration was a package of paper towels in the studio. In addition, I chose a complementary color scheme of red and green. So, I think I had a real challenge there! After I finished it and titled it (clever title, eh?) I thought I could paint this subject endlessly and have interesting variations every time. That’s how this series got started – with twelve circles. Most have twelve circles. One painting I decided that the “twelve” didn’t necessarily have to be circles, so I used a few squarish shapes. I will say that I think that one is the weakest of the series.

"Twelve" by Erika Allison

"Twelve" - oil/mixed media on panel, 16"x16"x2"

I really enjoy working on this series. I find it challenging. I’m taking a simple premise and painting it over and over again – and expecting the results to be unique and exciting every time.

I have a funny anecdote about my second attempt to add to my new idea of painting a series. I went from the smallish 16″x16″ to a large 60″x48″. I really like working large. My color scheme challenge was to use monochromatic scheme with yellow. Yikes! High key painting coming out! I finished it, thinking I had a ready-made title “Twelve.2″ I was about to write that on the back when I realized I had actually painted sixteen circles! Oh, no! Now, what? Obviously, I had to come up with a different title, which took awhile. I had to do a lot of thinking and studying before coming up with “Evolution/Revolution”.

"Evolution/Revolution" by Erika Allison

"Evolution/Revolution" - oil/mixed media on panel, 60"x48"x2"

I’m sure I’ll keep adding to this series.  I have no idea when it will end, if ever…

Are We There Yet?

Posted Thursday, August 25th, 2011

That is the question. We all ask ourselves this question as we near the end of a work in progress. It’s usually not clear to us because there are so many options. We COULD add one more touch. OR – that one more touch could be what kills the work. Knowing when a work is done is critical. We have to be able to decide when the work is done.

Sometimes it’s clear to me that I’m done with a painting. It’s just obvious. It’s done! But, sometimes it’s not so easy to decide. Usually, if something is bothering me about a work, and I’m comfortable with the composition, it’s because it needs something more. I don’t always know right away what is needed. Sometimes I have to let a work sit around where I can view it and study it for awhile. Lots of options will come to me. That’s not really a good sign. Lots of options means I’m still undecided about what is needed.

This painting is a good example of a work that I studied for quite awhile before deciding what was needed. I really liked the work – the composition, the colors, the textures, the “feel” of the work. I liked the feeling of uncertainty about the bottom center area. That seemed to be what it was about. It kind of reminded me of a game board – chess, checkers, whatever. It was about deciding the next move. That’s where I got the title. BUT, it was missing something.

'Your Move' by Erika Allison - unfinished

I finally decided that since I felt the work was about the “next move” that what was needed was a game piece – something to move! I didn’t want it to be too busy or obvious. It needed to visible, but not TOO important. A detailed, recognizable piece, such as a knight, would be too important…and draw the eye there as if it were the center of interest. So, I decided to just use an “X”. Then, I had to decide on a color and value. Again, I wanted it to be noticed but not dwelled upon.

I really like this work now. I think I came up with a good solution. There are always lots of options. Even after a work is done, you can look at it and wonder what if… But, I am usually content with my final choices. There’s always the next painting!

'Your Move' by Erika Allison

"Your Move" - oil/mixed media on panel, 18″x24″x1 5/8″

Did I fill the well?  I certainly hope so!  It seems that August came and went…and I didn’t produce much of anything.    But, the artist’s life isn’t ONLY about producing.  My last post was about filling the well.  And, I refer to filling the well often.    So, while I wasn’t doing a lot of painting, I was collecting, filing (mentally) and chewing on all kinds of thoughts and ideas.  Ideas are percolating, fermenting, whatever you want to call it – in the subconscious, getting filed away to be pulled up for future use.

I had a busy month, even though I wasn’t producing.  I celebrated a birthday.  I took a vacation.  And, I ventured to the arts district a number of times.  Just hanging out with other artists and viewing other artists’ works in galleries or their studios, is inspirational.  It gets the juices flowing.  It reminds you of how many different ways there are to see the same things.  And, the ways are endless.  That leaves a lot of options for the artist to experiment with creative new ways to present familiar material.  There is no end to the possibilities.  You just can’t run out of ideas.  There is really no excuse for not being able to come up with an idea!

I started a painting yesterday.  I’m excited about it.  I have covered the entire painting surface.  But, I don’t yet know where I’m going with it.  There are endless possibilities!  I’m at the point now where I’ll study it for awhile, seeing various options.  I envision some of the many possibilities as I look at the work in progress.  I  turn the work in all directions, for a couple of reasons.  One reason is to check the composition.  A good composition will work in any orientation.  The other reason I turn it is that often I see something different – different meanings, possibilities – when a different view is presented.   Eventually, I have to decide which way will be the top and where I’m going with it.

This is my painting in progress, after the first session.  I’m excited about using an unusual painting surface.  It was part of a fence intended for hiding stuff kept on a patio.  The surface is a challenge in itself.  Will it contribute to the painting – or detract from it?  Being “different” is not enough to make a  painting successful.  It could just as easily detract from it.  We shall see as I go along.

I have other surfaces waiting for me in the studio.  And, more ideas than I seem to have time to fulfill.  So – I guess the answer to “Did I fill the well?”  is YES!

If you have thoughts on filling the well, feel free to comment.  I welcome discussion.

What DOES “filling the well” mean?  I’m guessing that most artists have some idea of what it means.  It’s a huge and necessary part of the creative process.  In order to say something, one has to have something to say!  When you work and create and move on to the next project to work and create again – eventually that well can run dry.  It needs time to re-fill.  The well is what you draw on for ideas.  You may consciously dig down in that well, looking for something.  But, I think it’s usually a more subconscious thing.  It’s not something you think about doing.  It just happens.   So, when that well is dry or nearly dry, time is needed while it re-fills.  And, how does that happen?  How does the well fill up again?  All  your life experiences are part of that well.  Every vision, every thought, every encounter, every experience – contribute to filling the well.

So – time and living are the key requirements to filling the well.  You need to take some time away from your studio and your creative process.  You need to just “be”.  Don’t be putting pressure on yourself to come up with ideas for your next creation.  There will be plenty of ideas in due time.  Your experiences and visions and subconscious thoughts are always pouring into that bottomless well.  Even your daydreaming contributes.  But, let it all be subconscious.  Try to consider  yourself “on vacation” from your art.  You’re NOT, really.  You’re never on vacation from being an artist.  It’s who you are.  But, TRY to just let your artist lie fallow for awhile.  That is when seeds are being sown, ideas are percolating…  And, soon enough, you’ll be heading into the studio again, ideas flowing, more than you think you have time to even work on.  As if by magic, new ideas appear on your canvas, or whatever ground you work on.  It’s an ongoing cycle.  Take from the well…refill the well…

Do you have thoughts on filling the well?  I’d love to hear from you on how it fits into your creative process.

I love texture!  It’s an element that I think adds lots of interest to my work.  I start with texture right from the beginning with the gesso.  I apply the gesso with a cheap bristle brush and slather it on every which way, which leaves brush strokes that overlap.  I don’t try to smooth it out or lay it on all in one direction.  I’m looking for spontaneous strokes with lots of variety.  If  I were doing a portrait or landscape, this would be disastrous.  I’d want to apply the gesso “properly” in a nice even coating, with no brush strokes showing.  I’d sand between the two or three coats of gesso before starting my painting.  BUT, I’m bucking tradition with my abstract mixed media work.  I’m experimenting.  I’m looking for new and different ways to work.  I’m watching how my different materials react with each other.  And, I’m looking for rich texture in the end.  It’s reasonable, then, to START with texture.

There are many ways to achieve texture.  Preparation of the painting surface is the place to start.  I usually adhere different materials to the surface, experimenting with achieving different results.  Then, there’s the application of the paint.  Oils can be applied in a thick impasto, leaving raised areas where it’s the thickest.  Materials can be “added” to the wet surface, as in throwing sand on it.  There’s room for experimentation along the way.  One thing I do consider is that my materials are archival.  That sometimes leaves out interesting things I’d like to try.  A lot of materials that would seem to make for interesting collage are really not at all archival.  Newsprint doesn’t last long, nor do a lot of commercial printing inks that you’d find in newspaper or magazine pages.

Found objects can be attached to a painting during the process of creating the work – or after it’s finished.  I love finding old, worn metal objects, rich with patina.  There’s no end to the possibilities of texture in found objects.  Pieces of screen or found jewelry components or hardware can all add interest.  Or – you can create what is needed to meet  your specific needs.


One method of creating texture is possibly overlooked.  And, that is visual texture.  Spray paint sprayed through a stencil or mask would be an example of what I’m talking about.  The paint isn’t actually textural.  It’s not raised.  But, VISUALLY, it’s textural.  And, that creates variety.  Variety is always good.  Too much of a good thing can be boring.  Introducing a different approach or method will break up the monotony of too much of the same old thing.  Stamping is another example of using visual texture.  Some of my found objects have served me better as stamps than additions.  And, of course, there’s dragging textural tools through the wet paint, creating grooves and furrows and scraping paint off to reveal colors beneath.



oil/mixed media on panel


I’m guessing that you can come up with many other ideas on how to achieve texture.  In art, the possibilities are endless.  That’s the fun of it, the challenge…to find new ways.

An Art-Filled Saturday

Posted Friday, July 9th, 2010

Tomorrow will be an art-filled day for me. I always enjoy art-filled days. That seems to be my goal:  fill ‘er up with art!

I will be at The Ortego Gallery, Las Vegas, all afternoon. I have a show hanging during the month of July: “Unanswered Questions”. Preview Thursday and First Friday were last weekend. I thought it would be nice if I were there sometimes during the month so I’d be available to meet and talk with interested people. Artists who have their own galleries and show their work full-time are always there and available. So, I thought I’d try to be available part-time, at least.

In the evening I will be joining five other artists for Painters On The Patio. We will be painting live, outdoors, on the patio at Bar+Bistro. There will probably be diners on the patio, drinkers on the patio, bocce ball players at the bocce ball court – and, hopefully, interested observers watching us paint. It’s a great atmosphere for creating, night in the arts district.

I have been preparing for my busy day tomorrow. I have my art supplies ready to go, some already packed into my car. I’ve been having a lazy, enjoyable day – resting up for a long, busy day tomorrow.

Come on down to the arts district tomorrow if you are in town. There’s lots to see – including me!

Oh, boy!  Art shows take a lot of work!  All that creating …all that thinking about titles, planning, hauling the work to the gallery…  Whew!  It’s finally behind me …for this round.  My show, “Unanswered Questions”, is being shown at the Ortego Gallery in The Arts Factory, Las Vegas for the month of July.

The Las Vegas arts district has a First Friday event every month, preceded by a Preview Night the Thursday before.  Preview night is when a lot of the artists make their rounds to see what’s going on, the new exhibits, greet each other, etc.  It’s also the night that a lot of collectors like to make the rounds, in hopes of seeing the artwork better and meeting the artists.  First Friday is a continuation of galleries being open to exhibit artwork, but there are lots of other things going on as well.  It’s quite a festive evening.  People watching is great, as is the art viewing.

Here are a few photos from the event.

Tamara Watson and Erika Allison discussing her new work, "As If By Magic".

Tamara Watson and Erika Allison discussing her work, “As If By Magic”

Las Vegas Painter Brian Malpasso at the Arts Factory

Local Las Vegas artist, Brian Malpasso showing his paintings.

Carlos De Las Heras showing "The Planet Earth Award" series at First Friday Las Vegas.

Carlos De Las Heras showing paintings from his series “The Planet Earth Awards, Beyond Superstition”.

Now that the July events are behind me, it’s time to update mailing lists, post pictures and write blogs.  Then, it’s on to more creating, thinking about titles, planning…

Photos credit – Trillian