face study on book page collage by KatCanPaint

From the Archives: Can you paint on wood without looking like an Audrey Kawasaki copycat?

I’m revisiting my archives this week, dusting off old paintings and posts to share.

This post is from May of 2009:

Can you paint on wood without looking like an Audrey Kawasaki copycat?

I’ve been painting on canvas and in my art journal for over a year, and I thought I should mix it up. I like the look of wood and paper but both pose a problem for me: Book pages always look like folk art mixed media works, or the collage leaves and uneven messy surface to paint on, and if I draw or paint on wood pieces my girls look like Audrey Kawasaki clones.

Experimenting with art on book pages and wood pieces.

To create a background for this painted portrait, I made a collage of story book pages onto a piece of canvas paper.  (Next time I do this it will be on something sturdy, a hard board panel or wood. Canvas paper is fun to experiment on but its too flimsy for mixed media layers.)

face study on book page collage by KatCanPaint

Face study
Acrylic, dye, and beeswax paints over old book pages

The collage added a lot of bulk and overlapping bits to the background which made it a challenge to get the smooth “licked surface” painterly quality that I like my portraits to have.  Its obviously rough and an imperfect and I love it!

At first I was very judgmental about this background technique, I thought it would look instantly “shabby chic” or scrapbook-y.  Now I want to use book pages for everything:  just look at that lovely yellowing, instant age and depth. 

Her face came out so nice.  Every time I paint I get better: the base / underpainting is in acrylics and her features were detailed with my watercolor-esque beeswax paints. I like these beeswax paints, they are beautifully translucent while having a lot of chroma so they don’t look as flat as using just acrylics.

If you wanted to achieve this look in your paintings the color palette is: mars black, titanium white, cadmium yellow, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, light cadmium red, burnt umber, and lots of raw sienna. My underpainting this time was purple instead of the usual raw sienna and it was an interesting and fun way to start.

Luna Moths drawing by KatCanPaint

Luna Moths

pencil on wood

Luna Moths is a sketch on a tiny spare piece of wood left over from a wood-burning kit.  The wood and pencil make me automatically think of Audrey Kawasaki’s work, and that is unfortunate because I think that a lot of people will have that association; still it was a lot of fun to do. If I want to work on wood I will have to be sure my style is clearly defined as my own.  I like the color and texture of wood panels, even more than the book pages, I just need to solve the style dilemma.

It boils down to figuring out the equation, really. What makes this piece, or any, look like another artist’s work? Pretty girl, captivating stare, manga inspired, focus on the face and facial features, focus on tight detailed line work, muted color palette, a lot of wood texture visible, and minimal background?  In this case, it’s a lot of things that could very well be solved just by painting my piece with acrylics.

<3 Kat

You can find me on Twitter ::  Etsy :: and Pinterest.

Cloud Cover beautiful girl painting by KatCanPaint

Cloud Cover a mixed media painting from 2008

I’ve spent the last week going through my old painting and blog archives and cleaning things up.  I found this old mixed media painting, Cloud Cover, hiding in a forgotten folder.

I painted this girl in 2008; she’s acrylics, mica, and beeswax, on an oval wood plaque.


Cloud Cover beautiful girl painting by KatCanPaint

Cloud Cover 2008

This piece just sort of happened:  I painted the girl with acrylics and built up the background using layers of heavy gloss gel.  The gel medium dries thick and you can mix paint and mica into it, you can spread it like frosting and glue things into it.  I added layers of translucent color and texture in the background with a palette knife and they looks like clouds to me. I painted washes of acrylic and beeswax over top of the clouds saw rainbows and rain in the shapes, so I painted those in.

I really like her face and eyes.  Her eyes are my favorite blue, pthalo blue, bright and ethereal.  I’m glad I found this scan, because I gave this painting away a long time ago.  She’s over 4 years old! I really want to create another version of it and compare the two.


<3 Kat

You can find me on Twitter ::  Etsy :: and Pinterest.

Love Birds by KatCanPaint

Celebrating 20 years of Sailor Moon!

Did you watch Sailor Moon as a kid?  Sailor Moon celebrated her 20th anniversary last year!  Which makes me feel pretty darn old.
I fell in love with Sailor Moon when I was 12: a beautifully drawn feminine fairy tale anime that had butt-kicking superheroes, how couldn’t I?   I had no idea what anime was at the time but it blew my mind! It aired on the WB in a morning block of cartoons… I think it was Garfield/Dragon Ball Z/ Sailor Moon.
Love Birds by KatCanPaint

©2012 Kathleen McBride, Love Birds, watercolor and acrylic, 9″ x 12″

You can see the influence Sailor Moon had in my art in paintings like Love Birds.  All fluff and fun wrapped in a pink sugar coated package.   Sometimes I reminisce and return to my roots when painting. Do what you know, right?
 In middle school, when I first started drawing, it was all Sailor Moon all the time.  I loved the manga,  I had never seen anything like it.  I would draw and paint trying to copy Naoko Takeuchi’s style: delicate lines, lace textures, and white ink.
Art Nouveau style Sailor Moon Manga
 I was introduced to art nouveau through Sailor Moon.
That summer I started collecting comic books so I could emulate the style even more.   I wanted to be a shoujo manga artist all through out middle school.  Inevitably I found more comics to enjoy, more artists and authors to love and emulate.
Paintings inspired by Sailor Moon
My illustration portfolio is full of sweet, girly, fantasy illustrations.  They are all based on things I loved from my childhood but not as obvious tributes as Love Birds.   I wonder if anyone else can trace their entire artistic journey back to the start. 
<3 Kat
You can find me on Twitter ::  Etsy :: and Pinterest.
Flower Girl original acrylic painting by KatCanPaint

Flower Girl : Lessons on Newborns and Giving

Flower Girl is an old painting from 2009: I’m going through my blog and photo archives trying to choose what to edit. I’m ready to reorganize, rethink, repurpose and prioritize.

Flower Girl original acrylic painting by KatCanPaint

This flower girl was painted right after I gave birth to my son.  I was feeling so crazy in those moments, life with a newborn is a crazy wild sleepless blessing.

I breast fed my son, and slept only in stolen moments, ate in the same span of minutes, and cooked / read/ bathed with my baby.  I lived, breathed, relished newborn. When my son was old enough that he slept a little longer in between feedings I made this painting.

My brain and body were still wired to the baby: but instead of the imagery being nests and protection it turned into gardens and harvest, imagery creation and of giving. See, she has so many roses.  She prunes and picks and decorates.  She wears them, she makes rose tea, she gives them away.  The more roses she gives, the more roses grow, the more roses she gives… This painting, my Flower Girl, helped me process this newborn baby and all the changes he brought into my life.

<3 Kat

Springtime mixed media original painting by KatCanPaint

Springtime * mixed media on canvas

Springtime * Mixed Media on Canvas

I’ve been experimenting with Jacquard Lumieres, beeswax paints, colored pencil, gel medium, acrylics, book pages, decorative papers, and mica powders.  After the face study I really wanted to paint something else on collaged book pages.



Springtime mixed media original painting by KatCanPaint


Mixed Media on Canvas

There are layers and layers and layers of colors and metallic shimmer on this piece. It glows in the right light… I wish I had a camera capable of capturing that. Right now I am still trying to get the scanner to cooperate and correctly scan the pink/peachy skin tones I paint. I don’t like the way the edges of the book papers intersect her face, next time I paint something like this I will plan ahead so I don’t have funky lines and ruffles in important places. I do like the overall color scheme and the effect of the color glazing on the overall piece, its very whimsical.

<3 Kat

You can find me on Twitter ::  Etsy :: and Pinterest.

Holding On original painting by KatCanPaint

Holding On

Holding on is an original painting, a part of the series of the same name. The first painting is here, My Invisible Heart.


Holding On original painting by KatCanPaint

Holding On
Mixed Media (acrylic, mica, beeswax) on canvas


“Trying to learn how to paint again, well, it is not like riding a bike.”

I used to paint all the time. I used to work with watercolors and acrylics mostly, years ago, but this was all before I drifted into the realm of sculpture and art work in three dimensions, and all the things I knew how to do just faded away. Trying to learn how to paint again, well, it is not like riding a bike. There are so many bad paintings behind me. Sometimes I can see where I’ve gotten better, sometimes I cannot, mostly it is very slow progress. A lot of paint, painting, frustration, and complaining about all three.

Back in April I had asked for canvas for my birthday… 5, in fact, so that I could start a series that I’ve been thinking about. Most of my paintings/drawings/whatever live inside my head.  I paint to get these images out of my head… so a lot of times you will see the same girl/pose/theme to my work because I just can’t get the image out of my head.

I’ve spent every day drawing or painting something, anything to let this idea live. A lot of time, this is all I do.  I paint, working towards the goal of five pieces, or I work on a paper mache piece, or I work on a gourd piece. I do art. It is not always pretty. Scratch that. Mostly, it is not pretty. Mostly, it is not what I had envisioned in my head. And then I get annoyed. (I’m sure this happens/ has happened to every other artist, ever, in the history of artists.)


“I can’t be happy unless I’m painting.”

See, usually I feel like I paint because I have to. Not because anyone is making me, but because I can’t be happy unless I’m painting. There’s a lot of other junk involved in that, but mostly I am not happy with my day if I haven’t painted. Is this a creative energy, or spirit… a muse? Is this just an urge? A passion, an obsession? I don’t have these answers, I just paint because I have to paint, and I wish I had the words to express that better but I think in paintings and speak with paintings.

I wanted the five paintings to be exercises in style, technique, and simplicity. I was trying to find my style again, the essence of who I am, stylistically, as a painter, as an artist. For this series, I knew I wanted a central female figure, with her hands in different poses. I knew I wanted it to be a simple five-piece series focusing on the execution, the procedure, the method and manner of laying down paint with brush. I want to find MY way, My style, and the only way to do that is paint paint paint. But, man do I ever get frustrated with myself. (I can certainly whine a lot about it as well.) I get so annoyed when things aren’t happening the way I wanted them to, the way I had planned, the way I see them in my head. I get to a point where I hate painting. Those are bad days.

I research art every day; painting techniques, styles, media, substrates. Delving into everything from outsider folk art, altered mixed media pieces, old masters, and a lot of dolls/figurative sculpture. It isn’t that I want to completely separate myself from the artist that works in 3-d, it is that I wanted to become a better painter. (I’m sure this will help me make better sculptures, as well.) There is so much clutter in my brain with all these other things I’ve been looking at and concentrating on. Then I want to add something else to my paintings, or change something, or do something completely different. I have to talk myself down from these places and really focus on painting this series, because I think, “Wouldn’t it be cool to learn how to do embroidery/paper cuts/ mache technique/ soldering…”

When I was painting this piece, it was all about the series, which exists in my head as, “Holding On and Letting Go.” It was also about quieting the clutter and anxiety and focusing on painting. It was about style, and technique, and simplicity. Somehow in all the painting I was doing, it really turned into a piece about contrasts. I decided only to use two colors to paint the figure, burnt sienna and a portrait pink, to limit myself, to see if I could successfully paint a person in only two colors. I love to use saturated bright colors, especially in my 3-d work, in this painting I limited those colors and that application to the background. The contrast of busy background / static figure, cool colors / warm, shimmery / flat, vibrant / dull, etc… all came together in little decisions, without planning. (I’m sure that my struggles with painting are a bit to blame for the direction this painting took, odd how things like that manifest themselves while I’m not really aware of what is happening.)

I believe she looks calm and a bit contemplative.

Painting is getting easier and feeling more satisfying.


<3 Kat

You can find me on Twitter ::  Etsy :: and Pinterest.

Blue Eyes original acrylic painting by KatCanPaint

Newest WIP ; Blue Eyes mixed media painting with beeswax

I’m feeling a little… stuck when it comes to my paintings. I treat my canvas like they are precious, like I have to paint a masterpiece on each canvas or I can’t use them. I doubt I will break myself of this any time soon, so instead I am trying to loosen up on other materials.


Blue Eyes original acrylic painting by KatCanPaint

Blue Eyes, mixed media on paper, 9×12


I like the ghostly quality to her eyes, but I’m at a loss as to how to finish this piece. I hope that if I put it away for a while I can bring something else to it later that will work.
I painted this piece on some sketch paper that I primed with gesso. After about 3 coats it was pretty sturdy, I used acrylics (artist quality and hobby quality. It seems it isn’t just canvas that I have a problem with) micas, golden heavy gel, and my much-loved Karat Liqua paints. (which are hard to find now)
To quote from this article:

Nontoxic, light-fast, water-soluble, Karat Liqua Paints from STAEDTLER[R], INC. are liquid wax paints, containing a mixture of beeswax, water and safe color pigments that allow for easy water cleanup. When applied liberally, the paints may be sculpted, carved or polished. The highly opaque colors may be rendered full-strength or blended with water for a transparent watercolor effect. After drying, Karat Liqua Paint may be dissolved with water for additional blending, or fixed for permanency. The paints may be used with a variety of surfaces including watercolor paper, canvas, wood, plaster, metal, glass and decorative fabrics.

They are water soluable liquid wax, they come in vibrant colors and paint beautifully, like a cross between watercolor and fluid acrylics and they are my favorite paints to use. I’ve had the same set of 12 for… uhm… like 10 years now.
Some days I think I should just pick up some crayolas and construction paper so I don’t hold myself back thinking I am going to mess up a canvas, or use too much of my favorite paint.

My painting style involves using lots of translucent washes and building up layers upon layers upon layers of paint. In this piece you can get that feel from both the skin of the girl and from the background. I use a lot of mica powders in my paintings too, but they obviously do no scan or photograph well, I’m a sucker for metallic and sparkley. Now that entire field of blue/green seems too large. Plus, I just want to keep adding paint and layers to things so I never feel finished, then you run the risk of overdoing a painting and losing all those other layers to worked so hard on.

Overthinking a painting is also a bad bad bad habit of mine.


<3 Kat

You can find me on Twitter ::  Etsy :: and Pinterest.