Karen O’Brien – Paint Primer on Primitive

Karen O’Brien
Paint Primer on Primitive
Art Expedition Master Class: Wednesday 7 – Friday 9 October, 2015

2prim project2b

Primitive folk art takes many forms, my favorites are dolls, toys and paintings of children. What they all have in common is simple naive designs, usually done by untrained artists. In this series of projects we will create a primitive doll and 2 folk art paintings. We will be exploring a series of mixed media exercises to help us complete our projects and will include “prim” doll making, drawing, collage, painting and how to make new materials look old. It will be an in-depth primer on American Folk Art.

1prim projecta

All skill levels welcome!

Day 1: We will be going on a field trip to New York to the Garment District of NYC, stop in to Tinsel Trading and visit the American Folk Art Museum. In our explorations we will hunt for some vintage inspiration, take photographs and possibly gather a small piece of trim or ephemera to use in our projects. In the evening we will begin our journey by making a simple “stump” doll. The term “stump doll” refers to an early design made from a single continuous shape, often without arms or legs with stitched or drawn features. I will provide a pre-sewn “body,” so we can forgo sewing machines. We will cover each step of doll making including pattern design, hand sewing, antiquing, clothing, adding the face and options for arms and wings. Your doll will serve as our main subject for drawing and painting on day 2 – 3.


Day 2 -3: I will share with you my painting process from idea to completion. This painting project is inspired by early American Primitive paintings of children, almost always shown with a toy or pet animal. We will be doing drawing exercises with an emphasis on faces. We will create an antique paper background and I will share my process of drawing and adding figures to the painting surface. Fabric will be incorporated as a collage element. We will be using fluid acrylic paint and mediums to get amazing, translucent layers of color. I will cover easy ways to integrate a special companion or toy into a finished painting. We will also do an additional painting of a primitive toy.


Supply List:

$10 Kit Fee
Kit will include: Pre-sewn muslin doll shape, pattern, fabric for wings, pattern, vintage collage papers, twigs for arms and legs, sandpaper, a few fun extras and a handout with instructions for doll and paintings.

General Supplies for both projects:
#6b graphite pencil/Kneaded eraser/sharpener
Fine Tip Permanent Black Ink Pen – Sharpie, Pitt or similar
An assortment of brushes you are currently using for your painting, including:
• Flat ¾-1” brush
• Round small detail brushses
Prismacolor pencils: white, buff, red, black and brown
Watercolor pencil: black
Small container of fluid matte medium
Small selection of vintage papers for background
Plastic container for water

Prim Doll
Cotton fabric, new or vintage: 9″ x 20″ (half of a fat quarter)
Stuffing tool (chop stick works great)
Polyfill – stuff a quart size zip lock bag with it – that will be plenty
Hand sewing needles
Thread – off white or tan and black or a color that goes with your fabric
Watercolor pan set or tubes that include red, brown and black
Small spray bottle

1- 8″ x 10″ and 5″ x 7″ flat wood panel. I used 1/4″ birch plywood I had cut down at the hardware store. There are a variety of panels on Dick Blick You have the option to use Hot Press Watercolor paper or Bristol Paper – We want a smooth surface to work on – no canvas!
Small tube of Heavy Body Acrylic paint: Titanium White
Golden Fluid Acrylics 1 oz bottles: Titan Buff, Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide, Transparent Red Iron Oxide, Payne’s Grey, Alizarin Crimson or other red of your choice
Scraps of fabric, lace, ribbons to use as collage for clothing and background

Instructor will also provide:
Collage materials, fabric and trim scraps to share, newsprint and tracing paper, extras from the student supply list and anything she has forgotten at the writing of this list!

3day1b 3day1a

Pinterest link for paintings: http://www.pinterest.com/jackipoulson/collection-primitive-child-portraits/
Pinterest link for vintage toys: http://www.pinterest.com/quietbear/vintage-toys/
American Folk Art Museum: http://folkartmuseum.org/