This week's blog is written by Carl Sandeen of Kristi Usher Fine Art. Carl's wife Kristi is a bronze sculptor of Western themes as well as a two-dimensional artist with oil, pencil and ink. Kristi's work is known for realism and projects her intimate knowledge of horses, dogs and the cowboy way of life.
For someone who enjoys the beauty of minerals and hiking through remote areas picking up rocks with hidden secrets inside, then combining oil painting with skilled lapidary, it is fun and fulfilling as an artist. At the liquid-cooled, diamond-bladed rock saw, a promising stone is inspected for possible flaws and orientation for the best slice. Then it is cut open to reveal its inner beauty. If it's solid, without holes and cracks, it's a good candidate for painting. Slices can be any thickness, with one-quarter inch being about right for most paintings.
Kristi searches out rock people in the local area to do her cutting or show off their findings. eBay and other online sources are good places to find that perfect "canvas" for a horse, dog, pet commission, or some other portrait that will look good on a slice of rock. Care has to be taken when ordering online to find only unpolished product. If the rock slices are polished, as they often are, they are hard to paint on. Unpolished receives and holds the paint much better.
Rock slices can be any size, with a four to seven inch diameter being ideal. Kristi's paintings are highly detailed so she spends most of her time with a tiny 18/0 brush in her hand. The oil paints and thinners are standard artist quality. Agates of various kinds including thunder eggs, along with petrified wood and obsidian, are most commonly used.
The real fun is finding shape, coloration and striation in the rock to complement a painting subject. Kristi prefers to let the rock provide as much of the background as possible. It lets folks both enjoy the natural beauty of the rock slice along with an original work of art by the artist.
When the painting is finished, one or two coats of a spray like Krylon Kamar Varnish will protect the piece and give the unpolished rock surface some of that sheen that polishing would give. The painting can be displayed most simply on a small wood easel, or mounted on matting in a frame or shadow box.
Kristi was born and raised in Clatskanie--living, working, ranching and raising a family in Columbia County Oregon. She grew up drawing horses she was surrounded by before becoming a commissioned oil painter and bronze sculptor. Kristi prides herself on bringing accuracy to her art and nailing down the details in the subjects she loves so much.
"If there's something I'm not sure of, I will research it until I have it right. I really appreciate when people come to my displays, look at my art, and are impressed by the authenticity. I put my heart into it."