Rachel Brainerd

ArtWorks & Creations

The Tale of an Artist's Creative Process - Original works of 2D & 3D art - Experiments, Successes, and Failures



It's been a bit slow getting back into creating full works (besides just sketchbook work)... 

But here is the first piece from an experimental online course at Mill Street Loft. Basically I'm a guinea pig. 

This piece focuses on Ellipses. As just about every artist can tell you, circles are darn hard. Add perspective and it gets worse. 

I set up a mildly crazy still life, containing about 20 cylindrical objects (not including the reflections) of various sizes. I realized later that the majority were white object that led to some tonal difficulties. I also probably made it harder than it needed to be... but I suppose it's better to struggle with something and learn a lot in the process, even if the end result doesn't reflect that. 

I chose a good perspective and got to work. I started by putting some light tone down on the paper and then began drawing. It took some trial and error to work it all out (especially the whole circle thing..) but I eventually got a solid rendering. 

Then I began to pick out the darkest areas and lay them down to start bringing in some form and depth.

I continued that across the page and then started using my kneaded eraser to pull out some highlights. 

This is the completed piece. Well, probably completed. There's always more I could add or take away! I wasn't entirely satisfied with the light composition. The mirrors ended up reflecting the light fairly evenly across the still life, so there was not a strong directed light for good contrast & movement across the piece. I sort of want to seal the charcoal and go over with some white gauche to achieve crisp white highlights and sharp line quality for the objects in the foreground.

Overall, I'm fairly pleased with how it turned out. Charcoal is definitely not my favorite medium but it offered some good practice. 

My coffee-inspired experiment


I'll be posting some throwback projects while I take a brief break from larger pieces after finishing Senior Project. 

- Front fold.

- I believe this first image accurately portrays how I looked & felt all the way through Senior Project (and finals). 

     I created this piece back in the fall of 2015 as a fun, side project. Although I don't have pictures of the entire process, I'll do my best to explain.

  • The concept behind this piece is the coffee addict's progression through a morning. 
  • I painted each panel in Instant Coffee which I mixed into a paste resembling a sticky water color palette. (first time attempting this, but hey- the piece smells amazing now!)
  • The first step involved practicing my poor origami skills.  It took a while to figure out a good folding pattern to ultimately create 6 surfaces for 6 images, and then even more practice to perfect the art of precise folding.  Even just a centimeter off of a perfect, plum fold multiplies as the folds continue. Finally I created the final folds on thick, water-color paper. (This initial front side is 10 x 10", but the inner folds out a  bit larger)
  • Then I drew out brief sketches on each layer of folds.
  • Finally, I set up my mirror and got to work, laying the values of each image down in coffee concentrate.
  • This process took a week or two, as I had to wait for each layer to dry before moving on to the next. Also, I'm not too great with watercolors, so I like to go slow & build up layers. Unlike acrylic, you can't wipe the colors away or lay down a thick layer of white paint to hide mistakes. Watercolor - or coffee painting - is almost entirely an additive process. 

- 2nd fold.
  • The left & right triangle folds of the front image flip towards the center line to reveal this image as the coffee addict eagerly reaches to the fresh cup of coffee. 
  • I switched perspectives from the mirror/outsider view point to a personal perspective where the viewer becomes the hand reaching for the coffee.
  • The angle of the coffee cup was interesting to handle (pardon the pun). Along with most artists, I struggle with ellipses, and even the perspective on handles like this one can get wonky.

- 3rd fold.

  • The top & bottom triangle folds of the front image flip towards the center line to show the increasing heart rate as the caffeine takes effect.
  • There could be many conceptual explanations of why I switched from a positive form of the EKG line towards using the negative space to define the line. Honestly, I just thought having 1 solid line across a blank space would be compositionally boring. So I added more coffee marks and color as the caffeine speeds up the heart beat. 
  • In retrospect, I should've coated the negative space for the EKG line on the right in some clear medium to prevent the coffee from bleeding in and blurring the line.

- 4th fold.

  • The 4 inner triangle folds of the front layer flip outward to show the addict guzzling the coffee.
  • I purposely display this image at the angle to exaggerate the motion of the figure tipping back the coffee cup.
  • I added in some coffee droplets afterwards to break up the plain white backgrounds.
  • Retrospect: It would've flowed nicely in concept to have a background of dark coffee after the transition in the previous EKG layer. However, I painted the figure first with dark tones, so adding more coffee would blur the contrast of the form. 
  • I also learned to add a touch of Ultramarine Blue to the coffee to created darker, desaturated color. I didn't add too much because I wanted to stay true to the coffee theme. 

- 5th fold.

  • The 4 inner triangles of the 4th layer fold out to show the physical aftereffects of coffee - in the addict's eyes.
  • I zoomed in to fill the entire layer for a stark contrast from the previous images.
  • The technical aspects of the portrait may not be very accurate, but I attempted to quickly paint the image with energy to mimic the effects of caffeine. 

- Back of piece.

  • In an after thought that I'll attribute to my mom... I added the coffee cup water mark to the back of the piece for a final bit of humor.

     This project was a really fun experiment I created between art classes. It ended up winning a Regional Silver Key in the Scholastic Art & Writing awards last year. I'll post all the images together on my Gallery Page, and perhaps I'll get around to posting a video showing the unfolding of each layer..... 

     Now that I've had a bit of experience with folding, I may eventually create an interactive piece where the images are not stuck in a strictly sequential format.  Instead, viewers could play around with folds to discover new layers...

About This Page

     On this website, you will find my gallery of artwork, and my senior project/thesis of 12 pieces. 

     On this page, I will post photos from my sketchbook, and the progression of thumbnails - works in progress - to finalized pieces.  Not only do I want to display successful, finished pieces, but I also want to show my creative process.  This will include the experiments and failures that every artist endures.  I will post photos I use for inspiration, share advice and knowledge I have received, and also my own advice I've learned from my relatively short years of experience.

    Look around my website and if you have any comments, critiques, advice or questions, please feel free to contact me. Check back periodically for new artwork. There‚Äôs much more to come!

**Do not use any photos of my work without proper acknowledgement please.