Butterfly for Frida

Since I’m often asked how I did a painting and my mission is to pass on what I have learned, here is how I did “Butterfly for Frida.” This is a big painting, about 4 feet wide.

Frida is Frida Kahlo, a well-known Mexican artist who was married to the famous muralist, Diego Rivera. In addition to having polio when she was a child, she was in a hideous tram accident when she was eighteen and was impaled by a rail, which passed right through her and damaged her spine. Somehow she survived, but was in terrible pain the rest of her life. Her dad built her a bed easel and she painted from that point on. She had to be carried in her bed by friends to her first one woman show. On the night before she died, she wrote in her journal, “I hope the journey is joyous. And I hope I never come back.” We cannot judge her for not wanting to come back until we have spent three decades in excruciating pain.

She liked butterflies, so this is Butterfly for Frida. I found a scrap of canvas, made a 3X4 foot stretcher, poured the edges and stared at it for a while. Then I tried to get the tunnel of light with light poured colors, got frustrated and ended up using my broom to get the swirls. Ruined the broom. I was discouraged.





Then I bucked up, as Frida would do, and poured a skin to make the butterfly. I cut out a butterfly pattern, cut out the butterfly from the skin and drew the markings with acrylic pens. I diddled around for a week, toning down the pour colors so they wouldn’t detract from the butterfly, I wanted to quit and throw the whole thing out, but I pressed on, trying to figure out what was wrong.







I pour skins on a biggish sheet of silicone (for baking.) When dry, it peels right off easily. I brush a tad of baby powder on both sides so it doesn’t stick to itself. Voila. After a year of experimenting, I found a foolproof mixture.

1/2 paint. 1/2 Elmers white glue. I mix with a tongue depressor (a supersize popsicle stick) adding water gradually until it’s right viscosity. That is the most important step! Pick the stick out of the mix about 6 inches and let the paint drizzle down. If it makes a hole, it’s too thin and the pour will be runny. If it makes a tiny pile, it’s too thick and the pour will crack-add water slowly. If it disappears without a hole or pile, it’s just right.

I put a couple drops of L’Oreal Extraordinary Oil in each color, stir and pour. I tried all the other silicones; this works better. I often use house paint, which is acrylic paint, just lots cheaper. The key to cells is the consistency, not some special paint or mixing medium.

So that’s it-ask me any questions if I left something out. Have a great week and keep arting!

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