Sep 20, 2021
As it happens you can’t mix acrylic paint with resin. It won’t set. In 2016 I didn’t know that, let alone what “won’t set” would even entail. I remember with total clarity the moment two of the biggest canvases I’d ever made or used resin on were done. I believed I had “completed” two 48x36 paintings.
At the time I was practicing yoga at a fancy, spa-like yoga studio in Las Vegas. The studio was so hot you couldn’t see the mirror during class and I had a great respect for the teachers talent and passion. In conversation and wanting to be liked I spoke with the manager and the owner about how I have two large, beautiful pieces of art that I would like to donate to the studio. They were so excited. All for it. I couldn’t believe my art was beautiful enough to go in this yoga studio, which looked like Mariah Carey’s bathroom or something. My friend Dory lent me her truck & I brought them to the studio. I had never sold art before or given anybody something I was so proud of. It was the ultimate joy.
That night I went and took class. I stood in the lobby listening to a dozen people talk with great enthusiasm, being so impressed with the art and talking amongst themselves who on earth made the paintings as they studied them together. I will never, for the rest of this life and after, forget that moment. Standing there. My husband said “It was her. She painted them.” And a dozen people turned at me to stare, beaming. I wanted to start sobbing. Or run and hide. But they just started talking all at once. A few of them just hugged me. Yoga studios in Las Vegas, especially the fancy ones - people aren’t really like that. The joy of that validation stays with me. It healed me.
The next day I got an urgent call from the studio manager. She was extremely upset saying “You need to come get these things they are melting all over my studio.”
I was so mortified. Every single shitty thing about myself as an artist that my head had ever told me was so true and loud in those moments. I had to re- borrow Dory’s truck, (she thought someone had died when I called her sobbing) go pick up both canvases as the manager stared at me with hostility with her arms folded, and bring them back home. They were giant canvases so it meant walking in, taking out the canvas, and walking back in twice. I felt so humiliated and worthless. I never practiced at that studio again, and I was certainly not good enough to try to sell art. I couldn’t even give it away for free.
I’m giggling as I write this (years later) because I’m not sure where it is in the manual of being human that I apparently received that I should always use my extreme emotions and judgements of myself to justify what an incapable loser I am. Why can’t I just laugh at myself for making a mistake (well, I can, but it’s been about six years in the making of that ability.)
Except recently it dawned on me. The only way I have ever learned anything about art or in life for that matter is by doing it wrong at least the first three times. I don’t know about you but I never learned to do anything in school except hustle and get the f out of there so - this is my process. And that’s ok. After all of the pain of judging myself and a decade - it’s finally ok. Really only because I have about 88 examples of ruining everything, learning, and it all turning out ok.
The truth is working with epoxy resin scared me because 1. It doesn’t come off of your hands or anywhere else and 2. It’s really expensive and 3. It was the final layer of a painting that was basically already done, so if I messed it up I basically made that painting for nothing. Also somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I could actually seriously poison myself.
I’m not a map or instructions type of girl. To this day Art Resin has an app you can download so know the exact amount you need, but what’s the fun in that? That first day I guess I just thought it would be cool to color the resin with acrylic paint. And since it was the first time I had ever used epoxy I didn’t know that it is always supposed to be dry, not sticky, after a maximum of 24 hours.
Pro tip - only change epoxy resin color using alcohol ink or pigment powder. Are there thousands of YouTube tutorials about all of this? Sure. But I learn best through trial, error and shame. If the resin is sticky and will not dry it is because the resin and hardener were not mixed equally or - or you put some additive in like acrylic paint that has no business being there.
Don’t worry if the resin is a mess and sticky, you can just mix a different, correct batch of resin and coat it with that - but you want to re-cover the entire painting or it won’t dry evenly. That was what I ended up doing - and those two paintings - The Sage and The Angel - are living happily with their collectors in Las Vegas.
A few tips in case you fuck up with resin -
- Seriously, always wear some form of latex glove. The only thing I hate more than the sound of someone crunching their cheap plastic water bottle after class in a silent yoga room is the feeling of sticky epoxy resin drying on my hands. As it dries it feels like all of your skin cells are separating. It’s the worst. So just wear your gloves. And if you don’t, you can dunk your hands in a bowl of straight white vinegar and wash them immediately after with warm water and dish soap.
- Buy silicone everything - silicone spatulas for mixing, silicone mixing cups for mixing together, measuring and pouring, silicone matts (check dog bowl matts on amazon) for the cups that you’re balancing the art on to stand. Resin does not wash off of anything. Silicone is the only thing that you can just peel the resin off of once it dries.
- With epoxy resin, you get what you pay for. Buying the $60 bottles of resin as opposed to the $200 bottles of Art Resin makes a huge difference in weight, consistency and clarity. The first time I ever used art resin I was like great I’m fucking doomed because I knew it was all I could ever use going forward - the differences in the products were so extreme. I’m a Libra with an Aquarius moon but I sway dangerously into the analytics of Virgo and impossible expectations/ financials of Leo when it comes to what products I use and the craftsmanship of my art.
So in closing - this story is the first of many I will share in my blog about a time I fucked up something, probably thought it was the end of the world and convinced myself I’d never amount to anything because of it - only to use it thousands of times in tons of different ways later. So next time you embarrass yourself or ruin something you worked really hard on - just remember. There is a way bigger picture than we can see with a much more important outcome than we know yet. Just keep going, and keep taking the time to just laugh at it all.