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Finishing a Bronze ~ How Do They Do That?

So many people have asked me how the finished colors and patterns are achieved on my finished bronzes.  It is one of the funnest parts of the process since I, as the artist, participate actively in this final stage!  Let me show you how we finished “Rolling Bliss” (#3 of 20) since I took lots of pictures!  Here is a close up of the finished product.  This is my absolute favorite patina yet!

Artist Robyn Ryan's "Rolling Bliss" - Detail of finished bronze

Detail of “Rolling Bliss” (#3 of 20) 6″ x 18″ x 10″ Bronze Sculpture

Now, how did we do that?  Once the bronze has been cast and fabrication (if cast in parts) is complete, the foundry sandblasts the sculpture to achieve an even surface to apply the finish or “patina” to.   This is what greeted me when I arrived at the foundry on “finish” day!

Artist Robyn Ryan's "Rolling Bliss" - Sandblasted and ready for patina

Assembled, sandblasted and ready for patina application.

The Patina is generally achieved using various chemicals and heat via a blow torch to achieve the desired effects and fuse the finish with the metal.  In some cases some paint may be used to achieve certain effects.   For “Rolling Bliss” #3, we started with Potash and turned the entire sculpture very dark for the base color.

Artist Robyn Ryan's "Rolling Bliss" - Starting Potash Layer

Initial application of potash… continue applying until…

Artist Robyn Ryan's "Rolling Bliss" - Completed Potash Layer

Completed potash application turns the sculpture a warm black.

Then we introduced Silver Nitrate on top of the Potash to lighten in layers and achieve the mottled effect.

Artist Robyn Ryan's "Rolling Bliss" - Starting Silver Nitrate Layer

Oh My! Initial application of silver nitrate on top of the potash layer…

Artist Robyn Ryan's "Rolling Bliss" - Completed Silver Nitrate Layer

Completed silver nitrate application… GORGEOUS!

I fine tuned the “darks” of the eyes, muzzle, and transition areas from grey to dark on the legs with diluted black acrylic paint… The heated metal absorbs the paint and it also fuses with the metal.

Artist Robyn Ryan's "Rolling Bliss" - Artist touch up prior to sealing

Refining the dark details and transition areas.

Once satisfied with the effects, the sculpture is sealed with clear enamel and finished with wax polish (they can be displayed outside safely!).

Artist Robyn Ryan's "Rolling Bliss" - Sealing Patina with Enamel

Sealing with enamel.

Artist Robyn Ryan's "Rolling Bliss" - Final sealing with wax

Final step of applying wax to protect from the elements.

Then the sculpture is mounted to the base.  Did you know these sculptures are hollow?  The foundry fabricated the cross brace bars which they then tapped a threaded hole for the mounting bolts to attach to.

Artist Robyn Ryan's "Rolling Bliss" - Hollow - Prep for Mounting

It is hollow! Prepping for mounting.

Artist Robyn Ryan's "Rolling Bliss" - Underside of granite base - Prep for mounting

Granite base is carefully drilled with counter sunk holes.  Once sculpture is mounted, bottom of base covered in felt.

So here is the final mounted sculpture!  Looks fantastic!  Hoping this step by step tour has helped to demystify this part of the process!

Artist Robyn Ryan's "Rolling Bliss" - Finished sculpture mounted on granite

“Rolling Bliss” (#3 of 20) 6″ x 18″ x 10″ Bronze Sculpture

My Red Foxes sighted at the “Scale” Exhibit!

Entering juried exhibits is one of many ways I like to expose new audiences to my artwork!  Entering a themed exhibit is uncommon for me so when Live an Artful Life Gallery of The Plains, VA put out the call for entries for their “Scale” exhibit, I was tickled to have pieces underway that met the criteria!  Interpreting the same subject in two scales, one 18″ x 24″ and the other 8″ x 10″ was the theme!

"Scale" Exhibit Reception

I was thrilled to have my two Acrylic Layer paintings I created of a red fox I had sited in my back yard accepted into the exhibit, along with the work of 10 other wonderful regional artists.   “Woods Walker” is 18″ x 24″ and zooms in on the fox walking “into the frame”.  “Red Fox II” (I know, how original a name!!!) is 8″ x 10″ and depicts the same fox walking across a field.

VA Artist Robyn Ryan with Fox Paintings at "Scale" Exhibit

I had started “Woods Walker” with several other Acrylic Layer pieces I was preparing for my February 2015 “In Their Element” exhibit with photographer Darren Barnes, but did not complete it in time.  I wrestled with how to resolve this one since I had set up such a compositional challenge for myself with the “cropped” fox in a field of space… what to do?!?!  The fun part of the story is that I used the in process painting as a model for a collage piece where I broke up the background…  Well, of course!  That is when I added the woods context to the background actually incorporating handpainted papers as a collage element to define the negative spaces between the trees!  I love when one piece “speaks” into another like that!

Robyn Ryan Acrylic Layer Painting "Woods Walker"

“Woods Walker” 18″ x 24″ Acrylic Layers Painting by Robyn Ryan


“Red Fox II” was started in studio and then completed as part of my demonstrations of my Acrylic Layers process during a workshop I was teaching.  Amazing how differently the exact same source material can be interpreted, both compositionally and by scale.

Robyn Ryan Acrylic Layer Painting "Red Fox II"

“Red Fox II” 8″ x 10″ Acrylic Layers Painting by Robyn Ryan


Sharing my art… It is SO much more than about the sales!

Don’t get me wrong… sales are important!  They validate the effort, resupply the studio to make more art, and represent a “permanent” sharing when someone is moved enough by a piece of my work to invest in it to make it part of their daily life…

Sharing art for me comes in many forms ranging from outreach efforts such as my artist newsletter, this blog, or posting activities and inspiration on facebook, to teaching, networking with other artists, demonstrations, and even donations.  I had the pleasure to participate once again in the Fredericksburg, Virginia “Art Attack”.  This event embodies outreach and sharing of 100+ artists with their community as we all descended upon the sidewalks of Fredericksburg to “Do Our Thing” and interact with all of the people!

Artist Robyn Ryan, Ready to Demo her Sculpting

I like to demonstrate my sculpting since it is a bit different and inevitably results in lively interchange vs. simply onlookers and spectators. I work in oil-based clay for my sculpting since it does not dry out, allowing me to continue working it over an extended period of time.   I often get questions about “finishing”, “firing”, or “painting” the sculptures at this oil-based clay stage and I end up explaining the entire sculpting and lost wax process from original clay sculpture to final bronze. This year I was savvy enough to bring more “visual aids” for each step to prompt interchange about each stage including armatures, other works in process, molds, wax versions and finished bronzes. It was cool to be able to point to the clay version and then the finished bronze and say “This is going to become That”!

Fobyn Ryan's Art Attack 2015 Set Up

My favorite Art Attack interchange this year was with a 6 year old girl who quite intently asked about each stage… she called her Mother over and proceeded to explain my process as follows, pointing to each stage: “Mom!!! She works in oil-based clay, then Da-Dah, Da-Dah, Da-Dah, Da-Dah!!!” at which point she grinned hugely, giggled contagiously, threw her arms around my neck and gave me a big hug… Made my day!!! It is so true that the “sharer” often gets as much or more out of sharing than the “sharee”. Hopefully, my sharing inspired this young lady and many others to nurture their own creativity in this crazy hectic world!

Robyn Ryan Equine Sculpture In Progress

Why do I Love the Intensive Studies Seminar?

The Intensive Studies Seminar (ISS) has become an annual regenerative force for me as an artist as well as the art I create!

Why do I travel so far away?  Why do I ship out so many materials?  Why stay away from my wonderful husband and home for such an extended period?  Because it is 10 consecutive days spent with diverse and amazing artists from all over the U.S., Canada, and even the United Kingdom… Friends from years past and new friends to be made!

Taos, NM Sunset

Taos, New Mexico, Late April Sunset

ISS is the unique  brainchild of a group of wonderful professional artists who were not only great friends but of like-mind about a philosophy of teaching addressing the gap they saw in artists’ training following the mastering of a medium or technique.   The focus of ISS and the information provided are to assist the artist in finding their own voice in conveying their intent.  WHY am I painting this?  What idea do I want to convey?  This is far more challenging to explore than you might think!  It is easy to fall back into simply painting a “pretty picture” and losing focus on WHY I am drawn to the subject matter or idea in the first place!

Artist Robyn Ryan at ISS 2014

My Workspace ~ ISS 2014

This was the 18th year of ISS!  It started in Texas (before my time!) and eventually moved to New Mexico.  I have been attending ISS in Taos, New Mexico, for the past 10 years (missed one for a trip to Tuscany…) and it has made a huge impact on me as an artist and my artwork!  The group of instructors  has narrowed (Miss you Alex Powers!) and now includes Fran Larson, Christopher Schink, Skip Lawrence, and Katherine Chang Liu.  These artists are very different in their personal painting styles and in many cases the specific feedback they provide.  However, their common purpose and theme focused on personal intent/voice make this a VERY special time each year to revisit why we do what we do!  Attending so many ISS sessions has also allowed me the honor of witnessing the evolution of the instructors’ work over time, these artists are incredible in their generosity and transparency, allowing us insight into the artistic journey we have ahead of ourselves.

The seminar is continually refined by our four fearless leaders and consists of time to paint, private critiques, a day of working with each of the four instructors, daily programs on themes including classic and contemporary art, artists, art principals, art movements (I’ve gained so much in art appreciation and creation through these programs!)  Even if a program is similar to one in previous years, I am in a different place in my artistic journey each year and am either reminded of something I forgot or am able to capitalize on something that I missed in the past.

The camaraderie of the instructors and the participants is  unique and creates a very special environment that I crave each year.  My deposit is already in for ISS 2015! I’m not sure how much longer this unique seminar will  be offered so I want to be sure I am there to soak up every drop of inspiration and information!

Artist Robyn Ryan Heron Acrylic Layers Painting

“Heron III” 18″ x 18″ Acrylic Layers on Paper

Intensive Art Creation at ISS 2014 Underway!

I would have posted sooner but I’ve been consumed with MAKING ART!!!

ISS has become an annual regenerative force for me as an artist as well as the art I create!

I can’t wait to get to the studio each morning ( a conference center transformed into studio and presentation space for 80 + artists!) and have worked until closing at 10 pm on multiple evenings!  The seminar is aptly named as it is truly INTENSE!!!  It is exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time!

Artist Robyn Ryan at ISS 2014

My “space” at ISS 2014 ~ I cleaned it up for the picture!  Much too neat!!!


Work in progress at ISS  2014!

Work in progress at ISS 2014!

I am still engaged with my “Fleeting Glimpses” series and am continuing to work in my acrylic layers.  The process takes time which is one reason I have spent so much time in the studio!  The pieces really transform as the layers progress… early layers of bright color are obscured with only hints peeking through in the finished pieces.  My biggest challenge this year has been working beyond “predictable” paintings.  This can be a challenge since I am focused on individual wildlife subjects.  Introducing “visual tension”  and interest through various methods has been my focus this session.

I have a featured artist exhibit coming up in June and some of the artwork I am creating here is targeted for display there.  This creates a challenge since I have to balance production of finished pieces with exploration based on the feedback from the instructor team.

Here is another Acrylic Layers progression for a painting of a fawn:


Drawing of deer

Drawing of deer


Deer Under Painting

Deer Under Painting


Deer First Gel Layer

Deer First Gel Layer


Deer painting layer 1

Deer painting layer 1


Deer - after 2 gel and painting layers

Deer – after 2 gel and painting layers

Promises to be Another Great Adventure at ISS 2014!

Greetings from lovely Taos, New Mexico!

I’m back for my 10th Intensive Studies Seminar with four fabulous mentors:  Fran Larson, Katherine Chang Liu, Skip Lawrence, and Christopher Schink!  This is day 2 of the 8 day workshop and I’ve already got 8 Acrylic Layers pieces started as part of my continuing series “Fleeting Glimpses”.  It is wonderful to have such immersive and focused time to make art, talk art, think art, and enjoy fellow artists, all in the beautiful high desert and mountain landscape!

Favorite quote so far (there will be MANY!)  is from famous contemporary artist, Chuck Close: “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us get up and work!”

Favorite presentation so far (2 a day!)  is the survey of David Hockney’s artistic journey… I gain SO MUCH Art Appreciation here at ISS, they expose us to so many classic and contemporary artists’ work!

Here are some in process pictures of one of yesterday’s 8  “starts”, I’ll keep you posted on progress!

Preliminary drawing of Fox by Artist Robyn Ryan Robyn Ryan Fox underpainting Robyn Ryan Fox painting first gel layer Robyn Ryan Fox painting, layer 2


“Point to Point” Step by Step

It seemed about time to share another work in process with you!   My Acrylic Layers process lends itself especially well to step by step explanations so here are the first six steps I’ve taken so far with a new Acrylic Layers piece titled “Point to Point”.  This painting is one of the largest Acrylic Layers piece I’ve worked on so far at 30″ x 30″.   The surface is a 2″ deep Gesso Board.

Step 1:  I prepare the gessoboard with an underpainting on the surface and the sides of a warm black I create with Mars black and Napthol Red.  Once this dries, I use Caran’ D Nache crayon to draw the basic shapes of the horse and rider.

VA Artist Robyn Ryan Acrylic Layers painting step 1

“Point to Point” Acrylic Layers In Process – Step 1


Step 2:  I start the painting with simple blocking in of shapes and some shadows.  I choose bright colors which I want to “sparkle” through later layers.  For this piece I chose Pink and Manganese Blue!


“Point to Point” Acrylic Layers In Process – Step 2


Step 3:  “ICING THE CAKE” is my label for this step, however, since I’m going for texture, you may not want me icing YOUR birthday cake!!!  I use Golden Acrylic Gel, in this case I’ve chosen Heavy Gel – Gloss.  I like using gloss for the early layers especially since they dry clear and it allows the viewer to truly see through the layers!  I apply with a palette knife to a maximum depth of 1/8″.


“Point to Point” Acrylic Layers In Process – Step 3


Step 4:  Once the gel layer has dried clear, I apply a layer of acrylic paint to the entire surface.  For this layer I chose a light green (strange? I know!).  I apply the paint in thin layers working the surface to obscure MOST but not all of the image beneath.  I then sand the entire painting surface to remove part of this latest paint layer from the ridges of the gel layer to expose the colors of the painted layer beneath.


“Point to Point” Acrylic Layers In Process – Step 4


Step 5:  NOW WHAT????  I make the decision that the horse will be dark against a lighter background and select Quinacridone Crimson and Quinacridone Burnt Orange to tone the horse and dark portions of the rider.  These are transparent pigments and I apply them as thin glazes until I achieve the desired value and intensity.  I then gently sand the newly painted (allowed to dry first!) surface to retrieve the “sparkles” of the bright colors from the painted layer beneath.


“Point to Point” Acrylic Layers In Process – Step 5


Step 6:  “ICING THE CAKE” again!  And so it continues!


“Point to Point” Acrylic Layers In Process – Step 6


“In the Shadows” at FCCA for February Regional Juried Exhibit

Mixed Media painting of two deer in woods

“In the Shadows” 16″ x 20″ Acrylic Layers

“In the Shadows” is a monochromatic Acrylic Layers and Collage painting I did of the deer I see outside of my window.  They are so well camouflaged that I depend on my peripheral vision to detect their movement before I can actually see them among the trees.

This painting was so fun to create!  It started out with collaged pages from a local newspaper upon which I added layers of acrylic paint, acrylic gel, and charcoal.  The resulting texture makes the trees jump off the surface and camouflages the does.

I’m very pleased to have this painting juried into the Fredericksburg Center for the Creative Arts February 2014 Regional Juried All-Media Exhibit by juror Karen Stinnett.

Happy New Year! Robyn Ryan Art 2014 Outlook

My last post was a review of 2013, this post will highlight my major goals for my artistic adventures in 2014.  The bar has been set high from last year and I’ve already laid an “enthusiastic” plan for 2014.  I have settled on 5 major focus areas:

1)  Make more wonderful art!

VA Artist Robyn Ryan Acrylic Layers Painting of Heron

“Heron II” 36″ x 24″ Acrylic Layers

~  Continue exploring my Acrylic Layers pieces and expand the subject matter
~  Sculpt and cast more bronzes
~  Develop variations on the plexiglas layers


2)  Online Presence “Discipline” and Expansion

~  Increase my blog activity
~  Increase my facebook fan page, Twitter, and Google +  activity
~  Setting up a Robyn Ryan Art Pinterest presence, I may check out Instagram too!


3)  Learn & Share

VA Artist Robyn Ryan Acrylic & Transfer "Bee Study I"

“Bee Study I” 6″ x 8″ Transfer, Acrylic Layers, and Ink

~  I’m scheduling several workshops at the Backdoor Gallery in Fredericksburg, VA

~  “Mini-Workshops” for both Water Media and Mixed Media on 7 Saturdays in 2014!  I’ll share a post soon with the details!
~  2-day sculpture workshop at the end of March
~  2-day Acrylic Layers workshop in Mid July

~  I’m also exploring options to hold a workshop for the VEAA and at Art First Gallery
~  I also plan to continue my participation in my favorite two independent study workshops in Taos and the mountains of VA to keep my creativity fresh!


4)  Expand Venues and Exhibits

Robyn Ryan and Acrylic Layer Paintings

Me with two of my five paintings in the NWA Exhibit

I have several venues lined up already and will continue to identify more!

~  Ongoing exhibits at Art First Gallery & with the North Windsor Artists at Libertytown Arts Workshop
~  January Exhibit “A Few of My Favorite Things” at the Griffin Bookshop in Fredericksburg, VA
~  February FCCA Regional Juried Art Exhibit, “In the Shadows”
~  Participating in the Virginia Equine Artists Association (VEAA) Exhibits at River District Arts and Montpelier Arts Center!
~  My June 2014 Art First Gallery Featured Artist Exhibit!
~  Jack Darling and North Windsor Artists Exhibit at the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Culture Center
~  Entering more Juried Exhibitions  such as Art at the Mill, Gallery Flux Art of the Equine, and FCCA Regional and National exhibits.


5) Taking Care of myself, Family, Friends, my collectors, and  fans!  Have to remember to “smell those roses” along the way!

I’ll keep you posted on my progress!  Here’s to an industrious and artistic 2014!

Robyn Ryan Art in 2013 ~ A Very Busy Year!

2013 was a very exciting year for me and my art!  Last year, 2012, saw the re-establishment of my art business, Ballyryan Studios, as an LLC which laid the foundation.  My goals for 2013 were large and with the support of my mentors, collectors, fans, friends, and family I was able to achieve them ALL! So how about a round up of what transpired?  I had four major art-related goals for 2013:

#1  Improve and increase my “Art Presence” online in 2013:

B&W image of VA Artist Robyn Ryan

~ Kick off of my new website
~ Initiation of the Robyn Ryan Art Newsletter
~ Major activity increase for my Facebook Fanpage Facebook/Ballyryan.Studios
~ Setting up on Twitter @RobynRyanArt

#2  Expand public exhibition/exposure of my artwork:

VA Artist Robyn Ryan & Sculptures

“Summer Itch” and “Rolling Bliss” bronze sculptures in the Piedmont Virginian Showcase exhibit at River District Arts.

Art First Gallery and the North Windsor Artists at Libertytown Arts Workshop
~ Acceptances into numerous Fredericksburg Center for the Creative Arts Regional and National  juried exhibits
~ North Windsor Artists Group Exhibit at CRRL
~ Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC) Juried Exhibit
~ Gallery Flux “Art of the Horse” Juried Exhibit
~ Art at the Mill Juried Exhibit
~ Piedmont Virginian Showcase Juried Exhibit
~ Featured Artist in the Chronicle of the Horse
~ Featured Artist on Artsy Shark!

#3  Further my art education and grow my teaching efforts:

VEAA Watercolor Workshop with Robyn Ryan

VEAA Watercolor Workshop at the Backdoor Gallery

~ Art Biz Coach “Marketing Bootcamp”
~ Transfers class with Bob Worthy
~ Intensive Studies Seminar with Katherine Chiang-Liu, Fran Larson, Skip Lawrence, and Christopher Schink
~ Taught two VEAA Sculpture Workshops
~ Taught  a VEAA Watercolor Workshop
~ Conducted Fredericksburg “Art Attack” Sculpture Demonstration

#4  Finally and MOST importantly, my goal was to increase studio time and make more art!

Osprey Acrylic Layers Paintinng by VA Artist Robyn Ryana

“Osprey” 12″ x 16″ Acrylic Layers on Raised Panel

~ Started 6 “Germination” inspired acrylic layer pieces (focusing on the feeling vs. the literal seed/plant… VERY interesting!)
~ Started three new equine sculptures
~ Cast a horse bust in Bronze
~ Finalized the next sculpture for casting
~ Completed five more “Fleeting Glimpses” series Acrylic Layer paintings
~ Created numerous transfer “experiments” and finalized several
~ Finalized several “Equine Layer” pieces as well as several acrylic on plexiglas pieces

 Next Post I’ll highlight my plans for 2014 which promises to be another very busy “art-full” year!