Thursday, June 27, 2013

Art Tip #116

I'm stepping away from posting my Art Tips for a short time.  I've got an air conditioning unit being installed this morning (no more melting) & my calendar has been cleared from teaching for the next 10 days.  So I'm unplugging to paint, start working on an outline for an art book & enjoy a bit of time off.  I'll be back with a new tip Tuesday, July 9th.

Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Art Tip #115

Do you think while you mix color?

The next few posts are going to hopefully get you to think & evaluate more about how you approach color mixing.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself.  I will be breaking these questions down into individual posts as we go along.  Just the tip of the iceberg.

1. Do you premix the majority of your palette?  Premixing helps you harmonize your painting.  Having the entire color scheme mixed next to each other allows you to see the spectrum of values, hues & saturation.   It also weeds out any "Screaming Mimi" colors that don't work before they hit the canvas.  This will help keep your painting "fresh" because you aren't constantly scrapping & remixing colors.                                                                                                      

2.  Do you have temperature variety in your palette.  Ex. If you are painting a pomegranate, did you just mix a range of light, halftone & dark reds or did you think about shifting the temperature & saturation of the reds as well?      

3.  Do you think about the saturation of colors?  Putting the purest of color in your focal point will work but if what's around it is just as saturated doesn't that dilute the focal point?            

4.  Do you mix colors that will be next to each other on the canvas?  I tend to mix color from my focal point out.  Mix colors that lie next to each other in order to judge value, temperature & saturation.

5.  Do you mix with a color in mind?  A student recently asked me how to mix Cerulean Blue.  I said I didn't have a clue.  I don't mix to a particular "color name".  My goal to mix the correct color for a specific spot in a painting.  I never think "Oh, I need Cerulean Blue" there.  Instead, I'm thinking that the color needs to be more warm or cool or more saturated or less or needs to shift in value.  Keep tube colors out of your head, let what's next to the color dictate what direction you go.

If you were to watch me mix color or paint, you'd think I was just letting the paint flow without a care in the world.  Reality is that my brain is going full speed.  I constantly have a running list of questions.  Not thinking is the worst thing for me.  It gets me in trouble every time.  While some of it is intuitive that comes from years of building my fundamentals but it doesn't allow me to turn my brain off.  So grab your palette knife & start mixing but bring your brain along for the ride.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Art Tip #114


Today's post doesn't exactly fall into the category of  an Art Tip.  But it's on my mind.  A fellow artist & I started a conversation a few months ago about "unfinished" work.   Personally, I love stopping short of defining everything.  I think that my "unfinished" works sometimes say more about me as an artist than the finished pieces.  It feels like a fresher approach but does that matter to the buyers & should I care?  My friend felt that there was a market (albeit, an educated market) for this type of work.  Or does it once again come down to the right collector for the right piece?

 I always know the point when I have crossed the line.  It's exactly 1 minute too late.  Then I kick myself for going past the point of no return.  

Now that I've starting painting abstracts it's possible that's where I'll satisfy my soul.  Maybe the art tip today is to keep searching & stretching yourself artistically.
Happy Painting!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Art Tip #113

Finding the Abstraction

"Caribbean Storm"

I've been toying with trying my hand at an abstract but couldn't seem to find a jumping off point until now.  I find a small percentage of abstracts compelling. Why?  Because a small amount of artists understand & can communicate the "rules" of painting. Good abstracts aren't about "wiping" paint onto a canvas & throwing a few words in for good measure.  You hear "Learn the rules, then you can break them".  I feel like I now have a decent handle on the foundations & that's why I have some confidence to attempt a few.

I've been studying art (in one form or another) almost all my life.  My tastes have evolved by viewing artists who have honed their craft & place an emphasis on quality.  With this observation, I have tried to set my own bar high. By that, I mean to strive to produce  quality work.  Will I fail?  Most definitely.  More times than I'll succeed but hopefully most failures won't end up for public consumption, rather, for me to evaluate why it didn't work & incorporate those lessons into the next painting.

I see some students jump to abstracts because they've grown frustrated & impatient with learning the foundations of painting.  It's a kind of a short cut.  Can't draw a figure, no problem, I'll just abstract it.  Except abstraction comes from reality.  There are no short cuts in life or art.  Being good at something doesn't happen overnight.  When I first started painting, a very wise person told me that in 10 years, I'd really start to get it.  They were so right.  I feel like I'm at the beginning of my journey & it's a glorious journey.  

Bad abstracts are like the Kardashians' of the art world.  All glitz, no substance.  Not to say there isn't a place for them but being known for glitz isn't what I'm striving for. But remember good art will stand the test of time.

Whatever your painting style is, set some personal standards & goals. It's a great feeling when you achieve them and don't forget to have some fun along with way.

Jumping off my soapbox now, hopefully, I won't sprain anything.  ;)

Here are a few of favorite abstract/expressionist painters:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Art Tip #112

Breaking Down Florals

I'm often asked how do you paint flowers without indicating every petal.  It starts with the basic shape, as with anything you paint.  As you see in the photo below, with the blue flowers, I painted the darkest blue first in a general rectangular shape.  The white flowers were circular & blocked in a half-tone greyed bluish purple.  Side note:  I can paint but evidently drawing on a painting is not my best skill.

I work from dark (transparent) to light which enables me to lay the lights on top with a minimum number of strokes.  I always try to create form by painting from the outside in (see below).  Defining my shapes from the background allows me to keep from getting too detailed. Also, leaving a little of my underpainting showing thru helps balance the need to over define. The leaves are added at the mid-point, in half-tones and are there to support the flowers not overpower them.

The last strokes are the lights (which are opaque & heavier paint).  If you look closely you will see that my lightest lights are the smallest portion of the flowers.  Without the darks & half-tones, the lights will appear flat.  Students are always so anxious to place the highlight on an object without realizing that what's underneath the highlight is more vital to creating form that one light stroke.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Art Tip #111

Favorite Art Sites

With social media what it is, there is an abundance of information at our fingertips.  I thought I'd share just a few of my favorite sites.  


John Singer Sargent - I found one of his paintings in an art book at age 9. He got my
artistic juices flowing & they haven't stopped.  This site has his complete works. 
Sergei Bongart -  One of just many Russian impressionists that inspire me.

Tibor Nagy - When I grow up, I want my art to bring the depth & language that his work 
does.  If you don't know him, you should.


Sketchaway - A sketchbook traveler.  When I visit other artists' it's their sketchbooks that I'm most interested in.  It tells a lot about the artist.  

Urban Sketchers - A blog that features more than 100 artists from around the world. 
It's just fun to visit.
Misc. Sites

Underpaintings - Matthew Innis' blog that as he says...celebrates excellence
in Representational Art. A cornucopia of fabulous art & exhibits are highlighted.

Painting Perceptions - A blog that invites discussion & ideas on exploring painting done from life.  It includes interviews & information written from an artist's point of view. It takes time to explore but well worth it.  A large variety of styles.  

Painting Resource

Gamblin - I use Gamblin paint, their site is full of great information.  If you have question, 
I've always gotten a timely & useful response. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Art Tip #110

Painting from Life

For the first few years of learning to paint, I mostly worked from photos.  I struggled to understand values, color & wanted to paint every little nuance.  Photos compress values, color shifts and capture everything.  

For the next 3 years, I painted tons of still life.  I came to see values better, temperature & plane shifts.  The photo of a lemon doesn't compare to an actual lemon.  It was like apples & oranges (sorry, bad pun). It was easier to see the temperature shifts as well as the values of the objects that brought them form & dimension. My paintings came to life.  In other words, painting from life taught me to "see" as artist.  

I have always had my students paint still life.  It's usually a split of 1/4 are excited & 3/4's were looking for something to hit me with or were shouting that they hated painting flowers/fruit as they tried to escape out the door.  I set up a still life and have students stand over it, look into the shadows & have them describe the colors within.  I'd then take a photo of the still life.  In the photo, they no longer saw colorful shadows or temperature shifts in the objects.  EYE OPENING MOMENT!

Still life can be anything.   Gardening tools, your daughter's red boots, your decorative soap dispenser or a piece of lingerie.  All you need is something that you find interesting to paint & a good light source.   So go grab a couple of colorful spools of thread, a piece of fabric & go paint.  You'll be a better artist for it.  I promise!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Art Tip #109

In the Green
One of the most common areas of difficulty for beginning & intermediate students is mixing believable greens.  Greens that will harmonize & not look like you squeezed the color "straight out of the tube".  Last week I talked about making my own dark/black.  That dark is the basis for all my greens which I add...can you guess?  My favorite Indian Yellow.  This gives me a dark, fairly transparent mossy green that is the "mother color" of all my greens.

I then add Viridian or more Ultramarine Blue for a "cooler" version of the mossy (warmer) green.  I will occasionally add Phthalo Blue if I really need to push the color.   I try to lighten my colors with different tints of yellows, purples, greys...just about any color but rarely do I add pure white.  While white will lighten & cool, it also makes colors chalky.  

You can see from above that while I start with a desaturated green, I'm able to make beautiful saturated colors with a variety of temperature shifts.  Harmonizing my greens happens because they all have a little bit of that mother color mixture in them.  

It is but a very small sampling of green mixes.  This way of mixing greens & having a limited palette gave me the confidence to mix any color.  What better way to start your day at the easel already knowing that your palette will be harmony each & every time.