Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Art Tip #121

What's Your Favorite Support?

In my post Set for Success, I talked a little about using good materials.   Most students give little thought to what they paint on.  I can't count the number of times that a student will pull out a canvas & say, "I got this on sale at Michael's for $5".  Yep, got it! At the starting point, we already have added an obstacle to the process.  The type of support you paint on is as important as quality paints & brushes.  Maybe more so.  It's like preparing a wonderful, gourmet meal only serve it on paper plates.  There are so many types of supports to choose. Cotton canvas, board or linen, stretched or mounted on board?  It's personal preference whether you like a rough, slightly rough or smooth.  I'm starting to sound kinda kinky! :)   Okay, back on track.   

Take some time & try different supports to see what you like.  Maybe painting on board works or a rough textured canvas or linen floats your boat.  But just using what's on sale isn't the way to create your best, possible work.  Painting on inexpensive support and then wondering why your brushstrokes are showing up or your paint seems to be absorbed into the canvas? Putting obstacles in your way only makes for some frustrating painting time.  

Here are some of my favorite supports:

Raymar Panels - Raymar has several types of canvas or linen that are mounted on MDF. They offer sample packages so that you can try different canvas & linen to see what suits you.  They rock.

Gessobord Panels  - Ampersand panels have a smooth surface & fun to paint on.

Stretched Linen -  Odessa Russian Linen - great support to paint on.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Art Tip #120

More Bedtime Reading

Robert Henri

Robert Henri (1873-1929), American artist & teacher. Part of the
 Ashcan School and member of "The Eight".   

A little book packed with wisdom that just keeps on giving.   A fellow artist gave me this book as I was starting my art journey.  Little did I know, that it would find a place beside my easel for many years.  Now it's place is beside my bed.   Inspirational & instructive.

The book is essentially notes by students & his teachings.  The observations & comments to his students are gems to be mined.  I feel he's looking over my shoulder, pushing me in the right direction.   The Mint Museum had an exhibit of his work a few years back and I was lucky to see his work in person.  I only wish I had lived 100 yrs ago...I would have been one of his students (right up front). 

Here are a few of my favorite quotes.

"The eye must be alert, must see the influence of one thing on
another and bring all things into relation"

"Color is only beautiful when it means something."
"Art is after all, only a trace...like a footprint which shows one 
has walked bravely and in great happiness."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Art Tip #119

Set for Success

 I see students struggle because they set themselves up for failure rather than success.  This might seem trivial and/or obvious but here's my advise.
  • Don't bite off more than you can chew.  Many painters pick incredibly complicated subject matter, work from horrible photos, try to create/change a subject without the necessary knowledge or ability.
  • HAVE A PLAN for your painting, do composition & value sketches, determine focal point
  • Don't include the entire value scale in a painting
  • Just because something is in a photo or you see it (when painting from life) doesn't mean that it should be included.  Ask yourself, does it serve a purpose for making the best painting?
  • Palette - spend time getting to know your palette (By now you know I'm a limited palette kinda gal) but no matter the # tubes of paint on your palette, learn how they interact with each other.  
  • Don't use a color just because it's pretty...pretty is overrated.
  • Brushes - once again, get to know what your brushes can do.  Some artists have the worst looking brushes & create masterpieces.  
  • Best tools - buy the best you can afford is trumped by knowing what tools you have & how to use them to their best ability
  • Consistency in paint - I consistently use the same brand of paint, I know what to expect. Not all hues are the same (there can be huge differences of the same hue across brands)
  • Get comfortable with your subject.  Don't just dive right in.  I spend time with my subject & I'm always amazed at what I see after just a few minutes of observation.
  • Painting is not a speed contest.  If you've only got an hour to do a painting, don't try to complete a 16x20.  Perhaps a quick 6x8 study would benefit your understanding for a larger piece.  
  • Don't let your only goal be to complete a painting.  So many students just want to have a finished piece but if you're flying through to just reach the end, then you've undoubtedly lost a lot along the way.  
Composition, value, color, information,shapes, variety & application are pieces of the puzzle.  They come together to form a work of art.  Jumping straight to the easel rarely guarantees a successful painting.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Art Tip #118

Tools for Seeing Values

Use a Value Finder -  Using a red value finder will help you start to "see" values.  It removes the color which can confuse determining value.  There are a few different Value Finders.  This one can be found here at Dick Blick.

Accuview App - Great app that is primarily an app for composition but it has the ability to be used as a value finder.  Just take your photo and use the value scale to remove color. Easy to use. For iPhone, click here.

Value Sketches - A tried & true method.  It's not an app and maybe not "sexy" but I think it's still the best way to be a good artist.  Learning to see as an artist requires training your eyes.  Using tools and apps can be good but there's no substitute for seeing it for yourself.  So grab your sketchbook, look, look again, judge one value against another & soon it will become a valuable skill that will carry you along your journey of becoming a better artist.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Art Tip #117

Sargent Knows Best

Students want to their paintings to have pretty brushwork.  I teach students to first learn to make their paintings read from a distance and then spend a lifetime perfecting how it looks up close. Value is the key.  Painting detail can give you a sense that you've capture the subject but without the correct values, your painting will be flat and uninviting.  If you don't catch a viewer's eye from a distance, they won't get close enough to enjoy the brushwork.

John Singer Sargent was the first painter to inspire me & I seek out his work for guidance. Viewing his paintings in person, I'm always struck at how he disguises detail with a few strokes of the brush. As wonderful as his brushwork is, it's value that carries a painting.   No matter how beautiful the strokes or color, if the values aren't correct, then it will fail. In JSS's painting "Head Study of a Capri Girl" from a distance, you think that the earrings would be described in detail until you are a few inches away from the painting.  In fact, it's 2 to 3 very well placed, value correct strokes.   I'm drawn to those beautiful strokes for the earrings but realize that if the values of the entire painting aren't correct...the earrings won't matter.

Those who watched Sargent painting in his studio were reminded of his habit of stepping backwards after almost every stroke of the brush on the canvas, and the tracks of his paces so worn on the carpet that it suggested a sheep run through the heather.   

In stepping back, JSS was mainly judging the how his painting read, not his brushwork.


My goal is to paint the "essence" of my subject, not the exactness of it. Value allows me that. Stepping back helps you judge how little you can get away with and still convey it.