Tuesday, October 21

Painting is Not a Business

Beach Day
Acrylic on Watercolor Paper
9 x 12 in/22.9 x 30.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
(OK, it is a business if you're a gallery owner.)

But if you are a painter, it's not really a business, is it? It's a passion, or it should be; otherwise, are you really a painter? It's an unpleasant truth, maybe, or at least a conundrum.

What's a painter to do? You've got to eat, and you may have other mouths to feed as well. As you know, only a tiny fraction of a very, very few painters become rich and famous strictly from their paintings (or anything else) while they are still living.

There are painters who are able make a living by selling their paintings from a gallery or galleries and/or website. I wish you the greatest success. Often, however, painting is the step-child to an alternative way to make ends meets. Life is hard, as we all know, especially for painters.

What painters usually do is either teach art or hold (a lot of) workshops or some combination of those.

I hold art teachers in the highest esteem because they are about the only people around today who actually contribute anything relating to the arts to most students. To them I say, there is no higher calling.

For those who paint and also hold (a lot of) workshops, you fill a great niche for those who want to learn to paint or to improve their skills. Keep up the good work; may your classes and easels always be full.

Come to think of it, there are other painters. There are the true-believer, "starving artists" who somehow manage to paint full-time and not starve, May the force be with you. Then there are the dilettantes who really don't have to work, so they decide to paint. To you I say, really!?

Whatever station you fit into in the world of painting, remember it's not a business. It's a passion, or it should be.

Tuesday, October 14

Do Not Overwork Your Painting!

Autumn House
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
Yikes. I did it again last week. I overworked the painting I was working on for a couple of days.

Not today's image; I painted this one immediately after discarding the overworked painting, so as not to lose confidence. It's like getting back up on the horse that threw you.

I'm not showing the painting I overworked, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was overworked.

How do you know when you've overworked your painting? Unfortunately, there's no line of demarcation to let you know you've gone too far. That's why it's difficult to know when to stop.

Here are a few tell-tale signs that I'm going, or have already gone, too far. Maybe these signs will help you realize it as well:

- A general overall  feeling of uneasiness about the painting

- Wanting it to be more of a painting than it can possibly be

- Painting over or scraping off perfectly good areas of the painting

- Thinking that adding more detail will help, and then adding totally unnecessary details

- Saying to yourself, "What else does this need?"

- No idea when it will be finished

- Adding just one additional brush stroke to make it perfect

Knowing when to quit is often as important as other aspects of painting, sometimes even more than the planning, composition, color, or value.

Stop it! Do not overwork your painting!

Monday, October 6

I Love Flats and Filberts

Paradise Found
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
Think about the letter F next time you're painting.

I have discovered that almost all of the paintings I like to paint (and/or aspire to paint) are painted using Flats and Filberts. If you can't remember those names, then at least remember the letter F to jog your memory.

I'm speaking of two types and shapes of paint brushes, of course.

Flats are just what you'd expect from the name. They are broad, almost square in shape, with a horizontal ferrule giving them their flat shape. They come in all sizes from 02 up to large house-painting brushes five or more inches across that can be used for painting paintings as well as houses

Flats have squared-off corners that allow you to apply paint in broad, flat slabs of color. They are great because they let you leave out all those unnecessary detail strokes while still maintaining absolute control. I love them.

Filberts are similar to flats in shape, although they are generally somewhat narrower. The big difference, of course, is that their corners are not at 90-degree angles but gently rounded off. This allows you to apply broad flat slabs of color like flats, but since they are rounded off, you can more easily blend the paint when two or more colors or values meet (even with acrylics). They come in all sizes, too, although I haven't ever seen any Filbert house-painting brushes. I love them.

You may not know this, but from Wikipedia I learned:"The filbert paintbrush derives from the shape it resembles, that of a hazelnut with its namesake. This word comes from the Old French filbert, coming from noix de (nut of) Philibert. Philibert was a saint, (who died in 684), whereby the ripening of the nut in August coincides with his feast day." Try dropping that into the conversation at your next cocktail party...

So, think about the letter F next time you're painting. I love Flats and Filberts.

Monday, September 29

Some Advice for Painting with Acrylics

Country Hillside
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
There's an old saying, "do as I say not as I do." I always hated that because it is so patently hypocritical and self-serving. There is no place for that in art. In that spirit, I'm telling you what  I actually do regarding painting with acrylic paint. Here goes.

No. 1 - They're not oil; they're not watercolor or gouache, either; they're acrylic, get over it. That means you have to forget what you've learned about painting with those other media. You have to learn how acrylics actually work when you personally paint with them as opposed to reading or watching how someone else paints with them.

No. 2 - You have to learn how not to dally with acrylics. Dally is the perfect word, which has a couple of meanings, both of which apply.

One means to treat something in a way that is not serious enough. To paint successfully with acrylics you must treat them with the respect they deserve as a bona fide medium, no matter what other painters think or say about them.

The other meaning is to waste time idly, dawdle. As you will quickly learn, you can't dawdle (or dally) with acrylics, they dry too fast. You have to paint deliberately and purposefully. For many, however, that is their no. 1 attribute.

No. 3 - Find the brand or brands of acrylic paint that work best for YOU. That doesn't mean it has to be the most expensive or "the best" as described or endorsed by other painters or manufacturers. It does mean that you have, for whatever reason(s), found the paint that best suits the way you paint and gives you the look and feel of painting you desire. That simple.

Well, I do believe I have more advice, but I think I'll save that for another blog.


Monday, September 22

Natural Style is the No. 1 Goal

Lookout Point
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/ 40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
I've blogged about this in previous blogs, but I believe one of the most difficult things for painters to do is to find their natural style and ability to paint.

It's so easy to look at famous paintings and painters as well as current paintings and painters and think, "I want my paintings to look just like that."

I do that myself, way more than I should, I'm sure. It's because you see either a style of painting or a palette of colors or certain motifs, or all three, and you wish to emulate that type of work.

The thing is, your paintings never look like the ones you admire. Of course, one way to learn how to paint is to paint an exact copy of a painting you admire. Many students are taught that method as a way to learn. I remember one visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. where several students were standing before some of the world's great masterpieces with their easels and oil paints painting exact copies.

Not a bad way to study, I suppose, but then it's not your own work is it?

I believe you have to be comfortable in your own painter's skin, so to speak, and let your natural style show throughout your work and let this be the no. 1 goal. In addition, once you have found your style, all your work will have an identifiable character, and that's what collectors like.

And another thing, isn't it great that we all paint differently? Because if we all painted alike what a boring art world it would be.

Monday, September 15

A Flash of Inspiration in Painting

Beyond a Shadow
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
No matter what you paint, where you paint, when you paint, or how you paint, you won't connect with the viewer without first having had an inspiration.

Your inspiration is what makes your painting uniquely appealing, not only to you but also to others who are drawn into your vision.

One definition of inspiration is to be mentally stimulated to do something creative. I like that. To me it simply means that something got your brain rev'd up so much that you just had to act on it in a creative manner. You often hear the term "a flash of inspiration" to describe that moment of stimulation.

There's inspiration in all kinds of human endeavors, of course, but in painting the inspiration you have comes out visually on a two-dimensional surface in the form of gesture and contour and tone and color, among other things.

Not unexpectedly, several synonyms for inspiration are creativity, inventiveness, innovation, imagination, and originality. Perfect.

Whatever it was that flashed in your mind at that moment--an emotion, a view, a color, a setting--instantly told you, "that's my next painting."

Monday, September 8

It's OK to Be an Introvert and a Painter

September Shore
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/ 40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
Painting, any type of painting, is a solitary act. That's the nature of creativity and the nature of painting. Painting and socializing are and were meant to be mutually exclusive activities.

You, the painter, alone are responsible for the outcome. You alone must observe, conjure, design, render, evaluate, and complete your painting. No one else is involved.

Being around other artists is fine--now and again--but groups of painters don't create paintings.

A group of painters is no different from any other group of people. People are generally mundane, and in any group you have a spectrum of personalities that includes just about every human trait and foible. Dealing with that, or just being around that, is the problem.

I don't care what anyone says, I don't think good painting evolves from being around other painters. I think good painting comes from time spent alone by one's self in the planning and execution of the work.

Call us introverts if you like, but I think that's the way we want it.


Tuesday, September 2

Keep Challenging Yourself As A Painter

Two Little Boats
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
8 x 8 in/ 20.3 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
If you are a regular follower of this painting blog, then you know I am always for changing things up a bit, trying out new techniques, or simply challenging yourself to paint something that you know is difficult for you.

In my own case, it's painting boats.

I don't know why. I don't fear of painting water. Most painters would agree, I think, that painting water would seem to be more difficult to paint than a boat, what with all the movement of waves and how the light catches and reflects, etc., etc.

However, I remember the times I have painted boats, and it has always been difficult for me. The size doesn't seem to matter, I have trouble with large ships as well as little skiffs. I think it has to do with the shape of the bow--most boats have a pointed bow--and the way the sides curve back toward the stern.

Getting the perspective just right, along with painting the light and shadows, and rendering the volume correctly, well, that's difficult.

But, that doesn't mean we should give up. It means we need to keep challenging ourselves, and in my case, paint boats!

Monday, August 25

Why Aren't There More Acrylic Painters?

Up the Wagon Path
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/ 27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014 
I guess-timate the ratio of acrylic painters to oil painters to be about 20 to 1; that is, for every acrylic painter there are about 20 oil painters. Why is that?

Well, for one thing, oil has been around a lot longer than acrylics--about 600 years as compared to around 60 for acrylics.

But I also believe there are other factors:

- Many painters don't understand the fundamentals of acrylics

- Many painters don't know how to paint with acrylics

- Many painters can't paint successfully with acrylics

- Many painters don't know how to blend acrylics

- Many painters can't paint lost-and-found edges with acrylics

- Many painters can't paint atmospheric acrylics

- Many painters can't paint fast enough to use acrylics

BUT for those painters who understand and know how to paint with acrylics, a wide world of painting lies at your doorstep.

Whenever I discover great acrylic painters, such as Herman Pekel, John Hammond, Marcia Burtt, Mark Mehaffey, and William Hook, just to name a few, I'm happy to provide a link to their websites so that you may discover them, too.

Happy acrylic painting!

Tuesday, August 19

When You Can Paint Anything...

Sailing Along the Coast
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
The headline of today's blog says it all, "when you can paint anything..."

I try to read as much as I can find on how various painters learned their skills and how they use their skills. When I discover a painter whose work I admire I try to find out as much as I can about how they paint the way they do.

You can get an awful lot of information from their websites, reading their blogs, reading their curriculum vitae on their gallery's website, reading articles in various art magazines, and, yes, by attending their workshops  buying their DVDs.

Most of the painters whose paintings seem to reach out and grab me have one thing in common: they have the ability to paint anything and make it a successful painting in its own right.

It seems that at some point in their careers they figured out that it's not the object or motif you are painting that's most  important. That is, finding a pretty scene and painting a pretty picture is not the point.

What's most important is how you paint whatever it is you're painting. It doesn't have to be pretty to be successful. These painters paint successful and beautiful paintings out of everyday, mundane, ordinary objects and scenes. 

I myself strive to be able to paint this way, to take any subject and render it successfully in paint---when I can paint anything!