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!

Monday, August 11

Plein Air Painting is "In"

Out in the Back
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/ 27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
No pun intended with the title of today's blog, but have you noticed lately that Plein Air painting outdoors has become the "in" thing? Notice I used both a capital "P" and a capital "A."  Well, apparently it has.

Other than the contemporary, avant garde art crowd, who are not likely to pause to give representational painting a look anyway, it appears that Plein Air is the latest and greatest. It appears that way to me anyway.

My un-scientific research, which consists wholly of looking at art blogs and websites online and thumbing through all the art magazines at the newsstand at one of the suburban Barnes & Noble's, declares this to be so. By this I mean, it seems every other website is about the wonders of Plein Air painting and the painters who paint them.

Also, there are more and more ads about Plein Air painting in almost every art magazine including those on pastel and watercolor. I'm sure you're also aware there's a whole magazine devoted to the subject called Plein Air.

Then there are all those Plein Air competitions. They're popping up everywhere! I'm sure someone's making money.

Please don't misinterpret what I'm saying. I really, really like the look of (most) Plein Air paintings, and you already know if you've been reading the blog for a while, I'm a big fan of the Impressionists who did a lot of their work en Plein Air . I suppose it's a throwback to simpler times when painters like Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent (not his portraits, of course) spent a lot of time outdoors painting "real" paintings.

Or maybe everyone's hoping Monet will somehow make an appearance in Monterey, California, at the big, annual Plein Air Expo. Whatever is happening with Plein Air, I hope it's for real and not just a passing fad.

Tuesday, August 5

Viscosity and Painting

Las Tres Palmas
Oil on Canvas Panel
9 x 12 in/ 23 x 30.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014

Today's brief blog is about viscosity. If you don't understand what that is, here's a definition from Wikipedia: 

The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its resistance to gradual deformation by shear stress or tensile stress. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal notion of "thickness". For example, honey has a much higher viscosity than water.[1]

If that's a little too scientific for some painters, just focus on the words: the informal notion of "thickness." I think that will clear up any confusion. In painting, it's simply how thick (or thin) the paint is you're using to paint with.

It was important for me to understand what viscosity of paint best suited my ability and style of painting, forget all that tensile stress business.

It also is about how you want your paintings to look. Some like the look of thick impasto, others would prefer fluid acrylic. It's personal taste, but it's also what's currently in the cultural style, if that at all matters to you, which I hope it does not.

I personally like paint with a little body, that is, higher viscosity, but not so high you have to use a palette knife instead of a brush. To put it another way, I like using large planes of color with uniform loading of paint so that you can see the brushmarks after the paint dries, not from across the room, but as you move in for a closer look. 

Somewhere I remember paint being compared to tea, milk, cream, honey, or butter. Mmmm. 

However, I would like to add one more that I find right for me: buttermilk. If I had to add it to that list, I suppose it would go between cream and honey.

What's your favorite viscosity?


Tuesday, July 29

New Work

Out There
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014

Tuesday, July 22

Happy Birthday OrbisPlanis - 6 Years of Art Blogging!

Well, another year of blogging has gone by. It seems like only yesterday it was 2008, and I wanted to start blogging about art and painting. And now it's six years later.

I thought I'd share a couple of highlights.

- First blog:  July 10, 2008, A New Art Blog on How to Renew Your Art Skills 

- Blog with the most page views: May 9, 2012, Painters, Accept Your Own Unique Talent, 6932 views

- Blog with the most comments: A tie

July 15, 2008, A Favorite Artist, Norman Baxter, A Line on Texas, 9 comments

April 9, 2009, About Cold Press and Hot Press Watercolor Paper (and More), 9 comments

So, to all the painters and viewers and readers these last six years, Thank You!

Tuesday, July 15

Why Do We Paint?

Grazing in the Grass
9 x 12 in/22 x 30 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
What could be more relaxing than painting a beautiful, bucolic scene? Not a whole lot of other things in my opinion.

That begs the question, and the title of today's blog, Why Do We Paint?

Well, why do we paint? I suppose there are almost as many reasons as there are painters, but here's my list of reasons for probable cause:

  • We have no other choice than to paint--once we started painting, we must continue.
  • We like the idea of putting our creativity on a two-dimensional surface.
  • We must use our hands to create art.
  • Paint--all kinds of paint, including pastel--is intriguing to us.
  • Mixing colors is a never-ending pastime.
  • We want to find out just how well we are able to paint.
  • Painting is relaxing, most of the time.
  • We love it
Feel free to add your own individual bullet items!

Tuesday, July 8

Take a Painting Vacation (or Holiday)

Perfect Beach
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
We're getting close to high summer here in the northern hemisphere, which means it's time for us painters to try new things. Between June 1 and August 31, you should break out and break away from all the things you usually do in your studio the rest of the year.

During this time, pretend you're on virtual vacation/holiday every day whether painting in your studio or en plein air. Experience new ways to paint, just like you experience new sights and places when you're on a real vacation

If you usually paint on paper, try out MDF board or panel. If you paint in watercolor, try water-mixable oils. Swap out your acrylics for pastels or vice versa.

If you usually paint landscapes, try figure painting. If you usually paint seascapes, try a still life. You get the picture, mix it up.

Of course, if you actually are on vacation/holiday, try taking along some supplies that you normally wouldn't. For example, if you're an oil painter, take along one of those spiral-bound tablets of watercolor paper and one of those small, portable watercolor palettes with a few limited watercolors. Then paint your favorite scenes roughly and quickly. You'll enjoy these much more than those photos you take on your cell phone (or mobile).

No matter where or how you do it, summer vacation/holiday painting is good for creative soul.

Tuesday, July 1

Don't Be Afraid to Paint with Acrylic

There's something about acrylic. Many artists and painters seem to have positioned the medium in some obscure world of being "not quite right."

9 x 12 in/20 x 30 cm
Copyright 2013
This is even in view of the fact that it has been around for more than 70 years and used as a bona fide painter's medium since 1955. That's 1955--59 hears ago! So what does it take to be accepted? Sainthood?

Hardly. Artists and painters have always--and by always I mean since the Dark Ages became the Renaissance--used whatever was available to render their art.

Earthly powders and elements dissolved in different kinds of oil, or water, have been used for a long, long, okay one more long, time. Later those same elements among others were ground and bound into pastels for drawing/painting. Ditto for drawing with coal and graphite-like tools.

The point is painters didn't appear to limit their media to only one accepted thing, and they didn't look with suspicion on new-fangled inventions. Although there was initial resistance to the impressionist style,  remember, it was the Impressionists who embraced the newly-developed paint in tubes that encouraged painting en plein air in addition to the use of photography.

So why isn't acrylic considered a fine art medium, and why aren't impressionistic plein air acrylic paintings not considered fine art?

You tell me.

Tuesday, June 24

4 Simple Steps to Successful Painting

A River Runs
9 x 12 in/22.8 x 30.4 cm
Copyright 2014
Although I can't really show you how to become a successful painter, mainly because this is a static blog rather than an online video, I hope to explain it in an understandable way. It's so simple, really

 I'm doing this to follow up on my last blog where I complained that most painters don't show you how they really paint in their for-sale DVDs or YouTube videos.

I said they they talk a lot about how they go about preparing and what palette they use and what their favorite brushes and supports are, if that. However, they don't show you what to do because they don't know how to tell you, much less show you.

It could be they don't want to show you for reasons either nefarious or benign. But whatever the reasons, I just wish they would or could be better instructors.

Anyway, here are my four simple steps to successful painting:

1. Choose only motifs you love to paint--then every painting will be a challenge, an adventure, and a labor of love.

2. Choose the medium you love--whichever one that is, you will know it immediately, and, as the enchanted song says, "once you have found it never let it go."

3. Practice your favorite painting techniques until you master them all--it will take a while, but maybe not 10,000 hours.

4. Accept you own unique painting style--whatever that is, learn to love what is unique to you, then enhance it, but don't try to change it.

Four simple steps.