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.

Monday, June 16

Re-new Your Artistic License

Canal Living
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
9 x 12 in/22.8 x 30.4 cm
Copyright 2014
I'm not so sure all those painters who are/were famous or all those painters you read about in their blogs or whose DVDs you purchase actually follow all the painting rules. By that, I mean those lists of do's and don'ts, those must's and must not's, those things we're told that are the correct way to paint. They are promoted as the only way of doing things in instruction books and painting DVDs and on YouTube videos.

However, I have noticed more often than not that unless you are actually in attendance in person at a painter's workshop or demonstration, then you don't really know exactly how they accomplished some of the things you see in their books or in their videos. Even then you may not be able to follow their example.

 I have noticed that the camera almost never shows the painter mixing up his or her paint on the palette either in photograph in a book or a shot in a video. If they do, it is for the briefest of moments when they first begin. You almost never see the amount, the viscosity or how the various colors are mixed from their own color palette--or which brush or brushstroke they use when. You just see them putting their brush to the canvas.

What I would like is for them to show me how they really paint. I can almost guarantee that no else will be able to paint exactly like them so what does it matter. It's call style, technique, and artistic license and every painter has his or her own way of accomplishing that.

Why keep on trying to paint a certain way over and over and over again. Use your intuition or your artistic license to discover your own unique look-and-feel. Maybe that's how your favorite painter discovered their own.

Time to re-new your artistic license

Tuesday, June 10

An Opinion on Painting with Water- Mixable Oils

Looking Northwest
Water-Mixable Oil on Canvas Panel
8 x 8 in/20 x 20 cm
Copyright 2014
About eight months ago I made a concerted effort to try water-mixable oil paints--which is what I call them--although they're also known as water-miscible and water-soluble as well.

I wanted to try them because I had previously painted with regular old oil paints that  everyone is used to, but to be truthful, just couldn't abide the solvents, the smell, and the messiness. I realize almost every painter, bona fide or otherwise, since the Renaissance paints with oil.

However, I have primarily used acrylic (for years) and continue to do so. But still I wanted to try something different and, as I've said before, that's how we learn. In the ensuing eight months I have painted more than 15 paintings, give or take, with water-mixable oil

 Like anything it takes time to get used to something new; however, if you have been painting with either oil or acrylic, it's a pretty easy switch, especially from oil.

No surprise, what I like about water-mixable is that you don't need toxic solvents, it's much less messy, there is less odor, and brushes clean up with soap and water. They handle pretty much like oil in my humble opinion. I did notice a difference in viscosity among the brands. I have used W&N Artisan, Weber WOil, and Lukas Berlin.

WOil is buttery, Berlin seems creamy, and Artisan has the most body among these three, but as with a lot of things in painting, it's a personal choice. Today's image was painted using all three brands, and there was no problem with mixing them. I've also read good things about the Holbein and Talens brands, but haven't tried them yet.

There's not too much I don't like about using these paints except they don't dry as fast as acrylics--but what else does? I have added fast-drying medium to speed up the process, but it still takes at least 24 hours for some colors to dry to touch and up to more than a week for others. Without the fast-drying medium it takes months to dry completely just like regular old oil paints, bummer.

Anyway, if you haven't tried them and are looking for something in between acrylic and oil--process-wise, that is--I say go for it.


Tuesday, June 3

Too Blue

Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
22 x 28 in/56 x 71 cm
Copyright 2014
Last week I bought two "new" blues that I want to try out on my palette. By "new" I mean that I haven't used them very much at all either in watercolor, water mixable oils, or acrylic. But I have used them, or something like them, before so I know what to expect, sort of.

I bought a tube of Pthalo. I have used Pthalo and what's also known as Primary or Brilliant blue (by some manufacturers). I knew they were the same by comparing their pigment colors, which are listed on the tube (except for the cheapest paints). Pthalo is PB15, that is, Pigment Blue15. Brilliant blue is also PB15, so they the same color. If you don't know what I'm talking about, learn more about pigment numbers and the color index--it will help you in building your own personal color palette.

Modern Prussian blue is actually a hue, which I'm sure you know means that it is a mixture of several pigments. Golden Artist Colors acrylic Prussian BlueHue is PB15 (or Pthalo), PV23 (Violet 23), and PBk9 (Black 9). The development of Prussian blue has an interesting history--here's a link to read more.

Anyway, I know both of these blues will need to be used with caution, at least until I (or you) get used to them. That's because Pthalo is a very strong, in-your-face, bright blue that leans to the green side. It's really good for some types of water scenes and also for adding--just a touch, however--to ultramarine blue skies.

And Prussian blue, well, let's just say it has a dark personality and leave it at that.

Happy painting!

Tuesday, May 27

It's Simple, Simply Simplify Your Paintings

Stucco Lighthouse
Acrylic on board
18 x 24 in/45.7 x 61 cm
Copyright 2014

Yes, the title of today's post is simply silly.

But the message is not silly. It's something I struggle with on every painting I attempt. I used the word attempt rather than complete because every painting I attempt does not always end up exactly as I imagined it would.

As a painter who likes to paint contemporary impressionism, I try to keep simplicity top of mind as I paint. That is, I try to keep it simple as I plan the composition, select my color palette, sketch out the main elements, and especially when I paint the painting.

Not that painting is ever easy, but it's easier to paint exactly what you see before you rather than to edit out any of it. But therein lies the problem. It takes experience and some courage to leave out not only superfluous details but also some major elements if they aren't adding anything for the viewer or the painting.

In his excellent book on how to master impressionism (of which I was fortunate to be able to purchase a copy), Creating Impressionist Landscapes in Oil, Colley Whisson says, among other really good advice, "don't overdo detail because detail kills imagination."

I try to remember that along with the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle every time I pick up my paintbrush.

Tuesday, May 20

Out of a Painting Slump

From a Distance
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright 2014
Last week I lamented how I had fallen into an unexpected painting slump and didn't know why.

Although still not 100 percent, I seemed to have weathered the painting storm, and I feel pretty sure I'm almost back to my normal equilibrium--that is, I've got my confidence back.

I think I know why. Having or regaining confidence is the key to overcoming a slump (or worse) in your painting life or any other life, actually.

I think the slump came about when my confidence took a dive after my inability to accept my paintings for what they were--my paintings.

After finding paintings, the style of paintings, and the work of painters that I aspire to be able to reproduce, I lost confidence when I was not able to render them at the same level or what I presume to be the same level.

And that's another thing. In addition to confidence, you should love or learn to love your own unique style of painting. Just because I think a painter or several painters are able to paint the perfect picture and achieve nirvana in the way they paint, doesn't mean everyone (or anyone) else feels the same.

I forgot that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is an audience and group of people somewhere in the world who think my paintings are perfect and that I have achieved nirvana, too.

Now that's confidence.