Wednesday, November 25

Thankful for Painting

Back Bay
Oil on Stretched Canvas
14 x 11 in/35.6 x 27.9 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Just a short blog this week to say how thankful I am for being part of the great tradition of painting that is practiced and celebrated all over the world.

Painting allows me to get away not only from my own problems but also the worldly ones as well, if only for a while each time I pick up a brush.

That, all by itself, is more than enough reason to be thankful for painting.

Wednesday, November 18

How to Stop a Painting Slump

Any Beach
Oil on Canvas Panel
7 x 5 in/17.8 x 12.7 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I've blogged about painting slumps before, and last week  I felt as though I may be in the beginning stages.

Some signs of a painting "slump" are:

- when you don't know what to paint

- when you can't find any subject to paint that interests you

- when you can't settle down in your studio or anywhere and paint; that is, wasting time doing anything else but painting

- when you have more trouble than usual using your chosen medium

- when you become discouraged

I'm sure there are other signs, but those are enough to know something's not right, but what to do?

1. Realize you're about to be in a slump or admit you already are (see all above).

2. Go for a long walk.

3. When you return, go to your studio and choose a different medium to paint with or go online or to an art supply store and buy a starter set of that medium.

4. On canvas, board, or paper, begin a painting of something--anything, it really doesn't matter--with the new medium; this can be anything you see, have a photo of, or imagine.

5. Complete that painting and immediately find the next one to paint.

6. Continue no. 5 until you no longer experience any sign of a painting slump.

Works for me and it should work for others, too.

Wednesday, November 11

Paint a Nocturne

Twilight Time
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Nocturne is not a word you probably use very often, if ever.

It is actually from French and Latin (nocturnal/nocturnis) referring to a piece of music that makes one think of the night--somehow.

Not sure how it made the jump to the art world, but nocturne has also come to be known for a painting in which the motif is shown in the nighttime or evening. It has become its very own category of painting in painting competitions, paint-ins/outs, painting exhibitions, and the like.

All it takes for it to be a Nocturne is that it's at night (or evening). Simple, except that you have to paint everything in "the dark."

It's way different from painting a landscape, or anything, in the daytime. However, there still has to be a light source. The sun has to be setting or have set, or the moon must be full or almost. Any other light will be from a man-made, artificial source, such as a street lamp or sign.

Also, most of the fore-, mid-, and backgrounds are painted dark, the values are darker, and colors have much less chroma. You get to use colors you may not use very often, which can be fun, and probably aren't on your regular color palette--raw umber, Prussian blue, ivory black, dioxizine purple, and maybe an assortment of warm and cool grays.

I like to think of it as sort of like painting while wearing sunglasses. It's somewhat of a brain-teaser in that you have to think differently and outside your comfort zone from your usual methods.

Anyway, that's what makes it a new challenge, which most painters need now and again.

Tuesday, November 3

How to Paint a Good Landscape

View from The Getty
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
The headline of today's blog sounds simple enough, and it is if you can perform a few basics of landscape painting. However, that's the catch--knowing the basics is one thing, but being able to master them with accomplishment is quite another.

I'm no master, and since painting is a life-long pursuit, I have miles to go, but I have learned a few things, though.

I hope you will find some of these suggestions helpful in your landscapes.

- Find the most beautiful and pleasing landscape to paint that you can, and don't settle for anything less. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so only you have to love it to be satisfied.

- Atmosphere is, in my opinion, the most important part of a landscape painting. If you don't know how to paint the different kinds of atmospheres, stop. Go learn how and then continue.

- Use the palette colors that you usually paint with as you are already experienced in how to mix and match them, but don't be afraid to experiment with a new color.

- Beware of green, the painter's horror color. Most landscapes have several greens and they must be believable. Learn to mix a variety of greens; but is OK to use a pre-mixed green if it's the right one. Also, greens are usually, but not always, more neutral or toned down than your eye would have you believe.

- Use the biggest brush you can for as long as you can.

- Objects appear bluer or cooler in color as they recede and warmer as they approach; similarly, objects in the foreground usually have more chroma, depending on the light of course, and less in the distance.

- Objects in the distance, including the horizon if there is one, should be painted less distinct to approximate the illusion of atmosphere,

There you go, that's all there is to it \o/.



Wednesday, October 28

"Little Gems" - Small-Scale Paintings Inspire

Small Pumpkin and Squash
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
7 x 5 in/17.8 x 12.7 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I blogged about painting "little gems" a couple of times last summer. If you remember, "little gems" are what I call those small paintings that are 7 x 5 in/17.8 x 12.7 cm or smaller. I think I heard a well-known painter describe them as such, but since I can't recall his or her name, maybe not so well-known after all.

I like to paint "little gems" when I am in between working on larger paintings or paintings that take several passes or days to complete. To me it's like cleansing your palette between tastings except in this case I'm referring to a paint palette.

Painting small paintings gives me a new perspective, and since they can be completed in hours or even minutes, you can use them to try out new subjects or techniques or practice value studies or whatever. I get inspired.

Today's "little gem" is an extremely simple still life of seasonal fare with an autumn/all-hallow's- eve motif.

I hope you'll be inspired to paint your own "little gem."

Wednesday, October 21

Painting Atmosphere and Light

Central Coast
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Time marches on, and I hope I continue to learn more about painting as it does. In that context, I want to blog about the importance of painting the atmosphere in landscape or en plein air motifs. I last blogged about this subject about a year ago, (Paint Atmosphere in Your Landscapes).

We may not usually think of the  atmosphere as part of a painting, but it is. Atmosphere in my paintings isn't the makeup of physical elements that meteorologists would tell you it is. I hope not; I'm a painter, not a meteorologist. In my landscapes atmosphere is often a central character. 

Many artists and painters speak about painting the light or being a painter of light. They understand painting light as it relates to painting shadows, cast shadows, reflected light, highlights, and to its presence in their paintings.

However, in painting landscapes, especially outdoors, you are not actually seeing (or painting) "the light" unless you're looking at the sun, which you shouldn't do, ever. You are seeing the effect of the light on and around all objects.  

Similarly, you are not really seeing (or painting) "the atmosphere" either; it's invisible. Rather you are painting the effect of the atmosphere. In addition, any natural (or man-made) by-products, such as water vapor or dust, will also have an effect on the atmosphere surrounding all objects.. 

It would be a lot easier if painters just painted what they see, but I also think it helps to delve a little deeper and understand why we are seeing what we're seeing, at least to some extent.

Happy painting.

Wednesday, October 14

Put Feelings in Your Painting!

After the Storm
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
 16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2008
I have blogged about feelings (Put Feelings Into Your Artwork and Let the Emotion Flow!) before.

But I thought it was time to revisit this important, but often missing, ingredient of many paintings.

Feelings, as the old standard song goes, nothing more than feelings. It sounds so simple. Just go to your art supplies and pull out that bottle of feelings, right?

Not that simple. First of all, what am I talking about--feelings? When I say feelings, I mean that hard-to-capture and define "thing" that draws your viewer in.

But it's more than just grabbing the viewer.

It's the subject matter and the way it's positioned on the canvas. It's the way the values and colors capture the mood. It's what you, the artist, are trying to express.

When I paint a picture, I want it to have feelings that overtake the viewer and compel him or her to not just look, but see, what I'm trying to show with paintstrokes. I want the impression and feeling to be worming its way into the heart or brain or both.

Finally, I want the viewers to be moved or changed in some way so they will remember my painting and who painted it.

Wednesday, October 7

The Unusual Painting

Costa Del Mar 
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Today's image is from a reference photo (with permission) that got my attention because of the somewhat unusual colors. However, it took me three tries at painting it before I got a result that I thought was passable.

Like the box of chocolates in the movie Forrest Gump, sometimes you never know what you're going to get, even if you do have knowledge and experience with color theory.

What I like about the colors used in the painting is that not only are they complementary, with the soft blue ocean behind the terra cotta stucco building with a lavender spire in front of it, there is also contrasting value in the bright lemon- yellow foliage against the dark burnt umber landscape.

The viewpoint is also somewhat unusual in that the viewer is looking down from above and out at the ocean simultaneously. In addition, it's also somewhat unusual in that there is no visible horizon line.

As I said, it is unusual, but I hope you like it anyway.

Wednesday, September 30

When Painting Is a Habit

Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/ 76.2 x 61 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith  2015
Not to make a distinction among the different types of painters today, as we are all worthy of respect, I would rather focus on our similarities.

Among the different types of painters today, I am unscientifically putting them in one of four categories. Again, all worthy of respect and in no particular order:

- Art Student, and by that I mean one who is actually enrolled in a school with an actual art curriculum or a "recognized" academy of art or some such.

- Art Teacher; one who teaches art or painting in one of the above-mentioned settings.

- Professional, and by that I mean one who is able to make a living entirely by the sale or other commercialization of his or her paintings.

- The Rest of Us Painters, and by that I mean all the rest of us painters.

As I said, what makes us similar? I believe we aspire to paint, or we practice painting diligently, or we paint on-again-off-again, or we join a painting club or league or society (or not), or we paint for the pure creative pleasure of it.

Whatever it is, the most important similarity in my opinion is that, for us, painting has become and is a habit we have no choice but to pursue. We must paint habitually, although the type, the style, the place, and the frequency varies as widely as the human experience.


Wednesday, September 23

Contrast is the Key to an Engaging Painting

Acrylic on Gallery-wrapped Canvas
30 x 24 in/76.2 x 61 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I know most all the painting instructors and artistic rules say what it takes to make a good painting:

Yes, it's composition.

Yes, it's drawing ability (or draftsmanship)

Yes, it's subject matter (or motif).

Yes, it's color palette selection.

Yes, it's center of interest (or focal point).

Yes, it's technique.

Yes, it's style.

Yes, it's brushwork.

Yes, yes. yes. It's all these things.

However, in my opinion, if you want your paintings to be really engaging (or enthralling or even spellbinding) and more than merely good, contrast is the key.

Wait, what?

Yes, contrast is the key to an engaging painting. Contrast is that element that catches our human eye and brain and emotion and keeps us interested.

Contrast is in color; complementary colors attract our eye and make us look. Red vs. green, yellow vs. purple, blue vs. orange when placed next to or near each other appear to vibrate.

Contrast is in value; light versus dark is an even greater eye-catcher. Black vs. white or any combination of a darker value against a lighter value keeps us engaged.

Viva la difference. How about that?