Monday, August 31

Changing Art Gears

Last Day of Summer
Acrylic on 140-lb Paper
12 x 9 in/30.5 x 22.9 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Today being the unofficial "last" day of summer (in the northern hemisphere), I am feeling a hint of change in the air. It's not a change in the weather per se, although the light is noticeably different than it was even a month ago

 It's still warm (OK, hot) and still very much shorts-and-flip-flops weather, but there is a haziness in the atmosphere that sets in this time of year that portends the coming of autumn. It also makes it a good time for painting.

It's rather like changing gears to a different speed, and that's also what I'm feeling about my artwork--a changing of art gears yet again.

By gears, I mean several things:

- my painting interests

- my willingness to experiment again after a period of ennui

- my medium

- my palette (even if it's only a tweak)

- my outlook

I am one who thinks change is good, especially for a painter. It's about the only way I know to be able to see if progress is being made at all.

If you agree, fine; if not, then I hope you are truly satisfied with the status quo.

Happy Painting.

Tuesday, August 25

My 6 Opinions on Painting Landscapes

A Day in the Hill Country
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion about what makes a painting "good." I am no different.

I like to paint landscapes of all kinds, and I have my own opinions about what makes a "good" landscape painting.

If you aren't interested in my opinions or what I have to say about anything, really, please stop reading and avoid the aggravation.

However, if you would like to compare your ideas with mine, here are 6 opinions for what makes a landscape painting "good:"

- If a horizon line is visible, then place it either higher or lower but not dead center.

- Know where the focal point is or is going to be and emphasize it and de-emphasize other elements; that is, if a tree is the focal point, don't make the clouds/sky so busy they compete (and vice versa)

- Use some natural element to draw in the viewer and lead them around the painting--a stream, a path, a tree branch, a cloud deck, a rock formation, etc.

- Put in a contrast of light and dark values in the fore- or mid-ground; even on overcast days there can be shadows; even if you don't see a lot of contrast either in person or a photo, then contrive it.

- Make the background recede by pushing it back visually using light blue washes or tints (even if it's your focal point); also by not having any sharp edges in this area.

- Stick to a limited palette, but depending on the type of landscape, mix colors that are natural for the scene; for example, if my painting in today's image had been a desert scene, I would have used more yellow and ochre rather than greens.

Happy painting!

Monday, August 10

Staying Motivated (with another Little Gem)

Lantana Dr.@ Beach Rd. 1
Oil on Canvas Panel
7 x 5 in/17.8 x 12.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
The August Dog Days are here. At 100+ degrees F (37.7+ C) this weekend and only getting hotter this week at 104 degrees F (40 degrees C), it's hard to get motivated to do anything, not to mention painting.

Whew, it's hot!

I decided one way to stay motivated would be to paint a beach scene. It's way too hot to do a lot of painting or to  paint a large painting. So I decided to paint another Little Gem at just 7 x 5 in (17.8 x 12.7 cm), which I blogged about recently.

It's today's image, which was painted from a reference photo taken on vacation (holiday) on the Texas coast a few years ago. I attempted to catch the hazy, hot sunshine beating down at midday

Hope you like it. It reminds me of summer and one way to cool off. Especially in this heat.

Tuesday, August 4

To Change and Grow as a Painter

Golden Field
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I believe my recent run with water soluble oils may have run its course for now. For the last 6 months to a year I have been painting almost exclusively with water soluble oil paint.

Prior to that it was mostly acrylics, and before that it was watercolor, and before that it was....

But last week as I was exploring my "new" limited palette of: ultramarine blue, cad. yellow light (and/or pale), alizarin crimson (and or cad red light), burnt umber, and the ubiquitous titanium white, I wanted to to retrieve these acrylic colors from my paint bin.

So I did.

Like old friends who hadn't seen each other in a good while, we made up for lost time. It was good to feel the easy, buttery strokes of acrylic paint with my flats on the canvas panel.

I think I see a pattern here. Artists and painters should not get stale.They need change. They need growth. I'm finding that as I paint with different mediums, I am challenged and learn new ways to deliver the paint.

So when I revert to an old comfortable friend--this time acrylics--my work doesn't look the same as when I painted with it before. It's different and, what do you know, it's better. At least I think so.

Isn't that what all painters want? To change and grow.


Monday, July 27

How to Achieve Color Harmony

A Creek Runs Through It
Oil on Canvas Panel
10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I recently re-discovered how great it is to work with a limited palette. I had totally forgotten because for the past year I have been using the color palettes of several of my favorite painters almost exclusively. But I was having trouble deciding on a single palette and so began eliminating paint colors.

It's not that these artists' palettes included so many colors. I didn't count, but I don't think any one of them had more than nine or ten paint colors. Their palettes usually had no more than a couple of blues, yellows, and reds with maybe a burnt and/or a raw sienna, an orange (maybe) and white, of course. I guess to some that would be a limited palette.

But I'm talking about a palette with only five colors: cad yellow light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, burnt umber, and white. You can also mix all the secondary greens, oranges, and purples with these. The burnt umber is used for mixing darks and for some neutralizing.

You can mix almost any color you see with just these five colors. The only colors you can't mix are the exceptionally bright, high chroma ones, such as magenta/opera rose, pthalo/electric blue, and bright greens. But if you're painting with the colors just mentioned, your paintings don't and won't look natural anyway.

Today's image was painted with these five colors, and I had forgotten how easy it is to mix so many different colors. For one thing, it's so easy to remember how to mix a color because there are so few to choose--not a lot of recipes or charts to remember and follow.

But best of all, you get instant color HARMONY, and that's no small thing--many painters try for years and never achieve it!

Tuesday, July 21

Painting Little Gems

House at Canyon Lake
Oil on Canvas Panel
5 x 7 in/12.7 x 17.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
If you are a painter, I'm sure you probably already know what the headline of today's blog is about.

If you're not a painter, well, Little Gems refers to the size of certain paintings, that is, smaller ones.

I don't think there's really a definition for what size a Little Gem must be, but in my mind it's any painting that is 5 x 7 inches/12.7 x 17.8 cm. or smaller.

That's small for a painting.

What I like about that size is that it makes you, as the painter, really have to simplify your subject and composition. There's not a lot of space for a lot of details, and that's the point as I see it.

Of course, there are those fine, representational painters who will paint any and everything near photorealistically and put in every line, hair, leaf, and/or eyelash.

But I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about alla prima painting, which, as you may know, is from Italian meaning all at once. And that's how I paint Little Gems--all at once and quickly.

After you have your support and paint laid out, just squint and go for it--paint small, fast, and impresssionistically. It goes with using flat brushes that seem too large for this scale of painting. But remember what I said, there's no time for details.

A lot of plein aire painters paint this way, so I hope you can appreciate my enthusiasm for painting Little Gems and paint a few yourself.

Tuesday, July 14

Painting on Burlap Panel?

The Old Garage Out Back
Acrylic on Burlap Panel
10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright 2015 Byrne Smith
Have you tried painting on burlap panel? I had not; however, a few weeks ago at a local arts and crafts store, which shall remain nameless, I happened to see some. They were displayed along with all the other canvas panels, stretched canvases, and hardboards.

They stood out because of their color, not white, but raw-sienna burlap color.

If some don't know what burlap is, I'm not surprised, because you don't really think of it as a support for a painting. If you don't know, according to Wikipedia, burlap is:  "Hessian /ˈhɛsi.ən/, or burlap in the US and Canada, is a woven fabric usually made from skin of the jute plant or sisal fibres, or may be combined with other vegetable fibres to make rope, nets, and similar products."

The reason I was interested in trying it was because I have been wanting to paint on a more textured surface. I usually paint on canvas panel, which has a relatively smooth surface, and I wanted to try a more textured woven material to get a softer look.

Just so you know, I decided to use my acrylic paints rather than my oils since this was an experiment.

I'm not sure burlap is the answer, It is very coarse. Let me repeat: it is very coarse. Even though I had enough sense to apply two coats of gesso, it still soaked up the paint like a sponge.

Also, it took a lot of scrubbing brushstrokes to fill in all the crevasses in the weave. I would have used up a lot of oil paint, had I been painting with it. 

What I do like about it is that it is very easy to get that soft-edged, impressionistic look and feel due to the very coarse weave--it almost looks pixelated as in digital photo.I'm not sure that's enough to recommend it, but please let me know what you think if you've tried it.

I'm thinking I will try out a coarser cotton stretched canvas or panel next time.

Happy Painting. 

Tuesday, July 7

Have You Figured Out Your Style Yet?

It's In the Clouds
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I was thinking about what my style of painting is while going through a batch of recent paintings that are sitting around the studio waiting to be 100 percent dry. Actually, I should say 100 percent oxidized because that's what oil paint does, rather than "dry."

Anyway, I was happy to see a likeness of style in most of my work. It's not something I have been trying to come up with, and from what I've read, that's exactly how one's style happens.

That is, it's supposed to evolve rather than be something you force. If that's the case, I think I'm on my way to having a style.

I'm not an expert on style, but if you look at a lot of paintings you know it when you see it. It's when you see a painting and can say, "that's a Degas," or Klimmt or Warhol or whomever. Of course, all the famous masters both old and contemporary have a unique style--that's why they're famous, and we see their work in museums and galleries around the world.

I believe my style has to do with painting natural settings, lost and found edges, light, warm and cool primaries and secondaries, and a look of representational impressionism.

At least that's what I figured out so far. Happy painting.  

Monday, June 29

A Discovery with Water-Soluble Oils

My Picnic Spot
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I made a painting discovery a few weeks ago when I was painting today's image.

I began painting with water-soluble oil paints last year, and I have pretty much switched from acrylic, although I will still  bring out my acrylic palette every now and then.

Not having painted much at all with regular oils because of their odor and the need to use and clean up with pungent spirits, I took to water-solubles and have not looked back.

In the beginning I didn't want to use mediums and oils specifically made for water-solubles. Instead I stuck with plain old water as a medium for thinning the paint, but the water and paint don't mix easily or quickly.

I found that some brands were stiffer and required more water than others to get the consistency of paint I wanted. Also, it seems all titanium whites, no matter what the brand, require some thinning.

Just so you know, I have tried Artisan, Woil, Grumbacher, and Lukas brands. They all are acceptable, but none is as "buttery" as I would like (or think I would like). Eventually I will get around to trying Cobra, Holbein, and whatever else is out there

However, back to the topic of today's blog. What I discovered is that I should have been applying a drop of water-soluble linseed oil or stand oil to my mixing palette. I thought my adding oil would make the paint too thin, so that it would not hold a peak. I was wrong; I found that a drop or two is fine.

What a difference it makes! The paint is so easy to spread and my brush virtually flies around the palette. I  feel a freedom to try brushstrokes and techniques I wouldn't attempt with a stiffer paint.

Of course, it does slow the drying time, but you can't have everything in a perfect painting world. Try it, you may like it.

Monday, June 22

Summertime and the Painting Is Easy

The Summer Cove
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Today being the first full day of summer in the northern hemisphere, I wanted to blog about that.

Now is the time to get out and capture all those motifs in the countryside, the cities, or the seasides you visit or plan to visit on your vacation (holiday). Or you can paint them right there en plein aire if you take along your pochades, easels, and supplies.

Since there's more light and longer days (in the northern hemisphere), take advantage of the warm weather and longer painting time. You'll wish you had come this December.

Summer is the time for painting the sunlight and putting in all that chroma that is illuminated by the light this time of year.

Painting today's image from a reference photo was a lot of fun. I painted the strong sunlight coming from the right  and falling on the water, the mountain, and the beach.

Two things were especially fun for me to paint. One was seeing and then mixing the correct shades of blue corresponding to the various depths of water in the cove. There really are beautiful beaches like this all over the world.

The second was including the house in the lower right with its pop of orange on the tile roof. Note that although it's not the focal point, as would be expected, it leads the viewer's eye to the actual focal point which is the bright, sandy beach on the right.

I hope my blogging inspires you to get out of the studio this summer and have some fun when the painting is easy.