Thursday, February 11

Reasons to Paint Large

Beautiful Coast
Acrylic on Canvas
48 x 36 in/121.9 x 91.4 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
I recently completed a large painting or what for me was a large painting. It is 4 ft. wide by 3 ft. deep (121.9 x 91.4 cm.). It may be the largest painting I've ever done. Why did I paint such a large painting?

I like to think I'm a practical person as well as painter, so the reasons were practical.

First, I had this large stretched canvas that I have been moving around my studio and house for the last four years. I don't remember why I bought such a large canvas or what I planned to paint on it. However, its wrapping had become tattered, and I was afraid it would get damaged sitting around on the floor even though I tried to take care.

Second, I had a very nice reference photo taken by a family member of a panoramic landscape along the Southern California coast. In my mind's eye, a painting of this view would require a large format to help showcase the broad view and high sky.

Thirdly, I had plenty of acrylic paint in my palette colors on hand that would be needed to cover the 12 sq. ft. of canvas.

Finally, I have blogged about large paintings before and decided to take my own advice. Here are links to those blogs:  9 Tips for Painting a Large Canvas (with Acrylics) and Where and How to Hang Large Paintings.

So, as you can see I had good reasons to paint large, and it was about time I did!

Thursday, February 4

That's How We Learn with Paint

Pears in the Light
Acrylic on Watercolor Paper
8 x 5 in/20.3 x 12.7
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
As I mentioned before, an old artist friend used to remind us painters to try new techniques or paints or tools or brushstrokes, and always ended with, "That's how we learn."

That is how we learn as painters; otherwise, you may get caught in what feels like a circular room with no doors (or windows). What I mean is, you keep going around and around, but can never break out.

We should try things that may not always seem logical or conventional, and may even be considered just  "wrong" by many painters.

Well, I say if you're painting like most painters, you're not doing it right. That is, you're just trying to paint like others, and you're not finding your own way to paint.

I do agree that to improve it's perfectly OK to find a mentor painter and study how he or she paints the way they do. But at some point you have to make it your own.

I painted today's image with water-y acrylic on (gasp) watercolor paper. Watercolor and acrylic painters are probably rolling their eyes.

But if you never try something different, you may be missing an opportunity to find a new, painterly way to express yourself.

After all, that's how we learn.

Wednesday, January 27

Taking a Watercolor Break

Watercolor on Paper
9 x 7 in/ 22.9 x 17.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith
I hope your painting life is going well so far in the new year.

I finally discovered what I've been doing this whole month of January. I've been taking a watercolor break. It wasn't until this week as I looked back that I realized I have not painted anything except watercolor beginning January 4th or 5th.

I evidently needed a break from my (water-soluble) oil and acrylic landscapes from 2015. I haven't painted with watercolor since way back sometime in 2014. I'm so glad I did.

It let me re-discover not only the beautiful work one can muster but also the quirky ways you have to work in the medium--light to dark, correct amount of water, and those edges...

It also gave my mind and my mind's eye a needed respite from the other mediums and landscapes. I do hope that although I was taking a break that the artistic wheels in my brain continued to spin. If so, when I do resume with acrylics and oils, I'll be even better and ready to roll.

Let's see what February 1 will bring.

Wednesday, January 20

Ah, Watercolor!

An Apple
Watercolor on Paper
6 x6 in/15.2 x 15.2 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
Ah, put painting (and life) in perspective.

You're so fickle. You're so capricious.  You make us want to scream bloody murder and break our paintbrushes over our knees as golfers do their clubs.

You tease us with your transparent beauty and mesmerizing colors.

We try, try, and try again to control you, to little or no avail.

And yet, we keep coming back for more as if to say, "You can't do this to me. I'm better than that."

One thing is crystal clear, absolutely nothing tests our patience more or makes us feel as powerless as you do.

Watercolor, taming you is a lifelong quest.

Tuesday, January 12

How to Keep Your Painting Vibrant

Reflecting the Light
Watercolor on Paper
 8.5 x 5.5 in/21.6 x 14 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
Has this happened to you as a painter? That is, you look at the paintings you've completed over the last several weeks/months/seasons (pick one), and all you can say is "Meh."

Well, me too. Sad, but true, all painters go through this. It seems to happen at the beginning of the year. I'm sure it has to do with the calendar page turning to January and feeling I should be showing some signs of progress and moving on.

Why is this? I came up with the following.

- Fear of (trying) something new--this is known a neophobia or cainophobia (drop that into the conversation at your next cocktail party)

- Boredom with your medium

- Boredom with your motifs/subjects

- Insecurity with your ability to paint (happens when you constantly compare yourself to other painters)

So, what to do?

To keep your painting vibrant, I heartily recommend:

- Overcome your neophobia by being open to change; quickly rip off the bandage that's holding you back and walk in the sunshine (you must and you will).

- Select a new or different medium and use it to paint your very next painting; I recently started painting with watercolors again.

- Paint something--anything--that you never or almost never paint; I am going to do several watercolors this month, which is a change for me.

- Embrace your own personal painting style and quit wishing your painting life away by fawning over other painters' work; a lot of painting and time are the only things that will move you to the place you want to be.

That's how to keep your painting vibrant.

Wednesday, January 6

Happy New Painting Year

Ripe on the Stem
Watercolor on Paper
12 x 9 in/30.5 x 22.9 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
I wanted to start off 2016 with something different, it being a time for new starts and all that.

That's why I decided to pull out my watercolor paints, which I haven't used since at least sometime in 2014 (I think). Not sure why except that it seemed like time to paint with them again.

I spent all of 2015 with my water-soluble oils and my acrylics, both of which I am very fond and both of which I am very comfortable.

And yet, I do remember the several years I spent painting almost exclusively with watercolor. Like riding that proverbial bicycle, you never really forget how. You just need to dust off the cobwebs and give it another go.

One of my favorite things to paint (and to eat) is chile peppers. So I did!

I immediately remembered how fresh and bright watercolors are. And how they give you a feeling of freedom because you can paint so much with so little effort and with big brushstrokes. Of course, there are a few things you have to remember with watercolor, like you can't paint lights over darks, you have to be careful with edges, and to leave bare paper for any highlights.

I enjoyed it, time well spent. I just may do more watercolors this year. Oh, and Happy New Year to all.

Wednesday, December 30

End of Year Painting

San Antonio River at S. Alamo
Oil on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/ 50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
With so much going on this time of year, my painting usually stops on or about December 21. That was the case this year.

I last painted on December 23. Due to the location of my studio, I had to pack up my paints and supplies and put them away for another day.

It's not that I haven't been thinking about painting, I have. I thought about painting as I thumbed through several great art books I received as gifts. I'll tell you about them in a future blog.

I completed the painting of today's image on the 23rd. I actually worked on it at two separate times. It's from a reference photo I took on a recent visit to the location. I first painted it in October, but wasn't satisfied, and so, put it away.

The original photo was taken during the "golden hour" around 5:00 p.m. in September. Because the sun was beginning to set, there was strong horizontal light from the right. That made the trees on the left appear too bright (in the photo)--as in the color of Cad Yellow Light--so that's the way I originally painted it.

As I said, however, I wasn't satisfied, and it took me a couple of months to figure out what the problem was. The trees in the photo had too much chroma. I toned them down to more natural-looking greens, even though that's not the way they actually looked.

Anyway, I finally finished it and gave it away as a gift, but only after I was happy with the results.

A painting isn't finished until the painter says it is.

Tuesday, December 22

Season's Greetings 2015

Foothill Snowfall
Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
30 in x 24/76.2 x 61 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Last blog I mentioned that a painting is a painter's gift to the world. In the spirit of the season, here is mine.

Painting landscapes is my favorite motif, and so, I wanted to share. This one was a lot of fun because I used my acrylics and felt free to use all the paint I wanted on this rather large (for me) painting--30 x 24 in/76.2 x 61cm.

Just so you know, I reworked this several times, adding a foreground as well as a background that are not in the original photo reference. That is, I added the hillock with Russian thistle in the foreground and a  snow-covered mountain range in the distance. Otherwise, the composition was (and still is) not the best, but I feel the changes added some much-needed depth.

I hope this comes as a reminder for all painters to use their artistic licenses, for which they worked very hard, whenever necessary.

No matter in what part of the world or in whatever climate you reside, greet the season painterly!

Thursday, December 17

Painting Is Personal

Acrylic on Canvas Panel
 7 x 5 in/17.8 x 12.7 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Few activities in life are as personal to an individual as painting. Artists and painters allow their inner-most creativity to be outwardly viewable.

If that's not personal, I don't know what is.

Painting is usually a singular and solitary event accomplished by one's own self. Of course, there have been painters who paint alongside one another (you may have seen Joseph Zbukvic, Alvaro Castagnet, and Herman Pekel--the Three Amigos--painting together in Paris on YouTube), but usually not.

Not only do painters allow viewers inside their creative thinking to see their skills in composition, color, and value, they also invite them into their personal world, if only for a few moments when they look at a painting. What a privilege.

A personal painting is a gift from the artist to the world and should be treated as such.  

Wednesday, December 9

Homage to Monet

Homage to Monet
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.6 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Claude Oscar Monet was born November 14, 1840. This year is the 175th anniversary of his birth. I was going to honor the occasion with a blog post last month, but there was so much happening in the world on that day that I decided to postpone it until now.

Monet being the heart and soul of the Impressionists era, his place in art history is secure. I wonder if all, or any, of the subsequent painting eras would have taken place as they did without that historic movement. Doubtful.

I am a big fan and so wanted to pay homage to him with a painting of one of his favorite subjects to paint, water lilies.

I hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I enjoyed painting it, and that it inspires you to paint at least one painting to remember Monet.