Monday, April 27

Discover New Painting Supports

Bluebonnet Time
Oil on Foamcore
8 x 8 in/20.3 x20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
So you know, I'm talking today about painting on something different than the usual canvas, linen, wood, or paper and not about how many (or few) compliments you're getting on your work!

Why?, you may ask.

Well, it's all about trying out new and different ways to paint. As I've said before, if painters didn't try new things, we'd still be using charcoal and berry juice to paint on cave walls.

What got me interested was an article in a recent issue of International Artist magazine about an Australian painter named John Lovett who paints on large sheets of aluminum composite panel because it can be large, rigid, but is also lightweight. I had never heard of it, but the article said it's two thin sheets of aluminum with polypropylene in between. I discovered online that it's used in architecture and also in signage, such as large outdoor advertising.

I was interested in trying it out, but it seems to be difficult to find and to buy unless you are in the trade; that is, I couldn't find any retail outlets (or online) that sell direct.

But that got me to thinking about gator board and also foamcore, which I happened to have on hand and is readily available from art supply or craft stores. What I had was a sheet of the black foamcore, which I use as backing to frame a painting.

 I had previously tried painting on the white foamcore, but found when I applied gesso, the clay-coat paper laminate caused the foamcore to warp, even when I applied it on both sides.

However, I noticed the black foamcore did not appear to have the clay-coat paper laminate. I applied a thin coat of gesso to one side, and it warped. But, when I applied a thin coat to the other side, and let it dry, it reverted to its original flat state. Great!

Now the test. How will foamcore react to paint, in this case water-soluble oil? I painted a quick landscape of ubiquitous Texas bluebonnets in Spring on an 8 x 8-inch piece. I didn't use any water or medium with the paint. I'm happy to report it was a success, at least in my opinion. The paint flowed on smoothly, and the random texture of the underlying gesso gave it a canvas-like appearance.

I suppose there's no way to know how foamcore will hold up as a support except to give it time. I don't think, however, that wood and canvas are the absolutely only material that stand the test of time. Look at all the paintings and drawings done on paper that are well over 150 years old--I rest my case.

Try new techniques and tools and see what you discover with your painting.

Monday, April 20

Green Is Not the Painter's Horror Color

Spring Green
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
When I hear about green being a horror color for painters, I always think that's funny. Funny because there really are no horror colors, only inexperienced painters (I was going to say bad, but decided better not to).

Not sure what it is about green that a lot of painters hate and shy away from. You'd almost think it was criminal to paint with green, either mixed or especially straight from the tube.

To hear them, you'd think green was not a natural color, you know, as in nature.

I'm not sure in what part of the world those painters live, but it surely must be dry, barren, lifeless, and colorless.

I happen to reside in a relatively warm and humid area not that far away from a coastline, as I'm sure many other painters do as well. I am here to tell you there are a lot of really green greens all around, including forests, prairies, creeks, and beaches. That is especially so in the spring and summer--paint green in all its brightness and green-ness!

Green does not have to be subdued or neutralized on the palette or canvas to look real. If you want green to look real, paint it the way it actually looks and the color it actually is.

Green is not the painter's horror color.

Monday, April 13

Fresh Eyes and Time Can Save a Painting

Azalea Trail
Oil on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I cannot speak for other painters, but for me, there comes a time when I can get discouraged with the painting I'm working on. I can't really explain it, and it doesn't happen with every painting, thank goodness.

But when it does, I begin to realize there's a problem, and for a while, I keep on painting, but it just gets worse. I call it the ugly duckling phase of the painting--that time after block-in when it just looks terrible and you think, this will never work

It can also be caused when you make a mistake with composition, value, color, or whatever, from which there seems to be no recovery.

 I have learned over the years not to fight it. I have learned to give up for a while, to let it go for a while, let the painting rest. I put it away, out of sight for some period of time. At some point I pick it up again and see if it is salvageable. Sometimes it's not, but most often it is.

That was the case with today's image. I had painted about three-quarters of it when I realized there was a problem with the composition--large dark trees I had painted on the right side in the middle-ground were all wrong and causing the painting to fail.

I scraped away my work, but wasn't sure what to do. I started to discard it, but then remembered I should let it rest. I put it in a recycling bin in my garage facing a wall and forgot about it for two-and-a-half weeks. When I looked at it again, I immediately knew what to do. I painted the trees on the right in the background rather than the mid-ground and fixed the problem.

Then I finished the painting. Fresh eyes and time was all it took.

Monday, April 6

For a Change Paint a Still Life

Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
If you're at all aware of my work, then you know I paint a lot of landscapes, some with structures in the composition, along with the occasional seascape. I'm not much into still lifes.

However, that doesn't mean I don't admire those painters who create them or that I don't like them. I do. It's an art in itself to design a pleasing setting for a still life and even more fun to paint one. Also, changing things up a bit by painting subjects you don't usually paint is highly recommended and may give you a much-needed fresh perspective.

I will admit I didn't design today's image--it's from a reference photo--but I did have fun painting it. It was a refreshing change and makes me want to paint more of them.

Monday, March 30

What Makes a Painter Happy?

Spring Storm
Oil on Canvas
9 x 12 in/22.9 x 30.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Happiness, as we all know, is a state--one in which many of us would probably like to live, at least much of the time. When you are happy, you paint better, and when a painter paints better, life is better.

That said, I think painters are happy when (in no particular order):

- their drawing skills improve

- they feel their latest painting is one of the best they have done

- they find their own style

- mixing paint is a natural and beautiful experience

- they learn something new about painting

- they can't wait to start painting

- their painting is "liked," "favorited," "pinned," and/or "re-tweeted" on social media (even introverts)

Finally, I think a painter is happiest simply when he or she is happy about their painting.

I'm sure you have other ideas on what makes a painter happy, so please feel free to comment.

Monday, March 23

Spring -- A Great Time to Be a Painter

Springtime on the Plains
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Spring has sprung as of last Friday. As a painter, it's about time. Although I like the colors of fall and the moody winter grays and blue-violets appearing in the frail northern light, I think spring is a finer season for painting.

For one thing, there's more light, and light to a painter is like fuel for your car--hard to get going without it. Not only is the light brighter and the angle of light higher in the sky, you also have more hours in which to create and to paint.

For another, there is more chroma. Everything is either budding out or blooming. With the added light, it means brighter, more intense colors. Those bright, unrealistic-looking greens are actually real, so paint them that way. And there are flowers in every color of the rainbow. More chroma everywhere.

Finally, the weather warms up in spring and we are able to either get out and take photos all over the place or travel around and paint en plein air (before it gets too hot). Either way, it's a winning combination.

Today's image is a view of rolling plains bursting out in new springtime-green growth. It's a great time to be a painter

Monday, March 16

Three Tips from a Frugal Painter

Approaching Alamogordo
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/ 27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I don't use a whole lot of expensive painting supplies or materials recommended by all manufacturers and retailers and by many painters. I am a frugal painter.

For acrylic and oil, rather than buying glass, wooden, plastic, or even paper palettes on which to mix paint, I use individual (12 x 10 3/4 in/30.5 x 27.3 cm) sheets of dry wax paper, also know as deli wrap. It comes in surprisingly small boxes of 500 sheets, and you can get it at the grocery and big-box bulk stores. I put a sheet in a plastic tray, and the paint will not penetrate the sheet even when mixed. It's cost-saving, and you throw it away when done. Works great.

Also for acrylic and oil, I buy inexpensive hog-bristle brushes in all sizes from No. 2 to 2 inches. Some painters say you shouldn't use natural-hair brushes because they absorb paint. However, I like the natural brushes because of the way I paint. I scrape and scrub with my brushes a lot of the time, and the natural-hair naturally is stiffer, which I like. That and that they're inexpensive--I go through a lot of them every year. I rarely paint with synthetic brushes; too soft for my taste, although I do use a rigger for occasional detail work.

Lastly, I buy all (OK, almost all) of my supplies and material--paint, brushes, canvas, mediums, easels, etc.--either when they are on sale or by using the manufacturer's or retailer's XX-percent-off-any-one-item coupon both online and at a real store.

However, I do buy "pretty good" quality paint. I don't buy the most expensive paint, which is supposed to be "the best" because of the pigment load. It may have the most pigment, but that doesn't mean it's "the best" (in my opinion), only that it's the most expensive. I cannot really tell the difference in my paintings done with "the best" paint and my paintings done with "pretty good" quality paint.

If you, too, are a frugal painter, remember it's NOT the same thing as being a cheap painter.

Monday, March 9

Paint the Way That's Best for YOU

Hillside, Ocean View
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I have blogged about this subject before, that is, painting the way that's best for you, and I was recently reminded why it's still an important thing to remember. You find out what's best for you basically by trial and error and intuition. 

Why is this important? Because it's the way you develop both your own personal techniques and style.

You may not be painting the way that works best for you because you're doing any or all of the following, as I was:

- too much reading in books and online about how other painters paint

- too much watching how other painters paint on You Tube

- only using the palettes specified by particular painters

- using only brands of paint, brushes, or supports specified by particular painters

I recently remembered I need to paint the way that's best for me when trying to paint using only a limited palette of cad yellow light, cad red light, French ultramarine blue, and titanium white as specified by a well-known painter who shall remain nameless.

Painting today's image, I couldn't mix what I consider the correct colors using this limited palette. Of course, the nameless painter is way more experienced than I at mixing limited colors. However, instead of continuing to become frustrated, I added yellow ochre and burnt sienna to my palette and I was able to create the colors and the painting the way that works best for ME.

Monday, March 2

The Things That Matter in a Painting

Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in /27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I hope the headline of today's blog intrigued you enough to open it and that you keep reading; that, after all, is the thing that matters in a blog.

However, I'm talking about paintings not blogs, and it may surprise you that not all the things that matter have to do with artistic ability in my humble opinion.

I think the thing that matters most in a painting is how it's received, or should I say perceived, by the viewer. Being human, we are all different and so are our reactions to art. If there's no reception/perception/reaction, then it's rather like the sound of a tree falling with no one around to hear it, wouldn't you agree?

Besides that, there's also the style of the painting that matters. If you like the old master's paintings, then you are not likely to be a collector of Andy Warhol's work, although you may have admired his gumption in putting it out there.

The mood also is near the top of this list. A watercolor of kittens playing with a ball of yarn in the morning light puts out a much different vibe than Mark Rothko's paintings, especially the ones hanging here locally at the Rothko Chapel.

OK, I will include artistic ability but with a caveat. That caveat is that it's nearly impossible to define artistic ability. "Good" artistic ability to you is probably not the same as the person standing next to you at the museum. To prove my point, just compare the portraits of John Singer Sargent and Pablo Picasso.

That gets back to reception/perception/reaction, so, you see, we have come full circle.

Tuesday, February 24

Paint Sunshine to Brighten Your Day

Oh, Happy Day
Oil on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I decided to brighten my day by painting some sunshine in  a sunny landscape. As I mentioned a few blogs ago, the weather does affect what I paint, and I needed some sunshine going into late winter.

I like painting vistas like this one. It's got all the things you need for a summer day: sunshine, green grass, shade, and distant hills to provide respite from the heat.

I used my trusty water-mixable oils for this one, with my palette of ultramarine blue, cad yellow light, cad red light, pthalo green/blue shade (a touch in the sky), burnt sienna (a touch in the clouds), yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, and, of course, titanium white.

You know how to paint sunshine, right? It's an illusion (like smoke and mirrors), and it's all done with shadows. I use the red/green combo for shadows, either burnt sienna and/or alizarin crimson with pthalo green, Remember, the darker the shadows, the brighter the sunshine.

I hope this brightens your day, too, if you're getting a little tired of winter.