Friday, February 17

Keep Warm with a Painting

Sand 'N Sea
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
10 x 8 in/25.5 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
Can't think of a better way to help keep warm in the middle of winter than to paint a warm-weather motif. I painted this beach scene to warm up--just thinking about the sun and sand while I painted took the chill away.

Try it and let it warm you up...

Best,

Monday, January 30

Paint a Freebrush* Watercolor

Kitty Cats
Watercolor on Paper (framed)
7 x 5 in/18 x 13 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
Today's blog is a follow-on to one posted right after the holidays; that is, painting a family member's pet (or pets) using freebrush,

In case you missed that one, *freebrush is simply using your brush in the same way an artist uses a pencil, pen, or whatever, to draw freehand. Rather than first sketching or drawing (or transferring, or projecting) an image, you simply begin to paint after very carefully and thoughtfully looking at and evaluating your motif.

Just so you know, Kitty Cats was painted from a combination of reference photos.

Does freebrush sound daunting? Well, it can be, especially at first. But as I said, with experience comes control. I hope you find a looseness and freedom in painting this way that you haven't experienced before.

Best,

Saturday, January 14

A Degas Exhibition

Part of the Exhibition was
L'Absinthe by Edgar Degas--
 its original title was Dans un CafĂ©
I am so lucky.

So lucky last week to have visited the largest Edgar Degas exhibit in 30 years and the only showing of Degas: A New Vision in the U.S.

So lucky to have the Museum of Fine Arts Houston relatively nearby--only a few freeways away--with its generous funding and a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts.

What a surprising and excellent exhibit of Edgar Degas' works of a lifetime. Although most of us probably only think of Degas primarily as a painter in pastel (and a few oils) of ballerinas as they rehearse and perform their ballets, his body of work encompassed much more than that.

The exhibit presented his work chronologically; that is, from his beginning historical painting in the 1850s-60s to landscapes, racehorses, brothel scenes and New Orleans in the 1870s to his ballets and theaters in the 1870s-80s to his working women in the 1880s to his final years painting jockeys and more landscapes.

What was surprising, to me anyway, was that he also produced his one and only famous sculpture, The Little Fourteen-Year-Dancer, which was prominently on display. Also surprising at the end of his career was his artistic work in the new medium of photography, which showed many of his cropping techniques from his ballet dancer paintings.

So lucky to have seen the beautiful exhibit before its close on January 16. Hope someday you will be so lucky and see his work up close, too.

Monday, January 2

Learn to Paint Freebrush*

An Example of Painting Freebrush - Three Plums
Watercolor on Strathmore Watercolor Paper
12 x 9 in/30.5 x 23 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith
Well, it's a new year. Time for  new starts and trying out new things and expanding your horizons and all that.

Painters really need to do those things from time to time to get out of the painting doldrums. We tend to get stuck in our well-worn ruts and caught up in our same ol' ways of doing things. We forget that creativity is the exploring of the fresh and the new.

In that context, I propose a "new way" to paint or at least it may be new to a lot of painters. I decided to call this "new way"--freebrush, for lack of a better term, although it's probably not "new" or a "way."

Be that as it may, * freebrush is--painting much the same way as an artist draws freehand. That is, you just paint with a paintbrush rather than draw with a pencil or pen or charcoal or marker or whatever you use. You don't first sketch, or outline, or trace, or project what you're going to paint.

You just freebrush. You look very carefully and thoughtfully at what you're going to paint. You find a starting point, any old place will do, but I suggest the focal point. You pick up your brush and carefully deliver your stroke in just the right place--lay it down and then DON'T MESS WITH IT. You do that over and over until you believe the painting is finished (a subject of another whole blog).

I did not say it was easy. I said it may be a "new way" to paint for some. If you can draw, you can freebrush, and, conversely, if you can't, you're going to have a heck of a time of it. I think most painters would say that good painting begins with good drawing.

Today's simple painting of three plums may give you a place to start. Simple subject, simple background (and foreground), simple setup. This is watercolor, but any medium will do. I used just two colors, French ultramarine and alizarin crimson (hue). Just look and then freebrush it.

With experience comes control. You may find, as I did, that it's hard to go back to painting the "old way" because I feel like I was just painting within the lines. This reduces some of that rigidness and lets you paint freely (or more freely).

But to bring this full circle, learning how to draw and/or freebrush in the new year should get you out of those painting doldrums if nothing else.

Happy New Year from The Painting Life.


Tuesday, December 20

Paint a Pet! Happy Holidays from The Painting Life

Boston Terrier
Watercolor on Arches Paper
5 x 7 in/12.7 x 17.7 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
Well, I've been busy this past month. I decided I would concentrate on learning how to paint portraits. I must tell you that there are few things in painting (or in life) more challenging than portraits. It tests all of your skills as an artist, a painter, and more.

I'm sure I would find studying under a contemporary, professional portrait painter to be the most rewarding. That's not really my style. I'm more of the self-taught type. So that's what I did. I searched and researched online and on YouTube and found sites with John Singer Sargent, Aaron Westerberg, Ben Lustenhouwer, Matt Philleo, Konstatin Sterkhov, to name a few, and others.

I'm still learning and not ready to debut any work. You may have noticed one portrait I worked on, which was in my last blog post. It was a watercolor portrait of a young Claude Monet from an 1865 photo by Carjat. What fun to paint.

Since it's the holiday season and a time for gift-giving, I guess you could say I painted a portrait, of sorts--a portrait of a family member's pet. I think it makes a great personal gift and one that will hopefully be loved by the recipient for years.

Happy Holidays from The Painting Life!

Thursday, November 10

Happy Birthday Claude Monet

Young Monet from 1865 Carjat Photo
Watercolor on Paper
9 x 12 in/22.6 x 30.4 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016 
In honor of what would have been Claude Oscar Monet's 176th birthday on November 14, I painted a watercolor portrait of a young Monet from an Etienne Carjat photograph, circa 1865.

Happy Birthday, Claude, the Master.

Tuesday, October 18

Acrylic Still Life

Eggs, Orange, and Pear
Acrylic on Watercolor Paper
12 x 6 in/30.48 x 15.24 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
I'm having fun doing exactly what, when, and how I want to do it--paint, that is. Just think about that.

There aren't too many things in life about which you can say that. What a privilege. What freedom.

Today's image is just a simple still life in acrylic on watercolor paper. Say what you will about the rather bland composition, I will make the case that it's a study in light direction and reflected light and shadows and cast shadows.

You should do simple paintings like this between your larger and longer projects just to keep your skills in tip-top shape.

I hope you are able to say the same thing as above about your own painting and that you're having fun, to boot.

Best.

Monday, October 10

Acrylic Landscape

Sailing Near Rockport
Acrylic on Watercolor Paper
 12 x 6 in/ 30.48 x 15.24 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
Today's blog is simply to post my latest acrylic landscape.

I have a pad of Strathmore 140-lb. watercolor paper with the dimensions of 12 in x 6 in (30.48 cm x 15.24 cm). I use this paper size almost exclusively for my smaller landscapes. It's the perfect shape for landscapes, especially the ones I like to paint with broad vistas and long horizon lines.

Watercolor paper makes a good support for using acrylic as if it were watercolor, in my opinion. When you thin down the paint with either water or medium, it's very similar to watercolor because it flows and diffuses in a similar manner.

I like to say you get almost all the great effects of watercolor with acrylic but without all the tedious "rules," and you can make corrections!

I hope you enjoy my painting.

Friday, September 16

Paint Enthusiastically!

Sandy Beach
Acrylic on Watercolor Paper
12 x 6 in/ 30.5 x 15.2 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
I added an exclamation point to the headline of today's blog because that's what being enthusiastic should be about for painters--make them exclaim and be excited.

Look at it this way, if you're not enthused by what you're painting, certainly no one else will be either.

How does a painter paint enthusiastically?

I can only tell you how I do it. I aim to put myself right there in the moment of the scene I'm painting. That doesn't mean I actually paint myself into the scene; that is, I don't paint a person who looks like me onto the canvas or paper. No.

But it does mean I mentally imagine myself in the actual ambiance or action or stillness of the moment. I like to think I can look around or walk around in the scene and make observations about light and value and color.

Doing that makes me want to paint to my very best ability, and that's how you paint enthusiastically!

 

Thursday, September 8

Great Painters Paint Great Edges

The Cove
Acrylic on Arches Paper
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
The headline of today's post says it all. Great painters paint great edges.

What is a great edge? Well, it's not just one edge in a painting. It's all the edges in the composition and how they relate not only to each other but also to the motif in total.

Edges can move the viewer around and through a painting.

Edges can emphasize or de-emphasize an element as well as the focal point.

Edges can help set the mood of a painting.

Edges attract attention (or not).

Edges are important.

Which painters paint great edges, in my humble opinion? Claude Monet, John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper, Qiang Huang, Mark Boedges, Colley Whisson, Colin Page, Mary Whyte, and Hsin-Yoa Tseng, just to name a few.

Great painters paint great edges.

Cheers