Tuesday, December 16

A Quick Test Blog

Test Image
Today's blog is just a quick test to find out if I have been able to fix a problem I've had (forever) with Blogger. Blogger thinks I am a No Reply Blogger rather than who I am. It's not a big problem, other than when I make replies on Blogger I'm seen as No Reply Blogger. Also, in the Reading List of those who follow my blog, I also show up as No Reply Blogger and a thumbnail image from my blog never shows up. As I said, not a big deal, but annoying all the same.

I recently tried a solution I found online and want to see if it actually fixed the problem. I'll let you know whether or not it did in next week's post.


Monday, December 15

Tales from the Palette: Mixing the Color Blue-Violet

Old Man River
Acrylic on Paper
9 x 12 in/22.9 x 30.5 cm
It's been a while since I've done a Tales from the Palette blog. The other two were: mixing the color turquoise and mixing the color beige/tan. I like to pass along what I've learned about mixing paint colors that are, for me anyway, somewhat troublesome, which is why I refer to it as Tales from the Palette.

It sounds ridiculously simple. If you ask any painter, they'll tell you, just mix blue and red; it's right there on the color wheel at about 10:00 o'clock.

OK, I'm not talking about plain-old violet (which Wikipedia says is halfway between blue and magenta on the color wheel). As with many things in life, there are a lot of different shades of this color, just look at what else Wikipedia has to say about it.

No, the color of violet I'm talking about is the blue-violet I strive for when I'm painting landscapes or seascapes or cityscapes or actually any painting in which I want to show the illusion of distance. Most painters know to use more blue when you want things to appear in the distance to simulate the atmosphere.

To help you imagine the color, it's in today's image above. It's that color in the distant ridge where it meets the river between the trees.

Many manufacturers have tried to help by offering colors with names such as light ultramarine blue, light blue violet, violet grey, and several others.

However, I like to call my mixture Vanishing Violet. I mix it with ultramarine blue, a very little alizarin crimson, and titanium white. The trick is to mix those colors in just the right proportions to get the distance that best suits your painting.

I hope you find this helpful as you discover your very own personal "tale from the palette."  

Monday, December 8

When Painting Is Fun

A Fun Day
Watercolor on Paper
9 x 12 in / 22.9 x 30.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
Painting should be fun; otherwise, you're not doing it right. There, I said it.

That may seem like a bold statement to some painters and artistes who take themselves and what they do seriously and probably way too seriously.

Of course, there is a type of artwork whose goal is to agitate or to bring some viewpoint or injustice into focus. There is a time and place for this type of work, too, but painting the work should still be fun for the painter rather than a burden.

Painting does not (have to) equal angst. Why should it?

When painting is fun, most painters are at their best. Spirits are high and creativity is soaring. Their work sings.

When painting is fun, the viewer both sees and feels the joy with which the work was conceived.

When painting is fun, the world is a brighter place.


Monday, December 1

How to Paint Rain (in Acrylic)

Would You Play Misty for Me
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
A slow-moving cool front, bringing with it gray, leaden skies and showers, made me want to blog about painting rain today.

I completed today's image several weeks ago and thought it very appropriate for the subject, how to paint rain. Or, perhaps, I should be more humble and say, how I paint rain (in acrylic).

Here are a few of my unwritten rules for painting rain because as all painters should know, you don't paint by rules:

- Put down an overall wash on the support in a cool neutral tone leaning toward blue.

- Depending on the type of precipitation, thunderstorms or just mist, you have to paint accompanying clouds believably; you can mix ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, and raw sienna in whatever proportion you think is correct for your dark clouds, or you can use your own concoction; add white to that to lighten the skies as needed.

- Since it's overcast when it rains, there are no sharply-defined, contrasting shadows of anything.

- Paint distant or background horizons or objects with no sharp edges; not only are the objects in the distance, they are also obscured by the rain, and the heavier the rain the less distinct the object.

- If you're painting natural ground, as in a landscape, add a few puddles of standing water and paint them lighter than the ground and approximately the same color as the sky so that it looks like the surface of the water reflecting light.

- If you're painting includes man-made objects, such as a road or sidewalk or just about any horizontal surface, you have to show the surface reflecting light; paint broad horizontal strokes, alternating with slight changes in light and dark values (in whatever color).

- Paint the darker reflection or shadow of objects vertically on man-made surfaces, but also add short, broken horizontal strokes the same color as the surrounding surface.

- Paint the lighter reflection of the sky or of any man-made lighting of any color vertically, but add short, broken horizontal strokes the same color as the surrounding surface.

-Depending on how much rain you want to show, it's OK to add various random strokes to the painting of what some painters call "noise," but remember you're painting an illusion of rain not actually painting raindrops.

I'm sure I've left something out, so please feel free to leave a comment.

Also, practice, practice practice....

Thursday, November 27

Happy Thanksgiving

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Watercolor on Paper
9 x 12 in/22.9 x 30.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
Here in Texas we like hot chili peppers on everything, including our turkey and dressing. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, especially the painters, everywhere!

Monday, November 24

Try Watercolor Paper As Your Support

Distant Hills
Acrylic on Watercolor Paper
9 x 12 in/22.9 x 30.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
I don't always paint on canvas (or linen) or on a board. On occasion I paint with acrylics on watercolor paper.

Today's image was one of those occasions. For this painting I used Royal Talens watecolo(u)r paper, 90 lb or 200 gr/m2.  I completed it a couple of weeks ago from a reference photo obtained with permission online. The subject is a hazy landscape somewhere in the mountains. I liked the changes in value from foreground to background, the lost and found edges, and the depth of the receding mountains in the flat light.

When I paint with acrylics on paper I use a little water as a medium to thin the paint, although not so much that the acrylics become like watercolor. No, just enough to help them blend a little better, which is required in a painting like this one. A little water also helps the paper to absorb the paint, which doesn't happen when painting acrylic on canvas or board.

As I've said before, try something different--like acrylics on watercolor paper. You may find it's your new favorite.

Monday, November 17

What's Your "Go To" Palette?

Jornada del Muerto
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
I have discussed palette colors on several previous occasions and have sounded so sure of myself. And by "go to" palette I mean the one you find yourself using every time for every painting for at least the last six months.

However, I think I have finally figured out two things. First, it takes a while (at least six months) to figure out what your own personal "go to" palette is. Second, even when you think you have figured it out, it will change over time.

Such is the life of a painter.

I also know that pretty much all painters start out using someone else's palette, and that someone else is usually your favorite painter either living or dead (such as Van Gogh or Hopper or whichever current painter). In addition, painters usually use too many of the colors on those painter's palettes when they should be using fewer.

That said, I'm finding my current "go to" palette to be:


Ultramarine Blue

Pthalo Blue (green shade)

Cadmium Red Light

Alizarin Crimson

Camium Yellow Light

Raw Sienna or Yellow Oxide (whichever I have)

Titanium White (of course)


Naples Yellow

Cadmium Orange

Burnt Sienna

Raw Umber

Off White ( the actual name depends on the manufacturer; my current favorite is Milky White, but it could be called Bleached Titanium or Ecru or some such; very useful)

That's my "go to" palette until it changes over time ; - )

Monday, November 10

Paint What You Paint Well

High and Windy Hill
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm 
If the headline of today's blog sounds confusing, sorry, I don't mean it to be. What I am simply trying to say is to paint what you're good at painting.

I'm all for art education and continuing education and learning new skills and trying out new ways to paint and new materials to use.

That said, here's what I'm talking about. In my humble and somewhat limited experience, I have found that I paint best what I paint well. That is, I find I am much happier with my painting, my painting experience, and myself in general, when the painting I am working on looks good to me.

If I think, or know, I have painted a good painting, then I am happy and a happy painter.

I have found after painting hundreds of different paintings in watercolor, acrylic, and some oil, that I paint much better paintings when I paint what I paint well, which is land- and seascapes in acrylic. That doesn't mean I'll never, ever paint a cityscape in oil or a still life in watercolor, but it may mean I won't think I painted them as well as one of my acrylic land/seascapes.

(And don't hold your breath for a portrait in pastel from me either.)

Monday, November 3

What Is the Difference Between Value and Chroma?

Mar Vista
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
Unless you are a painter and an artist you may not get the title of today's blog post. But understanding the meaning and the difference in those terms is more than important if you want to know how to paint better or at least paint better informed.

The term value, a term that is frequently discussed and which 'throws" many new painters, means simply how light or dark--from white to black--a color progressively becomes on a scale of 0 to 10 with white being 0 (zero) and black being 10.

OK, stop. If you don't get the preceding paragraph, just stop and think about it for however long it takes you to understand what that means.

Think of the value of any color in comparison to white, black, or in-between grays. A handy tool available is a small card numbered 0 (white) to 10 (black) with grays numbered 2 to 9 that lets you hold it next to your color and easily make a comparison. Also, what's confusing is that some colors (yellows) will never have really dark values while other colors (reds) will never have really light values. (Just to confuse you further, many artists also refer to value as tone, but don't let it.)

Chroma is simply the intensity or brightness of a color. One way I remember this is to think of a watercolor. If you mix the watercolor with a lot of water, it lowers the intensity of the paint pigment when it's painted on paper. Conversely, the less water you add, the more intense or bright the paint pigment of the color when painted. Or if that is still confusing, look at the difference between Naples Yellow and Lemon Yellow. Naples Yellow has a lot of white, and a little red, in it,  which lowers its intensity or brightness. Lemon Yellow doesn't have white, so it's a much more intense or brighter yellow.

Now you've got it. Sometime, we'll talk warm vs. cool colors.

Sunday, October 26

Why Is It Called Payne's Grey?

Well, I'm sure you can look up information on Payne's grey yourself, but I'm happy to provide some information here that you may find interesting if not useful.

Payne's grey is the bluish-black very dark grey color that probably isn't on your palette, and you may never think to use it either. However, occasionally I have found it very useful in mixing cool dark neutrals or for cool shadows.

Anyway, I suppose I also wanted to do a blog on this to complete my "trilogy" of blogs about where several paint colors got their names, the other two colors being Hooker's green and Davy's grey. Here are links to those blogs: Why Is It Called Hooker's Green? and Why Is It Called Davy's Grey (Who Was Davy?) 

From About.com, Marion Boddy-Evans tells us that "The color Payne's Grey is named after a British watercolorist and art lecturer, William Payne (1760--1830), who recommended the mixture to students as a more subtle alternative to a gray mixed from black and white. In Artist's Pigments: c.1600-1835 Payne's grey is stipulated to originally have been "a mixture of (crimson) lake, raw sienna and indigo."1 (When referring to the original, remember "grey" will be spelt the British way with an 'e', not the American way with an 'a'.)"

In addition, a very complete discussion on Wikipedia about William Payne tells us "but the invention by which he is best known is a neutral tint composed of indigo, raw sienna, and (crimson) lake called Payne's grey. His methods were regarded as tricky by the old-fashioned practicians of the day. but there is no doubt that he did much to advance the technique of watercolour painting, and was one of the first 'draughtsmen' to abandon mere topography for a more poetical treatment of landscape scenery."

Now you know as much as I about these three painters from the mists of history and how they came to be immortalized in paint colors.