Thursday, March 29

Painting With a Limited Palette

Southwest Sunset
Acrylic on Arches Watercolor Paper
16 x 6 in/40.6 x 15.2 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2018
I think most painters already know this, but in case you didn't: your work will be more successful with the fewer colors you have on your palette.

I'm not talking about just one color (plus white), although there is a school of thought that says that's a good way to start because it makes you concentrate more on values than color. I am talking about using the absolute minimum number of colors to achieve your painting goals. That usually, but not always, means a variation of each primary plus white (maybe). With just these limited colors, you can mix all the rest. It's an exercise in learning about color.

You've probably heard of Anders Zorn and his famous "Zorn" palette. He was a famous Swedish painter who used only three colors plus white. He used mars black (the blue), yellow ochre (the yellow) and vermilion (the red). His somewhat muted paintings are beautiful and it's surprising the number of values and colors he achieved with just these three plus white. If you're not familiar with Zorn, you should read up on him and his palette; it's fascinating if you paint.

Another thing about a limited palette is that it makes your paintings more harmonious. That's because every value and color variation in the painting was produced from just the few colors. All the colors in the painting go together, and you get instant harmony.

Today's image was not painted using Zorn's palette. I did use a limited palette, however, consisting of cad red light, cad yellow light, raw umber plus titanium white. I was pleased.

Just think how much you'll save on paint.

Monday, March 19

Pretty In Peach

Pretty in Peach
Oil on Canvas Panel
5 x 7 in/ 12.7 x 17.8cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2018
As I mentioned in a couple of recent posts, one where I painted a sunflower and the other a small vase of flowers, I haven't painted many flowers as still life, although occasionally I have painted them en masse in a garden or in broad meadows.

I said I didn't have much of a relationship with florals. However, since the beginning of the year I have spent time looking more closely at the work of excellent floral painters, such as Richard Schmid, Neil Carroll, and many, many others.

As somewhat of a learning experience, I have tried my painting hand at several works with a flower (or flowers) as the subject. I tend to agree that one of the great things about being a painter is that there is always the opportunity to learn and experience more.

Much to my surprise, today's image turned out to be completely different than either what I had envisioned or how I had begun the painting--the surprises and joys of the painting life!

Monday, March 5

You Can Improve Your Paintings

The View
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2018
Whether you refer to it as a re-work, a re-new, a do-over, an update, or simply a fix, it's never too late (or too soon) to go back and look at your paintings with a fresh eye. You may be surprised at what you see, or can now see, after the passage of time.

You may be surprised at how your artistic eye now perceives your work after your eye, your brain, and your hand have continued to gain experience since you first completed it.

I'm sure some painters can't bear the thought of going back and making even the slightest change to any of "their work." Really? The work is not trapped in amber in whatever year it was done.

In a recent post I mentioned how I had gone through my old paintings that were taking up too much space. I said it was entirely permissible to throw some of them away, which I did. But I also saw several I thought could be worked on with my more experienced eye, brain, and hand.

Today's image was painted in 2015. I added chroma in the upper sky and the foreground to add more contrast to the composition. I added some elements, such as the blue flowers in the foreground, and improved some lost-and-found edges in others. I re-titled it, too.

Consider carefully how to go about making changes and remember rules, such as not painting acrylic over oil, still apply.

 If it can be improved, do it!

Friday, February 23

More Than a Landscape

Summer Clouds
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2018
If you had to classify the type of painting posted as today's image, I suppose most painters or anyone really, would call this a "landscape." But actually the "land" in this painting is only about 20 percent of the image. The remainder is all sky (and clouds).

All kinds of skies (and clouds) are the subject of lots of paintings, many with a little land and/or water. If there's more water than sky or land, they're called "seascapes."

Skies are beautiful. Maybe we should be calling these mostly-sky paintings "skyscapes."

Not all that important in the scheme of the painting world, I suppose, but what else are Friday afternoons for?


Friday, February 16

Paint What Makes You Happy

Green Valley
Acrylic on Arches Watercolor Paper
16 x 6 in/40.6 x 15.2 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2018
Life is too short to spend time procrastinating or to waste time on things that don't bring you joy, according to Marie Kondo, author of The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

I agree.

That's why I spent time the last few weeks going through my old paintings and throwing some of them away Yes, you can do that! I was able to re-evaluate them more objectively as time has passed since I completed them. If I don't want them, no one else will either.

I also spent some of my painting time painting a motif that brings me joy--panoramic landscapes in acrylic on watercolor paper. I haven't done one since last summer.

It was past time to get happy.


Wednesday, February 7

Time to Paint Something Different

Small Vase with Flowers
5 x 7 in/12.7 x 17.8 cm
Oil on Canvas Panel
Copyright Byrne Smith 2018
I rarely, as in hardly ever, paint flowers, although I did paint a sunflower just last month. Before that, I couldn't tell you when I last painted a flower. It's not that I dislike florals, I just don't have a relationship with them.

However, the other day as I was looking through some pins that Pinterest thinks "you may like," I saw several boards that contained nothing but floral paintings--all kinds of flowers. I discovered I was drawn to many of the small still life-like paintings.

They were mostly smaller than 8 x 10 in/20.3 x 25.4 cm and mostly oil, acrylic, or pastel. Many were rendered in a rather impressionistic way, which I like. I got interested in the ways these painters, who seem to paint only flowers, portrayed the lighting and backgrounds, and the brushwork on the petals, leaves, and containers, if any.

One of the few flower paintings I have done is today's image. However, I now have an interest in further studying the methods of these painters and will see where it takes me.   

Tuesday, January 30

Impressionist Portraits Series 7

Edouard Manet (from Public Domain photo)
Oil on Canvas Panel
5 x 7 in/12.7 x 17.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2018
Well, it has been a while since I last submitted one of my impressionist portraits to The Painting Life. However, there are several others I still wanted to paint, including today's Edouard Manet.

This marks the 7th in my impressionists series, the others being Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Gustave Caillebotte, Edgar Degas, Frederic Bazille, and Mary Cassatt.

I hope you enjoy viewing Edouard Manet and the others as much as I enjoyed painting each one.


Tuesday, January 23

In a World...

Oil on Canvas Panel
12 x 12 in/30.5 x 30.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2018
Painters assimilate, encompass, and combine.

Painters evaluate and envision.

Painters experiment, volumize, sculpt, and express; oftentimes, something out of nothing.

In other words, painters create worlds, and in those worlds lives their vision, if only for a moment in time.

Monday, January 15

Painting Summer in the Middle of Winter

Oil on Paper
12 x 16 in/30.5 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2018
During this long and, surprisingly, cold winter even here in the semi-tropics, I find that painting summer scenes helps. Or at least it helps me get through January.

I hope this warms you up, in the northern hemisphere anyway. I did this one in oil on gessoed Arches 140 lb/300gsm watercolor paper. It makes a very nice, if somewhat unorthodox, painting surface for oil anyway. The gesso keeps the oil paint on the surface, but it's that great texture of the Arches paper I really like. I may do one using acrylic next.

Oh, and Happy New Year, too.

Monday, December 18

Season's Greetings 2017

Three Christmas Candles
Oil on Canvas Panel
5 x 7 in/12.7 x 17.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
As 2017 draws to a close, I'm happy to report that I am finally back again to my painting--pigments, palette, paper, and canvas! This after a devastating hurricane and subsequent record-breaking flood inundated our region at the end of August.

Heartbreaking and deadly, the storm upended lives and families. My home did not flood this year, but two members of my family lost their homes and many possessions. Fortunately, no one was hurt, at least not physically, but since then it has taken all my time and energy to help out. After 3 1/2 months life is just beginning to return to a new normal, but it will take years to completely recover.

I now have some time and, more importantly, the ability to concentrate on painting and creativity. And it came just in time for the holidays. It's difficult to explain just how important that is to a painter's well-being

The image above in today's blog is my first painting since the storm. I hope you enjoy it, and we painters can all look forward to our great and beautiful paintings to come in the new year.