Wednesday, September 30

When Painting Is a Habit

Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/ 76.2 x 61 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith  2015
Not to make a distinction among the different types of painters today, as we are all worthy of respect, I would rather focus on our similarities.

Among the different types of painters today, I am unscientifically putting them in one of four categories. Again, all worthy of respect and in no particular order:

- Art Student, and by that I mean one who is actually enrolled in a school with an actual art curriculum or a "recognized" academy of art or some such.

- Art Teacher; one who teaches art or painting in one of the above-mentioned settings.

- Professional, and by that I mean one who is able to make a living entirely by the sale or other commercialization of his or her paintings.

- The Rest of Us Painters, and by that I mean all the rest of us painters.

As I said, what makes us similar? I believe we aspire to paint, or we practice painting diligently, or we paint on-again-off-again, or we join a painting club or league or society (or not), or we paint for the pure creative pleasure of it.

Whatever it is, the most important similarity in my opinion is that, for us, painting has become and is a habit we have no choice but to pursue. We must paint habitually, although the type, the style, the place, and the frequency varies as widely as the human experience.


Wednesday, September 23

Contrast is the Key to an Engaging Painting

Acrylic on Gallery-wrapped Canvas
30 x 24 in/76.2 x 61 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I know most all the painting instructors and artistic rules say what it takes to make a good painting:

Yes, it's composition.

Yes, it's drawing ability (or draftsmanship)

Yes, it's subject matter (or motif).

Yes, it's color palette selection.

Yes, it's center of interest (or focal point).

Yes, it's technique.

Yes, it's style.

Yes, it's brushwork.

Yes, yes. yes. It's all these things.

However, in my opinion, if you want your paintings to be really engaging (or enthralling or even spellbinding) and more than merely good, contrast is the key.

Wait, what?

Yes, contrast is the key to an engaging painting. Contrast is that element that catches our human eye and brain and emotion and keeps us interested.

Contrast is in color; complementary colors attract our eye and make us look. Red vs. green, yellow vs. purple, blue vs. orange when placed next to or near each other appear to vibrate.

Contrast is in value; light versus dark is an even greater eye-catcher. Black vs. white or any combination of a darker value against a lighter value keeps us engaged.

Viva la difference. How about that?

Wednesday, September 16

How to Love Your Own Paintings - Part 2

Some of my Favorite Paintngs
Hanging in my Space
Copyright Byrne Smith 2009 - 2014
Last week's painting life blog was about how to (learn to) love your very own paintings. I offered several ways that could perhaps help painters reduce doubts they have about their work and be more confident.

During the last week, I realized I had forgotten to include one thing that most painters are already doing that shows they really do love their own paintings. If they're not doing this already, it's the easiest thing to do. It will also help you love your paintings even more and will let others know you love them, too.

And what is it?  Simply to frame and hang your own paintings all over your studio and/or home!

The paintings you select to frame and hang can be ones that have been in shows or won awards or maybe they're just the ones you really love and always will be your favorites. No, they didn't sell, but that doesn't matter, not really.

You will have the pleasure of seeing your work everyday and all who enter your space will see them, too, and know you are proud of your work.

Happy painting...

Wednesday, September 9

How to Love Your Own Paintings

Blue Skies
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
 10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
If the headline of today's blog sounds a little narcissistic to you, that's OK. That's what loving yourself is about.

Confidence in your abilities and a little chutzpah not only is a good thing, it's really important to your painting life and to staying motivated to achieve even better work.

In that context here are a few pointers on how to love your own paintings:

- If you don't like your current direction, methods, palette, medium, etc.--change one or more today to whatever does make you happy.

- Throw away every painting you've completed, but don't like, and still have in your studio; they're not going to change and will only remind you of your perceived "failure(s)."

- Paint what you're good at painting; if you paint clouds (or cats or whatever) well, then paint a lot of those--how well you painted them will be a confidence-builder and will make you happy.

- Imitation is the nicest compliment, so find several painters whose work you really, really admire and find out as much as you can about their methods; this will help your own work in all kinds of ways and give you something to aspire to.

- Finally, be the best painter person you can be--be kind, be sharing, be open-minded, be forthright, be reasonable, keep learning, and maintain a world-view for the arts.

(Just one caveat: loving your work, if taken to the extreme, is not advised as other painter people will not like you and will call you names.)

But other than that, learn to love your own paintings and embrace the painting life.

Monday, August 31

Changing Art Gears

Last Day of Summer
Acrylic on 140-lb Paper
12 x 9 in/30.5 x 22.9 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Today being the unofficial "last" day of summer (in the northern hemisphere), I am feeling a hint of change in the air. It's not a change in the weather per se, although the light is noticeably different than it was even a month ago

 It's still warm (OK, hot) and still very much shorts-and-flip-flops weather, but there is a haziness in the atmosphere that sets in this time of year that portends the coming of autumn. It also makes it a good time for painting.

It's rather like changing gears to a different speed, and that's also what I'm feeling about my artwork--a changing of art gears yet again.

By gears, I mean several things:

- my painting interests

- my willingness to experiment again after a period of ennui

- my medium

- my palette (even if it's only a tweak)

- my outlook

I am one who thinks change is good, especially for a painter. It's about the only way I know to be able to see if progress is being made at all.

If you agree, fine; if not, then I hope you are truly satisfied with the status quo.

Happy Painting.

Tuesday, August 25

My 6 Opinions on Painting Landscapes

A Day in the Hill Country
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion about what makes a painting "good." I am no different.

I like to paint landscapes of all kinds, and I have my own opinions about what makes a "good" landscape painting.

If you aren't interested in my opinions or what I have to say about anything, really, please stop reading and avoid the aggravation.

However, if you would like to compare your ideas with mine, here are 6 opinions for what makes a landscape painting "good:"

- If a horizon line is visible, then place it either higher or lower but not dead center.

- Know where the focal point is or is going to be and emphasize it and de-emphasize other elements; that is, if a tree is the focal point, don't make the clouds/sky so busy they compete (and vice versa)

- Use some natural element to draw in the viewer and lead them around the painting--a stream, a path, a tree branch, a cloud deck, a rock formation, etc.

- Put in a contrast of light and dark values in the fore- or mid-ground; even on overcast days there can be shadows; even if you don't see a lot of contrast either in person or a photo, then contrive it.

- Make the background recede by pushing it back visually using light blue washes or tints (even if it's your focal point); also by not having any sharp edges in this area.

- Stick to a limited palette, but depending on the type of landscape, mix colors that are natural for the scene; for example, if my painting in today's image had been a desert scene, I would have used more yellow and ochre rather than greens.

Happy painting!

Monday, August 10

Staying Motivated (with another Little Gem)

Lantana Dr.@ Beach Rd. 1
Oil on Canvas Panel
7 x 5 in/17.8 x 12.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
The August Dog Days are here. At 100+ degrees F (37.7+ C) this weekend and only getting hotter this week at 104 degrees F (40 degrees C), it's hard to get motivated to do anything, not to mention painting.

Whew, it's hot!

I decided one way to stay motivated would be to paint a beach scene. It's way too hot to do a lot of painting or to  paint a large painting. So I decided to paint another Little Gem at just 7 x 5 in (17.8 x 12.7 cm), which I blogged about recently.

It's today's image, which was painted from a reference photo taken on vacation (holiday) on the Texas coast a few years ago. I attempted to catch the hazy, hot sunshine beating down at midday

Hope you like it. It reminds me of summer and one way to cool off. Especially in this heat.

Tuesday, August 4

To Change and Grow as a Painter

Golden Field
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I believe my recent run with water soluble oils may have run its course for now. For the last 6 months to a year I have been painting almost exclusively with water soluble oil paint.

Prior to that it was mostly acrylics, and before that it was watercolor, and before that it was....

But last week as I was exploring my "new" limited palette of: ultramarine blue, cad. yellow light (and/or pale), alizarin crimson (and or cad red light), burnt umber, and the ubiquitous titanium white, I wanted to to retrieve these acrylic colors from my paint bin.

So I did.

Like old friends who hadn't seen each other in a good while, we made up for lost time. It was good to feel the easy, buttery strokes of acrylic paint with my flats on the canvas panel.

I think I see a pattern here. Artists and painters should not get stale.They need change. They need growth. I'm finding that as I paint with different mediums, I am challenged and learn new ways to deliver the paint.

So when I revert to an old comfortable friend--this time acrylics--my work doesn't look the same as when I painted with it before. It's different and, what do you know, it's better. At least I think so.

Isn't that what all painters want? To change and grow.


Monday, July 27

How to Achieve Color Harmony

A Creek Runs Through It
Oil on Canvas Panel
10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I recently re-discovered how great it is to work with a limited palette. I had totally forgotten because for the past year I have been using the color palettes of several of my favorite painters almost exclusively. But I was having trouble deciding on a single palette and so began eliminating paint colors.

It's not that these artists' palettes included so many colors. I didn't count, but I don't think any one of them had more than nine or ten paint colors. Their palettes usually had no more than a couple of blues, yellows, and reds with maybe a burnt and/or a raw sienna, an orange (maybe) and white, of course. I guess to some that would be a limited palette.

But I'm talking about a palette with only five colors: cad yellow light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, burnt umber, and white. You can also mix all the secondary greens, oranges, and purples with these. The burnt umber is used for mixing darks and for some neutralizing.

You can mix almost any color you see with just these five colors. The only colors you can't mix are the exceptionally bright, high chroma ones, such as magenta/opera rose, pthalo/electric blue, and bright greens. But if you're painting with the colors just mentioned, your paintings don't and won't look natural anyway.

Today's image was painted with these five colors, and I had forgotten how easy it is to mix so many different colors. For one thing, it's so easy to remember how to mix a color because there are so few to choose--not a lot of recipes or charts to remember and follow.

But best of all, you get instant color HARMONY, and that's no small thing--many painters try for years and never achieve it!

Tuesday, July 21

Painting Little Gems

House at Canyon Lake
Oil on Canvas Panel
5 x 7 in/12.7 x 17.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
If you are a painter, I'm sure you probably already know what the headline of today's blog is about.

If you're not a painter, well, Little Gems refers to the size of certain paintings, that is, smaller ones.

I don't think there's really a definition for what size a Little Gem must be, but in my mind it's any painting that is 5 x 7 inches/12.7 x 17.8 cm. or smaller.

That's small for a painting.

What I like about that size is that it makes you, as the painter, really have to simplify your subject and composition. There's not a lot of space for a lot of details, and that's the point as I see it.

Of course, there are those fine, representational painters who will paint any and everything near photorealistically and put in every line, hair, leaf, and/or eyelash.

But I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about alla prima painting, which, as you may know, is from Italian meaning all at once. And that's how I paint Little Gems--all at once and quickly.

After you have your support and paint laid out, just squint and go for it--paint small, fast, and impresssionistically. It goes with using flat brushes that seem too large for this scale of painting. But remember what I said, there's no time for details.

A lot of plein aire painters paint this way, so I hope you can appreciate my enthusiasm for painting Little Gems and paint a few yourself.