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.


Tuesday, February 17

A Study in the Illusion of Distance

Quiet Lakeshore
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015

Fulfilling one of my goals for the new year, that is, to paint more boats, I present today's image
I painted this from a reference photo allowing its use by painters and artists.

I like the calming, cool blue atmosphere and the quiet mood implied by the empty rowboats waiting by the lakeshore.

The painting also turned out to be a study in creating the illusion of distance using the fore-, mid-, and backgrounds.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed painting it.

Monday, February 9

Learn to Paint by Painting Landscapes

Peace in the Valley
Oil on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
I think you can learn more about how to paint if you start out painting landscapes. This doesn't mean you shouldn't take art classes or workshops or use any other method, such as lessons on DVD, to learn to paint. I'm just saying I think it's one of the best ways to get started and learn how to handle paint.

Learning to paint is not necessarily easy, although it does come more naturally for some than others. But if you start with landscapes first, rather than seascapes (the horizon must be perfect) cityscapes (or structures requiring correct perspective), figuratives, or certainly portraits, then I believe you will learn more and learn more quickly with landscapes.

I say this because painting a landscape is rather forgiving for the beginning painter. That's because all the shapes are natural, meaning if they're off a bit, most won't notice. A tree, a treeline, a shrub, a stream,  a lake, a meadow, a mountain, all have natural shapes; that is they don't have to look like anything other than what they are. There is no wrong shape for a tree; however it does need to be believable, of course. The same thing goes for clouds, they can be almost any natural shape.

As for color, painting a landscape will help you learn about value and color by experimenting with what you see naturally before you. We all go outside, at least sometimes. If you paint en plein air, all the better. You will learn to mix earthtones, all kinds of greens, and all the colors of the skies with just the primaries with maybe an ochre, sienna, or umber thrown in.

It's still a learning experience, and you will have to know a few things going in. This includes where to put foregrounds, mid-grounds, and backgrounds and what atmospheric perspective is.

Again, learning to paint isn't necessarily easy, but landscapes are rather forgiving for the beginner. If I can do it, you can do it. It just takes practice.

Monday, February 2

Time Flies When You're Painting

Brand New Day
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
Here we are at the beginning of another month. Time flies.

I find painting makes time (and life) go even faster than it normally does. I say that because I look at the time I spend on a painting, which is usually no more than one or two days, three at most. That means I'm painting a couple of paintings every week, sometimes more, but always at least one, including some down time on the weekends.

When you are in the moment of your work, when your concentration and mind's eye are evaluating and comparing and your arm and hand are working together to create brushstrokes, time truly is flying.

The days seem to surround that painting time and I mark the passage of hours and days by those paintings. That one was the first week in January and that one over there, I did at the end of November.

I want every day of painting to be a new day for exploring, for improving, and for creating.   Some may see today's image of the morning as cliche, but I like the strong contrast of light and shadow with the trees silhouetted against the sky. The painting captures the promise of a brand new day along with the passage of time.

At least that's what I hope it expresses.

Monday, January 26

Painting Cars

Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
After a Cobra Rallye
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015

Last week I painted a subject I almost never paint--cars, and they're today's images.

"Why?", you ask.

Well, the annual Auto Show was in town, and although I didn't attend (I think $10 to park--at an auto show, no less--in addition to the cost of admission is just not worth it), it did inspire me to paint a classic car.

I also like looking at how other painters paint cars. For the most part, cars are usually portrayed as just a nondescript dimensional shape with a light spot for the windshield. They are almost never detailed enough to tell the make or year, although you can usually tell if it's a sedan, SUV, or truck by the general shape. That's OK in most paintings where the car is not the focal point, only a prop, because you don't want it to distract the viewer.

However, if the car is the reason for the painting, then the car should look like what it's supposed to be. My paintings are of a 1957 Alfa Romeo Guiletta Spider and 1965 Ford Shelby Cobras (I think).

I do admire Colin Page's car paintings. They are painted in his painterly style, but are almost instantly recognizable as to brand and year. In one recent painting, he painted a 1955 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, which is a classic to car aficionados. Also, check out his classic VW bugs and vans.

Anyway, if you don't usually paint cars, give it a try, it's a lot of fun.

Monday, January 19

How Weather Affects My Paintings

The Cardinal
Oil on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
I don't know about other painters, but the weather certainly affects my paintings. I'm talking about the actual weather, you know, what's happening outside your studio.

When it's either too hot, which it is a lot here, or too cold, which only happens this time of year, it affects how I paint. Not only that, I find I paint sun and partly cloudy landscapes when the weather is "good" and rain and fog when the weather is "bad."

I will say I am much happier painting when the sun is shining both outside and in the painting on my canvas.

Although I rarely paint snow because it rarely snows here, as in almost never, I did paint today's image to include both sun and snow. I like the bright red colors of the cardinal and the berries along with the out-of-focus background and the blue sky.

It's a cheerful day and a cheerful painting, and that's how the weather affects me and my paintings.