Friday, August 29

Artist Tips from Orbisplanis August 2008

Today’s Image
Golden Bridge
Pastel on canvas panel
10 x 8in/26 x 21cm

In the Studio

Rather than rush into my next project, even if I knew what it was going to be, I decided to work on a quick piece using pastels and a canvas panel that I had painted over with gesso some time back. I’ve heard the best way to be ‘green’ is to re-use what you already have, so I feel good about that.

I haven’t worked with pastels since last fall, but it was fun to use the medium again. Before I started painting with acrylics last year, I first tried pastels. For this piece, I used my old beat-up set of Mungyo Soft Pastel(s) for Artists. These are mini-pastels; that is, each stick is only 1 in/2.5 cm long.

I just happened to see a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on the back of a travel guide and decided to draw that. I had previously applied the gesso on the canvas panel rather thickly, and I like the texture it gives to the piece, which is 10 x 8 in/26 x 21 cm. It’s Today’s Image.

August in Review

Although I usually review a book or some similar art literature on Friday, this being the last blog in the month, I give a brief review of the month’s blogs in case you missed any or, as I always say, to relive the memory.

In the Art Library will return next Friday. In addition to installments of In the Studio with every blog, here goes:

So that was Orbisplanis in August 2008 in a nutshell. We’ll do this again at the end of September.


Thursday, August 28

Seven Ways to Stimulate Creativity

Today’s Image

In the Studio

Well, I think it’s finished, the acrylic I’ve been working on this week, that is, and Today’s Image. It took a bit more than I had anticipated to complete, but I persevered.

First I worked on the flowering shrubs on the left, which I’m sure are azaleas. As you may recall from last blog, I had already painted a diluted wash of Liquitex Heavy Body Alizarin Crimson and Van Gogh Warm Grey to cut the white of the canvas. Then I painted the base coat of the shrubs with Fundamentals Cadmium Red Light Hue, which I had found on sale at a ridiculously low price and wanted to see how it worked (fine). Then for a knockout punch I used Winsor & Newton Galeria Opera Rose for the visible azaleas. If you’re not familiar with Opera Rose, I will tell you, it’s the hottest pink I’ve seen in a paint color and the only one that comes close to the real color in nature. I researched this, and you can’t mix any combination of anything to get that color—you have to buy it.

When the shrubs were done I evaluated the canvas and decided the sky was a little too blue. So I mixed up some more of the Van Gogh Sky Blue Light and a greater proportion of Winsor & Newton Galeria Titanium White and filled in between what you can see of a horizon and the tree tops. Because the ‘new’ sky impinged on the edges of some of the leaves and branches I had to touch up those with a mixture of greens described in the last blog.

Next I added some W & N Titanium White to Liquitex Heavy Body Brilliant Yellow Green to make it more brilliant, if possible, and I added that to the very sunniest spot and for dappled shade.

The last step was to add the darkest areas for contrast in shaded areas. For this I used a mixture of Liquitex Heavy Body Green Gold and Grumbacher Payne’s Gray. This makes a realistic looking shadow (I think) for the tree bark and wall since, as we all know, shadows are not black. If you’re familiar with printing, I liken it to adding the fourth color black in the printing process to provide depth.

As I said, it took a bit more than anticipated, but I think it turned out OK. (I may touch up one more branch…)

Stimulate Your Creativity

Since this turned out to be Creativity Week at Orbisplanis, I thought why not give you Orbisplanis’ tried-and-true methods for stimulating creativity. They are:
  1. Take a Get-Away Weekend - if you live in the city, go to the country; if you live in a small town, go to the big city; if you live in the mountains, go to the prairie; if you live on the coast, go to the mountains; or even better, take a vacation.
  2. Take a Walk by Yourself - for no less than 30 minutes, did I mention alone; or better, take a walk a day.
  3. Watch a Movie - with either a) a rip-roaring car/vehicle chase sequence or b) a fantasy almost, but not quite, beyond belief; examples of a) are It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and RV; examples of b) are Innerspace and the remake of The Time Machine.
  4. Turn Off the News – Do not watch and/or listen to any local news broadcasts for at least one week (or ever again); national and world news, while not ideal, is permissible.
  5. Listen to Classical Music – if you already do this, great; if not, you must listen for at least 15 minutes every day for at least a week.
  6. Eat at the Most Ethnic Restaurant in Your Area – It really doesn’t matter which one or what kind of food it is, but it’s better if you have never eaten there before.
  7. Visit the Most Contemporary Arts Museum in Your Area – I hope there’s a really avant garde one nearby; if not, then visit your local high school and ask to see the students’ latest art projects.

You should attempt to do every one of these. If not, do as many as you can. Even one is better than none. You may have noticed, these were chosen to get you out of your ‘element’ whatever that may be. And all but one, visiting a contemporary arts museum, have nothing to do with art. What they do have to do with is stimulating your senses and your brain, to open up your mind to be ready and receptive to conceive of new ideas and explore creative vistas.


Wednesday, August 27

What Artists Had to Say

Today’s Image

In the Studio

Still working on my acrylic of a backyard scene here in the studio. I made good progress since last blog as shown in Today’s Image.

I filled in more of the foliage and shrubbery using mixtures in various proportions of Liquitex Basics Hooker’s Green Hue Permanent and Grumbacher Cadmium Yellow Medium. These two provided quite a range of shades. I also used these to fill in the grassy areas and added Liquitex Heavy Body Brilliant Yellow Green for the sunniest areas. I painted one of the main shrubs, which is on the right, using mixtures in various proportions of Liquitex Heavy Body Alizarin Crimson Hue Permanent, Liquitex Heavy Body Red Oxide, and Van Gogh Warm Grey. As with the foliage, these colors provided a good array of dark to light contrasts on the plant’s leaves. Using this same mixture, but diluted with water, I washed over the area on the left that will be bright flowering shrubs to neutralize the white of the canvas.

I think I only need to add the flowering shrubs and put in some finishing touches of highlight and shadow.

Artists’ Quotes

I want to bring the blogging on creativity back around to art after saying how creativity is universal and that you can be creative in many forms and aspects of life. So, I wondered what artists of note had to say, if anything. Wouldn’t you know there’s a website devoted to artists' quotes, Using that site as the source, I randomly looked up a few artists’ quotes and culled out a few in no particular order as interesting if not insightful:
  • Pablo Picasso – “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place; from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.”
  • Gustave Courbet – “The beautiful is in nature, and it is encountered under the most diverse forms of reality. Once it is found it belongs to art, or rather to the artist who discovers it.”
  • Marc Chagall – “I am out to introduce a psychic shock into my painting, one that is always motivated by pictorial reasoning: that is to say, a fourth dimension.”
  • Grant Wood – “I realized that all the really good ideas I'd ever had came to me while I was milking a cow. So I went back to Iowa.”
  • Georgia O’Keeffe – “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way--things I had no words for.”
  • Eugene Delacroix – “What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.”
  • Francisco Goya – “Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.”
  • Berthe Morisot – “It is important to express oneself...provided the feelings are real and are taken from you own experience.”
  • Claude Monet – “It's on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”
  • Henri Matisse – “Creativity takes courage.”


Tuesday, August 26

A Definition of Creativity

Today’s Image

In the Studio

Happy to be spending my afternoons painting in the studio. It’s most relaxing to me when you are finally ‘in the zone’ as I call it—that period in a drawing or painting when you are well into it and know where every object will be placed, what the hues will be, and where the light and shadows fall.

Yesterday I moved into the zone on my acrylic of a backyard scene. With a palette knife I added some dark areas to the wall with Liquitex Basics Raw Umber. I lightened the sky somewhat with Van Gogh Sky Blue Light and added some puffy clouds with Winsor & Newton Titanium White. Then I started working on the foliage. I began with a dot-stipple effect for the closer leaves using Winsor & Newton Finity Olive Green. Then using the same color and a stiffer bristle brush I thinly applied a layer for darker tones near the ground and for darker distant foliage. I smudged it around so that it looks out of focus. Next I used Liquitex Heavy Body Chromium Oxide Green (COG) for leaves that are a shade lighter in green and for grass that is in shadow. I think COG comes closest to looking like ‘grass green’ of many types of grasses that grow in warmer climates-- just the right amount of yellow in it. Finally I mixed COG and Liquitex Heavy Body Yellow Light Hansa for leaves and grass that is yet a shade or two lighter.

Today’s Image shows the progress I made. I’m not sure how many sessions it will take to finish but will show you progress.

Creativity Defined

Somewhat unexpectedly, last blog the Art Blog Orbisplanis took a turn into the subject of creativity this week. I had loosely planned to get into pastels, which haven’t really been discussed much since the blog started. However, as I mentioned I opened a fortune cookie with such a great and timely fortune that it set me off in this direction—somewhat mysteriously, like the way a Ouija Board works.

To recap, the fortune is ‘your creativity takes you to great heights.’ Last blog I talked about my perceptions of creativity, and why I think it should be developed not only in ‘art’ but also other realms in life.

There are probably as many definitions of creativity as there are artists, so that would be a whole lot. I decided to go back to a book I had discussed in a previous blog about learning to draw by learning to see. The book is Betty Edwards’ The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and I wanted to see what she had to say about it.

In the Glossary, she defines it as: “the ability to find new solutions to a problem or new modes of expression; the bringing into existence of something new to the individual and to the culture; writer Arthur Koestler added the requirement that the new creation should be socially useful.” I like it.

Do you see how she didn’t limit the definition just to things ‘art’ but also expanded it to include finding new solutions and modes of expression? That’s what I was getting at last blog when I said, ”You can be creative in a thousand different ways that have nothing to do with art.”

I especially like the part about bringing into existence of something new. That’s about as real as it gets and what you do every time you begin to draw or to paint.


Monday, August 25

What Is Creativity?

Today’s Image

In the Studio
If today’s image looks unfinished to you, that’s because it is. I thought I’d show you a work in progress (aka a WIP in online art lingo, I found out). The acrylic I’m working on is a backyard scene, and although you can't tell it from this, it’s a bright Spring day with lots of green tree leaves and grass and flowers in bloom, or it will be eventually. Since last blog I added some detail to the wall and started painting the tree, which is a focal point, along with some of the branches, which will be hidden with leaves. For the tree and branches, I used the same colors as on the wall: Liquitex Basics Raw Umber, Van Gogh Warm Grey, and Winsor & Newton Titanium White. I thought some of you may want to see my painting process in progress.

Point of Order—for those of you who are subscribers (and thank you!), that is, you receive the blog automatically through RSS or Atom via a reader service. I noticed that what you’re receiving is the main blog content (what I’m writing at this moment), but you’re not getting to see all the sidebar content on a daily basis unless you actually link to I just wanted to let you know there is new content there as well. For instance, every week I add a new blurb to Artist “Factoids.” This week I added Mi-Tientes ™ if you’re at all interested in what that is.

Just What Is Creativity?

I haven’t said much about creativity in the Orbisplanis art blog because I do not hold any credentials that qualify me as any authority on the subject. Be that as it may, I am broaching the subject today. I actually don’t think you have to have any qualifications to speak (or write) about creativity. It’s one of those things that just is what it is—like a law of nature or universal truth or something.

I do believe that creativity is of the utmost importance, however, and I firmly believe that. It’s like an inalienable right that you have, and no one can take it away from you. I hear people say (or read online), “I’m not creative.” What I think they mean is, “I really don’t understand what creativity is, but I know I can’t draw a lick; therefore, I’m not creative.”

Is that you? If so, you are not only mistaken, you are selling yourself way, way short.
Creativity is not the singular domain of art and all things ‘art.’ Creativity is a part of every individual’s make up, their inner being, that on occasion, and when the stars are aligned just so, makes an appearance that can and will surprise you. You can be creative in a thousand different ways that may have nothing to do with art.

Why did I bring this up? Well, what got this ball rolling was a ‘fortune’ in a fortune cookie I opened at PeiWei. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to stake my future (or lottery numbers) on fortune-telling or similar endeavors (not that there’s anything wrong with fortune-telling, etc.), I’m just usually on the side of individual self-reliance. But this ‘fortune’ seems so universally apt , especially for art blog viewers, that I couldn’t resist. I like it so much I’m going to add it to the Orbisplanis sidebar. Here it is:

Your Creativity Takes You to Great Heights
More on this…


Friday, August 22

A Visionary Impressionist

Today’s Image

In the Studio
I finished my varnishing, for this round anyway. And I got started on my next project, an acrylic of a backyard garden from a family reference photo. I sketched out the main features, which include a terraced wall and a tree. I painted the sky using s mixture of Liquitex Basics Cerulean Blue and Winsor & Newton Galeria Titanium White. Then I started painting the wall using a mixture of Liquitex Basics Raw Umber, Van Gogh Warm Grey, and the W&N Titanium. I’m pleased so far and will keep you posted on progress. I used another digital image from my 'vault' for Today's Image. It's a pastel on paper, and called it Sunbaked.

In the Art Library

Friday has rolled around again, so I’m talking about an art book. I just finished reading this one on Wednesday, so thought I’d tell you about it. It’s called Manet The Visionary Impressionist by Henri Lallemand. It’s another large format, coffee table book with a beautiful jacket sleeve with his painting Argenteuil on the front cover. You’ve probably seen this painting. It’s the one with a man and woman sitting in a sailboat on a colorful summer day. The woman is on the left in a striped dress and fancy hat with white tie on it. The man is on the right half facing her, and he’s wearing a red striped T-shirt and a yellow hat with red band. It’s a beautiful painting.

In fact all the paintings are beautiful in the book, and it’s full of them; although I didn’t count, it must include every major work. There seems to be more artwork than text (fine by me), and the content is divided into Manet’s early work, his foray in Impressionism, his working with friends, and lastly still lifes and landscapes. He did a lot of portrait work, which I don’t think I had realized before. The still lifes of flowers in the last section are glowing. Look up his painting called White Lilacs. The caption in this book says the white petals shimmer…and they do.

With the large format of the book you can really get a good look at all the art. I bought the book used, but I’m thinking it must have been fairly expensive when new because the paper is thick and glossy coated, which makes the artwork shine. If you’re a fan of Manet, you should look for this in your library or (used) bookstore.


Thursday, August 21

Varnishing Acrylics

Today’s Image

In the Studio

I didn’t work on my last post-card size canvas, but decided to save it for next week, so it’s not today’s image. There are days in the studio that I like to call housekeeping days, and yesterday was one of those days. I didn’t do any actual artwork. What I did do was to apply varnish to several acrylic paintings that were finished and in line for varnishing. I like to do it assembly-line style where I do several at a time in one go. Since you have to set up for it with the various varnishes and brushes, I only do it about once every two weeks or so. I found a brand I really like--J.W. etc.'s Right-Step. I like it because it is water base, which makes it very easy to clean up brushes. It goes on smoothly and comes in gloss, satin, and matt, and is also economical.

Anyway, no artwork done, but I still have a feeling of accomplishment.

Today I will get back to deciding on my next project , and I hope to get started on it. Since I like every blog to have a Today’s Image, I looked in my ‘vault’ of digitized images and found the one above to use today. It’s done in pastels on paper. The original is 8.5 x 11in/22 x 28 cm. I did it in 2007 and call it Golden Apples.


Wednesday, August 20

Art Educate Yourself (Step 4)

Today’s Image

In the Studio

I guess I was intrigued enough by the first post-card size canvas painting from the last blog that I did another, this one of southwestern pottery. I used Liquitex Basics Red Oxide for the base, Winsor & Newton Galeria Pale Terracotta for the mid-section, and Liquitex Basics Raw Sienna for the top. The decoration was painted with a mixture of Winsor & Newton Finity Davy’s Gray, Grumbacher Payne’s Gray and Winsor & Newton Galeria Titanium White. I also used the titanium white for highlights and background, and Davy’s Gray for the shadow. It’s Today’s Image.

Not sure what I’ll start on next, but I'll let you know. I have one more post-card size canvas.

Art Educate Yourself

Well, I finally got to Step 4 in the series on 4 Steps to Renew Your Interest in Art. Here are the four steps:

It took me four blogs to cover Step 3-Explore Art. In hindsight, maybe I should have divided up the steps better, but what the heck, we're finally here at Step 4.

Nothing happens without some initial effort as I mentioned in Step 1. And sometimes it takes even more than overcoming inertia to meet your goals. That’s what I think Step 4 is about—expending some extra effort for your interest in art by getting yourself a little education on the subject.

Now wait, I don’t mean going back to university and enrolling in a fine arts degree necessarily, although if that’s your goal, great. What I’m talking about is looking for places that can impart: basic art information, tried-and-true exercises, new ideas, new techniques, intellectual stimuli—all of the above and more.

I’m no art educator, and won’t pretend to be, but here a few of the places I’ve run into since I began to renew my interest in art in my leisure time. This is not to recommend that you look into all of these. We all have different learning styles, not to mention different personalities and traits (to put it mildly), that may or may not lend themselves to any of these. Following are suggestions in no particular order on how you may be able to take your art to the next level.

  • Online tutorials – many websites have links to professional artists who provide excellent training. And have you seen some of the art lessons on You Tube where someone paints a picture in five minutes or so?
  • Art Supply Stores – I noticed all the art supply stores in my area have an area in the store where people post signs and cards, etc., many that provide art lessons . One vendor even provides space for art lessons in the back of their store—the easels are all set up, and you can see the paintings in progress. Some museums may also have areas for postings.
  • Private Art Lessons-as mentioned above, look for cards or bulletins in art supply stores or you may know an artist who does this either for a living or ‘on the side.’
  • Local Art Groups-I haven’t mentioned this in the previous steps, but there is probably at least one local art group in your area. I’m talking about an ad hoc group of interested individuals who have gotten together to promote their art in their area. There’s probably an online Google Group even if they don’t hold physical meetings . Several of the members probably give art lessons. In my area I have already run across no less than four of these groups.
  • Local Art Schools (Art Institutes) -you may be fortunate enough to live in an area that has a thriving art school. You can find one in your area at this find-an-art-school site. If you are, you should definitely look into it. It may be affiliated with your local art museum or independent. You will find a high degree of interest in art and art education that will make you want to enroll.
  • Community Colleges-depending on the size of your area, most have at least one art course, and many have a complete two-year art curriculum. Many also provide continuing education non-degree courses of interest in art.
  • Universities-For the very motivated, there’s always returning to university to get a full-blown degree in any number of artistic subjects that will give you ‘credentials.’

So, that’s it! I hope you Renew Your Interest in Art and find your next step in your art journey.


Tuesday, August 19

Explore Art Online

Today’s Image

In The Studio

I mentioned wanting to work on something small for my next project, and I did. I bought several canvases that are postcard size; that is, 4 x 6 in/10.2 x 15.2 cm. I read a story online about artists who paint on small canvases this size and even smaller, and I wanted to try it. I will say, it doesn’t take long to do one, so I understand how they’re able to do one every day. I'm pretty sure you can crank out several a day, so I see the attraction if you're trying to sell them. It's like working in miniature and you have to squint to see the tiny details. It's today's image--what do you think?--email or leave a comment.

Explore Online

If you’ve been keeping up, I’ve been blogging about the 4 Steps to Renew Your Interest in Art.

Since you’re reading this online, you probably already know all that’s available on the WWW about art. If you Google the word ’art,’ you will get 1,760,000,000 matches. That’s one billion, 760 million! The trick is to narrow that down into something useful, which means you’ll be able to pick and choose exactly what you want in the online world of art.

Following up on art supplies, last blog I said you should explore your local art supply stores in person and some reasons why. But if wide assortment and price comparing are your thing, then you can shop online ‘til your heart’s content’ and find exactly what you’re looking for at a price you want to pay. Without plugging any one site, there are plenty of big online art supply sites from which to choose. All the major (and most minor) manufacturers of art materials also have their own sites to tout their goods. In my blog of July 23 I talked about pencils and mentioned a site about pencils that contained more than you ever wanted to know about them. You just have to find the right site.

If you like to know what’s going on in the ‘art world,’ you can virtually travel to all the major art museums worldwide and find out what’s being exhibited. There are also art ‘news’ sites that report on daily happenings, for example Artnews and the Art Newspaper, not to mention the art sections of major newspapers and sites devoted to art, such as ArtSlant.

There are sites where artists can post their artwork for sale or just to look at, ArtFlock and MyArtSpace, just to name a couple. But don’t get me started on buying /selling art online. Have you shopped at eBay? They have so much it’s been subdivided on whether it’s direct from the artist, from a gallery, or from wholesale distributors. Then it’s categorized even further. Here’s an example, you can look for original acrylic paintings direct from the artist created since 2000 in Europe in the Abstract style over 30 in/77cm and you will still have 22 from which to select. What a selection (and a lot of competition).
There are what I call how-to art websites that specialize in art techniques and targeted subject matter for artists.
I think Empty Easel does a good job.
Then there are the art blogs like this one. Need I say more?


Monday, August 18

Explore Art Supply Stores

In The Studio

Over the weekend I spent some time shopping around for frames for my paintings. Some of my paintings wrap around the edges and don’t require frames, but some do. I try to have some frames on hand for people who want them framed regardless. I try to find frames that are attractive and will not overwhelm the artwork and are also not prohibitively expensive. Anyway, one of the larger arts & crafts stores in our area had a half-price sale on frames that I couldn’t pass up. I picked up some very nice frames at a great price. Email me if you have any framing advice.

I’m looking for my next subject to paint, and think I’ll try something on the small side. Will let you know.

Explore Art Supply Stores

The blog for the last few days has been about 4 Steps to Renew Your Interest in Art. Step 1 is to Make Your Art a Priority, Step 2 is to Invest in a Few Art Supplies; Step3 is to Explore Art, which is taking several blogs to cover. First was Explore Local Art Venues, and the most recent blog was on Exploring Art Galleries and Art Festivals.

Today’s topic (in Step 3-Explore Art) is Explore Art Supply Stores. I’m referring to the brick and mortar kind of art supply store; the place you go to and physically shop for your pencils, pastels, paint, paper, canvases, etc.

Second to exploring art museums, I think exploring art supply stores is the next best thing to being there (in your studio drawing or painting, that is). I don’t know about you, but I think going to the art supply store is fun, educational, and can even be exciting—especially if there’s a big sale like there was on frames that I mentioned above.

When I’m shopping for art supplies I’m like the kid in a candy store. Where else can you roam around at will looking at art supplies? You can shop online, but I don’t think you get the same ‘thrill’ as you do in a real store. You can pick up the brushes, and you can hold the tubes of paint in your hand, see the colors and read the labels and literature. You may hear yourself saying, “wow, I did not know that,” or “so that’s what that means,” and not even know you’re talking out loud. Someone even struck up a conversation in the aisle asking me about acrylic paint.

I suppose it’s seeing all the art supplies lined up on or hanging from shelves just waiting for you to put them in the shopping cart and take them home. It’s the expectation and the potential for what you can do with them—like the thrill of the chase.

To the ‘professional’ artist or to those who have made art a career choice, shopping for art supplies may be a bit passé. But, let me tell you, for the rest of us, it is not passé. It can open new doors.


Friday, August 15

Learn to Paint and Draw

Today's Graphic
It’s Friday, which means we review a book or another source about art.
I'll get back to our series on 4 Steps to Renew your Interest in Art next week in Step 3- Explore Art with a blog about exploring art supply vendors in your area.

In the Art Library

As I mentioned above, Orbisplanis is doing a series on steps to renew your interest in art. In conjunction with that, I wanted to tell you about a book that provides a simple to understand overview of popular art subjects you may be interested in learning to draw or paint. This goes hand in hand with renewing your interest in the subject.

The book is Learn to Paint and Draw-A Complete Guide to Drawing and Painting Techniques. Interestingly, there seems to be no author of this book, at least I couldn’t find anyone listed as the author. So, I’m assuming it’s a compendium of articles by several writers, none of whom unfortunately is being recognized for their efforts. I did find that the book was published by Paragon Publishing in 2003 if you’re going to look for it.

Be that as it may, the editor(s) of this book have done a pretty good job of covering the basic steps in learning to draw and paint. I think this is a good starting place if you’re one of those who want to get right to it. I’m talking about those who don’t want to spend much time in the getting- ready phase, but who want to actually do it. Let me add there’s nothing wrong with that as I am in that camp.

After a brief Introduction, the first section called Getting Started is straight forward and, in no more than two to four pages on each topic, covers a whole lot of ground on such things as: pencils and charcoal, pen and ink, drawing with color, sketching with paints, modeling with color, simple perspective, and composition, just to name a few.

With the Getting Started section as your primer, you’re then effectively ushered through techniques on drawing and/or painting in the subsequent sections:

  • Still Life and Nature
  • Landscapes and Seascapes
  • Buildings and Streets
  • People and Portraits
  • Animals and Birds

As you can see, this book runs the gamet on popular subjects that artists like to tackle.
It takes a simple approach to make you feel comfortable to accomplish what you set out to do. For example, in the Still life and Nature section, it starts you off with how to set up a still life, and after you’ve done that, it says you’re now ready to try a simple arrangement with words of encouragement and hints on what to do. In the Landscapes and Seacapes section, it schools you on drawing trees and foliage, then moves you from pencil to pen and ink to colored pencil and finally to watercolor.

It also drops in practical advice along the way, for example, a subhead in the section on Buildings and Streets tells you, “Try to capture something of the restless energy of the city in your street scenes—the ebb and flow of people going about their business, the hubbub of traffic, the color and noise.” Now that’s something that most how-to-draw books have never told you.

In People and Portraits, usually a challenge for beginning artists, you are eased into it with a discussion about proportions and measuring, which is key. It shows you ways to go about drawing the human figure, figures in action, and the head, for example. It also suggests you, “get into the habit of carrying a pocket sketchbook around with you,” always good advice. It then gives you practice sessions in doing portraits using pencil, pastels, and watercolor.

All in all, a very good book on learning to draw and paint. What makes it different from others of this type is its emphasis on the subject of what you’re drawing rather than tools.


Thursday, August 14

Explore Art Galleries & Art Festivals

If you missed it, this art blog had a theme this week: 4 Steps to Renew Your Interest in Art. Step 1 was to Make Your Art a Priority. Step 2 was to Invest in a Few Art Supplies. Step 3 is Explore Art with last art blog covering local art museums. Today’s art blog covers art galleries and art festivals.

Art Galleries
After you have visited all the museums in your area, then there are the art galleries. For those viewers in the United Kingdom, I’m talking here about privately owned businesses and not art museums.

These are the commercial ventures where art is bought and sold, usually, and sometimes auctioned. There are art galleries sponsored by not-for-profit groups as well as by groups of artists, and some art galleries don’t sell the art they exhibit.

Most cities of any size have several art galleries. Many times the art galleries are in proximity to each other and are often in or near the ‘art’ district in your town (e.g. SoHo in New York or Vyner Street in London), if there is one. More often than not, they exhibit a limited number of artists’ works--the ones that sell :-). They may exhibit art of a particular type or genre, e.g. Western (US) art. Google ‘art galleries’ and the name of your city, and you should have no trouble finding several.

The art gallery may take a percentage of the sales price of the art they sell or sell the artwork on consignment. They may also proactively market the work (or not). Sometimes they are open regular business hours, but many times you have to make an appointment. They are usually interested only in potential clients and don’t necessarily want people wandering in off the street.
The point is that you should visit a few to see what’s currently popular artwise, or if nothing else, just to see how they operate. This probably won't win me any popularity contests, but I think they're a bit clannish.

Art Festivals

This is a very broad area, to say the least, that can include a number of different scenarios. It may be called a festival, a fair, a market, a show, or be named something colloquial regarding your locale e.g. New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair in Albuquerque. You'll see many times they've added the term 'crafts' to the name, so it becomes an arts & crafts fair. But this is just one example, here are a couple more (Taste & Art Stroll in Del Mar, CA; Amelia Island Fall Art Show, FL).

Many cities and/or civic groups sponsor annual or semi-annual events depending on the season. The purpose may be non-profit to promote ‘the arts’ in your area, or it may be sponsored by a group that gets a cut of the admission fee, parking, concessions, etc. Certainly one of the most unique art festivals is the annual Houston Art Car Parade where cars are artfully decorated by a diverse contingent of local groups, judged, and paraded downtown. The image at the top of today's blog shows one of the more than 250 entrants in the Art Car Parade.

These can be quite commercial events as well. Exhibiting at art festivals is a business model for many festival sponsors, surrounding businesses, and for many artists as well. There are even website businesses based on helping artists apply to shows around the US with online payment and uploading of digital images for those shows that are juried. Zapp is just one example.

Whatever, these are usually a fun way to spend at least half a day on a weekend to see what the artists in your area (and sometimes from other parts of the country) are showing. I recommend you check out the art festivals, shows, markets, craft fairs, etc. in your area. You'll be in for a good time.

In the Studio

I got a good start on the acrylic of the desert scene I’m working on. I painted the sky with a mixture of the aptly named greyish blue and a lot of titanium white. I also started work on the six or seven cacti in the scene using a mixture of Baltic green, Hooker’s green, cadmium yellow light, and green gold with dabs of raw umber and alizarin crimson. For the groundwork I used the same mixture but added titanium white. I’ve still got a lot of work to do as it looks pretty monochromatic at this point. But I’m pleased with my current progress and will keep you updated.

If you like reading this blog, please leave a comment, and feel free to link this site to others who may have an interest.


Wednesday, August 13

Explore Art - Step 3

If you missed the last few of blogs, this week’s theme is 4 Steps to Renew Your Interest in Art. Step 1 was to Make Your Art a Priority. Step 2 was to Invest in a Few Art Supplies. Today we move to Step 3, Explore Art.

If exploring art sounds like a big step, it can be depending on how big your interest in art is. If you have any education or background in art, you already know just how much territory art covers—from cave drawings to computer generated (CG) animation and everything and everybody in between. So, to put some parameters around such a broad topic, we’ll confine Step 3 to three types of exploration: local art venues, local art supply vendors, art online.

Each one of these can give you some idea of what you like and the type of art you want to do. Taken together they will provide a good foundation for renewing your art journey. Today’s blog covers local art venues.

Exploring Local Art Venues

What am I talking about? By local art venues, I’m referring to art museums, art galleries, and art festivals/ fairs/markets/auctions and shows. These are the ones that are either in your area or that periodically come to your area. This blog will cover art museums, and next blog we’ll talk art galleries and art festivals et al.

I think visiting art museums is the best way to broaden your knowledge of the different types, genres, forms, whatever you want to call it, of art that there is. You can choose to explore a particular period of art, or a particular genre, or a particular artist. You can choose what you like and tailor your viewings to it.

Depending on the size of your hometown, you have a range of venues from which to choose. If you happen to live in New York or Paris, you probably have the largest and best selection of art museums and galleries on the planet. New York and Paris are obviously world-renowned centers of art, and if you reside in either, you should take advantage of it. Capital cities are also centers of art for their respective countries. In Washington, D.C., it seems as if there’s an art museum on every corner.

Other cities around the world also have great art museums, and you should visit every single one in your area. These almost always have a permanent collection as well as hosting touring or one-of-a-kind exhibits. They are usually curated, which means someone (the curator) has designed or at least thought about what to exhibit and how it will look “hanging” in the museum.

If you are in a medium to large metro area, you probably have more than one type of art museum available to you. There’s usually the big, well known ‘public’ one named something like So-and-So Fine Art Museum or Art Museum of Such-and-Such. For example, in Los Angeles, there’s the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). In Houston, there’s Museum of Fine Arts-Houston (MFAH). Since they seem to be equally known by their acronym, you may need to double check which museum it is.

In many cities, there may be one or more ‘private’ art museums that are named after the benefactor who so graciously is letting you view their collection. Often as not, these are as well known as the ‘public’ venues. Think Guggenheim in New York, the Getty in Los Angeles, and the Menil in Houston.

But don’t overlook other venues that don’t get as much publicity. There may be a contemporary arts museum. There may be a museum that caters to a particular genre, such as Western art. There may be a museum that exhibits art of a particular ethnicity. All usually exhibit fine collections, and many are noteworthy.

The point is, depending on your locale, you may have access to many more art museums than you’re aware of. I repeat, you should visit every single one of them. So, visit a museum; visit all of them.

In the Studio

I began painting my acrylic this afternoon back in the “studio,” such as it is. I found a good subject that I think will make a nice painting. It’s a desert view. It’s got several types of cactus that I’m looking forward to working on. I’ll keep you posted.

If you like reading this blog, please leave a comment, and feel free to link this site to others who may have an interest.


Tuesday, August 12

Renew Your Interest in Art - Step 2

Check Out ”Artist Factoid”

This new weekly feature—“Artist Factoid”--is right over there below the Welcome. Check it out. Knowledge is power.

Step 2 - Invest in a Few Art Supplies

If you missed yesterday's Orbisplanis, this week's theme is 4 Steps to Renew Your Interest in Art. Yesterday was Step 1-Make Your Art a Priority. Today we move to Step 2-Invest in a Few Art Supplies.

By making it the second step, I’m hoping you’ll invest in a few art supplies sooner rather than later, which I’m afraid might be too late to spur you to action. Having a few supplies on hand allows you to try out immediately any technique you run across, and that is key to involvement—taking action.

Otherwise, you may run across an art technique you want to try, but then find yourself saying, ”I don’t have any charcoal, maybe I’ll try this later.” The probability is you won’t try it later because you still won’t have any charcoal.

What do I mean by ‘a few art supplies?’ I mean having enough supplies on hand so that you will be able to immediately draw or paint something without having to stop and go buy supplies. Inspiration can be a fleeting thing, so I repeat, having supplies on hand can increase the probability of your taking immediate action.

Why do I say invest and not get, buy, borrow, etc? This relates to Step 1-Make Your Art a Priority. If your art is a priority, then what you are really doing is investing rather than spending. You are investing your time and your money. When you invest in something, there is usually an expectation of some future payback. By investing in a few supplies early on, you will not only kick-start your art, but you will also increase future dividends from your investment, so to speak.

Step 2 is about removing barriers and excuses both real and imagined.

Anyhoo, here are suggested supplies for your initial investment and are shown in today's graphic at the top of the blog. (You can link to previous blogs for more info.)
  • 3 Soft lead (graphite) pencils in the followings hardness -2B, 6B, 8B; this will give you enough range in to try different sketching techniques
  • 1 charcoal pencil, medium hardness
  • 1 Rollerball pen; for pen & ink line drawing
  • 4 Conte crayons (or equivalent brand), white black, sanguine (reddish brown), umber (brown); start with these for drawing with color before investing in colored pencils or pastel
  • 1 kneadable eraser for making changes and cleanup
  • 1 sharpener
  • 1 sketch or drawing pad – many brands to choose, but start off with 11 x 14 in/28 x 36 cm; 50 sheets, 70 lb. weight paper; good enough for all the above drawing tools

So that's it. These relatively few and inexpensive materials are plenty to get you started and allow you to try out or refresh your sketching and drawing skills. Using line, tone, and limited color, you can do quick sketches or more detailed drawings with texture and shadow or anything in between. You may be surprised at the level of art you can achieve with these limited materials.

In the Studio

Glad to get back in the “studio,” such as it is. I mentioned last blog I was thinking of a larger canvas acrylic, and that’s what I think I’ll go with. I have a nice size canvas measuring 24 x 36 in/61 x 92 cm. I just need to nail down the subject and will let you know next blog.

If you like reading this blog, please leave a comment, and feel free to link this site to others who may have an interest.


Monday, August 11

4 Steps to Renew Your Interest in Art

Dune Lighthouse
Oil Pastel on paper
18 x 24 in/46 x 61cm
copyright 2008

NEW! - "Artist Factoid"

Starting this week we’ve added a new weekly feature, "Artist Factoid," right over there below the Welcome. What is it? A brief factoid about something or someone related to art that you may or may not already know. Hey, knowledge is power.

Renew Your Interest in Art

Renewing your interest art is this week’s theme. I’ve divided it into four steps, each blog about one of the steps.

Sounds pretty effortless, like all you need to do is wish it, and it will happen. Like most worthwhile things in life, it will take some effort to get from Point A to Point B, but you can do it.
You’re may be thinking something like, “Wait just a minute. I’m trying to find ways to reduce effort in my busy life, not increase it.” A valid point, and I’m with you all the way. Consider thinking of it as re-directing your effort from something less important to something more important to you. That sounds a little more palatable, doesn’t it?

So let’s go...

Step 1 - Make Your Art A Priority

That sounds do-able. Persistence. Mind over matter and all that. You have decided to renew those old creative juices, and you’re serious about it. It doesn’t take a whole lot more than determination and a little time. You probably already know this, but let me give you a little reinforcement and tell you why it’s important.

Time is flying by, if you haven’t noticed, and no matter what your situation, you must find time for those things that are important to you. That’s not to say abandon your responsibilities and throw caution to the wind. Of course, you can’t do that. It would only be counterproductive anyway. You’d worry. And worry leads to tension; tension leads to anxiety; and well, you can see where that’s going. First tend to your family and livelihood responsibilities assuming one or both apply in the case of most people.

There is a lot of wasted time in everyone’s life although we don’t admit it. How can you regain some of that wasted time in order to make your art a priority? Here are my suggestions for squeezing out extra time in your day:
  • Top of Mind - keep the subject of art running in the back of your mind—what does that mean? It’s like a file that you have open on your word processor and you go back and add information. Keep art accessible and available for thinking about all the times—you will be surprised to find you do have extra productive time.
  • Daydream—if you follow the above suggestion, then you will find this one easy; let your mind wander whenever you don’t really need to be concentrating; let your creativity come to the forefront.
  • Conjure—if you follow the above suggestion, then your thoughts and ideas will remain with you even after your daydream is over; that is, you will be able to summon “as if by invocation or incantation” your creative ideas to be acted upon.
  • Don’t worry so much—Instead of worrying about an immediate concern that may not be that important in the big picture--ask yourself if it will matter in a day, a week, a month, a year? You’ll be able to either solve the problem or put it in the proper perspective, and you will be amazed at the extra time you have by not worrying so much.

So that’s it. I could add more suggestions, but I’m keeping it simple not to bog anyone down. Make your art a priority starting now.

In the Studio
After blogging about oil pastels all last week, I decided to do one over the weekend, so that is the graphic at the top of today’s blog. It’s from a reference drawing of a lighthouse somewhere; it may not even exist. First I drew in the main elements softly with a pastel pencil. Then worked on the sky, the lighthouse, the mid-ground, and the foreground, in that order. Three things I like: the texture of the upper portion of the sky achieved by using the side of the oil pastel; the light and shadow on the lighthouse created with light blue and gray cross-hatching; and the near watercolor effect on the foreground using odorless mineral spirits.

Still in a quandary over what my next project will be. I’ve been wanting to do a large canvas acrylic, so think I’ll go in that direction. I’ll let you know.

If you like reading this blog, please leave a comment, and feel free to link this site to others who may have an interest.


Friday, August 8

A Book About Art in Santa Fe and Taos

Moon Over Mountain
Acrylic on Canvas
20 x 16 in/51 x 41 cm
Copyright 2008

The 2008 Summer Olympics open today in Beijing! I understand the number 8 is the luckiest number in China. Since today's date is all 8's (08-08-08), good luck to all athletes from around the world. Since Orbisplanis has received viewers from almost all the continents, I would appreciate hearing from our viewers about the blog or anything else related to the subject of art.

Orbisplanis Weekly Poll Results 08-08-08

Thanks for voting! The ballots are tallied and 100 percent of voters chose Landscapes as their favorite subject to draw or paint (of the choices provided). Probably not statistically significant since the universe (of voters) was small. This week’s poll asks you to select your favorite ‘famous’ painting from our list, so please join in.

In the Art Library

This is the second installment of In the Library, where every Friday I review a book or other source about art. I changed the name slightly by adding the word Art to the name of this feature (and assume there's no need to explain :-).

Rather than reviewing a how-to or overview book this week, I thought we’d go with something a little more on the art side.

The book is Santa Fe Art by Simone Ellis. You can think of it as a Coffee Table book because it’s big dimensionally speaking, measuring 10.5 x 14 in/27 x 36 cm, so I hope there’s room there on your coffee table for it.

Not being informed on Ms. Ellis, I did Google research, and found she is or was the arts columnist for the Missoula (MT) Independent newspaper as well as the author this book. Another link reported she’s a graduate of San Francisco Art Institute and was the former art critic for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper (I see the connection). She also wrote and produced documentaries for Pacifica News and National Public Radio, interesting.

There’s a lot to look at in the book’s 112 pages. In addition to an informative Introduction and list of paintings (color plates), it’s divided into sections on early Taos art, los cinco pintores and early Santa Fe art, a span of art from Georgia O’Keeffe to abstract art to the present, and contemporary art in Santa Fe and Taos.

This is an eye-catching book as the cover shows part of a painting called Pueblo at Taos by Victor Higgins painted with what you think of as Southwest or New Mexico colors. One nice thing about it being a large format book, even if it hangs off your coffee table, is that all the art included almost fills each page, so you get the impact of each piece. And did I mention every piece of art is in color, and they’re beautiful?

There’s more to it than just good-looking art. Each section is well written and provides a brief but thorough discussion of the artists, who were either native to New Mexico or migrated there. It tells what it must have been like in the early days of the Santa Fe and Taos art colonies up to the recent past (it was published in 2004).

Another thing I like about this book is that it includes a lot of artists of whom I was not aware. In doing so, it provides a lot of food for thought and further research if you like Southwest art, which I do. Of course, there’s O’Keeffe, but you may not know the work of Victor Higgins, Luis Jimenez, or Juane Quick-To-See Smith, for example, just three of the many fine artists whose work is included.

So, look for Santa Fe Art by Simone Ellis and enlighten yourself.

In the Studio

I finished Moon Over Mountain, my acrylic I’ve been going on about this week, and used it as the graphic for today’s blog. The finishing touches included a big full moon, of course, which I forgot to mention last blog. It’s 20 x 16 in/51 x 41 cm.

Now it’s back to my ‘idea’ literature in my "studio," such as it is, to scan for my next project. With the blog this week all about oil pastels, I might just try another one. We’ll see.

If you like reading this blog, please leave a comment, and feel free to link this site to others who may have an interest.


Thursday, August 7

Painting With Oil Pastels

Have you been humming the song Go Where You Wanna Go (The MaMa’s & The PaPa’s) I mentioned the other day? I suggested listening while doing your art because it could remind you of the many possibilities awaiting you. You used to enjoy drawing, painting, or some other art form back in the day. And, as a baby boomer, you probably enjoyed the music of the 50s, 60s, and/or 70s. As a retiree, you now have time to explore, so renew your interest in art (and music) and try something new!

You Can Paint with a Stick (of Oil Pastel)

My apologies to the Oil Pastel Society when I said the oil pastel I saw in a book... “looked like a very well done picture in a coloring book done with crayons...had a child-like quality…and wondered if they meant it to be that way.” As I said, I was disappointed with the results of my oil pastel. But with a little digging, I found the ‘secret.’ It was turpentine or ‘mineral spirits.’ I wasn’t familiar with ‘mineral spirits,’ so here’s the scoop from Wikipedia—
  • Artists use mineral spirits as an alternative to turpentine, one that is both less flammable and less toxic. Because of interactions with pigments, artists require a higher grade of mineral spirits than many industrial users, including the complete absence of residual sulphur. Odorless Mineral Spirits are mineral spirits that have been further refined to remove the more toxic aromatic compounds, and are recommended for applications such as oil painting, where humans have close contact with the solvent

Yikes, so do not use turpentine, but do use odorless mineral spirits (OMS) or equivalent. There’s enough going on in the world without our having residual sulphur or toxic aromatic compounds!

So I thought better of using turpentine and bought OMS. Not to alarm anyone further, but always read the warning label and work in a well ventilated space. OK, if I haven’t scared everyone off, let’s get back to the oil pastels.

I played around with my old set of oil pastels and the OMS on drawing paper resulting in something similar to the image in the last blog. Note, if the weight of the paper you’re using isn’t very heavy, the OMS can soak through to the next sheet, so be aware.

When you mix oil pastels and OMS, the stick of oil pastel dissolves or melts (as if by magic before your very eyes!) and thins out depending on the amount of OMS. You can then paint the mixture using a brush or whatever.

I had a good time. It was like being in art class in school again--you can mix up the colors and smear them all around. Go ahead, try it, and enjoy! Remember it said on my box of oil pastels--Oil Painting With A Stick--and I didn’t get it. Well, now I get it. So I’m a convert.

I bought a new box of oil pastels, actually two. One has 60 colors, and the other has metallic colors including gold and silver, which I haven’t tried yet. The new box came with instructions, and it mentioned a couple of other techniques. One is ‘scratchboard’ where you draw a picture, overlay it with a dark color, then scratch lines through it. The other uses a watercolor wash over your drawing, which causes it to ‘bead up’ with an interesting effect.

Haven’t tried either of those, but the graphic at the top of this blog shows my oil pastel painted using OMS. I now agree you can achieve vibrant colors and exciting effects—look how bright the red chile pepper is!

In the Studio

Back to my “studio,” such as it is, on a very warm afternoon. I completed the foreground and mountain range on my moon over mountain acrylic. For those I used a combination of raw umber and doixazine purple. For the highlighted areas of the foothills and mountains, I used red oxide and burnt sienna.

Painting the cloud formations was the challenging part because that’s what holds the piece together. But, hey, I like a challenge. For that I used greyish-blue, a touch of cadmium yellow light, terra cotta, and Davy’s gray/grey. I need to put the finishing touches on it.

If you like reading this blog, please leave a comment, and feel free to link this site to others who may have an interest.


Wednesday, August 6

The 'Secret' of Oil Pastel

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There IS Interest in Oil Pastels

Last blog I told you about my first try with oil pastels in, oh, about 30 years. I think I have a pretty good eye, but I was somewhat less than enthusiastic about the outcome of my Coffee Cup on Table drawing. Between you and me, I was starting to question oil pastel as a real ‘artists’ material’ as they were described on the box.

But what do I know, trying to renew my interest in art again after all those years? Maybe there’s not that much interest in oil pastels anymore, which wouldn’t have surprised me. I Googled ‘oil pastel’ and, my gosh--OMG, there are 1,080,000 sites that mention oil pastel. Obviously, someone is still very interested in oil pastels. So the old cliché about a dog and its tricks is true-- you can still learn something new, even in retirement :-).

After seeing a lot of sites with FAQs, with vendors selling oil pastel, and sites wanting to explain how to use them, I figured there’s more to this story. I must be missing something. I poked around a few of the sites that had instructions or how-to’s. Some talked about using them as a crayon just as I had done. On one I read about using turpentine. Hmm. Since I like to see what I’m reading in the context of the material and can also hold a book up close if need be, I pulled one out from my growing collection of art books to see what it said.

I looked up oil pastel and was happy to find a section on it. It was in the chapter on Pastels. It said they weren’t like ordinary pastels--not sure, but supposed they meant the ones like chalk. It said oil pastels are bound with oil and wax as I had learned the day before and were capable of exciting effects. Really?

The Missing Link

Then there it was. The missing link of information. Oil pastel can be dissolved with turpentine or “mineral spirits” (whatever they are) and spread just like oil paint. You can stick the oil pastel into turpentine and then draw, or you can draw with oil pastel first and then wipe or brush turpentine over it. I would never have thought to do that.

I want you to know there’s even a group called the Oil Pastel Society. When I looked it came up third on the first page of my search, so it must be a pretty popular place. According to their Mission, the purpose of the OPS is “to promote the knowledge and understanding of oil pastel as a fine art medium and to expand the awareness of oil pastel to other artists, galleries, the media, and the general public.” After my experience, I see the need for public relations.

Too bad my set of oil pastels didn’t come with any instructions. But now I knew ‘the secret’ and couldn’t wait to try it out. I’ll let you know what happened next blog. (The image at the top of today’s blog may give you a preview.)

In the Studio

My moon and mountain acrylic is moving along nicely I’m happy to say. I added the groundwork yesterday and began to work on the mountain range. The cloud formations will be next.

If you like reading this blog, please leave a comment, and feel free to link this site to others who may have an interest.


Tuesday, August 5

Oil Pastel Learning (Curve)

Do you remember The MaMa’s & The PaPa’s? You know, the singing group from the 1960s with the late MaMa Cass Elliot? The lyrics to one of their songs has been going through my head the last few days. Know what I mean—it just keeps looping? It’s the one that goes,”You gotta go where you wanna go, and do what you wanna do, with whoever you wanna do it with…” Remember that one?

I think it’s a good song for baby boomers near or in retirement since it talks about doing whatever you want to do, now that you have the time, and I would like to suggest that you listen to that song while you do your artwork. I, of course, don’t have to, since it’s already playing in my head.

What's Up with Those Oil Pastels?

Last blog I told you about my discovering an old set of oil pastels way back in a drawer. I still can’t remember when I used them last, but by looking at them, they have definitely been used (see the image of my set on the the last blog). What do you do with these? Since they look like crayons, I’m sure you use them for drawing color. This was way before I had heard about drawing with Conte crayons that I recently discussed in a blog.

The box says they’re ‘artists’ materials,’ and even has the plural possessive apostrophe in the right place--materials for all artists—so I’m impressed. I find a clue. Inside the box top, it says, “Oil Painting With A Stick.” Now this was getting interesting. I had never heard of such a thing, have you? Painting with a stick?

I checked one source, which said oil pastels are good for vibrant, pure color, and to use thick strokes for the best results. The example they showed looked like a very well done picture in a coloring book done with crayons. It had a child-like quality to it. I wondered if they meant it to be that way.

OK, I had to try this. According to the box, I had a set of 12 artists’ size pastels brilliant color. There were no names of any of the colors on what was left of the wrappers, but I can figure this out. I have a black and a white, a bright red, purple, a very dark blue, a light blue, a dark green, a lighter green but on the yellow side, a bright yellow, orange, a dark brown, and a light brown. I would later find out the equivalent names for these colors in acrylic paint, such as burnt umber, but that’s a whole other blog series; for now, I’ll just call them by coloring book names.

I decided to use one of my previous pencil sketches as a go-by to try my first oil pastel in a very long time or maybe ever. It was a drawing of an empty coffee or tea cup sitting on a table. Nothing fancy. I worked on that for a while, didn’t like, started over twice, and re-worked it. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no professional artist, but even I was having doubts about oil pastels. My finished drawing looked like a very average picture in a coloring book done with crayons. Not only did it have that child-like quality, it looked like a child had drawn it, not to cast any aspersions on children’s art.

My first thought was that somebody was putting one over on the community of artists, or maybe my oil pastels weren’t really 'artists’ pastels.' Who would call them an artists’ material when the outcome was so, well, un-something? I’m in the camp that believes art is in the eye of the beholder, but I was really beginning to wonder if oil pastels were meant to look this way.

Then I had a break-through. Next blog I’ll tell you what it was.

In the Studio

Literally back to the drawing board in my “studio,” such as it is. The moon and mountain acrylic I've told you about is on track. I painted in the sky, which sets the atmosphere for the whole thing. I used a cerulean blue with a little water and added greyish-blue (that’s the manufacturer’s name) near the top. I’ll start on the groundwork today.

If you like reading this blog, please leave a comment, and feel free to link this site to others who may have an interest.

Monday, August 4

So What Is Oil Pastel?

The Weekly Poll for this week was posted on Friday, and asks ‘what subjects do you like to draw or paint?’ Please take a moment to vote and let us know. For baby boomers or new retirees who aspire to be artists, answer this question, and maybe it will help you discover the kind of art you want to do. I hope you are experiencing the freedom in retirement of doing what you like when you please.

Links We Hope you Like, Too

Don’t forget to check out the links in the right-hand column. In the blogosphere, this is called a BlogRoll, but we’re just calling Links We Hope You Like, Too. There’ll be new additions from time to time as we find ones that are informative and/or artful. If you have any candidates to suggest, just leave a comment for consideration. Maybe some blogger will put a link to Orbisplanis on his or her site?

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I Can't Believe I Found These Oil Pastels…

If you’ve been a viewer for a while (and I hope so), you’ve heard me talk about how I got back into my interest in art by sketching and drawing with graphite pencils. So last year, I had begun drawing and sketching, and time is rolling along, and I'm a happy camper with my drawing pencils and pens and charcoal.

Then one day…and I can’t remember exactly what I was doing, but way back in a drawer, I found this old box that probably hadn’t been opened since the Carter administration. The box label read: oil pastels-set of 12 artists’ size pastels-brilliant color. What in the world was this? Like an old Rolodex, my mind flipped through virtual card after virtual card trying to remember what these were, and why I had them in the first place. Hmm, oil pastel, what is that? I’m thinking to myself--I think I know what pastels are, a little like chalk you draw with, right, and they come in those pastel colors. At some point in time, I got a box of oil pastels, but I can't remember why or when (I know what you’re thinking, and I’m not that old.)

I opened the box and found what looked like a tired old set of crayons with the wrappers all peeled back or missing. I picked one up, and it felt similar to what I remembered a crayon felt like except not quite. It didn’t feel as waxy as a crayon, and it was a little tacky to the touch, of course, that could be because of age.

So what is oil pastel? Well, Britannica (remember Britannica Encyclopedia, well they’re online now, of course) says: oil pastels are pigments ground in mastic with oil of turpentine, spermaceti (I had to look this one up—it’s a wax extracted from whale oil, who knew?), and poppy oil. They are similar to other pastels but are already fixed and harder, producing a permanent, waxy finish.

In an earlier blog, I said how you should look around the house to see what old art supplies you may have lying around. That’s exactly what happened here—I happened to find this old box of oil pastels, and it set me off in a new direction. I’ll tell you about that in the next few blogs. Today's graphic at the top of the blog is my old set of oil pastels.

In the Studio

My next project is underway. It’s an acrylic on stretched canvas (20 x 16in/41 x 51 cm), one of my favorite supports. I’ll do a future blog or two on what a support is, but for now, let’s just say it’s what you’re painting (or drawing) on. The subject is a landscape with a full moon and mountains. I’m looking forward to starting it this afternoon in my “studio,” such as it is.

If you like reading this blog, please leave a comment, and feel free to link this site to others who may have an interest.


Friday, August 1

How to Draw Anything

Cielo Vista
Acrylic on Canvas
30 x 24 in/76 x 61 cm
Copyright 2008

I got the digital image of the Grand Canyon acrylic I finished earlier in the week, so you can see how it turned out. I like it, and will shoot it over to Orbisplanis Online Art Gallery this weekend.

Just a reminder, Orbisplanis is a daily blog (M-F) with fresh content every day (unless I’m on vacation, of course, in which case I’ll tell you ahead of time). A good reason to visit Orbisplanis every day. Tell your friends and family, too.

Orbisplanis Poll Results

Thanks for voting! The ballots are tallied and 100 percent of voters chose Pen & Ink as their favorite drawing medium (of the choices provided). I’m not saying it’s statistically significant because the universe (of voters) was small, but not bad for a beginning. Please join in and vote in this week’s Orbisplanis Poll.

Links We Hope You Like, Too

Hope you’ve had a chance to click on at least one of the links in our new section, Links We Hope You Like, Too, in the right column. If not, try it (after reading today’s blog, please). You may find the sites informative, helpful, entertaining, artful, cool, all of the above, whatever. I like them and will add others from time to time as I run across them—some about art and some about baby boomers in retirement.

In the Library

A new weekly feature (drum roll!)—In the Library—starts today! Every Friday I’ll tell you about books, mostly books, but there may be other sources, too. This can help you in your quest to rejuvenate your art skills and knowledge about art in general. It may be a how-to book one week, about an artist’s techniques the next, maybe about art history, or even a biography. You’ll just never know until Friday rolls around.

For the premiere, I’ll start us off with How to Draw Anything by Mark Linley. This is a gem of a book for beginning sketchers and artists. It’s a great starting place. if you have recently moved from the I’m-thinking-about-doing-art stage to the I’m-actually-going-to-pick-up-a-pencil-and-draw-something stage, then you should read this first.

It starts off with a pep talk about anybody can learn to draw, with which you know, if you’ve been reading Orbisplanis, I wholeheartedly agree. Then—bang—right out of the gate, you are told, Start with Landscapes, the title of chapter 2. Get a pen [Orbisplanis suggests using a Rollerball pen], use black ink, draw a tree, and go, go, go. Go outside and, I’m quoting here, “churn them out.” A little about shapes, a little about shading, and practice, practice. And you’re off and running.

The next chapter is about drawing bridges, specifically stone bridges in the “countryside.” What!? The intent, I think, is to engage you right away with subjects that are just a little bit challenging to keep you occupied. He gives very practical advice, such as, you don’t need to draw every stone and rock, and how to dot-stipple for a realistic effect. “The more you draw, the better and quicker you become,” he says.

He has you going all over the place: to the woods, the hills, the seaside, to practice your drawing. Linley drops in a chapter here on drawing buildings and a chapter there on composition. He introduces the grid system about half-way into the book calling it “a useful little aid.” This is great stuff, especially for a beginning artist.

No subject being too difficult to draw, he has you drawing animals starting with a buffalo, no less. Then it’s on to sheep, cats, foxes, squirrels, horses, dogs, and birds. He gives lots of examples and simple lessons on such things as body shapes and birds in flight.

Ironically, there are eight chapters on drawing people. From what I pick up on, even experienced artisans think learning to draw people is an acquired skill. But Linley has you drawing heads, eyes, ears, noses, torsos, hair, right away. You will be able to draw a simple portrait if you practice. In showing you how to draw people, he builds your confidence, and that is most important.

But wait, there’s more. Want to draw cartoons, funny figures, funny things (like a walking book), greeting cards? Linley shows you how. So, to repeat myself, this is a gem of a book, and a great starting place for anyone who wants to simply learn to draw.

So what you want to do is read the book and practice, practice, practice.

In the Studio

Last blog left off with me in the funky place in my “studio,” such as it is, looking for my next project. As I suspected, it didn’t take long. I found four great reference photos from which to choose, all landscapes, some of my favorite subjects, too. I’m leaning toward a full moon over mountains in acrylic on stretched canvas. Not sure what size, yet but will let you know next time.

If you like reading this blog, please leave a comment, and feel free to link this site to others who may have an interest.