Monday, March 30

Put Art in Your Life

Today’s Image

Is art in your life? Is there any or even a little? I hope so, but sadly for many, there is little to none. Today's Image represents this with people visiting the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., USA.

Art takes many forms, of course, but what I’m talking about is drawings, paintings, prints, posters, sculpture—whatever you consider art-- that you see, touch, or experience in your daily life.

The best art, in my opinion, is actual art you have around you because you love it--art that gives you pleasure. Ideally, your art is in the space around you. It can be in your home, in your immediate surroundings, or in your office (or cube), if possible. It is whatever you consider to be your favorite artwork. Not all of us are able to have our favorite artwork around us, and that’s too bad.

Not all of us are able to acquire art, so the next best in my opinion, is a reasonable facsimile of art around you in whatever form. It can be a book with the art of your favorite artist or artists or genre that you pick up and look at daily. It can be an art magazine. It can be art on a wall calendars (the subject of my recent blog). It can be art on place mats or refrigerator magnets. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you see it and that it matters to you.

The next best art, in my opinion, is art you can view in person in your neighborhood, your community, or your place of work. This may not be your favorite artwork or art that you would necessarily collect. But it is art that you are able to experience on a regular basis, if not daily, and that is better than nothing.

Why do we need art? The usual cliché is that it enriches our lives and broadens our horizons. Art does that.

But I think we need art because it puts us in a different place with a different outlook if only for an instant. In that instant or longer, hopefully, we enjoy the experience of the art.

It can inspire you --to do better or to move forward in life. It can calm or dazzle you. It can confront or confound you. It can overwhelm you. It can comfort you. Whatever else, it should be a life experience.

I feel sorry for those who can’t or won’t see art in life. What a drab world to live in. That’s a world without beauty or at least without the provocation that art can be. I think it’s similar to those who don’t have a sense of humor in life. They are missing so much. The worst part is they don’t even know it, and try as you may, you cannot explain it to them. Pity.

I want you to think about one of my favorite quotes from an artist. It appears over there in the right column of my blog under Favorite Art Quotes. It’s from Kimon Nicolaides, a mid-20th century illustrator and artist. He says, “Art should be concerned more with life than art.”

Somewhat, although not totally tongue-in-cheek and with highest regard for Mr. Nicolaides’ quote, I would like to turn that around to say:

“Life should be concerned more with art than life.”


Thursday, March 26

Colors and Pigments: How to Tell the Real Color from Different Manufacturers

Today’s Image

Today I’m following up on my last blog, Art Blogging: A Learning Experience, with a little information on the science, nomenclature, and categorizing of colors, which I found to be informative, and I hope you do, too. For many artists, understanding color-- how to mix, capture, and create with it--is essential. However, as in life, there is often more to something than meets the eye, and that is the case with the art and science of color. Today’s Image is representative.

What got me onto this subject was the search for the meaning of the term quinacidrone, which I covered in the last blog. I also found out quinacidrone can be organic and synthetically obtained, although I didn’t find out how, and that, in addition to red (great reds, one site said) and violet, it also makes colors rose and magenta. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

There is way, way more to learn about the science of color than this brief discussion could ever cover, but I hope you find it interesting enough to become better informed. I spent several hours online and found no one, specific site that tells you everything about it (at least not for free), but I did piece together a very basic understanding. Also, the industry uses the term color to cover pigments, used not only in making of paint (and a lot of other materials), but also in making dyes.

My first discovery was the site for the Color Index International (CI). There is always a professional group, society, or association for every consumable product, and for color there are two: Society of Dyers and Colourists and American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists. The CI is, as stated on the site, “the definitive guide for anyone who needs to know details of which companies manufacture and distribute dyes and pigments, or for anyone looking for technical details of these products.” They don’t give out this information freely (or free, for that matter; you have to become a member and pay dues to be able to get the information). They do at least give you a sample of what you’ll get if you pay up.

The example provides the following technical information for what they call a “fingerprint” for each color (the example is for Pigment Yellow 1):
  • Generic Name--their official name (I guess) of the color; e.g., CI Pigment Yellow 1 (not to be confused with the art-y name a manufacturer may give a color, such as sky blue light).
  • Constitution Number--don’t know how they come up with it, though.
  • Chemical Class—Monoazo (I think you have to be a chemist to know what this means, but I did recognize the “azo” part, which I’ve seen as the color Azo Yellow).
  • Shade—Bright Yellow (even I can understand that).
  • Discoverer—H. Wagner, 1909 (never heard of him or her).
  • First Product—Hansa Yellow G (maybe Hansa was his or her first name?)
  • CAS Number—Does not say what this is.
  • EC Number—No clue on this number either.
  • Classical Name—None listed for this one (how about Sunny Yellow!?).
  • The chemical diagram--This is similar to the “chicken wire” diagrams you may remember from high-school chemistry.

Some of the above information appears on the manufacturer's product itself. And, comparing that information is the only sure-fire way to tell if two colors from different manufacturers are the same.

There’s so, so much more on this subject that I won’t attempt to cover it here. However, one website I found by David Myers is excellent. It’s The Color of Art: Pigment, Paints, and Formulas, and it gives a great overview about all of this (and more, such as opacity, light fastness rating, oil absorption, and toxicity). also has brief, but easy to understand, discussion about this on their site as well. You should check these out to learn more.

So, next time you shop for French Ultramarine Blue, just remember there's a whole lot more that went into that little tube of paint than you probably realize!


Monday, March 23

Art Blogging: A Learning Experience

Today’s Image

One of the things I like best about writing the OrbisPlanis Art Blog is that it’s a continual learning experience. I hope by being a regular viewer, you find that to be the case, too.

Here’s an example of that. One of the web tools gives search words used by the search engines (Google, Yahoo, or whatever) that link to the blog. The other day I noticed the search term “quinacidrone definition.”

Now I had seen the word quinacidrone in reading about art and painting and techniques in books and online. Turns out, quinacidrone was in one of my previous blogs. It was a color (quinacidrone burnt orange) in the palette of a watercolor artist in a book I reviewed.

OK, so I remembered it’s some kind of a color, but I certainly couldn’t tell you what it means. The word doesn’t roll right off your tongue either, you know. It sounds rather technical and something having to do with chemistry or something. In today’s blog, I’ll tell you how I finally found what it means.

So, I entered “quinacidrone” in Google search. Well, the first thing you get is a question, “do you mean quinhydrone?” I don’t think so. That was followed by links to the websites of all the paint manufacturers, such as Liquitex, Golden, Winsor & Newton, ColArt, and to sites on oil, acrylic, and gouache painting as well. There wasn’t even a link to the ubiquitous Wikipedia, and there’s always a link to that, so I’m beginning to think this has really got to be something obscure.

Surprisingly, on the second page of links was one to the OrbisPlanis. At least I had figured out how it was linked to my blog, but I still didn’t know what quinacidrone was. I then clicked on most of the manufacturers’ sites, but mostly found just a list of their paints with the word quinacidrone in the name. The other links just had the names of colors, too.

I then entered “quinacidrone definition” just as I had seen it before. Surprisingly, there were only six links, and, get this--the first link was to OrbisPlanis. The other links were similar to the first search, mostly names of colors with the word quinacidrone. There was one link about patents for European dyes that made no sense at all.

What to do. I tried entering “what is quinacidrone?” Guess what? OrbisPlanis came up first again. That’s just weird. The other links also had the names of colors, but there were also links to Wagon Train on Flickr and The Birth of Venus—don't ask, I have no idea.

I searched on “artist pigments.” Well, that opened up whole new avenues to search. There are too many to cover, but for example, one was to a pigment manufacturer Sinopia—I didn’t even know there were pigment manufacturers. Another was to Pigments Through the Ages—but when I entered “quinacidrone” on the site--nothing. But it's a very interesting site anyway; if you have the chance, check it out.

To make a long story short, I honestly can't recall how I stumbled upon the link to quinacidrone in the Britannica Online Encyclopedia with the definition. I must have entered at least 25 search strings before I finally found it.
But there was the definition of quinacidrone: a second group of pigments developed in the 20th century were the quinacidrone compounds; introduced in 1958, its crystalline forms range in color from yellowish-red to violet; the violet and red forms are classified on the Color Index as Pigment Violet 19.

I immediately added it to the Artist Factoids section of my blog so everyone could know.

In the next OrbisPlanis, I’ll tell you what I found out about quinacidrone and even more interesting, about the Color (or Colour) Index International.


Thursday, March 19

My Twitter Experience So Far

Today’s Image
The Twitter Logo

More blog than art today.

I thought I’d give a brief update on my Twitter experience since today marks three weeks since I’ve “joined” (or whatever you call it).

I started with 0 (zero) followers and I now have 13 followers. Is that good news? I don’t know. Is that an unlucky number—probably not. I am following 24 “Tweeters” (or whatever you call them).

For those who don’t know what (the hell) I’m talking about, Twitter is an online service that’s sort of a cross between instant messaging (IM) and a blog.

At least that’s how someone described it, so I’ll go with that. You set up your profile, then you send messages (tweets) out to your followers or whomever may happen to find you on Twitter.
Your tweets are limited to 140 characters; sometimes people forget and their tweets get truncat..

You find new people to follow by looking at their list of followers and begin following them (those on the list). Sounds confusing, but that’s how it works (easy to figure out).

Or you can let Twitter find people to follow by looking at the Suggested Users tab under Find People. That’s how I found Brent Spiner of Star Trek TNG, who just happened to be in the same high school graduating class as I. He has more than 70,000 followers—wow.

Some people send too many tweets, like every five minutes or so--just not that interesting usually. You can stop following anyone at any time with just a click; and you can stop (“block”) someone from following you if you want to.

Here’s a sample of a couple of recent tweets from some of those I’m following:

“Antarctic ice sheet nears melting tipping point.”

“Listening to Benny Goodman.”

Hardly what I consider riveting. Here is one from NPR on Twitter that is at least a little informational:

“On this day in 1974, Buckley is first Rightwing to split from Nixon.” Maybe not so riveting either.

I’ve been sending tweets mostly about art and what art thing I’m doing that day. I send very few tweets in a day, usually one or two. I plan to branch out, so today I tweeted about the South by Southwest (SWSX) live music festival currently going on in Austin, Texas, USA.

I started following Joel Stein today (joelastein on Twitter). I like his irreverent and what I think are funny, funny columns in TIME Magazine. He has 14 followers, but he hasn’t sent one tweet (as of today).

Oh well, I’ll keep tweeting and see what can happen in 140 characters.


Monday, March 16

What Artists Like to Paint

Today’s Image
Sandy Beach
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
12 x 9 in/30.5 x 23 cm
Copyright 2009

It’s not always easy to know what people will find interesting in an art blog. I try to write about art-related topics I think “aspiring and inspired artists”--the OrbisPlanis tag line--want to read. If there’s a particular subject you would like to see, please leave a comment. By the way, I added a quote from Paul Cezanne to the Favorite Art Quotes section, over there on your right if you’re interested in such things.
That said, today's blog is about painting what you like to paint. That sounds simple, and some may think even stupid. What I mean is that you should follow your creative vision. That is, do what you like, every time you begin a painting, or drawing, or sculpture, or whatever your artistic pursuit is.

People, including artists, come with baggage. For a lot of people, it comes from a lifetime of doing what you’re told to do, what you think you should do, what you’re obligated to do, and what you feel you must do.

That is opposed to doing what you like, or would like, to do. There comes a point in people’s lives where they realize this is it, and you don’t get second chances. This, by gosh, is it, at least in this realm and dimension.Without getting too deep and certainly not maudlin, the point is that if you’re not doing the art you want to do, you either have missed or are about to miss the proverbial “boat.”

Of course, many don’t know what art they want to do yet, and that’s perfectly OK. They are still on their journey. This means the art you are exploring is what you want to be creating, at least in that moment. Good for you; you’re on the right road. However, many artists are not creating what they like. They are drawing, painting, sculpting what they think other people like. Why are they doing this? For some, it’s a necessity due to financial circumstances; they produce what someone buys. Let’s hope it’s also what they like to draw, paint, or sculpt. If not, I hope they can reconcile it with their muse.

Other artists are in a big, long, deep rut. They’ve been doing the same thing for so long, they’ve either lost their imagination or they don’t know how to do anything else. Not to single out any one motif or medium, but how many still life oil paintings of a kitchen table are too many? If this is what you like to paint—fine; or maybe the artist should ask why he or she keeps doing them.

Some artists are out there on the edge, and may not be aware if what they paint is what they like to paint (or not). Their creativity comes from somewhere beyond with not much grounded in reality. This is great, and I really mean it. The world needs Pollacks, Picassos, Rothkos, and Rauschenbergs. I hope those artists liked what they painted.

Today’s Image is an acrylic I finished last week, but I didn’t like it while I was painting it and still don't. Why? I'm pretty sure I was painting a pretty picture of some idealistic place for someone else—it’s bland, at best, and probably a waste of time.

Next time you go to an art museum or an art gallery or see art on an art blog, think about the artist. Did they like what they were painting? Do you?

Thursday, March 12

Time to Organize Your Art Studio

Today’s Image

Spring Break is starting around the US, and the actual beginning of Spring is next week in the northern hemisphere. To honor the ritual of spring cleaning, today’s blog is on cleaning up your act; that is, cleaning out your art supplies and/or art studio.

I don’t know about you, but that’s one chore I tend to put off as long as possible. I like to have all the art supplies I need (or think I need anyway) on hand for any type of artwork that I could possibly undertake. That means I have drawers for:

  • Pencils (all the HB numbers, of course) and markers (more than 100 colors!)
  • Pastels (soft, hard, semi-hard, and oil)
  • Watercolors (a limited palette of Daler-Rowneys in addition to a ‘grade school’ quality tin)
  • All kinds of paper and tablets of paper for any and all occasions, many of which I have not yet undertaken and, truth be told, may never undertake (newsprint, drawing pads, acrylic, watercolor, markers, tracing—you name, I’ve got paper for it)
  • Gels, mediums, retarder, varnishes--in matte, gloss, and satin finsihes
  • Paint brushes, brushes, brushes, brushes
  • Oil paint (a pretty complete palette but underutilized)
  • Acrylics (my favorite medium and the one that needs most attention)

Then there are all the canvases stacked up and around that you forgot you had, so you bought some more. There are also the canvases that you’ve already painted but didn’t like the result, so you stuck them back “there” somewhere out of the way.

When I recently looked in my art supply drawers (my art studio is a portable, rolling stack of drawers), I was surprised how much “junk” there was that I had let accumulate. I understand why I, and probably you, too, let this happen. I like to tell myself it’s because my art is so important that I’ve got to get to it immediately. I like to tell myself I’ll straighten up that drawer tomorrow (or next week).

What actually happens is that I only get around to it when I go looking for that specific tube of cerulean blue paint, that rigger somewhere in the brushes, that 140-lb acrylic paper, and can't find it. It was right there last time I looked, but where is it now?

Only then, in desperation, do I give in to the big clean-up. I suggest at least once a year, and twice is better, of course, you go through your art supplies and cull out the really old, the used up, the dried up and dried out, the torn and tattered, the stained, and the beyond repair. Don’t forget, however, that pastels can be wiped off as good as new; pencils can be sharpened; canvases can be gesso’d.

Really put yourself into the task. Make those hard decisions. If you’re not sure, toss it, or better, donate it to an artist who may really need it. This, of course, is easier said than done. Like straightening up your house, cleaning out your art supplies or art studio is one of those things we don’t really want or like to do anyway, and especially when we’re told we need to do it. But if you schedule a morning or afternoon ahead of time so you can get used to the idea, then I think you’ll feel better about it.

To throw in a cliché or two, I “bit the bullet” and “put my nose to the grindstone” and “rolled up my sleeves” and “dug in” and cleaned up the place.

There, I feel better except for Today’s Image, which is a photo of my acrylic paint drawer—AFTER I cleaned it out. Oh well, the big fall clean-up is only six months away.


Monday, March 9

Getting Your Art Day Started

Today’s Image

How do you start your art day? I want to share some of the ways I start my art day and keep myself informed. Today's Image is a sample photo I think captures a morning mood.

If you’re like me, you may have art on your mind or at least keep it running in the back of your mind. I'm always alert to seeing, hearing, reading, or viewing--in the real world or online--information about art.
I’m on several email lists of artist groups in my area. These are ad hoc groups of artists, both professional and non-professional, who meet in regular monthly meetings and/or simply via email. This is a great way to keep in touch, as much or as little as you like, with what’s happening art-wise in your community. Every day I receive at least one email, and usually more, from these groups with news or other art information. The emails can be about most anything art related, such as a charity art auction, an upcoming gallery opening, an art festival, art supplies for sale, or a successful local artist.

I have also signed up to receive emails from several art museums, art centers, art collections, and art galleries in my area, such as the Art League, Museum of Fine Art, Contemporary Art Museum, School of Art, and several local art centers and art galleries. For example, at The Lawndale Art Center here I receive a monthly update of upcoming exhibits. I suggest you sign up to receive emails from groups and art centers in your area, too. It's a great way to keep informed of new exhibits, openings, and other events coming to your area.
My point is that I usually check my email early in the day, and reading these emails gets me started thinking about art and what I want to accomplish that day or that week.

And since I’m already online reading emails, I also check my blog (this one) to see how many are finding their way to it and if there are any comments. I also may check a few online art sites, which I have tagged as favorites, to find out what may be happening elsewhere in the art world. I’m not endorsing any sites, but, for example, there’s Art Slant and Artinfo (and many, many others I’m sure) with news and information on the latest art events.

Another way that may be interesting to keep up with art and artists is with Twitter, for which I only recently signed up. Without going into too much detail, Twitter is way for you to follow other twitterers or for other twitterers to follow you. You send “tweets,” which are basically instant messages of 140 characters or less. What I want to do is keep up with other artists, although there may be other followers as well. I’ll let you know how it's going.

After I read my emails, visit some of my favorite art sites, and maybe even send a “tweet, ” I’m all revved up to begin or continue with whatever painting I’m working on that day. It gets my juices flowing, and I’m in a creative state of mind to do my best work.

So, that is how I start my art day, and I hope this provides encouragement to you. As Henri Matisse said, “creativity takes courage.”


Monday, March 2

Another 12-Step Acrylic Painting Lesson from OrbisPlanis

Photo Copyright 2009

Santa Monica Bay Sunset
Acrylic on Canvas
28 x 22 in (71 x 56 cm)
Copyright 2009

Today’s Images

This is the next in a series of 12-step acrylic painting lessons for you. The first lesson featured a misty coastal scene with jagged cliffs.

This lesson features a sunset on the Pacific coast not far from Los Angeles, California, USA. It was taken from a personal photo (see top photo). Today’s Image (second above) is my acrylic painted from the photo.

I completed this painting in about six hours over two consecutive days, and that does not include varnishing. As I said in the first lesson, don’t feel like you have to follow these steps exactly; do them in the order that’s right for you. Also, you may be able to render your painting in more or less time than I.

The first four steps are, and probably will continue to be, the same for every lesson because they are the preliminary steps for most paintings.

Hour 1
Step 1 – Select your motif. This is another coastal scene, which I like. The photo I took was from a boat just offshore at sunset in the month of July; I like the interesting light and wanted to recreate it in a painting.

Step 2 – Select your support; I used a 28 x 22 in (71 x 56 cm) stretched canvas.

Step 3 – Select your color palette; with printed photo in hand I selected the following:

-for the dusk/clouds sky--Liquitex Basics Primary Red, Amsterdam Azo Yellow Light, Grumbacher Ultramarine Blue, Liquitex Basics Dioxazine Purple, Liquitex Payne’s Gray, and Winsor & Newton Galeria Titanium White;

-for the sunset sky--Amsterdam Carmine, Amsterdam Azo Yellow Light, and Winsor & Newton Galeria Titanium White;

-for the mountains--Liquitex Basics Primary Red, Grumbacher Ultramarine Blue, Liquitex Payne’s Gray (a little Payne’s Gray, but don’t over-do it as it can quickly over-power other colors), and Winsor & Newton Galeria Titanium White;

-for the foreground and trees--Amsterdam Azo Yellow Light, Liquitex Pthalo (pthalocyanine) Blue-Red Shade, Liquitex Burnt Sienna;

-for the sun-- Amsterdam Azo Yellow Light, Reeves Deep Yellow.

Step 4 – Sketch the main elements on your support; this is easy for this painting as you only need to sketch one horizontal line across for the mountain ridge and a very small slit for the setting sun; do not sketch the foreground—it will come later.

Hours 2-3
Step 5 – Mix the colors for the dusk/clouds and paint that part of the sky—it should be a grayish, mauve-y color, a couple of shades lighter just above the ridgeline and darker higher up; paint the left- and right-hand sky with broad, even, diagonal brush strokes (I used medium-sized flat bristle brush), leaving space for the sunset colors; let dry.

Step 6 – Mix the colors for the sunset and paint that part of the sky—it should be a salmon-pink color, but not too bright, and with a couple of shades of light and dark; paint the area around and above the sun using broad, diagonal stokes; let the sunset colors interleave the dusk colors like the rays of the sun; add a few strokes of darker salmon-pink shades above the sun and near the top for some contrast.

Hour 4
Step 7 – Mix the colors for the mountains and paint them—it should be similar to the color of the dusk/clouds, but without the Dioxazine Purple cast; mix several lighter and darker shades; paint the mountains with big, bold, horizontal stokes (I used a large no. 10 round bristle brush); paint all the way to the very bottom of the canvas, but use a lighter shade about 3 in (7.5 cm) from the bottom; let dry.

Hour 5
Step 8 – Mix the colors for the foreground and trees--this should be a very, very deep, dark green--almost black; take time to get the color right as the foreground is the secondary focal point (after the sun) and provides depth to the composition;

Step 9 - With a flowing stroke (I used a medium, flat bristle brush), SCUMBLE the paint across the bottom 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) BEING CAREFUL TO LEAVE the top line ragged with some gray of the mountains showing through to give the illusion of "trees"on a hillside; before the paint dries, scrape away some paint in a couple of horizontal strokes below the “trees” to indicate the ground; keep some of the color on hand for the next step.

Hour 6
Step 10 – Add highlights to the mountains and mountain ridge; dilute the foreground color with water and randomly apply to the mountains to indicate hills and valleys--this will add the illusion of distance; also darken along the ridgeline slightly.

Step 11 – Paint the sun; with a small brush paint the slit with the Deep Yellow and let dry; add a few strokes of Azo Yellow Light along the top of the sun in a broken line—this will also add to the illusion of distance.

Step 12- Mix up a little more of the dusk color used in Step 5 and dilute it slightly; lightly paint highlights in two places: 1) just below the ridgeline to indicate the light of the setting sun showing through the ridgeline and 2) just above the “trees” to indicate reflected light on hills.

Now, step back and enjoy your work of art.