Wednesday, December 29

Painting Light

Rehearsal Dinner
Copyright 2010

I’m blogging about painting light today. It seems appropriate as the lights are quickly dimming on the old year but with a new light on January 1st. Yes, I know that’s corny—but whatever.

To me painting light is the most intriguing aspect of painting in any medium, really—watercolor, oil, pastel, or acrylic.

The Impressionists certainly thought so. Their new-fangled way of painting was all about just that--painting light

It’s what I notice first when I look at a painting. It’s not that I consciously think, “Now where is the light source coming from?” or anything like that.

But the light is what illuminates the objects in a painting, of course. It’s what sets the mood. It tells the viewer almost everything he or she needs to know about the painting. Is it day, night, dusk, dawn, inside, outside, sunlight, moonlight? How bright is the light? What kind of shadows and reflective light are there?

I would go so far as to say that light is the most important thing in your painting. More important than hue, value, composition, or even the motif itself. Now that’s saying a lot, but I do believe that.

Just think about some of the paintings you most admire or some of the paintings of your favorite artists. You probably think the style or technique is what draws you to them. But I would venture to say it’s the light.

For example, as you know, Edward Hopper is one of my favorite painters. He is famous for painting light and shadow. Think about his famous painting, Nighthawks. It’s that eerie light emanating from overhead, with its yellow-y glare, juxtaposed against the darkness outside the diner that makes that painting what it is. That’s why it’s enduring.

Light can be soft or dramatic. The effect is what you’re after. Light will make or break your painting. Learn to paint it well.

Happy Painting!

Until next blog…

Wednesday, December 22

What IS the Purpose of Art?-Part Deux


A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog I called “What IS the Purpose of Art.” The list of purposes I provided was anything but complete. They were merely the ones that came to me directly off the top of my  head.

As the weeks passed since that blog, other purposes came to mind as I was painting away day after day.

So, I’m adding to the original list with “What IS the Purpose of Art?-Part Deux."

Art emotes.

Art stimulates.

Art simulates.

Art emulates.

Art challenges.

Art advocates.

Art enhances.

Art signifies.

Art engages.

Art enrages.

Art awes.

Art bothers.

Art enthralls.

Art reveals.

Art overwhelms.

Art insinuates.

Art portends.

Art mesmerizes

Art endures.

And Art matters.

Thank goodness!

Until next blog…

Friday, December 17

Why You Must Make Painting a Priority

Acrylic on Paper
Copyright 2010

It’s a busy time of year for everybody. For artists, it means making time for your art along with everything else that needs to get done.

That’s not always easy at any time of the year, but it’s especially difficult to make/find time during these weeks in December.

But I did. I finished my latest acrylic. Do you remember? I showed you the reference photo I was using for the painting in my November 29, 2010, blog.

I hope you like it. I do. It’s a busy street scene in Cochabamba, Bolivia; hence the title, “Cochabamba.”

It’s today’s image. It’s acrylic on 300-lb. Arches watercolor paper. If you follow my blog, then you know that recently acrylic on paper has become my medium of choice (at least for now).

During all the hustle and bustle I was able to set aside time on several days to get it done. That’s what you must do during busy times—make painting a priority. If nothing else, it’s for your mental health and well being.

You will find, I believe, that the time you set aside for painting allows you to put everything else you must do into perspective. That is, while you’re painting away, back there in the recesses of your brain, the gears and synapses are whirring away figuring out everything else that’s going on in your life.

And--as if by magic--everything you are worrying about and how to accomplish everything will fall neatly into place—like placing that very last puzzle piece in a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Imagine. Solving all your problems while painting. What a deal.

Happy Painting.

Until next blog…

Monday, December 13

If You Shop, Shop the Art Supply Store


Artists are not known for their shopping habits. We’re not known necessarily as browsers or mall-rats either.

Be that as it may, it is gift-giving time in many parts of the world, so even we artists must grin and bear it, as they say.

So I visited one of the local art supply stores in our corner of the suburbs the other day to do a little shopping.

Compared to most stores this time of year, it was relatively empty. Not that there wasn’t anyone else in the store; on the contrary, there were probably 15 or 20 others roaming around, which is more than you usually see in the store, but not at all like the hordes across the street at the mall or the big-box electronic outlet (thank goodness).

Oh, I know, I could always shop online. But, a website is so sterile. If I know exactly what I want, then it’s just a matter of finding the best deal. But where’s the fun in that as I like to say?

So today I was an artist/shopper shopping like artists shop--walking up and down the aisles looking at the abundant stock of brushes, of paper and canvases, of watercolor, of acrylic, of easels, of palettes, of carrying cases, and anything and everything else an artist could possibly want.

I saw some new products, too. Like pastels that look more like powder for ladies’ facial make-up than for art. It appeared you just dip your fingertip in the round, plastic disc and then paint with your finger. (Nothing wrong with that, I often paint with my fingers, don’t you?) But, of course, they were also selling little bitty brushes that looked like swabs, or whatever, for an additional price, of course.

I also spent time in the book section, thumbing through books on how to paint with watercolor, how to draw with colored pencils, how to paint portraits, how to draw and paint horses and trees and seascapes. If only it were as easy as the authors of these books make it sound.

Anyway, I was simply looking for a couple of small gifts that were just right, and which I did find, I’m happy to report.

The take-away of today's blog is, if you must get out and shop this time of year, then let it be at an art supply store.

And what do you know, I may have even found a gift for myself!

Until next blog…

Thursday, December 9

Using Acrylic Just Like Watercolor

This Was My First Acrylic on Paper
May, 2010

I’m still working on the acrylic I blogged about last week. It’s coming along quite nicely, and I believe it will be finished soon. I will show it to you at that time. Today's image is the first painting where I painted acrylic on paper.

Today I want to briefly discuss with you how I am using acrylic these days. The more I work with acrylic, the better I like it. It’s so versatile, which is not necessarily new to anyone, it’s just that I keep discovering acrylic’s qualities of which I was previously not aware.

In the past, I had painted acrylic on canvas using it the same way you use oil; that is, I was not diluting it with water too much (similar to diluting oil with odorless mineral spirits) and painting with visible brushstrokes and even impasto.

Now I am using acrylic with water. Just so you know, I have used acrylic with water before, but in my current painting, I am using it just like watercolor.

I mean just like watercolor. As I said, I now paint acrylic on paper rather than canvas.

And, in my current painting, I am using acrylic wet-in-wet. I dab out the acrylic(s) on my palette and mix the color I want with water and/or retarder, then I dampen the paper and apply the acrylic paint.

It flows--and the results are (almost) just like painting with watercolor. You do have to compensate and mix the colors slightly lighter than you desire because acrylic dries slightly darker. I have found that using more water mitigates this somewhat.

When it’s dry, you can then apply a thinned wash of color to change or enhance the look of your work if need be.

I’m not trying to disparage the beautiful paintings that watercolorists produce, I’m just telling you, you can get fantastic results with acrylic without all those rules you have to follow explicity with watercolor.

I find it easier and invigorating, and I am happy with my own results.

Until next blog…

Monday, December 6

Some Insight Into Edward Hopper's Work

My Oil Painting,Yellow Hill,
(sort of) in the Style of Hopper

Yesterday on Sunday Morning, a news and entertainment program with interesting segments on events and people, I saw an interview with Steve Martin, the American comedian and actor.

I knew, in addition to his acting, that Martin was also an award-winning banjo player and an author. He has written a play about Picasso, and he has a new novel about the art gallery scene in New York called Object of Beauty, the promoting of which was, I think, the reason for the interview.

I did not know, however, he is also an art connoisseur, and maybe you didn’t either.

The interview took place at the Whitney Museum in New York City as Martin perused the paintings and  discussed his love of art. Anyway, he was and is an art collector, and he mentioned an exhibition of his collection held in Las Vegas in 2001.

What got my attention, and the reason I’m blogging about this, was that one of Martin’s favorite artists is Edward Hopper. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know Hopper is also one of my favorites, too.

It turns out, for 25 years Martin has owned Captain Upton’s House, one of Hopper’s famous iconic houses-on-Cape Cod paintings. I did not know this, and I thought almost all of Hopper’s paintings were in museums.

Most interesting to me was a comment that Adam Weinberg, the director of the museum, made about Hopper (and I quote), “The great thing about Hopper is, you think you know what it’s about, but no matter how much you study it, you never really get it.”

Steve Martin agreed and said (I’m paraphrasing) that’s what makes great art—you can’t sum it up—it’s inexplicable, and that if you do figure it out, then the painting is “done.”

Great comments, and I couldn’t agree more about Edward Hopper’s work. What an interesting and insightful interview.

Until next blog…

Friday, December 3

Art and December Make Me Feel This Way

One of the Still Lifes I Haven't
 Gotten Around To (Yet)

Honestly, there are times when I sit down to write the art blog when I don’t have a clue as to what I’m going to say, and today is one of those days.

 I’m painting along on the acrylic that I told you about last blog, but it’s nowhere near finished so I’m not going to talk about that today.

 This is the first blog of December, a month in which I start to look backward over the year on what I have/have not accomplished art-wise.

 I have not (yet): 
  • Painted as much in the impressionistic style as I (think I) should be painting
  • Improved my eye for finding and taking photographs that will make an excellent painting (in fact, I’m wondering if a good reference photo is just a happy accident—I hope not)
  • Painted any still life work at all (yet) even though I said I would do this
  • Improved my watercolor painting techniques; in fact, just the opposite—I have all but abandoned watercolor
On the other hand, and before I get too depressed, I have:
  • Made a conscious decision to pursue the impressionistic style in my work—I had no idea it would be such a slow process to let go of my natural tendencies to control my brushwork
  • Tried to make the blog more personal (a little anyway) and talk about things in art that interest me and, hopefully, you
  • Embraced acrylic as my medium (at least for now); in doing so, I have been continually surprised at how relatively little serious acrylic painting there is out there in the art universe
So maybe it’s too soon to be looking back yet since the new year is still 28 days away, but as the title of the Dave Koz holiday song says, “December Always Makes Me Feel This Way.”

 Oh, and one more thing—the December image in my Monet calendar is his Palazzo da Mula, Venice 1908. It’s one you may not be familiar with, but it’s vintage Monet sort of in the ‘Rouen Cathedral’ style.

 I did find something to blog about today after all—it never fails.

Until next blog…

Monday, November 29

Preparing for Acrylic Painting

My Reference Photo
Photo Copyright 2010

It’s a gray, muggy Monday morning here, so I am trying to gin up a little enthusiasm to start painting. I know I’ll get it in gear as soon as I pick up my brush. It’s the initial inertia I have to overcome.

A cold front blowing through in the next hour will help, too, as it clears the skies and a brisk north wind will cool and dry out the air.

What am I working on? As I mentioned a few blogs back, I am having a great time painting acrylic on 300-lb. watercolor paper. I may have “found my medium” as one artist recently told me.

The motif of my current painting is a city street scene. I chose it because I like the various elements of the pedestrians, the cars on the busy street, the steep perspective of the buildings, and the distant mountain, which is barely visible.

I started on my painting a week ago.

First I enlarged my 4 x 6 in. (10 x 15 cm.) reference photo to 17.5 x 28 in. (44.5 x 71 cm.) to fit the a full-sheet size (22 x 30 in., 56 x 76 cm.) watercolor paper. My reference photo is now the actual size of my painting.

Then using the 17.5 x 28 in. measurement, I taped off the borders of the paper using Tear-by-Hand tape. This will give you a sharp, crisp edge.

Next I used Saral transfer paper between my enlarged reference photo and the watercolor paper to transfer the main elements to the paper. It's wonderful stuff. This really helps when you have buildings or structures, which must have the proper perspective.

I was then ready to paint. I mixed ultramarine blue, azo yellow, and cadmium red medium acrylic to create my “dark” color. I painted all the darkest elements first with varying shades of my dark color from almost black to lighter grays. FYI-this is just the opposite of how you paint in watercolor. I like to paint the darks first in acrylic because it helps me judge the correct values of the other colors.

Some painters like to paint the whole sheet a neutral color first to cut the white of the paper, but for some reason that doesn’t usually help me, so I rarely do that.

Then I started painting the tall building fa├žade on the left-hand side. And that’s where I am right now as I begin today’s work.

I’ll let you know how it’s going. That cold front is blowing through with a rain shower, but I expect the sun to be shining soon. What a nice metaphor for a successful day of painting!

Until next blog…

Thursday, November 25

Hey, Thanks Art!

Thanks for Art in Everyday Life
Photo Copyright 2010

Well, I want to thank Art today. Actually I thank Art on many days, but today being Thanksgiving in the U.S., it seems especially appropriate.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, Art and I go back a long way. Art deserves thanks for many reasons.

Art lubricates life.

Life runs more smoothly with Art, the same way good motor oil keeps your car running quietly and efficiently, but with a burst of power just when you need it.

Art lets you see a bigger horizon and often gives you a point of view you may never have considered.

Art enlightens and enriches.

Art is possibilities.

Every day Art fills up the hours with purpose and creativity.

Hey, Art, thanks!

Until next blog…

Monday, November 22

Do You Sit or Stand While Painting?

I Sat While I Painted
This Acrylic

OK, today must be trivia day. Are you a sitter or a stander?

I am a sitter. There, I admit it.

What the heck am I talking about?

I’m talking about what position you take when you create your painting and/or artwork. Do you primarily sit, or do you stand while you paint (or draw).

The traditional view of a painter is one who stands before an easel with a thumb in a kidney-shaped palette loaded with paint in one hand and a long brush in the other and wearing a beret (no, I’m just kidding about the beret). I don’t like stereotypes.

As I said, I’m a sitter. I work at a table with my support lying flat or almost flat in front of me. I’m not exactly sure why I paint in that position. Maybe it’s because when I got back into art a few years ago I started by drawing on paper. Drawing seems more natural on a flat surface, at least it does to me anyway.

A little later I began to paint in watercolor, which was a new medium for me. Again, I painted on a flat surface because, well, watercolor tends to run down the paper pretty quickly, and the only way to stop it is to lay the paper flat (duh). I’m sure there must be some watercolor painters somewhere who stand up while using watercolor—most likely letting the paint flow in an abstract way--just guessing.

It seems most of the photos you see of painters are ones standing before an easel or a mural or whatever. I guess most painters and artists are probably standers, but I don’t really know.

Of course, there was that one old photo of Monet sitting down in front of his easel painting his waterlilies. Now that does complicate things.

Maybe some of you will leave a comment and let the rest of us know in what position you do your painting.

Until next blog…

Thursday, November 18

My Latest Acrylic and a Book About a Van Gogh Portrait

Canal, Venice California
Acrylic on Paper
28 x 17 in (71 x 43 cm)
Copyright 2010
I’m feeling pretty good today. Why? Because I have accomplished three things this week.

“Only three? “ You say. No comment.

I completed my latest acrylic-on-paper painting, which is today’s image. I hope you like it. I actually have to do a little touch-up work on the bridge and a smidgen more here and there, but basically it’s finished (that’s no. 1).

In addition, I have also selected my next motif, and I am in preparation to start on it very soon (that’s no. 2).

And I finally finished reading the book, Portrait of Dr. Gachet-The Story of A Van Gogh Masterpiece by Cynthia Saltzman, that was previously listed over there in the right-hand column under The Art Book I’m Currently Reading (that’s no. 3).

I would recommend the book to anyone who is an art historian or a Vincent Van Gogh fan, or just likes to read books about art (like I do).

I would say it’s as much a book about history as it is about art. Oh, the main character is the painting of Dr. Gachet, but it’s mostly about what was going on all around the painting from its completion up until the book was published in the mid-1990s.

It takes you through the art markets in Paris, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It follows the painting from owner to owner through World War I and the 1920s.

A good portion of the story takes place during the Nazi era in Germany through the end of World War II. As I said, it’s as much about history as art, and this part goes into a lot of interesting details about how the painting survived and was finally shipped to the western hemisphere. If you’re a history “buff,” you will like this time period.

The painting continues on its journey from the 1950s through the 1980s with descriptions of art auctions especially in the 1980s when the prices sky-rocketed. The part about the Japanese owner who acquired it in the 1990s is very interesting, and that’s where the book ends.

Of course, I had to go online to find out what, if anything, has happened to the painting since then. Don't know if this is accurate, but Wikipedia says it was sold to an Austrian investment fund manager in 1997, but has no further information.

So it seems to be somewhat of a mystery. Too bad it’s not in one of the world’s great art museums for all to enjoy.

Until next blog…

Monday, November 15

Let's Celebrate Claude Monet's Birthday, November 14, 1840!


In case you missed it, Claude Monet’s 170th birthday was yesterday, November 14. I think this occasion deserves a lot more than my little blog post, but I haven’t seen or heard anyone online, or anywhere actually, talk about the anniversary of Monet’s birth. Now maybe they celebrated it with birthday parties at Musee d’Orsay or Giverny and I’m just not aware of it.

 Anyway, I decided to list just a few brief facts about his life in homage to the great painter:
  • Oscar Claude Monet was Born November 14, 1840, in Paris to Claude and Louise. 
  • The family moved to Le Havre in 1845, a seacoast town on the English Channel, where Monet studies at the art school and later becomes known as a caricaturist, well enough to earn a living even as a teenager. 
  • Monet studies oil painting under the tutelage of Eugene Boudin in 1857. 
  • By 1862 Monet lives in Paris and is a student in Charles Gleyre’s art school along with fellow painters Pierre-August Renoir, Frederic Bazille, and Alfred Sisley. It was here these painters experimented with plein air painting and loose, open brushwork. 
  • Monet paints Impression: Sunrise, a painting of the port at Le Havre, in 1872. 
  • Several of the “new” painters hold their first exhibition in 1874, including Impression: Sunrise, which provides the name for Impressionism and the modern era of painting.
  • In the 1870s Monet paints what were to become some of his most famous paintings including The Bridge at Argenteuil, Poppies Blooming, Saint Lazare Train Station, and Woman With a Parasol, just to name a few. 
  • In 1883 Monet, his second wife, and family move to Giverny.
  • In the 1880s and 1890s Monet experiments with painting the changing daylight in several series of paintings including Haystacks and Rouen Cathedral.
  • In later life in the first two decades of the 20th century Monet devotes his energy to his gardens at Giverny and painting perhaps his most famous paintings of water lilies, ponds, and his well-known bridge. 
  • Claude Monet dies December 5, 1926.

 I believe Monet’s impact on the world of art and painting is immeasurable. Just think about it, without Monet and Impressionism what would today’s art world look like?
Until next blog…


Friday, November 12

German Impressionism

I want to tell you about the great time I had yesterday visiting two exhibitions on German Impressionism at Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) open through December 5. Did you notice, I said not one, but two exhibitions?

-"A Variation of Impressionism" German Impressionist Landscape Painting: Liebermann—Corinth—Slevogt

-"Drawing from Nature: Landscapes by Liebermann, Corinth, and Slevogt"

They are actually across a great hall from each other in rooms on the 2nd floor of the Beck Building in case you’re planning to go.

As you may have read in my blog, I always like learning new things about art. I knew nothing about German Impressionism or even that there was German Impressionism. I knew about French, of course, and something about American, but about the German, I knew nothing. Unless you’ve studied art history, you probably didn't either.

The MFAH did a great job in my opinion. They painted the walls of the exhibit rooms a celadon green, which sounds bad, I know, but it really made all those paintings pop. They also gave you just enough information printed in large type on the walls as you entered each room so that you get a context and some history for what you are about to view.

The stars of the show are, of course, the paintings of Max Liebermann, Lovis Corinth, and Max Slevogt (I guess Max was a popular name back then). As I said, I had never heard of any of these painters.

My tendency as I began viewing the paintings was to compare them to the famous French Impressionist paintings with which I was familiar. Somewhere after viewing the 20th painting or so (out of maybe 150 although I didn’t count) I stopped comparing them because it was obvious these paintings can stand on their own merit and style.

I learned that Liebermann, Corinth, and Slevogt were contemporaries in Germany in the late 1800s up until the 1920s. From the dates of the paintings in the exhibition, it appears these artists' main work came after the French Impressionists had paved the way for Impressionism.

From my point of view, the German's earlier work generally used a darker palette than the French but as time passed they appeared to lighten up. The motifs are mostly landscapes in the Netherlands and around cities, lakes, and mountains (Alps) in Germany.

I liked the work of Lovis Corinth the best. To me he had the most impressionistic style. I especially liked his painting, Walchensee Mit Larch (Lake Walchen with Larch Tree). It was eye-catching from far across the room with its palette of French Ultramarine blue, Violet, and Teal green.

If you want to learn more, you may “Google:” MFAH, German Impressionism and/or the names of these three painters. If this traveling exhibition comes to an art museum near you, don’t miss it.

Until next blog…

Monday, November 8

Shake Up Your Artwork Every Once In A While

My Shaken-Up Acrylic Paint Drawer

I’m painting with acrylic on 300-lb. Arches watercolor paper for the second time. A few months ago I blogged about the first painting I had completed using the same medium and support.

I liked the results then, and I like what I’m working on now even though I have just barely begun to paint.

Why do I like painting with acrylic on watercolor paper?

Well, I like the way the paint flows onto the relatively rough texture of the paper. When you paint acrylic (or oil for that matter) on canvas, linen, etc., it goes on pretty smoothly unless you’re doing impasto or some other thick-paint method. That’s all fine and good, but for some reason it can make my brushstrokes seem hard to control.

With watercolor paper there is just enough drag so that I feel more in control of the brushstrokes. It gives me a sense of controlling the pace of the painting. I may not be describing it very well, but it seems to give me the ability to paint the brushstrokes exactly how I want to render them.

I don’t know many artists' secrets or tricks of the trade. However, I do know that creating art is about being creative, and that includes trying new things— new to me anyway.

As I frequently say, “that’s how we learn.”

If everyone (every artist, that is) painted the same way, we’d all still be rendering primitive, but charming, cave paintings. No?

And where’s the fun in that?

Now, I’m not advocating that you all start painting acrylic on watercolor paper. Every painter has to do his or her own thing.

I am advocating that every painter try something new and different to rejuvenate the artistic possibilities.

Shake it up every once in a while and see what happens.

Are the fine-art-oil-painting purists out there cringing? I hope so. Good.

Until next blog…

Thursday, November 4

Ending the Life of a Painting


Well, I gesso’d a bunch of my stretched canvases yesterday. More precisely, I gesso’d over some of my acrylic paintings yesterday.

The good news is that gesso allows you the opportunity to re-use canvases with paintings that, for whatever reason, you have decided are not worthy enough to keep in perpetuity for future generations. That’s the good news, as I said.

The bad news is that you have chosen, for whatever reason, to scrap your artistic creation after what was probably a violent birth. This means you have decided your painting does not, for whatever reason, live up to your expectations and is worth no more than the value of the (now used) canvas itself.

Such are the trials and tribulations, the ups and downs, the ying and yang of a painter.

Some would call it character building, but it is a wrenching experience.

There’s nothing quite like taking a broad brush soaked in gesso and slapping it onto your once beloved work of art. It’s like sending a step-child away forever, although I don’t really know what that’s like, but I imagine it must be.

First you go through the tortures (“of the damned” as my grandmother used to say) of admitting to yourself that you would ever even consider what amounts to virtually throwing your painting(s) away.

Hmmm, which of my "children" do I like least?

Then there is the act itself. Up until the very moment you apply the gesso, you haven’t ruined the painting. In that instant before it touches the canvas you indecisively think, ”What am I doing?”

But after all of that, you have saved yourself the expense and labor of buying or preparing a new canvas.

Then you’re only left with the guilt. Was it worth it?

Until next blog…

Monday, November 1

What IS the Purpose of Art?


The idea for today’s blog just popped into my head. What is the purpose of art?

Art soothes.

Art inspires.

Art reinvigorates.

Art provokes.

Art shines.

Art wows.

Art saddens.

Art propagandizes.

Art humbles.

Art cures.

Art beautifies.

Art tantalizes.

Art calms.

Art nurtures.

Art educates

Art glorifies.

Art honors.

Art empowers.

Art symbolizes.

Art helps.

And much, much more.

Until next blog…

Thursday, October 28

In the Vanguard of Painting


Back in June of this year I wrote a blog on The “Voice” of Eugene Delacroix. I had just finished a book that was a compendium of his correspondence with family, friends, and business associates. It included letters from early adulthood, all throughout his career, and nearly up until his death in 1863.

I found his letters very interesting, but it wasn’t until I watched a show about Delacroix recently on television that I understood his significance in the history of art, particularly the history of painting.

The show is Artistic Genius, an educational and entertaining series that spotlights great artists. I have also seen the ones on Caravaggio and Rembrandt.

Succinctly, the directors of the show highlighted three things that Delacroix did to change the course of painting. I hope you are able to catch the show in your area.

First, he painted using an open style to build up form and color with paint rather than drawing a precise line and/or outline of an object and then “fill in” with paint.

Second, he was one of the first well-known artists to paint common people as the subjects of his paintings rather than the historic, biblical, or mythological figures and subjects, which were the accepted norm.

Thirdly, he was one of the first artists to quit using black in his paintings. He did this after studying color and shadows for years and understanding the colors than emanate from an object. In this he was a precursor to the Impressionist painters.

So Delacroix was in the vanguard of painting. Don’t you wish your methods and paintings could have such an impact on the world of art? I certainly do.

Until next blog…

Monday, October 25

That Stressful Time Between Finishing a Painting and Starting Another

On a Clear Day
Acrylic on Canvas
18 x 36 in (45.7 x 91.4 cm)
Copyright 2010

Well, I finished the acrylic I’ve been working on for the last two weeks and posted it to your left. At least I think it’s finished. I like it, but I’m sure there will be some comments on improvements at critique class.

I have learned to consider the suggestions carefully before making any changes. That’s because on my last painting, it got worse with every iteration of “improvements” that I made. That was my opinion anyway. I finally had to go back to how it looked before I started making changes before I was satisfied enough to call it finished.

Whatever. I guess that’s how we learn.

I am now in that in-between period between paintings. I’ve just finished one, but have not started another. It can be a stressful time. You feel the pressure to quickly begin painting immediately so as not to lose your good painting karma. Sort of like climbing back up on the horse that’s just thrown you I suppose.

I do have several ideas I’m kicking around but haven’t settled on one yet. I’ll keep going through my reference photos to see if I can find a hidden gem.

Until next blog…

Thursday, October 21

Stop and Think About Your Art (and Andrew Wyeth's)

An Early Acrylic of Mine

Someone recently gave me a back issue of Smithsonian Magazine that they had saved for me because there was an article on Andrew Wyeth. They know I like to read articles and books about all kinds of artists, so it was appreciated.

The article was from June, 2006, so it was a while ago, and before he passed away last year. It is an in-depth article written by Henry Adams and also shows some of Wyeth's well-known paintings.

The author called Christina’s World, which is shown, “one of the two or three most famous American paintings of the 20th century.” He put it in the same category as Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Edward Hopper’s (a favorite of mine, you know) Nighthawks.

Now that is saying something.

I also learned about his early art training from his famous father, NC, about his early success as a painter,  about the importance of his wife’s encouragement, and his stature as a realist.

A couple of things in the article stood out and made me stop and think.

One was a quote from Wyeth--“Magic! It’s what makes things sublime. It’s the difference between a picture that is profound art and just a painting of an object.”

The other was about art historian Robert Rosenblum who, when asked to name the most underrated and the most overrated artists of the century, said--Andrew Wyeth.

The first thing tells me there is more to a painting than just a rendering of what an artist sees.

The second tells me that some will always like your work while others will always dislike your work.

You should stop and think about these things, too.

Until next blog...

Monday, October 18

A Couple of Helpful Artistic Resources

Just Wanted to Show You
One of My Acrylics

Here are a couple of items I thought you may find helpful. I hope they will help you create your next great work of art or at least give you a push in that direction.

First is a product that was recommended to me by an artist who uses it to sketch out the elements of an acrylic painting. It’s Saral transfer paper made by the Saral Paper Corp. The bullet points on the package say it all really: for tracing on any surface, no wax or grease, erases and won’t smear, and can be drawn or painted over.

Although I can draw and sketch pretty well, as all artists should be able to do, I use it primarily to ensure I am getting the perspective right, especially in paintings with architectural elements, before I begin to paint.

It comes on a roll that is 12 ft. (4 m) long and 1 ft. (.3 m.) wide. It’s easy to use and comes in graphite gray, white, blue, yellow and red so you can select the color that is closest to your painting. It is also reusable, which I really like.

Second, I want to tell you about an email list I’m on. It’s called Chroma Link e-news, and it comes monthly. It is, and I quote from the email, “updates on products, painting tips, techniques & ideas that inspire!”

Chroma is a paint manufacturer, so they will tell you all about their own products. However, there is also useful information for artists in both the emails and on the website. For example, in the October email there are articles on varnishing and blending as well as several how-to painting demonstrations on YouTube.

I hope you find both of these helpful.

Until next blog…

Thursday, October 14

Why Doesn't Acrylic Get the Respect (I Think) It Deserves?

One of My First Paintings in Acrylic

The title of today’s blog is a question I am trying to find the answer to.

Why hasn't acrylic earned a legitimate (and I might add, respected) place among the painting media? Someone just tell me, please.

My goal is to paint and render in acrylic paintings that are every bit as fine, as excellent, as awarded and, yes, as respected as oil paintings.

Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be an undercurrent of disrespect in the greater art world for acrylic paint as a true artistic medium.

I’ve blogged on this topic before, and still I have not been able to put my finger on it.

Acrylic seems to be grudgingly included in art competitions. I guess that’s something (to be included, I mean).

Have you noticed—there’s no Acrylic Artist magazine (print or online) devoted exclusively to acrylic painting and that publishes on a regular basis that I have been able to find? If you know of one, please leave a comment.

I can’t find an Acrylic Art Society or similar exclusively for acrylic painters. Oh, I did find the National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society, but as you can see from its name, acrylic is lumped in with oil and even gets second billing in the title.

As I’ve said before, acrylic has only been around since 1955. In the eyes of oil painters, has it not yet stood the test of time? To this I ask, “How long is long enough?”

Maybe it’s because manufacturers are still inventing and refining formulas, and oil painters think of the relatively new open-acrylics as experimental. What?!


If you agree, or especially if you disagree, with my observations, let’s discuss it.

Until next blog…

Tuesday, October 12

Visiting Rothko Chapel

Reflecting Pond at Rothko Chapel

Last weekend I visited the Rothko Chapel here. It had been a long, long time.

For some reason, when you live somewhere, you don’t get around to seeing the sights and attractions in your own area very often. I don’t know why that is, but I doubt that many native New Yorkers visit the Empire State Building very often either.

Located in the arts and Museum District, the chapel is only about a block away from the Menil Collection, itself a very fine art museum and worthy of being visited often. The chapel was developed and gifted by John and Dominique de Menil in 1971. Mark Rothko, the well-known Abstract Expressionist, was commissioned by the de Menils to create a sacred place.

It’s a somewhat plain setting on a regular neighborhood block with an abundance of oak and pecan trees. Its early-1970s style and architecture, beige and boxy, account for the austerity, I think. There’s a reflecting pond out front with a Barnett Newman sculpture, Broken Obelisk, standing within.

Inside there’s a small reception area, and beyond that the chapel is simple and rather dimly lit, even on a sunny day, with a large overhead skylight. Long, dark benches line up on either side of the main aisle. It is non-denominational.

In keeping with the quiet and somber mood are fourteen Rothko paintings hanging on the walls of the octagonal room. I don’t know the dimensions of the paintings, but they are very large; I would estimate them to be about 8 ft. (2.4 m.) wide x 20 ft. (6.1 m.) high.

However, it is the colors that Rothko used on the paintings--black and deep purple--that is so striking. Known as a Color Field painter, Rothko only painted with these two colors, which cover the canvases.

A quote from Dominique de Menil in the pamphlet you are handed says it best, “It is a place where a great artist, turned towards the Absolute, had the courage to paint almost nothing—and did it masterfully.”

Until next blog…

Thursday, October 7

From Where Does Your Inspiration Come?

I was inspired by Edward Hopper
when I painted this watercolor
Today I’m blogging about inspiration. Why inspiration?

Because all artists need, and I would go so far to say, they crave inspiration. Many don’t know it, but I think if you are a passionate and caring and creative artist, you already know all about inspiration.

Let me re-phrase that; you already know about the power of inspiration.

I will only speak from personal painting experience, but I think inspiration is the essence of your muse. It can make or break your creative session, your current painting, or your well being as an artist.

Inspiration moves you to a heightened awareness and a burst of visualization that previously was not obtainable or at least not there consciously. Inspiration drives you and me to greater creative possibilities.

Inspiration is a personal thing. What inspires me probably won’t inspire you and vice versa. That’s what makes it so unique, artistically speaking.

For me, inspiration is like an analog clock, remember those, that must be wound to keep on ticking. When I’m newly inspired, I feel I can take on challenging, new projects with the confidence that my painting will be the best it’s ever been.

Then, slowly, ever so slowly, the spring of inspiration uncoils, and the tension of what is possible begins to wane. It can take days, weeks, or even years. As I said, it’s a personal thing.

I get my artistic inspiration from several things, not all of them purely art, but all are in the creative realm. A movie that takes me on a journey from less to more, from impossible to possible, or from down-trodden to great expectations often inspires me. I’m not giving any examples, though.

Music also inspires me to greater possibilities. Certain music takes me to another place that opens up my mind. Since taste in music is highly personal, I not recommending any except to say you might give Yo-Yo Ma a try.

Last but not least, of course, is art itself. Seeing original art in person is probably best, but reading and looking at art and paintings in books or even online will do it for me. If you have a favorite artist, look again at his or her best work and see if you don't get a twinge of inspiration. It works for me. I just finished a book full of Edward Hopper's work, and I can't wait to start my next painting.

Maybe even an online art blog, such as this one, will be your inspiration. No?

Until next blog…

Monday, October 4

An Artist's Struggle With Contemporary Impressionism

My Acrylic With Which I Struggle

I am working on an acrylic, the motif of which I showed you a week ago—you remember, the tree, the road, the windmill?

I will tell you about my struggle in hopes that other painters will feel a sense of kinship in that many artists do struggle on occasion.

I am working really hard to make a pleasing painting, but I’m struggling. The difficulty is—I’m not sure just what the difficulty is. I think that’s part of the problem. I can’t decide which is worse, not knowing what the problem is, or knowing what the problem is, but not what to do about it.

Let me see if I can explain what I think the problems are.

Well, acrylic is the medium. In my experience that means a couple of things. One, I am painting pretty darn quickly even using a humidifier/retarder to slow down the drying time, which seems instantaneous, but luckily you can immediately paint over it.

Two, no matter how limited a palette I start out with, I invariably end up adding a tube color to my palette. Most artists say that is a no-no, but it works better for me than my mixing just a few limited colors.

Whatever, that’s just acrylic. But, in addition I am still having trouble rendering the style that I want or at least have in my mind’s eye.

“And what style is that,” you ask?

OK, I’m going for contemporary impressionism.

To me, contemporary impressionism is a cross between regular, old Monet Impressionism and representational, realistic-looking art. That is, it’s not so purely impressionistic and loose that you can almost see the oozing light and atmosphere, but yet it’s not so realistic that you would mistake it for photo-realism.

Does that make sense? It makes sense to me, but I struggle. Look at today’s image.

On the impressionistic side, I’m painting soft and vanishing edges and a horizon so hazy you barely notice it. On the other hand, when I try to paint the tree(s) and fence posts in the same gauze-y way, it doesn’t look right, so I painted those more in focus. (The windmill has not been painted yet in case you're squinting to look for it.)

You know, I can’t even find a definition of contemporary impressionism when I Google it. Maybe that’s the problem.

Oh well, it’s my struggle. Maybe I’ll finish the painting to my liking in a couple of days.

Until next blog…

Friday, October 1

OrbisPlanis Has A New Logo

New OrbisPlanis Logo

Just a quick post on this Friday afternoon to let you know OrbisPlanis has a new logo as seen above.

The old logo, which was in use for more than two years, has decided to take a sabbatical.

The new logo represents art going forward in our inter-connected, online world.

I hope you like it.

Until next blog...

Thursday, September 30

Painterly - What Does It Mean?

I Would Describe My Small Acrylic
As Painterly

Painterly is not a word you probably use very often, if ever. I certainly never used it until I started painting again. It’s a word that usually only artists, and more specifically painters, use.

But what does it mean?

I read the word in articles in artist’s magazines and online more than I actually hear anyone, except artists or painters, use it. From the context in which it’s often used, the word seems to be about the appearance or the style of the artist or painting, for example,“the petals on the flower look painterly.”

Without getting off on parts of speech and such, in the English language the –ly suffix on the end of a word usually means it’s an adverb that modifies the verb, as in “he sketched the still life quickly,” where the adverb quickly modifies the past-tense verb sketched.

The word painterly is somewhat of an anomaly to this. Paint (to paint) is a verb. The word painter, however, is a noun, so adding the –ly suffix to a noun is usually not done and is, grammatically speaking, usually incorrect.

You wouldn’t say a swimmer’s style is swimmerly, a doctor’s diagnosis is doctorly, or that a computer programmer’s code is programmerly. Would you?

But for some reason, a painter’s or painting's style is described as painterly.

The online defines painterly as: of, relating to, or typical of a painter (a noun); also suggestive or characteristic of a painting. It goes on to say: marked by an openness of form, which is not linear and in which sharp outlines are lacking. They give two examples, “he has a painterly eye,” and “a painterly picture of the sea.”

Now we’re getting somewhere. First, painterly is being used as an adjective to modify a noun (painterly picture) rather than an adverb to modify a verb, so it does not follow the typical use of the –ly suffix. That explains that anomaly.

Secondly, and probably more to the point, it says painterly refers to openness of form and not linearity or straight lines. I also take this to mean a more loose, open style rather than a tight, very precise rendering. I would suggest you could call most of the Impressionist’s work painterly.

Wikipedia also has a lot more on this than I care to mention. If you want to know more, it talks about painterliness—now there’s a mouthful—and about visible brushstrokes being less than controlled, etc. etc.

However, this is probably already more than you wanted to read or think about the word painterly, but since it’s one of those words peculiar to art, I thought you might be interested.

Until next blog…

Monday, September 27

Painting, Reading, and Projecting - A Slow Day in My Art Studio

My Current Motif

It’s a rather slow Monday in the studio, so I thought this would be a good day for one of my TTO blogs. TTO stands for This, That, and the Other. I assume no further explanation is necessary…

I am working on my next acrylic. It’s going rather slowly. I’m having trouble getting into the real mood of the painting. I don’t know why. It’s a perfectly good outdoor-sy landscape of a road, a big tree as the focal point, and a windmill as a counterpoint. I do like the sun and shadows in it, so we shall see (how it goes).

I finished the Great Book of French Impressionism over the weekend. I have been reading it off and on for the last three weeks. Looking at it would actually better describe what I was doing rather than reading it, because it is mostly pages and pages of famous paintings by Manet, Monet, Bazille, Van Gogh, and Cezanne just to name a few.

I am starting my next book, Hopper’s Places. I have seen many of these paintings in other books and even a few of them in person. The focus of this book is on the locations Edward Hopper painted in his cityscapes and on Cape Cod.

Let’s see, what else?

Last week I purchased a projector that enlarges and projects an image onto your support so that you can easily sketch in the main elements. Since I like to paint structures and buildings, maybe this will help in getting the perspective right the first time I draw it. It doesn’t project a very bright image even in a darkened room during the day, so I may have to use the thing at night. It works better on bright, colorful images. If you use one of these, please let me know what your experience has been.

As I said, a rather slow Monday in the studio, but it is now time for me to get back to my acrylic and see what I can make of it.

Until next blog…

Thursday, September 23

It's Museum Day in the US This Saturday

The "Castle" at the Smithsonian Museum
 in Washington, D.C.

If you live in or happen to be in the United States this coming Saturday, September 25, 2010, then you have an opportunity to broaden your artistic horizons. It’s not very often that you have a chance to increase your knowledge and awareness about art and history.

But this Saturday you can.

It’s Museum Day in the US, the sixth annual one sponsored by Smithsonian Magazine.

I urge everyone, and especially artists, to take advantage of this opportunity. It’s free at some participating museums across the country, and the magazine even offers a free ticket to a participating museums. Now that’s a deal you can't pass up.

Five museums, of the many museums participating around the country, were featured in the September edition of the magazine: Adler Planetarium, Chicago, IL; Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL; and Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston, MA.

But many, many more around the country are also opening their doors this Saturday, too.

In Houston 17 museums will be open for FREE for the 14th Annual Museum Day here in our Museum District.

Not all are strictly art museums, but that’s OK; as I said you can increase your knowledge and awareness of art AND history.

In addition to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Menil Collection, and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 14 other interesting museums, such as the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, the Czech Center Museum, the Holocaust Museum Houston, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Houston Center for Photography are also joining in, just to name a few.

METRO is even providing free shuttle buses among the museums here so you have no excuse not to see them all. I hope other cities are being as accommodating.

So, I hope you visit the Smithsonian or a participating museum in your area this Saturday.

Until next blog…

Monday, September 20

Space and Light - Altered States

Watercolor on Paper
Copyright 2008

Sometimes I don’t even know I have a problem. It’s only later when I see things differently that I know I had (or still have) the problem.

You’ll probably be surprised as you read on because I’m not talking about your drawing ability or media or knowledge of color theory or your style or technique.

I paint in a rather confined area. I have a table, an easel, a rolling stack of drawers, a couple of chairs, and my notebook computer, of course. It’s roughly a 10x10 ft. (3.05x3.05 m.) space, for me comfortable and cozy.

My space has a large double window facing west-northwest. A true-north light would be best, but I live with what I have. The window glass also has a tint to block some of the sun’s heat and rays. The best light comes in the afternoon from about 1 p.m. until 6 p.m., give or take, depending on the season of the sun.

In my space I plan, I paint, I re-paint, I finish a painting. Looks pretty good, if I do say so myself.

So what’s the problem?

Well, I go to critique class, which is in a professional artist’s studio. It’s on the second floor in a rather large space--I’m guessing it’s 30x25 ft. (9.14x7.63 m.). There is true-north light coming in from two side-by-side French doors plus a small window in the corner facing south.

In addition, there is a large rectangle of track lighting on the ceiling, along with several pot lights and a four-bulb light fixture on the ceiling fan. In other words, the place is flooded with natural and incandescent light.

As I place my painting on the easel. I am able to stand way back, at least 15 ft.(4.57 m.), and look at my work in dazzling light (compared to my space, anyway).

It looks pretty much altogether different than it did earlier in my space.

The values seem to be different and the colors have certainly changed. Not actually “changed,” you know,  but they appear so different in this setting. And being able to stand back and see the painting NOT close up really does change the way it looks to the viewer.

Whatever suggestions I receive as critique, I have to filter when I get back to my space. And when I make the changes they again don’t appear the same as in my space at the next critique, and on it goes.

SPACE and LIGHT I am talking about, the basics of our physical and art world. What a difference they can make in how your painting appears.

If you are not able to enlarge your painting space or light-up your studio better, then you must view your “finished” painting in a larger room with brighter lighting or, better yet, take it out of doors and look at it in a different environment before declaring it “finished.”

Not the perfect solution, but better than being surprised when you hang it in a show or gallery.

Until next blog…

Thursday, September 16

Watercolor Pencils (and Titanium White) to the Rescue

Tres Arboles
Watercolor on Paper
18 x 28 in/46 x 71 cm
Copyright 2010
I am re-working my watercolor.

I was not happy when I looked at it again after I put it away four months ago. You know, sometimes you just have to get away from your work, let it "rest," and look at it with a fresh eye.

When I looked at it again, my fresh eye did not like the foreground because I thought the colors were too dark.

I had previously added darker, but warmer, colors (violet and red) to make the foreground appear closer to the viewer.

However, now the darker, but warmer, colors seemed, to me anyway, to make the painting look unbalanced.

To re-work the watercolor, I wet the paper and lifted, lifted, lifted the colors.

It looked somewhat better, but now I had new problem. The foreground looked washed out, and not in a good way.

Then it came to me—watercolor pencils (and Titanium white).

Why not? What else are watercolor pencils for? There are no rules (except in the Tranparent Watercolor Society where white watercolor is verboten,) and I have no intention whatsoever of entering it anywhere.

Although the scene is on a partly-cloudy day, I used watercolor pencils to add contrast, brightness, and highlights. (Oh, and I used Titanium white for the white flower petals.)

I also changed the name from 'Bluebonnet Fields Forever' to 'Tres Arboles,' which emphasizes the three trees, where it belongs, rather than the flowers.

Now I'm happier, and I think my watercolor is, too.

Until next blog…

Monday, September 13

The Many Moods of Paintings

Untitled by Thom Harris
Oil on Canvas, c.1950
Feelings, nothing more than feelings, as the old song goes—some of the great and powerful things art does is to create mood and evoke emotion, you know, feelings.

That may seem to go without saying; however, I think it’s gone so long without saying that we artists sometime forget about that power.

The very nature of this visual medium begets a response even if it’s nothing more than, “Oh, what a pretty vase of flowers.”

Every painting creates a mood whether the artist intended to or not. If the artist is not cognizant of this mood-creating/emotion-evoking power as he or she paints, pity. That’s a problem, and if that’s the case, you’re not painting, you’re just “slinging paint.”

As lukewarm as the above response may be, the viewer at least identifies with the subject in some way. In this example, I’m guessing the flowers, or the vase, created a mood of cheerfulness and evoked an emotion of contentment, at least at some level.

Of course, the mood created and the emotion evoked depend on the subject matter, the color palette, and the style in which the painting is rendered, among other facets the artist controls.

Mood is such a personal response to all sorts of life events that it’s difficult to generalize about the mood that may overtake the viewer when looking at a painting. As its creator, the artist should know what he or she intended, but not the end result for the viewer—you just never know how anyone will take your work of art.

The emotional response can be from near zero to almost infinity depending on the individual’s state of mind, the motif, and the setting in which the painting is viewed. All three combine to provide that “certain something” when you see a painting for the very first time.

I’m pretty sure this mood-thing is in play when people say their favorite painting is, for example, Renoir's The Luncheon of the Boating Party or their favorite painter is Edward Hopper. What they’re really saying is, ”I always remember how I felt when I first saw that painting.”

The biggest sin an artist can make is to forget, or worse, be unaware of, the moodiness and emotional power of the brushstroke. You know, feelings.

Until next blog…

Thursday, September 9

What Was Claude Monet's Color Palette?

Row Boat, Acrylic on Canvas,
10 x 14 in/ 25 x 35 cm
Copyright 2009
You may, or may not, have noticed over there in the right-hand column of my blog that I recently added a section I call ‘The Art Book I’m Currently Reading.’ I thought some of you may be interested in what another artist is reading because I am interested in what artists read.

Anyway, I’m on my third book since I added that section, and it’s The Great Book of French Impressionism. You have probably gleaned from my previous blogs that I like Impressionism. I will admit to it. Call me old-fashioned, I don’t care.

I like Claude Monet’s work among many of the Impressionists just like millions (I’m guessing) of other people on the planet.

One of the things that I have been curious about was his color palette. Just what paint colors did he use? One would think there would be a very straight-forward answer on that topic, what with the internet and all.

So, I Googled several phrases that I thought would best describe what I was looking for. I thought a list of paint colors would immediately pop-up. However, from what I could find, there are only a few sites that even discuss the actual colors. Most talk about all kinds of painting techniques and how he painted and how he didn’t use black and where he painted and blah, blah, blah.

From the few sites I found about his actual colors: discussed the colors in Monet’s famous Bathers at La Grenouillere, 1869, one of his earlier works. It said: vermilion, viridian, emerald green, chrome green, chrome yellow, lemon yellow, cobalt violet, Prussian blue, and lead white.

From the art blog, My French Easel, in 2009, two quotes were evidently researched and provided. One quote says, “Silver White, Cadmium Yellow, Vermilion, Dark Madder, Cobalt Blue, Emerald Green and that’s it.” (Letter from Monet to G. Durand-Ruel–Giverny, 3 July 1905). A second quote: “Silver White, Light Cobalt Purple, Emerald Green, Extra-fine ultramarine; Sometime – occasionally – some Vermilion. Then a trinity of Cadmium: Light, Dark, Citrus; I also sell to him a Citrus Yellow Ultramarine, since a few years.” (Tabarant, Couleurs in Le Bulletin de la Vie Artisitique, 15 July 1923, pages 287-290).

One online-answer site,, says the colors were/are: lead white (modern equivalent = titanium white, chrome yellow (modern equivalent = cadmium yellow light), cadmium yellow, viridian green, emerald green, French ultramarine, cobalt blue, madder red (modern equivalent = alizarin crimson), vermilion, and ivory black (but only used before 1886).

There are probably more, but I got tired of looking. And I think you can just about figure out which colors Monet used, give or take. I am sure his color palette changed somewhat over the years as his painting matured, and that accounts for the differences.

I will use the list from because I already happen to have all those modern-equivalent colors on hand. From one artist who likes Impressionism, I think this is a very interesting subject.

Until next blog…

Monday, September 6

7 Simple Tips for Better Composition in Your Paintings

Example: I Think This Reference Photo Has Good Composition
Photo Copyright 2010
Hi- Today I am talking about achieving pleasing composition in your paintings or drawings.

Composition is one of those elements that, when done correctly goes unnoticed, but--oh boy--if it’s done poorly, everyone notices.

Here are seven simple tips to better composition:

1. First decide which layout fits your motif best—more horizontal (landscape) or more vertical (portrait).

2. Remember the ‘golden mean’ in design—things should be in the proportion of 1/3 to 2/3.

3. Remember the ‘rule of 3s’—arrangement looks best when there are at least three objects in opposition to each other—some even look for the imaginary triangle in composition; similarly, an odd number of objects is more interesting than an even number.

4. If painting en plein air, use either a frame-template or your two hands to hold up before your motif in order to “size-up” the boundaries before you start painting; keep doing this as your painting progresses so you don’t forget your boundaries.

5. If painting from a reference photo, crop the motif using photo-editing software, print out the cropped motif, and tape it to your support as you paint.

6. The focal point of your painting should be placed diagonally inward from one of the corners, not too high and not too low, and definitely not in the center .

7. Use some element (a shadow, a road, a river) to lead the viewer into your painting.

Academics would say these simple tips are too elementary, but for me, and I’m guessing for a lot of us, that’s just what we need. I hope this is helpful.

Until next blog…