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...