Sunday, May 30

Sharing My Work-In-Progress with Art Bloggers

My Acrylic Work-In-Progress
Hi Fans & Followers-

Tomorrow being a holiday in the USA, I thought I’d do just a brief blog today to show you my work-in-progress on the acrylic on which I'm currently working. It’s a cropped view of chairs and tables in a sidewalk cafĂ© and is today’s image.

I worked on it yesterday for about six hours, and I estimate it’s around 75 percent complete. I will finish very soon—maybe even this afternoon.

I’m having a great time painting this, especially the reflections on the metallic table tops.

And while I’m painting, I’m also listening to the tennis matches streaming live online from Roland Garros and the French Open. Uh-oh, it's starting to rain in Paris (@ 8:00 p.m. Paris time), so I guess they'll call it a day.

What a great way to spend the weekend! I hope all painters are enjoying a similar experience.

Until next blog…

Thursday, May 27

Don't Let Failure Impact Your Art

The Scream by Edvard Munch
In the Public Domain
Hi Followers & Fans-

Today’s blog is is about failure, a subject which almost no one wants to bring up or even think about.

I believe artists think about it more than other professions (using the term loosely, of course) because of the nature of our work being so visible for all to see. There are not many other jobs where the fruits of your labor are so immediately on view for others to consume or consider. OK, acting and writing are similar in this respect.

In a perfect world, however, artists wouldn’t think about failure at all.

But I do, and, if you’re an artist, you probably do, too. I think about it every time I put paintbrush to paper (or canvas, etc.). Not every moment, to be sure, but at some point in every session, the specter of failure sooner or later rises up to greet me.

It can be the stray brush mark that is difficult to correct. It can be the off-color paint mix that you were sure would appear perfectly but somehow misses the mark. It can be worrying about what others will think of your painting.

More often than not, it is insecurity, the fear of failure, I have about my abilities to render a pleasing or a thought-provoking or a soul-searching or whatever (you fill in the adjective) work of art rather than the artwork itself

I am not an insecure person, generally. Many artists are not insecure people, generally.

Insecurity is the mother of failure, not only in art, but especially in art.

Overcome insecurity. Your work is your expression of your artistic viewpoint. Be proud of your work and others will follow. Don’t let others judge your work in such a way that it impacts your ability to create your art.

As one successful artist, by all accounts, said to me recently, “Screw ‘em!”

Be bold and secure and forthright, and you will find the antidote to the “F” word.

Until next blog…

Monday, May 24

Monday Mornings in the Studio

My Reference Photo for Next Acrylic

Oh, it’s Monday morning again in the art studio—that's the time when I look around, with coffee mug in hand, to see what in the world is going on here and what the coming week may bring.

Here’s what I see:

Several completed paintings are lying around somewhere needing to be framed; I have measured and trimmed some of them and even bought Plexiglass for one, but I can’t remember which is which. So, I need to get all that organized.

I need to finish a purge of my art drawers that I began on Saturday. These are the drawers that hold all my art supplies so that I could get some of the supplies off the floor and into the drawers. In the process I decided that my jumbled pile of acrylic paint tubes needed organizing.

I got frustrated trying to decide how to group the acrylic colors, but settled on this: all the reds, violets, purples + burnt sienna in one drawer; the blues in another; the yellows, oranges + raw sienna in a third; the greens in a fourth; the whites in a fifth ( I have a lot of whites); the grays, blacks, and “other “(buff, gold, etc.) of which there are not that many, I put in zip-lock bag. If anyone has a better method, please leave a comment and let me know.

I need to begin work on my next painting, which is an acrylic. After several hours of searching through my digital photos last week to select a good motif, I finally settled on one. It’s a tight cropping of a sidewalk scene full of people near a beach; however, I cropped it so that only a few empty chairs and tables are visible.

I like it, whether anyone else does or not, and I think it will make an eye-catching and interesting painting. My reference photo is today’s image.

Have a nice art Monday.

Until next blog…

Thursday, May 20

Art Lesson of the Day: Do Not Hurry!

Bluebonnet Fields Forever
Watercolor on Paper
Copyright 2010


I’ve been really busy on my current watercolor this week. However, I decided I was getting a little bored with it and ready to move on to something else.

Problem is, I was taught that you can never ever abandon a painting—you must finish it. I guess I internalized that pretty well as I felt compelled to bring it to a close. So I did. I painted all day, well six hours straight-- which is all day for me anyway--for two days in a row.

Then my painting was critiqued. Of course, it needed more tweaking (as usual). By now, I'm really ready for the thing to be finished. So I worked another whole day (OK, four hours) to complete it.

If you recall in one of my previous blogs, I told you that you'll know a painting is finished when you are afraid to add even one more brush stroke in fear of ruining the whole thing. Too bad I didn’t follow my own advice, which I was thinking about even as I proceeded to paint.

I needed to create more depth in the painting by softening the edges of the leaves in the trees on the horizon. This being watercolor, it only takes an instant—a split second—for darker colors to bleed. And the dark green of the silhouetted tree did bleed.

“Oh, nooo,” I said under my breath. Actually , I said something else, but I won’t repeat it.

Luckily, I was able to fix it by adding some new tree branches. Whew.

I was also critiqued to add some violet to the foreground to warm it up and bring it closer to the viewer. Now, as an artist, you know there are a whole range of violets, that is, reds + blues. They go from almost crimson to deep, dark purple. The one I mixed was kind of a grayish-purplish color. It was OK, I thought, since I was using it to paint the ground.

Long story short, after the paint dried, there were purples spots on the ground as if it were radioactive or something. Yikes!

Remember, watercolor dries up to 25 percent lighter (and brighter). Fortunately, I was able to neutralize them by adding a green wash. I know my color wheel.

Today's blog is a reminder: DO NOT be in a hurry to finish your painting. By the way, I hope you like the painting, which is today’s image.

Until next blog…

Monday, May 17

How I Paint Wispy Clouds in Watercolor

My Watercolor Clouds

The watercolor that I’m currently working on is a landscape view in which the sky is almost 50 percent of the composition. So, the sky is important to the overall picture.

The day on which the reference photo was taken was partly cloudy to overcast at times during the day. That is, it was not one of those dazzlingly sunny days where everything stands out in bold relief.

At the time of day the photo was taken the clouds were rolling on by. I confess, I wouldn’t know meteorology or the different names for cloud types even if they were to introduce themselves to me in the park.

I do know these clouds were relatively high and benign. By that I mean these clouds were somewhat wispy with a few puffs. They did not contain rain, and they were mostly the same color of white or light blue all over—no giant puffs, no thunder heads, no purple underbellies.

I want my watercolor to capture the essence of these clouds since they are an important part of the painting.

Here’s how I painted them.

Key point:  I treated the white clouds themselves as negative space, and the sky was the space I painted. In other words, I only painted the sky and not the clouds. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it works well.

Using the reference photo as my guide, of course, I dampened the paper using a 1-inch foam brush only where the blue sky was.

I got the paper pretty wet so that it warped a little and even formed puddles. I used a paper tissue to remove excess water and get rid of the puddles, but the paper was still juicy. Do this ever so lightly so that you don't make fingerprint indentions in the paper that will hold pigment and appear as dark spots.

Then I mixed Ultramarine Light blue and Cerulean blue with water in a small flat container. I tested the color on a paper strip to make sure it would be the right color and value of blue in the sky.

Using the same foam brush, I quickly brushed the blue paint onto the wet parts of the sky. Do it quickly and haphazardly. If you’re too deliberate, it won’t look natural. I gave the foam brush a twirl around the edges of the "clouds" and this gave them a finite space.

Where it was needed (in my artist’s opinion), I dabbed some spots lightly with a paper tissue to remove excess paint. Again, do this ever so lightly.

Then all you have to do is stand back and let it dry. Beautiful wispy clouds!

Until next blog…

Saturday, May 15

Stolen Artworks Still Turning Up


I just read an online article I wanted to blog about. I want to give attribution to the website with information from WFAA-TV.

After all these years the Nazis are still in the news unfortunately. They stole a lot of art from families and museums across Europe during their reign of terror way back when. Of course, they did worse things than that.

Still it was outrageous, but some of the stolen works are now turning up.

According to the article, three famous stolen paintings have turned up at Southern Methodist University (SMU) art museum in Dallas, of all places. Robert Edsel, founder of an arts preservation group (in Dallas), ran across photos of a couple of paintings taken in Deutschland in 1945 just before the war ended and thought one was similar to one he had seen at SMU.

The painting is Santa Justa by Bartolome Estaban Murillo and is valued about $10-15 million US.

Those at the museum are working with experts in Europe to see if they can track true ownership of the painting after it was confiscated and given back to the Rothschild family. The museum claims proper documentation.

It turns out two other paintings at SMU also had the tell-tale Nazi numbering system on their stretcher bars. The article says that considering the paintings are so well known in the art world, the Rothschild family surely would have taken steps to retrieve them if the museum wasn’t the rightful owner.

There are still hundreds of thousands of stolen artworks missing.

Good for Mr. Edsel and his foundation in helping to find and/or return these works of art.

Until next blog...

Thursday, May 13

Making Time for Art in LA

Entrance to DaVinci Exhibit
at The Getty


I just flew in from Los Angeles (and, boy, are my arms tired). I just love that old joke whether anyone else does or not.

Now seriously folks (bah-dum-dum), I did just return from LA on a trip during which I was able to get in a few art-related outings.

I was a few days early and just missed the opening of ‘Wagner's 'Der Ring Des Nibelungen' Art Exhibition- California Art Club Artists Celebrate the Ring Cycle’ at the LA Cathedral. Actually I did get to see some of it. It was just about to open and most of the paintings were already hung, but they were roped off in areas so that you couldn’t get up close and really look at them. It is art and paintings of California Art Club members inspired by Wagner’s operas, four of which are being performed nearby at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion.

Then there were the several murals of street art along the Venice Beach boardwalk. Venice Beach is a very eclectic place, to put it mildly. The people and the various shops you see along the promenade are, how shall I say, very interesting. I’ll just leave it at that. Some artists have painted several huge murals on the sides of the old buildings. These are giant-sized, 2- and 3-story high abstract works of art, such as the four dancing horses (or whatever they were). What was interesting to me as an artist was the medium that was used—spray paint (from a can?) or maybe it was air brush. Whatever, each stroke was unique but together they formed the painting much like pointillism.

Finally, at The Getty museum perched on the hillside along the 405 in Brentwood there was a Leonardo da Vinci Exhibit. Although I had hoped to see some of his paintings, there was only one—St. Jerome something or other, and it was unfinished--why Leonardo left it unfinished is not explained. Not that I was expecting the Mona Lisa, but I did think there would be more than one.

There were, however, several rooms full of his drawings and etchings. Paper must have been expensive and hard to come by because each was no larger than 8 1/2 x 11 in, and most were smaller with several sketches and drawings crowded on each sheet. His sketches of the human form and dissections were ground-breaking medicine at the time.

There are also three huge (as in 20+ feet tall) bronze sculptures on display by Rustici who worked closely with da Vinci in his studio. It's worth the effort to visit the Leonardo Exhibit if you’re anywhere near LA. Going to The Getty is always an experience, and the tram ride up the mountain is kind of fun.

Until next blog…

Thursday, May 6

One Way to Measure Your Progress As An Artist

One of My Early "Masterpieces"

Have you done this lately or ever—that is, go back and look at some of your early artwork or paintings and then compare them to your latest work?

I have, and I guess I should be happy—very happy—that there is a marked improvement, or at least that’s what I see.

But how awful those early paintings were and still are. What was I thinking? I remember feeling so pleased that I was getting back to my art, and, oh wow, weren’t these great?

I also remember reading from an art teacher and long-time art fan how new artists almost always think their art is not only good, but that it’s exceptional.

I sure did. I remember glowing with pride and standing back to look at my masterpiece(s) and thinking, “these are really good; I can’t wait to enter them in something or get them in a gallery.” Well, I’m still waiting, on the gallery anyway (I did get a ribbon for a watercolor in a local show).

In those early days when I started painting again, and that’s not all that long ago, I was trying a little taste of everything—pastels, graphite, oil pastels, oil, acrylic—you name it.

As the saying goes, “youth is wasted on the young,” and as in life, early art is wasted on the inexperienced.

What I’m getting at in today’s blog is that with time and experience comes perspective and I’m not talking about the horizon-line art kind either. Looking back at your early work should make you feel both humble and proud—about how far you’ve come.

I sure do; just look at one of my early paintings above—OMG!

Until next blog…

Monday, May 3

Selecting A Motif

My Reference Photo
Copyright 2010


I’m sure I left you breathless a week or so ago when I posted three motifs that I was mulling over for my next painting. If you don’t remember or have a clue as to what I’m talking about, here’s a link to that blog. I asked my viewers to help me select one of the three motifs by leaving me a comment or a tweet on Twitter.

Well, the response was underwhelming as I should have guessed. We’re all busy, right?

Anyway, after much consideration and soul-searching (not really), I decided to paint Motif No. 1, which I’m calling Three Trees at least until it’s finished. I know several had voted for Motif No. 2, The Cows, but my artist friends really thought Three Trees would make the best painting.

They said it was the best motif because of the composition and mood. They liked the three classic main objects, the horizon line above the centerline, the colorful foreground of flowers, and the clouds floating by.

My last painting was an acrylic. However, I decided to do this one in watercolor rather than acrylic because I don’t want to go too long without painting in watercolor so as not to forget any of the techniques. Watercolor is tricky and takes practice—you know exactly what I mean if you are a watercolorist.

So I am in the process. I have just enlarged the reference photo, and I really like it. Now I’ll begin to transfer the image to my full-sheet of watercolor paper and go from there.

I’ll let you know how it’s going occasionally as I expect it to take at least two to three weeks to complete (all those wildflowers, you know).

Until next blog…