Monday, June 28

When to Give Up on a Painting

If You Paint A Lemon, Give Up

I just threw away the watercolor painting I have worked on for several days. Actually, I put it in the paper re-cycle bin so it won’t be a total loss.

Today's image represents the "lemon" of a painting I just threw away.

How did I know it was time to throw in the proverbial towel, and why did I do that? I don’t usually give up. But I did on this one. For one thing, in my experience when a watercolor goes wrong, there is very little one can do to save it. Many of the colors could be lifted, but not all of them, especially indigo—no, it can’t be removed.

I thought I would like the motif, which was from a reference photo taken on a cold, rainy day. I deliberately waited until the summer to paint it, thinking it would be nice to work on a cool theme during the summer heat. It didn't matter.

In the photo, people with umbrellas and coats are crossing a street in the rain. It’s a little out of focus, so I thought that would add to the soft mood of the painting.

I think the problem was that I was haphazard. My heart wasn’t really in it, and my mind wandered. I used too much water to begin with, so there were blooms all over the place. Then the paper warped, and that made it difficult to apply the paint evenly because it rolled down into puddles. Oh, I could have flattened it out, but I didn't feel like bothering with that.

There’s no moral to this story, other than that you have to really concentrate when you’re painting with watercolor, more so, I think, than with other mediums.

However, I have just decided to give it another go—this time with acrylic. I’ll let you know.

Until next blog…

Thursday, June 24

Painting Acrylic on Watercolor Paper - You Should Try It

Wish I Were There
Acrylic on Paper
18.5 x 24 in/47 x 61cm

Just a quick blog today to update you on my latest acrylic, which is today’s image and which I titled Wish I Were There.

As I said in a previous blog, it has all the things I like to paint—sunlight, shadows, adobe walls, and the color turquoise.

What was a new painting experience for me was the support I used to paint with acrylic on this painting. It’s 300 lb. Arches watercolor paper. That heavy of a paper makes a great support for acrylic, which also can be mixed with water.

What I did first before anything else, including drawing my image on the paper, was to cover the paper with a mixture of Raw Umber and Titanium white (mostly Titanium white). The result was a light gray tone, which cut the bright white of the paper and made it easier to find the correct values. Doing this is somewhat similar to putting a toned gesso on a canvas beforehand.

What I like about painting acrylic on paper that's been coated with acrylic first, if you follow that, is how smooth the surface is and how easily the paint flows.

FYI-I painted the palm trees first, then the shrubs in the foreground, then the adobe building, and finally the sky.

I like it.

Until next blog…

Tuesday, June 22

Where Art Museums Thrive


I hope you are as lucky as we are. We live where art museums thrive.

We are lucky because there are art museums all over town, just a freeway (or two or three) away.

One of these is The Pearl, actually the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a private art museum in the northwest Houston suburbs. It is part of a suburban cultural district along with a library and a center for performing arts. It partners with the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and other private and public lenders.

We are lucky. In addition to the big, metro museums in the city center, such as MFAH and the Menil Collection, just to name two, we have access to a professional, world-class art museum nearby that serves more than a million people in this suburban corner of the area.

It had been almost a year since we last visited, so it was time.

One exhibit we’re glad we saw is the Runge/Howard Collection . According to The Pearl’s website, it’s an exhibit of 27 artists that explores contemporary European and US art with a focus on Houston artists of the 1980s and 1990s. There were talented local artists represented, and you probably have also seen the work of some of these well-known artists who are also represented: Alexander Calder, Joan Miro, Max Ernst, and Jennifer Bartlett.

There were also intriguing sculptural wall installations by Rosane Volchan O’Conor of Brazil.

The point of today’s blog is to get you to appreciate whatever art museum(s) and art centers are within your local environs and make the effort to visit and support them.

Where art museums thrive there is inspiration. I hope you are as lucky as we are.

Until next blog…

Saturday, June 19

Tales from the Palette: Mixing the Color Turquoise*

Reference Photo for My Next Painting
Hi Fans & Followers-

I want to tell you what I did yesterday, and what I think is the most fun an artist can have while painting.

It's perfectly mixing that paint color you’re trying to capture. Oh sure, it’s hit and miss, at least for me, but that’s the fun and challenge of it.

Today’s image is my personal reference photo for the acrylic on which I’m currently working. It has all the things I like to paint—sunlight, shadows, an adobe wall, and the color turquoise.

And that’s what this blog is about, mixing the color turquoise, one of my favorite colors. If you look closely in the lower left corner of my reference photo, you will notice the color of the gated arches—they’re turquoise.

*Turquoise is not the real name of the color. It’s called that because it mimics the color of the beautiful turquoise gemstones mined in New Mexico USA among other places.

The color is actually a hue mixed from blue and yellow on the color wheel and lies somewhere around the 10 o’clock position. This is where the fun begins—mixing the correct amounts of yellow, blue, then green, then blue-green, and then refining that to the value and intensity you want.

Of course you could “cheat” and use one of the pre-mixed tubes, such as Bright Aqua Green, but I assure you, you will  achieve greater harmony using your limited palette.

Disclaimer: I’m painting with acrylic; oil and watercolor would mix differently although the basics would be similar, but in acrylic and oil you add white to lighten.

I use a variety of acrylic brands, but I’m not going to mention specific ones here. My adventure started with mixing Primary yellow-a cadmium yellow medium and Ultramarine blue. I got a drab olive green, so that’s not right.

Do not be discouraged, I told myself. I added more blue to get away from the green-y look. That was a little better, but the value was too dark. I thought about adding Titanium white at this point, but thought better of it as white can change everything drastically and quickly.

So I’m experimenting, right, and decided to add a Cobalt blue to lighten it up some. That worked pretty well, so I added a little more. It was still dark so I squeezed a few dabs of Light Blue Permanent, also know by the name Sky blue, into the mixture. Sky blue has a good deal of white, so that lightened it up.

It was getting closer and closer to the turquoise I envisioned. Some turquoises are more green, and some are more blue. I wanted mine to lean toward blue, so I added some Ultramarine again. Good, but that darkened it again. I decided now it was time to add the Titanium white. I did, very slowly with small dots of white.
Remember to thoroughly mix your acrylic paints as they don’t blend as easily as oil or watercolor. Wait a few seconds and then mix some more.

Finally I acheived just the right mixture I was looking for. I had fun painting those gates turquoise, and I'll post my painting on the blog when it’s finished.

Mix up some colors  today and have fun.

Until next blog…

Wednesday, June 16

To Enter a Contemporary Art Show or Not?

I Entered This Acrylic 2 Years Ago-
This Is About As Contemporary As I Get
Hi Fans & Followers-

I’m in a quandary. To enter or not to enter, that is the question.

I am trying to decide whether or not to go to the trouble of entering what, in my opinion, amounts to an art free-for-all at a local contemporary “art center.” It's not free; there’s a $30US submission fee or, as a way to lure artists and increase the membership, you get $5US off if you also become an annual member for an additional $25US.

I do like the whole idea of this type of art organization. One of its goals is to help discover creative regional artists who might otherwise go unnoticed. I’m all for that, and I secretly would like to become one of their discovered, although that’s not going to happen.

I’m pretty sure I’m not their prime demographic. My impression of the artists they seek, probably just my imagination, are those with a keen contemporary vision but under our local art radar.

My art is not contemporary.

To enter, you must physically bring your artwork (up to three pieces) to their gallery during specific hours on a designated day and half of another. About a thousand pieces of art are entered, so we’re all crowded in there, and that’s why I call it a free-for-all.

Actually, the interesting part is standing in that line with all the other artists. You try not to stare at their work, but you would like to know what (on earth) their art is all about and/or what they were thinking. You will see some of the worst and best pieces of art while standing in that line—such as bleeding madonnas, pure white square canvases and artistic uses of Plexiglass as furniture, to name a few I recall.

Then, when your work is not accepted, you have to turn right around within five days and go pick up your art or it will be thrown in the trash like last night’s leftovers.

I have entered this show the last two years in a row, and of course, have never been selected to exhibit. However if I do enter, I will feel as if I’m doing my part to support my local grass roots art scene by my annual membership.

Standing in that line is almost worth the price of admission. I have a week to decide.

Until next blog…

Monday, June 14

Art is Not a Competition!

Quatre Vaches
Acrylic on Canvas
11 x 14 in/28 x 35 cm 
Hi Fans & Followers-

OK I said I wasn’t going to do this, but I can’t help myself. I must blog and comment on the show, Work of Art – The Next Great Artist.

If you haven’t heard and don’t know, this is the much-hyped reality-contestant TV show that debuted last week on the Bravo channel. Just so you know, I have nothing against reality TV shows, such as Survivor, Dancing With the Stars, Chefs vs. City, etc. Gosh, I even like American Idol.

I am neither qualified nor interested in commenting on the entertainment value of these types of shows. It’s clear someone is making money on them because of their continuing proliferation.

In this particular iteration, artists “compete” against each other by creating something, which is then judged by three art critics with whom I’m not familiar. In the first show, the artists were paired up and ordered to do a portrait that captured the essence of the other artist. The word they should have used, but didn't, is physiognomy, which means just that—discovering temperament and character from outward appearance.

What I do want to comment on is the wrong-headed notion of the whole spectacle. By that I mean the whole competition thing.

Simply put, art is not and should not be a competition. Artists are not competing when they are creating art. They are not competing with themselves nor other artists.

Art is not about winning and losing. Art is about expression.

And another thing--I don’t like the whole art-jury-judge system where some “expert” gets to decide whose work gets accepted where. It is not only demeaning, it’s absurd, to me anyway, that someone else is judging my expression. I don’t really give a flip what they think about it. It’s no wonder the Impressionists started their own shows and exhibits full of their rejected paintings.

I did like what one of the artists who was almost eliminated said when questioned about her technique. She retorted with something like, “I am not responsible for your experience of my artwork.” Three cheers for her, I say.

I will keep watching this show, not because of the competition, but so I can see the artwork of these people who are willing to have it so publicly criticized.

By the way, today’s image is my little acrylic, Quatre Vaches, which I finished last Friday. I hope you like it, but if you don’t, who cares?

Until next blog…

Saturday, June 12

Art Bloggin' on a Summer Saturday Morn

Hi Fans & Followers-

I don’t usually blog on Saturday. It’s not that I’m so busy with art or other life chores on Saturday morning. I'm just lazy on some Saturdays.

But not today. There’s something going on in my brain.

I call it the urge to art blog. It feels like a creative burst that’s about to happen. I feel it coming on after I’ve finished a project, which I did yesterday.

It’s the promise of a new work of art in the conception stage when all things are possible. The key words here are: ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.

As an artist, you should internalize that phrase. It’s what keeps us going and going, am I not right?

As I said, for me it starts with the urge to art blog, which is one of the ways I communicate with other artists and art lovers. It makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger—a brotherhood and sisterhood of born artists.

The other day I added a new favorite art quote. You may not have noticed it, but it was from Louise Bourgeois, the famous sculptor who recently passed away.

I heard and saw her say it on an art program that streams to my TV via Roku. She said, and I quote, “Artists are born not made; there’s nothing you can do for them.”

I love that, and it's one of the reasons I’m art blogging to all of you on a summer Saturday morn.

Until next blog…

Wednesday, June 9

About "Pretty" Paintings & Art Without Gravitas

Misty Malibu Morning
Watercolor on Paper
Copyright 2009
Hi Fans & Followers-

Some days I just feel like blogging about art on the blog before I hit the paints and canvas, and this is one of those mornings.

I’ve been looking online at some really nice looking (in my humble opinion) oil paintings of outdoor scenes in Southern California. How lucky to be able to paint en plein air most of the time. I’m sure there are many other locales around the world where you can paint outdoors almost all year long, although the only other place I can think of off the top of my head is the Mediterranean coastline.

Some collectors and artists would say that “pretty” paintings, as I call them—you know, those bucolic scenes of pretty meadows or lakes or seasides or mountains or sunsets even pretty people—do not have the gravitas that real art should have.

I suppose those artists and collectors think art should have a higher purpose other than to “sit on its butt in a museum,” as Claes Oldenburg said, and which, by the way, is one of my favorite art quotes (don’t ya love it?).

I don’t necessarily agree that art should have gravitas or a higher purpose. Life is hard enough to get through day by day, don’t you think? Do we have always have to have art that makes us want to take up a cause or makes us suddenly feel guilty because we haven’t done enough or be about something that society has run rough-shod over?

Must the artworld (whatever and whomever that is) be compelled to have a point of view? Can’t we artists, art lovers, and art collectors just sit (or stand) back, take a load off and just enjoy a “pretty” painting?

After looking at some beautifully rendered scenes, I think we should, if only for a minute or two.

Until next blog...

Monday, June 7

Ruining A Watercolor and Reflecting on Your Art, Etc.

Acrylic on Canvas
22 x 28 in/56 x 71 cm
This is a TTO blog today--TTO stands for This, That and the Other. So, it will be a little bit of all of those. Sometimes that’s all Mondays are good for…

First, I discovered that this blog is ranked no. 4 on the list when you Google: new art blog – go ahead, Google new art blog and see for yourself. I don’t consider the blog all that new since I’ve been blogging for almost two years now, but whatever, it’s nice to be appreciated.

I also re-discovered what happens when you use less than quality watercolor paper. Since I had a pad of 120# watercolor paper on hand I thought I’d use it for some quick and informal watercolors. I was going to paint a beach scene with waves breaking on the shore.

I applied masking fluid/frisket (or whatever you may call it) to the whitewater waves and foam to save them as white when I painted the water blue. OK, so far so good; I painted the sky with blue washes, the sand with separate washes of yellow, red, then blue, and finally used a couple of pthalo blue washes for the water. When I went to remove the masking fluid, it was stuck to the top layer of the paper. The paper then peeled completely off, ruining the whole thing. Dang!

I won’t name the brand of watercolor paper that peeled, but you should be using the best quality 300# paper you can afford.

I completed my acrylic, titled Empty, which is today’s image. Other than that and the above-mentioned watercolor, I’ve dawdled the last few days thinking about which painting to work on next.

I can’t decide on whether it should be a watercolor or another acrylic although I’m leaning toward acrylic or what the motif should be. I’m currently looking through some personal reference photos of landscapes for possibilities.

As I mentioned in the last blog, I finished the book on Delacroix, and so I picked up another book on Camille Pissarro, which has the most paintings of his that I have seen in any one book. I’ll tell you about it later on when I’m finished.

Finally, my art critique class is out for the summer. I’ll miss the weekly meetings and camaraderie of other artists, but we all need a break frankly. It will do me good to be alone with my own art for a few months, if nothing else, to see if I’m going in the right direction, for me anyway.

Or is it time to seek a new art path? Summertime is good for that kind of reflection. What about you?

Until next blog…

Friday, June 4

The "Voice" of Eugene Delacroix

Hi Fans & Followers-

I just finished reading a good book that I recommend if you enjoy reading biographies, diaries, or letters of well-known artists as I do.

Several months ago I ran across this paperback edition at my favorite used bookstore and thought it would be informative as well as entertaining. And it was, especially if you are a Francophile.

The book is Eugene Delacroix – Selected Letters 1813-1863. It is edited and translated by Jean Stewart and introduced by John Russell, a scholar on the subject. It was published in 1970 by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

You may recall in January, 2009, I blogged about another book of letters, Letters to Lucien, by Camille Pissarro, which I also enjoyed.

The Delacroix book was a little intimidating at 387 pages of relatively small print, but worth the time it took to read through it. It includes letters divided chronologically as early letters, journeys to England and Morocco, maturity, and last years.

One reason I enjoyed it so much, I think, is that I knew absolutely nothing about Delacroix, so it was all new news to me and made it that much more enjoyable.

Two things stick in my mind about this book. One is how eloquent Delacroix was in his writing. I realize part of that may have come from the excellent translation, but still, it’s remarkable.

Here’s just one excerpt to give you an example in a letter to Alexandre Dumas. “You deplore, with good reason, the present trend in art. Our aims were high, once; fortunate indeed was the man who could attain them. I fear that the stature of today’s champions puts the mere thought of that beyond their reach.” (See what I mean?)

The other thing that is noteworthy are some of the famous and worldly people with whom he was friends and with whom he corresponded. In addition to Dumas, there were George Sand (with whom he had an affair), Chopin, and Balzac, to name a few.

I also found this excerpt he wrote in a letter to the editor of L’Artiste magazine to be profound. “The artistic imagination, Sir, is not a shameless hussy who accepts contempt as readily as the tumultuous applause of a theatre, who exhibits herself before an audience in order to win condescending favours. The more ardent and sincere it is, the shyer it proves. A mere trifle alarms and represses it.” (Cool, huh?)

Anyway, I thought you all might like hearing about this book and hope you have the opportunity to read it sometime.

Until next blog…

Wednesday, June 2

What Is the Nature of Artists?

Hi Fans & Followers-

What is the nature of artists?

That is today’s burning :-) question. Why, you may ask, am I blogging about this on a pleasant summer’s morn?

Last weekend at an art gallery reception, I was in the midst of other artists. Oh, there were family and friends of the artists there, too, but there were also other artists as you might expect.

We were all so cordial and nice walking around with our glasses of chardonnay and cabernet inspecting the hanging works. I couldn’t help overhearing some of the casual conversations.

Clumps of people stood before the canvases, some were ooh-ing, others aah-ing. Many of the paintings were magnificent.

But there were also a few people remarking under their breath things, such as, “I wonder how he/she did that,” and “I don’t really care for that one.”

That got me to thinking, albeit briefly, about the nature of artists.

I recall the entry rules for some of the competitions, annual shows, and art festivals. Many are so detailed with pages of numbered sub-paragraphs in fine print that you would think you were applying for a national security clearance rather than an art show.

Rules are spelled out, such as “original motifs only” and “original work only” and “work must not have been produced during a class or a workshop” and my favorite, “no reproductions and digital outputs.”

I’ve heard stories from artist friends who apply to shows all over the country. They talk about the exacting rules for entering and how their entries have been questioned more than once for authenticity even though these artists are as honest as the day is long.

What are we, a bunch of lying cheats?

Well, apparently so.

These rules must be in place because there are artists who lie and cheat.

And don’t get me started on jury selection stories I heard. The pettiness, the back-biting, and the jealousy all comes out when artwork is judged by another artist. “What does he/she know?” “They never like abstract work.” “They give prizes to all their friends.”

And art is supposed to be enlightening and altruistic? Well it is, but it’s also rendered and managed by human beings. Artists are no more likely to behave in nicer or better ways than any other segment of society.

Don’t forget that.

Until next blog…