Thursday, July 29

My Good Friend, Art

I want to tell you about my good friend, Art. I don’t remember the first time Art and I met, but I was just a little kid.

We used to spend time together on long, summer afternoons when it was too hot to go outside and play. We would spend hours together making up things and drawing pictures. Those were the days when our imagination took us many places. We were in the jungle, and we were race car drivers. I liked to draw cars, and Art would look over my shoulder and encourage me.

Growing up, we hung around together, taking lessons sometimes, but more often than not, just drawing and not getting into too much trouble most of the time.

During our teen years, things changed as they often do in those growing-up times, and Art and I didn’t hang out as much anymore. Maybe I thought I was too cool for my good friend. Whatever, Art and I went our separate ways.

Time went by.

Life has a way of taking you down different paths, and as you might guess, Art and I lost touch with each other completely. Every once in a while I would wonder what Art was doing and if our paths would ever cross again.

Well, as sometimes happens to old, but good, friends, we ran into each other somewhat unexpectedly a couple of years ago. I was going through a box with some old papers and other items I had saved over the years, and what do you know?

I found a box of oil pastels that Art and I used way back when.

I decided to look up Art and try and find out what's been going on. As it turned out, after all these years Art wasn’t very far away at all. I got back in touch and, surprisingly, picked up pretty much where we left off after all these years.

Just to bring you up to date, we’re hanging around again. We draw and paint just like when I was a kid. It's good to keep in touch with old friends like Art.

Until next blog…

Monday, July 26

Just My Latest Painting

A Window in Culver City
Acrylic on Canvas
18 x 24 in/46 x 61 cm
Copyright 2010
A different approach today.

Just my latest painting, A Window in Culver City.

Until next blog…

Thursday, July 22

How To: Save Money On Primer (Like I Do)


In addition to being a painter, I am also a promoter of the idea of frugality in all its forms. I see being frugal as an offshoot of being environmentally friendly, as in Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.

Artists and painters can certainly find ways to contribute to these three Rs.

I do my part. Have you ever heard of 'Oops! paint?'

Instead of buying gesso for priming canvases, I buy paint that has been returned to the store for whatever reason.

Now there are a couple of caveats here. One, I’m talking about latex paint. And two, I’m talking about using it as the undercoat for my acrylic paintings, usually on canvas, rather than the paint to paint the painting, if you can follow that.

if you do follow what I’m saying, I think you will see the merit in this.

If not, please let me let enlighten you. Oops! paint is the paint that house painters, and by that I mean anyone who goes to the paint store to buy house paint, return. When they got home and painted it on the wall, Oops!, it was the wrong color.

I am assuming that sometimes even you visit a (house) paint store or big-box home-improvement store (not mentioning any names here).

If you do, then next time go over to the paint department and look around for a shopping cart full of all sizes of latex paint with a sign on it that says Oops! or some similar wording.

What you will find is a variety of very cheaply priced latex paint in random colors (no accounting for taste, you know) and ranging in size from the sample-jar all the way to 5-gallonUS buckets. In many cases the cost will be under $1US.

I have found that this makes excellent and inexpensive primer for my canvases. It’s certainly cheaper than gesso, and I think its smooth surface after application is superior to gesso (or just about any other primer)

I have used it only as an undercoat for acrylics, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work just as well under oil, that is, if you want a smooth surface.

I specifically look for lighter neutral tones for priming, but heck, when you see the random samples of Oops! paint available, it may spur you to get creative with your underpainting.

Note--I am not saying you should be buying the cheapest art supplies. But for priming, why not? It’s sure to last as long as the acrylic, and if I were a betting man, I would wager it will outlast oil.

Just wanted to pass this along. Remember--Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.

Until next blog…

Monday, July 19

Have You Figured Out Your Painting 'Style' Yet?

Mansion on the Plains
Acrylic on Canvas
18 x 24 in/46 x 61 cm
Copyright 2010

I wanted to update my art blog before getting on with my painting today.

If you’re new (to OrbisPlanis, that is), then I’ll give you a brief update on what I’ve been doing. For more than a year I was studying and painting in watercolor. I spent a lot of time working on the technique of what I call near-realism. I guess the only reason I'm not calling it realism is that I was not able to achieve that. The artists I worked with are experts at it and create beautiful and award-winning paintings. I, on the other hand, unable to re-create the expert technique, always felt inadequate. After a while that wore on me.

So, I’m going back to where I started out and where I think I will be happiest. OK, make that happi-ER, as happiness is a relative state. I'm 'in like' with acrylics, a loose style and with light as a main ingredient.

I’m working on that assumption anyway. I’m looking around online and all over in books for paintings and painters I admire and by whom I am inspired. When I feel more comfortable about it, I’ll let you know what that is.

Right now, it’s back to basics, and that’s what I’m comfortable with for now.

Today’s image is my simple painting of ground and sky with a couple of points of interest. I looked back at some earlier paintings of mine from three years ago, and I find that it must be my style. Hey, have I figured out at least one thing? Maybe.

As I’ve told you on more than one occasion, as the verse  in the song Garden Party says, “You don’t have to please everyone, you just have to please yourself.”

It’s going to be a good week.

Until next blog…

Friday, July 16

Are You On An Art Plateau? I Am, But I'm Trying To Get Off

Out There
Oil Pastel on Paper
Copyright 2008

Complete the following sentence:

My (painting, drawing, or whatever your creative work) makes me (contented, peaceful, sad, upset, delirious, mean, ______ )—choose one or fill in the blank with a descriptive word of your own.

You see, you must have an opinion or thought about why you “art.”

If you don’t or can’t or won’t describe what art does for or to you, then you are truly ‘in the weeds’ as they say.

Are you merely passing time with a paintbrush or stick of pastel in your hand? Unless and until you have a motive you will never (OK, almost never) unlock the creativity within you. You will simply be going through the motions of being an artist.

To put it another way, you must feel something before you can create something.

You probably won’t feel the same way about your painting et al as time goes by. In fact, I would be suspicious if that were the case. Change is good; so is growth.

Why am I blogging about this? Because I believe I reached a plateau. I seem to have been doing the ‘same old, same old’ for a long time, in art time, that is. I am doing what I am doing because I have been doing it—if that makes any sense.

I should be making art that makes me feel something.

I’m doing some reading and research into the next level of my painting—something to get me off the current plateau. If and when I can explain it, I will let you know.

I am reading about one artist who seems to make sense to me. One thing he says is that it comes from within and you must forget the notion of finishing a product.

I may or may not be on the right track. But I do know that if you (or I) have trouble completing the statement above, then it’s time to dig deeper.

Until next blog…

Wednesday, July 14

Do You Like Caravaggio's Work?


In the middle of all my painting I took time to watch a program called Portrait of an Artistic Genius: Caravaggio on Wealth TV. As I said in a previous blog, the name of this channel, Wealth TV, is horribly pretentious in my opinion. In addition to their shows on art, which I admit to liking (or at least viewing), they have the usual shows about travel, hotels, homes, etc. for people who wish they had access to all that. Remember that old show called Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? I suppose it’s kind of like that.

But I digress. The Caravaggio show is in a series called Portrait of An Artictic Genius. So far, I’ve discovered two others on Rembrandt and Renoir, although I haven’t seen them yet.

Anyway, the hour-long Caravaggio program was informative. In addition to his life as a painter, it discussed his ups and downs—he was arrested for murder and was a fugitive for years and died when he was 38.

His art was extraordinary for his day. He single-handedly introduced high contrast of light and shadow into painting, which was brand new back then. I suppose many people still like his work today.

That’s my question and the subject of today’s blog: Do you like Caravaggio's work?

I’ve decided I don’t. His technique is fantastic, but the subject of many of his paintings is pretty awful, as in “I don’t like them.”

It's not the Renaissance-looking religious aspect of his style either. It's that there are at least three, and probably more, in which a man’s head is being severed with blood gushing forth. The one I remember the most, and will probably have nightmares about, is Judith Beheading Holofernes. Go online, look it up, and see for yourself.

And I'm not particularly squeamish either. Oh well, just my opinion.

Until next blog…

Monday, July 12

To the Inventor of GESSO--Thank You!

My Next Motif?

Well, the big party here is finally over after a weekend celebrating the birthday of OrbisPlanis and greeting well wishers (and a few hangers-on).

This must be how they’re feeling all over Espana this morning, too, after the big World Cup win, but now back to the reality.

My art goal this week is to settle down and do some good work. Maybe it was the birthday vibe or whatever, but I worked and worked on an acrylic Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but it was absolutely NO GOOD.

The proportions were wrong. I painted two people walking on a pier with the ocean and sky behind them, but they were too large to look anything but oversized (and I wasn't going for abstraction). The colors were wrong, too. I think I spent too much time and effort working on the pier rather than the people or the water.

For whatever reason, the color of the pier was difficult for me to capture. It’s the silver-y mauve, gray beige-y color of weathered wood at sunset so you have that golden effect, too. Anyway, I was not able to create the colors believably.

So, I GESSO'D over the whole canvas.

I would personally like to thank whomever was the inventor of gesso for their wisdom and insight into the creativity of artists. Such a simple act takes such a burden off. Like hitting the delete button.

What a relief! Now I will have a fresh start on a new painting.

I haven’t selected my next motif as yet, but I’m leaning toward a soft focus display of wildflowers by the roadside with the palette being primary colors plus green, as seen above.

What do you think? I’ll see what the week brings.

Until next blog…

Thursday, July 8

Happy 2nd Birthday to OrbisPlanis!

Two Years of Art Blogging on OrbisPlanis!

Let the party begin to celebrate the 2nd birthday of OrbisPlanis!

Hard to believe two years of art blogging have gone by so quickly. Art and art blogging are as enjoyable for me today as when I began two years ago.

I thought you might like to take a quick look-back to celebrate this occasion with me.

My very first written art blog was: A New Art Blog on How to Renew Your Skills from July 10, 2008.

So much has happened in and to the world since then. When I started the art blog, I just wanted to blog about how I was re-engaging with art after a long absence.

The first year and a half was primarily about the discoveries and re-discoveries I was making about art, artists, techniques, museums, tools, and art trivia in general.

Although I haven’t added up the exact numbers, the three most viewed of the OrbisPlanis blogs, based on the frequency of visitors are:

How To Paint the Color Of Shadows from May 1, 2009

About Cold Press and Hot Press Watercolor Paper from April 9, 2009

And this third one I find surprising:

Discovering “Blue Boy,” “Pinkie,” and “Red Boy” from December 28, 2009

I can’t tell you exactly why these are the most popular of the blogs, other than people are interested in these subjects. Plus, I think it’s the Google search engine algorithm. The more people visit, the higher up the link is listed, and the more visible the link, the more people visit, etc.

FYI-a few months ago I redefined the blog slightly to focus a bit more on my personal journey through art.

The blogs since then are about my daily and weekly painting activities and personal observations about art.

My goal is to make the blog more human for other artists with similar experiences. Please continue to visit often and let me know what you think.

I’m proud OrbisPlanis is still around. I'll just keep art blogging.

Until next blog…

Tuesday, July 6

Time to Take My Art Up A Notch

A Rainy-Day Walk
Acrylic on Canvas
18 x 24 in/46 x 61 cm
Well, I finished my rainy-day acrylic, and so, it’s today’s image. I’m happy with it as much as any painter is happy with his or her work—which is to say, I wish it were my very best work.

I’m not sure I ever heard an artist say he or she was completely satisfied with his work. I think that’s the nature of artists and painters.

As a painter, if you were totally, 100 percent satisfied, then you may think you have done the best you will ever do. You may think your most recent painting is the best one. But what about your next painting, where will it fall on your scale of goodness? Are you getting better or worse?

Thinking about that can be depressing.

However, the great thing about being an artist is that you are in control of your work. You have all the cards to play. It’s up to you what to paint or create. It’s up to you how to apply the paint and what colors to dab on the canvas.

It’s up to you to sweat over the details or not. You decide how you want the piece to appear. You decide the viewpoint, the horizon line, and the focal point.

You are in control of the direction your art is taking. Only you. You can be ecstatic or inconsolable or any place in between.

Why am I off on this tangent-rant? Because I’m trying to decide how I feel about my work.

On the one hand, I learn something new every single day, either online from other artists or art websites, or from a book, or from my own painting experience that day.

On the other hand, I have a vision in my mind’s eye of how I would like my painting to appear. I have not been able to match my work to my vision yet.

So it must be time to take my art up a notch. I wonder how I will do that.

Until next blog…

Saturday, July 3

I'm Not Rushing My Acrylic & 'The Art Book I'm Currently Reading'

Reference Photo for the Rainy-Day Motif
Photo Copyright 2009

Well, it’s a holiday weekend in the US, and even we artists may pause for a cookout on the grill. Or at least I am doing that.

My acrylic that I told you about last blog is coming along nicely, but it’s still not finished. I thought I would be done in a couple of days, but now I’m guessing it will take a couple more.

If you’re a painter, then you know you just can’t rush these things sometimes.

As I said it’s a rainy-day motif , and today's image, set at the intersection of city streets with a couple of umbrella’d, raincoat-clad passersby. It’s a gray, rainy scene. I did take the artist's license in straightening and cropping the photo, so the background in my painting is a little different.

What I’m having fun painting is the water standing on the sidewalks with its natural reflection of light from the sky and nearby objects. One thing that makes the sky look more natural, in my opinion, is adding a touch of burnt sienna to the gray color of the sky. Although burnt sienna has a lot of red, it actually made the city sky look gray with drizzle.

At least I think so, and that’s all that matters, right?

Anyway, I still have to paint the main umbrella of one of the passersby, which is arguably the focal point of the painting.

I’m pretty sure I’ll have it finished in a couple of days. That is, unless I get distracted by the holiday and my outdoor grilling.

One more thing. I added a section over there in the right column I’m calling 'The Art Book I’m Currently Reading.' Since I almost always have a couple of books going, one being an art book, I thought I’d share that with you. Whenever I start a new book, I'll post it.

The current one is How to Paint Like the Impressionists by Susie Hodge. I bought it a year ago, and read through it rather quickly. Now I’m going back and taking time to see if I will use some of the information. Not that I want to paint exactly like that, but I am drawn to the way color is applied and the lack of detail in Impressionist paintings.

Until next blog…

Thursday, July 1

In Addition to Being 'Just a Guy Who Likes to Paint,' I'm a Tennis Fan, Too

(Clip Art Courtesy of Microsoft)

This is another of my TTO blogs, which stands for This, That, and the Other.

I admit it, I’m preoccupied this week (OK and last week, too). You see, I’m a tennis fan in addition to being ‘just a guy who likes to paint.’

I watch all the Grand Slams in addition to as many of the other tournaments and Davis Cups as possible. When I turned on ATT U-Verse this morning, I was thrilled to see their message that they are going to add The Tennis Channel to their line-up. Hoo-ray. I’ve been waiting for them to add this channel. Of course, you have to pay extra, but I’m sure it will be worth every penny.

If there were a pure Art channel I would just as enthusiastically add that, too. As it is, you have to keep on the look-out for programs about art on TV and the internet.

I have been watching a series on a channel with the most pretentious name—Wealth TV. At least I think it's a pretentious name. Please. People are not that shallow. What were they thinking? Anyway, the series is on art museums of the world. I’ve seen one in Berlin, one in India, the Frick Collection in New York, which was pretty interesting. It's not the greatest show about art but informative all the same.

Although glued to ESPN the last two weeks, I have been keeping up with my painting, just not quite as much as usual.

In my last blog I told you I had thrown away my latest watercolor, but I did re-cycle the paper. And I said I had decided to paint the same rainy-day motif but with acrylics this time.

Well, I started on it yesterday, and what a difference. I feel much better about it (the motif) now. It’s all falling into place. I painted the darkest areas of the scene first, so that I could better judge the values of the other colors. It almost looks like a photographic negative at this point.

I’m fine with my progress for now. I plan to finish it pretty quickly, in the next day or two, and if that happens, I’ll post it next blog.

Now back to Wimbledon!

Until next blog…