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…