Sunday, February 27

When A Painting Is Finished...

Venice Beach, Morning
Watercolor on Paper
18x27 in/46x68 cm
Copyright 2011

Is there anything more exhilarating to a painter than completing a painting?

I don’t think so.

It can be the culmination of years, months, weeks, or days, depending on the artist’s passion and/or mental state. It can also be the end of just a few hours work if you’re particularly driven.

It’s your vision come to fruition, not to mention your blood, sweat, and (sometimes) tears.

But, oh my, what a feeling, as they say.

It’s the unburdening of the desire and drive you put yourself under to produce good—no make that great—work.

It’s the relief of creative pressure.

It’s the crest of a wave, and the end of a rainbow.

It’s the painter’s Mt. Everest.

It’s New Year’s in Times Square, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and Bastille Day in Paris.

So, in Today’s Image I present my latest watercolor, Venice Beach, Morning.

Happy Painting!

Until next blog…

Wednesday, February 23

When & How to Use Watercolor Pencils

Pickets Painted Using Watercolor Pencil
I often forget about using watercolor pencils because: 1) recently I’ve been painting more in acrylic than watercolor and 2) even in watercolor I forget to use them instead of a brush. Watercolor pencil is often the best solution and one of the best tricks of the trade.

It’s only when that proverbial light bulb turns on in my brain that I remember watercolor pencils, “Oh yeah, I could use watercolor pencil for that.”

I just had this experience again when finishing my latest watercolor, and so, wanted to blog about it.

You should not forget about watercolor pencils either. Assuming you’re not going to draw/paint your whole painting using watercolor pencil as the medium—not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s another whole blog--here’s when to use them:
  • When you need fine detail for whatever reason in your painting
  • When either your paintbrush is not able to produce the fine line you want and/or you, the painter, are not able to render the fine line you want with said brush
  • When you need just the very, very, ever so slight bit of shading on a small object.
There are other times, I’m sure, that call for watercolor pencil, but I think these cover most of them.

As in life, knowing (and remembering) when to do something is usually easier than actually doing it. However, in my attempt to forward knowledge on the subject, here are a few tips I’ve learned when using watercolor pencils:
  • When you need a fine line, keep the pencil sharp, sharp, sharp at all times, even if you have to sharpen it after each stroke or line.
  • Do not press down when applying color with the pencil—the “lead” will break and/or you will apply too much color.
  • Most artists don’t think about this, but you can apply more than one color of pencil on top of or adjacent to one another to achieve the color you want, just as if you were mixing them on a palette or tray.
  • There are two ways to apply the watercolor pencil. You can first draw with pencil and then apply water on the mark, which will dissolve and momentarily brighten the color. Or you can dampen (note, I said dampen, not saturate) the paper and then draw onto the wet part. I prefer the former because I have more control, or at least my brain and hand think I have.
  • And, if you're painting with acrylic on paper, you can use watercolor pencil, too. After it dries, it  blends right in (this assumes you will frame the painting under Plexiglas or glass since the watercolor is soluable).
 If any of you have more or better suggestions, please leave them in a comment.

Today’s Image is a small, cropped portion of my latest watercolor that’s almost finished, but I wanted to show you where I used watercolor pencil. In this motif, there is a wooden fence on the beach in the distance. There was no way I could paint the receding, narrow pickets other than to use a sharp watercolor pencil. You may have more skill, or a one-hair brush, but I don’t.

Happy Painting!

Until next blog…


Thursday, February 17

What Is Your Favorite Thing About Being An Artist?

My Reference Photo
Copyright 2011

What is your favorite thing about being an artist? If you’re like me, which is pretty bold of me to assume—so excuse me—then you’ll have trouble answering this question.

Why? Because it’s awfully difficult for me to pick my most favorite aspect of being an “artist.”

Do you agree, it's difficult? (It’s OK if you don’t.)

So many things come to mind.

I like learning about color, color theory, as well as the actual mixing process itself. It does not matter to me if it’s oil, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, pastel, whatever, it doesn’t matter.

I like nearing the finish line of a painting when all the pieces, so to speak, come together, and the fruits of my labor are at hand, literally.

I like reading about other artists, both famous and not so famous, and how they grew in their artistic abilities, how they persevered in their profession, and how they lived their lives in whatever era they produced their work.

In conjunction with reading about them, I like viewing the work of artists even more. It’s better in person at a museum or gallery, I think, but even viewing art online is a pleasure.

I like shopping at art supply stores. It’s not like shopping to me at all. It’s more like exploring, and I never tire of it.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t say that I do like recognition of my artwork—who doesn’t? Or maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, if pressed, I would have to say my most favorite thing about being an artist is the freedom it allows me. That is, I can create whatever subject (or object) I want, in whatever medium I want, whenever I want.

That’s saying a lot.

BTW, today’s image is a reference photo for a watercolor currently in progress. I’ll show you the results in a future blog.

Happy Painting!

Until next blog…

Monday, February 14

Art, Artists & Love


Well, Happy Valentine’s Day.

That being said, there have been some very famous artist couples in art history: Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Edward and Jo Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, just to name a few.

With artists’ egos and creative outbursts, wouldn’t you like to be a fly on their studio wall(s)? As I understand it, not all of these relationships were lovey-dovey; in fact, some were down-right contentious. Some didn’t live together. But for Valentine’s Day let’s just assume it was all blissfulness.

Venus and Cupid were the iconic subjects of Renaissance paintings in centuries past.

Don’t forget Manet’s Olympia (or Victorine Meurent). It hints at love, even if it were for sale.

How about the steamy art on the cover of romance novels?

What about that couple in Grant Wood’s American Gothic. Do you think there’s a love story there? Maybe.

On, to the question, “how many mistresses did Picasso have,” the answer is eight, all of whom appeared in his paintings (although some you wouldn’t recognize due to the shape of their faces).

And for whom does Mona Lisa smile?

There are many more examples--why don't you send a few?

Ah, art, artists, and love...

Happy Painting!

Until next blog…

Thursday, February 10

Paint in the Sunshine!

Sun-Face, Acrylic on Canvas
Copyright 2010

During the winter months in either the northern or the southern hemisphere, it's probably difficult for you to get the right light on your subject. That is, in whatever location you paint, the light is not the most optimal for your creative muse.

That is an issue with artists. You can’t paint in bad light. That’s really all there is to it.

What to do?

Well, since my “work station” has only one, sort-of-large, west-facing window, I paint only during the hours of the day when the outdoor light is at its most intense—usually about 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Some of you may call me lazy and shiftless for painting for just three hours a day. Whatever. It lets me see my work in the best natural light available. (That time does increase to about five hours during the summertime, so there).

Now, of course, when even the outdoor light isn’t enough to illuminate my masterpiece, I do turn on all the lights available. However, since I have primarily incandescent lighting, it will take similar lighting to view my work exactly as I envision it. Just so you know, I do have one of those “natural” lights that are supposed to let you view your work as if it were in natural daylight; however, it’s not bright enough to really light up the space (and I won’t even discuss the cost of those lamps.)

The solution, therefore, is to just buck it up, go outside, and paint in the sunshine—plein air style.

Now you may have to dress for the occasion and stock up on a few outdoors-y supplies, but just do it. You will be the happier for it and refreshed and probably healthier, too.

And if you’re like Edward Hopper, who, as we all know, only wanted to “paint the sunlight on the side of a house,” your work will be the better for it.

Happy Painting!

Until next blog…

Monday, February 7

Some of the Best Art in the World


Surely by now just about everyone who’s online knows about Google.

The people at Google have been busily developing and buying up programs and applications to give the user every imaginable way to use, explore, and create an environment for themselves online.

If you haven’t looked recently, here are just a few samples of what’s available: Knol, Orkut, Panaramio, Picnik, and Sketch Up. (If you don’t know what these are, just Google them to find out!)

But the one that got my attention last week was one called Google Art Project.

Just what is Google Art Project? Well, it’s Google’s way of taking you on a virtual world tour of some of the finest art museums and art on the planet.

If I counted correctly, there are currently 17 participating museums including among others: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the National Gallery in London; the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam; the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., just to name a few.

You should try it out. For example, you can view Vincent van Gogh’s most famous painting, The Starry Night, in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. A cool zoom feature they’ve added let’s you view it really, really up-close so you can see every amazing brushstroke if you want to.

There’s a three-minute video Visitor Guide that tells you all about what’s on, and how to use, the site. You may want to view this first so you don’t miss out on anything.

In addition, you can customize your art collection by clicking on the link at the lower right, Create an Artwork Collection. You simply click to add any of the paintings, sculptures, or art to create your very own custom viewing experience.

This is so cool. Now you don’t have any excuse for not visiting an art museum.

Happy Painting!

Until next blog…

Thursday, February 3

But Is It Ground-Breaking?

My Watercolor I Re-Worked with Acrylic
Last week I was watching a segment on a talk show about Roy Lichtenstein, and one of the points made in the show was important enough—I thought—to put it in the blog.

That is: art movements come about when artists create something that has never been done before.

Let that sink in for a minute…

Now the Lichtenstein piece was all about his work and how his son is still showing his famous art at galleries and shows. But the important thing about his work was that it was ground-breaking. Not just different, but ground-breaking.

Lichtenstein’s work was. His work was like comic strips, comic book art, and graphic arts tools, such as ben-day dots. One of the examples mentioned in the show was a piece of his art from a technical manual that was, or at least looked like, a line-drawing of a spark plug--subjects that up until then had not been thought of as art.

Lichtenstein, along with Andy Warhol, started the Pop-art movement in the early-to-mid 1960s. Lichtenstein’s comic-book characters, together with Warhol’s high-contrast photo treatments, transformed modern art of the period.

Pop-art was ground-breaking, just as Impressionism was in the 1870s, and Jackson Pollock and the Abstract Expressionists were in the 1940s.

Think something that has never been done before—that’s an art movement.

If you recall my recent blog (Watercolor AND Acrylic!), I said I was going to re-work one of my watercolor paintings with acrylic, and I did, and it’s today’s image. I went over some of the watercolor parts with acrylic to lighten up the fore- and mid-ground and brighten the sky. After that I used watercolor pencils to emphasis the flowers. (Mind you, it’s not my most favorite motif because flower paintings of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush are rather cliché, at least in this part of the world.)

Anyway, it's not ground-breaking and won’t start any art movements, of course, but using watercolor and acrylic together in a painting was different, for me anyway.

Happy Painting!

Until next blog…