Friday, July 29

Modeling Shapes in Your Paintings

An Acrylic of Mine with Modeling
Copyright 2008
My current painting (which is not today's image) includes faces, arms, and hands of several people. Although it is representational, it’s not photo-realistic by any means, but neither is it so impressionistic that some details don’t matter.

I am painting the shapes to show their form, roundness, and curvature. As I was working on the painting yesterday, it occurred to me that what I’m really doing is modeling, or at least that’s what I thought I was doing. That is, I am painting an arm, for instance, to show that it has a shape, it has shadows, and it reflects light from the light source.
So, I thought modeling would make a good topic for today’s blog. What is ‘modeling’ in the context of painting? I Googled it and got a variety of hits, not all of them having anything to do with painting—some were about business models and some were about fashion modeling—and a lot were simply links to art classes where modeling is taught.
Anyway, I picked one that gives a lot of definitions of the word— I’m not sure this is the best source, but it was the most relevant on the first several pages of hits.
It defines model/modeling (also spelled modelling) as a verb in this sense as: plan or create according to a model or models; form in clay, wax, etc.; assume a posture as for artistic purposes; display (clothes) as a mannequin; create a representation or model of; construct a model of.
I suppose that’s what I’m doing as I paint, although those definitions seem more for a solid or 3D form than for a 2D painting.
Since I’m painting faces and arms, I decided to look at my book, Anatomy for the Artist by Daniel Carter and Michael Courtney. It has way more on the subject than I ever care to know, such as “the bones of the elbow joint,” but if nothing else, it is comprehensive.
I think I found what I needed in a short section on planes, light, and contour. It simply says to be aware of these three things to render correctly, especially direction of light (it even says to draw an arrow on your support, so you don’t forget). It says finding the darkest areas or tone first will help establish the rest. It also says to use looser lines in figure drawing and angular strokes for plane changes.
Simple sounding, but not so simple to actually do. This is one of those skills that's going to take practice, practice, practice.
Happy Painting!

Monday, July 25

When to Throw Away Your Painting

Oh No.
You have to make the dreaded decision. Should I stick it out and continue to fight the good fight?
If you’re a painter, then you know what I’m talking about. When do you throw in the towel? At what point do you give up and throw away your painting?
I’m telling you, it’s not an easy decision. It should be done (in a perfect world) only after a deliberate, thoughtful process of weighing the good with the bad as it were. It should not be cast off in a fit of anger, although that’s probably the case.
I’ll pass along a little story. I was painting a relatively simple landscape on a half-sheet of watercolor paper. I really liked the motif: a winding stream early in the morning with a couple of egrets standing on the banks. It was a simple composition and palette with primarily greens and blues. I had worked on this painting for a couple of days and was relatively happy with the result.
The first issue was when I decided to remove the border of tape from around the painting. When I start a painting, either watercolor or acrylic on paper, I always apply the tape to frame the painting area. Anyway, as I peeled off the tape, I noticed the paper was sticking to the tape. Trying to carefully remove the tape, I continued to peel, but I knew it was ruining the paper. At this point, I wasn’t too worried, as I could always cover this up with the mat before framing.
But then. After critiquing my work, I decided I should re-paint the egrets so that they had a more realistic stance and proportion. This was acrylic, so no problem. I re-drew the correct forms lightly in pencil.
And then. I applied masking fluid (frisket) over the new shapes, after which I painted over the previously painted birds. The last thing to do was to remove the masking fluid and paint the new egrets with white.
However. As I removed the masking fluid, the top layer of paper came off as it had with the border tape, only this time there was a half-moon tear almost an inch long. The damage was done. No amount of re-painting or over-painting could hide the problem. I could not recover from it, and so threw my painting away in the re-cycling bin.
Throwing away your painting is never an easy decision, especially if you have labored over your work for many hours, days, or even weeks.

But sometimes it’s the only thing left to do. 

(Otherwise) Happy Painting!

Wednesday, July 20

Eye of the Beholder

Photo Courtesy of Microsoft, Corp.
“Beauty,” of course, is in the eye of the beholder. So, the beholder is always right, right? I think so, and that means there are as many different “beauties” and beholders as there are people on Earth.

The point I’m making is, just because you (personally) like or dislike a piece of artwork, in whatever form and for whatever reason, does not mean others will necessarily agree. And if you and they don’t agree, so what?
Art is, by nature, personal in my opinion—personal to the artist who creates it as well as personal to the viewer (beholder). If the artist and viewer are in sync, more the better.
However, my “beauty” as a viewer is strictly that—my “beauty”--and no one else’s. Even if two viewers agree that a piece of art is beautiful (or thought-provoking, or awe-inspiring, or horrible, etc.) that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the same “beauty.”
Here’s what I wonder about. Why do some artists, and especially some artwork, achieve (somehow) celebrity status? What or where is that tipping point that captures the interest or imagination of enough viewers so that the art and/or artist achieve celebrity status and/or the noble cause of collectivity?
By whatever means, it’s not always talent in technique and rendering; it can just as easily be because it’s unique or avant garde or visionary or unique or notorious or just plain oddball.
In addition, and as an artist, I try to see all possibilities in pieces of art, giving them the benefit of the doubt, even when I question their “beauty”  and their appropriateness to whatever  the artist was trying to achieve (as if I knew).
A benefit of the doubt is a powerful thing and should be wielded more broadly with much more intensity. Every artist deserves the courtesy of an open mind.

Happy Painting!

Wednesday, July 13

Try A New Motif and/or Painting Style

For Me, A New Motif
and Painting Style
Maybe it's just the summer doldrums, but every once in a while, I want to try something new? Don't you? Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, right?

Just to be clear, I’m speaking of trying something new in your art, not necessarily taking up sky-diving, for instance. I am, or want to believe I am, in the mode of continuous improvement in my painting. However, I have found that if I keep at this for any length of time, what should be happy time—creating art—can often turn into monotony.
Nothing, in my opinion, is worse than a monotonous painting or a monotonous painter.
What to do? How about—try a new motif and/or style of painting?
If you paint florals, try abstract; if you paint loose, try photo-realism. If you paint in abstract expressionism, try Impressionism. Switch things up a bit—try something that is directly opposed to your current subjects, style, or method.
If nothing else, it may shock you out of your comfort zone (or the doldrums) and set you off in a whole new direction.
For me, I have been wanting to include people in more of my paintings. It seems I have been painting landscapes and outdoor scenes and/or still lifes for a long, long time. A different motif may be just the thing.
I also have been wanting to paint more in the style of Impressionism rather than representational.
So, in my attempt to shake it up a bit before the “dog days” really settle in, check out my painting in today's image in which I included people and painted in a somewhat looser style. I like it, but if nothing else, it broke the monotony.

Happy Painting!

Friday, July 8

Happy Birthday to OrbisPlanis--3 Years of Art Blogging!

Happy Birthday to OrbisPlanis!

As I said on the two previous anniversaries, “I can’t believe I have been art blogging for ____ year(s)!” Well, now it’s been three years, and I’m still quite surprised.

I never really thought about how long OrbisPlanis would be around. However, every week—or even every day--new things are happening in the world of art. Things to be tried out and discovered, so there seems to be a never-ending supply of art things to blog about; that would be things, such as artists, paintings, art supplies, galleries, genres, art history etc., etc., etc.

Here are links to: my very first blog in 2008 and to the blogs on my first and second anniversaries.

Since my first blog, I have made 345 posts and have 21,293 page views as of this morning.

The year 2009 must have been the most interesting because the top five most-viewed blogs all were in 2009.

The top five are:

I appreciate all of the readers and followers around the world who make time to read the blogs. Will OrbisPlanis be around for a fourth anniversary? If the viewers keep on viewing, then there’s a good chance…

Happy Painting!

Tuesday, July 5

A Visit to The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

My Photo of Renoir's
 Luncheon of the Boating Party
I was in Washington, D.C. last week and had the pleasure of visiting The Phillips Collection. It’s a private art museum with a great collection of paintings and other works that I have been wanting to see, and finally got the chance.

The Phillips Collection is conveniently located just a block from the DuPont Circle station on the Metro Red Line.
The museum is actually three separate, but connected, buildings--the original boyhood home of Duncan Phillips, the Carriage House, and the Sant Building. It opened in 1921 with one room and 237 paintings. Today the collection numbers more than 3000 (this and following information from the Welcome brochure each visitor receives).

When it opened, the collection was primarily American and French Impressionist paintings. Phillips' wife, Mary Acker, was a painter as were some of his friends, so the collection grew to include more contemporary American artists, such as Arthue Dove, Marsden Hartley, and Georgia O’Keeffe, to name but three. Phillips also began to collect more European works by Monet,  Cezanne, and Van Gogh, as well as those of Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, and Picasso.
Later acquisitions include Degas, Alexander Calder, Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock, Richard Diebenkorn, and a small gallery dedicated entirely to four paintings of Mark Rothko.
The museum hosts frequent exhibitions, such as the one currently on view, (Wassily) Kandinsky and the Harmony of Silence: Painting with White Border, an interesting review of Kandinsky’s creative process on this masterpiece.
Perhaps The Phillips Collection’s most famous painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-81 by Renoir, was acquired in 1923. This iconic Impressionist painting hangs in a prominent position in one of the four galleries as you ascend the curving, marble stairway to the second level.
It’s hard to describe the feelings you have as you gaze at this most beautiful and world-renowned painting. The painting, with its vibrant colors and brilliance, appears as if it could have been painted last month. If you get to see this painting in person, be sure to note the lively expressions on the faces of the young people in the painting enjoying their lunch and wine.
As cheesy as this may sound, I did buy a magnet depicting Luncheon of the Boating Party at the gift shop. But--it’s packaging identifies each model/person in the painting—Aline Charigot, Alphonse and Alphonsine Fournaise, Raoul Barbier, Jules LaForgue, Ellen Andree, Angele, Charles Ephrussi, Gustave Caillebotte, Maggiolo, Eugene Pierre Lestringez, Paul Lhote, and Jeanne Sanary—and is a great reference.

You can even take photos of the works (without flash) except for current exhibits, so today's image is my photo of the famous painting. I truly hope that you, too, are fortunate enough to see this magnificent collection of world-famous paintings and works.

Happy Painting!