Tuesday, June 28

How to Organize Your Paint Colors

Some of My Reds
I’m not so bold as to tell you how you should organize any of your art things, but as the title of today’s blog suggests, I will give you my opinion and tell you how I organize my own paint colors.

My “system” for acrylic paint colors could also work for just about any other medium-- watercolor, oil, pastel, etc.
When the number of tubes outgrew one drawer, I decided to start using bins. I shopped around and found a nice inexpensive solution of stackable, rolling drawers, and they work perfectly.

It’s so simple, you’ll probably say “duh” when you read this. First I segregate the colors by primary colors-- blues, reds, yellows--and I include all the hues and shades and even some secondary colors in these categories.
Reds--In addition to Cadmium Red, Cadmium Red Light, Red Oxide, etc., the Reds also include Violet, Dioxazine Purple, and even Burnt Sienna (which is actually red-ish).

Yellows--Along with all the variations of yellow from Lemon to Naples, I include a couple of Oranges. I also keep Raw Sienna with the Yellows because that’s what it mostly is—a shade of yellow.
Blues--The blues include every shade and hue of blue I own from Indigo to Ultramarine to Cobalt to Pthalo to Cerulean.

If you’re wondering what happened to the Greens, I’ll tell you. I had so many different Greens that I gave them a category (and bin) all to themselves. The Greens include everything from Hookers to Chromium Oxide and from Green Black to Brilliant Yellow Green , Viridian, and Olive. I also decided to include all the blue-greensturquoise(s)-- in with the Greens because they look more green than blue to me.

So what’s left? Well, a lot of colors that just don’t fit into the above categories so I decided to call them Neutrals. I don’t have near as many of these as I do blues, for example. In addition to Oxide Black, this is also where I decided to put the Browns, such as Raw and Burnt Umber. This area includes Payne’s Gray, Davy’s Gray, Parchment, Warm Grey, and Unbleached Titanium to name a few.

I then made an executive decision. I have a lot of colors that are tints of the colors mentioned above. I put them altogether in a group called Pastels. (If you don’t know what a tint is, look it up.) Pastels include such colors as Pink, Venetian Rose, Pale Terracotta,  Ocean Green, Light Blue Violet, Moss Green, Aluminum, Dunes Beige, and Cast Shadow.

I realize the names of some of the colors mentioned above are merely the whim of some manufacturer’s marketing department in many cases, rather than the actual, agreed-upon name and chemical makeup of the official Color Index . This has nothing to do with how I decided to organize my paint colors.

One last thing, since I use (and have) a whole lot of White acrylic paint, it gets its very own bin, which is full.

You, of course, can organize things anyway you please, but I hope this is helpful to painters in need of a little order in their studios if not in their lives.

Happy Painting!

Wednesday, June 22

Want a Challenge? Paint a "Series"


In a recent blog I mentioned I was going to do a series of paintings and that I was looking forward to it.  So I did it, and now want to blog about it and share some thoughts.

In my sophomoric optimism, I thought, Monet was famous for his many series: haystacks, cathedrals, water lilies—I should try that. I think every artist should paint a series at least once. Why? Oh, I don’t know—just to see if you can do it, for one, and also to say you did it. Not much in the way of a reward, I know, just the psychic kind.

Anyway, I had a reference photo of a stand of trees under cloud cover  taken out in the countryside on a  spring day. I liked the contrast in the motif and painted what I considered a rather nice acrylic on paper. An artist friend then suggested I do a series.  Hmmm, I thought, why not, I’ve never done that.

Well, I decided to paint this same motif with the same shot but in the other three seasons of the year. Not very original, but what can I say, that’s what I decided to do. Just so you know, these were all painted in acrylic on 1/2 sheet, 200 lb. watercolor paper.

To keep this brief, here are a few insights on the experience:

-I knew what my next three paintings were going to be and so, didn’t have to worry about what I would be working on for the next three weeks.
-I looked forward to the experience as a challenge.

-It's a learning experience.

-I can now say I have painted a “series.”

-I suppose if I really had done it right, I would have taken an actual reference photo at the same spot in each of the four seasons; that is, wait three months and take a summer photo, wait three months and take a fall, etc. But I didn’t, and so had to “make up” what the light and vegetation would look like in every season; that was not easy to do, for me anyway.
-By the third rendition (the fall motif) I was getting tired of this whole project, and winter was the most difficult motif for me to do without a reference photo.

-And so, the subsequent paintings did not turn out as well as the first painting (in my humble opinion).

Will I ever paint another series? Yes, definitely, but definitely not one having anything to do with the four seasons!

Happy Painting!

Thursday, June 16

Nobody But Artists Cares How It Was Done

No One Cares How I Painted This
After being around and listening to ‘art patrons,’ or at least those people who make the effort to go out to an art gallery or an art museum, I am sure that I am correct in saying that no one but artists care how it was done.

By that I mean, the casual viewer, and I am making a distinction from artists and/or art critics, simply does not care how an artist went about making his art.

Artists, I’m sorry to have to burst your bubble. But even though you put all your energy, imagination, knowledge, and skill into your work (or you say you did, anyway), no one cares.

Viewers are only there to look at your work, to enjoy your work, and perhaps, to feel something or be moved by it. But not to find out how you prepared your canvas, or selected your palette, in what order you created the work, or how you rendered your brushstrokes (or whatever as the case may be).

They simply don’t care. And what’s more, they don’t want to hear about it either. Try explaining your preparation and techniques and watch their eyes glaze over.

Now, maybe they would like to hear a little bit about what inspired you or what you were trying to achieve. Notice, I said a little bit. If you go on too long about this, you’ll recognize those glassy looks.

So try to keep your spirits up in the knowledge of the great efforts you go to in creating your work. Just don’t tell anyone about it.

Happy Painting!

Monday, June 13

Watermedia is "In"

Watermedia includes Acrylics
Have you noticed? “Watermedia” is in.

Or at least that’s the way it seems to me. In many of the prospectuses (prospecti?) these days, it seems they have changed from the term watercolor to watermedia or at least added the term watermedia.

I have been blogging about the apparent lack of respect for acrylic paint for several seasons now. As if they were the step-children of painting, acrylics seemed to have been relegated to the different, the unusual , the experimental edge of painting.

Really!? As I have stated before, acrylics have been around in earnest since 1955 (that’s 56 years in case you’re counting) when Liquitex “invented” the medium.

Of course, watermedia includes more than just watercolor and acrylic. I am well aware of that. There’s  gouache, tempera, watercolor pencils, Cretacolor ™ to name a few others.

Why have the watercolor art societies, juried exhibitions, shows, and galleries “suddenly” embraced watermedia? Well, for the same reason they hold the exhibitions in the first place—funds, capital, cash flow, call it what you like. Nothing wrong with that. Someone has to pay the light bill. Adding watermedia opens up the exhibitions to a broader group of artists.

Anyway, I am very happy to see this happening. My favorite medium of late has been acrylic on (watercolor) paper. I use it just as if it were watercolor. But it’s more forgiving and way more easy to add washes and other effects.

So I say, “bravo, it’s about time.”

Happy Painting!

Wednesday, June 8

Abstract Abstraction

Abstract Abstraction
I’m not one of those artists who frown at any art other than the kind or type I create. I am open to most types of expressive art and paintings. Perhaps less so with sculpture.

I admit I like representational art more than I like abstract art. I don’t know why this is so or why I feel this way.

I thought maybe if I better understood it, then maybe I would be more open to it or at least know why.

When you look up abstract on dictionary.com, you will find that the word abstract has a lot of different meanings. It’s an adjective. It’s a noun. It’s also a verb. Bet you didn’t know that.

Fortunately, the editors at this dictionary knew exactly what I was looking for.  Under the adjective section of definitions they put an italicized subhead—Fine Art.

It says:

-          Of or pertaining to the formal aspect of art, emphasizing lines, colors, generalized or geometrical forms, etc., especially with reference to their relationship with one another.

-          (often with initialized capital letter) pertaining to the nonrepresentational art styles of the 20th century.

OK. At least they acknowledged it as Fine Art.

The first part sounds like it could be anything--lines, colors, form—what else is there? I suppose the word ‘emphasizing’ delineates it from representational art as well as the term ‘geometrical.’ I wonder if Jackson Pollock knew this.

The second part is pretty specific—art styles of the 20th century. It’s a good thing van Gogh was popular in the 19th century; otherwise, some may have called his work abstract. His painting, Bedroom in Arles, is pretty geometrical, don’t you think?
So now it’s the 21st century. Is abstract still the correct term for nonrepresentational art? The word seems to have taken on a broader meaning of anything that you just can’t put your finger on, so to speak, to describe what it is.

(Oh, if you have time on your hands, look up the word abstraction.)

I have more important things to think about. Like how to paint a winter scene I’m working on—shall I make it abstract or representational?

Happy Painting!

Sunday, June 5

Controlling Your Art

Today's Image is my photo of blue irises
(because I decided and I'm in control)
One of the great things about art, about creating art, about rendering art, and about being an artist is that you are in control.

There are not many things in this world or in life over which you have complete control. But your art is one of those things.

You create it, you render it, you live with it. At times it may seem as if it controls you, but that’s not really the case. You can decide, you can select, you can add, you can subtract, you can change.

Oh sure, you may get criticized. Some (or many) may not like your work at all. Be that as it may. It’s your creation and yours alone.

Don’t forget the upside to this is that you are free to control how you want your art to appear, what mood you want your art to capture, how you want your art to be.
You and only you can give your art life. You are in total control.

Of course, there is a downside to all of this—there’s no one else with whom to share or to direct the blame...
Happy Painting!

Wednesday, June 1

Finding That Great Motif

The Living Room Window
Acrylic on Paper
Copyright 2011
Today’s blog is about looking around the everyday places in which you live and finding the motifs that are available to you. We live in a hurry-up, internet-enable world, and we (or I) forget to take advantage of what’s literally at our finger tips or not more than a stone’s throw away.

It does not matter if you live in the rural countryside, an urban neighborhood, or a suburban setting, just stop and look around. If you take the time to not only look but also see, you will be pleasantly surprised at what you may find.

For example, close-up photos of plants, tree leaves, insects, and maybe even critters make wonderful motifs. Try catching these in a different light at different times of the day or weather conditions. My favorite time is about an hour before sundown on a clear day—this is called the “golden hour” in Hollywood filming and production because of the vibrant and striking colors at this time of day in addition to the long and interesting shadows.

But you don’t even have to go outside. You have great motifs sitting around your house just waiting to be discovered. Look around the kitchen or dining room for subjects of food and/or china and silverware (or plastic plates and spoons) that can make a great still life either in a contemporary or representational painting.

Today’s image is a view out of the living room window with the sun shining through that I thought captured a great effect of lighting and shadows.

So, you don’t have to go to Paris or Pompeii or Peru to find the perfect motif. Just stop. And look around.

Happy Painting!