Monday, October 31

Is Painting Dead?

Caravaggio's Judith Beheading Holofernes
Is painting dead? When you Google those words, you get pages of hits, so there obviously has been some discussion on the subject. October 31st being All Hallows Eve, I think this is an appropriate topic to blog about.

I wonder why and how this topic started and why it doesn’t seem to go away. I’m guessing it’s because there hasn’t been any real painting movement or trend that I’m aware of to take hold since Pop Art in the 1960s. Before then, you had identifiable genres in painting, such as Cubism and Abstract Expressionism, that lasted a generation or two. It is interesting to note that they were asking this same question when photography was invented in the mid-19th century. 

Of course, there has been new art expression since the 1960s, such as the Young British Artists of the 1990s and the current interest in all things contemporary and performance art, but that's not classical painting.

The art supply industry is like any other that innovates new and better products. Oil paint that can be cleaned up with water and slow-drying acrylic paint are a couple of new things that have recently been introduced. Obviously it's not the paint manufacturers that keep this idea alive.

Some discussion points to a waning interest in painting. Have degree-granting institutions of art really seen a decline in interest, and therefore, reduced the number of painting courses offered? Art schools and art associations in my area still seem to offer plenty of courses in all kinds of painting.

In the 21st century art and painting, along with everything else, especially communications, is advancing faster than you can keep up with it. The digitization of art and painting is the new thing these days. With Wacom Tablets ™ and Adobe Photoshop ™ you can create just about any kind of painting, effect, and technique.Will these technological tools permanently replace the paintbrush?

Is painting dead? I don’t think so. It would be like saying drawing or any art made by human hand is dead. As Mark Twain famously said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

I just think we’re in a period of waiting on the next big thing, even if it’s just a revival of classical painting.

Happy Painting!

Friday, October 28

Painting and Music Go Together

I'm Sure I Was Listening To Music
When I Painted This Acrylic
I always listen to music when I paint. Why is that?

The idea of working on a painting in relative quiet doesn’t sound very appealing to me. It seems empty and lonely. After all, painting is usually a singular activity that you do all alone by yourself anyway. Doing it in silence only seems to add to the loneliness.

Painting is not like reading or studying or any number of activities where you need almost complete concentration. No, painting allows your mind to wander even though your hand, eye, and mind are busily painting away.

Music even enhances the creative experience, I think. It keeps my thoughts and ideas on target where necessary, but at the same time, music can send me to other places and times depending on what I’m listening to.

The type of music we listen to is one of the most personal things we do. You can like one kind of music, and I can like a completely different kind, such as Polka versus Hip Hop or Classical versus Pop. It doesn’t matter what I like or what you like; they’re likely not the same anyway.

 As in people’s taste in art, one kind of music is not “better” than another, just different. There is no right or wrong.  That is why art--painting--and music go together.

While I'm painting, I listen to a variety of music websites on my laptop from all over the world that play the music I like. You should try it sometime.

Happy Painting!

Monday, October 24

Why Is Painting With Water Media Difficult?

I Just Wish I Could Remember
 How Much Water I Used On This Sky
I repeat,why is painting with water media difficult? By water media, I’m speaking of watercolor and acrylic. Well, for one, it’s water based (duh), and that means it’s free-flowing. The value and intensity of the hue and chroma you paint is directly related to the amount of water you use.

Too little water, and your paintbrush scrapes across the surface like a shovel on cement. Too much water, and your painting looks like dirty dish water. Either way, you’re up that proverbial creek unless that's what you intended.

Apparently no art mentor, no art teacher, no master, no book can actually teach you how much water to use. No amount of discussing, watching, or emulating will teach you that little trick for whichever style of water  media you are pursuing.

And therein lies the secret no one ever tells or teaches you. You have to learn water media by yourself. Let me say that another way—you have to learn how much water to use all by yourself by trial and error.

I’m paraphrasing a few snippets on the subject from several watercolor books:

-You must master painting washes.

-If your painting turned out well, keep it as an example and note what you did for the next time.

-The right amount of water is the hardest thing to learn.

And my favorite--You need to use the right amount of water!

Well, thanks, for the advice… I don’t know why I was having any trouble.

Until next blog, Happy Painting!

Thursday, October 20

Learning to Paint Loosely, Freely, and Boldly

One of My Loose Acrylics
Copyright 2010
It’s ironic to me, but true, that painting loosely or learning to paint loosely is actually more difficult than painting tightly. That is, painting freely is harder to do than painting with controlled, precise, brushstrokes that go exactly where you paint them to go.

At least that’s my opinion. It’s ironic because to the average person, painting loosely looks much easier to do than painting a controlled, representational, or highly realistic painting. In whatever medium, but especially watercolor, I think, a loosely painted painting looks as if “anyone could do that.”

Oh, just pick up a brush and dab or splash on some paint. And Viola, you have a beautiful, impressionistic painting, right? Wait, not so fast, and I mean that in more ways than one. Yes, painting openly, freely, and loosely can be relatively fast to render. But not always. Like many things in life, it just looks easy.

As with many things, you must first: know what you know, know what you don’t know, and then the most difficult of all—figuring out the things you don’t know you don’t know. You may have to think about that for a minute or two.

In loose, impressionistic painting that means taking all your knowledge as a painter, and then un-learning some techniques to allow yourself to paint freely (or more freely). If you think learning to paint is difficult, just wait until you have to un-learn how to paint.

That’s easier said than done. Letting go never is. But, if you’re inclined to paint loosely, boldly, and freely, then you must learn how to let go or un-learn some of your style and techniques.

The life of a painter can be frustrating.

(Cautionary note to readers:  this does not mean throwing out the basics, such as composition, value, lighting, distance, or perspective; it does mean throwing out some of your  ingrained habits.)

 But, as always, Happy Painting!

Monday, October 17

It's Not Whether You Win or Lose...

The Living Room Window
Copyright 2011
Although I did say that art is not a competition in a previous blog from 2010, I'm not one to pass up any award presented to me either. And that includes a Merchandise Award I received in the form of a gift certificate last Friday at the 42nd annual WAS-H Members Show.

As I said, we artists are not really in competition with each other as much as we are in competition with our own artistic ability to keep going in whatever direction we choose. We compete every time we pick up the paintbrush.

Timing and luck, I guess you could call it, also play a bigger part in our lives than most of us care to admit. We like to think we’re pretty much in control, but as often as not, things just fall into place.

For example, the painting for which I received the award, The Living Room Window, almost wasn’t even entered in the show. Here's how it went.

You are allowed to enter up to three paintings, and there is a little price break on the entry fee for your second and third entries.

Originally, I was going to enter only one painting that I thought had a chance to win. It had been in a recent gallery show and had received several nice comments, although it hadn’t sold. While I was getting the paperwork together for the members show, I happened to remember a painting I had completed last spring.

It was not yet framed because it's rather large, and I didn’t have a mat or a frame that fit, etc. Then I remembered a framed painting that was hanging in my hallway—one that I never really liked that much--but one of my first watercolors.

So I measured to see if my unframed painting would fit in this older frame. It did, and I switched  the paintings and decided to enter it at the last minute.

And it won something.

That’s why, as a painter, I never like to think of it as winning, or especially, as losing.

Until next blog,

Happy Painting!

Thursday, October 13

Art News from Around the World

If you’re new to OrbisPlanis, then I’ll explain about the newsfeed crawler gadget from Google up there near the top of the blog. Blogger has many, many “gadgets” as they call them, which are nothing more than apps--little snippets of code—that you insert in your blog. They add information or search for the latest information or keep count of something or whatever.

I added my “art”newsfeed to the blog a couple of years ago. It’s not an art app at all; rather you can customize whatever newsfeed topic you like. For instance you could choose soccer/futbol or opera or finance or just about anything. OrbisPlanis being about art and painting, I selected search terms that would look for art news, such as art, artwork, paintings, art museums, etc.

Anyway, it’s fun, I think, to sit back and see what comes up on any day. For example, here’s a smattering of art news from around the world on October 13, 2011:

 Paris Art Theft Says he Threw Paintings in Garbage Bin, from the Los Angeles Times -,0,7870046.story

Art-at-a-Glance: Art’s Most Powerful People, from the BBC News -

Ai Weiwei Tops Annual Power 100 Art List as Hirst, Koons Slide, from Bloomberg Businessweek -

Gustav Klimt: 150th Anniversary Oil Painting Museum on by ABC Art Gallery, from the San Francisco Chronicle -

And finally.

What we’ve all been waiting for, from Entertainment Weekly, 'Work of Art: The Next Great Artist' recap: Enter the Sucklord -

I hope you visit OrbisPlanis often to enjoy my art newsfeed gadget.

Until next blog,

Happy Painting!

Friday, October 7

Happy Day - Use the Right Art Supplies for You

If you’re like me (probably not), you want the best quality at the best price. I’m talking about art supplies.

As we all know, or have been led to believe, only the finest, highest priced supplies are the best. They are the only ones we should be using because, well, through time-tested use or word-of-mouth or brand-consciousness or whatever, they just are.


I’m not saying you should be using the least expensive (cheapest) or the “worst” or the discounted-because-they’re-near-their expiration-date either.

I’m saying that you should be looking for the best price at the best quality you can find. That can be at an online art store or at a bricks and mortar art supply store or even at a local artist’s purge/going-out-of-business sale. I'm just saying.
You should, I think, be comfortable with the choices you make, but I have found that some of the “best” products do not work all that well for me or for the way I paint. I have no idea why. And some of the least expensive (cheapest) work wonderfully well for my work, so I keep using them.

Also, I like to experiment or maybe I should say chance-it with unknown products just to see if they will work, especially if they are at a reduced price.

If someone likes my work, do or will they care if I use a brand-name or a no-name product? I doubt it. They will care only if some other artist or gallery owner or paint/brush/paper manufacturer has told them they should care. Chew on that.

Case in point. I happened upon a brand of watercolor that I was told had recently gone out of business, and so my local art supply chain had purchased their entire remaining stock. They were selling the whole line of paint for more than half-off the cost of similar, well-known brands. All of the paint was labeled “Professional Artist Colors.” Happy Day.

I purchased a few to try them out. I started with some colors I had been wanting for my new impressionistic watercolor palette but still keeping with the three primaries, so I bought Light Red, Yellow Ochre, and Lavender.

I liked them so much I went back and purchased several more: Ultramarine Deep, Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Rose Madder, Sap Green, and Cobalt Green. Even with this quality at these discounted prices I can’t afford to buy them all. Yet.

But I intend to, and that’s the takeaway from today’s blog. Be open-minded AND thrifty about what art materials work best for you. After all, it’s your art and it’s your money.

Until next time.

Happy Painting!

Monday, October 3

Painting Watercolor with Big Brushes

My First "Big Brush" Watercolor
Copyright 2011
A few blogs ago I talked about big brush painting and how many of the current impressionist watercolor painters are using rather large brushes to achieve many of the painterly effects in their work.

So I have been practicing with my new, larger brushes and just wanted to blog about it.

One thing I noticed almost immediately is the freedom you feel (or I did anyway) from the moment you start painting with these big brushes. I don’t know whether it’s the way I hold the big brush, rather loosely and way up handle from the ferrule, or the fact that with a big brush you feel like you can move your arm in a sweeping gesture. But whatever it is, it certainly made me feel like I was in control here at the palette.

Another thing I noticed is the amount of water and/or paint these brushes can hold. No surprise that a No. 14 Round holds more than a No. 2, but since there’s more water/paint, you feel like you can paint really large, no matter the dimensions of your paper.

I also read in blogs (and viewed on YouTube) how many of these watercolor impressionists paint. What they give up in detail by using large brushes, they gain in the beautiful impressionistic way the paint flows and mixes the colors. To me, that is the essence of why one paints with watercolor, and the lack of detail is exactly the style and effect I was looking for.

The last thing I noticed is how fast, relatively, you can paint with these bigger brushes. When I was painting with No.2s, No.4s, and even No.8s, it took days (for me anyway) to work through a painting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s rather exhilarating to paint alla prima if you haven’t tried it in a while.

Note—that doesn’t mean that you, as the knowledgeable artist and painter, don’t have to spend some time putting finishing touches on your work, but several of the current watercolor impressionists made a point of saying, “Don’t over-do it!”

So, that’s what I’ve been doing—practicing, practicing with my new, large paint brushes. I said in the previous blog that I would actually paint something and show it to you. It's today’s image. I rather like it, and I hope you try painting with big brushes, too.

Until next time,

Happy Painting!