Monday, November 28

Art is Art

To Be Or Not To Be
Art is whatever it wants to be.

Art can but does not necessarily have to make you feel bad or feel good or feel any emotion.

Art is what you make of it.

Art is what you want it to be.

Art can be profound.

Art can be absurd.

Art can be worthless.

Art can be monumental.

Art is created by humans for humans.

Art lives in its own reality but not necessarily your reality.

Art does not have to have a message

Art does not have to send a message.

 Art is art.

(Happy Painting.)

Tuesday, November 22

Select Your Own Color Palette

I don’t know if you do this, but I am always interested in other artist’s color palettes.

I know the reason why, too. It’s because if I like a painter’s work, then I want to know how they achieve their good outcomes. That means not only their style and technique, but also the colors they use.

 I’m always looking online or in books for a list of colors in so-and-so’s color palette. I think that if I use their colors, then my paintings will look like theirs.

There are two flaws in my thinking, and I’ll be the first to admit it.

One—just because I have researched and stocked up on each color in Monet’s palette (both his early and late period no less) does not mean any of my paintings will come close to the beauty of Monet’s. Oh, I wish that were the case, but reality has a way of bringing me back down to earth. And if all painters were using a limited number of color palettes based on what has already been painted, well, wouldn’t that be stifling.

Two—by “copying” some other painter’s palette, I have thrown my own native ability, not to mention creativity, under the bus (as they say), and why would I, or anyone, choose to do that. Indeed.

Yes, I have several lists of colors from several painters I really admire, and I have tried using their palettes in my paintings. But you know what? It just doesn’t work that way. Using their exact colors doesn’t equal a successful painting painted by me. Probably not for you either.

 So, at least I have admitted to this, and I think that’s the first step in making a change.

What I have found, happily, is that there are colors that I really like in my paintings and that I find myself using again and again. That is, I am in the slow process of winnowing down my color choices to a manageable few. Although I don’t know what number of colors that will eventually be, I do know that I am enjoying the process.

 I also know this is not a one-time thing. I understand that my palette may change over time with my artistic needs, and that is as it should be.

Just to give you one example of a recent choice, the more I use Lemon Yellow, the more I really like its brightness and versatility. It's on my list for now.

Happy Painting!

Friday, November 18

Finding Inspiration - Always A Surprise

Inspiration--From Where Does It Come?
It always happens unexpectedly. I almost never anticipate it. It happened again yesterday. What, you may ask.


I never know where it will come from or when it will happen. That's what makes it even much more, well, inspirational.

Like fog in Robert Frost’s well-known poem, Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening, “It comes on little cat feet.”

That is, it sneaks up on me, and I don’t realize it, but it happened again yesterday. I was at a local art supply store to shop for some supplies and spend a generous gift certificate. I was in no hurry for a change, and took my own sweet time going up and down the aisles.

I stopped at the watercolor aisle and spent time looking over the various brands and individual colors as well as the pre-packaged sets to figure out what, if anything, I needed. I decided my own method for acquiring paint is still the best—buy what you need when you need it a good price, and don’t’ be afraid to try new colors and brands.

Something about staring at all those colors made me start to imagine the great paintings I will paint with these watercolors and how I will use them and how I will put paint to paper.

 Inspiration started to gain momentum.

 I made my way over to the paper department. There were shelves and stacks and bins of all kinds of paper. I perused a whole section of single-sheets in all weights and finishes. In addition, there was a whole aisle of paper in all sizes in both tablets and blocks, ready to take home and use.

I evaluated the full-sheet sizes of watercolor paper in both 140-lb (300gsm) and 300-lb (640 gsm) weights. What paintings I will paint with these full sheets!

I moved to the section with paper in tablets and blocks. The more sheets in a tablet and/or block, the less cost per sheet. How many paintings I will paint with all those sheets!

Ah inspiration. Now I'm painting with the best of them--Monet and Hopper and Wyeth--in my mind anyway, and that's really all that matters to me.

Happy Painting!

Monday, November 14

Happy Birthday Claude Monet

My Acrylic Tribute to Impressionsim,
The Boardwalk at Port Royal
(Copyright 2010)
Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you.

In honor of this occasion, here is a very brief chronology of the great painter’s life:

Oscar Claude Monet is born November 14, 1840, in Paris to Claude and Louise Monet.

The family moves to Le Havre and Claude studies art with a local artist in the 1850s, and as a teenager becomes somewhat known for his caricatures.

Monet learns to paint en plein air with Eugene Boudin in Le Havre.

Monet commits to becoming a painter and moves to Paris in 1859.

After a stint in the French military in Algiers, Monet enrolls in the Charles Gleyre art studio in 1862 and meets Frederic Bazille, August Renoir, and Alfred Sisley.

Monet paints Woman in A Green Dress in 1866, a painting of his girlfriend, Camille.

Monet’s outdoor paintings of pretty people and landscapes with shimmering light hint of things to come; his son Jean is born in 1867.

Even though Monet produces paintings, such as The Magpie and Bathers at La Grenouillere, he goes through a period of rejection and paints at several towns along the Seine.

Claude and Camille are married in 1870 and honeymoon in Trouville where he paints beach and hotel scenes; they move to Argenteuil in 1871 and Monet continues painting landscapes and light.

In 1873 Monet paints Impression Sunrise at the port of LeHavre, which ultimately gives Impressionism its name.

Monet and several painters split from the conservative Salon and form their own painting society in 1874 with the First Impressionist Exhibition. Durand-Ruel becomes a business partner with his gallery and exhibitions.

The Second Impressionist Exhibition is held in 1876, including Monet’s The Bridge at Argenteuil; a third exhibition is held in 1877 and a fourth in 1879.  

Michel, a second son, is born to Camille and Claude in 1878. Camille dies in 1879.

During this time Monet has befriended the Hoschede family in Vetheuil, and after Camille’s death the two families live together with Alice helping rear Monet’s children along with her own.

Monet and family move to Giverny in 1883.

Although Monet and Impressionism reach a level of success in the late 1870s and early 1880s, the group is strained, and Monet paints on his own at various locations in the French countryside and along the English Channel; by 1886, the original movement has matured, and whatever affiliation the group had has ended.
Claude and Alice marry in 1892 (she dies in 1911).

In the 1890s Monet continues his quest to paint the changing light by painting a series of now-famous paintings of different motifs: haystacks, poplar trees, a cathedral.

After the turn of the 19th century, Monet turns his attention to his garden at Giverny and spends the rest of his life painting it, including the famous bridge and many views of water lilies on the pond.

Beginning in 1918, Monet begins a series of water lily paintings on large panels that will eventually be installed in the oval galleries of the Orangerie.

Monet dies December 5, 1926.

Happy Birthday Dear Claude, Happy Birthday to You!

And Many More…because your work lives on in museums and collections all over the world and in books and online forever to be enjoyed.

Happy Painting!

Wednesday, November 9

Mixing and Applying Watercolor

For this Watercolor, I Used Both
Wet-In-Wet & Wet-On-Dry
 & Mixed Color on the Palette
(Copyright 2011)
Other than the motif itself, I think color in your paintings is  most important—more than the genre, more than the style, and more than the values. That’s my opinion. Color, or the absence of color, as in the case of monochromatic paintings, is what initially draws our eyes and attention—or not—to any painting.

Color is important in all paintings but especially watercolor in the way it can be applied, manipulated, or just left to mingle. It’s that transparency or shimmer that makes watercolor special, and that’s why I’m blogging about it.

For anyone not familiar with watercolor, there are several ways to mix and to apply watercolor paint.  

There are three methods for mixing:  applying washes, mixing on the palette, or mixing on the paper. None are particularly easy. Washes provide the transparent look, but getting the right consistency and the right color wash-over-wash is very difficult.

Mixing on the palette is relatively easy to do. You see what you’re going to get before you apply it, but it’s also easy to mix mud, so be careful.

When you mix on the paper, you apply colors separately (or you should) and then let them mix on their own. I don’t suggest this way if you’re a micro-manager since you don’t have much control.

However, there is one way of mixing on the paper I recently learned about that I really like.  Rather than adding each color separately to the paper, you dip just the tip of the paintbrush in each color successively, and then you apply the paint in one brushstroke. This lets the colors mix on the paper, but you still retain some control.

For applying, there are also three methods: wet-in-wet, wet-on-dry, and dry-brush. There are other ways to do it—like spattering-- but basically they all fall into one of these three. Note, you're the artist and may use more than one method in a single painting. The names are practically self explanatory.

In wet-in-wet, you dampen the paper to the desired wetness, then apply the watercolor. In wet-on-dry, you do not dampen the paper at all, or you let wet paper dry completely, then you apply the watercolor. Dry-brush is when you apply very little paint on a brush (the “dry” brush) on dry paper; the paint is dragged over the paper so that you get a broken line.

Naturally, you get very different effects depending on which method you use. Wet-in-wet gives you that ephemeral  watercolor  look, but it’s almost uncontrollable, so you better have a plan. Wet-on-dry is easier to apply (relatively) and control, I think, but you better know what percentage of water- to-paint to use—too much or too little of either can ruin it. Dry-brush is used for many reasons, but I think it provides a special artistic effect that many painters are looking for.

There’s so much more to know about watercolor, one little blog is like a drop in the ocean. But maybe this has piqued your interest in learning more about it.

Happy Painting!

Friday, November 4

Getting Ready for a Gallery Show

The Bromeliad
Watercolor on Paper
(Copyright 2010)
I got ready for a gallery show this last week and had to figure out what I was going to do; that is, which paintings to put in the show and what price to put on them.

Decisions. Decisions.

This part of a painter's life seems a little alien to many painters. It’s not part of the daily painting routine, at least not for me, and I suspect not for a lot of others.

OK. Let’s see, what to do?

Well, first, what kind of a show is it? This show is a group show of like-minded painter friends with different, but mostly traditional styles. We are fortunate enough to be able to have a group show with the help of a couple of pros.

Second, where will the show be held?  What type of gallery and space is available, and where is the gallery located? This show is in a gallery that I believe has ample room and wall space, so I expect it will be thoughtfully and artisticly hung. The gallery is located outside the city near a lake, in a weekend get-away type of spot with a quaint downtown area that attracts visitors all year.

Knowing the type and location of the gallery will help you, as it did me, make some decisions on which paintings to choose and the prices. Since the gallery is in a rather casual setting, I decided to select several paintings that I thought were in keeping with a more relaxed ambience.

Since it’s near a lake, I chose my painting of a lakeside shoreline at dusk, very peaceful indeed. In keeping with the water theme, I also decided on a painting of an early morning beachside scene with lots of palm trees.

Enough water already. I decided to put in two paintings with flowers that I hope will appeal to art gallery browsers; however, they’re not typical flowers-in-a-vase still lifes. One is a bright red bromeliad with an interesting viewpoint, and the other is a flower-covered leafy vine on a patio.

I also chose an urban street scene that I hope some of the weekend city-slicker tourists will like (and buy).

The hardest part for most painters is deciding what price to put on your work. Unless you already are well known with a following of collectors, which I am not and do not have yet, too high a price would be laughable and probably turn off someone who may be otherwise  interested.

On the other hand, these paintings didn’t paint themselves; I worked for hours on all of them. I think if the prices are too low, then it may seem as if your work is not worth much—well, less than it should be anyway. There’s also the cost of supplies, not to mention the mat and framing.

I determined my prices, more or less, by the sizes of the paintings--the larger ones were more, the smaller ones, less. And since the gallery is not in an expensive urban location, I also took that into account. 

Anyway, the decision-making is over. Now we’ll just have to see how it goes.
I can’t wait to get back to painting.

Happy Painting!