Sunday, December 23

December Always Makes Me Paint This Way

Pecos Snow
Acrylic on canvas, copyright 2008
Well, it's that time of the year again. Christmas is almost here.

I am glad about that, and I won't miss the crowds that have clogged the freeways and shopping centers all month long.

I will tell you that when I paint in December I feel I should be painting something that looks like December, you know, snow, fir trees, poinsettias, things like that.

But I rarely do. I painted today's image back in 2008, and I think that was the last time I painted snow. I suppose I would never make it as a Christmas card artist.

I actually paint less in December than I do in other months. Strange. Maybe it's the waning light as the winter solstice arrives in the northern hemisphere that makes it more difficult for me to keep painting. It's just too dark to paint by daylight after 4:00 p.m. Of course, I could just turn on the light, but I don't.

There also seems to be less time to paint--there's the planning and the shopping and the decorating, and everything else that's going on.

Whatever the reason, December always makes me paint this way.

Monday, December 17

Why Painters Paint

I was thinking about why painters paint. What motivates them? What is the mechanism that makes painters pick up a brush or other implement? Why do they do it?

This is not, of course, a researched topic, only my humble opinion. But I have given it some thought.

The short, pat answer is because they have to, they have no other choice. As I said, that's the pat answer, but I think there's more to it.

The over-arching reason painters paint is to escape.

Escape from what? To escape from time, to escape from reality, to escape from themselves.

You're probably a painter or you wouldn't be reading this, so think about it. You paint to escape the bounds of the clock, a set number of hours, or a set number of days. Throw out the clock and painting will take up any amount of time allowed it.

Painting is an escape from reality. Paint is a two-dimensional illusion on paper, canvas, or other, that allows you an exit or respite from the here and the now. It takes you away from the cares of the day and the dreadful news cycle to another place.

Painting lets you escape from yourself--your hopes, your fears, your prejudices--or it should if you're doing it right.

In summary, painting allows you to express whatever it is you are with paint.

Tuesday, December 11

7 Tips for Painting Wet-In-Wet

A Recent Wet-In-Wet Watercolor
of Mine
If you read my last blog, Painting Wet-In-Wet, you may have surmised that I think painting wet-in-wet is extraordinarily difficult. And you would be partially correct. I do.

But it's not impossible; that is, it's not impossible if you can learn how to control the water and the paint better.

Here are a few tips, or maybe I should call them lessons learned, I have stumbled upon that make the process somewhat easier for me. Note, I did not use the word easy.

One. Select a type of paper on which you have achieved some success  with the way you want your paintings to look and stick with it exclusively until you have learned its every reaction and nuance to water, especially how long it takes the water to start to dry. You probably will have to try out at least five or perhaps many more, but I assure you, one will rise to the top of your list, and you will become the master of it.

Two. I have had success with two types of brushes: a squirrel mop (aka a quill) and rounds. I use a no. 12 squirrel mop/quill, a no. 14 Kolinsky sable round, and a no. 8 round. The mop holds lots of paint and water, and the rounds work best with spring-y points that keeps their shapes. I paint rather loose and large, so other sizes may better suit you.

Three. One large, single palette for mixing, such as an enamel butcher's tray, works best for me rather than a palette with several (or many) pans or dividers. I'm not sure why except a larger mixing area allows me to better see all the different colors mixed and their strengths, and I can dip my brush in just the right spot.

Four. Keep a spritzer within reach at all times. When I say spritzer I mean a sprayer that sprays a fine mist onto your paper rather than any old spray nozzle that squirts out water in uncontrollable streams or drops--terrible. The spritzer lets you re-wet the paper whenever it or the paint need it.

Five. Study the bead of water that is generated as you pass your brush horizontally over the paper. That is about the only way you will learn how, where, and when to apply the wet-in-wet paint. I think when people say a watercolor paints itself, they're talking about the bead.

 Six. I find that keeping my paper tilted at an angle of at least 5 degrees but no more than about 15 degrees works best for me. This allows the bead of water to move relatively slowly down the paper. I use a table-top easel adjusted almost all the way down horizontally to achieve this.

Seven. I use all types of watercolor: transparent, granulating, and the more opaque, including gouache. It gives me freedom and choice or at least I think it does.

And that's all there is to it. Ha.

Thursday, December 6

Painting Wet-In-Wet

My Wet-in-Wet at
a Recent Exhibit
One of the most difficult techniques for many, if not most, watercolor painters is painting wet-in-wet. It sure is for me.

Why is that? Well, it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway--all that water....

You probably already know of what I'm speaking, but just in case, wet-in-wet is that tricky technique in which you paint juicy paint onto an already moistened area of your paper.

If you've never tried it, you must. Then you'll know what all the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing is about.

Of course, watercolor requires water. But, how much? That is the question and the secret.

Too much water on either your brush and/or the paper and your paint washes away in gushing rivulets that become blooms, cauliflowers, or whatever else you may call them. They are those ugly water stains that spoil your work and are a horror for most watercolorists.

Too little water is almost as bad because you tend to keep adding more and more, trying to gauge just the right amount, until you predictably get the above-mentioned blooms. Dang it.

There are several expert watercolorists who have mastered this technique--Joseph Zbukvic and Alvaro Castagnet, just to name two.

Here's the thing, there is no way of  teaching, telling, or showing anyone how to master this technique. Believe me.

You can attend workshops and you can watch DVDs, but you will only learn how to do it by doing it over and over and over again. Only you can learn how much water should be applied on the paper and on the brush for your particular application. You, all by yourself.

Now, what could be simpler? If nothing else, think of it as character-building.

Sunday, December 2

An Article About Clyfford Still & His Work

Photo Copyright 2011
Here's an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal by Jonathan Lopez about one of mid-century America's great painters with whom you may not be all that familiar.

It's about Clyfford Still, and I did not know he was called one of the "irascibles" along with Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

The article highlights his work on display in a museum in Denver, Colorado, USA that carries his name and in a new book by Skira Rizzoli.

What I found most interesting in the article, and other painters may, too, is Still's insistance that his work, which is known for large canvases of color slabs, contrasting color, and hatched color, be shown all by itself and away from other works of art.

So much so that he rarely exhibited or sold his paintings according to the article. Now that is unusual for any artist and especially painters. Don't you think?

Here's the link to the article:

Monday, November 26

How Would You Describe Your Paintings?

I think you'll find the information in an article on useful and informative for painters, most of whom are more visual than verbal. The following link is to an Art Words List, part of an article by Marion Boddy-Evans on finding the right words to talk about your paintings:

The list is organized by art concepts and topics, which should be obvious for most painters after they see it. For example, the first topic is Color Words and, rather than just saying "yellow-green" for example, it lists some words you could be using, such as vivid, insipid, garish, and violent. Pretty neat, huh?

 A brief narrative on each topic is also provided to help you better understand how to use these words in context. Some of the other topics are Tone Words, Mood & Atmosphere Words, and Lighting Words, just to name a few. In addition, she provides a link to an A-to-Z Art Glossary on the site as well.

Excellent list and great words. Thank you, Ms. Boddy-Evans.

Monday, November 19

Support Your Local Art League

An acrylic of mine that was in the local
Art League's Member Show
(copyright 2011)
The point of today's blog is that you, I, and all artists, really, should support their local art leagues. Your own local league may, of course, go by another name, such as society, academy, association, guild, or other.

But the point is that it's the one place, or at least one of the places, in your community that supports local art and artists. As you know, there are not many organizations or people who do that.

So we should give them our support in dues or an endowment, if you can swing that, or if nothing else, volunteer time.

Here's a link to a story in the Houston Press by Meredith Deliso about a current show at the Art League Houston and how it is promoting the work of seven local artists who might have otherwise  gone unnoticed.

Support your art league and someday it may support you 

Wednesday, November 14

Happy Birthday to Claude Monet!

My Tribute to Impressionism
Copyright 2008
In honor of the great one, here's an encore to last year's blog on November 14, the birthday of Claude Monet.

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 andBathers 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.

Thursday, November 8

A Fine Art Exhibit of War Photography

Visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
(copyright 2006)
The New York Times previewed an upcoming exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston that opens, not uncoincidentally, on November 11, which is Veteran's Day in the US.

The exhibition is WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath.

The article by Carol Kino discusses how the exhibit came to fruition a decade after MFAH acquired what is believed to be the original print of the iconic World War II photo by Joe Rosenthal of American soldiers raising their flag.

I had already received notification of the upcoming exhibit, but reading about some of the photos and photographers in the Times  article makes me want to see it in person even more. I'll clear my calendar for an afternoon in the next few weeks.

Monday, November 5

A New Book on Cezanne

I wanted to pass along a link to a radio talk show on National Public Radio (NPR) today.

It's an interesting interview by Diane Rehm on her talk show of the same name with Alex Danchev, a professor and author of the new book, Cezanne.

In the interview Danchev discusses much of Paul Cezanne's background and life as an artist starting out in Aix-en-Provence as well as some interesting thoughts on why Cezanne produced so many self-portraits among other topics.

 If you are a fan of Cezanne (or Diane Rehm) or if you just like art history, I think you will like this discussion.

There are also some images of Cezannes' paintings throughout his career and an excerpt from the book as well.

Here's the link:

Thursday, November 1

Let There Be Art At Airports!

Finally! Someone else noticed. Besides me. I'm very glad, and you should be, too.

I'm talking about art at airports or actually the lack of art at airports. However, in a Google news crawler I saw this link to an article by Chris Owen of

Several years ago while traveling through Bush-IAH and LAX airports I couldn't help but notice how utilitarian they were and how they desperately needed some artistic enlightenment for us human travelers who are subjected to much, well, let's just say inconvenience (to be polite).

I blogged about it once, and then artwork was added at Bush (not because of my blog, of course), although much of that was architectural, but that's OK. So I blogged a second time.

Here are links to those blogs:

'There Is No Art In Airports'

'There Will Be Art In Houston Airports'
I am very happy to read this article about new art installations at Gatwick in London as well as other airports. So the next time I'm queued up at a terminal, I hope I am viewing a masterpiece or two.

Monday, October 29

Tribute to Bob Ross

Like millions of others this morning, I moused over today's Google image to see who was being honored with one of their ubiquitous doodles.

It was for artist Bob Ross on what would have been his 70th birthday except for the sad fact that he passed away in 1995.

What artist doesn't know who Bob Ross is/was, at least in this part of the world?

You must remember his show on PBS in the 1980s where in each program he would show all of us how to draw and paint.

Anyway, I also saw on my Google news crawler a link to a blog by Michael Cavna in The Washington Post. It's a fine tribute to the painter who, for many, was probably the closest thing they ever got to an art lesson.

It was very popular. Here's the link:

Thursday, October 25

What Would Picasso Do?

Not at all to become a flashpoint between the current seemingly worldwide "discussion" of urban art vs. vandalism, I did want to share a link to this article in yesterday's Houston Chronicle by Anita Hassan and Molly Glentzer:

It's about the controversy over whether the defacing of a Picasso painting (Woman in a Red Armchair, 1929) at the Menil Collection in Houston by stenciling an image on it should warrant an exhibition of the perpetrator's urban art at a cross-town gallery.
Very interesing viewpoints on both sides of this modern-world art "discussion" I think.  
What do you think?

Sunday, October 21

Total Art Experience

Here's a link to an article I saw on Google News. It's by John Weeks in the San Bernardino Sun (California USA), and it talks about how art should engage all of our senses to truly be experienced (I summarize).

I like that idea.

In the article, he states that in addition to our eyes, we should be able to hear, touch, and even smell and taste the images, sculptures, and installations we call art.

What do you think about that?

As I painter, I initially agree with most museums "do not touch" policies since obviously  work on canvas or paper would deteriorate rather quickly.

But yet...I have to agree that if the artist considered that (hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting) in the creation of the work, then, yes, there could be a proper way to incorporate these other senses into the experience.

Thinking outside the box (or frame) to engage the viewer (taster, smeller, etc.) is a good idea especially in our technologically-advanced age.

Wednesday, October 17

What?! Another Art Heist?!

Yet another major art heist on Tuesday in Rotterdam. That's in the Netherlands or Holland--anyway Dutch.

What's going on? Why is security at these art museums so, shall we say, crap? Who's responsible? Who's in charge?

The seven paintings by Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Gauguin, et al were so valuable, couldn't the museum afford at least one armed guard to stay up all night and watch the place?

Charley Hill, the great art detective was quoted in the New York Times after yesterday's robbery (and I paraphrase)--this was so big,  whoever this bad guy is must owe someone big time.

 I recently read the book, The Rescue Artist, by Edward Dolnick, about how Charley Hill worked to solve the 1994 theft of Edvard Munch's The Scream in Norway. There is, however, the distinct possibility that some or all of these masterpieces will never be seen again. Ever.  

That's the real tragedy. 

Sunday, October 14

If the Impressionists Had Smartphones

My acrylic on paper,
Watching the French Open
 (copyright 2010)
Here's a link to an article by John Seewer of the Associated Press in the San Franciso Chronicle that I find very interesting and hope you will, too.

It ties the famous Impressionist to today's social media by discussing how Edouard Manet's portraits acted as 19th-century links to personalities, much as Facebook and Twitter do today on smartphones and tablets.

Now that may be a stretch for some, but if you like the work of the Impressionists (I do), then you'll probably agree or at least consider the notion. I will add that I think the portraits by John Singer Sargent could also be considered similarly.

The article is also about the current exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, Ohio USA), which is composed entirely of portraits by Manet. 

So here's to the art of portrait painting, may it live long and prosper.

Thursday, October 11

Urban Street Art in the Mainstream

In the on-going discussion of the importance of street/wall/graffiti art to the art world, let me share this link to an LA Times article by David Ng on an upcoming auction by Bonhams on October 29.,0,788438.story?track=rss

Works by some of the biggest names in the "business" will be represented including Banksy, Fairey, and KAWS, among other notables.

And if there were still any doubts about the viability of the urban genre, just look at the estimated prices of the most prized pieces: $20 to $80K US. (Where's that can of aerosol paint?)

Sunday, October 7

Winslow Homer's Studio House

I thought you may find this piece on CBS's Sunday Morning program interesting.

It's about the opening of Winslow Homer's studio house in Prout's Neck, Maine USA (near Portland) to visitors. Homer, as you may know, is the quintessential American painter of land- and seascapes of the 19th century.

The studio space has been preserved pretty much as Homer left it upon his death in 1910. If I'm ever in Prout's Neck of the woods, it will be certainly on my must-see list.

Wednesday, October 3

A Prequel to Mona Lisa

This from Yahoo! News and James Keaten of the Associated Press in Geneva--the Mona Lisa Foundation (I did not know there was one) announced a new and improved, so to speak, painting of Mona Lisa. Claiming it was painted prior to the "famous one" now hanging in The Lourve, it's supposedly authentic even if unfinished.

Dubbed the Isleworth Mona Lisa, it will be under scrutiny to see if it's the real thing from Leo da Vinci or just another hijinks in the art world. If it is, it may be worth up to $325 million US, according to the article.

In this version it looks like Mona just returned from a week at the spa after a facial but still wearing that enigmatic smile

Is there as second Mona Lisa? Maybe or maybe not.

Sunday, September 30

Intrigue in the Art World - A Stolen Renoir?

Well, I guess it was too good to be true, as things usually are. A few weeks back I blogged about a lady who bought the painting at a West Virginia USA (not Virginia as I had reported) swap meet for the ridiculous sum of $7US. It happened to be a real bona fide Pierre-August Renoir painting.

As I said, just too good to be true.

Turns out, the painting, On the Shore of the Seine, seems to have been stolen from the Baltimore (Maryland USA) Museum of Art on November 17, 1951. So its provenance is suddenly in question.

What to do? Well, the auction house has postponed the auction of the painting, which was estimated to bring about $75,000US.

More on this intrigue in the art world as it unfolds...

Wednesday, September 26

An Ed Ruscha Exhibit at LACMA

We were back in LA recently and always like to check out at least one art museum and/or gallery while there if time permits. Fortunately we got a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon to visit LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art).

I had read about the work of artist Ed Ruscha but was not really all that familiar with it, and maybe you fall into that category, too. I knew he was famous for his depictions of life in LA from mid-century and later, but that's about all.

You may have seen his iconic work, Standard, which is hanging prominently on the first wall you see. If you haven't ever seen it, it's a very graphic rendering of a Standard-brand gas station with its mid-century architecture of steel portico and gas pumps in reds, blues, and oranges. Very graphic and very eye-catching. I did not know that he also rendered the same image in different color schemes including lavender and yellow and tan.

I also did not know that most of his work was contemporary graphic lithographic prints rather than painterly pictures. He also uses words and phrases in much of his work along with a stray pimento-filled olive dropped in several works unexpectedly--attention getting if nothing else.

Anyway, you couldn't take any photos of his work, but I did get a shot of the entrance to the exhibit, which is today's image.

Check out the LACMA website on Ruscha's work:

Friday, September 14

Museums Should Be Free?

The Castle @ The Smithsonian
The timing is appropriate since this weekend is Museum Day in the US when many museums will open their doors free to the masses.

This thought-provoking article is from the The Huffington Post (by Hallie Sekoff) via the Los Angeles Times (by Jori Finkel). Several LA museum directors discuss the decisions around whether to charge admission to the some of the world's great museums and why some do and some don't.

And don't forget to scroll through the montage of Top 10 Free Museums in the United States ("Remember the Alamo").

Happy Museum Day!

Monday, September 10

A Renoir in Your Garage

This is the kind of story I like. From the ABC News website, someone bought a box of "unknown" artwork at a Virginia USA flea market.

Well, you can guess from the headline what happened. One of the pieces was a Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting, Paysage Bords de Seine, that had not surfaced since 1926!

It's going to be auctioned later this month for maybe $100,000US.

And that, my friends, is why I buy a lottery ticket every single week...

Thursday, September 6

I Did Not Know There Were Four Paintings of "The Scream"

If you look over there in the right-hand column you may have noticed (or not) a section I call The Art Book I'm Currently Reading...

If you noticed, the book that I am still reading is  The Rescue Artist A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick.

It's the story of an art detective who attempts to recover one of the most famous paintings in the world by Edvard Munch. I am about 3/4 of the way through, and so far the painting has not yet been found.

I wish there had been a Spoiler Alert because I just happened to see where someone paid nearly $120 million at auction for The Scream last May. Obviously the painting that was stolen in 1989 was found.

More interesting to me is that the article, written by David Ng in the LA Times, mentions there being four versions of the painting. I did not know that, did you? I just wonder how much the other three are worth.,0,2698556.story

Thursday, August 30

Vincent Van Gogh was Color Blind -- What!?

(One of mine---NOT van Gogh's ;-)
I really like reading the arts and culture section of the online website/newspaper The Huffington Post. And an article in this week's edition was no exception.

Whether or not you are a fan of van Gogh's near-abstract expressionistic paintings and often garish colors, I think you will find this information an interesting addition to your knowledge of art history. It doesn't matter if you agree with Mr. Asad or not.

If nothing else, it's something you can drop into a converstion during the cocktail hour of your next gallery opening.

Monday, August 27

Painting on the Central California Coast

I ran across this item on the Santa Ynez Valley News website, and it reminded me of a vacation a few years ago to that area of the central California coast, specifically Buellton, Solvang, Los Olivos and Santa Ynez.

Along with the wine-tasting, I particularly remember visiting the small but impressive (Art) Gallery Los Olivos.

It would be great to visit the area again during John Mac Kah's workshop. Although I am not familiar with his work, I saw several of his beautiful paintings on his website and wanted to blog about this. I'm sure it will be a worthwhile experience for those painters attending.

Hope you can make it to the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley.

Friday, August 24

Where & How to Hang Large Paintings

As a painter of extra large paintings--you know, the ones that take up a whole wall--you may have wondered where and how collectors would ever hang them. Well, here's a website with some advice...

Wednesday, August 22

A Million Dots of Pointillism

Although some think pointillism went out of style in the 19th century with Seurat and Signac, more to the point, it appears to be alive and well today with a million dots.

Saturday, August 18

When in Houston...

Here's a review from a local website of current (and upcoming) exhibits at our own MFAH (Museum of Fine Arts Houston). Just wanted to pass along this info to natives and visitors alike--MFAH is one of the jewels among our freeways and sprawl.

When in Houston, don't miss it.

Wednesday, August 15

An Edward Hopper Festival

If you follow OrbisPlanis, then you know I am a fan of Edward Hopper's work--wish I were going to be in Nyack, NY, USA (his hometown) this weekend...

Sunday, July 22

Happy Birthday OrbisPlanis - 4+ Years of Art Blogging!

Well, the 4th birthday of OrbisPlanis has come and gone. It was July 8 of 2008 when I first began writing this art blog. Before that I had posted several of my paintings to my online site/blog, but since I didn't start writing  anything until July 8, 2008, I "celebrate" OrbisPlanis' birthday on that date.

I have had a great time writing the blog even on the occasional days when I wasn't getting any good vibes for art blogging. It was always fun to think there are people out there who want to read about art and painting as much as I do.

I had to do research for many of the blogs so that I was imparting correct information in addtition to just passing along knowledge I gained first-hand while painting. In that sense it has been educational for me and I have learned a lot that I wouldn't have otherwise.

I was always suprised that the three most viewed OrbisPlanis blogs I wrote were: about watercolor paper, the painting called Pinkie, and painting the color of shadows. Of course, the inner-workings of the Google search engine probably had a lot to do with it, too, but who would have guessed?

I have also learned that blogging in general and art blogging in particular take up a lot of an artists' time. In addition to the actual writing and occasional research that I just mentioned, there is also time spent maintaining the blog. This includes not only keeping up with Blogger updates and templates but also moderating comments (and a lot of spam, too!) and keeping up with links that I put on the blog with information and sites I thought you would want to visit. And then there was tweeting on Twitter--I tweeted about every new blog post.

While i will continue to blog, I have also decided to spend more time on my painting, which is most important to me. I know the painters out there will understand.

Feel free to leave a comment or email me at if there is anything art related you would like to discuss.

Keep On Painting

Tuesday, July 17

What Kind of Palette Should I Use?

I keep thinking that I will eventually find the perfect paint palette. I know the word palette, as in paint palette, has a couple of different meanings, but today I'm talking about the one onto which you squeeze or mix or pour your paint.

It may not seem all that important since the actual work takes place on the canvas or paper or some other support, but it is.

The palette is almost as important as the motif or the paint itself. Well, almost. It's more than the place where the paint first lands.

It's the place where ergonomics meet creativity. It's where you set up housekeeping for your colors. It's where you mix that perfect color. It's important.

The type of palette you use should be evaluated and tried out to see if it works for you. If it does, then it can make the act of painting easier (note I didn't say easy). If it doesn't, it can ruin your painting not to mention your day.

There are all types of palettes, of course, made in all types of materials--paper, wood, plastic, resin, enamel, etc. They come in all shapes, too--round, square, rectangular, the ubiquitous kidney-shaped, with any number and size of wells in which to deposit paint.

Some have very little real estate for mixing "on the palette." Some have great big areas to mix up a lot of paint. Some have many partitions for mixing many colors; some have just a few if you like a limited palette, I suppose. Some have no partitions at all, such as my handy enamel butcher's tray. Some are disposable. Some have covers, most do not.

And some painters hardly use a palette for mixing since they mix the all the paint color on the canvas or paper.

Whatever type you select, I will tell you it's a personal choice. I have tried at least 10 different types of palettes over the last few years, and I still haven't made up my mind which one suits me best. I keep switching them out thinking maybe the next palette I use will magicallyimprove my painting. The jury is still out on that.

I do prefer some palettes more than others. Currently I'm liking a rectangular one that has eight large square, four large round, and eight small round wells. That way I can mix up as much paint as I need in the colors I want.

But now I am wondering if I should be using one with a thumb-hole, or not...

Keep On Painting.

Friday, July 13

Do We Create a Painting or Construct One?

Did I Create or Construct
This Painting?
I am trying to figure out where to draw the line or even if there is a line.

I'm talking about the line in painting between art and craft. I have been wondering about this for a while now. Of course, almost all painters would say painting is an art except maybe for those crafters  or hobbiests on the other end of the spectrum.

But I'm not talking about crafters who use paint for covering all kinds of pieces loosely described as art.

I am talking about a line of demarcation with truly creating a painting on one side as opposed to constructing a painting on the other.

You may not have ever even thought about this, but I have been thinking about it for a while--ever since I started learning about how painters paint a picture. After several years of reading and studying painters and their methods and watching videos and demonstrations, I know there is no right or wrong way to paint a picture.

I'll try to explain what I'm talking about.

By creating a painting, I mean the ability to select or design a motif and rather freely render it with only your own eyes and hands. I mean the ability to draw or sketch the main elements and then paint them directly with correct value and mixed colors, evaluating and making changes as you proceed.

What I call constructing a painting is using a prescribed method for building a painting. It can be as exacting as a certain way to transfer a drawing (trace, projection, etc.) to deliberately masking areas (in the case of watercolor) or following a precise method of painting a line or shape rather than creatively rendering the painting as you go.

I know there probably is overlap between the two, perhaps, rather than a strict line. Maybe it's a fine line, but still I wonder which side of that line I should be on.

Keep On Painting

Monday, July 9

A Book About Caravaggio's The Taking of Christ

My Acrylic of the Italian Countryside
As It May Have Looked During Caravaggio's
 Lifetime (Copyright 2008)
Last night I just finished reading a book about the recovery of a lost painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. If you like art history and reading about painters and paintings, then I think you will like this book.

It's The Lost Painting, The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr, published in 2005 by Random House.

The story, which is told more or less chronologically, recounts how several people and events in Italy and Ireland came about to re-discover Caravaggio's original masterpiece, The Taking of Christ.

In addition to following the detective-like story of the whereabouts of the painting during the last 400 years, Harr also provides a very good history and telling of the major events of Caravaggio's life and death as an artist.

In a previous blog I wrote in 2010, I said that I didn't care much for Caravaggio's work because of the coarse subject matter in many of his paintings, such as gushing blood and severed heads. It is off-putting to say the least, at least it was to me.

However, in life things change and so has my opinion after reading this book. After seeing the beautiful painting on the cover jacket of the book and looking in other books and online, I now appreciate the greatness of Caravaggio.

The painting is so beautifully rendered that to see it in person must be breath-taking. If you look at the painting and read the book, then I think you may remember when Harr recounts Francesca's thought after seeing the restoration, "The light-it was always the light in Caravaggio's paintings that astonished her."

I believe that says it all.

If you are a painter in any medium, you will be inspired. If you'd like to see the painting, here's a link to a YouTube video,

Keep On Painting

Thursday, July 5

A Way to Improve Your Watercolor Painting

My opinion is that painting watercolor is like playing the game of golf.

Just so you know, I am not a golfer, but I have known enough golfers and watched enough tournaments to know that you can never get too good at or be too satisfied with your game.

It's the same with watercolor. There is no such thing as perfection--it's unattainable. (Okay, with golf, I suppose if you could shoot an 18, that would be perfection, but c'mon, that will never happen.)

But that doesn't mean we painters should not try or stop trying to achieve the unattainable. That's the point of today's blog--keep improving.

One way to do that is practice, practice, practice. One way I have learned to do that is to select a subject (or object) to paint and paint it a lot. Paint it many times, over and over.

Like the proverbial 10,000 hours, you should be an expert after painting that many hours. Even with that, I'm not so sure about watercolor.

A good how-to book suggested this way to improve. A book I recently read, and now use as a reference, is Watercolor Workshop Handbook by Robert Wade. I think it's a very good resource.

Anyway, one suggestion, as I said, is to paint one thing many times. One way of doing this is to divide a sheet of watercolor paper into four equal sections using masking tape. You then paint one small painting in each section or four paintings on one sheet.

The size of the sheet isn't all that important, I suppose, but the smaller the sheet the more likely you are (or at least I was) to paint a lot of pictures without using up a lot of good watercolor paper.

Today's image is an example of a sheet of four paintings I did, this one of skies. I practiced painting many different kinds of skies from clear to cloudy to overcast including all types of clouds as well.

This won't guarantee perfection, but you will certainly learn a lot about how to paint one thing better than you did before, in my case, it was skies.

Keep On Painting

Sunday, July 1

Time to Slow Down & Evaluate Your Work

My Recent Watercolor
(Copyright 2012)
Back in the studio working diligently--that's what we painters should be doing. But it's July 1st, which means this year is suddenly 1/2 over.

It's also summertime in the northern hemisphere, which can cause anyone, not just painters, to slow down a little bit. It's called vacation in the US, holiday in the UK, ferien in Deutcshland, and whatever else you may call it in your country.

It's not that I'm not painting, because I am--I just completed an acrylic yesterday.

But I am working at a somewhat slower pace. It is time for slowing down and taking a look at what you've accomplished and where you may be headed as a painter and artist.

When I finish a painting, I like to let it "sit." That is, when I say it's finished I put it away, out of sight, where I can't easily get to it or look at it with some difficulty, such as opening up something and digging around for it.

I do that not only because nobody is at my door (or on Facebook) waiting eagerly to purchase it, but also because it is the only way I can objectively evaluate my own work. I have to get away from it so I can see it freshly with clear eyes.

Today's image is a small watercolor I completed a couple of months ago. I stashed it in my painting portfolio away in a corner so that I couldn't easily find it.

But now it is time to evaluate it. So I did. I unzipped my portfolio and pawed around the stack of paintings until I found it.

 Sometimes I'm pleased and sometimes I'm not. Today I am pleased with this piece of work--the contrasting color, the motif, and the mood. I remember the difficulties I had with it and how I overcame them.

I hope you all take a little time to slow down and evaluate your work before the second half of the year shifts into high gear.

Keep On Painting

Wednesday, June 27

George Bellows, American Master

I was in Washington, D.C. again last week and, as always, there is more art to see and more museums to do than time allows. So I had to choose.

I chose the George Bellows Exhibition at the National Gallery of Art (Sixth St. and Constitution Ave. NW). The National Gallery almost always has at least one exhibition I want to see when I'm in town, and this trip was no exception.

George Bellows is one of those painters whose name I knew, or thought I knew, but one with whom I was not all that familiar. I knew he was American and painted way back when, but that was about all. I learned he was a contemporary of Edward Hopper, who you know, if you are a regular viewer of OrbisPlanis, is one of my favorite painters.

As the exhibit proved, Bellows (1882-1925) was quite prolific even in his relatively short lifetime--he died from a ruptured appendix at age 42. Too bad, because it's hard to imagine how many more paintings he would have done--I didn't count but I'm guessing there were well over 100 works spread out in several galleries on the second floor.

While viewing the exhibition I also learned he was a student of Robert Henri, and his early works were typical of the Ashcan School of realistic city scenes in the early 20th century. His friend and gallerist was Alfred Steiglitz. Bellows painted with, but was not a member of, a group called The Eight, which included William Glackens and John Sloan. Bellows became known for his large, realistic paintings of prize fights and fighters (e.g. The Sawdust Trail), which many viewers at the time considered crude in their content.

What impressed me most about Bellows is the wide variety of motifs he painted as his career progressed and not just gritty cityscapes. He proved himself an equal master with landscapes and portraits. There a more than a few paintings of his wife, Anna, and their two daughters in the exhibit as well as other portraits, all beautifully rendered. 

He used light source excellently, in my opinion, to heighten the drama in both landscapes and portraits. His painting, Blue Snow The Battery, with its bright sun and blue shadows on snow, is a masterpiece.

If you are in Washington, D.C. this year, don't miss the Bellows exhibition which runs through October 8, 2012.

Keep On Painting

Thursday, June 21

Visual Cues Create Interest

A Painting With Several
Visual Cues (copyright 2010)
One way to keep your viewers interested in your painting is to give them something to look at. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out.

So why do so many paintings fail to keep the viewers' interest? A boring motif is the obvious answer, one with little contrast or emotion.

But you also need to have visual cues. What do I mean by that?

In addition to a focal point, you should have counterpoints that move the eye around or bounce it back and forth across your work.

You need to lead the viewer into the painting. Usually this is some element that gives entry or points the way into the painting, like a road or a shadow or an object of some sort. Most often a viewer enters a painting from the lower left or lower right but not always.

You need depth--a foreground, a mid-ground, and a background. Otherwise the viewer is stuck in a static plane unless that's what you intend.

Depending on your subject, you will have perspective and/or a viewpoint to not only let viewers know where the picture plane is but also to orient them.

If there is an animate object in the painting, a person or animal or other creature, there will often be an eye-line. This means that the person or animal is looking in a direction such that the viewer is compelled to look in that same direction.

These are just a few basic ways to keep you and your viewers from being bored to death by your painting.

Keep On Painting

Friday, June 15

The Way I Imagine

I Imagine 
Painters, perhaps more than most, need a new start, a new beginning, a new outlook.

Today is that day. 

Today I will begin painting watercolors the way I imagine.

I will take time not only to understand but also to internalize the steps to create paintings the way I imagine.

Remember, the end result of the painting is art, but the rendering of it is craft.

So I will take time to control each step and nurture that craft to paint the way I imagine.

I will imagine the best motif, the best composition, the best underpainting, the best color palette, the best washes, the best values--in short, the best painting imaginable.

After I imagine the best, I will not give up or give in or otherwise tolerate failure unless and until I paint the way I imagine.

And imagine, if I can do it, so can you.

Keep On Painting 

Monday, June 11

The Main Focus of Your Painting

There are many ways to lead your viewer into and around your painting. Today I’m blogging about a subtle way some contemporary watercolorists choose to do it. This can apply to other mediums as well, but I have particularly noticed it with watercolor, probably because of its very nature.

All artists know the focal point is, of course, that thing or area in your painting to which the viewer's eye is natually drawn. It is usually obvious what and where the focal point is based on its contrast in value, color, or maybe placement.

It all has to do with focus, as in the focal point in your composition, and there should be only one. Everything else should support it by moving the eye around the painting and providing counter-balance.  

However, if the focal point is too obvious, it's as if a big finger were pointing right at it so there could be no mistaking. So what is the subtle way some watercolorists have of focusing the viewer’s attention? It’s simply by painting the focal point in sharp focus or relatively sharp focus compared to other areas.

If done correctly, your eye will naturally go to the area with sharper contrast of line or color, and then move around to areas that are in less focus. It’s also effective in providing depth, I think—other areas can be out of focus s while the main attraction is in relatively sharp focus.

One acknowledged painter explained on his DVD that backgrounds, or any area that is not the focal point,  should be indications of shape, light, and color. Otherwise, you run the risk of fiddling with too much detail and emphasizing things you didn’t intend.

It’s a rather simple concept really—painting the focal point in focus and everything else in less focus—but it takes forethought and planning to do it right.

Keep On Painting