Thursday, March 29

A Painter's Questions

As a painter do you ever question exactly what it is you are pursuing, art-wise, that is?

Every so often I question my aspirations, and there are several questions to pose.

What are my strengths as a painter, and what are my weaknesses? Do these strengths and weaknesses matter to me and, if so, how much?

Do I have a style and would I recognize it as such? How important is my style to me?

What do I want my body of work to look like?  Is there individuality in my paintings?

How do I feel when I'm painting? What about painting makes me happy/unhappy?

Is there a “groove” for painters, and, if so, I how do I get into it?

Do I like the way my paintings look? 

What is the nature of being a painter?

What will improvement look like? Can I improve or will my work just evolve?

Do I have to be passionate about painting?

Am I satisfied? Am I complacent?

(Keep On Painting)

Thursday, March 22

Learning to Paint from a DVD?

Recently I viewed several artists’ DVDs. These are painting demonstrations on DVD that feature a particular painter. Up until now I had not really taken the time to watch any artists on DVDs, which are available to purchase online or in art supply stores.

I didn’t really believe they would be able to “teach” me much in a 1 to 1 1/2–hour DVD format. Nor did I think I would be able to learn that much either. 

I have watched trailers, which are short previews, of many artists’ DVDs on YouTube. These are generally three-minutes or so with snippets of artists painting on location or in their studios. They show just enough to give you an idea of what's on the DVD so you'll buy it.

The DVDs usually cost around $39.95US, but that is much less than most in-person workshops. I have been somewhat skeptical of any painter who would produce one or more of these DVDs just to enhance his or her income. Yes, I know that’s naive. Artists have to make a living.

A couple of months ago I decided to order the DVD of a painter whose book I had previously read, and the DVD had the same name as the book. It was interesting to see the painter “live” and actually using the techniques described in the book. The production quality was pretty good, and the artist was actually quite entertaining. And I learned something about  painting loosely.

Then an artist friend lent me a DVD of another painter several weeks ago, and I watched it. This painter’s style was quite different from the previous one. Where on the previous DVD the paintings were done both en plein air and in the studio, on this DVD a painting was done entirely in studio from start to finish. This was more of a workshop demonstration for those who learn better in that environment. This painter was equally entertaining, and by that I mean she interjected personal painting anecdotes, which helped convey what she was saying. And I learned something.

Finally, I just recently ordered the DVD of a painter whose work I admire. In this DVD the painter is painting entirely en plein air. It’s not step-by-step, but you are looking over his shoulder as he paints. He doesn’t go into detail about paper or paint, although he does give his palette colors. However, he does explain how he goes about deciding how to paint the picture. You listen to the explanation and watch him paint, and the paintings develop before your eyes. I definitely learned something.

Although the DVDs are edited so that you can’t always tell how much time has elapsed between scenes, to allow paint to dry, for example, that doesn’t really matter.

So I have changed my mind. I believe painters can learn by watching DVDs as long as they practice, practice, practice what they learn. There is no substitute to learn to paint other than actually painting.

FYI--the painters I learned from in order were Ron Ranson, Judi Betts, and Joseph Zbukvic.

Keep On Painting.

Monday, March 19

A Finished Painting...

My Finished Painting
Well, I finished my painting. So, following up on my previous blog, A Painting in Progress…, here are my thoughts about a finished painting.
A finished painting is:

-Like taking a Summer vacation

-Like walking in clover


-An old friendship

-A feeling of calm


-Like driving out of a long tunnel

-An urge to do a happy-dance

-A beautiful thing

-A prideful experience

-Like winning the lottery (or at least a scratch-off)


-Like hitting a jack-pot in Las Vegas or Monte Carlo

-Like finding the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow

-Something to shout about

-A leisurely stroll in the park

-A new member of your family of paintings

-Confidence in a job well done

-A wonderful thing


-Definitely a painter’s reason for getting up in the morning

Keep On Painting

Thursday, March 15

A Painting in Progress...

My Painting in Progress
A painting in progress is:

-Like waiting for Spring

-Like walking in the fog


-A love/hate relationship

-A test of patience


-Like driving through a tunnel

-An uncontrollable urge

-An ugly duckling

-A humbling experience

-Like hoping you’ll win the lottery

-A test of faith

-The lure of Las Vegas or Monte Carlo

-Like looking for thepot of gold at the end of a rainbow

-Something to fret over

-A roller-coaster ride

-A step-child

-Like walking on a tight-rope without a net

-Not an easy thing


-A painter’s reason for getting up in the morning

Keep On Painting

Friday, March 9

Which Watercolor Paper Is Best For Me?

I am convinced more than ever about the type of watercolor paper and the role it plays in your paintings. I started to use the word “quality” rather than “type” in the previous sentence, but thought better of it. One painter’s quality, expensive paper may be the bane of another painter who swears by an inexpensive brand and vice versa.

I do think that painters should, no must, try out a variety of different types and brands of watercolor paper if they want to find out which one suits their style of painting best.

Previously I have painted on 300-lb. (640gsm), cold-press watercolor paper from a highly regarded manufacturer. I painted on this paper exclusively for about two years, so I didn’t really have anything to compare it to.

Then I inadvertently bought several sheets of hot-press paper. I was immediately unhappy. Since hot-press paper is relatively smooth compared to cold-press, I was not used to the paint moving around so freely.

I have more control with cold-press paper (considering the medium), and I like it that way. Although I may be doing myself a disservice by not using hot-press, it did make me appreciate the natural attributes of cold-press.

I recently painted on a couple of well-known brands of mass marketed watercolor papers that are sold in hobby and craft stores as well as most all art supply stores in the U.S. Both were 140-lb. (300gsm). Admittedly, I was curious to know if a less expensive paper would make a difference.

It did. Since each came in a pad, one with 12 and the other 15 sheets, I felt compelled to use all of it. Since it was relatively cheaper, I experimented freely with different amounts and ratios of paint to water. I did not like the finish of either brand, and, more importantly, I found both to be too absorbent.

For me that meant the water was absorbed into the paper so quickly that by the time I applied paint, it more or less stayed in one spot and did not disperse as much as I would like. I found this annoying. I then had to use more water than I'm comfortable with, and using too much water has its own consequences. 

I don’t think the size or color of paper makes a whole lot of difference except to the painter who may prefer a larger or smaller sheet depending on his or her taste and ability to paint large and/or small.  I think color affects one’s ability to judge values as you paint, not the actual act of painting.

I am currently waiting for an online order for a pad of 140-lb. (300gsm) rough paper  to arrive. It is from the same manufacturer as the 300-lb. paper that I have used before. I have never before used rough paper, but I am looking forward to trying it out.
Maybe I will find it to be “the one” that will take my paintings to the place I want them to be. We’ll see.

 Keep on Painting

Sunday, March 4

A Few Tips & Tricks for Painters

Just A Favorite Painting of Mine
I’m passing along a few things I use that have become part of the way I paint. I use these for my watercolor and acrylic painting sessions, although they may be adaptable for oil, too, who knows?
These didn’t come about all at once; that is, one day I didn’t suddenly try out a bunch of new ways to make things easier. It takes time to discover better ways of doing things or new tricks or tools.

Anyway here are a few of them:

 Butcher Tray as your paint palette – A wonderful re-purposing of a kitchen utensil; the flat tray is enameled and allows you to squeeze as much or little paint as you need and mix it easily on different parts of the tray; and it’s easy to clean in the sink with water and paper towels.

Tear-By-Hand tape for your border – I’ve mentioned this one before, but tear-by-hand tape is the greatest; if you’re one of those painters who use tape to frame your paper before you paint you will love it; with just your fingers, you can easily tear off the length you need—no scissors needed.

Shopping Bags as your artist portfolio – I’m talking about those very, very large plastic bags you get when you buy full sheets of watercolor paper; if you don’t mind the art supply store advertisement on them, they are the perfect size, remarkably tough, and they have a handle; use them to carry your paintings to class or the art gallery.

Artist’s and Painting magazines as your inspiration – I use my favorite articles on painters and paintings while I paint; I open up the magazine so that I’m looking at a favorite painting while I paint; it’s a constant reminder of the type of painting I’m trying to paint; you can also use old hanging calendars with famous painter’s paintings, such as Impressionist paintings, for the same thing, too.   

Plastic Containers for your brush-water -  I’m sure everyone already does this, but thought I’d mention it anyway; you can choose the size you need (like a large yogurt container) and when the interior gets stained with paint, just re-cycle it; I’m currently using the plastic containers that hold disinfectant wipes —tall and sturdy, they hold a lot of water and tall brushes so you don’t splash much (of course, for plein air, you’ll need to find a container with a handle to hang it).

Call these tips or whatever, feel free to borrow, try out, and use them (or not).

Keep on Painting