Sunday, January 29

Painting on Hardboard

My First Painting on a Board
I’m painting an acrylic landscape on a board. Well, it’s not actually on wood, not solid wood anyway, but that doesn’t matter. What matters will be how my painting turns out.

It being a new year and all, I thought I'd try something different--like painting on a board. I have painted only one other painting on a board, and that was a relatively small painting, but it turned out OK, not an award winner, but OK. 

I had been admiring one painters’ technique (online), and I read that this artist painted primarily on MDF.

So I Googled MDF, which stands for medium density fiber board. One website said it’s wood fibers that are glued together using pressure and heat. An artist friend also said to use Masonite™, which I found out is a trademarked brand from what was once the Masonite Corp., named after William Henry Mason, just fyi, in case you ever need to impress someone with your artistic knowledge. 

Anyway, I visited my local big-box home improvement center to see what they had. They  had MDF, but it only came in ½-in (1.2 cm.). pre-cut pieces, which becomes way too heavy if your painting is larger than about 16 x 12 in. (41 x 51 cm.).

They also had something labeled hardboard. I had no idea what it was made of, but they had it in ¼ -in.(.6 cm.) and 1/8-in. (.3cm.) thicknesses, light enough to use for large paintings. It also came in 24 x 48 in. (61 x 122 cm.) and 48 x 96-in. (122 x 244 cm.) sheets.

I decided to try the 1/8-in., 24 x 48-in. sheet, which gives a pleasing 2-to-1 dimension, perfect for a landscape. And you can always buy the larger sheet and cut it down to any size.

When I got home, I Googled hardboard. I found out that instead of medium density fiber board, it’s high density fiber board. Wikipedia said it’s made of exploded wood particles, whatever that is, and it’s highly compressed, which makes it much stronger than MDF. Not that my support needs to be all that strong, but it’s nice to know.

I then Googled about using hardboard as a support. Several painters said to gesso it with at least two coats, which I did.

There was also discussion about the hardboard warping, and my board began to bend outward as the second coat of gesso dried. Oh no.

One painter said the solution was to gesso the backside of the board, which I did immediately.

I don’t know if using a thicker sheet would keep this from happening, but gesso-ing the backside did the trick. When it dried, it returned to its normal flatness after I laid it on a flat surface.

I notice that as I’m painting my landscape on the hardboard, the board does bend as the wet acrylic is applied, but as soon as it dries, it flattens out again. Thank goodness.

I hope this is helpful to anyone thinking about painting on hardboard.   

Keep on Painting

Monday, January 23

Really See What You're Looking At

I Had to See to Render This Small
 4x6 in (10x15 cm ) Acrylic
There’s the old saying in art that you must first learn to see before you can draw or paint or sculpt. Many don’t understand what that means.

It means exactly what it says; that is, rather than rendering what your mind sees, or thinks it sees, you must learn to see with your eyes exactly what you are looking at.

That means you must concentrate, which I know is difficult for many artists and painters who  want to immediately begin creating as soon as pencil, paintbrush, or pastel stick is in hand. If you can’t make yourself concentrate, then at least slow down and take a few minutes to really look at your subject or motif.

That means:

Understanding the lighting—which direction is it coming from; is it natural or artificial; is it cool or warm?

Understanding the shadows, which are often as important as the lighting--are they soft or hard; which direction do they come from, what color(s) are they?

Seeing colors--what are the predominant colors; can you find any color triads; are there natural complementary colors?

Looking at the details—curl up your fingers and make your hand a spyglass to your eye as you look at your subject in order to isolate certain details; you’ll be surprised at how many details you can now see that could be important.

Using your other senses—what are the atmospheric conditions (if outdoors); in any setting, what is the prevailing ambience—bright or dim, clear or hazy, cheerful or forboding, hurried or slow-paced—this will help you create a mood.

Don’t forget, your mind, including all your memories and assumptions and prejudices, will play tricks on your art by blinding or at least hindering your ability to actually see what is before you.

Keep On Painting

Saturday, January 14

On Being a Professional Painter

It Only Takes Time
According to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour-rule, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become proficient at something, and that doesn’t necessarily even mean that you would be considered a professional.

It does mean you would have to do something for 40 hours a week, which is considered “full-time” work. That’s 168 hours a month or 2016 hours a year.

As I painter, that means you (or I) will have to paint “full-time” for at least five years to become proficient.

So that’s the problem. I do not paint “full-time,” and I don’t want to. I do not (want to) think of my painting as a “full-time” job. Where’s the pleasure in that?

For one, I don’t think of painting as a job, full-time or otherwise. It’s a need.

It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone would consider becoming a painter for the sole purpose of making a living. It’s way more likely to be the other way around; that is, one who paints may think, “OK, I have to make a living--maybe I can make my living as a painter.”

Not  to burst your bubble, but unlikely.

 Unless one either teaches or perhaps paints public murals or maybe portraits, which could conceivably be called a regular job, it’s not likely. Even then, they would have to be very good murals and very good portraits to make a go of it.

Of course, we’re all aware of the relatively few painters who have somehow managed to become well-known and, yes, even make a living wage while they are still living. But not many.

As I said, it’s a need. The painter paints because that’s simply what he or she must do. The number of hours it takes to do it doesn’t matter.

Well, that’s good, because the way I figure it, I’ve got 7984 more hours to go.

Keep On Painting   

Monday, January 9

Establish Your Mid-Values First

I Established the Mid-Values First 
I was recently working on an acrylic landscape painting and wanted to tell you about something that I had forgotten about; that is, how important it is to understand  the values in your painting before you begin to paint.

As you know, value is the degree of lightness/darkness of a color. It usually is expressed as a gradation on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being lightest and 10 being darkest. I won’t attempt go into more detail here, but feel free to Google this topic if you need or want more explanation. This concept is sometimes confusing to people, although once you “get it,” you’ll understand why it’s important.

Anyway, what I wanted to tell you, and what I had forgotten, is that you should establish the mid-value(s) in your motif/painting first as you begin to paint. By mid-values, I mean a 4, 5, or 6 on the gradation scale (also known as the gray scale) previously mentioned, with 5 being the midpoint.

Why should you do this? Well, I have found that once you establish your mid-values, it is then easier to find (and paint) the lighter and darker values.

I’ll say it another way. It is much easier to figure out how light to paint your light values, and correspondingly, how dark to paint your dark values if first you establish your mid-values.

For example, in my simple painting above, I first determined the mid-value(s) in the foreground. After doing this, I was better able to judge how dark the shadows and some of the trees and vegetation should be. This also allowed me to understand how light some areas in brighter light should be.

If you’re not sure how to judge the mid-value, try to compare an area in your motif with 4, 5 or 6 on the gray scale. If you are working from a photo, see if you can convert it to black-and-white. This will make it easier for you to find the mid-values.

I hope you find this tip helpful.

Keep On Painting

Monday, January 2

"Happy" Painting in 2012

The Road Ahead

I am not one to make resolutions

January, however, is the time to take stock of the situation if there ever was one. Perhaps you want to  figure out what needs to change so that you are “happy” with your painting. I put “happy” in quotes because if you are a painter (or some other kind of artist), then you know that happy/happiness is not the correct word.

I do realize in my very last blog, I said I was a happy painter, but that was holiday talk.

Here in the harsh light of January, happy implies contentment. Is any painter ever content with his/her work? No, I don’t think so.

Be that as it may, if you are looking for some sort of renewal, January is the time.

Now is the time to change…your style, your medium, your brand of supplies…whatever you think needs changing, if anything.

If nothing else, it gives you an excuse to try something new if you are in any way un-”happy” with the results of your work. Of course, if you want to wallow in self-doubt, that’s your business.

I am not on a “journey” (there are those quotation marks again).

I am not on a mission.

I am not seeking inner truth.

I am seeking satisfaction, as opposed to happiness, I suppose. I want to be satisfied that I am painting for me, my very own way. I want to stand back from my work and in my mind, if not out loud, say, “Yes, that’s it.”

But as I said, I am not one to make resolutions.

“Happy” Painting in 2012.