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