Saturday, March 30

You Shouldn't Try to Paint Like Anyone Else

Who Paints Like This?
Here's the thing. I know you like to paint. You like to paint because you saw a painting you liked in a museum or a gallery or a book.

And you wanted to paint a painting that looked like the painting you liked. So you looked up the artist who painted the painting. You researched the works of the artist, and you searched on the internet, and you bought books about the artist's work and his or her technique. You watched YouTube videos about that artist or videos by other artitsts about that artist. You bought DVDs by the artist and watched him or her paint.

You bought the same tools as the artist: the same palette, the same brushes (especially if he or she endorsed them), the same paper or canvas or hardboard. You bought not only the same brand of paint the artist used but also all the same colors in his or her color palette.

Someone is making money on this.

A known contemporary painter, who shall remain nameless, uses a color palette that is similar to one of the many you have tried. Of course, they're all pretty similar when you get right down to it--variations of reds, yellows, and blues plus a few secondary greens or violets along with an umber or sienna or two.

Anyway, you try out this color palette. It includes pthalo blue. You have never used pthalo blue, but you try it once, twice, three times all with the same miserable result. You and pthalo blue are not meant to be.

This doesn't mean you're not a good artist and painter because you can't paint with someone else's color palette, which most certainly evolved over their career.

It does mean you have a unique background and knowledge you bring to your work that no one else has. You have experience mixing colors and putting down brushstrokes that no one else has.

 Here's the thing. You cannot paint like anyone else nor should you try.


Monday, March 25

Seven Sins of Painting

Oregon Coast
Watercolor on Art Board
Copyright 2013
Today's blog is about overcoming bad habits. I have at least one of these habits now and have had all of them at one time or another. I blog about this to help me remember not to do these things. Or at least to work on not doing them so much. 

Otherwise, I find myself going back to my old habits. What are those habits?

I like to call them the seven sins of painting:

- Over-reliance on photos, which is a crutch for actually seeing

- Not using your artist's license--you do have the right to make any changes you please

- Putting too much detail in the initial sketch or underdrawing, which sets you off on the wrong path

- Not seeing the lights and darks or worse--not painting them as major elements

- Beginning by painting one thing or area in detail rather than first blocking-in the whole thing

- Holding your brush like a pencil and painting tightly all scrunched up

- Finally, over-working or over-painting or whatever you may call it--it's when you don't know when to stop, so you just keep changing and painting and adding details that ultimately ruin your work

The goal I have for my work is to paint freely and boldly so viewers will be drawn into my paintings. If this is your goal, too, then we both need to stop it!

Wednesday, March 13

Experiment With Color

The Bright Unsaturated Palette
Copyright 2013
One exercise suggested to me was to learn how different color palettes affect your painting. We were to paint the same motif in watercolor using different primaries: reds, blues, yellows.

It's always educational to try color palettes you normally don't use.

In this exercise we had a choice of six color palettes of which we were to choose four. The painting was a single rose stem laid on an open book with strong shadows.

The six palettes were: Intense (Winsor yellow, red, blue); Opaque (yellow ochre, Indian red, cerulean blue); Bright Unsaturated (raw sienna, brown madder, indigo); Standard (cadmium yellow, cadmium red, French ultramarine blue); Delicate (aureolin, rose madder, cobalt blue); and Old Masters ( yellow ochre, burnt sienna, Payne's gray).

I decided to use Bright Unsaturated, Opaque, Delicate, and Old Masters mainly because I already had all those colors except for aureolin--maybe I can substitute a similar yellow.

What I learned, not surprisingly, is the color palette choice makes a difference although not as big a difference as I was expecting. The main difference was in the clearness and intensity of color and the way it affects the mood of the painting.

The Bright Unsaturated palette looked the most realistic and true to life to me. The Opaque was just what you would expect-- not at all transparent, and something was not quite right. The Old Masters looked as if you were looking at an old sepia tint photo with muted colors, which I guess is OK if that's what you want.

As it turned out I didn't find a substitute for aureolin, so I didn't do a Delicate palette. But I have used the Delicate palette before, and I will tell you the result is a relatively pale outcome since none of its colors are intense.

The other thing I noticed, again not surprisingly, was how very difficult it is to mix a green for the leaf on the rose stem. Without the proper blues and yellows it is almost impossible to get a pleasing green.

Anyway, if you have the time, experiment with color and learn something about your paints.

Thursday, March 7

Put the Fun Back in Your Painting

Boardwalk, Acrylic on Canvas
Copyright 2008
(When Painting Was Fun)
As "they" say, what goes around comes around. That is true for painting, at least in my case.

After a while I tend to get bored or tired or something with whichever medium I am currently working in.

Well, it's happened again. Watercolor has lost interest in me, and I with it. Not sure why.

Maybe it's because I'm on another art plateau, which I have previously blogged about, click here to read.

Maybe I really need a break-through, which has not been forthcoming.

Or maybe I want to have some fun again.Yes, that's it, I want to have fun again!

When painting becomes drudgery, it's time for a change.

I found myself dreading the start of another watercolor. What would I paint? How big? What paper? Of the techniques I know, which one for my next painting--realism, impressionism, loose,big brush, etc., etc?

Frankly, my dear, I didn't give a damn.

What to do? Don't panic.

Then I remembered fondly the days of yore and not all that long ago, either, of painting in acrylic and the energy and potential I felt when I put paintbrush in hand. That's what I was looking for again.

So, I picked up and packed up all my watercolor paints, brushes, paper and put them away. I'm not throwing them away, you see, only putting them away--for now.

I'm sure I'll be back when I need a change.

Friday, March 1

Tales from the Palette: Mixing the Color Beige/Tan

Is It Beige or Tan?
Acrylic on Canvas
Copyright 2008
You may be able to tell from the title of today's blog why it's a challenge to mix this color since most painters can't even agree on what to call it. Is it beige or tan or buff or sand or what?

You know, it's that color that you use all the time in landscapes (roads) and seascapes (sand) and for the sides of buildings and on walls and floors and tabletops in still lifes. I suppose it doesn't matter what you call it as long as you are able to reproduce it the way you need it to look in your paintings.

Why is mixing beige/tan, etc. so challenging?

It's just a mixture of the three primary colors, which sounds relatively simple. But, as you undoubtedly already know, it's not that easy. No.

What is so tricky is to achieve the correct tone and value you need anywhere from a warm, creamy yellow to a shadowy violet--and to make it appear natural.

Depending on the proportion you use of each color, you will have a broad spectrum of colors, tints, and shades. In addition, the particular combination you use, for example, Naples yellow/Cad red/Cerulean blue versus Lemon yellow/Ultramarine/Alizarin, will multiply your outcome almost exponentially.

Just to keep it interesting, did I also mention you mix beige/tan differently using watercolor than oil and acrylic? In watercolor the paper acts as white so you have to know how much or little color to mix. With oil and acrylic you also have to know the right amount of white to add as well.

It's no wonder people don't know what to call it when they can't even figure out how to mix it.

Who said beige was boring?