Friday, May 31

As a Painter, Never Say Never

Ocean Blvd.
Oil on Canvas Panel
7 x 9 in/18 x 23 cm
Copyright 2013
If you're wondering what today's post is about from the headline, I'll tell you.

It's about being open and flexible and receptive and...whatever. Not a bad way to live life, especially a painter's life.

I say that because several years ago, I had "sworn off" painting in oil, although I rarely swear.

Painting in oil is messy. It is also smelly, even using OMS. It's also time-consuming; all that time to clean up your brushes and palette, not to mention how long it takes for the paint to dry.

That's what I told myself when I packed up my oil paints in their little black plastic container and pushed them way back in one of my art drawers where I put things I'm not using. I forgot about them.

Then a painter friend of mine mentioned the name of a painter with whom I was not familiar and had never heard of.

That would be Qiang-Huang.

I googled his name and saw his beautiful work on his blog and website. He paints almost daily and posts his paintings, most of which are relatively small, up for bid. Much of his work is still lifes that have beautiful effects of lighting.I hope you have time to look at his work. There's no argument that oil renders beautiful, time-tested results.

Anyway, it inspired me to take out my oil paints again and paint today's image.

Never say never.

Friday, May 24

Paint Out of Your Comfort Zone

Rose and Bowl
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
9 x 12 in/23 x 30.5 cm
Copyright 2013
Whatever your comfort zone is, it's time to paint out of it.

That is, I'm pretty sure it's time to give your predictable painting repertoire a break, not only for your sake but also for those who like to view and collect your paintings.

Take your creative neurons on a thrill ride and paint whatever it is that you never, or almost never, ever paint.

If you paint seascapes, paint a flower or a bouquet.

If you paint portraits, paint a landscape.

If you paint city streets, paint an animal or a herd.

That goes for painting abstract versus representational and vice versa, too.

You get the picture.

It's one thing to paint the same thing(s) over and over until you achieve near perfection and call yourself a master or past master.

It's quite another to keep painting the same thing until your creative juices for painting anything else dry up and blow away. Don't let that happen. Do what I did.

I rarely paint still lifes. Ever. But I did this week. In fact, I painted two of them, one of which is today's image. I'm glad I did. I needed a break from my landscapes that I have been painting for months and months in both watercolor and acrylic.

It's refreshing and some of those skills that have been hibernating inside you will be glad you gave them a stretch.

Friday, May 17

Get Real, But Not Too Real

Many people like abstract paintings. Many people don't. It seems most either love them or they don't like them very much, if at all.

From the Pier
Acrylic on Canvas Board
7 x 9 in/18 x 23 cm
Copyright 2013
I am one of those painters who like some abstract paintings--primarily those in which my mind can take the shapes and colors and put them into some type of order that allows me to make sense of the image before me. The other ones, no, thank you.

That's why I have not been in a rush to visit the Picasso Black and White exhibit now on display at the MFAH but ending soon. I may not make it, but I don't think that makes me a bad art person. More power to Picasso; he has plenty of fans already.

I do like representational paintings more than abstract. I like the painting to tell a story or at least have the ability for the viewer to make up a story.

However, liking the representational style doesn't mean I like all those baroque, neo-classical, and/or romantic paintings that were so prevalent up until the 19th century. I don't. They're either too dark or have too much theology or are just not very interesting (although well painted). Also, photo-realism is a bit much for me.

You may know I do like the loose, realistic paintings of the Impressionists, although at the time they were criticized for being everything but that. I like John Singer Sargent. I like Winslow Homer. I like Georgia O'Keeffe--her landscapes not her flowers. I also like Edward Hopper, although, except for his watercolors, he didn't paint very loose. I can take or leave Gauguin, Matisse, and Picasso as I've already said.

I do like several current painters who paint in the representational style of contemporary realism, such as Frank Serrano, Kevin MacPherson, Qiang-Huang, Joseph Zbukvic, and John Hammond to name a few who paint in oil, watercolor, and acrylic, respectively.

If you also like representational paintings, you may want to check out their work.

Friday, May 10

10 Things I've Learned About Painting

Acrylic on Canvas Panel
7 x 9 in/18 x 23 cm
Copyright 2012
As a current painter in acrylic, I am attempting to take my work to a higher level by putting into practice some of the techniques I have read about in my many books on painting.

I respect acrylic for what it is and what it does and how you use it. That is, I try to accept acrylic on its own terms with both its advantages and disadvantages.

I have gleaned several things that will help me with my acrylics, and I believe many are applicable to other painting mediums as well:

A good composition can make or break a painting, so choose it well.


Use the most limited palette you can.

Underpaint using a wash of similar color to the overall color(s) of your painting to cut the whiteness.

Loosely draw in the main elements using your paintbrush.

Block in your darkest darks and lightest lights first.

Painting a smaller painting may be a better choice as you gain experience rather than a large canvas.

Paint with the largest brush you possibly can.

Paint fast, keep it loose, and leave out the details.

Paint like no one else and learn to appreciate, if not love, your own particular style.

Friday, May 3

Painting En Plein Air

A Beautiful Day for Painting
En Plein Air
photo copyright 2008
Maybe it's the nice spring weather we're having here in the northern hemisphere.

Maybe it's the feeling of being on the inside looking out.

Maybe it's the art books about en plein air painting I've been reading.

Maybe it's the DVD trailers of all those oil and watercolor painters who love to paint outdoors.

Maybe it's wanderlust.

Whatever it is, it's making me want to paint en plein air, which I have never done. OK, I did go out in the backyard once, but that really doesn't count.

All those en plein air painters look so happy and fulfilled in the meadows, by the riverside, in the park, or at the seashore. The weather is usually pretty fine, even if a little overcast, and sometimes there's even a refreshing breeze. How nice!

What purposeful painters they are, painting from life as it should be. Painting light and air and atmosphere just like the Impressionists in the Forest of Fontainebleau.

I take stock of my supplies. Can they be adapted for a painting trip en plein air? Why, yes, I think they can be. I don't really need a pochade box. I have a tri-pod that can be converted into a portable easel of sorts. I have light-weight plastic containers to hold what few brushes and paints I'll need. Sunscreen--check; waterbottles--check.

I'm all set.

But wait. It will soon be mid-May. There will be heat. There will be humidity. There will be mosquitos and critters. There will be sweat. What am I thinking? Painting en plein air in this climate? Am I nuts?

No, just envious of all those en plein air painters on the Pacific coast of the US, in the South of France, and along the Mediterranean Sea, that's all.

But, I will be enjoying the A/C in my studio all summer long.