Monday, October 28

Painting in Solitude

Standing Alone
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
6 x 8 in/15.2 x 20.3 cm
Copyright 2013
I know we humans are (supposed to be) social creatures.

I'm not convinced that's true for us painters or at least not for painters who commune with their paintings more than with other painters. I would rather work in solitude for hours on and with one of my paintings rather than spend that time socializing (with painters).

That doesn't mean I don't want to learn from painters I admire, I do. I choose to learn from them by observing their work and methods in books or online or even at a gallery or museum exhibition (definitely not at the reception, though).

Workshops have a place, I'm sure, and providing them may be an economic necessity for some. But it's basically a group activity in which you're expected to participate, that is, be social. No, I don't think so.

I suppose today's image in some way represents my feelings on the subject.

Tuesday, October 22

Capture Viewers' Interest with Contrast

Behind Couthouse Square
Acrylic on Canvas panel
6 x 8 in/15.2 x 20.3 cm
Copyright 2013
I did not paint today's image en plein air, which would have been nice, I suppose, except that I would have been painting on a cold, windy afternoon on a busy street with traffic whizzing behind me.

For me to paint en plein air, it has to be a near-perfect outdoor environment, which is rarely the case. That means moderate temperatures, comfortable humidity levels, preferably sunny, and no bugs. As I said, rarely the case, but I live in hope.

But I digress. I painted this from a pretty good reference photo I took, which allowed me the artistic license to make a few changes.

I edited several items from the scene, such as a scrawny, misshapen tree that looked as if it were dead and didn't add a thing to the motif, in addition to a trash bin in the foreground.

I also added greater contrast of value and color than appeared in the photo in order liven up the buildings, which are the stars of this painting. I darkened the areas in shadow and lightened the sun-lit sides of the buildings.

To capture viewers' interest, nothing draws you into a painting and keeps your interest more than contrast in my opinion. That change in value and color is why people keep looking.

Notice how successful painters use contrast in their work. Then use it wisely, sparingly, and in just the right places in your own paintings.

Tuesday, October 15

Perseverance in Painting

Somewhere in Spain
Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
18 x 24 in/45.7 x 61 cm
Copyright 2013
My last blog, Why Paint a Study?, discussed why a "study" may be a good tool for some painters. Today's image is my finished painting of Somewhere in Spain, painted from the study.

But today, I'm blogging about the need for perseverance in painting. By that I mean, the need to persevere--that is, keep going--as a painter on your paintings.

Because the act of painting is, generally, done in solitude, it's easy to get discouraged. What you're working on isn't developing the way you envisioned it, which I will say happens to me on just about every painting I do.

Just yesterday, I was half-way through a painting when I could see it wasn't going to work no matter what I did. So, before the paint dried--which is extremely fast with acrylic--I sprayed water on the canvas and wiped off as much paint as possible back to a toned canvas. Today I will start anew.

Without perseverance, I would have given up painting years ago. Although this sounds a bit dramatic, like the phoenix, painters must rise from the ashes of their work and keep going until they are satisfied.

Tuesday, October 8

Why Paint a "Study?"

Study for Somewhere in Spain
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
6 x 6 in/15.2 x 15.2 cm
Copyright 2013 
I recently blogged about how difficult it can be for painters to choose the motif for their next painting.

The difficulty comes, in part, because of fear of failure or lack of creative confidence, not to mention the complete waste of time and material if the painting is unsuccessful, at least in the eye of the painter.

What to do?

Although I don't usually do this, I have found if you, the painter, are unsure about the subject matter and how it may turn out, then consider making a "study" before actually committing to a painting. That is, practice painting your motif first.

There is a long history of artists doing studies going all the way back to da Vinci. It's almost a prerequisite for many painters who don't leave home without their sketchbook and pencils or watercolors.

Anyway, I was going through the selection process a few weeks ago, poring over numerous photos that caught my eye. Becoming indecisive and somewhat dejected, I decided to paint a small study of the subject I was considering.

I'm glad I did, and it's today's image. I liked it so much that I painted it again on a larger canvas that I'll show you next week.

Tuesday, October 1

Why You Should Paint Alla Prima

On the Rocks
Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
18 x 24 in/45.7 x 61 cm
Copyright 2013
Ever have one of those Mondays when you feel as if you must paint right now, right away and alla prima?

I had one of those yesterday. It may be part of the way painters work, that is, with all that pent up painting energy.

Anyway, I was having trouble getting started. I would look over at my painting area--at my brushes, and paints, and supports, and whatever else was sitting around over there. I was having trouble with my inertia, which I've blogged about previously, it being Monday and all.

And then. I thought of my acrylic painting from a couple of years ago that I saw again over the weekend when I re-organized the closet where I store my completed works.

Most painters want to improve. I am no different. I looked at that painting and thought, I can do better than that.

And so yesterday, in less than two hours, I reworked every brushstroke in that painting with a lighter, higher-key palette and a looser style, in addition to simplifying the motif, all of which you can do relatively easily in acrylic.

I find I paint more freely and more creatively and more openly when I just let loose, so to speak, and go for it. You may discover that, too.

I present On the Rocks.