Monday, March 31

Are You a Happy Painter?

Happy Beach
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright 2014
Maybe it's the current Pharrell Williams hit song, "Happy," that got me thinking (and humming along) about happiness and painting.

When my interest in painting led me to pick up a brush again after years away from the canvas, was I:

a) happy
b) nervous
c) excited
d) worried?

Actually, the answer is: e) all of the above.

Anytime we try something new or re-start something from the distant past, there's always that niggling worry about how things will turn out. And being a painter is certainly no exception.

It was the thrill of the chase--the challenge to stretch my abilities in new directions--that made me happy and excited. It was the fear of failure and rejection--the agony of defeat as ABC sports used to call it--that made me nervous and worried.

Painting can be supremely and singularly satisfying if you are happy with the results, but gut-wrenching if you are not.

Therein lies the key. Over and above your natural ability to draw, paint, see values, and mix and render color, is your state of mind. It's how you feel not only when you are painting but also how you feel about yourself as a painter and ultimately the quality of your work.

Being a happy painter is like the line from the hit song: if you know what happiness is to you.

Monday, March 24

Searching for Your Style

Mid-Morning Walk
Oil on Canvas Panel
9 x 12 in/22.9 x 30.5 cm
Copyright 2014
Today's blog is about discovering or figuring out, or at least understanding, what we do as painters when we're in search of our own painting style.

Over the past several years my search comes and goes as I try new mediums and new methods and discover new (to me) painters that I admire.

When I think I have found how I really want to paint by viewing the work of a painter (or painters) who paints in a similar style, I research their methods and tools and their recent work. I do this by looking online at their websites, blogs, and YouTube videos.

When I am ready, or think I am ready, to paint just  like _______ (whichever painter, fill in the blank) I get my paint and my palette and my canvas (or whatever) and my motif, and away I go.

Often times I am disappointed. I believe the problem has to do with trying to paint like someone else.

Rather I should take my accumulated knowledge and whatever natural talent I have and just paint and paint and keep painting. Only then will I be able to find and see my own style.

Until then, however, the search continues. 

Monday, March 17

Landscapes Have Mood, Too

Morning Tide
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
9 x 12 in/22.9 x 30.5 cm
Copyright 2014
It seems like we only think of certain motifs as having a mood; that is, the ability to make you feel some sort of emotion as you view a painting. I usually think of interiors or figurative or cityscapes as having moods, rather than landscapes.

Think Edward Hopper. There's a painter who could create a mood with his urban cityscapes and thought-provoking interiors. I'm sure you've seen Hopper's famous painting, Night Hawks. Nothing but mood there.

However, landscape paintings can also evoke a mood even if that's not what the painter intended. It happens by the time of day in the painting, the atmospheric conditions, the amount of ambient light or lack thereof, and the motif itself--forest, desert, rocks, rivers, fields of waving grasses, etc.

If you only paint exactly what you see on location while painting en plein air or working from a reference photo, you may be leaving out the most important part of your painting.

Understand what mood your painting will have, either naturally by the conditions already mentioned or added by your own creative artist license and fertile imagination.  Landscapes have mood, too.

Monday, March 3

Paint Atmosphere in Your Landscapes

Oregon Coast
Oil on Canvas Panel
8 x 10 in/20.3 25.4 cm
Copyright 2014
I try to remember when painting a landscape to make the atmosphere one of the major elements. Although some may not consider it to be that important, I think it is.

To me, it's the glue, so to speak, that holds the landscape together. It allows the painter to render the light correctly for the conditions he or she is trying to portray.

Most importantly, it adds to the mood and makes the painting believable. You achieve it by giving depth with a foreground, a middle ground, and by showing the distance somewhat bluer and less distinct. You can also show atmosphere by painting lost and found edges, which gives the illusion of moisture in the atmosphere.

Humans can't live without oxygen, and landscapes can't live without atmosphere.