Thursday, November 27

Happy Thanksgiving

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Watercolor on Paper
9 x 12 in/22.9 x 30.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
Here in Texas we like hot chili peppers on everything, including our turkey and dressing. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, especially the painters, everywhere!

Monday, November 24

Try Watercolor Paper As Your Support

Distant Hills
Acrylic on Watercolor Paper
9 x 12 in/22.9 x 30.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
I don't always paint on canvas (or linen) or on a board. On occasion I paint with acrylics on watercolor paper.

Today's image was one of those occasions. For this painting I used Royal Talens watecolo(u)r paper, 90 lb or 200 gr/m2.  I completed it a couple of weeks ago from a reference photo obtained with permission online. The subject is a hazy landscape somewhere in the mountains. I liked the changes in value from foreground to background, the lost and found edges, and the depth of the receding mountains in the flat light.

When I paint with acrylics on paper I use a little water as a medium to thin the paint, although not so much that the acrylics become like watercolor. No, just enough to help them blend a little better, which is required in a painting like this one. A little water also helps the paper to absorb the paint, which doesn't happen when painting acrylic on canvas or board.

As I've said before, try something different--like acrylics on watercolor paper. You may find it's your new favorite.

Monday, November 17

What's Your "Go To" Palette?

Jornada del Muerto
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
I have discussed palette colors on several previous occasions and have sounded so sure of myself. And by "go to" palette I mean the one you find yourself using every time for every painting for at least the last six months.

However, I think I have finally figured out two things. First, it takes a while (at least six months) to figure out what your own personal "go to" palette is. Second, even when you think you have figured it out, it will change over time.

Such is the life of a painter.

I also know that pretty much all painters start out using someone else's palette, and that someone else is usually your favorite painter either living or dead (such as Van Gogh or Hopper or whichever current painter). In addition, painters usually use too many of the colors on those painter's palettes when they should be using fewer.

That said, I'm finding my current "go to" palette to be:


Ultramarine Blue

Pthalo Blue (green shade)

Cadmium Red Light

Alizarin Crimson

Camium Yellow Light

Raw Sienna or Yellow Oxide (whichever I have)

Titanium White (of course)


Naples Yellow

Cadmium Orange

Burnt Sienna

Raw Umber

Off White ( the actual name depends on the manufacturer; my current favorite is Milky White, but it could be called Bleached Titanium or Ecru or some such; very useful)

That's my "go to" palette until it changes over time ; - )

Monday, November 10

Paint What You Paint Well

High and Windy Hill
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm 
If the headline of today's blog sounds confusing, sorry, I don't mean it to be. What I am simply trying to say is to paint what you're good at painting.

I'm all for art education and continuing education and learning new skills and trying out new ways to paint and new materials to use.

That said, here's what I'm talking about. In my humble and somewhat limited experience, I have found that I paint best what I paint well. That is, I find I am much happier with my painting, my painting experience, and myself in general, when the painting I am working on looks good to me.

If I think, or know, I have painted a good painting, then I am happy and a happy painter.

I have found after painting hundreds of different paintings in watercolor, acrylic, and some oil, that I paint much better paintings when I paint what I paint well, which is land- and seascapes in acrylic. That doesn't mean I'll never, ever paint a cityscape in oil or a still life in watercolor, but it may mean I won't think I painted them as well as one of my acrylic land/seascapes.

(And don't hold your breath for a portrait in pastel from me either.)

Monday, November 3

What Is the Difference Between Value and Chroma?

Mar Vista
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
Unless you are a painter and an artist you may not get the title of today's blog post. But understanding the meaning and the difference in those terms is more than important if you want to know how to paint better or at least paint better informed.

The term value, a term that is frequently discussed and which 'throws" many new painters, means simply how light or dark--from white to black--a color progressively becomes on a scale of 0 to 10 with white being 0 (zero) and black being 10.

OK, stop. If you don't get the preceding paragraph, just stop and think about it for however long it takes you to understand what that means.

Think of the value of any color in comparison to white, black, or in-between grays. A handy tool available is a small card numbered 0 (white) to 10 (black) with grays numbered 2 to 9 that lets you hold it next to your color and easily make a comparison. Also, what's confusing is that some colors (yellows) will never have really dark values while other colors (reds) will never have really light values. (Just to confuse you further, many artists also refer to value as tone, but don't let it.)

Chroma is simply the intensity or brightness of a color. One way I remember this is to think of a watercolor. If you mix the watercolor with a lot of water, it lowers the intensity of the paint pigment when it's painted on paper. Conversely, the less water you add, the more intense or bright the paint pigment of the color when painted. Or if that is still confusing, look at the difference between Naples Yellow and Lemon Yellow. Naples Yellow has a lot of white, and a little red, in it,  which lowers its intensity or brightness. Lemon Yellow doesn't have white, so it's a much more intense or brighter yellow.

Now you've got it. Sometime, we'll talk warm vs. cool colors.