Monday, August 25

Why Aren't There More Acrylic Painters?

Up the Wagon Path
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/ 27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014 
I guess-timate the ratio of acrylic painters to oil painters to be about 20 to 1; that is, for every acrylic painter there are about 20 oil painters. Why is that?

Well, for one thing, oil has been around a lot longer than acrylics--about 600 years as compared to around 60 for acrylics.

But I also believe there are other factors:

- Many painters don't understand the fundamentals of acrylics

- Many painters don't know how to paint with acrylics

- Many painters can't paint successfully with acrylics

- Many painters don't know how to blend acrylics

- Many painters can't paint lost-and-found edges with acrylics

- Many painters can't paint atmospheric acrylics

- Many painters can't paint fast enough to use acrylics

BUT for those painters who understand and know how to paint with acrylics, a wide world of painting lies at your doorstep.

Whenever I discover great acrylic painters, such as Herman Pekel, John Hammond, Marcia Burtt, Mark Mehaffey, and William Hook, just to name a few, I'm happy to provide a link to their websites so that you may discover them, too.

Happy acrylic painting!

Tuesday, August 19

When You Can Paint Anything...

Sailing Along the Coast
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
The headline of today's blog says it all, "when you can paint anything..."

I try to read as much as I can find on how various painters learned their skills and how they use their skills. When I discover a painter whose work I admire I try to find out as much as I can about how they paint the way they do.

You can get an awful lot of information from their websites, reading their blogs, reading their curriculum vitae on their gallery's website, reading articles in various art magazines, and, yes, by attending their workshops  buying their DVDs.

Most of the painters whose paintings seem to reach out and grab me have one thing in common: they have the ability to paint anything and make it a successful painting in its own right.

It seems that at some point in their careers they figured out that it's not the object or motif you are painting that's most  important. That is, finding a pretty scene and painting a pretty picture is not the point.

What's most important is how you paint whatever it is you're painting. It doesn't have to be pretty to be successful. These painters paint successful and beautiful paintings out of everyday, mundane, ordinary objects and scenes. 

I myself strive to be able to paint this way, to take any subject and render it successfully in paint---when I can paint anything!

Monday, August 11

Plein Air Painting is "In"

Out in the Back
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/ 27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014
No pun intended with the title of today's blog, but have you noticed lately that Plein Air painting outdoors has become the "in" thing? Notice I used both a capital "P" and a capital "A."  Well, apparently it has.

Other than the contemporary, avant garde art crowd, who are not likely to pause to give representational painting a look anyway, it appears that Plein Air is the latest and greatest. It appears that way to me anyway.

My un-scientific research, which consists wholly of looking at art blogs and websites online and thumbing through all the art magazines at the newsstand at one of the suburban Barnes & Noble's, declares this to be so. By this I mean, it seems every other website is about the wonders of Plein Air painting and the painters who paint them.

Also, there are more and more ads about Plein Air painting in almost every art magazine including those on pastel and watercolor. I'm sure you're also aware there's a whole magazine devoted to the subject called Plein Air.

Then there are all those Plein Air competitions. They're popping up everywhere! I'm sure someone's making money.

Please don't misinterpret what I'm saying. I really, really like the look of (most) Plein Air paintings, and you already know if you've been reading the blog for a while, I'm a big fan of the Impressionists who did a lot of their work en Plein Air . I suppose it's a throwback to simpler times when painters like Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent (not his portraits, of course) spent a lot of time outdoors painting "real" paintings.

Or maybe everyone's hoping Monet will somehow make an appearance in Monterey, California, at the big, annual Plein Air Expo. Whatever is happening with Plein Air, I hope it's for real and not just a passing fad.

Tuesday, August 5

Viscosity and Painting

Las Tres Palmas
Oil on Canvas Panel
9 x 12 in/ 23 x 30.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014

Today's brief blog is about viscosity. If you don't understand what that is, here's a definition from Wikipedia: 

The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its resistance to gradual deformation by shear stress or tensile stress. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal notion of "thickness". For example, honey has a much higher viscosity than water.[1]

If that's a little too scientific for some painters, just focus on the words: the informal notion of "thickness." I think that will clear up any confusion. In painting, it's simply how thick (or thin) the paint is you're using to paint with.

It was important for me to understand what viscosity of paint best suited my ability and style of painting, forget all that tensile stress business.

It also is about how you want your paintings to look. Some like the look of thick impasto, others would prefer fluid acrylic. It's personal taste, but it's also what's currently in the cultural style, if that at all matters to you, which I hope it does not.

I personally like paint with a little body, that is, higher viscosity, but not so high you have to use a palette knife instead of a brush. To put it another way, I like using large planes of color with uniform loading of paint so that you can see the brushmarks after the paint dries, not from across the room, but as you move in for a closer look. 

Somewhere I remember paint being compared to tea, milk, cream, honey, or butter. Mmmm. 

However, I would like to add one more that I find right for me: buttermilk. If I had to add it to that list, I suppose it would go between cream and honey.

What's your favorite viscosity?