Wednesday, December 30

End of Year Painting

San Antonio River at S. Alamo
Oil on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/ 50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
With so much going on this time of year, my painting usually stops on or about December 21. That was the case this year.

I last painted on December 23. Due to the location of my studio, I had to pack up my paints and supplies and put them away for another day.

It's not that I haven't been thinking about painting, I have. I thought about painting as I thumbed through several great art books I received as gifts. I'll tell you about them in a future blog.

I completed the painting of today's image on the 23rd. I actually worked on it at two separate times. It's from a reference photo I took on a recent visit to the location. I first painted it in October, but wasn't satisfied, and so, put it away.

The original photo was taken during the "golden hour" around 5:00 p.m. in September. Because the sun was beginning to set, there was strong horizontal light from the right. That made the trees on the left appear too bright (in the photo)--as in the color of Cad Yellow Light--so that's the way I originally painted it.

As I said, however, I wasn't satisfied, and it took me a couple of months to figure out what the problem was. The trees in the photo had too much chroma. I toned them down to more natural-looking greens, even though that's not the way they actually looked.

Anyway, I finally finished it and gave it away as a gift, but only after I was happy with the results.

A painting isn't finished until the painter says it is.

Tuesday, December 22

Season's Greetings 2015

Foothill Snowfall
Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
30 in x 24/76.2 x 61 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Last blog I mentioned that a painting is a painter's gift to the world. In the spirit of the season, here is mine.

Painting landscapes is my favorite motif, and so, I wanted to share. This one was a lot of fun because I used my acrylics and felt free to use all the paint I wanted on this rather large (for me) painting--30 x 24 in/76.2 x 61cm.

Just so you know, I reworked this several times, adding a foreground as well as a background that are not in the original photo reference. That is, I added the hillock with Russian thistle in the foreground and a  snow-covered mountain range in the distance. Otherwise, the composition was (and still is) not the best, but I feel the changes added some much-needed depth.

I hope this comes as a reminder for all painters to use their artistic licenses, for which they worked very hard, whenever necessary.

No matter in what part of the world or in whatever climate you reside, greet the season painterly!

Thursday, December 17

Painting Is Personal

Acrylic on Canvas Panel
 7 x 5 in/17.8 x 12.7 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Few activities in life are as personal to an individual as painting. Artists and painters allow their inner-most creativity to be outwardly viewable.

If that's not personal, I don't know what is.

Painting is usually a singular and solitary event accomplished by one's own self. Of course, there have been painters who paint alongside one another (you may have seen Joseph Zbukvic, Alvaro Castagnet, and Herman Pekel--the Three Amigos--painting together in Paris on YouTube), but usually not.

Not only do painters allow viewers inside their creative thinking to see their skills in composition, color, and value, they also invite them into their personal world, if only for a few moments when they look at a painting. What a privilege.

A personal painting is a gift from the artist to the world and should be treated as such.  

Wednesday, December 9

Homage to Monet

Homage to Monet
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.6 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Claude Oscar Monet was born November 14, 1840. This year is the 175th anniversary of his birth. I was going to honor the occasion with a blog post last month, but there was so much happening in the world on that day that I decided to postpone it until now.

Monet being the heart and soul of the Impressionists era, his place in art history is secure. I wonder if all, or any, of the subsequent painting eras would have taken place as they did without that historic movement. Doubtful.

I am a big fan and so wanted to pay homage to him with a painting of one of his favorite subjects to paint, water lilies.

I hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I enjoyed painting it, and that it inspires you to paint at least one painting to remember Monet.

Wednesday, December 2

Time for a December Painting

Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/ 50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Yes, I know it's almost summer in Sydney and Buenos Aires. But that means in Honolulu and Houston it's almost winter. And that means it's time for a December painting.

I don't think it's ever snowed in Honolulu, and Houston doesn't get snow very often, once a decade, maybe. That doesn't mean I shouldn't be painting a wintry scene though. We do have pine trees as well as palm trees, and I like to paint snow every once in a while just to keep in practice.

Painting snow is similar to painting rain; that is, you're painting the illusion of the precipitation, not every raindrop or snowflake. The precipitation reduces the visibility so chroma is also reduced, and edges of objects are not sharp. The way the snow looks in your painting depends, of course, on the amount of snow you are depicting; obviously a blizzard will have to be painted with more "snow" than just a few flurries. If you're painting snow the day after a blizzard in bright sunlight, you will have brighter colors and very distinct shadows.

In today's image, I painted the illusion of snowflakes by flicking the white paint from the end of a bristle brush with my thumb. Make the drops different sizes with larger ones appearing to be closer to the viewer and to the ground. The randomness of where the "flakes" land adds to the illusion. Just don't over-do it with too many of them.  

If you haven't painted snow in a while, try it. 'Tis the season.

Wednesday, November 25

Thankful for Painting

Back Bay
Oil on Stretched Canvas
14 x 11 in/35.6 x 27.9 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Just a short blog this week to say how thankful I am for being part of the great tradition of painting that is practiced and celebrated all over the world.

Painting allows me to get away not only from my own problems but also the worldly ones as well, if only for a while each time I pick up a brush.

That, all by itself, is more than enough reason to be thankful for painting.

Wednesday, November 18

How to Stop a Painting Slump

Any Beach
Oil on Canvas Panel
7 x 5 in/17.8 x 12.7 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I've blogged about painting slumps before, and last week  I felt as though I may be in the beginning stages.

Some signs of a painting "slump" are:

- when you don't know what to paint

- when you can't find any subject to paint that interests you

- when you can't settle down in your studio or anywhere and paint; that is, wasting time doing anything else but painting

- when you have more trouble than usual using your chosen medium

- when you become discouraged

I'm sure there are other signs, but those are enough to know something's not right, but what to do?

1. Realize you're about to be in a slump or admit you already are (see all above).

2. Go for a long walk.

3. When you return, go to your studio and choose a different medium to paint with or go online or to an art supply store and buy a starter set of that medium.

4. On canvas, board, or paper, begin a painting of something--anything, it really doesn't matter--with the new medium; this can be anything you see, have a photo of, or imagine.

5. Complete that painting and immediately find the next one to paint.

6. Continue no. 5 until you no longer experience any sign of a painting slump.

Works for me and it should work for others, too.

Wednesday, November 11

Paint a Nocturne

Twilight Time
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Nocturne is not a word you probably use very often, if ever.

It is actually from French and Latin (nocturnal/nocturnis) referring to a piece of music that makes one think of the night--somehow.

Not sure how it made the jump to the art world, but nocturne has also come to be known for a painting in which the motif is shown in the nighttime or evening. It has become its very own category of painting in painting competitions, paint-ins/outs, painting exhibitions, and the like.

All it takes for it to be a Nocturne is that it's at night (or evening). Simple, except that you have to paint everything in "the dark."

It's way different from painting a landscape, or anything, in the daytime. However, there still has to be a light source. The sun has to be setting or have set, or the moon must be full or almost. Any other light will be from a man-made, artificial source, such as a street lamp or sign.

Also, most of the fore-, mid-, and backgrounds are painted dark, the values are darker, and colors have much less chroma. You get to use colors you may not use very often, which can be fun, and probably aren't on your regular color palette--raw umber, Prussian blue, ivory black, dioxizine purple, and maybe an assortment of warm and cool grays.

I like to think of it as sort of like painting while wearing sunglasses. It's somewhat of a brain-teaser in that you have to think differently and outside your comfort zone from your usual methods.

Anyway, that's what makes it a new challenge, which most painters need now and again.

Tuesday, November 3

How to Paint a Good Landscape

View from The Getty
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
The headline of today's blog sounds simple enough, and it is if you can perform a few basics of landscape painting. However, that's the catch--knowing the basics is one thing, but being able to master them with accomplishment is quite another.

I'm no master, and since painting is a life-long pursuit, I have miles to go, but I have learned a few things, though.

I hope you will find some of these suggestions helpful in your landscapes.

- Find the most beautiful and pleasing landscape to paint that you can, and don't settle for anything less. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so only you have to love it to be satisfied.

- Atmosphere is, in my opinion, the most important part of a landscape painting. If you don't know how to paint the different kinds of atmospheres, stop. Go learn how and then continue.

- Use the palette colors that you usually paint with as you are already experienced in how to mix and match them, but don't be afraid to experiment with a new color.

- Beware of green, the painter's horror color. Most landscapes have several greens and they must be believable. Learn to mix a variety of greens; but is OK to use a pre-mixed green if it's the right one. Also, greens are usually, but not always, more neutral or toned down than your eye would have you believe.

- Use the biggest brush you can for as long as you can.

- Objects appear bluer or cooler in color as they recede and warmer as they approach; similarly, objects in the foreground usually have more chroma, depending on the light of course, and less in the distance.

- Objects in the distance, including the horizon if there is one, should be painted less distinct to approximate the illusion of atmosphere,

There you go, that's all there is to it \o/.



Wednesday, October 28

"Little Gems" - Small-Scale Paintings Inspire

Small Pumpkin and Squash
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
7 x 5 in/17.8 x 12.7 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I blogged about painting "little gems" a couple of times last summer. If you remember, "little gems" are what I call those small paintings that are 7 x 5 in/17.8 x 12.7 cm or smaller. I think I heard a well-known painter describe them as such, but since I can't recall his or her name, maybe not so well-known after all.

I like to paint "little gems" when I am in between working on larger paintings or paintings that take several passes or days to complete. To me it's like cleansing your palette between tastings except in this case I'm referring to a paint palette.

Painting small paintings gives me a new perspective, and since they can be completed in hours or even minutes, you can use them to try out new subjects or techniques or practice value studies or whatever. I get inspired.

Today's "little gem" is an extremely simple still life of seasonal fare with an autumn/all-hallow's- eve motif.

I hope you'll be inspired to paint your own "little gem."

Wednesday, October 21

Painting Atmosphere and Light

Central Coast
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Time marches on, and I hope I continue to learn more about painting as it does. In that context, I want to blog about the importance of painting the atmosphere in landscape or en plein air motifs. I last blogged about this subject about a year ago, (Paint Atmosphere in Your Landscapes).

We may not usually think of the  atmosphere as part of a painting, but it is. Atmosphere in my paintings isn't the makeup of physical elements that meteorologists would tell you it is. I hope not; I'm a painter, not a meteorologist. In my landscapes atmosphere is often a central character. 

Many artists and painters speak about painting the light or being a painter of light. They understand painting light as it relates to painting shadows, cast shadows, reflected light, highlights, and to its presence in their paintings.

However, in painting landscapes, especially outdoors, you are not actually seeing (or painting) "the light" unless you're looking at the sun, which you shouldn't do, ever. You are seeing the effect of the light on and around all objects.  

Similarly, you are not really seeing (or painting) "the atmosphere" either; it's invisible. Rather you are painting the effect of the atmosphere. In addition, any natural (or man-made) by-products, such as water vapor or dust, will also have an effect on the atmosphere surrounding all objects.. 

It would be a lot easier if painters just painted what they see, but I also think it helps to delve a little deeper and understand why we are seeing what we're seeing, at least to some extent.

Happy painting.

Wednesday, October 14

Put Feelings in Your Painting!

After the Storm
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
 16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2008
I have blogged about feelings (Put Feelings Into Your Artwork and Let the Emotion Flow!) before.

But I thought it was time to revisit this important, but often missing, ingredient of many paintings.

Feelings, as the old standard song goes, nothing more than feelings. It sounds so simple. Just go to your art supplies and pull out that bottle of feelings, right?

Not that simple. First of all, what am I talking about--feelings? When I say feelings, I mean that hard-to-capture and define "thing" that draws your viewer in.

But it's more than just grabbing the viewer.

It's the subject matter and the way it's positioned on the canvas. It's the way the values and colors capture the mood. It's what you, the artist, are trying to express.

When I paint a picture, I want it to have feelings that overtake the viewer and compel him or her to not just look, but see, what I'm trying to show with paintstrokes. I want the impression and feeling to be worming its way into the heart or brain or both.

Finally, I want the viewers to be moved or changed in some way so they will remember my painting and who painted it.

Wednesday, October 7

The Unusual Painting

Costa Del Mar 
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Today's image is from a reference photo (with permission) that got my attention because of the somewhat unusual colors. However, it took me three tries at painting it before I got a result that I thought was passable.

Like the box of chocolates in the movie Forrest Gump, sometimes you never know what you're going to get, even if you do have knowledge and experience with color theory.

What I like about the colors used in the painting is that not only are they complementary, with the soft blue ocean behind the terra cotta stucco building with a lavender spire in front of it, there is also contrasting value in the bright lemon- yellow foliage against the dark burnt umber landscape.

The viewpoint is also somewhat unusual in that the viewer is looking down from above and out at the ocean simultaneously. In addition, it's also somewhat unusual in that there is no visible horizon line.

As I said, it is unusual, but I hope you like it anyway.

Wednesday, September 30

When Painting Is a Habit

Acrylic on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/ 76.2 x 61 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith  2015
Not to make a distinction among the different types of painters today, as we are all worthy of respect, I would rather focus on our similarities.

Among the different types of painters today, I am unscientifically putting them in one of four categories. Again, all worthy of respect and in no particular order:

- Art Student, and by that I mean one who is actually enrolled in a school with an actual art curriculum or a "recognized" academy of art or some such.

- Art Teacher; one who teaches art or painting in one of the above-mentioned settings.

- Professional, and by that I mean one who is able to make a living entirely by the sale or other commercialization of his or her paintings.

- The Rest of Us Painters, and by that I mean all the rest of us painters.

As I said, what makes us similar? I believe we aspire to paint, or we practice painting diligently, or we paint on-again-off-again, or we join a painting club or league or society (or not), or we paint for the pure creative pleasure of it.

Whatever it is, the most important similarity in my opinion is that, for us, painting has become and is a habit we have no choice but to pursue. We must paint habitually, although the type, the style, the place, and the frequency varies as widely as the human experience.


Wednesday, September 23

Contrast is the Key to an Engaging Painting

Acrylic on Gallery-wrapped Canvas
30 x 24 in/76.2 x 61 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I know most all the painting instructors and artistic rules say what it takes to make a good painting:

Yes, it's composition.

Yes, it's drawing ability (or draftsmanship)

Yes, it's subject matter (or motif).

Yes, it's color palette selection.

Yes, it's center of interest (or focal point).

Yes, it's technique.

Yes, it's style.

Yes, it's brushwork.

Yes, yes. yes. It's all these things.

However, in my opinion, if you want your paintings to be really engaging (or enthralling or even spellbinding) and more than merely good, contrast is the key.

Wait, what?

Yes, contrast is the key to an engaging painting. Contrast is that element that catches our human eye and brain and emotion and keeps us interested.

Contrast is in color; complementary colors attract our eye and make us look. Red vs. green, yellow vs. purple, blue vs. orange when placed next to or near each other appear to vibrate.

Contrast is in value; light versus dark is an even greater eye-catcher. Black vs. white or any combination of a darker value against a lighter value keeps us engaged.

Viva la difference. How about that?

Wednesday, September 16

How to Love Your Own Paintings - Part 2

Some of my Favorite Paintngs
Hanging in my Space
Copyright Byrne Smith 2009 - 2014
Last week's painting life blog was about how to (learn to) love your very own paintings. I offered several ways that could perhaps help painters reduce doubts they have about their work and be more confident.

During the last week, I realized I had forgotten to include one thing that most painters are already doing that shows they really do love their own paintings. If they're not doing this already, it's the easiest thing to do. It will also help you love your paintings even more and will let others know you love them, too.

And what is it?  Simply to frame and hang your own paintings all over your studio and/or home!

The paintings you select to frame and hang can be ones that have been in shows or won awards or maybe they're just the ones you really love and always will be your favorites. No, they didn't sell, but that doesn't matter, not really.

You will have the pleasure of seeing your work everyday and all who enter your space will see them, too, and know you are proud of your work.

Happy painting...

Wednesday, September 9

How to Love Your Own Paintings

Blue Skies
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
 10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
If the headline of today's blog sounds a little narcissistic to you, that's OK. That's what loving yourself is about.

Confidence in your abilities and a little chutzpah not only is a good thing, it's really important to your painting life and to staying motivated to achieve even better work.

In that context here are a few pointers on how to love your own paintings:

- If you don't like your current direction, methods, palette, medium, etc.--change one or more today to whatever does make you happy.

- Throw away every painting you've completed, but don't like, and still have in your studio; they're not going to change and will only remind you of your perceived "failure(s)."

- Paint what you're good at painting; if you paint clouds (or cats or whatever) well, then paint a lot of those--how well you painted them will be a confidence-builder and will make you happy.

- Imitation is the nicest compliment, so find several painters whose work you really, really admire and find out as much as you can about their methods; this will help your own work in all kinds of ways and give you something to aspire to.

- Finally, be the best painter person you can be--be kind, be sharing, be open-minded, be forthright, be reasonable, keep learning, and maintain a world-view for the arts.

(Just one caveat: loving your work, if taken to the extreme, is not advised as other painter people will not like you and will call you names.)

But other than that, learn to love your own paintings and embrace the painting life.

Monday, August 31

Changing Art Gears

Last Day of Summer
Acrylic on 140-lb Paper
12 x 9 in/30.5 x 22.9 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Today being the unofficial "last" day of summer (in the northern hemisphere), I am feeling a hint of change in the air. It's not a change in the weather per se, although the light is noticeably different than it was even a month ago

 It's still warm (OK, hot) and still very much shorts-and-flip-flops weather, but there is a haziness in the atmosphere that sets in this time of year that portends the coming of autumn. It also makes it a good time for painting.

It's rather like changing gears to a different speed, and that's also what I'm feeling about my artwork--a changing of art gears yet again.

By gears, I mean several things:

- my painting interests

- my willingness to experiment again after a period of ennui

- my medium

- my palette (even if it's only a tweak)

- my outlook

I am one who thinks change is good, especially for a painter. It's about the only way I know to be able to see if progress is being made at all.

If you agree, fine; if not, then I hope you are truly satisfied with the status quo.

Happy Painting.

Tuesday, August 25

My 6 Opinions on Painting Landscapes

A Day in the Hill Country
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion about what makes a painting "good." I am no different.

I like to paint landscapes of all kinds, and I have my own opinions about what makes a "good" landscape painting.

If you aren't interested in my opinions or what I have to say about anything, really, please stop reading and avoid the aggravation.

However, if you would like to compare your ideas with mine, here are 6 opinions for what makes a landscape painting "good:"

- If a horizon line is visible, then place it either higher or lower but not dead center.

- Know where the focal point is or is going to be and emphasize it and de-emphasize other elements; that is, if a tree is the focal point, don't make the clouds/sky so busy they compete (and vice versa)

- Use some natural element to draw in the viewer and lead them around the painting--a stream, a path, a tree branch, a cloud deck, a rock formation, etc.

- Put in a contrast of light and dark values in the fore- or mid-ground; even on overcast days there can be shadows; even if you don't see a lot of contrast either in person or a photo, then contrive it.

- Make the background recede by pushing it back visually using light blue washes or tints (even if it's your focal point); also by not having any sharp edges in this area.

- Stick to a limited palette, but depending on the type of landscape, mix colors that are natural for the scene; for example, if my painting in today's image had been a desert scene, I would have used more yellow and ochre rather than greens.

Happy painting!

Monday, August 10

Staying Motivated (with another Little Gem)

Lantana Dr.@ Beach Rd. 1
Oil on Canvas Panel
7 x 5 in/17.8 x 12.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
The August Dog Days are here. At 100+ degrees F (37.7+ C) this weekend and only getting hotter this week at 104 degrees F (40 degrees C), it's hard to get motivated to do anything, not to mention painting.

Whew, it's hot!

I decided one way to stay motivated would be to paint a beach scene. It's way too hot to do a lot of painting or to  paint a large painting. So I decided to paint another Little Gem at just 7 x 5 in (17.8 x 12.7 cm), which I blogged about recently.

It's today's image, which was painted from a reference photo taken on vacation (holiday) on the Texas coast a few years ago. I attempted to catch the hazy, hot sunshine beating down at midday

Hope you like it. It reminds me of summer and one way to cool off. Especially in this heat.

Tuesday, August 4

To Change and Grow as a Painter

Golden Field
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I believe my recent run with water soluble oils may have run its course for now. For the last 6 months to a year I have been painting almost exclusively with water soluble oil paint.

Prior to that it was mostly acrylics, and before that it was watercolor, and before that it was....

But last week as I was exploring my "new" limited palette of: ultramarine blue, cad. yellow light (and/or pale), alizarin crimson (and or cad red light), burnt umber, and the ubiquitous titanium white, I wanted to to retrieve these acrylic colors from my paint bin.

So I did.

Like old friends who hadn't seen each other in a good while, we made up for lost time. It was good to feel the easy, buttery strokes of acrylic paint with my flats on the canvas panel.

I think I see a pattern here. Artists and painters should not get stale.They need change. They need growth. I'm finding that as I paint with different mediums, I am challenged and learn new ways to deliver the paint.

So when I revert to an old comfortable friend--this time acrylics--my work doesn't look the same as when I painted with it before. It's different and, what do you know, it's better. At least I think so.

Isn't that what all painters want? To change and grow.


Monday, July 27

How to Achieve Color Harmony

A Creek Runs Through It
Oil on Canvas Panel
10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I recently re-discovered how great it is to work with a limited palette. I had totally forgotten because for the past year I have been using the color palettes of several of my favorite painters almost exclusively. But I was having trouble deciding on a single palette and so began eliminating paint colors.

It's not that these artists' palettes included so many colors. I didn't count, but I don't think any one of them had more than nine or ten paint colors. Their palettes usually had no more than a couple of blues, yellows, and reds with maybe a burnt and/or a raw sienna, an orange (maybe) and white, of course. I guess to some that would be a limited palette.

But I'm talking about a palette with only five colors: cad yellow light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, burnt umber, and white. You can also mix all the secondary greens, oranges, and purples with these. The burnt umber is used for mixing darks and for some neutralizing.

You can mix almost any color you see with just these five colors. The only colors you can't mix are the exceptionally bright, high chroma ones, such as magenta/opera rose, pthalo/electric blue, and bright greens. But if you're painting with the colors just mentioned, your paintings don't and won't look natural anyway.

Today's image was painted with these five colors, and I had forgotten how easy it is to mix so many different colors. For one thing, it's so easy to remember how to mix a color because there are so few to choose--not a lot of recipes or charts to remember and follow.

But best of all, you get instant color HARMONY, and that's no small thing--many painters try for years and never achieve it!

Tuesday, July 21

Painting Little Gems

House at Canyon Lake
Oil on Canvas Panel
5 x 7 in/12.7 x 17.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
If you are a painter, I'm sure you probably already know what the headline of today's blog is about.

If you're not a painter, well, Little Gems refers to the size of certain paintings, that is, smaller ones.

I don't think there's really a definition for what size a Little Gem must be, but in my mind it's any painting that is 5 x 7 inches/12.7 x 17.8 cm. or smaller.

That's small for a painting.

What I like about that size is that it makes you, as the painter, really have to simplify your subject and composition. There's not a lot of space for a lot of details, and that's the point as I see it.

Of course, there are those fine, representational painters who will paint any and everything near photorealistically and put in every line, hair, leaf, and/or eyelash.

But I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about alla prima painting, which, as you may know, is from Italian meaning all at once. And that's how I paint Little Gems--all at once and quickly.

After you have your support and paint laid out, just squint and go for it--paint small, fast, and impresssionistically. It goes with using flat brushes that seem too large for this scale of painting. But remember what I said, there's no time for details.

A lot of plein aire painters paint this way, so I hope you can appreciate my enthusiasm for painting Little Gems and paint a few yourself.

Tuesday, July 14

Painting on Burlap Panel?

The Old Garage Out Back
Acrylic on Burlap Panel
10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright 2015 Byrne Smith
Have you tried painting on burlap panel? I had not; however, a few weeks ago at a local arts and crafts store, which shall remain nameless, I happened to see some. They were displayed along with all the other canvas panels, stretched canvases, and hardboards.

They stood out because of their color, not white, but raw-sienna burlap color.

If some don't know what burlap is, I'm not surprised, because you don't really think of it as a support for a painting. If you don't know, according to Wikipedia, burlap is:  "Hessian /ˈhɛsi.ən/, or burlap in the US and Canada, is a woven fabric usually made from skin of the jute plant or sisal fibres, or may be combined with other vegetable fibres to make rope, nets, and similar products."

The reason I was interested in trying it was because I have been wanting to paint on a more textured surface. I usually paint on canvas panel, which has a relatively smooth surface, and I wanted to try a more textured woven material to get a softer look.

Just so you know, I decided to use my acrylic paints rather than my oils since this was an experiment.

I'm not sure burlap is the answer, It is very coarse. Let me repeat: it is very coarse. Even though I had enough sense to apply two coats of gesso, it still soaked up the paint like a sponge.

Also, it took a lot of scrubbing brushstrokes to fill in all the crevasses in the weave. I would have used up a lot of oil paint, had I been painting with it. 

What I do like about it is that it is very easy to get that soft-edged, impressionistic look and feel due to the very coarse weave--it almost looks pixelated as in digital photo.I'm not sure that's enough to recommend it, but please let me know what you think if you've tried it.

I'm thinking I will try out a coarser cotton stretched canvas or panel next time.

Happy Painting. 

Tuesday, July 7

Have You Figured Out Your Style Yet?

It's In the Clouds
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I was thinking about what my style of painting is while going through a batch of recent paintings that are sitting around the studio waiting to be 100 percent dry. Actually, I should say 100 percent oxidized because that's what oil paint does, rather than "dry."

Anyway, I was happy to see a likeness of style in most of my work. It's not something I have been trying to come up with, and from what I've read, that's exactly how one's style happens.

That is, it's supposed to evolve rather than be something you force. If that's the case, I think I'm on my way to having a style.

I'm not an expert on style, but if you look at a lot of paintings you know it when you see it. It's when you see a painting and can say, "that's a Degas," or Klimmt or Warhol or whomever. Of course, all the famous masters both old and contemporary have a unique style--that's why they're famous, and we see their work in museums and galleries around the world.

I believe my style has to do with painting natural settings, lost and found edges, light, warm and cool primaries and secondaries, and a look of representational impressionism.

At least that's what I figured out so far. Happy painting.  

Monday, June 29

A Discovery with Water-Soluble Oils

My Picnic Spot
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I made a painting discovery a few weeks ago when I was painting today's image.

I began painting with water-soluble oil paints last year, and I have pretty much switched from acrylic, although I will still  bring out my acrylic palette every now and then.

Not having painted much at all with regular oils because of their odor and the need to use and clean up with pungent spirits, I took to water-solubles and have not looked back.

In the beginning I didn't want to use mediums and oils specifically made for water-solubles. Instead I stuck with plain old water as a medium for thinning the paint, but the water and paint don't mix easily or quickly.

I found that some brands were stiffer and required more water than others to get the consistency of paint I wanted. Also, it seems all titanium whites, no matter what the brand, require some thinning.

Just so you know, I have tried Artisan, Woil, Grumbacher, and Lukas brands. They all are acceptable, but none is as "buttery" as I would like (or think I would like). Eventually I will get around to trying Cobra, Holbein, and whatever else is out there

However, back to the topic of today's blog. What I discovered is that I should have been applying a drop of water-soluble linseed oil or stand oil to my mixing palette. I thought my adding oil would make the paint too thin, so that it would not hold a peak. I was wrong; I found that a drop or two is fine.

What a difference it makes! The paint is so easy to spread and my brush virtually flies around the palette. I  feel a freedom to try brushstrokes and techniques I wouldn't attempt with a stiffer paint.

Of course, it does slow the drying time, but you can't have everything in a perfect painting world. Try it, you may like it.

Monday, June 22

Summertime and the Painting Is Easy

The Summer Cove
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Today being the first full day of summer in the northern hemisphere, I wanted to blog about that.

Now is the time to get out and capture all those motifs in the countryside, the cities, or the seasides you visit or plan to visit on your vacation (holiday). Or you can paint them right there en plein aire if you take along your pochades, easels, and supplies.

Since there's more light and longer days (in the northern hemisphere), take advantage of the warm weather and longer painting time. You'll wish you had come this December.

Summer is the time for painting the sunlight and putting in all that chroma that is illuminated by the light this time of year.

Painting today's image from a reference photo was a lot of fun. I painted the strong sunlight coming from the right  and falling on the water, the mountain, and the beach.

Two things were especially fun for me to paint. One was seeing and then mixing the correct shades of blue corresponding to the various depths of water in the cove. There really are beautiful beaches like this all over the world.

The second was including the house in the lower right with its pop of orange on the tile roof. Note that although it's not the focal point, as would be expected, it leads the viewer's eye to the actual focal point which is the bright, sandy beach on the right.

I hope my blogging inspires you to get out of the studio this summer and have some fun when the painting is easy.

Monday, June 15

I Broke a Painting Rule (or Two)

Lone Tree, TX 77963
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I'm not one who lives by the saying that "rules are made to be broken." Not usually, but occasionally.

Last week was one of those occasions. I ran across a reference photo that caught my eye and my desire to paint it.

I do believe that a good painting starts with interesting subject matter and evolves from there. Of course, what makes for interesting subject matter is why people rarely agree on anything.

Be that as it may, I decided to paint today's image, which I think is an interesting subject--a lone tree, of which I have painted many and will surely paint more in the future.

Do you know what rule(s) I have broken?

First rule I broke was to place the focal point smack dab, as they say, in the middle of the painting. I think this rule streys from the Rule of Thirds, which divides the canvas in thirds and says you put the focal point at the intersecting lines.

Well, oops, I didn't do that. It's in the middle because that's where I placed it. When I was composing the scene in my mind's eye, that's where the tree belongs--all by itself in the center of the composition.

The second rule I nearly broke was to place the horizon line too close to halfway, dividing the canvas in two. Although it's not at the halfway point, I should have placed it lower (or higher) to follow the rule.

But I placed it where I wanted it to be in my painting. That's the point of today's blog--it's MY painting, and it's only my opinion that counts.

Monday, June 8

From Representational to Impressionist to Abstract

Reflections on a Pond
Oil on Hardboard
24 x 18 in/61 x 45.7 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I'm not one to paint many abstract paintings. I can count on one hand the number I've ever done. I recently looked through my personal "collection of the artist" paintings, which I discussed a couple of blogs ago, and there are no abstracts.

That said, however, I recently ran across a reference photo on a site that allows painters permission. While obvious what it actually was, it was formatted to look as if it were a collection of abstract shapes and colors.

It was those shapes and especially the colors that spoke to me, and in fact, said to paint exactly what I saw, which was an abstract painting.

I first decided what size would be most effective, and settled on 24 x 18 in/61 x 45.7 cm because in my very limited experience, it seems that most abstracts are usually larger rather than smaller formats (while in no way comparing myself to them, think Mark Rothko or Jackson Pollock).

I then decided on oil over acrylic as the medium because my intent was to soften the shapes by blending, which is easier with oil, even though acrylic is often associated with abstract painting since it is a relatively new medium (1955).

I used the following palette: ultramarine blue, cyan/primary or Winsor blue depending on the manufacturer, yellow ochre, cad yellow light, alizarin crimson, cadmium orange, and titanium white.

Although abstract looks as if a child could do it, it actually involves as much thought, proper value/color, and competent brushwork as any representational or impressionist painting. Or at least it did for me. It took me three days to complete.

It's very different from paintings I usually do, but that's exactly why I am satisfied with the outcome.

Tuesday, June 2

Paint What Inspires YOU

Imagine South Pacific
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
The simple message in today's blog is stated in its headline: Paint What Inspires YOU (emphasis on YOU).

Although painting should be about continually improving your skills and your outcomes, it is primarily about expressing in paint what visually inspires and excites you.

While we can learn a lot from copying the old masters, emulating current contemporary painters, and following every brushstroke on instructional DVDs, ultimately it's your own personal expression that you should be trying to nurture.

I think that can only come from within, only from what makes you want to put down paint on canvas or board.

Think about that next time you're fretting about why your work doesn't look like ______'s (fill in the blank).

Otherwise, happy painting.

Wednesday, May 27

Just Look at Some of Your Old Paintings to See How Far You've Come

Pink Adobes
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2008
Every once in a while I can feel a spell of artist slump coming on. Not sure if it's boredom, or if that's what happens before a growth spurt; I'm hoping it's the latter.

I recently began to feel a slump coming on. I know intellectually it's only temporary and that I'll snap out of it, but that doesn't help much when it's happening.

Rather than feeling sorry for myself, I decided to go through all the completed paintings I still have on hand. Those are euphemistically referred to as the "collection of the artist," which really means not only could you not sell them, you couldn't even give them away. (As I said I felt a slump coming on.)

I have a good many in my "collection of the artist." They are more or less stored by the year I completed them. I began to rifle through them, taking a second or two to view each one, and giving some old favorites as much as ten seconds.

What I began to realize was that I actually have gotten better at my painting, especially when compared to those I did going on seven years ago now. That made me feel much better about all the hard work I have put in over the years. My artist slump began to recede.

Today's image was one of the first acrylic paintings I did back in 2008. I'll admit, it's horrible, but at the time I thought differently. Finally, by looking at this old painting, I can tell how far I've come, and I feel more confident.

So, the moral of today's blog is: just look at some of your old paintings to see how far you've come.

Monday, May 18

Favorite Places to Paint

Lone Yucca
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Oil on Canvas Panel
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
If you are a landscape painter, and even if you're not, you probably have one or several places you like to paint. Even if you're not, it could also be a favorite part of a city or interiors of buildings, too.

I like landscapes, and one of my favorite scenes to paint is  arid, low- and high-desert landscapes, either with or without mountains. Sometimes, a flat, sandy desert full of Russian Thistle, better known as tumbleweed in the US, can be just as striking.

One of my favorite places to paint is the US state of New Mexico. That's not to be confused with the nation of  Mexico, the northern part of which, by the way, has a landscape similar to that of New Mexico.

Basically, a high, arid plain in the east but also filled with mountains in the northern, southern, and western parts, it's a landscape painter's dream. You can paint mountains and canyons, deserts and cactus (and tumbleweed), snow scenes in winter, caverns in the southeastern corner, rock formations, white sands, as well as the meandering Rio Grande and miles of Pecan groves  and green chile farms near Mesilla.

It's got it all for painters. Even though I no longer reside there, I have lots of memories and lots of photos and plans for return trips.

I can only hope that  you have a favorite place to paint that inspires you as well.

Monday, May 11

Cropping a Picture to Paint

Mighty Oaks
Oil on Canvas Panel
 20 x 16 in/50.8 x 40.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I know this is a blog about the painting life and not photography, which you usually equate with the term cropping (as in cropping a photo).

Some may also call it editing, but to me that's something different. Cropping is part of the act of composing the picture (or motif) you are going to paint. It's about balancing the composition. It's about leaving out extraneous elements. It's about finding the focal point. It's about deciding on the format--horizontal or vertical.

Cropping is about all those things as well as remembering you are creating a painting and not taking a picture.

What a viewer or critic likes or not is all a matter of subjective taste; however, here are a few things that will help you:

- Rule of Thirds is (in a nutshell) virtually dividing the picture into thirds vertically or horizontally and placing the focal point near one of the four points where the lines intersect or placing it in one of the thirds, again either vertically or horizontally.

- Odd Numbers (1,3,5, etc.) and Objects refers to the fact that an unequal number of elements is much more interesting to look at than an equal number of elements; this means (almost) always including an odd number of objects; also remember not to place two of the same thing and size near or next to each other.

- Frame the View by creating a view-finder with your own two hands using your thumbs and index fingers; This will help you "see" what you want to paint and eliminate everything else

The reference photo for today's image, which was used on permission, was much broader in scope than the finished painting. The photo had a broad horizon line of which the trees were just a small portion--about 1/8. There were also three very large boulders in the left foreground that were cropped out.

I hope you can imagine how cropping improved my painting.

Thursday, May 7

Struggle for Impressionism

I recently painted a still life, which I don't usually do, and blogged about it (For a Change Paint a Still Life). I said I had fun painting it and would probably do another.

However, what I want to discuss today is why impressionism looks relatively easy to pull off, but in reality, is very difficult.

I certainly wouldn't call my painting impressionism. It is much too much representational realism. What I wanted to paint was impressionism.

Why is this difficult? I can only speak for myself. I tend to paint what I see, and what I see with my well corrected near-sightedness is a clear picture, at least with my still lifes. For some reason they are turning out all too realistic.

My landscapes, on the other hand, are easier for me to paint impressionistically, so that's something.

I'm currently re-reading the book, Monet & Bazille A Collaboration, by Kermit Champa and Dianne Pitman.  Two passages stand out that I want to share, speaking about Monet:

"Monet devises his view so as to present that complexity (of texture and tone) through a nervous web of dots and dabs that rattle visually at persistly "high speed"...


"It (the light) has the appearance of never having been painted, perhaps never having been seen (or even having existed) visually before Monet discovered and delivered it in paint."

So, that's all there is to it, huh?

Monday, April 27

Discover New Painting Supports

Bluebonnet Time
Oil on Foamcore
8 x 8 in/20.3 x20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
So you know, I'm talking today about painting on something different than the usual canvas, linen, wood, or paper and not about how many (or few) compliments you're getting on your work!

Why?, you may ask.

Well, it's all about trying out new and different ways to paint. As I've said before, if painters didn't try new things, we'd still be using charcoal and berry juice to paint on cave walls.

What got me interested was an article in a recent issue of International Artist magazine about an Australian painter named John Lovett who paints on large sheets of aluminum composite panel because it can be large, rigid, but is also lightweight. I had never heard of it, but the article said it's two thin sheets of aluminum with polypropylene in between. I discovered online that it's used in architecture and also in signage, such as large outdoor advertising.

I was interested in trying it out, but it seems to be difficult to find and to buy unless you are in the trade; that is, I couldn't find any retail outlets (or online) that sell direct.

But that got me to thinking about gator board and also foamcore, which I happened to have on hand and is readily available from art supply or craft stores. What I had was a sheet of the black foamcore, which I use as backing to frame a painting.

 I had previously tried painting on the white foamcore, but found when I applied gesso, the clay-coat paper laminate caused the foamcore to warp, even when I applied it on both sides.

However, I noticed the black foamcore did not appear to have the clay-coat paper laminate. I applied a thin coat of gesso to one side, and it warped. But, when I applied a thin coat to the other side, and let it dry, it reverted to its original flat state. Great!

Now the test. How will foamcore react to paint, in this case water-soluble oil? I painted a quick landscape of ubiquitous Texas bluebonnets in Spring on an 8 x 8-inch piece. I didn't use any water or medium with the paint. I'm happy to report it was a success, at least in my opinion. The paint flowed on smoothly, and the random texture of the underlying gesso gave it a canvas-like appearance.

I suppose there's no way to know how foamcore will hold up as a support except to give it time. I don't think, however, that wood and canvas are the absolutely only material that stand the test of time. Look at all the paintings and drawings done on paper that are well over 150 years old--I rest my case.

Try new techniques and tools and see what you discover with your painting.

Monday, April 20

Green Is Not the Painter's Horror Color

Spring Green
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
When I hear about green being a horror color for painters, I always think that's funny. Funny because there really are no horror colors, only inexperienced painters (I was going to say bad, but decided better not to).

Not sure what it is about green that a lot of painters hate and shy away from. You'd almost think it was criminal to paint with green, either mixed or especially straight from the tube.

To hear them, you'd think green was not a natural color, you know, as in nature.

I'm not sure in what part of the world those painters live, but it surely must be dry, barren, lifeless, and colorless.

I happen to reside in a relatively warm and humid area not that far away from a coastline, as I'm sure many other painters do as well. I am here to tell you there are a lot of really green greens all around, including forests, prairies, creeks, and beaches. That is especially so in the spring and summer--paint green in all its brightness and green-ness!

Green does not have to be subdued or neutralized on the palette or canvas to look real. If you want green to look real, paint it the way it actually looks and the color it actually is.

Green is not the painter's horror color.

Monday, April 13

Fresh Eyes and Time Can Save a Painting

Azalea Trail
Oil on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I cannot speak for other painters, but for me, there comes a time when I can get discouraged with the painting I'm working on. I can't really explain it, and it doesn't happen with every painting, thank goodness.

But when it does, I begin to realize there's a problem, and for a while, I keep on painting, but it just gets worse. I call it the ugly duckling phase of the painting--that time after block-in when it just looks terrible and you think, this will never work

It can also be caused when you make a mistake with composition, value, color, or whatever, from which there seems to be no recovery.

 I have learned over the years not to fight it. I have learned to give up for a while, to let it go for a while, let the painting rest. I put it away, out of sight for some period of time. At some point I pick it up again and see if it is salvageable. Sometimes it's not, but most often it is.

That was the case with today's image. I had painted about three-quarters of it when I realized there was a problem with the composition--large dark trees I had painted on the right side in the middle-ground were all wrong and causing the painting to fail.

I scraped away my work, but wasn't sure what to do. I started to discard it, but then remembered I should let it rest. I put it in a recycling bin in my garage facing a wall and forgot about it for two-and-a-half weeks. When I looked at it again, I immediately knew what to do. I painted the trees on the right in the background rather than the mid-ground and fixed the problem.

Then I finished the painting. Fresh eyes and time was all it took.

Monday, April 6

For a Change Paint a Still Life

Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
If you're at all aware of my work, then you know I paint a lot of landscapes, some with structures in the composition, along with the occasional seascape. I'm not much into still lifes.

However, that doesn't mean I don't admire those painters who create them or that I don't like them. I do. It's an art in itself to design a pleasing setting for a still life and even more fun to paint one. Also, changing things up a bit by painting subjects you don't usually paint is highly recommended and may give you a much-needed fresh perspective.

I will admit I didn't design today's image--it's from a reference photo--but I did have fun painting it. It was a refreshing change and makes me want to paint more of them.

Monday, March 30

What Makes a Painter Happy?

Spring Storm
Oil on Canvas
9 x 12 in/22.9 x 30.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Happiness, as we all know, is a state--one in which many of us would probably like to live, at least much of the time. When you are happy, you paint better, and when a painter paints better, life is better.

That said, I think painters are happy when (in no particular order):

- their drawing skills improve

- they feel their latest painting is one of the best they have done

- they find their own style

- mixing paint is a natural and beautiful experience

- they learn something new about painting

- they can't wait to start painting

- their painting is "liked," "favorited," "pinned," and/or "re-tweeted" on social media (even introverts)

Finally, I think a painter is happiest simply when he or she is happy about their painting.

I'm sure you have other ideas on what makes a painter happy, so please feel free to comment.

Monday, March 23

Spring -- A Great Time to Be a Painter

Springtime on the Plains
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
Spring has sprung as of last Friday. As a painter, it's about time. Although I like the colors of fall and the moody winter grays and blue-violets appearing in the frail northern light, I think spring is a finer season for painting.

For one thing, there's more light, and light to a painter is like fuel for your car--hard to get going without it. Not only is the light brighter and the angle of light higher in the sky, you also have more hours in which to create and to paint.

For another, there is more chroma. Everything is either budding out or blooming. With the added light, it means brighter, more intense colors. Those bright, unrealistic-looking greens are actually real, so paint them that way. And there are flowers in every color of the rainbow. More chroma everywhere.

Finally, the weather warms up in spring and we are able to either get out and take photos all over the place or travel around and paint en plein air (before it gets too hot). Either way, it's a winning combination.

Today's image is a view of rolling plains bursting out in new springtime-green growth. It's a great time to be a painter

Monday, March 16

Three Tips from a Frugal Painter

Approaching Alamogordo
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/ 27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I don't use a whole lot of expensive painting supplies or materials recommended by all manufacturers and retailers and by many painters. I am a frugal painter.

For acrylic and oil, rather than buying glass, wooden, plastic, or even paper palettes on which to mix paint, I use individual (12 x 10 3/4 in/30.5 x 27.3 cm) sheets of dry wax paper, also know as deli wrap. It comes in surprisingly small boxes of 500 sheets, and you can get it at the grocery and big-box bulk stores. I put a sheet in a plastic tray, and the paint will not penetrate the sheet even when mixed. It's cost-saving, and you throw it away when done. Works great.

Also for acrylic and oil, I buy inexpensive hog-bristle brushes in all sizes from No. 2 to 2 inches. Some painters say you shouldn't use natural-hair brushes because they absorb paint. However, I like the natural brushes because of the way I paint. I scrape and scrub with my brushes a lot of the time, and the natural-hair naturally is stiffer, which I like. That and that they're inexpensive--I go through a lot of them every year. I rarely paint with synthetic brushes; too soft for my taste, although I do use a rigger for occasional detail work.

Lastly, I buy all (OK, almost all) of my supplies and material--paint, brushes, canvas, mediums, easels, etc.--either when they are on sale or by using the manufacturer's or retailer's XX-percent-off-any-one-item coupon both online and at a real store.

However, I do buy "pretty good" quality paint. I don't buy the most expensive paint, which is supposed to be "the best" because of the pigment load. It may have the most pigment, but that doesn't mean it's "the best" (in my opinion), only that it's the most expensive. I cannot really tell the difference in my paintings done with "the best" paint and my paintings done with "pretty good" quality paint.

If you, too, are a frugal painter, remember it's NOT the same thing as being a cheap painter.

Monday, March 9

Paint the Way That's Best for YOU

Hillside, Ocean View
Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in/27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I have blogged about this subject before, that is, painting the way that's best for you, and I was recently reminded why it's still an important thing to remember. You find out what's best for you basically by trial and error and intuition. 

Why is this important? Because it's the way you develop both your own personal techniques and style.

You may not be painting the way that works best for you because you're doing any or all of the following, as I was:

- too much reading in books and online about how other painters paint

- too much watching how other painters paint on You Tube

- only using the palettes specified by particular painters

- using only brands of paint, brushes, or supports specified by particular painters

I recently remembered I need to paint the way that's best for me when trying to paint using only a limited palette of cad yellow light, cad red light, French ultramarine blue, and titanium white as specified by a well-known painter who shall remain nameless.

Painting today's image, I couldn't mix what I consider the correct colors using this limited palette. Of course, the nameless painter is way more experienced than I at mixing limited colors. However, instead of continuing to become frustrated, I added yellow ochre and burnt sienna to my palette and I was able to create the colors and the painting the way that works best for ME.

Monday, March 2

The Things That Matter in a Painting

Oil on Canvas Panel
11 x 14 in /27.9 x 35.6 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I hope the headline of today's blog intrigued you enough to open it and that you keep reading; that, after all, is the thing that matters in a blog.

However, I'm talking about paintings not blogs, and it may surprise you that not all the things that matter have to do with artistic ability in my humble opinion.

I think the thing that matters most in a painting is how it's received, or should I say perceived, by the viewer. Being human, we are all different and so are our reactions to art. If there's no reception/perception/reaction, then it's rather like the sound of a tree falling with no one around to hear it, wouldn't you agree?

Besides that, there's also the style of the painting that matters. If you like the old master's paintings, then you are not likely to be a collector of Andy Warhol's work, although you may have admired his gumption in putting it out there.

The mood also is near the top of this list. A watercolor of kittens playing with a ball of yarn in the morning light puts out a much different vibe than Mark Rothko's paintings, especially the ones hanging here locally at the Rothko Chapel.

OK, I will include artistic ability but with a caveat. That caveat is that it's nearly impossible to define artistic ability. "Good" artistic ability to you is probably not the same as the person standing next to you at the museum. To prove my point, just compare the portraits of John Singer Sargent and Pablo Picasso.

That gets back to reception/perception/reaction, so, you see, we have come full circle.

Tuesday, February 24

Paint Sunshine to Brighten Your Day

Oh, Happy Day
Oil on Canvas Panel
16 x 20 in/40.6 x 50.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
I decided to brighten my day by painting some sunshine in  a sunny landscape. As I mentioned a few blogs ago, the weather does affect what I paint, and I needed some sunshine going into late winter.

I like painting vistas like this one. It's got all the things you need for a summer day: sunshine, green grass, shade, and distant hills to provide respite from the heat.

I used my trusty water-mixable oils for this one, with my palette of ultramarine blue, cad yellow light, cad red light, pthalo green/blue shade (a touch in the sky), burnt sienna (a touch in the clouds), yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, and, of course, titanium white.

You know how to paint sunshine, right? It's an illusion (like smoke and mirrors), and it's all done with shadows. I use the red/green combo for shadows, either burnt sienna and/or alizarin crimson with pthalo green, Remember, the darker the shadows, the brighter the sunshine.

I hope this brightens your day, too, if you're getting a little tired of winter.