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.