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?