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.