Thursday, February 25

Go Outside, Paint Your Neighborhood

Waiting for Breakfast
Oil on Canvas Panel
10 x 8 in/25.4 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2015
If you read artists' magazines, either in print or online, or if you spend time looking at your favorite artists' websites, you may think that you have to be either well-traveled or well-off (or both) to find an interesting, pretty, or eye-catching motif.

I say this because to look at most of these painters' paintings, it appears they all have traveled to locations with fantastic scenery or semi-exotic views. I'm talking about locations such as lakes in Italy, California coastlines, rocky Maine seacoasts, the south of France, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.....

I'm here to tell you, all you have to do is--go outside.

What a simple concept and cost efficient as well. You don't need to travel to en plein air competitions or Paris or Sydney harbor or the Grand Canyon. No, just walk down the street.

Whether you live in the urban core, city suburbs, or a small town, there are plenty of fine motifs for painting. Open you eyes.

Painters are supposed to have visual and creative abilities. If you can't find something pleasing to paint around your neighborhood, then maybe you need to find something else to spend your time on.

Today's image was painted not far from my backyard. I'm near a relatively small bayou and when you cross the bridge at the end of the street you can often see birds, such as hawks or blue herons, fish, and turtles up and down the banks. On this sunny morning, a lone egret was fishing for her breakfast.

So, next time you think there's nothing to paint--just go outside.

Thursday, February 18

Quickly Painting the "Country"

El Campo
Acrylic on Watercolor Paper
on 12 x 9 in/30.5 x 22.9 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
I had some remnants of a small block of watercolor paper that was sitting around just asking to be used. So I did.

I had recently returned from a road trip to the southwest part of the state that lets you enjoy some rural areas out in the "country" (el campo in Spanish). Although you're never far from huge metro areas, you are able to see prairies and meadows and rolling hills with scenic vistas of trees and scrub brush among other things. Of course, it's hard to feel very isolated when you're speeding along the Interstate with a herd of other cars and trucks, but if you look out the window you can see it.

A sunny, warm day (and warm winter, actually) was perfect for picture-taking.

With my remnant watercolor paper I quickly painted today's image in less than 20 minutes. Sometimes I like to dash off paintings such as this and attempt to capture the fleeting moment racing by. Painting quickly makes you concentrate on the bigger shapes and colors and not dwell on any details--a good way to help you paint more loosely

I hope you like it and are able to paint a few quick paintings this week, too.  

Thursday, February 11

Reasons to Paint Large

Beautiful Coast
Acrylic on Canvas
48 x 36 in/121.9 x 91.4 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
I recently completed a large painting or what for me was a large painting. It is 4 ft. wide by 3 ft. deep (121.9 x 91.4 cm.). It may be the largest painting I've ever done. Why did I paint such a large painting?

I like to think I'm a practical person as well as painter, so the reasons were practical.

First, I had this large stretched canvas that I have been moving around my studio and house for the last four years. I don't remember why I bought such a large canvas or what I planned to paint on it. However, its wrapping had become tattered, and I was afraid it would get damaged sitting around on the floor even though I tried to take care.

Second, I had a very nice reference photo taken by a family member of a panoramic landscape along the Southern California coast. In my mind's eye, a painting of this view would require a large format to help showcase the broad view and high sky.

Thirdly, I had plenty of acrylic paint in my palette colors on hand that would be needed to cover the 12 sq. ft. of canvas.

Finally, I have blogged about large paintings before and decided to take my own advice. Here are links to those blogs:  9 Tips for Painting a Large Canvas (with Acrylics) and Where and How to Hang Large Paintings.

So, as you can see I had good reasons to paint large, and it was about time I did!

Thursday, February 4

That's How We Learn with Paint

Pears in the Light
Acrylic on Watercolor Paper
8 x 5 in/20.3 x 12.7
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
As I mentioned before, an old artist friend used to remind us painters to try new techniques or paints or tools or brushstrokes, and always ended with, "That's how we learn."

That is how we learn as painters; otherwise, you may get caught in what feels like a circular room with no doors (or windows). What I mean is, you keep going around and around, but can never break out.

We should try things that may not always seem logical or conventional, and may even be considered just  "wrong" by many painters.

Well, I say if you're painting like most painters, you're not doing it right. That is, you're just trying to paint like others, and you're not finding your own way to paint.

I do agree that to improve it's perfectly OK to find a mentor painter and study how he or she paints the way they do. But at some point you have to make it your own.

I painted today's image with water-y acrylic on (gasp) watercolor paper. Watercolor and acrylic painters are probably rolling their eyes.

But if you never try something different, you may be missing an opportunity to find a new, painterly way to express yourself.

After all, that's how we learn.