Thursday, March 31

First Week of Spring Painting

Spring is Here
Acrylic on Paper
9 x 6 in/22.9 x 15.2 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
It's the first full week of Spring. The change from late Winter to early Spring is a special time for painters with the changing light and more of it, too. Trees bud out and fill up. Plants, shrubs, and some trees burst out in flower. Everything turns green.

For painters this is special. The longer days let you see everything in a new light literally, whether you're out of doors or in your studio. It's a good time to re-evaluate the things you're doing painting-wise and see if it's time to tweak a few of them. Like your palette, for one--does it need a refresh or an additional color (or two) to enhance painting in the season?

As temperatures climb, we're more likely to take our gear out for some landscape paintings en plein air.  Depending on where you live, you may have only a month or two before the temperatures climb too high for comfort, so take advantage.

Today's image is a simple landscape salute to the greening of the earth.

Spring is here.

Thursday, March 24

Painting Fast (Alla Prima)

House on the Hill by the Sea
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
8 x 10 in/20.3 x 25.4 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
Today's brief blog is simply about why it's perfectly OK to paint fast. By fast I mean in a matter of minutes, no more than an hour (or two), and certainly no more than an afternoon.

Why, you ask? Isn't painting a serious undertaking and you should not put a time limit on creativity, correct? Well, yes, but seriously...

If you want to paint a loose impression of what you see or what you set up to paint, you should paint fast to capture the moment or the essence of the scene or motif.

If you paint en plein air, you may have all day, but I'm pretty sure your painting will suffer if you spend more than two hours out there, and so you should paint fast.

If you're using acrylics, you really don't have any other choice; therefore, you should paint fast.

If you're trying to get away from the (bad) habit of painting way too many details, you definitely should paint fast.

For all those reasons and more, go for it and see how fast you can paint. (Today's image was completed in just over one hour.) You may be amazed at the improvement.

Tuesday, March 15

Acrylic on Paper, Wonderful

The Glowing Tree
Acrylic on Paper
18 x 18 in/45.7 x 45.7 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016
I really like painting with acrylic and keep returning to it as my primary medium time and time again.

Here are some things things I've learned about painting with acrylic on (watercolor) paper that I hope will be helpful to you.

Painting with acrylic on paper is an experience. You can paint like it's watercolor, or it's oil, or both, or somewhere in between. Wonderful.

You can gesso the paper beforehand and get a canvas-like surface over which you can drag your acrylic for all kinds of effects from impasto to sgraffito. Wonderful.

Or you can dampen the paper before applying acrylic for a watercolor effect. You can also add medium. Wonderful.

The brand of paper and its weight also makes a difference, and you can choose one based on how you (like to) paint. For example, Arches 300-lb/640 gsm paper has a finish that repels moisture somewhat, which gives you time to let the paint flow more easily; whereas Fabriano has a  "softer" finish, which gives a softer look, depending on how you apply the acrylic, of course. Wonderful.

Acrylic, as we all know, dries fast and too fast for many. Don't be afraid to keep your spritzer/atomizer in constant use all over the paper to keep the paint malleable. A 300-lb sheet of paper almost never buckles. Wonderful.

Water or medium on paper (or other supports as well) makes your finger a perfect "brush" for softening lines. Wonderful.

Acrylic is forgiving, so you really can't make a mistake. Just wait a little while till the paint dries and make any corrections you like by adding to or painting over your existing work, no muss no fuss.

If only life were like that. Wonderful.

Thursday, March 10

The Importance of Edges

Flowers in Vase
Acrylic on Arches 300-lb. Watercolor Paper
7 x 9 in/17.8 x 22.9 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2016 
One thing about painting that took me a long time to understand is how important edges are. You notice I said understand, not figured out, and certainly not mastered.

Our eyes and our brains naturally look for changes. It's how we see where one thing ends and another begins.

Edges are one of the subtleties of a painting, or they should be, that affect the look and feel, the mood, the style, and in my opinion, can make or break a painting.

An important thing to remember about edges is not to make them all the same. They should have variety. Some should be sharp and distinct. Some should be lost. The art is in learning and knowing what kind of edges to paint and where and when.

Edges are used to show depth, with softer edges being in the distance. Edges help show the viewer where to look and let the painter emphasize or de-emphasize an object or area. They can also be used to help show the texture of a surface.

A good way to learn about painting edges is with water media, either watercolor or acrylic. With either you can easily paint sharp edges and, by adding a little water, make them disappear or almost. You can practice and see where edges should and shouldn't be and how to use them to control a painting.

Today's image is a simple painting, but I think it shows how edges can move the viewer around a painting. See how your eye moves and stops as needed on the sharper edges of the vase and leaves, for example. On the other hand, the lost and found edges of the flower petals help portray their softness.

Edges are important!

Tuesday, March 1

My Recent Visit to the McNay

View of the McNay Art Museum
Photo by Byrne Smith Copyright 2016
I recently visited an exhibition at the McNay Art Museum (the McNay) in San Antonio. Titled Made in Germany: Contemporary Art from the Rubell Family Collection, it's numerous pieces culled from the collection of the Rubells of Miami, FL.

An informative (and free) pamphlet, given to each visitor, tells you, "Made in Germany unites works by German artists from 1980 to 2014." It provides, in a nutshell, the dramatic political changes that took place before and during this period and several factors that helped shape artists and artwork, such as the Leipzig  school of painting and general attitudes of the East vs. West.

The artwork of 54 (or so) artists can't be described as anything other than contemporary. This includes drawings, paintings, sculptures, textiles, collages, and photographic prints.

For example, there is a large (60 x 48 in/152 x 122 cm) collage by Georg Herold composed of beluga caviar, shellac, asphaltum, and acrylic on canvas. Interesting, and as I said, contemporary. But all are thought-provoking, reflective, and/or attention-getting, if not beautiful.

I think it would be interesting to meet the Rubells and discover how they made their art selections. You can, in a way, because there are three huge headshots (82 x 63 in/208 x 160 cm) on chromogenic prints from 1989, one each of  Mr. Rubell, Mrs. Rubell, and their son Jason Rubell.

I had never been to the McNay, which is located in a leafy setting near Alamo Heights. I was taken not only with the gravitas of this exhibition but also with the rest of the substantive collection, both permanent and currently showing. I especially liked their prominent Edward Hopper: Corn Hill (Truro, Cape Cod), 1930.

If you're in this part of the world, I hope you can visit the McNay and this exhibition, which runs through April 24, 2016.