Monday, December 18

Season's Greetings 2017

Three Christmas Candles
Oil on Canvas Panel
5 x 7 in/12.7 x 17.8 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
As 2017 draws to a close, I'm happy to report that I am finally back again to my painting--pigments, palette, paper, and canvas! This after a devastating hurricane and subsequent record-breaking flood inundated our region at the end of August.

Heartbreaking and deadly, the storm upended lives and families. My home did not flood this year, but two members of my family lost their homes and many possessions. Fortunately, no one was hurt, at least not physically, but since then it has taken all my time and energy to help out. After 3 1/2 months life is just beginning to return to a new normal, but it will take years to completely recover.

I now have some time and, more importantly, the ability to concentrate on painting and creativity. And it came just in time for the holidays. It's difficult to explain just how important that is to a painter's well-being

The image above in today's blog is my first painting since the storm. I hope you enjoy it, and we painters can all look forward to our great and beautiful paintings to come in the new year.

Monday, August 21

Try Painting with Abstraction

Out of the Blue
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
12 x 12 in/30.5 x 30.5 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
Note, I didn't say abstract painting but painting with abstraction. There is a difference, and that is that an abstract painting can be just about whatever the painter says it is--a purple banana, an eyeball on an elbow, mere blobs/drips, no problem.

Painting with abstraction is the art of painting with less realism, sometimes much, much less. It's what many call painting "looser" or maybe more impressionistically. Whatever you call it, it's what I have been attempting to do lately.

Why? Because I like it, for one. I have recently been admiring some of the more abstract paintings that have been pinned on Pinterest. I also think it makes a painting that much more engaging for the viewer. You don't have to put in every little brushstroke so there's no question you're painting leaves on a tree.

Try giving it a little mystery and let the viewers imagine what they will--whatever that is. Try painting with abstraction.

I hope you enjoy my work.

Monday, August 14

Painting a 'Little Gem'

Night Line
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
5 x 7 in/12.7 x 17.7 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
It's been a couple of years since I painted and/or blogged about little gems, not since 2015 to be exact.

If you don't know what a little gem is, it's what I refer to as any small painting--small being 36 square inches (about 232 square centimeters) or less.

I'll tell you why I like little gems. They make you:

- immediately decide the most important things about your painting (composition, viewpoint, focal point)

- paint small, almost miniature, which means you naturally leave out all but the most necessary details

- control your painting world in a very confined space

- paint rather quickly because you can fill up the space with a few brushstrokes

Today's image is only 5 x 7 in (12.7 x 17.7 cm) and was completed in way less than one hour.

I hope you enjoy my work.

Monday, August 7

Another Acrylic on Paper

Night Sky
Acrylic on Arches Paper
9 x 12 in/23 x 30 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
If you keep up with this blog at all, then you know I've recently had a penchant for painting acrylic on watercolor paper, Arches paper to be specific.

I really enjoyed working on this one. The challenge was to paint the clear night sky with few brushmarks  so that it appeared as real as possible--that and the dying sun rays, too.

I hope you enjoy my work.

Friday, July 28

Painting an Acrylic Landscape

Greens and Blues
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
24 x 18 in/60 x 45 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
As I have said before, I enjoy painting landscapes, and this one was no exception.

Taken from a reference photo, I didn't have to do too much cropping to find a pleasing composition: high horizon line with a river for a lead-in.

I used pencil to free-hand the main components.
Next, I considered the palette colors: ultramarine blue, pthalo green, titanium white, violet light blue, yellow ochre, cad yellow light, permanent green light, terra verte, viridian, alizarin crimson.

I painted the sky first. I painted the mountains second. Then I painted the river (first pass). Next I painted the various values of greens of the fields, flatlands and foothills. Then I painted in the trees and other foliage. I did a second pass on the river to show the still as well as moving water and the reflections of the trees.

I let it sit for a day and then gave it a final pass to make refinement; that is, adjust lost-and-found edges, strengthen highlights, and another pass on the sky.

I hope you enjoy my work.

Sunday, July 16

Impressionist Portraits Series 6

Young Mary Cassatt (from Public Domain photo)
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
8 x 10 in/20 x 25 cm)
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
Another painting in my Impressionists Portraits Series, this one of a young Mary Cassatt. I used thinned down acrylic so that it acted similar to watercolor. I also used the naturally transparent acrylic colors of Hansa yellow, cobalt blue, and primary red (similar to permanent rose) along with alizarin crimson, which is semi-transparent. I hope you enjoy my work,

Friday, July 7

Another Encore Painting

Stucco Lighthouse
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
24 x 18 in/61 x 46 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2014

I found another painting "in the back of my closet" in the studio that I decided to frame and hang so that I could look at it all summer long. I remember how much I enjoyed working on this back in 2014.

I hope you enjoy it this summer, too.

Friday, June 30

Acrylic Painting on Paper

Picacho Peak
Acrylic on Arches Paper
12 x 3.5 in/30 x 9 cm (image size)
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
Well, I decided to spend some of my painting time this week working in acrylic on watercolor paper, Arches 140 lb/300 g/m2 paper to be exact. The great weight, texture, and finish of this product make it perfect for painting with acrylics as if they were watercolor.

I also decided to paint two of my favorite subjects: panoramic landscapes and New Mexico, this of Picacho Peak near Las Cruces in the southern part of the state.

If you haven't tried acrylic on watercolor paper yet, especially Arches, you should. You're in for a painterly treat!

Tuesday, June 20

A Landscape for the Summer Season

West of Roswell
Acrylic on Board
24 x 24 in/61 x 61 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
Sometime during the day today or tomorrow will be the "official" start of summer in the northern hemisphere. On that happy occasion, I thought I'd post one of my latest paintings.

It's a summery landscape of a scene in the southwestern US state of New Mexico. As a former resident of the Land of Enchantment, I can tell you there is a lot of beautiful scenery to paint there.

I hope you enjoy my work, and a  happy summer to you.

Friday, June 9

A Still Life for the Summer Season

The Kitchen Window
Oil on Board
24 x 24 in/61 x 61 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
I don't typically paint still lifes. It's not that I dislike still lifes, I really do like them, especially many painted by the Impressionists.

I just don't paint them very often, probably because I don't put enough thought into what I would paint. I'm also not very good at planning ahead so that I don't have any (or many) items on hand that would lend themselves to a good still life painting.

That being the case, I pretty much made up this painting in my head about what would make a good still life. I used several reference photos of lemons that I grouped together, but the rest was imagined. That includes the tabletop, the wallpaper, and the kitchen window with the unremarkable view--they don't exist anywhere but my mind.

I like the results, and that's all that really matters to me. I hope you do, too.

Friday, May 26

Impressionist Portraits Series 5

Frederic Bazille (from Public Domain photo)
Oil on Canvas Panel
8 x 10 in/20 x 25 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
Here's another painting in my series of Impressionist portraits--this of Frederic Bazille, whose life and career were cut short with his untimely death at age 29 in the Prussian-Franco War.

Friday, May 19

Paint a Panorama

Heading West
Acrylic on Arches watercolor paper
12 x 3.5 in/30 x 9 cm (image size)
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
Pan-o-ram-a, noun: an unbroken view of the whole region surrounding an observer.

Well, that defines what a panorama is. So, when I say I like to paint panoramas of landscapes, I suppose what I really mean is I like to paint partial panoramas of landscapes. That is, I paint more of a 180-degree view, not a 360-degree view. Just wanted to clear that up for any compulsive-obsessives out there.

Be that as it may, I love painting panoramas.

They're open and usually vast in scope. They're a vista of a hopefully scenic view, if that's not too redundant.

They make me want to paint, and then they make me want to soar. You can find panoramic landscapes everywhere, or you can close your eyes and imagine one.

I like to use Arches watercolor paper, either 140 lb or 300 lb (300 gsm or 638 gsm) with an aspect ratio of at least 1:2 or better, 1:3 or 1:4.

I also like to use acrylic as if it were watercolor. This allows for flowing washes and unexpected delightful outcomes without constraining creativity.

Paint a panorama and let yourself soar!

Saturday, May 13

Finding Value in an Encore Painting

From the Pier
Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
36 x 24 in/91 x 61 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2008
By encore painting, I mean one that you painted sometime in the distant past. I recently shuffled through a rather crowded upstairs closet and came across a stash of several paintings I did in the late 2000s.

Seems like ancient painting history now, but I was surprised at how well they stood the test of time, at least my  test of time.

This painting is a view of Santa Barbara painted after a trip to that beautiful region of California. It was painted from a reference photo I took from their city pier looking up at the city and surrounding mountains. The photo was quite remarkable, if I do say so, being taken at the height of the "golden" hour one evening in September of 2008.

Reviewing your past paintings is a good exercise. It marks a time in your painting development. It lets you see how much you have hopefully improved over time. It's a win-win in that maybe you can find an old favorite to sell or hang and get your closet cleaned out at the same time.

I hope you find one of your own encore paintings to enjoy.

Saturday, April 22

Impressionist Portraits Series 4

Edgar Degas (from Public Domain photo)
Oil on Canvas Panel
8 x 10 in/20 x 25 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
Another in my portrait series of the Impressionists--this one of Edgar Degas. If you recall, in January I attended a great Degas exhibition at the MFAH--

If you want to put your painting skills, not to mention your patience, to a test, try a portrait!

Thursday, April 13

Another Bluebonnet Painting

Yes, Another Bluebonnet Painting
Acrylic on Arches Paper
26 x 18 in/66 x 46 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
Well, it had been four years since I painted a bluebonnet, so disregarding my blog post from 2013, I went ahead and painted another one. I hope you enjoy the view of the Texas Hill Country.

Monday, April 3

Impressionist Portraits Series 3

Gustave Caillebotte (from Public Domain Photo)
Oil on Canvas Panel
 8 x 10 in/20 x 25 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017

Another painting in the Impressionist portraits series---Gustave Caillebotte

Tuesday, March 21

Impressionist Portraits Series 2

Berthe Morisot (from Public Domain Photo)
Oil on Canvas Panel
8 x 10 in/ 20 x 25 cm
Copyright 2017
Another portrait in my series of the Impressionists.

Sunday, March 5

Impressionist Portraits Series 1

Young Monet from Carjat
Watercolor on Paper
Impressionists Portrait Series No. 1
Copyright 2016 Byrne Smith
As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, I was studying portraiture. This is the first in my series of Impressionists portraits. This is a re-post from my blog honoring Monet's birthday, November 14.

Friday, February 17

Keep Warm with a Painting

Sand 'N Sea
Acrylic on Canvas Panel
10 x 8 in/25.5 x 20.3 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
Can't think of a better way to help keep warm in the middle of winter than to paint a warm-weather motif. I painted this beach scene to warm up--just thinking about the sun and sand while I painted took the chill away.

Try it and let it warm you up...


Monday, January 30

Paint a Freebrush* Watercolor

Kitty Cats
Watercolor on Paper (framed)
7 x 5 in/18 x 13 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith 2017
Today's blog is a follow-on to one posted right after the holidays; that is, painting a family member's pet (or pets) using freebrush,

In case you missed that one, *freebrush is simply using your brush in the same way an artist uses a pencil, pen, or whatever, to draw freehand. Rather than first sketching or drawing (or transferring, or projecting) an image, you simply begin to paint after very carefully and thoughtfully looking at and evaluating your motif.

Just so you know, Kitty Cats was painted from a combination of reference photos.

Does freebrush sound daunting? Well, it can be, especially at first. But as I said, with experience comes control. I hope you find a looseness and freedom in painting this way that you haven't experienced before.


Saturday, January 14

A Degas Exhibition

Part of the Exhibition was
L'Absinthe by Edgar Degas--
 its original title was Dans un CafĂ©
I am so lucky.

So lucky last week to have visited the largest Edgar Degas exhibit in 30 years and the only showing of Degas: A New Vision in the U.S.

So lucky to have the Museum of Fine Arts Houston relatively nearby--only a few freeways away--with its generous funding and a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts.

What a surprising and excellent exhibit of Edgar Degas' works of a lifetime. Although most of us probably only think of Degas primarily as a painter in pastel (and a few oils) of ballerinas as they rehearse and perform their ballets, his body of work encompassed much more than that.

The exhibit presented his work chronologically; that is, from his beginning historical painting in the 1850s-60s to landscapes, racehorses, brothel scenes and New Orleans in the 1870s to his ballets and theaters in the 1870s-80s to his working women in the 1880s to his final years painting jockeys and more landscapes.

What was surprising, to me anyway, was that he also produced his one and only famous sculpture, The Little Fourteen-Year-Dancer, which was prominently on display. Also surprising at the end of his career was his artistic work in the new medium of photography, which showed many of his cropping techniques from his ballet dancer paintings.

So lucky to have seen the beautiful exhibit before its close on January 16. Hope someday you will be so lucky and see his work up close, too.

Monday, January 2

Learn to Paint Freebrush*

An Example of Painting Freebrush - Three Plums
Watercolor on Strathmore Watercolor Paper
12 x 9 in/30.5 x 23 cm
Copyright Byrne Smith
Well, it's a new year. Time for  new starts and trying out new things and expanding your horizons and all that.

Painters really need to do those things from time to time to get out of the painting doldrums. We tend to get stuck in our well-worn ruts and caught up in our same ol' ways of doing things. We forget that creativity is the exploring of the fresh and the new.

In that context, I propose a "new way" to paint or at least it may be new to a lot of painters. I decided to call this "new way"--freebrush, for lack of a better term, although it's probably not "new" or a "way."

Be that as it may, * freebrush is--painting much the same way as an artist draws freehand. That is, you just paint with a paintbrush rather than draw with a pencil or pen or charcoal or marker or whatever you use. You don't first sketch, or outline, or trace, or project what you're going to paint.

You just freebrush. You look very carefully and thoughtfully at what you're going to paint. You find a starting point, any old place will do, but I suggest the focal point. You pick up your brush and carefully deliver your stroke in just the right place--lay it down and then DON'T MESS WITH IT. You do that over and over until you believe the painting is finished (a subject of another whole blog).

I did not say it was easy. I said it may be a "new way" to paint for some. If you can draw, you can freebrush, and, conversely, if you can't, you're going to have a heck of a time of it. I think most painters would say that good painting begins with good drawing.

Today's simple painting of three plums may give you a place to start. Simple subject, simple background (and foreground), simple setup. This is watercolor, but any medium will do. I used just two colors, French ultramarine and alizarin crimson (hue). Just look and then freebrush it.

With experience comes control. You may find, as I did, that it's hard to go back to painting the "old way" because I feel like I was just painting within the lines. This reduces some of that rigidness and lets you paint freely (or more freely).

But to bring this full circle, learning how to draw and/or freebrush in the new year should get you out of those painting doldrums if nothing else.

Happy New Year from The Painting Life.