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.