Sunday, July 9, 2017

Zeroing In on a complicated scene.

Below are some photos of a beautiful area in my neighborhood where I love to paint.  I have painted there many times but have only once produced a frame worthy painting. The rest have been unsuccessful attempts.  That has not kept me from returning to the site because, well, I'm stubborn.









The trouble with scenes like these is there is so much information and deciding what to include can be a challenge.  Painters new to plein air tend to include everything they see in their painting.  Using a view finder to limit the scene can be very helpful.  In a recent workshop our group was given the task of focusing on very specific areas at the above site.  We were to paint 4 or more small (6"x8") paintings that were simplified close-ups of compositions we found interesting.  Here is what I did-







I liked these little pieces much more than anything I have painted there before. The ones on the above right and the lower left are the exact same spot at a slightly different angle. I barely had to turn my easel. I liked the composition on the lower left the most so I painted it again on a larger panel.  My only reference was my small painting.  I did not use a photo.


                             


Here it is (12"x16"), maybe not better, but at least I tried.  Larger paintings require more information and it is easy to lose the freshness of a small quick sketch.  That said, try making small studies when confronted with a big complicated scene. Zero in on something that interests you and see what you can do with it.  

Keep painting!
And thanks for reading.








Friday, June 2, 2017

A Useful App- Part Two

This January I  wrote about an app called Art Set Pro and showed examples of how you can use it to try revisions on a photo of an existing painting or to improve a reference photo.  Take a look if you did not see it.  https://colleenparkerart.blogspot.com/2017/01/

Recently I made some changes with this app on the photo below to see what I could do with it.



I liked the light and shadow patterns, the planter itself and the color of the water.  I didn't like the grill, etc. in the background, the unattractive window and doors and the neighboring house.  This was a lot to deal with so I decided to work with it on the app. After a few tries I came up with this-



I didn't change the planter or pool but in place of the neighboring house I painted sky.  I replaced the grill with another planter and simplified the house in order to make the pattern of light more apparent.  I changed the shape of the hedge so it wasn't a sharp line (it was actually a vine covered wall). I cropped the foreground and left side for a better composition.

Using the above as my reference I painted the scene-



My intention was to make the planter in the foreground the center of interest.  The path in shadow leads the viewer to the planter in the background and the pattern of light on the house.  Now look back at the original photo.  The busy details in the background would have been very distracting.  I could have made a preliminary sketch to accomplish the same thing but it was helpful to work it out with color.

When you take reference photos make a note of what it was that drew you to the scene. That is what you want to emphasize.  The rest can be left out or simplified.

I used my usual simple palette of cool and warm primaries on top of a tonal block in with burnt sienna and ultramarine blue.  Occasionally I add a wild card- in this case thalo turquoise, a seldom used color in my paint box.  I cannot mix the color of the pool water with my usual palette.  (I also use this color when painting caribbean water.)

So more photos, more notes.
Thanks for reading!


Sunday, May 7, 2017

On Discouragement

Just about every artist who writes has written about the ups and downs of a painter's life, especially the downs.  Carol Marine devoted an entire chapter to painter's block and discouragement in her book Daily Painting and included writings from other artists.  We can lose sight of the progress we have made when we are in a bad place mentally.  Here are some of my own lows over the past nine years.

I'm haven't improved- maybe I'm just not talented (when I first started painting).
Painting is like any other discipline.  It takes many miles of canvas to acquire the necessary skills to make successful paintings.  Truly accomplished artists were not born with the ability to paint like they do.  One of my favorite quotes regarding talent, by Richard Schmid in his widely read book Alla Prima, is: "Don't bother about whether or not you have it.  Just assume that you do, and then forget about it."  He goes on to discuss talent in a way that has been very helpful to me. When well meaning people tell me I'm talented (and exempt themselves by saying they can't draw a straight line...) I have to remind myself that it is a compliment.  What I'm really thinking is that this pronouncement makes it sound as though all I did was pick up a paintbrush one day and instantly produce reasonably good paintings, which couldn't be farther from the truth. When up against everything there is to learn, a beginning painter can easily get discouraged to the point of giving up.  If this is where you are on your art journey I encourage you to talk to other artists about it and read everything you can on the subject. Believe that you will improve and keep at it. There are no shortcuts.

I used to be a better painter than I am now (when looking at my older files)
With few exceptions I have photos of every painting I have ever finished- even the very worst ones.  I did this so I could gauge my progress.  Sometimes this has backfired.  Early on I occasionally knocked one out of the ball park, at least for my skill level at the time. A few of those paintings are still favorites.  When I've had a run of unsuccessful paintings and happen to look back on an old one that turned out well, I have convinced myself from time to time that I have lost it.  In reality, though I did paint some good paintings 3 or more years ago, they were the exceptions.  When I study my failed paintings from the same period, I am able to see that I am a more consistent painter now. Also my standards are higher, meaning that my definition of success has changed.  If I compare my failures now to my failures in past years, they are better failures. A very accomplished professional artist recently told me that 75% of her paintings are not successes.  This undoubtedly reflects her high standards, but no matter where we are skill-wise we should not expect to succeed every time we approach the canvas.  And as many have said, our failures help us grow.  Instead of letting many failures lay you low, consider the possibility that you have set a higher bar for yourself.

I'm will never be accepted into the national shows.
This is the one that has occupied my thoughts the most in the past couple of years.  I have entered 2-3 of these every year for about 3 years.  I never have an expectation of being accepted, yet I must admit that when I see the DECLINE button I allow myself a 5 minute pity party.  (It doesn't help that the day the results are announced Facebook is filled with posts from happy acceptees.)  The important thing is this- I get right back to work.  If I never get into a prestigious show it will have been a goal that inspired me to study and paint, and for that I am truly grateful.  It also gives me specific deadlines which I would not have otherwise.  Debra Groesser recently wrote a great article for the Oil Painters of America about getting one's work into exhibitions.  She mentioned that it took her 13 tries to get into the OPA National Juried Show.  I encourage you to read it if you are entering this stage of your art journey.  http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=26456f1bf6fd41604d37706ea&id=dcc00ee4eb&fblike=fblike-a1a37c3f&e=%5BUNIQID%5D&socialproxy=http%3A%2F%2Fus2.campaign-archive1.com%2Fsocial-proxy%2Ffacebook-like%3Fu%3D26456f1bf6fd41604d37706ea%26id%3Ddcc00ee4eb%26url%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fblog.oilpaintersofamerica.com%252F2017%252F03%252Fgetting-work-tips-entering-juried-shows%252F%26title%3DGetting%2520Your%2520Work%2520Out%2520There%2520%25E2%2580%2593%2520Tips%2520on%2520... 
From the judging side, Barbara Jaenicke blogged about what they are up against and a bit about her own path to the nationals.  http://barbarajaenicke.blogspot.com/2017/02/being-your-own-juror.html

I can't get in a good gallery, so I must be a bad artist... 
Fortunately I have moved on (and I'll get back to this) but it can be a big one for many emerging artists.  Even the top professionals sometimes have difficulties finding galleries that are good fits for them.  Being in a bad gallery or one that does not treat the artists well is not worth it.  For professionals who must support a family with their art I do not have meaningful advice as that is not my situation, but I have heard wonderful podcasts on The Savvy Painter with many well known contemporary artists who have achieved financial success. I encourage everyone to check out this website because it is well done and interesting.  https://savvypainter.com/series/artists/
For those of us who do not have to make a living income with our art I do have advice. There are so many ways to get your work out there.  You do not have to be in a gallery. Selling online is easy to do and financially beneficial.  I have reached the point where I cover all of my expenses and make a modest profit.  Word of mouth adds up with time. Local events call attention to your work, so participate whenever you can.  The best way to grow as an artist is to paint what you are passionate about, not what a gallery tells you to paint or what the market demands (which can change on a dime).  Though it is all well and good to be in a gallery and selling, make artistic growth your top priority.

I don't feel like painting today though I know I should....
It's OK!  Because the daily painting movement has become so publicized through books, articles, websites and the never ending "challenges", there is pressure to paint daily no matter what.  I am often asked by painters and non-painters alike whether or not I paint everyday. My answer is no.  Frequent painting is the way to improve, but forcing yourself to paint is rarely productive.  Some have suggested these are good days to clean the studio or do some other art related chore on the "to do" list.  I like to take time out for photography which gives me inspiration.  Keeping a regular schedule to paint is a good practice, but allow some flexibility.  Do whatever it takes, guilt free, to clear you head.

Because blog posts should have at least one photo (I hear) I will close with this-


Spring in Charleston.  Photo credit goes to Bruce Dean. Sorry this was so long but if you made it here thanks for reading!



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Blog "Lite"- Just for Fun

I have talked about my photo files in previous posts.  I keep files of paintings by others that I love by subject matter and I keep photos of all my paintings (even the unsuccessful ones) filed by year.

I haven't mentioned my "Fun Things" file.  It is mostly random funny photos plus a few memes that I have found entertaining.  Recently I noticed that I have acquired quite a few plein air photos with a twist.  Unfortunately I failed to note the artist/photographer in many cases.  I would like to share some of these with you but I apologize to any photographers not credited.  So if this is your photo or you know who posted it on FB please let me know and I will edit this post to include that info.   I do not make money on this blog so this is solely for entertainment purposes.

First two photos of plein air artists who are not afraid of large panels-


                                                             

                                                       Fred Doloresco



                            Artist unknown, demonstrating that one can't go too horizontal.


And some close encounters of the animal kind-

                                                                   
                                                            Artist unknown


                                                Artist unknown, it's a mama moose.


                                                   Roos Schuring (the Netherlands)


                                           Artist unknown- this looks like a serious critique...



        He's really getting into it!  I suspect this was taken with a zoom lens.
Artist John Hughs, hopefully still living.


And my own visitors on a Colorado ranch, photographer and artist Karen Toppel.


Maybe someday I'll get a photo of a local alligator critiquing my work, with the zoom of course...

Thanks for looking!

Friday, March 10, 2017

How to Mount a Painted Canvas

I touched on this in a post last year but will now get down to the How To's.  I have been making my own small panels for over a year and have found it to be easy and economical. I use oil primed linen which I buy on sale in rolls and either Gatorfoam or hardboard panels.  Gatorfoam is 3/8" so 2 panels will not fit in one slot in many wet panel carriers, including the ones I like from RayMar. Hardboards are 1/4" thick and though 2 will fit, they are heavier.

If I am going on a painting trip that involves air travel I keep my supplies as lightweight and compact as possible.  An artist friend of mine who travels frequently suggested that I paint on unmounted canvas taped to a support (I use corrugated plastic sheets) and mount the "keepers" later when I get home.  Pieces of canvas weigh almost nothing and take up very little space.  I pack the number of supports I need for one day, 2-3 usually.  At the end of the day I remove the painted canvases to dry and apply new ones for the next day.  At the end of the trip I pack the painted canvases in a large storage baggie with pieces of wax paper in between.  All of the "masterpieces" can be mounted after they are dry to the touch and here is how you do it.  Links to the supplies are at the end of this post.

Besides the canvas and panel of your choice you will need:



The hand roller is called a brayer.  I use neutral pH adhesive by Lineco but many artists prefer a product called Miracle Muck (cannot be shipped in cold weather).

To get set to paint draw a line around your panel on the canvas.  Cut it out with about 1" extra on the edges.

Tape it to a support carefully lining up the tape with the drawn edges.  I prefer white artists' tape but some use blue painters tape.



The exposed canvas is the size of the panel you will use later for mounting.   Tone your canvas and the tape (unless you paint on white canvas).

Now paint something.....


If you decide to send it to the landfill you have wasted very little, maybe $1.  (And you didn't waste your time because we learn from our failed paintings, right?)  If it's a keeper you can mount it when it is dry to the touch.  Remove it from the support and lie flat to dry so you can use the support to get  your next canvas ready.

Here's the tricky part- you want to be able to see exactly where the edges of the painting are on the back side.  Remove the tape from the dry painting and make a hole in each corner with a nail like this:


The nail needs to be big enough to make a hole that can easily be seen on the back side.  Next take your ruler and using the holes as a guideline draw the 4 sides with a pencil.



It should look like this-  these lines show you where the edges of the painting are on the other side.



Now spread the adhesive on the right side of your panel.  One thing I like about hardboard is that it is dark so it is easy to see that you have covered it completely with glue.  I use a cheap hardware brush for this.  Sponge brushes work well also but they absorb (and waste) a lot of the adhesive.  Make sure you get plenty of adhesive on the edges.


Carefully place the glue side of the panel onto the back of the canvas making sure that the corners touch the nail holes and the sides fit within the pencil lines.


Turn it over and use the brayer to adhere it and remove any air bubbles.



Put some heavy books on top of the panel and allow the glue to dry,  overnight is best but at least for a few hours.

Now all you have to do is trim off the excess canvas with a utility knife- make sure the blade is very sharpe.  Do this on a thick piece of non corrugated cardboard.  The back of a large sketch tablet works well.


If you find that there is a small amount of unpainted canvas at the edge of your painting you can touch this up and put other finishing touches on the painting, especially if you want areas of very thick paint.  I think it is best to wait until mounted for that because I don't like to use the brayer over really thick paint.

There are many helpful videos and articles online on panel making.  You will see a variety of approaches but this has worked well for me.  Here is a helpful video by Dr. Nick Chalfa posted on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LesUQy6XbwI&feature=youtu.be

If you want to make your own blank panels do all of the above minus marking the lines on the front and back of the canvas.

And consider this-  you can use unmounted canvas for exercises in workshops or for small studies.  Instead of mounting them, store them in a notebook or file folder for future reference to save space.

And now for the supplies-

Any hardware store will have cheap wide brushes (or foam brushes) and utility knives.

A T-square (metal ruler) is good for this and comes in handy for a number of things https://www.amazon.com/Westcott-Calibrated-T-Square-Aluminum-AP-24/dp/B009ONTI2U/ref=sr_1_5?s=office-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1488840253&sr=1-5&keywords=t+square+24

For the adhesive- http://www.jerrysartarama.com/lineco-neutral-ph-adhesive?gclid=CjwKEAiArvTFBRCLq5-7-MSJ0jMSJABHBvp0eEUVJMNYdUKAX8RlwuwJgMnwKYyVWnpdkmeB6ITgOhoC27nw_wcB

For the brayer- https://www.amazon.com/Inovart-Roller-Soft-Rubber-Brayer/dp/B0044S5BC6/ref=sr_1_27?s=arts-crafts&ie=UTF8&qid=1488841643&sr=1-27&keywords=brayer  There are so many that would be fine, this is just an example.

Plastic sheeting/panels to support the canvas-https://www.amazon.com/Corrugated-Plastic-Panels-16-inch-Poster/dp/B00J4MMZCG/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1488298749&sr=8-3&keywords=corrugated+plastic+black
Important- if you paint outside get the black ones so the light won't go through your canvas.  If you are only going to use this indoors clear is fine.  Tip- cut these in sizes that fit into your wet panel carriers.

Gatorfoam-  http://www.foamboardsource.com/gatorfoams--gatorfoam--3-16--gatorfoam.html
I like this product but as I said they are a little too thick to double up in the carriers but are very light and strong.

And I love these hardboard panels.  They are a bit more expensive, but I have found that some of the less expensive brands have a tendency to warp. http://www.jerrysartarama.com/ampersand-hardbord-panels

Artists' tape
https://www.amazon.com/Pro-PRO-5330-1-White-Artist-Tape/dp/B0027AAH5O/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1488850869&sr=8-4&keywords=artist+tape+for+canvas

Many thanks to artists Pat Schwert and Judy Elias for all of their input and helpful instruction.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Workshops #3- consider putting one on.

Back to workshops-  in your neck of the woods.  If you do not have anything going on in your area think about starting something.

It takes at least one committed person but is more manageable with two.  I have been involved for at least 5 years with a very informal local art guild.  We are fortunate to have access to a community center that is not expensive to rent.  We put on 2 a year and I team up with another member to run them.  Gradually we have cultivated a group of local enthusiastic painters who want to take workshops.  This is just a small subset of our guild but the number has grown.  Here is a "how to" list of the process.

1.  Consider artists whose workshops you have taken, who have been recommended by others or whom you follow on social media.

2.  Plan it a year in advance.  The best artists schedule way ahead because they are in demand.

3.  Reach out to the instructors you would like to have and invite them.  Ask them about their fees and how they handle expenses.  This is highly variable in my experience and depends on travel distance, their baseline fees (usually priced per participant per day with a minimum number) and whether or not they will already be in your area.  We put the artists up in our homes and make sure that their transportation needs are met.  We cover their lunch expenses and have one or two group dinners (pot luck type) during the workshop.  Most of our workshops are 3 days, occasionally 4.  We limit the number of participants to 12.

4. Reserve the space.  If you have a space of your own that is great, but if not see what is available near you and what it will cost.  Think about community centers, neighborhood club houses,  meeting halls, friends with large studios or local studios willing to rent space for events.  Keep size and lighting in mind.

5.  Once you have the instructor and space reserved, inform your local artists.  If you do not think you can fill the workshop with locals ask the instructor to post it on his/her website and Facebook.

6.  Pricing depends on your overhead and what the instructor charges.  Require a deposit to reserve a spot. We ask for $100,  refundable until a month before the workshop when the balance is due.  After that nothing is refundable unless the vacancy can be filled.  Be sure that you explain your cancelation policy up front.  Keep a cancellation list and work it if needed.

7.  Make a mailing group of those who have signed up.  And- very important- create a file of all emails sent and received that relate to the workshop.  This will save so much time when participants say they can't find an email or never received one.  😩

8.  Get the supply list from the instructor and forward it to the group at least 6 weeks in advance.  Ask the instructor if the supply list is up to date.  (Participants get frustrated when they buy paint colors and other supplies that are no longer used by the instructor.) Let the participants know if they need to bring their own reference photos.  The week before remind them of the hours, place to meet, lunch plans and evening plans if any.  If you have participants coming from other areas send them lodging information or arrange for them to stay with local artists.

9.  Build it and they will come!  Save an email list of those who have participated in the past and stay in touch with them.  Having workshops in your area is fun and rewarding.

Feel free to post questions!

Here we are in our workshop this month with Chris Groves-












Friday, February 3, 2017

Paint it small, paint it big!

Before painting on a large canvas try a small version first.  It's always good to start with sketches but there are benefits from planning with paint.  You might create a small painting that is frame worthy.  You will have worked out the composition, values and colors before you ever start the big project.  Painting a large painting from a small one requires the addition of more information and it is easier to do that if you have already worked out the rest.

Recently I have been pushing myself to paint larger for the experience.  I have been reluctant because I am not represented by a gallery.  Selling large paintings online is more difficult than selling small ones and I don't want to end up with a storage unit full of paintings.  That is the practical side but there is another reason. Whenever I see a small and large version of the same scene, I almost always prefer the small one no matter how well the large one is executed. Smaller paintings are more simplified because they have to be (unless you are painting with mouse hairs).  With a small canvas it is easier to get a favorable brush to canvas ratio- the bigger the brush the better but you can only go so big with a huge canvas.  Oversized brushes and large palette knives are available but are cumbersome and I find enormous brush strokes distracting.  In theory small paintings can be painted more quickly and thus tend to have a spontaneous feel.  Plein air paintings have to be spontaneous because of time limitations.

So how small and how big?  This is entirely personal.   Start with a small size that is comfortable.   Paint as large as you want to paint or is practical for you.  Consider your studio space, storage space and your easel.  I once painted on a canvas larger than the easel I had at the time could support, so I had to lean it against the wall and sit on the floor to paint.  I do not recommend this.  As I said above, I have been pushing myself to paint larger in spite of my preference for smaller paintings.  The more I do it the better I will become.  I am trying not to worry about storage (up to a point) as long as I am growing as a painter.

Here is a recent project.  My comfort zone is 8" x 10" to 16" x 20".  The small painting is 6" x 8" and the large one is 24" x 36". Note that the proportions are different so I had to add more of the original photo to fill the width of the canvas.  It would have been easier to keep the proportions the same.  This was a big jump.  Some artists paint an intermediate size before going really big.  Also keep in mind that the more you paint a subject the better you will know it, even if you paint it the same size every time.



I encourage you (and myself) to get out of your size "comfort zone" while keeping the practical aspects in mind.

Thanks for reading!