Sunday, March 20, 2016

Study Art That You Love

In addition to reading about art, which obviously includes studying images, keeping image files of other artists work that you admire is a valuable learning tool.  There are many ways to do this and I will share my approach.

I am on Facebook and though I do follow friends and family, my main purpose is to follow artists.  I never wanted to join a social network until an artist friend suggested it.  Over a several year period I was able to either become friends with or follow many wonderful painters.  Every morning I look forward to seeing all the beautiful things they have posted.

Of course I don't save everything I see, but when I see something that is similar to a subject I have painted or plan to,  is a particular genre I wish to try, or excites me in its overall statement, I save it to my photo album labelled "Other Artists' Work".  This folder contains files by genre.  Below is a screen shot of part of this album.  All you can see are the index images, but each file may have as many as two hundred.

To save an image on FB, first click on the post to go from the newsfeed to the full screen post.  I have an Apple with a track pad so I click and drag the image into Photos and then assign it to the correct file.  On a PC you would right click and choose "save to photos".

By now some of you are saying "I am not on FB and don't want to be".  Understandable.  You can look up artists you admire and find images on their websites and on Google.  I have found that galleries often do not allow me to save images from their websites.  You can find art by genre on Pinterest.  If you follow art blogs you can get images that way.  You will want to arrange your images in a way that suits your specific needs.  I lump all of my animal images into one file, but if you are a serious cow painter you would want a cow file, and so on.

Now what?  Sometimes I just look through my files for inspiration.  If I am having difficulties with a painting I am working on I look for successful paintings with similar subject matter and try to see how the artist made it work.  It is surprising how often I find an image that is so similar to a reference photo I am planning to use.  Here is an example-

This is a pond scene that I pass regularly.  I have yet to try to paint it, but see how another artist handled a very similar scene.

Unfortunately I saved this image early on before I realized that I needed to note the artist and what made me want to save it.  So if you painted this please let me know!  I just love this piece.

If you don't already have art image files give it a try.  Don't get overwhelmed.  Just saving one image a day quickly adds up.

Happy painting and thanks for reading!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Required Reading #1- Books you will love

There are at least three essentials for becoming a good painter-

1. Get quality instruction from the beginning and continue to do so throughout your painting life.
2. Paint often, not allowing failed paintings to keep you from doing so.
3.  READ!  Discover books that you can understand and, hopefully, enjoy reading so you will re-read them as you progress.  You will find that there were many lessons you did not absorb initially simply because you were not ready.

Below are 4 books that have profoundly influenced my painting experience.  I read them early on and many times since.  I have left out some earlier classics and I will get to those in another post, but at least for me these books were more accessible and enjoyable for a beginner looking for inspiration as well as information.  I will list them in the order I would recommend you read them if you have not already.

Oil Painting for the Serious Beginner by Steve Allrich.  
This is a short book with many wonderful color photos of the artist's work.  It can be read in one session.  It touches on all the major aspects of painting, from materials to making painting a career.  It includes fine examples of still life, interiors and landscape and has a very concise discussion about plein air painting.  

Landscape Painting Inside and Out by Kevin Macpherson.  Obviously meant for the landscape painter, this book is full of beautiful compositions and many demonstrations that allow one to see how the artist develops his paintings.  He addresses studio painting as well as plein air.  (I could just have easily listed Fill Your Oil Paintings with Color and Light by the artist which includes some figurative and still life work.)

Oil Painting, the Workshop Experience by Ted Goerschner.  Same as the above examples, specifically from a workshop point of view.  I like the "paint on" critiques included here and his chapter about a difficult day of plein air painting.

Alla Prima, Everything I Know About Painting by Richard Schmid.  I would not choose this for my first book to read, but do read it as soon as you have a few other books under your belt and have started painting with some regularity.  The copyright on this book is 1999 but it became an "instant classic" and has inspired many wonderful contemporary painters.  The artist really does tell all he knows in a very generous way.  The writing is excellent.  Don't let it overwhelm you.  I like to read this one cover to cover once a year or so (I might be a year behind!) and each time find things I didn't appreciate before.  Many beautiful color photos complete the experience of reading this gem.

I like to read art books at bedtime.  Each chapter can stand alone, a plus for those of us with shorter attention spans that time of day.  And, art books make pleasant dreams.