But Wait…..I Think There is More….

How do we know when an art piece is done? There are times when we just want to keep adding things/details/color…..whatever……because we can and because we are having fun and, maybe, because we are testing ourselves. But when is the piece actually done? Well, in truth, it depends on you and what your intent is.

If you look at Hieronymus Bosch paintings, for example, many are filled with lots of details. “The Garden of Earthly Delights”, below, is just one example.

400px-Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_-_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_(Ecclesia's_Paradise)

But if you look at many Eugene Carriere painting, they are simple in composition and color.

A question you can ask yourself is, “what is the least amount I can put in and still have it work?” But to do this, you need to know what you want to evoke at the beginning. Sometimes it will change as you are working, but you need a start. For example, I had an idea for a painting, but as I started working on it, it was more interesting as a somewhat abstract work. It was really, really hard to not continue and I added more and more details until I had to physically walk away from the piece. While it’s cool now, I liked it better when it was more abstract.

I then painted a second painting and included more detail, though not as much as I often do.

It’s up to the painter and the viewer to decide which is more pleasing to look at, and I am often surprised that what I like and think is a better work, a collector will totally overlook.

From my perspective less is more as the viewer will fill in what’s missing and make the artwork more their own. But in the end, it’s up to you and your particular style and personality. Experiment and see what happens. Honestly, not every piece you make will be a success, but every piece should be considered an experiment.

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Mother & Calf

It’s spring time and that means all kinds of new babies. This baby cow, with it’s knobby knees and mom licking it clean, looks like it pretty recently made its entrance. This small painting is part of my regular daily painting practice.

Mother and Calf is available here and shipping is included

Ebay Mother & Calf 5.jpg

Mother and Calf

Oil on Canvas

7 x 5

Bidding begins at $95 and includes free shipping

Daily(ish) Painting

I’ve been painting for a pretty long time on a regular basis, but having announced that for at least the next year I would be doing a daily(ish) painting and then posting it for sale on Ebay and other sites, I find I’m both addicted to this practice and also a bit in a quandary to keep coming up with fresh ideas. But let’s back up and see where I’ve been and what has happened, just in case you want to follow a similar path.

My postings began in very early January. I planned on doing small works, mostly 5 x 7’s, some 6 x 8’s and a few 8 x 10’s. I ordered over 200 panels and started to paint them mid December so that I would have a stock to fill in gaps when I was on holiday or teaching and couldn’t get to my easel. I was nervous and excited, but mostly nervous about posting so often. I have a fair email list but would this consistent in-box posting put people off??

After letting people know this is what I was going to do and the date I was going to start, and then encouraging my peeps to either look and bid or just delete – no pressure- I started with a very strong painting that I hoped would sell and sent the first email. It sold with multiple bids!

#1 Ebay Honey jar small.jpg

And then I sent a second painting, and a third, and a fourth……day after day……It was too much. I was getting a serious number of ‘unsubscribes’! It freaked me out.  I know from reading other blogs that we need to find our own ‘tribe’. But it reminded me of all the people we think are our friends on FB, but they aren’t really. OK, no problem. Re-think how I might feel. So I went to every other day.

After 2 weeks I needed to take deep breaths before opening my email to see who else was, ‘no longer interested’, but then things started to stabilize and fewer were opting out. After a month (and several more sales) people were dropping me notes to say how much they enjoyed seeing what I was doing. People at my local Trader Joe’s would talk to me about what they saw. It was very encouraging. And now I didn’t want to let anyone down!

It’s been just over 50 paintings and this is what I’ve learned so far:

  • People will unsubscribe and that’s OK. I lost about 12% of my list, but when I really looked at who unsubscribed they often didn’t open any of my emails.
  • People are watching….way more than I thought they were.
  • People have let me know they are encouraged by what I’m doing.
  • Sales will happen, but not always directly. One client bought 3 paintings after the auctions ended, including one which was a larger piece.
  • It’s hard to stay motivated. It’s just a given. But create regardless.

If you have a daily or almost daily practice, I would love to know how this has changed and affected you and your work. I will post about this again in a few months.

 

Daily(ish) Painting – Avocado and Tulip

I will have a bit of catching up to do as I’ve been on Colorado visiting and studying the Degas exhibit at the Denver Museum. If you have a chance, GO! I will write about it, and also my visit to the abstract painter’s Clifford Still Museum, which is right next door, in a later post.

But for now here are a couple of paintings that I have on Ebay as part of my Daily(ish) Paintings.

Avocado

Ebay Avocado 5

And Tulip

Ebay Tulip 5

 

Using Pastel to Quickly Lay In an Underpainting in Oil

If time is short, or the scene will quickly change, or I want to experiment with underlying color, I will lay in an oil painting using a hard pastel such as a NuPastel and then ‘melt’ the pastel with OMS (Odorless Mineral Spirits). Pastels have the same pigments as any other colored product but the binder is different. OMS will dissolve the binder and allow the pigment to adhere to the canvas whether it is oil or acrylic primed. You can see where I’ve done this in another posts here.

In this painting I was after one major goal….to get the grapes to really glow. I thought the best way to do this would be to lay in the grapes with a color that is analogous to the general hue (color) of the red grapes. I chose a reddish plum because it is in the red family and the lighter, brighter orange would pop against it.

P1090338

In this image you can see the still life I’m going to paint in the upper left corner. The orange pastel is where the lightest part of the grapes will be.

For the green bottle I used a brighter pink as I wanted to dull down the green. I could have used an analogous color such as Cobalt or Cerulean which would have pushed the green better, and I might in a future study.

Notice that I just mass in large blocks of shapes. It’s these large blocks that I will make more specific as I move through the painting. At this stage I want to establish where things will go and their relationship to each other. One thing I ignored in laying in the pastel is the light/dark relationship. In fact, the bottle is darker than the grapes which are, for the most part, a dark middle and a dark value, and the background a light value. The lines that you see in green are compositional lines that I often use to help with the design and to quickly lay in an accurate drawing.

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I’m starting to lay in the dark dull green of the bottle and in the next photo I’m starting to add the lighter yellowish green elements of the bottle and the background

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Once I’ve set the value and hue I can start to move on to the grapes. The biggest challenge is getting the grapes to glow. Grapes are semi-translucent and I want to emphasize all the warm rich colors that are in them. One way is by using a green bottle as that is the opposite of red/orange. The other way will be to play warm/cool of the grapes and to add bits of grey. Because grey is so neutral it is a wonderful color that will help the color shine.

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Im still keeping the grapes rather blocky and loose, only establishing large shapes and light/dark relationships. I’m starting to make more distinctions in the dark areas by adding some darker and cooler spots of color as well as darker and warmer spots of color. Because I want to highlight the warmth and glow of the light part of the grapes I’m making sure to make the darker masses cooler in the area closest to the bright and light section. In the end, the goal is to have it read as true even if it isn’t exactly what my eye might be seeing.

The next step is to start refining the shapes of the grapes and the background. I keep checking through my viewfinder to make sure I’ve not lost my compositional structure and one of those is the triangle shape that is created from where the grapes lay on the ground plane and then start to move up.

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Finally, I will add any other details that will help the final result….color, temperature, drawing, highlights, and hard/soft edges.

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If you want to see a time lapse video of this click here.

My, What Big Eyes You Have! – Drawing Realistic Eyes

Drawing eyes, or any part of the face is tricky because we are all so familiar with the human face. We start looking at faces from birth. We look at babies and they to us. So what we tend to do when drawing the face, especially eyes, is to exaggerate. Eyes get drawn with dark lines instead of emerging out of a darkish area of the socket which end up looking more like an Egyptian kohl eye than a more naturalistic eye.

To draw eyes well there are some physical considerations. The first is the skull itself and the socket. When you see a skull (and at halloween you can see lots of skulls) there is a hole where the eye ball, muscles, and skin will fill. Notice the shape of that hole. It’s not round! It’s kind of shaped like a pair of sunglass lenses, more of a rectangle shape. Notice the slope of the eye brow bone. Each side bends down toward the ear. Notice also at the bottom where its lower and higher.

Skull-PNG-Image.png

Inside this cavity sits a ball. To start the drawing draw a ball shape, but fill the cavity. Remember, we are seeing just a small section of the orb of the eye. If you take a ping-pong ball, you can start to visualize it sitting in the ‘eye-glass lense’ shape. In fact, you could make a model using a ping pong ball as the eye ball.

The bone of the brow ridge, the top of the socket sits FORWARD, or IN FRONT OF the ball. So how do you show this?  By remembering that there is going to be a shadow created by the brow ridge and socket bone. To render this, lay in a middle to dark middle value in the whole eye socket area, but still keep the ball lightly visible.

eye ball massed in

Over this lightly draw in the eye lid. When drawing the lid, notice, again, which is higher, which is lower in both the top and bottom lids. The ball is now being covered by the skin (and muscle) on both the top and bottom of the sphere.

eye lid

When drawing the lid, but make sure you draw it lower than the top of the circle. Note where the corners of the eye are. The top of the circle of the eye ball is where the lid dives back in to the socket. It’s the area where one would apply eye shadow.

The lid will make it’s own shadow on eye ball, and the iris is often darker, even in pale eyes. When drawing the iris, notice what master painters have done – they use straight lines to depict the shape. The reason is that we, the viewer, will round it. And as an artist it’s easier to create the illusion of round with straight lines, especially in a small, tight area such as the eye.

eye iris

Add the lighter, highlight to the lid(s) as it’s also a ball on top of a ball and needs to show form. You can also add a highlight to the eye itself, but be judicious. See what really there and make sure the highlight is not too dark, nor too light. It has to be in the correct value.

eye finish

Remember that all the prep work you do underneath the drawing should be light, but dark enough for you to see, and most especially accurate. If it’s not accurate, what ever gets laid on top will be off. So take your time to really observe and get it correct. To go fast, go slow. Take your time. You will live with the drawing way longer than it will take to make it, so be really thoughtful about your lay-ins.

This is just a basic lay in and can be taken further. One book that I use often and travel with is John Vanderpoel’s “Human Figure”. In it he breaks the figure down in to their separate parts. Copy them until you can do them from memory.

 

The Baffling Attributes of White Paints

There are several versions of white paints and their attributes can be a bit confounding. Warm, cool, tinted, leaded, non-leaded…..How does one choose?

Let’s start with the reason most painters use white and what it does. Simply, most painters use white to lighten a color’s value. It’s not the only way to do it, and not necessarily the best way to do it, but it is the most direct and basic method. It also will dull and cool the color you want to lighten because white is actually the lightest version of grey.

That being said, here are some of the properties of whites.

Titanium White is the most opaque and is non-toxic. Some see it as a replacement for Lead White. To my eye Titanium White is the coolest white.

Zinc White is the least opaque, slow drying, and creamy. This, too, has been used to replace Lead White. To my eye it is a warmer white.

Some companies make whites using a combination of both Titanium and Zinc in the hopes of getting the best of both. Jack Richeson’s Shiva line of paints uses both whites in their Titanium White and Ultra White though I’m pretty sure the ratios of the two colors are different for each color as they look and interact differently with paint hues.

To my eye Lead White is the the cleanest of the whites and the warmest. It is also far and away the most expensive. It handles very differently than other whites in that it’s ‘ropy’. It’s more fluid. Think of the Rembrandt ‘drippiness’ in some of his paintings.

Cremnitz White is also a leaded white, as is Flake White.

I wanted to visually see the difference of each of the whites and then see how they reacted with Jack Richeson Shiva paint. I will be writing another blog on Shiva, but for now let’s focus on this.

Below you can see the whites and the companies I used. JRS is Jack Richeson Shiva, W/N is Windsor Newton, and M. Hard is Michael Harding. I noted the pigments of each of the paints as well. The only one not listed is Michael Harding, but it is a PW1, the same as W/N Cremnitz.

White the whites do not show up well at all in the photo below, you an see how they are interacting with each of the colors I used. For each hue I took the color to about its middle value using each of the different whites. To my eye, Lead White allowed the color to maintain its hue the best. You can see that there is much more integrity in the colors all the way down the line especially when compared to the Titanium Whites. It also dried the fastest and glossiest. Remember when I said that white will dull and cool a color? It’s most obvious in the Titanium band.

shiva-1

The next whites that allowed the integrity of the colors to stay truer were W/N Cremnitz, and that makes sense as it is also a Lead White, and JRS Zinc White. In my tests, even in the violets the color stayed truer though Zinc has a warm bias to it which I thought might have dulled the violets due to its creamy/yellow/warm bias. In fact, there is a glow that is maintained, especially in the JRS Ultra White. Cremnitz did not dry glossy which makes me wonder what else might be in the M. Harding Stack Lead White?

shiva-1

Finally, I want to mention Gamblin’s Warm and Cool whites. These whites are made using Titanium and Zinc as the base and then adding other colors to tint the white. Just as an FYI, you can do this yourself with the colors on your palette.

I hope this helps. Let me know what your tests show!

Pastels and Oil Painting

Did you know that you can draw and mass in an oil painting with pastels and use that to guide your through your painting? I don’t remember where I learned this great tool, but I use it a lot as it keeps me on track.

Pastels have the same pigments as oil paints. The difference is in the binder. So it makes sense that you can use pastels with oil paints and have everything work well. In my YouTube demo I show the start to finish painting but I want to share a bit about how and why using a pastel base to create an underpainting and keep you on track.

How: Take your hard pastel (I use NuPastels) and lightly mass in the areas you want. In the photo below I’m starting to lay in my light and dark pattern using pastel.

peonie pastel small

You can use any color(s) you want but when I choose colors I’m thinking about (1)how they will work with the overall finished painting, and (2) Do I want a simple lay in of just lights and darks using just 2 colors, or (3) Do I want to give more detail to the lights and darks and use maybe 2-3 values of light pastels – leaves on trees tend to be dark in color, but if they are in the light area I might use a darker light pastel to indicate the masses of this dark light value -and 1 or 2 values for the darks?

Once the pastel has been applied I take a clean brush and dip it in Turpenoid or Gamsol and then lightly blot the brush. Beginning with the lightest colors I use my brush to paint over the pastel. Don’t let it drip, unless you like that effect, and keep your brush clean. Once you’ve done all the light area go to the next lightest area and continue working until you have completed all the lights. Do the same in the darks.

Peonie Gamsol small

When I’ve done all the painting I then take a soft brush and soften the whole thing. This will need to set up for about 10-15 minutes and I will set out my paints while waiting for the Gamsol to evaporate. It doesn’t need to be dry, but if it’s too wet it just is slippery and it’s easy to loose what you’ve just done. Plus the pastel mixes with the paint and will affect the color.

Peonie Gamsol Softened

This the painting after softening with a brush. You can see it’s a really cool abstract version of what’s to come.

When and Why: (1) You can use pastels to quickly tone a canvas. (2) It’s a great way to set your plein air painting as it will keep you from chasing shadows and light. After you do a thumbnail and decide on the design, transfer it to your canvas using pastel and set it with your Gamsol or Turp. You will have saved so much time that even taking the 10-15 minutes for the abstract to set up you will still be ahead of the pack. 3) Use this to start a really large canvas and this will save you HOURS!! I painted a 6 foot painting using this method and it saved me days of work.

Here is the finished painting:

Peony Finished

Let me know your thoughts and if you’ve ever tried this.