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.

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!

Simple Changes for Better Composition

I want to talk/write a little bit about composition and how it can help or hurt a work. There are so many things to consider when designing a work that it can often feel like 3 dimensional chess…..finished size, focus of interest and how to get the viewer to look where you want them to, the supporting players, color, edges, even the type of support you are painting on.

I was commissioned to paint some hawks for a collector who live near Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania and wanted an homage to that part of their world. I chose some images and did several thumbnail sketches to hone in on a design. Once I chose the design that I thought was best I drew the painting completely ignoring what I had chosen. And then I continued to paint, never once going back to look at my original design. Big mistake. A fixable one, but none-the-less, what a silly thing to do, right? After the work was completed I showed it to a friend as it felt so off. Wisely, she asked if I had done a thumbnail as the painting was weighted to one side of the canvas with no balance. Duh…..

hawk bad small

If you think how your eye is moving (or rather barely moving) around this painting you can feel yourself hanging out on the left side of this work. There is nothing helping you to move around the the scene. Even if you want to look at the hawk that’s eating his prey, too quickly your eye is pulled back to the left side and, for me, I barely notice the hawk but am focused on the mountain.

Here it is after repainting the background.

Hawk small

You can see that the design elements are much stronger now. Not only is it better balanced, but the sky is a nice foil for the standing hawk on the left side of the painting. The verticality of the hawk moves the eye up and down the canvas where the tails of both hawks are on an internal horizontal design line leading the eye across the canvas. The fence further supports movement to the right helping our eye to rest on the hawk that is eating. Then the vertical line of the eating hawk’s prey, beak, and head move us up to where the mountain will direct us back to the left to the standing hawk. The sky is a resting spot and the clouds mimic the horizontal line where the ground plain meets the mountain. Nothing was changed from the horizon line down. But change at the top 1/3 of the painting made a huge difference to the whole piece.

hawk bad very small  hawk very small

So some notes……Make thumbnails. Try different formats-square, rectangle. Design where your lights and darks will be to see what will be best to get your idea across. Using your thumbnails play with how the work is weighted. You can ask your friends which design they like better. If in doubt, paint a small study. And finally don’t be afraid to change your work if it doesn’t work.

 

 

Art is Even in Your Latte

Art is never ever cancelled in the home-schooling community. Home school teachers, whether they be parents or other types of teachers, know that the arts is not only valued, but seen as completely relevant and especially important part of a well educated person. As a teacher, painter and draftsperson,  who has taught art for the last 8 years and who also lives with an architect, I can tell you the importance of art instruction in one’s life. And I can show you by example how my own grown children benefited from exposure to the arts.

The creation of art in any form, whether it be 2 dimensional such as drawing, painting, collage, or 3 dimensional such as pottery, sculpture, or architecture, forces us to slow down. In a world that runs on nano-seconds, it’s hard to slow down and find the quiet where listening, experimentation, and creativity come from. It, slowing down to listen and create, is an important a skill as any other.

Art (and music as well) teaches us to not only look but to see. It gives us permission, in fact forces us, to see things from more than one view point. It allows for multiple mistakes and encourages multiple corrections.

Art is, 100%, in EVERYTHING we buy, touch, wear, sit on, travel in, and walk through. Art is in science and math. As an example look at the Fibonacci sequence, a conch or nautilus shell, and design concepts. Or Sacred Geometry. Or map-making. And why is a picture worth a thousand words? Because of the feelings evoked which are sometimes harder to express in words. Art works with the rhythm of music and the rhythm of words because as a designer we want to lead the viewer on a path. Sometimes it’s fast, other times slow, sometimes staccato.

Obviously I’m biased. But the next time you sit down with a latte and see a beautiful design laid into the foamed milk, remember that’s a form of art too.

latte art