Monday, January 23, 2017

The Start of Something Colorful

"Purple Paint" 8x10 oil on archival gesso panel
This pinto horse painting is available at Framed Image Gallery in Denver

Beginning with audacity is a very great part of the art of painting. -Winston Churchill


Happy Monday everyone! As a painting teacher many new or "rusty" artists often ask (and rightly so) about the process of painting. More specifically, I'm asked: How do you start a painting? or What exactly do I do first?The truth is a variety of "starts" get the job done. That being said, here are four "sound beginnings" (for wet in wet oils) I find most helpful:  

1.Time for Toning?
I don't always "tone" or color wash my white canvas first but if you're the kind of artist who likes to leap and "just get going" this can be a good first warmup step. I say "wash" meaning a thin layer of acrylic (needs to dry) or "watery" oil paint (using Gamsol or other non toxic thinner.) 
I like warmer toning but you could tone in any color including black. You could also mix color into some white gesso and use that to tone--especially if you desire more tooth/texture on your surface.
2. Thin Darks to Thick Lights
Tried and true for most most occasions. Block in your darkest darks (thinly), then medium values and finally your lightest values (and thicker paint) at the end. I find the "darks first" reveal a light/dark design (i.e. notan) you can easily see from the get go. I find this is a safe, organized approach--also keeps me from using too much white too soon.   
3.Bright Color to Dull
Do you have a lot of "islands" or "spots" of bright color in your painting? If you've read Carol Marine's Daily Painting then you know she suggests starting with intense colors--imagine a bright pink bloom in a sea of dull green leaves. This approach helps keep your color notes cleaner as you work quickly with wet in wet oil paint--some might say a more "painterly" style.  
4. Colorful Under Painting
One of my favorites--But more time consuming because it can take some planning. Imagine a light blue sky painted over a peachy or magenta underpainting. Note this can be done wet in wet or over dry paint on a white (not toned) surface. Great if you like color surprises and "vibrating broken" color you seen in pastels.

In today's horse oil painting I combined darks first with bold color under painting. I hope that overview of "good starts" was helpful. How do you like to start your painting?

P.S. Speaking of new starts, I FINALLY created a studio page on Facebook so please feel free to follow me/friend me there as well. Thanks for your support!


Friday, January 6, 2017

Fresh Year, Fresh Paint!

"Sagey Sorrel" 8x10 1oil on canvas 
Available at Framed Image Gallery in Denver.

A very Happy New Year everyone!  While I don't love the cold, I do relish the fresh start and clean slate we get every January. Before jumping into 2017 though I wanted to take just a quick minute to review what I realized in retrospect was a really exceptional art year...

My thanks to everyone for your support--especially all my students and fellow artists! Let's take a quick look back at some highlights as they say. 
  • Won an award at the Colorado Horse Expo which I plan to enter again this year. 
  • Attended PACE in sunny Tucson where I met hundreds of artists and saw many fantastic demos. Still thinking about San Diego PACE this year...We'll see..
  • Participated in my 15th Denver Summer Art Market--Always my fav art event of the year.
  • Enjoyed a really informative Derek Penix painting workshop
  • Met the painting legend Richard Schmid who also signed his books for me. Mr. Schmid was fortuitously here in Denver for a lovely retrospective show of his work at Gallery 1261. 
  • Met 100+ local artists teaching workshops and classes 
  • Refreshed my Scarlet Owl Studio website (where you can find info about my classes/ workshops)
Not bad for one year right? As I look forward now though I know I need to continue to balance all this exciting art activity with easel time. Got to put in the work for the reward as I tell my students.
Of course it's highly enjoyable "work" when it's a subject you love like my horse painting I did for my gallery's western/cowboy themed show this month. 

Until my next post, best wishes for a successful and rewarding year of creativity and color!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Building on Color (Jon Redmond Talk Notes)

Park Caretaker's House Study-9x12 oil on linen-SOLD
Happy Challenge Day 6: Isn’t it interesting to meet an artist you’ve admired “from a far?” Sunday I went to a fantastic talk by Pennsylvania painter  Jon Redmond who was in Boulder teaching a workshop (which I unfortunately couldn’t attend but am guessing students are greatly enjoying this week.)

Redmond’s oil paintings have a beautiful sense of light, simplicity and texture. If you have Al Gury’s  book “Alla Prima” you’ll find this beautiful minty green claw foot tub painting on the back cover.
Jon Redmond Tub Painting 

Redmond explained this tub was in an old building which had seen many renovations. While I enjoy organic subjects, I’m often intrigued by painting that explore the mystery of place like this. You can find some great examples his paintings (which include a variety of subjects) and a detailed interview with Redmond here.

Inspired by Redmond's sunlit building paintings, I decided to post one of my Hopper inspired paintings. I find light falling on structures like this gorgeous white house very captivating. Redmond said he enjoys painting windows especially bay windows. Speaking of white, he also mentioned he looks to black and white films for visual inspiration which makes perfect sense from a shape/value standpoint.
Redmond White House Oil Painting
I'm not a "light" traveler, so I’m always fascinated by compact lightweight painting kits. Redmond's fit into a small backpack (so he could easily bike to locations). It included: a compact camp chair (he paints seated), a trim folding panel holder/palette (think wooden laptop), his paints, (here’s his suggested color palette for another class), brushes with sharpened ends (so you can stick into the ground!) and an interesting pottery “scraping” rubber tool. 


Redmond also mentioned that he sometimes paints on frosted Mylar (in addition to a traditional gessoed panel) and I’m very interested to try this surface soon. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Painting in the Secret Garden

"Rainbow Flyer" 8x10 oil on panel (scarlet macaw painting)
Happy September everyone! First, I want to thank everyone who attended to the “Secret Garden” Art & Birds Fundraiser over the weekend where I was honored to be one of the featured artists. Thanks to my friends and students who stopped by to support this unique event. You can see a short video of the special event here.

I enjoyed sketching the great horned owl (probably my favorite raptor), watching the other artists paint and of course taking lots of close up reference pics of all the birds including owls, hawks, eagles, and colorful parrots like this gorgeous scarlet macaw.

September 1 also means that’s it’s time to join over 1,000 other artists for the fall “30 in 30” online painting challenge! Lately, I’ve been out and about in the Denver area talking to many artists about the many pleasures, benefits (and yes trials) of “almost” daily painting. So listening to my own advice and planning to post more art this month. And if you are joining the painting challenge thanks for stopping by and best wishes for an enjoyable and productive month--in the studio or plein air.


If YOU want to paint more this fall I still have room in my Thurs. AM Denver painting class at Park Hill Art Club  (near the zoo) which starts Sept. 15. This class is also super affordable for a 10 weeks
of colorful fall painting. Please write to me via my website if you'd like to join the class. Cheers and happy September everyone!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Painting in Perfect Harmony


First my thanks to both Colorado's Louisville Art Association (LAA) as well as the Brighton Cultural Arts Commission for asking me to have a workshop and give a talk this past week. Both groups were so welcoming! One of the best parts of my "job" is meeting new artists, sharing tips and my personal art experience. Thank you again!
LAA painters enjoying some exercises at my Intro to Daily Painting Workshop

One of the aspects of daily painting that I discussed last week was working with a limited palette so I thought I'd share that info here with you. For example, with all those wonderful and tempting paint colors at the art store why work with a limited oil paint palette?

Quick note: “Limited” is a relative term. To some, less than 20 tubes may feel restricted but in general it’s 7 pigments or less. Here's a fairly versatile limited palette I've seen other daily painters use: Ultra. Blue, Aliz. Crimson, Cad. Yellow Light+ White


10 Benefits of a Limited Painting Palette

  1. Simplifies overall process of painting so you’ll likely paint more
  2. Mixed secondary colors and earth colors (greens, violets, oranges, browns, blacks) will often look more natural and interesting than a tube green for example (Tip: Pre mix your secondaries before painting if you feel your colors are limited.)
  3. Easier to achieve color harmonies (colors will naturally all relate to each other)
  4. Tends to look more natural for well natural and organic subjects
  5. Faster way to paint—less mixing choices means fewer decisions
  6. You can give more attention to your shapes and values
  7. Easier to get “cleaner” mixes (2 colors for example) if that’s what your after—you may be tempted to use “extra” colors that aren’t really necessary for your painting
  8. You’ll “get to know “ your pigments much faster (juggling just 3 balls vs. 12)
  9. You’ll likely start finding what colors you really need (for your style) and what you don’t
  10. Much less paint to buy, store, carry, etc.
When would you want to add extra pigments?
  • You need a specialty primary color such as “hot pink” Permanent Rose or Opera 
  • Time constraint—Where "convenience” colors (viridian outdoors) are handy
  • Your painting calls for lots of pure color notes and/or man made objects (lots of colored costumes for example)
  • You need a variety of transparent as well as opaque pigments for a particular painting technique (glazing for example)
  • You're stuck in a color formula rut for things like shadows, skies, etc.
If you love color like I do and want to learn more, I'm giving a mini workshop (color talk/demo) at Blackridge Artists School on Saturday, September 24.  You can find more info here.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Brushing Up on Birds

Some of my favorite daily bird paintings
No bird soars to high if he soars with his own wings. William Blake

Happy August everyone! I wanted to share that my friend and neighbor is hosting a wonderful fundraising event on Saturday, August 27. The art themed garden party will benefit two great Denver bird rescue and education non profit organizations. You can get more info on tickets here.

Along with several Denver painters, I’ve been kindly invited to include at least one bird painting in the silent auction. So I’ve been brushing up on my birds—no pun intended. Am hoping to include at least one small owl painting in the silent auction.

So early Sat. I went on a very educational bird walk along the South Platte River. If you’ve never been on a "official" bird walk with an experienced guide I can almost guarantee you’ll find more birds than you would on your own. This also makes taking reference photos like this hummingbird much easier. 
Broad tailed hummingbird at Hudson Gardens
The rest of this month is going to be a very eventful! In addition to the bird art event, I’m teaching a sold out “Intro to Daily Painting” workshop for the Louisville Art Association .

On eve of Aug. 18 I’ll be in Brighton for another daily painting presentation to another wonderful group of artists. My sincere thanks again to both these groups or inviting me to share my art journey with them. OK time to trade the laptop for the easel. Have a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fresh Summer Colors

"Totally Tomatoes" 8x10 oil on Gessoboard (SOLD)
In summer, the song sings itself. ~William Carlos Williams

Ahh...late July. It's that time of year in Denver when I enjoying do a lap in at my local park almost every day.  One of my seasonal art goals was to take breaks outside as often as possible and keep up my 10,000+ daily steps. (I've apparently walked the length of Italy so far--but without the likely pizza and gelato stops along the way.)

For taking reference photos (like this monarch butterfly below) I prefer visiting the park in early AM (if I can get going) or "golden hour" if it's not too warm. Yes, there's a lot of green out there but you can also find other vibrant colors such as lovely white egrets, blackbirds, gardens, sunsets, etc. And of course local farmer's markets are full of fresh color ideas. All will be welcome painting subjects when winter comes.

This month I'm teaching a really fun Wed. AM color class and also getting ready for 3 new fall group Denver painting classes: Wednesday mornings at Curtis Art Centers and  Thursday morning and afternoon at Park Hill Art Club (PHAC).
Monarch in red lily at Wash Park garden

For those of you interested in the Park Hill Class you do need to be a PHAC member but then you can take lots of great classes and workshops through the year. You can join here. Fall class registration will "live" on Tuesday, August 15. I like to give everyone a heads up because popular classes may fill up quickly.

Speaking of that a warm thanks to all my new painting students who "sold out" my color class this month at Curtis. I'm really enjoying the class and look forward to teaching a similar color theme when fall classes start there on Wed. Sept. 14.

And later this fall I'll be teaching an class specifically dedicated to one of my favorite "glowing color" oil painting techniques that is becoming very popular with online workshops. So be looking for more info on that. In the meantime, I hope you enjoying discovering "color surprises" in your world no matter what the season.