Thursday, September 29, 2011

Easel Does It Apples

Sunlit Apples-8x10-oil on canvas
Yesterday, I was inspired to do a mostly knife color study from re-reading Arthur Stern's book How to See Color and Paint It,  This is older but excellent oil painting book with superb exercises to help train your color vision and ability to record what you see. Not what you think you see. My very quick tips for learning to paint this way are for each shape ask yourself 4 key questions:

1. What color family is it? Note the answer is one of these 6: Red, orange, yellow, blue, green, or violet. IN other words, there's no brown, gray, beige, etc. There is a dull very dark orange however. 
2. How relatively light or dark is it? I find it helpful to locate the darkest dark in your photo or set up and compare to that. A simple value range might be something like: Very light, light, medium, dark, very dark. 
3. How bright or dull is it? Another way to think of this is how close is the color to your color out of the tube (which is usually at a high intensity). There are several ways to dull or "kill the brightness" of your color such as adding the color complement or my favorite: palette mud (scraped together from your mixing),
4. How warm or cool is it? Most colors will have a tendency to lean toward their neighboring color such as red-orange, blue-green, red-violet, etc. I think you may find that some of your darks are actually quite warm.

For example, are sunlit Granny Smith apples in an orange-y teak wood really just green? Another way I approach these paintings is to consider that in most sunlight scenes you'll likely (after some observation) discover a full range of color and temperature as I did painting these apples.

Also, if you paint smaller studies (under 12") I highly recommend using some kind of canvas holder. I designed this handy small canvas holder (I'm calling it the Eeezle ) based on some I've seen other painters use. So I didn't invent this but I thought it would be nice to have a midtone gray as the backdrop so this is a 16x16 square piece of 1/4 inch MDF painted flat gray.  
I also chose a 16x16 since I often paint 12x12 panels. The adjustable bars (ledges) are stained and varnished oak (I guessed a hard wood would warp less). The bottom bar is actually stable and the top bar is adjustable with easy to use thumb screws in the back.
Here's the apple painting in progress with the magenta toned canvas (the same color I used for the raven in my previous post). The neon magenta is not the easiest background to paint on (ouch--my eyes!), but I love the contrast with the yellow greens and it motivates me to work quickly. Also, I've not forgotten my promise to include some "getting into art show" tips this week and so be sure to check back for those tips.
Have a great day at your easel!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Show Me the Art

Fall Raven-12x12 Oil on Canvas--Available on Daily Paintworks
Today's painting is for this week's Daily Paintworks challenge which is something inspired by fall. About a week ago I was up at our local park working on my Denver Plein Air Arts Festival entry when I took several reference photos of this raven since I wasn't able to paint him from life. I'm a pretty fast painter, but not that fast!

It seems fall is also the season when there are many juried art show deadlines. As an art teacher, I'm often asked about entering shows so I thought I'd share a few tips. First, obviously, you need to find an art show. More specifically, you want to look for an art show that's a good match for you--your style, your subject matter (animals, landscapes, figure, etc), your level, etc. Here are a few ideas to get you started in your area:
  • Local galleries--particularly co-ops
  • Art organizations and clubs such as your local watercolor or plein air society
  • City or county art associations or councils
  • Art stores often have a community board with flyers, post cards, etc.announcing shows
  • Schools, churches, museums, community centers
  • Other non-profit organizations such as zoos, botanical gardens, performing arts
  • Also ask other artists (particularly those who know the local scene) 
  • Local newspapers and other publications often have "Calls for the Entry"
  • Craigslist (Check your Community/Artist section)

You can also Google something like "My city art shows" or "My city calls for entries" etc. There are also many websites that feature art shows and deadlines around the country such as as Artshow and CAFE (Call for Entry). In the upcoming week, I'll post some more tips for entering shows, in the meantime, it's back to the easel. In the meantime, get out there and enter your art!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spot On Color

"Seeing Spots" oil on canvas 11x14
I had such a fantastic time painting the colorful pinto horse a few days ago, I decided to paint an appaloosa. I love working with patterns and textures when I paint animals. This time I chose a higher key and added more surface texture. In this case, I used a painting knife along with the brushwork. I really had to stop myself from painting more leopard pattern spots--it's rather addictive.

My color selection for this painting was a few more pigments than I typically use, but still fairly limited. Also, I'm sometimes I asked about my preference for paint brands. I've tested almost every brand over many years so on a palette like this it's not unusual that each of these is a different brand. This doesn't make replacing your colors very practical though, so you may want to pick a few favorites and stick with those.

Permalba White, Indian Yellow, Trans Red Oxide, Perm Rose, Aliz Crimson, Ultra Blue, Thalo Blue, Yellow Green and small amount of Ivory Black.

Also, quick note about black since I'm often asked about that as well. Personally, I don't usually use black but I find myself using it sometimes and in moderation when I paint animals. Like many artists, I work with ivory black as a very dark neutral blue. And I usually mix black with another pigment help warm it up such as a touch of Alizarin or Red Oxide.

I don't know about you but I always think of colorful or patterned equines such as palominos, pintos (paints), and appaloosas being featured in Native American or Western art work, but in doing some research, I came across this interesting 17th century Flemish painting by Meulen of Louis XIV riding an appaloosa. In fact, artists have been depicting spotted horses in art since the 11 century.

This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
So my painting challenge to you today is a patterned animal--have fun and see you in the studio! For more info about my classes, please click on my class link at the top.

Monday, September 19, 2011

That Which We Already Possess

"Painted Pony" 8x8 Oil on canvas-SOLD

It's great to be back. Has it really been almost two months? I didn't mean to take a such a long break but with some out of town travel, a few non art related business projects (thank you clients!), and lots of new students (thanks and welcome!), it's been hard to find easel time late in the summer but as fall approaches (along with some show deadlines) I'm ready to focus and get back to work.  

During my blogging break I've had some amazing art inspiration--a long awaited trip to exotic Kauai (one of the most amazing places I've ever seen), meeting one of my long time art idols Dan McCaw and his sons in person at Gallery 1261 a few weeks ago, participating in the Denver Plein Air Arts Festival (reminding me just how challenging plein art can be), and attending Core Gallery's Black and White Show to see one of my student's first shows. If you paint you know how exciting that is--Congratulations again Grace!

I felt a bit like a groupie waiting in line after Mr. McCaw's gallery talk to have him sign his book. He could not have been more gracious. If you read my blog you know it's one of my favorite art books of all time. Well worth the out of print price on Amazon. I'm sure this isn't the first time he's written this but it felt like it to me. And I wanted to share what he wrote since I think it perfectly and eloquently captures how I also feel about teaching:

We are both on the same journey to find and value that which we already possess. Good Luck.

The only thing missing was that I would have loved to follow him (but in a non stalking way!) to his workshop at the Weekend with Masters. Maybe next year...Coincidentally last week's Artists Helping Artists talk show featured an interview with Dan McCaw and I highly recommend listening to it whether your a fan or not. All of the above events have given me a slew of painting ideas, such as a very colorful pinto horse painted on a red toned canvas.

Finally a big thanks to all my summer students and their parents. Especially those who returned to high school and universities--I miss you already but it was great sharing my summer with you and I look forward to seeing you next year! And for all my new fall students, welcome, I know it's going to be super colorful season and journey!