Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Magical Box of Color

"Sixty Four" Mixed Media Watercolor and Crayon 15 x 22
I hope everyone is enjoying a happy and creative holiday season. As the year winds down, I want to thank my many loyal students, several who have painted with me for over a year now, for sharing their art time with me. I’m looking forward to an amazing 2012 and can’t wait to see what you all paint! And I look forward to meeting many new artists in the upcoming year as I teach and venture out to more workshops.

Over the holidays I received many great art and thoughtful owl gifts (thanks everyone!) including a lovely little art book called Water, Paper, and Paint by artist Heather Jones Smith. Ms. Smith includes several interesting watermedia exercises including the one I painted today which stresses watercolor color mixing and color harmony. I call these abstract paintings “color quilts.” FYI, my paper here is a Quiller 140lb Cold Press block. 

In this painting, I used Daniel Smith Quin Gold as my “mother color” meaning every color mixed included some Quin Gold. My other colors included a range of warms and cools such as lemon yellow, permanent rose, cobalt blue, crimson, thalo blue, indigo, winsor violet, etc.
The 64 Crayola box--An artist favorite since 1958.
In addition to many wonderful art books, I also received a classic 64 Crayola crayon box. Arguably one of the one of the best art bargains ever--Less than $3 at Super Target. As you may know some of the Crayola colors have changed since we were young artists in the um seventies but it’s still a magical box of waxy color. I decided to add all 64 colors to today’s exercise painting. (I particularly liked the lighter crayon on the darker watercolor washes.)

Over the holiday break I also watched a Nita Leland video where she talks about exploring the various levels of creativity—from intuitive (pure fun and child like) to genius. On a sunny but still cold winter day like today it was my goal to keep my art brain warm and fuzzy. Mission accomplished. This type of exercise, at least for me, works well as a stepping stone before I return tomorrow into some “more serious” representational oil painting. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, have a colorful week!  

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Winter Demo with A Modern Oil Painting Master

Quang Ho Still Life Demo in progress (detail)
I rarely post a painting that's not mine but this is worth the exception. For months I’ve been looking forward to acclaimed Denver painter Quang Ho’s six hour long still life oil painting demo this past Saturday. I hate to gush but it was truly amazing. Honestly, I’m still exhausted just from observing and absorbing. (I want to quickly note that the room was lit for painting. I didn't want to use the flash so my photos really don't do his painting justice.)
Quang begins with a "loose" washy block in of shapes
After Quang introduced the session by explaining his light and shadow approach (you can learn more about this in his Nuts and Bolts DVD), he arranged a lovely still life that included red tulips, orange persimmons, a big green glass bottle, and some light greenish white lilies. He emphasized that he's looking for variety and color flow. Watching him arrange the objects was truly a treat. 
Quang's Still Life Setup

Quang started with orange/lilly area and moved on to adjacent shapes.
  Briefly, for those of you interested in Quang’s painting materials:
  • Support: Square-ish (around 30x 34?) double primed linen mounted on gator board so he can trim this easily if he needs to. Looked like a wonderful surface to paint on.
  • Brushes: Both bristle (mostly filberts and egberts—long tongue like filberts) and softer mongoose brushes. He mentioned the British Rosemary brand. He cleans his brushes with Turpenoid Natural.
  • Palette: Relatively large glass palette (with around 20 colors). He uses a variety of brands and noted he likes LeFranc white (something I will try). Medium: Odorless Turpenoid.
  • He’s right handed and stands when he paints (stepping back a lot) and keeps the palette on a table in front (not to the side) of his easel as you can see below. Note this is a "classroom" easel.
Quang's Palette--lots of color!
I couldn’t begin to touch on the depth of knowledge a master painter like Quang has but I wanted to share a few random notes I made during the demo that struck a chord.   
Getting to the final stages...Quang painted the table fabric last.
  1. He learns more about painting from philosophy and science books than he does from art books.  
  2. Be sure to consider the macro: What is the big picture—the  main story you are telling? What is the light doing?
  3. On the flip side you need to be conscious of the micro: Even in a large painting each brushstroke matters. There are no repeats in nature.
  4. Every piece is an important part to the whole. Carefully record unique and specific shapes.
  5. Take your time. Don't rush. Mix a new color for every brush stroke.
  6. Don’t be as concerned about having a single focal point as you are about how the eye travels through the painting.  
  7. Start with the area that you think you do the most correct and work off of that.
  8. Painting is a series of decisions so it’s important not to freeze—Make a decision!
  9. Focusing on value before color helps you color mix.
  10. When painting light and shadow approach classify your shapes into light OR shadow shapes. It's one or the other. 
  11. Note light and dark (a value range) is NOT the same—for example you might have a relatively light shadow.  
  12. As the object turns from the light and shadow the color intensity is at its greatest.
  13. Be very mindful recording the shape where the light and shadow meet.
  14. There’s no negative space—everything counts.
  15. Where can you merge your edges? Search and destroy...
  16. Start with your blueprint and don’t get lost in the detail.
  17. There’s no “mud” just bad shapes.
  18. Light is an organism that moves as one.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed the highlights from the demo. I also want to thank Quang for sharing his knowledge. One day, many years from now, I'll be telling my students about this demo. It's was like watching a magician who explains everything he's doing but in the end it's still magical.

Monday, December 5, 2011

All That Glitters

Vienna Holiday-36x36-Oil on Canvas SOLD
Last week’s Daily Paintworks’ challenge was deceptively straightforward: Paint something in the style of a painter you admire. Several of my favorite painters came to mind immediately: Van Gogh, Matisse, Hopper, O’Keeffe, Dixon, Bonnard, Cezanne…

Then I was thinking about all the visual inspiration of the holiday season--jewel tones, golds, silvers, nature based imagery, as well as cultural symbols. That train of thought led me to Austrian art nouveau painter Gustav Klimt. Thank you to a new collector from Colorado Springs for the purchase of this!

His vibrant colors, use of flat, dazzling patterns, unique (and sometimes controversial) figural compositions are so contemporary that I have to remind myself that Klimt died before 1920.  Here’s a wonderful example of one of his gilt figures, Hope II.
For the challenge, I choose to paint an abstract and initially planned to add gold leaf which I’ve done previously in some of my abstract paintings. Instead I chose a short cut using Golden brand (I love their metallic paints) acrylic gold paint as the undertone. Not the same effect, but interesting and given gold prices, much less expensive. Then switched to oil paint for all the overall painting.

This painting is also the largest painting I’ve done for a DPW challenge, but I prefer a larger scale (this is 36x36) when I paint abstractly.  In fact, on Cybermonday I bought a new Sorg easel just for larger works. It’s due on Wednesday and I can’t wait to try it! Pics and a review to come. In the meantime, I hope the holiday season brings you much creative joy and inspiration!

P.S. Quick congrats to artist Ms. Dawn Hartigan for winning my November free fine art print contest! Be looking for another contest after the holidays.