Why paint (2)?

There is a brilliant blog entry (as usual - it's a most wonderful blog) on  "Illustration Art" on the transience of life/art and the motivation to do anything - and the comments to it comprise a fabulous discussion. I'd rather read his (David"s)  blog than play Wi in my bathrobe, any day! - highly recommended. (He also shows a picture by the Provensens - a couple who, among other things, illustrated children's books - I've still have my copy of "Myths and Legends" - and the pictures still grip me as much as when I was 7 years old!)

Art videos/DVDS

Yep, well, like I said - there's a real amount of stuff on the net - between 'Look inside" on Amazon and video extracts on YoutTube/free demos put up by painters - it's a wonder anyone buys anything. I've got a few video DVDs - not so many - about 10. I love watching these sort of videos,

There are 3/4 basic types of approach:

1) The artist is extremely well-known (and usually highly personable) - so the video basically consists in 'being with' them while they produce a work and chat to you/the audience about technique, art and anything else that pops into their head - this sort of video is usually not very 'scripted' - the 'off-the-cuff style being preferred - probably because this is felt to make it more natural etc. etc. Either you see pretty well every gesture to make one work, or 2) it's edited and you see them do a number a works

3) The artist has a large amount of teaching experience or a well-defined process/approach and presents it/ 4) part of it ( lesson 1 in a 3 part series)/applied to a certain type of subject (e.g. portraits, skies...)

A link from a reader on Gurney Journey (to a gamut masking tool) took me over to Richard Robinson's site - very  nice - I purchased his videos and they're excellent - for beginner and intermediate levels (yuk, but true), very pleased indeed with them - here's someone who's done the work - this is how it should be done! - hope he does some more


Back to basics

Well, I received and viewed the Ingbretson DVD on drawing. Concidentally, Stapleton Kearns, on his wonderful blog, mentioned that most 'hobbyists' (don't think he used that awful term) don't have the drawing 'chops' (nice term) - not me, of course. Oh no, wait! It is me - I think I'll take some time off painting to draw.

Tomorrow I think I'll review about art videos/DVDs in general - they're fairly expensive, but I love them. Don't know how anyone manages to sell anything with all the great stuff for free on the net! See you, then!



with it here. Got to hang on in there. I tell myself "it's just for fun, take it as it comes"

Anyway, I've ordered the Ingbretson DVD "The Visual Order" - on drawing - and discovered a couple of nice artists on the net: Doug Braithwaite and Rick McClure (the latter thanks to "An Expressive Artist Studio" blog)

Tell myself my motivation is that I do this (painting) for fun (pleasure) and the only goal is to improve - for my own satisfaction


Test: is it a good painting?

We see thousands of images.
Even for an artist we like (and could instantly identify if we saw a picture by them), we have favourite images. And from the artists view point - even the greats have moments of grace - special works.
We can appraise an image pretty quickl - it's all there in front of us, the eye is fast.

But when I ask myself, "How many paintings by artist x (hey, let's say Soralla) can I bring up in my mind?", it can be surprising how few (if any!)

A great image (on a personal level) is, I feel, one that stays forever in your mind.

(see my comments on those 2 Michel De Gallard paintings I've loved so much - because they have a particular meaning for me (induce a dream-like trance!), for one thing and I love the paint surface, for another. Like I said above, once we go past the critical bit - get to lave a painting - it's special to us - well, another one I like is Bryce Cameron Liston's 'In the Stillness' he entered it in the last ARC competition - you can see it e.g. on their site in the entries for the competition)


Thick paint and impatience

I seem to be finding out that you need to paint confidently with decisive, bold stokes (I think the best way to put it, is that they have to have "energy" - and I love the idea of a "juicy" paint surface). But I've noticed that once the paint gets thick, my stokes had better be careful - thick paint can easily go wrong!

- so, what I think I've realised is - 1) I can either leave the painting, just leave it a good while to dry (I hated t do this up till now - some fear of losing the motivation to finish it, I guess)
2) scrape off the thick paint - just scrape it off (sometimes using the knife on it to manipulate it or scrape it off seems to result in the desired effect - Richard Schmid says something about that in his first video).


4 painters (poets, in fact) I really like

 Well painting may need some sort of "narrative", may be a means of expression (= language), but it can be poetry. Check out these 4 artists:


We want to paint

The next thing is to do a drawing (more on doin' the drawing later) of our subject - I prefer to do this in charcoal on a separate piece of parer (i.e. not on my canvas) and transfer it to the canvas by rubbing the back of it with charcoal and "tracing" over it (you can have a second sheet of paper blackened with charcoal to male a "carbon" paper so you don't have to so this every time).

I do this because, if the painting goes wrong, I can start again without having to redo the drawing - I just re-transfer the drawing to a new panel!. Something else to remember is that it a total waste of time to put details in the drawing.

I then spray the faint, transferred charcoal drawing on my canvas with fixative - this has an advantage - if the (oil, not acrylic - acrylic when dry can't be removed!) painting goes wrong you can wipe if off and you've still got the drawing - and a disadvantage - the paint doesn't "eat" (absorb) the lines of the drawing - and they can show through - bad news.

If I have time, I prefer to go over the lines with thinned paint (burnt sienna/TOR) - transform them into painted lines

And now the absolutely crucial stage - the block-in or underpainting or initial layin or whatever you want to call it - 4 possibilities (= for a final painting that will be either acrylic over acrylic or oil over acrylic or oil over oil)

1) Monochrome block-in in acrylic or oil (the reason for using acrylic is that it dries, and when  it does it's "iron" - won't be disturbed by painting over it (the reason for using monochrome is that you can concentrate on the values and work fast with just one colour)

2) A multi-colour block-in in oil or acrylic (the reason for this is that this color under the next layer tends to give a much more interesting final paint surface and you can do things like use complementaries e.g. a pinkish/reddish colour under skies or vegetation to a "vibration"/interesting effects. I'm interested in using a "watercolour" style technique for this block-in (Richard Schmid often seems to work like that). I love watercolour (more on that later, too)



As points of reference (see Bruce MacEvoy's Handprint site (not blog) for a pigment color wheel - great idea  - really useful! Kevin MacPherson's palette is something like   

Cad yellow pale                                
Ult. blue                                           
Permanent alizarin crimson               
Phalo green (I'd prefer viridian)
Titanium white

Mark Carder's (method) palette is pretty much the same with something like burnt umber instead of the green (I'd agree with that - I'd rather have an earth brown than a green - but no problem - even with both, we only have 6 paints )

These are extremely limited palettes - but if you look at the paintings done with them - it's amazing - no problem. Lets see what a more extended palette would look like, Richard Schmid's is (colours not always used in brackets) something like

(Cad lemon yellow)
Cad yellow pale
Cad. yellow deep
(Cad. orange)
Cad. red 
Yellow ochre pale
Terra rosa
Venetian red
Transparent oxide red (same thing as burnt sienna really)
Permanent alizarin Crimson
 (Cobalt violet)
Cobalt blue light
Ult. blue dark
Titanium white

And the more palettes I've read about on the net, the more you see these "classic"/standard colours coming up.  A number of people don't use black (you can mix it) and a number of people try and avoid the umbers - though raw umber can be useful for a number of things, it seems to me. There's a number of "systems" - e.g. a "split" palette with a "warm" and "cool" version of each  color - Gruppe talks about this sort of idea and uses phalo blue. Stape Kearns likes chromium oxide green, Roger Bansemer uses some other green (I forget which) too. But it seems to me that I use my colours in two ways - as mixing colours or as convenience (straight out the tube) colours, so my palette looks like this

Titianium white, naples yellow light, cad yellow pale, yellow ochre light, transparent oxide red (=burnt sienna), permanent alizarin crimson (this is a whole topic), ceruleum blue, ult. blue dark = 8 paints, I think

(plus for rare use - in my box in case I need them: cad. lemon yellow, cad yellow deep, cad. red, terra rosa, indian red (like terra rosa, but cooler), raw umber, phalo blue, viridian)


Choosing subject matter

So you want to do a painting? Yep, we want to make a painting

OK, The first thing is, what shall we paint?

Two approaches here

1)     Find something that "inspires" us – Marc Delassio noted on his blog http://www.marcdalessio.com/ that he's spent hours driving looking for a scene. Toutounov http://www.toutounov.fr/ says you have to be excited about what you're going to paint and, likewise, notes that he drove 100 km until he found a pair of gates that he wanted to paint. Personally, I'm like this – I love it when I find something I really want to paint (though sometimes this doesn't turn out to make a good painting and sometimes an unpromising subject turns out to be great!)

2) "Its what you carry to an object that counts" (Andrew Wyeth) -  Karin Jurick's http://karinjurick.blogspot.com/ motto. Here, the concept is that anything is worth painting - it's how YOU see it that matters - and as the subject of any painting is really the light (painting is the study of light) – this makes sense, especially if you want to practice a regular discipline – the idea of e.g. a daily painting – and Foster Caddell and others strongly recommend still life paintings for skills building.  I feel that if I did do regular paintings I'd want to vary the subject matter – and even try and vary my style.

Now, when I painted pre 1993 (!), I was representational in that I took the drawing from life, BUT, I then tried to interpret it in terms of color, brushwork etc. - the reality was just a jumping-off point. This time round I was quickly instructed that you need to very carefully scrutinize the reality (especially for values, colour and light effects), that only with experience can you "make it up" (in fact, do it from memory/past experience) or "play with it". I got so used to this idea of observing "reality closely as master", that it came as something of a shock to realize that this was true for values, light, etc. but not for composition, content, etc. Foster Caddell has a really good section in his book where he demonstrates how he rearranges and modifies a scene to make it his own - this, of course, means that you are much less limited in your choice of subject  - a subject can be vastly improved by judicious modification and editing. Here, I need some pictures to illustrate my ramblings - not enough time, just now
(Note; If you're just starting, check out the Carder method - Mark Carder sure seems to be  a nice guy and just visiting his website and looking at his free videos presenting his method and reading about it tells you everything - you don't even need to buy it! Some people tried to pooh-pooh him - another "magic" method, but some serious guys said it's sound - and I agree - I didn't buy it - but found it very instructive and inspirational)

OK, so we have a subject (wish I did!) now we need the materials acrylics/oils/watercolours - which gives me the chance to speak about most painters' favourite subject - palettes (I'll keep it to acrylics/oils) and a support - rigid (gesso on panel/canvas on panel) or flexible - canvas. Personally I now always tint my ground with a light wash of burnt sienna - gives a pinkish/orange-ish colour (reasons for this another time)

More resources

I also like the Kevin MacPherson book, "Fill your oil paintings with light and color" – when I first read it I was disappointed – it seemed too brief and simple – but it's stayed in my mind a lot.

Some sections of 2 books from an earlier era, Harold Speed's classics, "Oil painting techniques and materials" and "The practice and science of drawing" are a good read – if you have time – I think maybe these can be downloaded from the net.

An out-of-print book I really like – Foster Caddell's "Keys to Successful Color" (recommended by Stapleton Kearns),
I also enjoyed "Gruppe on painting" - available from the Rockport Art Association
Edgar Payne's "Composition of outdoor painting" didn't do much for me (this could change – when you go back over books they sometimes are more rewarding)
Carlson's "Guide to landscape painting is worth reading – short, simple, solid

I did not like (to be cont'd)


Small is not beautiful

What's with all these tiny paintings? I like a nice size painting -about 4 foot (100 cm +) wide. Hmm, problem is, you need to know what you're doing to work bigger than something like 50 cm wide. Oh well, still like a painting that fills a wall and gives your subject room to breathe. Sigh. (I've had it up to here with paintings called something like "Two plums and silver spoon" too (good job no one does read this blog!)

Is there anyone out there?

No one's reading this blog - that's normal it's new (and probably boring!) - if ever you do read through for some obscure reason - don't hesitate to leave a comment on any entry you like - I've written the entries and would be interested in your reactions/input

A series of wonderful paintings and some nice books

Scott Burdick's got a video slideshow on YouTube called "The Banishment of Beauty" defending representational art. I'd agree with his basic premise that a lot of "modern" art is destined to the footnotes  of history. It's interesting to wonder what will be retained - might be a surprise (for both camps?! The video slideshow is worth watchinng just for the absolutely stunning succession of paintings by varied artists it shows. Wonderful. Wonderful! - and hats off to him too, he's even better than I thought!!!!

For books and videos (art instruction), the ones I've like best are the following (there's 3 price categories for this sort of books: cheap/free -available on internet; normal sort of artbook price; ridiculously expensive because out-of-print, rare and sought after - I don't recommend the latter!)

The best book, for me, is Richard Schmid's "Alla Prima - everything I know about painting" - it's a wonderful book and easy to read with clear expression and lovely humour - and essential (you can get it soft bound for a very reasonable price from his website - 50 bucks). The Andrew Loomis books "Eye of the painter, "Creative illustration" are great too - they are out of print but can be downloaded here (worth printing out they are). A number of books by earlier artists (Birge Harrison, John Collier, etc. can be downloaded like this - you probably need to have some familiarity with basic concepts (seeing, values, etc.) before you can get anything out of them. There are others! - later. There are also some really good (understatement of the year) websites - try reading Gruney Journey by the grouped topics in the sidebar! Bruce Macevoy's Handprint site for the technically minded/geeks. Do not start reading Stapleton Kearn's blogs back entries - your neighbours will be knocking on the door to see if you're dead. Illustration Art - the back entries are an education and very human.

I've not got so many videos, there are two of Richard Schmid's (again!) I really like "November" and "June" (out of the four I have - "May" and "White Pine" being the other two - they're nice but have less info). more later. Watching videos, especially on drawing showed me that one thing you need is patience (I don't have any) - you're going to need to spend hours being careful and concentrating(= working!) to get good drawings - videos really demonstrate this slow, cereful, painstaking build-up, arrggghh; I"m so impatient. There's lots of good videos on the net too - YouTube, various artists - more later - it really isn't at all necessary to spend cash - I've spent a fair amount and don't regret it - but don't make the mistake of thinking that beaause it"s rare/unobtainable/expensive it'll have the SECRET you need. It won't. Believe me, keep your cash, it won't.


What's coming up

I'll put up a list of the best books/videos resources - I've spent hours and hours surfing - and try to give an overview of where my mind's at re drawing - stay tuned. And coherently pick up some of the ideas I've randomly jumbled out! (sorry, I just wanted to get started). The first painting below is a copy of "Fisherman's retreat" by an artist called H. Walters who seems to have had some home deco repros of his work issued in the 60s - there also seems to be one of a gypsy style girl's head - if anyone knows anything about this painter - I'd be interested - please, please leave a comment

Where I'm at

 Another clonky one, clonky oil on board (masonite sounds terrible!)

So, two years ago I saw a JoLoMo painting (mountains  + sea is a powerful subject - I also like Pam Carter - a lot (I don't careif if this sort of painting is too "popular" - I do like it - love it) on the Guardian newspaper -I  jumped to his site - it seemed so free and easy - gave me the desire to start painting again after a 17 year hiatus - content/subject IS important and his painting "Nighfall at Knapfell" spoke to me (can't find that particular one either, now - I seem to be cursed on the retrieval level!) - I started painting again that summer with the kids on holiday in Brittany and soon got right back into it. The internet had made such a difference in the intervening years - remember how it was before - just books, museums, galleries, magazines? I decided to spend a year just learning "technique" - from the net (thank you, America, for your generosity!) and by buying the recommended books - just do "learning" paintings - no pressure. Looking back, I think I should have concentrated on improving my drawing skills. Funny how all the blogs/sites there are devote so little space to drawing - posts on pigments/palettes are sooo popular. Drawing seems to be the "put off". Seems to me that the "secret" of drawing is  that it is "measuring" - and there's different ways of "measuring" (Rebecca Alzofon says she's going to release a DVD in 2011 - in the meantime visit the Carder method and Accurasee sites, read the start of the Deborah Rockman book on drawing + best sections of the Harold Speed 's "The Practice and Science of Drawing", check out Paul Foxton's blog, "Learning to See" and Rousar's sight-size site). I've learned a lot, worked hard, but just now have some major problems.... .... more later.

The following are all big - around 80 cm x 120 cm and are acylic and oil on panel, pre 1993


Most paintings are (intelligent) home decoration

A painting is a physical object (this is somewhat different to music and literature) - can easily be destroyed. And most pantings are going to be "lived with" - hung in a room = decoration - even if it can arouse emotion/thought (know the idea about the little boy that grew up to be a sailor?  - had a picture of a tall ship on his bedroom wall). Some go to be in museums and images circulate in other ways/media - that's where the "wow factor" images I was on about before have a place - they are are less good for this CONTEMPLATIVE use. Idea of painting being a means of expression = language = painting should have some sort of a ""narrative"". Hmmm? Well I can sit and look at my own feeble efforts for a long time (!!). On my wall at university I had two posters by Michel de Gallard - "L'hameau" (The hamlet) and "Toits d'ardoise" (Roofs of slate). How I love those paintings. Sad thing is the posters have been thrown out (arrgghh!). I'd love to make a copy of "L'hameau" - can't find it anywhere on the net - and Michel de Gallard died a few years ago. He'd have been pleased if he'd known the impression he left in my mind. So keep trucking, folks....

The Wow factor

So, when we were young  we wanted to do art that would zap the viewer - a photorealistic snarling tiger maybe - both the image and the artist's skill to just nail the viewer to the spot. There's a lot of it about. Later I went through phases such as bright abstract designs (green and red stripes anyone?), huge formats, bright colours. It took me a while to learn about restraint. "A voice in a quiet room". The problem with the wow factor is it tends to either wear off or be less interesting to live with or just that the intent (I'm going to wow you - look how amazing I am) gets in the way...

This looks better smaller, but it still don't look so good. I can imagine what Stape would say - but that don't seem to help me! No "Wow" in this one!