Advanced Painting Atelier Week 3 – 4

Weeks 3 and 4 were all about Analogous, value-based still-life painting. We also discussed other compositional options such as the Fibonacci sequence and deciding whether the subject requires a low, mid, or high-key composition.

Here was my analogous painting. Almost all of the colors of the garlic fall in the yellow to light grey range. only the shadows on the back of the garlic fall into a different basic hue. There is an unexpected simplicity and neatness to using analogous colors. I found it easier to turn form using fewer colors much as I did using the Zorn Palette for my portraits in the previous class.

Advanced Painting Atelier – Week 1 -2

I was so excited for this class to begin, in fact, I think I was jumping up and down in my seat. The whole atelier experience has been a huge roller coaster for me by expanding my abilities and making me confront many of my own limitations. This class hasn’t been just about art for any of us. Whenever you push boundaries you’re bound to come face to face with deeply held negative beliefs about yourself and your abilities. This has been no less true for us, and it is a painful journey. As soon as you think you’re past whatever it was, something else looms up to take its place and you begin the process all over again. Painting as a metaphor for life. How interesting. No wonder I’m so passionate about it!

Much of the discussion was about the importance of having a narrative or a story intrinsic to what you’re painting; to think about why and how you are painting what you are. In addition, Rose talked to us about the fact that we will be working on a keystone painting for a series of paintings. We also talked about armatures and did a complementary cast painting.

Someday, I will do a blog post on armatures. Armatures can show you where the most harmonious places are for you to place your focus in a painting that you are constructing. In the painting above, you can see how many of the lines superimposed on the painting correspond with the lines of the painting itself. I love the lines of this painting all on its own in one color. When you look at it in full color, you can see what a masterful artist de Blaas truly was.

Suffice it to say that much of the great art that has ever been created was designed along the lines of an armature, and many books have been written on the subject. Until then, please check out this article: https://www.artistsnetwork.com/art-mediums/oil-painting/pech-harmonic-armature/

Complementary paintings occur when you use two colors across from each other on the color wheel such as red and green or violet and yellow. In this case, I ended up with a yellow-green and a violet. We were using gels in front of our spotlights to create different effects on the statues (or casts) that we were to paint. (Once I varnish the painting it will look much better!)

A Werewolf’s Prophylactic

For the technical types, this is called an analogous painting. All the colors used to create the garlic are lumped together in the same part of the color wheel. Because it’s October, and because I like to think I have a sense of humor, I titled this painting A Werewolf’s Prophylactic.

Pieces and parts of this class will be coming out of order, I’m afraid. I spent 2 weeks in France during the class and I’m still trying to catch up. I PROMISE I will post pictures and articles about the workshop and places I visited in Provence. I became ill while I was there and am now just beginning to feel like myself again. Sorry for being such a stranger!

Your State of Mind Determines Everything

I’ve been talking with Scott about some stuff (as always).  I don’t have the right words yet so this will take some work.  Sometimes, I get a clear picture of what life would be like without restrictions on possibilities.  It’s like creating a list of goals knowing you have all the time and money you need to make it happen.  I can wave a magic wand and remove all of my obstacles.  That is the space of infinite possibilities.

If you could do anything you wanted to, what would it be?  What would you learn?  Where would you go, live, work?

 What happens to the mind when it sees possibilities instead of obstacles?  Dreaming opens the mind to expansion instead of contraction.  It is an empowering process that employs creativity and enables us to look for ways to make things work.  It is a completely different mindset from what most of us maintain on a day to day basis.  Take the time to open up to this on at least a daily basis and change your basic mindset.  Many of our decisions are based on ego and judgment; decided out of fear.  Through the process of practicing expansion, thoughts based on “limiting beliefs” will become more obvious.  This enables us to make choices based on the type of response we choose to make rather than making an automatic choice out of fear.

If we want to be in charge of our lives, we MUST be aware of the criteria used for our decisions.

As an artist, this has huge ramifications as well.  If I fear a subject, I won’t paint it.  I’ll stall, dither, look at hundreds of images on the internet, anything I can to keep from beginning something I see as difficult.  (This shows up in self-talk as, “I’m not good enough to do that, I’ll make a mess of it, I don’t know how, that’s beyond me.”)  When I fall into this mindset, I limit my scope of work and my growth as an artist stalls or stagnates.  It is precisely working on these more challenging pieces that I learn the most from my efforts!

It is almost impossible to paint well from a place of judgment.  Critical thinking, as in problem-solving or actively working through issues is a very different place than judgment.  It is the difference between “this is bad” and “what will make this a better painting?”  It is the difference between focusing outward on your work, and inward at what you perceive as your own failings.

One more thing about judgment from a different angle, and then I’ll stop, for now.  The original paintings I have liked the least have sold, and I continue to sell prints of those paintings because they are so popular.  All I can do is shake my head and keep going.  I have a feeling that we are rarely the best judge of our own work.

2019 Holiday Painting Finished

October 9, 2019

It’s been a busy week/month/season!  Jan, the maker of our lovely gift baskets that are sold through Hawaii’s Local Buzz, reminded me that she needed this year’s holiday painting prints for her Christmas with Buzz giftbasket event by Friday, September 6, 2019 at our showroom in Honolulu, HI on Mokauea St.  There’s nothing like a deadline to get me moving.

Here are some pictures of the painting in process:

The underpainting is almost complete.

I’m beginning to get a feel for what the final painting will look like.

Here is the final painting.  Quite a few people have commented that they are happy to see something other than the basic red and green for a Holiday-themed painting.  I have to agree.

16″ x 20″ Oil on Canvas

Don’t do It!

If you’re an artist, you probably have a large stack of paintings that don’t measure up to your standards.  The longer you paint, the more this becomes a difficult thing to deal with.  I learn something from every painting I do and my skills continue to grow accordingly.  As artists, we are the keepers of our creative destiny and get to decide what to keep and what to toss.

  • I’ve read about painters that save all of their “failed” artwork and use it to create a bonfire every few years because the paintings don’t live up the artist’s own quality guidelines and they feel that this would degrade the scope of their over-all work.
  • I know artists who never sell their work because they feel that a piece of their soul is tied up in the piece.
  • Sometimes I’m just gobsmacked when a piece of art I really didn’t like sells quickly, and the prints from that painting continue to sell, consistently.  Over time, I’ve learned that what I like and what someone else likes won’t necessarily be the same thing.  Over that, I still shake my head sometimes, and that brings me to my next point.
  • Someone somewhere is going to love that painting that I just can’t stand.  Every painting exists as part of my body of work, as part of my artistic journey.  I learn at least one thing from every painting that I create.  I’ve only destroyed one painting, and I regret it.  It wasn’t finished, and at that time, I didn’t think I could do anything with it.  I had fallen in love with a stone wall in Kainaliu and taken a picture to paint just before an earthquake took it down, and here it is.  This photo is the only proof that this painting ever existed.

And, I regret it.  This was very early painting days for me.  I put a lot of time into this painting.  I outlined each individual rock in black.  What did I learn from this painting?  So much.

  1. That I could lose myself in my work
  2. Never lose track of the big picture
  3. Paint things that move you
  4. Rocks are never entirely one color
  5. Get the entire canvas covered with paint before you make any major decisions about a painting.
  6. Don’t outline rocks in black!
  7. Things are never as bad as you think they are

Now, I could have done so much with this painting and turn it into something spectacular.  I may paint it again someday because I still love the wall.

So tell me.  If you’re an artist, what do you do with your “failed” or what you consider sub-par paintings?

Self-Portrait Complete

August 24, 2019

As always, the caveat is, it’s done for now.  I’m happy with it, in fact, I’m so happy with it I want it in MY ROOM.  I seem to have this belief that I can’t really paint people well, and then I’m surprised when I do.  Hell, I’m surprised when they are recognizable!  *Shakes my head…*  Sometimes the inside of my head is no place to be.

Have I been comparing my work to other artists’?  Yes.  Sigh.
Does my art continue to improve?  Yes!
Do people enjoy my work?  Yes!
Do I still love what I do?  Yes!
Then I’m on the right track!

One of my goals for this blog is to point out that becoming an artist, frankly becoming anything, isn’t a straight line.  I’ve seen so many blogs where everything is sweetness and light, and everything moves along swimmingly according to the “Master Plan.”  This certainly hasn’t been my experience, and it is how we handle these challenges that make us who we are.

Most of my paintings feel like ongoing problem-solving sessions.  The last thing I do each day is to create a punch list of what I want to accomplish the next time I sit down to work on it.  Creating this list gives me a good starting point.  This continues to happen until I near the end of the process and THAT is when I usually start to feel the energy of what a painting can become.  My teacher, Rose Adare, hits this point before she even puts a mark on the canvas.  (That’s why SHE’s the teacher!)  I’ve only managed that a few times so far, and each time resulted in a spectacular piece.

It is important to become aware of what your process is.  Everyone has rituals that they go through as they work on something.  Become aware of your self-talk and recognize what you are saying to yourself.  Find a way to check criticism, self-doubt, and judgment at the door.  All that negativity does is make the process take longer to accomplish something that was going to happen anyway.  This painting took at least twice as long as it should have because of all the negative self-talk I was dealing with.  In some ways, it is a reverse Dorian Gray.  All the angst, frustration and judgement went into this painting and came out as a sense of peace.  It was worth the journey!

Weeks 10 – 12 Part 3

Working on a self-portrait is an illuminating project

I’m learning a lot as I go along. One of them is figuring out how to divorce myself from the picture and paint what I see. It can be an emotional thing to do a self-portrait. You almost never appear in a picture the way you see yourself. I now realize that I picked challenging lighting and a difficult pose. Oh no, nothing straight-forward for me! During this process though, I find I’m making finding some peace with myself.

I’ve gone from age 16 male to 30-something female so I think I’m making headway. I haven’t come up with a good idea for a background yet so I just threw something in there. Uh, take it from me and don’t do that. Especially don’t make it flat black. Sigh. Every time I think I’m “growing up” as an artist I go and do something childish. Focus and paying attention are so important. When you strive for realism you need to paint what you see, not what you think is there. If you have to make it up, have a plan in place. In my experience, “winging it” rarely works in my favor. Not with realism.

Here’s my other painting. I’m still moving forward.

Toning down the entire side of his face made a huge difference. Even with half of his mustache and beard missing it “reads” as being there because the colors are correct.

The Zorn Palette

Many people have probably used this color scheme, but it is most widely know to be used by a Swedish painter named Anders Zorn who was known for his portraits. Here is an example of his work:

Mrs. Walter Rathbone Bacon

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my head trying to figure out how to map out the colors of a Zorn palette, Ivory Black, Titanium White, Vermilion (or Cadmium Red Medium), and Yellow Ochre. There is no blue used on this palette, the black is used as a blue. After a lot of looking around, this was the best paint chart I could find for the Zorn palette. This shows not only the primary colors of this combination but also the secondaries mixed with their complements and tinted white for additional colors. What it doesn’t have are all of the non-tinted colors mixed with varying degrees of black. For this palette, the black only applies to two-thirds of the palette. This was the best representation of available colors I could find that made sense. I found this on Pinterest and the website that it originally came from was not listed.

The colors are fantastic. Using a limited palette like this makes it much easier to figure out how to mix the colors you need. Does it need to be cooler? Add black. Lighter? Add white. Warmer? Decide if it has more red or yellow tint and adjust accordingly.

I expect I will continue to use the Zorn palette for portraits for a while since it is so perfect! I can always add other colors as accents later The great thing about this palette to me is that it limits the amount of “color” you can use and it makes you focus more on your values. I need to say that again for the painters out there…

” The great thing about this palette to me is that it limits the amount of “color” you can use and it makes you focus more on your values. “

If you want to be a good if not great painter, pay attention to your values. Values are everything. More than one famous painter has stated that if you have to get one thing or the other correct, make sure it is value rather than color. Color can’t fix the problem. If the value is correct, the eye will see what it needs to in order to make the painting work.

I guess I see another blog post coming.

Weeks 10 – 12 Portraits Week 1

This task threw me for days. I doubted myself. I doubted that I could do it. I wouldn’t even start for the fear. Isn’t that silly? Now I think it is, but then, well, I guess I just wasn’t thinking. I was feeling and I let it get the better of me for a while.

We had to choose an image to work from in class and to do a self-portrait looking in a mirror. Here’s what I came up with:

I’ll tell you right now, glasses are a bear. I’ll remember that for the future! I don’t know who this gentleman is, I just loved the picture.

It took me a while to find a pose of myself that I was comfortable with. I’ll admit it, I’m vain.

The first step is the drawing, and then stepping away to come back and find any errors that have to be corrected before the drawing is “fixed” to the canvas. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to spray the drawing with a fixative such as Krylon Workable Fixatif. I prefer the next method. Rose showed us that you can also fix a drawing by painting over it with thinned paint and wiping some of it off. This leaves your painting tinted with an undertone, which can be very helpful if it is one of the skin tone colors. From there, you can wipe-out highlights (as long as you do it before the paint dries) and that gives you the start of your painting. Here’s an example of that on my self-portrait.

Here is the start of my other painting. Drawing is in place and I’m starting with color. I wasn’t happy with where this was going, so I went in a different direction, putting in a basic background first. That allowed me to better judge my colors. Then I started putting in some of the darks and the whole thing began to make better sense.

My next post will be about the Zorn palette, which is all I’m using to do these portraits. This is a combination of Titanium White, Ivory Black, Yellow Ocre, and Cadmium Red.