Monday, May 1, 2017

Tip Tuesday - Slinging Mud

"Colorful Vineyard" Oil on 8" x 8" panel. Sold.

The last 3 Tip Tuesday's have been about mixing paint and in keeping with that same theme today I'll talk about muddy color.

Everyone's experienced this - it's a beautiful day, life is good because you're painting after all, what could possibly go wrong? You've got a solid composition, a lovely subject and your first few paint colors are really working. Then it happens, there is that one tricky color. You know, that elusive one that you just can't seem to nail down? You started off pretty good, two colors got you in the ballpark so you added a third and you suspect that's where you might have made a wrong turn. You think, maybe if you added a fourth color you could save that precious pile of paint and actually apply it to your canvas?

Bam! Mud. Gray, nondescript, boring old mud. You can't use it anywhere! And what's worse, you now have a big pile of it. At this point, I see a lot of students try one more time to save the pile by adding yet another color.

Let it go. Move on. Like a toxic relationship, dump it because if you press on and use the mud it will pollute the whole painting.

Now, I'm not saying there aren't any uses for mud, there are a million and plenty of painters use it to their advantage. If you're wrestling with mud however (now there's a funny mental image), try to keep your paint mixtures simple. Stick to using 2-3 colors only (plus white when necessary). Any more colors than that and you run the risk of muddying the mixture.

Now that I've covered how to avoid mud, in the next post I'll talk about how to effectively muddy a color and why you would want to do that.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tip Tuesday - Back to Black

"Night Ride" Oil on 9" x 12" Arches Oil Paper. Sold.

Last Tip Tuesday I talked about how to break the white addiction, in all fairness this week I'm going back to black, as Amy Winehouse might say.
Do your darks look lifeless? When creating a shadow color are you adding black to darken the value? Black can kill the hue in your paint mixtures. Which is fine if that's a deliberate choice, but if you're simply looking to darken a color try using something besides black such as Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Dioxizine Purple, Pthalo Blue or a combination of these.

Black is a color. This might seem like and obvious statement but black is often misused and like a rebellious child, it is often misunderstood.

Unless you're using a truly neutral black, like Gambin's Chromatic black, then you should treat black as you would any other color on your palette. First figure out which way your black leans, is it warm or cool? For example, Mars black tints warmer than Ivory black. This is important if you want to be able to figure out where and when to use it.

Mars black is always on my palette. As a landscape painter I find it incredibly useful when mixing greens. It's a good shortcut to get to gray quickly, however, I usually add additional colors to it because gray in a landscape is rarely neutral.

While it's always on my palette, it is one of the few colors I feel is optional. So if you struggle with lifeless dark values or grays, try adding other colors to it or leave it off your palette until you have more experience mixing color.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tip Tuesday - Do Your Paintings Look Chalky?

"Garden Path" Oil on 8" x 6" panel

Call it what you like - titanium, flake, zinc, radiant - it's a paint tube that every artist shudders at the thought of painting without. It's addictive, need to lighten a color? Add white. Not light enough? Add just a bit more. Still not quite capturing that light? Well, you get the idea.

White can be so addictive in fact that some paintings look like a dirty chalkboard eraser was used on top of them. Sadly, all that bright, vibrant and expensive (paint doesn't grow on trees) color is lost and the painting looses it's impact.

How do you correct this problem? I hope you like turkey because you're going to need a cold dose of it.

Paint without white. There, I said it. Go grab yourself a glass of wine and continue reading when you have fortified yourself.

Obviously, you can't give up painting without white forever but try it for a while and see how far you can get using other colors to lighten your paint mixtures. You'll be surprised at how far various yellows will take you. The bonus is you will also discover color mixtures you never would have tried if you had white on your palette.

Have I done this? Yes, I painted without white for 3 months and I make my students paint without it at least once a year.

The piece above was created entirely without white, my students can vouch for me because it was a class demonstration painting.

Paint on my friends (without white - at least for this week)!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Does Drawing Matter in a Loose Painting?

"The Channel" Oil on 16" x 20" panel

When teaching I've been asked if a painter can hide the fact that they can't draw if they paint really loosely. Immediately an image of a magician doing a card trick pops into my head as I imagine how a painter might employ that same type of visual slight of hand.

The student asking the question is usually disappointed with my answer and they then proceed to try to prove me wrong my slapping as much paint as possible onto their canvas.

Detail 1

What do I tell my class when this question comes up? No, you can't hide a weak drawing by painting loosely.

The structural framework of a piece is absolutely critical even in a painterly painting. The best artists are the ones who know which edges they can obliterate and which edges are important to keep intact so that the form is readable to the viewer. Nicolai Fechin was a master at painting both loosely and accurately.

Detail 2

So, if you're an artist, draw. All of us need to draw more (myself included).

While I'm not the most painterly painter around I've been pushing into that territory a bit more with my Los Angeles River Bridge series. The painting above was inspired by the small plein air painting below.

"L.A. River Bridge" Oil on 9" x 12" panel

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Power of Destruction Oil Painting Workshop 2016

"6th Street Bridge Reflections"

Saturday and Sunday, September 24-25, 2016 join me for a special workshop at Randy Higbee Gallery.


Workshop Description

How many paintings have you created that you aren't happy with? How many paintings do you have hidden away hoping that one day soon you'll work out all the problems with it and make it better?

Join me as I show you the power of taking risks when you are painting. Learn to let go of perfection and open the door to a new way of working creatively. Learn about edges, why abstract shapes are important even in a representational painting and different methods of applying paint. Having a focal point, focusing on large shapes, value and color mixing will also be discussed, however, this class is very different from all of my other classes so, if you've taken a class with me in the past be prepared for something new.

In the morning class will start with a painting a demonstration using photo reference. After lunch I'll provide one on one instruction to each student.

Please bring several photo references, several blank canvases and one or more finished paintings that you wish you could improve.

If you are really brave, bring in a painting you aren't happy with and we will work directly on top of it by using the techniques you will learn in class.

Where: Randy Higbee Gallery, 102 Kalmus Dr., Costa Mesa

When: Saturday & Sunday, September 24th - 25th 2016, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Cost: $120 for 1 day or $200 for both days


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Special Invitation

"Interconnection No. 3"

New Artwork Preview and Painting Demonstration

You are invited to a special artwork viewing and painting demonstration this Saturday, September 17, 2016 where I will create an abstracted landscape from start to finish. 

On view will be new, never shown before works on paper, panel and canvas. 

I won't be holding a studio sale this year so, don't wait to snap up that special painting. *Hint - the paintings on paper have been extremely popular.* If you are outside the area call Chemers Gallery to make a purchase.

Now through September 17th enjoy 20% off of my artwork in the gallery!

When: Saturday, September 17, 2016 from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Location: Chemers Gallery
17300 Seventeenth St. Suite G
Tustin, CA
In the Enderle Center

(714) 731-5432


Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Power of Destruction

Perfection. The word brings to mind overly manicured gardens at historic French villas, straight lines that you're not allowed to color outside of and predictability.

Some painters strive for perfection. I imagine they are the ones who painstakingly recreate every detail of a subject using tiny paintbrushes with 3 bristles on the end. They spend months duplicating what a camera can capture in seconds. Their audience praises their work by exclaiming,"That looks exactly like a photograph!"

When you are learning to paint you struggle for years just trying to make your stuff look like stuff. You spend time trying not to make mistakes, hoping you're doing it right and figuring out how to make your stuff look darn good.

One day it dawns on you that your stuff actually looks like stuff! And then you spend a whole lot more time (a lifetime) trying to make your stuff look as amazing as possible.

This year a huge lesson I've learned is embracing destruction. Every studio painting I've worked on this year has almost been wiped entirely off the canvas. What seems to happen in this, I do some sketches and color studies, then I transfer my idea to a larger canvas, I block in all my big shapes and I passionately hate every inch of the painting.

The dark side of my brain whispers, "That's it, you lost it, you can't paint worth a damn anymore. Hang it up. Sell off your equipment and go back to work as a graphic designer."

Then my stomach reminds me that it's lunch time and I'm hungry. I get very hangry (that's hungry and angry mashed together in case you weren't aware) and tend to be negative until I'm fed. After eating I remember that I love painting, it's my compulsive obsession and I don't want to be a graphic designer again. So I take a look at the painting.

I still hate every inch. I plan on wiping it off first thing after dropping my kids off at school the next morning.

However, I refuse to let it be a complete loss. I plan to experiment with it before wiping it off just to see what I am able to learn by pushing paint around. More specifically, I plan to destroy parts of it by breaking edges, scraping away large areas with a palette knife, drawing on it with a pencil, slapping thick paint through passages where I see a sharp line and using tools can only be found at a home improvement store.

Why not, right? I was going to wipe it off anyway.

And that's when it happens - the interesting stuff, the stuff worth keeping, the stuff that makes the painting worth looking at, the fun stuff. The more risks I take the more interesting the painting becomes until eventually I don't hate it anymore and I don't plan on wiping it off anymore.

Now I embrace the opportunity for destruction. In fact, I look forward to it.