Time to Experiment January 25, 2023 16:37
I promised myself that if I got into senior housing, I would take advantage of not having to work so much and instead spend more time experimenting with my art rather than trying to paint things that I think will sell. It's not that I dislike anything I've painted. If I do, it never makes it to my site. I probably throw out or paint over about 20% of what I make because it's not good enough or I just plain hate it. But it is much more difficult to take risks with art when you need sales.
But where to start?
One thing I came across that was very helpful was a video by an artist named Chelsea Lang. In this video, she talks about learning what it is that you really want to paint, that you can be passionate about consistently. To discover exactly what that is, she advises gathering images that inspire you. Once you've got a pile, you create a "curated" collection composed of images that you would be proud to have painted yourself; I've posted some of them throughout this page. You then go through the curated collection and make note of the drawing (or not, like with colorfield), the values, the color, the edges, and the composition.
Was I ever surprised what I came up with! I thought I would end up with a lot of landscapes, probably somewhat abstract or subdued. Instead, almost every single one of the 40 images I "curated" were purely abstract and many of them were even monochrome, which I never expected in a million years--get this: even though I often find myself using max 2 colors plus white & black. I marveled at this.
But I also considered it gold in terms of self-discovery.
Chelsea Lang advises that once you've got your curated collection and determined what aspects they most have in common, you have found what you should begin learning how best to paint and start practicing and studying. She also advises worrying about the mechanics of selling once you have worked that out. I think this is the most sensible advice I've heard in a really long time.
So I've begun practicing. It's the best thing I have done for my art in a long time.
Tonalism June 18, 2022 13:21I've been painting various landscapes as a break from doing still lifes using the Flemish technique, which got on my nerves. Trying to do fine details with worn-out brushes and essential tremor is difficult. I need to be able to rest my entire arm on the support or right near it. A mahl won't work. I decided that I would have to go without the Flemish technique and instead paint these things in watercolor with a wax finish.
But I needed a break. My landscapes have never called for tons of detail, and I like painting them.
I did a couple using my long canvases (12 x 36"), which sold a print or two but are too large for me to get sales with at this point. I might turn the rest into NFTs when the market comes back up. It would be a good way to use up those canvases but still make some money from them and also get to keep the originals, which I like having around. So I will try that in a bit.
Meanwhile, because my small still life (9 x 12") sold right away, I decided to try some smaller landscapes, especially after I got totally frustrated with the mandrake still life. I have about 10 11 x 14" canvases that I forgot about, so I took one of those out. I intended to add the moon to whatever landscape I made, because me and my people love us a moon.
I started with a reference photo of some trees I've often photographed behind the apartment complex. I just like them as a group. I put those in against a background from another photo of a dawn in bands of gold, pink, and blue. I put the trees in with a combo of black spinel and prussian blue. I made only a few trunks and branches, and the rest was simply blotting a worn small brush around to make leaves. They came out well.
Next up, a moon, using my plastic circles thing. I knew I would touch it up again later.
Then, a group of crows flying towards the trees, and that helped me come up with a title, "Coming Home."
It was okay but to me the colors looked pretty loud after painting with a classical palette for the still lifes. And that's when I got the idea for Tonalism. I thought I might be able to create a Tonalist work simply by adding a glaze.
Some Tonalism is a little drab and depressing to me, but other Tonalist works feature the rich colors of sunset and landscapes made mysterious by darkness or mist. So I decided to try it.
So when the painting was dry, I oiled in and tried a glaze of transparent brown oxide. That made it look really dull. Too dull. I also tried making the moon brighter at that point, but it was too difficult not to mess the glaze up--nowhere to rest my shaky hand. And since the glaze wasn't really the right color anyhow, I wiped it off.
I tried again with transparent red iron oxide. That was a lot better but still too much on the dull side. So I wiped it off too.
I dug around in my red paints, of which I have a LOT. I needed something that was on the blue side of red to make the yellow more orange, the pink more pink, and the blue somewhat purple. But the quins were way too intense, the perylenes too dull, and I have a lot of scarlets.
At the bottom of the pile was a brand new tube of ultramarine pink. I opened it to see a purplish red on the dull side, and it's transparent. So I tried a glaze of that, using a very soft brush, my siccatif de courtrai, and some extra oil.
It worked. I might put another layer on when it gets dry to intensify the colors just a bit more. If I do, I will wait until that is dry and then finally lighten the moon.
I'm pretty happy with this painting so far. It really does look like a Tonalist painting, and it was quite easy and relaxing for me to do. I will make more such paintings, using different colored glazes to get different results. Really looking forward to exploring this farther.
Landscapes November 3, 2021 19:15
Lately I've been wanting to paint landscapes, so I went through my reference photos looking for likely suspects. I have tons of photos I've taken over the years, but every once in a while, I find a photo that I'd like to use as a reference that isn't mine. I collected all the landscape photos I wanted to try painting, all of them my own, except for this one photo that featured an abandoned church where rough, thick boards had been nailed across the windows. This hadn't stopped someone from ripping off one of the front doors, which was lying in the long grass out front, and the cross from the steeple was missing. It reminded me of cults, which so often arise, create havoc, and disappear. So I thought it would be good to paint.
This morning I got back to it. It is much improved, I think, even though it is far from finished.
I did a couple of other different things with this painting. For one, I decided to give the Classical Landscape Palette that Tad Spurgeon outlines in his book. "The Living Craft." This is a terrific book, by the way, for all sorts of reasons. But one of the things that have inspired me is his list of different sorts of palettes.
I've always had problems with choosing colors. In the past, I wanted everything, and that meant that my paintings were often jumbled. I discovered limited palettes in watercolor, and I learned a ton from that and felt like I did find more image cohesion that way, but I also kind of went overboard and got to the point where I was using just 2-3 colors (including white) for my paintings. Only recently did I decide to go back to trying a lot of colors.
But even so, I still felt I hadn't conquered the color chaos. I considered trying some of the palettes in the book in the past, but never got around to it. Lately, though, I've been feeling more serious about how I paint, so I decided to actually try one of the palettes. I chose the Classical Landscape Palette because it offered a lot of choice without being overwhelming and it includes a lot of fast driers, always a consideration for me:
Nickel Titanium Yellow
Yellow Ochre, Golden Ochre, or a mix
Raw Sienna Dark or Transparent Mars Yellow
Venetian Red, Vermillion, or a mix (lost my vermillion, so I am using pyrrole scarlet PR170 instead)
Burnt Sienna Light or Dark, Transparent Mars Brown, or a mix
Pyrrole Crimson (pyrrole rubine PR264), Mars Red, or a mix
Green Earth, Viridian, or a mix
Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, or a mix
Ivory black (but I decided to use Italian Roman Black Earth instead because it is much faster and I have good blues)
Just for starters, I've always had issues with viridian, felt like it was a fish out of water type of color, but it seems to go well with these others. I'm using williamsburg's Italian Terre Verte and their French Terre Verte for the green earth; they are great greens. I love the two pyrrole reds, so that's cool, and the crimson one made a decent purple with the ultramarine today. The only issue I see is the selection of yellow. The earth yellows are kind of murky and the nickel yellow is pale. I'll have to see how they go with the other colors. I have a jillion yellows, but my favorite is a strontium yellow I got from a Ukrainian seller on Ebay.
At any rate, I am ready for adventure.
Fresh Horses July 29, 2021 12:59
I've been mulling my next steps in painting because of the issue with fumes from gouache burning my eyes. I started another painting with just plain watercolor, but I disliked it a great deal (<--). I could not get it to look even close to what I had imagined. I guess I would have to use oil paints to do that. I just kept looking at it and hating it, even though folks on Instagram were very supportive about it. Maybe it just looks better online than it does in person.
One problem was that I have never been able to draw a straight line. So I've got that issue throughout the painting. I decided to use painter's tape to remedy that, and it helped, but it was still an issue (I will say that Frog tape is much better than masking tape for that purpose). I bought some tools like a metal ruler (couldn't find my old metal ruler) and a ruling pen to do that, but I just didn't want to work on it anymore. They are just sitting in front of the easel.
So this morning I took the painting off the gatorbord and put the line-drawing tools away. And frankly, I was relieved. I am not cut out to be precise.
I haven't been happy with my art lately. Nothing I've been doing has been good, in my opinion, and it certainly hasn't seemed like me. I have felt very cut off from it.
Some time ago, I gave myself 10 years to become a successful painter. "Successful" for me meant that my art income would be sufficient for me to scrape by when combined with my Social Security benefits. I have not even come close with that. For the past couple of years I've made only about enough during the entire year to support myself for one single month. And that's the gross, not the net. Sheesh.
I chose ten years on account of hearing Renato Muccillo talk about how it took him that long to become a successful painter. He inspired me, even though I paint nothing like him. I like how he paints landscapes with detail but without becoming photographic. His painting is always painterly. I also like how he often uses cheap brushes. :) And I admire how productive he is. I feel like being productive is one key to becoming successful and hopefully, a good painter.
The thing is that one problem I've always had with art is that I want to do too much. I'm greedy. I want to learn how to paint everything in almost every style and in all mediums. So that results in jack of all trades, master of none syndrome. It also means my paintings have no cohesiveness as a body of work, and I feel like that should be there. I have little style of my own because I am always careening around from one thing to the next.
This is quite the contrast to how I am as a writer. I realized recently that I'm a better writer than I am an artist. Kind of a disappointing realization. Writing is work, but it's easy work for me. I never really thought about why. But I started thinking about that why. Maybe I could apply that info to my art.
It isn't just plenty of practice with expository writing that makes me a good writer. It's because when I write about something, I dig deep. I research the crap out of a topic, I read everything I can find on it, I make notes on the best info, rearrange it, write that up, and when I do that, I have gained enough knowledge and experience on whatever it is so I can come up with original ideas on the topic. So IOW, my writing is good because it's about depth, not breadth. Depth is the the environment for my writing.
I thought, how can I do that with art when I'm always all over the place? I can't. And I think that's why my art is not anywhere near as good as my writing.
So okay: concentrate on one thing. I paint three kinds of things: landscapes, abstracts, and surrealism. Which one should I concentrate on?
At first I thought landscapes. I've always loved landscapes, and I still do. George Inniss is one of my favorite painters. I've got tons of books on landscape painting, and I've already signed up for Mitchell Albala's forthcoming landscape workbook (I highly recommend his first book for landscape painters--and Suzanne Brooker's and John Carlson's). And landscapes are popular. People love them, right?
They do, but they don't love mine. I looked over the past couple of years to see what had sold. One landscape, and it was small. Most of the rest were abstracts.
I have to admit that I like painting abstracts best--better than landscapes or surreal stuff. I feel very connected to my brush when I paint them. I like that abstraction helps me dig down deep into myself and my connection with the material and spiritual worlds. Of the three focuses of my painting, abstracts feel like the most me.
And I don't have to make any straight lines if I don't want to. In fact, I usually default to curving lines and biomorphic shapes, because that's what I like to look at in life. They have a special meaning to me that I can't put into words.
Plenty of folks paint very colorful landscapes, but I have often felt constrained by local color. Conversely, with abstracts I've often painted with only two or three colors because I've been wary of jamming too many colors into one painting and losing all unity.
I want my colors to have a reason to be on the support, even if that reason is only their relationship to the other colors there. But I also want to become less wary about using them, as in this little work in progress (-->). In the past, I never would have added that pyrrole red.
So I'm going to focus on the abstract stuff for the next three years. I'm going to learn about a ton of abstract painters and go see abstract works in museums and galleries and listen to lectures about abstraction. And I'm going to paint a lot more than I have been, because for one thing, in three years I'll be 70 years old.
The problem with dimensional ground, and stylization September 21, 2020 13:58
I worked on the tree painting for a while the other day, experimenting to see, for instance, how granulation would work on the lightweight dimensional ground. It worked fine. But I knew another challenge would be to see if sealing with cold wax would work on this kind of ground.
Well, it didn't. With so much texture, the wax got caught in the creases. I could have buffed that out, but rubbing the cold wax into the painting removed a couple of the tips of texture, revealing the white ground beneath. So that's out. Which is okay--the light dimensional ground is softer than the other grounds, and I can still create texture with them, just not so much. That is okay.
I've been thinking about doing landscapes again because I find them soothing but also they are another way to connect with nature. In these tumultuous times, I thought maybe people need an escape. But then I realize it might be better to think of them as respite. A peaceful, nourishing place allows for not only a rest but a renewing and regrouping of one's energies so that we can go back out there and do what needs to be done. I feel like I can justify doing landscapes for that purpose.
Yesterday I went for a walk with friends around a marsh nearby. It inspired me, and I took photos I could use for reference. I really like being able to do that with my phone instead of having to lug my DSLR around.
This morning I started on a new painting based on one of them. I had another canvas covered with the lightweight dimensional ground, but I didn't feel like using it; I wanted to use paper. So I pulled out a quarter sheet of Strathmore Gemini 500 and got to work on this, which is just the background so far.
Immediately the urge to make something Naturalist came over me, but I feel my worst landscapes have been the most Naturalist--like a really awful painting of a summer field I did some time ago. I have also resisted an urge to stylization in my landscape paintings in the past, thinking it would make them too decorative, but I'm going to go for it now and try for some more dream-like imagery through its use. I like what some other artists have done with stylization in their landscape paintings. I think it can be a good way to add some abstraction to my landscapes without going the blurry route. I like blurry landscape paintings, but I would like to try something else.
Light Dimensional Ground on Canvas September 19, 2020 12:34
I got some of QoR's Light Dimensional Ground and applied it to a couple of 12 x 12" canvases I had sitting around. The stuff was easy to spread with a big palette knife, but I used up 2/3s of the little jar on two canvases. I don't know if I just used too much or what. I like oil paintings with a lot of texture, and I thought I might be able to capture that effect with this stuff, so I went to town. You can see the amount of texture I ended up with.
This stuff is not as smelly as the regular watercolor ground, but I still let it dry out in the hall during the day, and since we have hooligans coming into our building at night to fuck around, I took the canvases in and put them in my window to complete drying overnight. As long as it doesn't rain or freeze, I think that's going to be a good place to let stuff dry.
Today I could hardly wait to try out these supports. One technique I use a lot in watercolor is apply some paint and then mist with a hair mister to get it to run and to encourage particles of pigment to settle in the texture of the paper. I find a hair mister works many times better than a regular sprayer. You can do tiny puffs of mist just where you want them or quickly mist the whole thing to encourage granulation. I was hoping that I could do that with this ground, but I wasn't sure, since I kept reading about how it was spongy. A spongy surface might just sop up the pigment and not allow it to run. In fact, at least one review said that.
But that's not what happened with my paint. I used Daniel Smith's Green Apatite, Winsor Newtown's Prussian Blue, Daniel Smith's New Gamboge, and Winsor Orange. The apatite settled out a dark purplish brown color different from the green that dominates it. It fell into a lot of the creases and rumples and showed up as wonderful specks. It doesn't photograph well, but the photo above shows a detail.
Here's the whole painting. When you get close to the support, it does have the look of grainy paper, but the texture reminds me of acrylic, like modeling paste. The paint isn't shiny in any way. It's completely matte. I didn't feel much of a difference between this and painting on CP except that it lifts much more easily. I tried using that to my advantage to create limbs and trees in the background, but they ended up being overworked. I also tried some highlights that way, but it looked like too-vigorous lifting. So I think I might try lifting and then painting another color over the lift area, like zinc.
I'm not sure if I will add more to this. It might look better with some blue added, especially my beloved cobalt, but OTOH, I'm eager to go ahead and seal it with cold wax and see what happens. I asked the manufacturer if they thought it would be okay to use cold wax on this, because of the spongy thing. They said they didn't know but sounded kind of doubtful. That might be because no one has tried it yet.
This stuff has a lot of possibilities, but I am not sure how much I am going to use it because it is pretty expensive in terms of how far it goes. They produce it only in a small 4 oz jar. :( However, it might be possible to use Golden's molding paste and then either use watercolor on it or spread some of the regular watercolor ground over it.
However, I did just order some of Golden's Crackle Paste to try for texture as well. I didn't realize it could be used with watercolor, but on a hunch, I thought if light dimensional ground could be used that way, so might crackle paste. I can hardly wait to get my hands on it.
I am sensitive to acrylic, but I did okay with these grounds and I don't anticipate hovering over the stuff like I used to do with my paints. I will also allow the supports to dry out in the hall and/or in the window, so I think I will be okay.
I know some people might say, "Why are you trying to get texture with watercolor?" I know it's not "traditional," although in the 19th century, British watercolorists used aquapasto in their watercolors, which can produce low dimensionality with watercolors and is made from gum arabic and silica gel (that is treated in a way that makes it safe). I've used that in the past. It can give you brushstrokes similar to a not-too-heavy Impressionist style. I still need to play with that more.
But as for why insert texture into a watercolor painting, why not? There is no reason why oils and acrylics should get to have all the fun. Texture really expands watercolor and doesn't change its fundamental nature.
Lots of possibilities!