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.
NFTs and me December 25, 2021 21:46
Recently, I painted five oil paintings in nine days, which with the help of a tech bro who bought some art from me years ago were turned into nfts and sold in three days in an auction. And I made more money from that sale than I made for the past couple years from selling my art the usual way.
The blockchain I am using (Solana) is not wasteful of electricity; a transaction on Solana uses as much electricity as two Google searches.. The fees are miniscule, like about 1.5 CENTS.
Yes, people can right-click on my image--they've always been able to--but I have news for you: nfts are more about provenance. You can decide to allow your nft to be used in various ways as part of the contract, but most of the time, the artist keeps copyright. Yes, there is theft of images, but this has happened to me plenty without any of my art being an nft. Unlike with traditional tools, with an nft I can get a royalty every time it is sold.
I'm not going to argue with anyone about nfts. If you want to learn about them, you can. It is not my job to educate people about them, just like it's not my job to educate people about oil paints that contain metals, like cadmium or lead. Instead, I will talk about what making nfts is doing for my art, because so far, I haven't seen anyone address that particular issue.
My next nft project is a big one--48 watercolor landscape paintings which I will use to create 264 composite digital paintings. The image that I've attached to this post is a small slice of one of those composites.
I've never painted so fast in my life. Each of the 48 paintings are 10 x 30", and I am completing a painting about every two days. This is about the size I usually paint, so it's not that I am painting faster due to smaller size. I photograph those paintings and turn them into digital files, which I neaten up and modify in various ways and then layer them together into unique paintings that will become the nfts. The digital cleaning up is what takes me the longest. I don't know Photoshop as well as I should.
I have discovered a bunch of things by working on this project, which I am 1/4 of the way through.
The biggest is that it has broken the back of my perfectionism in painting, which has crippled it for as long as I have painted. When I set out to make nfts, I told myself that the purpose of these paintings was to bring joy to the people who bought them. They didn't have to be perfect--they needed to be competent and to express beauty as best as I could do. I didn't have to emulate O'Keefe, Lautrec, or Monet. I didn't have to be a Great Artist. I just had to do a good job.
And this opened the floodgates.
I have become a much better painter just through the amount of practice I've been getting. But more, I feel I can fully use what I actually do know about painting instead of always holding back due to fear of fucking up.
I can't tell you how many times I have stopped working on a painting because I was afraid I would fuck it up. Probably about 1/3 of my paintings end this way. Another 1/3 are not worth saving. And 1/3 are and I am able to overcome the fear of fucking up with them.
One of the reasons people mock nfts is that they say nft art is lousy and ugly. A lot of it is. But I don't see a higher proportion of crap in nfts than in regular painting. It seems equal. I thought, well, I've got better technique than tons of these people, so I have nothing to fear on that score. But when I realized there was such a strong parallel in terms of the percent of crap art in both nfts and traditional art, I felt like I've been messing myself up all these years by not believing my art is good enough when 95% of any kind of art is crap. Now I see that my art is good enough. It doesn't have to be great to be ahead of the mob. It has to be honest, competent, and original.
Before I had a studio, I felt satisfied if I produced a finished painting every 2-3 weeks. When I rented the studio, I resolved that I had to justify the $350/mo I was paying for it by going over there to paint ever single day. Before I knew it, I was painting faster than I'd ever painted before--2-3 paintings a week, and most of these in oil.
The faster I painted, the more I learned about painting. The more I learned, the more issues I could solve. And that gave me more confidence in myself as an artist. I experimented more, took more risks, solved more problems, and sold some art.
The speed with which I am making the paintings that will become nfts is even greater. I have learned a ton already--about technique, yes, but more, about my art and what I am capable of doing. And once again, my confidence has increased. Even just drawing for the underpainting has made me realize I am competent at rendering things.
So painting fast and painting for nfts shattered my perfectionism in art and massively boosted my confidence, such that fear of fucking up is no longer stopping me from trying things in my paintings. I never expected this to happen.
I fully expect my skills to improve a great deal. And to make some money while doing it.
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!
Lines June 30, 2018 11:27Maybe that's why today I noticed something about my paintings. They made heavy use of lines. I think I posted about this a while ago, saying that since I had developed a tremor due to ageing that I was going to be avoiding using lines so much as I usually did. But this morning I could see that nothing of the kind had happened.
Vessels Series: Moon Vessel Finished December 6, 2016 18:46
I like the vibe of this painting as somewhat like a tarot card. I'm really glad that I started this series. It is much more to my taste than anything else I've done recently. It gets my imagination going and I feel like I am producing much more interesting images. Read more...
Vessels: Moon Vessel November 20, 2016 19:35
Aquarius Moon is an Asshole + Finished But Not September 18, 2016 15:59
I finished that painting, which became the somewhat odd "Nymph and Her Children." This was my first real step into surrealism, if I can call it that. Since then, I have set off boldly in the surrealist direction. Read more...
So much for that decision September 16, 2016 14:52
Indecision: Post-Modern Vanitas vs. Spare Luminism September 11, 2016 15:16
I have been thinking about starting a new series (well, two, actually) of paintings based on industrial buildings and having a connection to the vanitas genre. Read more...