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Swinton's Art Supply, Instruction & Framing is Calgary's fine art supply retail store with over 10,000 art products and an instructional facility offering art classes and workshops, and a frame shop located near Chinook Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

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  • 05/02/17--11:10: The Painting Purge
  • Getting rid of studio clutter to achieve new directions.

    Unfinished, underdone, unrealized, over realized, overworked, overdone, exhausted or bedraggled, paintings don’t spoil like eggs in the fridge. Chances are they were rotten to begin with. Let them go!

    Sometimes it can be the “I’m not finished yet” syndrome along with the old “I’m still working on this one” that leads to the mounting pile. Remember friends, paintings are never really finished, they just present interesting places to stop.

    Another condition is the constant and perennial need to achieve perfection. This tendency leads to a lack of vision and to possibility for self-improvement. Growth is stunted when the artist works from an ivory tower of perfection.

    The opposite of this can be a factor as well. The “nartist”. The narcissistic artist is one who loves everything they make and treats every work as a special child and thus keep’s everything they make and the pile just keeps getting bigger.

    Let the purge begin...

    One way to start is to purge any paintings over two years old. By this I’m talking about unfinished, unfulfilled, undeveloped, incomplete, fragmentary paintings. Not the work you’re storing for sale. If you have a pile of half-baked and confused paintings that are over two years old, get rid of them. You are not the same artist you were two years ago. You are wiser and more seasoned and full of new tricks. All your newfound skills will clash with the old paintings anyway. Paint from the leading edge not the rear-view mirror.

    Another way to purge older work is to crop. Look for well painted passages that might make a smaller painting. Try putting a smaller frame or a mat around select areas and see if anything sings. If something does, you may have a new painting to frame!

    Fact is, you will not generally improve by misguided analysis of your own efforts. Brutal honesty is what’s needed here. Divorcing yourself from the majesty of your efforts and seeing your work as it really is can take time, mileage and a lot of wine but it is an essential task.

    Compare the work in your portfolio that has met the standard with dubious work that is unfinished. Ask your self a few hard questions like:

    • Will this ever meet my standard?
    • Am I ever actually going to work on this painting?
    • Do I really even like this painting?
    • Might this idea work better if I had a fresh start? 

    If you’re still unsure, use the Robert Genn patented “three bins” technique by sorting the work into IN-OUT-MAYBE categotries. Then take a second pass and you will find that the work in the “maybe” bin will often tip to the “out” bin.

    Another invigorating way to get rid of work is to T.O.D. it. “Time of Death.”  Play a coroner, take a big black marker and write TOD 10:15 am. right on the painting in big bold letters. This is a very euphoric and liberating experience.

    burning-paintingLastly, one thing that’s always fun, is to have a ceremonial burning. Throwing unrealized paintings in the fire releases the bad energy and evil spirits that blocked you. Doing this in a group with other artists is very tribal, ethereal and freeing with lots of good karma all around.

    How wonderful it feels when this thing is out of you life! Once you rid yourself of all the clutter in the studio and have freed up some cranium space, new work will begin to bloom. A good cleaning will spawn growth, fresh ideas and new directions. 

    For me it was spring that brought it on but anytime can be springtime in the studio. :)

    Happy fresh painting! 

    Your friend in art,

    Doug


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    How to get the best results from your next art workshop.

    1 - De Soto said so. 

    Be open to new ideas, exploring lands and uncharted waters.

    The worst thing an instructor hears from a student is… “I don’t do it like that, I prefer to do this….” Granted, some of the things you are about to learn may be unfamiliar but you may be rewarded if you are willing to give them a try. Later, you will sort through those new nuggets of knowledge, adopting some and letting others go.


    2 - All the right stuff.

    Follow the supply list as closely as possible. Every instructor has specific requirements, having honed their skills with a particular set of products, and mastering all the subtle nuances they provide. They do not want you to spend your money frivolously. They want you to succeed with superior products that work for them and the techniques they plan to introduce. Be prepared with all of the materials suggested on the supply list to get the BEST results out of your workshop. You may never use some of those items again and may just put them to pasture, however, one of those new products may just be the answer you’re looking for!


    3 - Stop, look and listen.

    Choosing a workshop can be a daunting task and picking the right one is very important. Here are few things to consider:

    • You can’t learn it all, so choose a few specific things that excite you about this artist’s work and focus on those.
    • Choose a style that will help your work. It’s one thing to try to loosen-up, but to take on an abstract workshop when you’ve been a realistic painter all your life may be a poor choice.
    • Is this workshop within your scope of abilities? Don’t dive into an advance workshop if you have only been painting for a short while.
    • Workshops are demanding and need your full attention. Can you afford the time? If you plan to attend only half of the session due to time restrictions, wait and do it when you have the time. If you are not fully committed you're wasting your money.

    4 - Three little piggies.

    Bring a notebook/sketchbook and a writing implement. When you take a workshop, no matter the duration, you will be inundated with new information. Sometimes it will come fast and furious. Be prepared to take copious notes - the more wordy the better.

    My general rule for a lucrative workshop is that if you can learn just three things, you will have successful results. Three things that you can remember, practice and repeat. Three things you want to adjust. Three things you can do to make improvements in your work. Three things you can take away and work on in your own time. These three things may not sink-in immediately but with practice and consistent implementation they will become second nature.


    5 - Re-hash the hash.

    One great thing to do once you have returned home from the workshop and had a nap is to retreat to a peaceful corner and take a few minutes to sit quietly and review your notes. You will be amazed how much more information will be gleaned from your notes after distilling them from all the fervour of the day. A mere ten minutes alone with your sketchbook will rehash the entire day and solidify the knowledge you acquired.


    6 - The show must NOT go on.

    Workshop time is learning time. Experimental time. Adventuresome time. Not a time to bring in all your unfinished paintings to be fixed or to get work done to fill your impending exhibition. Leave the unfinished business for some other time. Allow your brain to be open and inspired to create in new ways. Adding new cutting edge abilities into your work-in-progress can make it look inconsistent and disjointed. Acquired skills take time to work themselves out.


    7 - Don’t stop till you drop.

    I was amazed recently, watching the documentary “beyond the lighted stage” (okay I watch it every year) on the Canadian band Rush. After some 30 years at the helm of the drum kit, Neil Peart found himself a bit weary of doing the same thing and went looking for a spark. He sought out drummer Freddie Gruber, and asked for lessons. Being a seasoned professional jazz drummer Freddie knew exactly what Neil was after - a fresh perspective.

    I find it outstanding that one of the world’s greatest rock drummers is not beneath learning something new and taking instruction from another who has something new to offer.

    Taking workshops will keep your ideas fresh. I recommend you take one workshop per year and wouldn’t recommend you take more than two workshops per year. All these new found ideas can get jumbled in the brain and you risk confusing concepts.


    8 - Workshop junkies.

    Workshops usually look like a box of Timmy’s doughnuts. There’s a little bit of everything. Pure beginners, hobbyists, right through to gallery selling professionals. Never be intimidated by the results you see from other artist’s brushes. You don’t know their level of experience. Often there will be an artist that can already do what the instructor is doing. They may have attended such a workshop many times and are honing their skill. Some people are workshop junkies and love to follow an instructor around the country taking their every workshop. Don’t let this rattle or dishearten you. You are on your own journey and going at your own pace. Keep your eyes on your fries. Learn what you set out to learn and enjoy the ride.


    9 - We can be friends

    One of my favourite things about taking a workshop is learning from other attendees. Chatting with other students will fetch a wealth of newfound tidbits. Enjoying a lunch together or after class conversations over bevys are a great way to discover loads of new ideas: Tips on supplies, brush cleaning, storage and traveling with paints. You will find out about great places to paint or photograph and about galleries or museums that are not on the local radar. Most importantly, you might find out about other workshops worth taking. You might even make some lifelong friends!


    10 - All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.

    I consider attending a workshop part of my art practice. It’s work. That being said, if you happen to travel to a new city or even a different country for a workshop, remember to have fun in your downtime. Soak in all there is to offer and don’t forget to snap lots of reference photos. I always go out a few hours before the workshop and take photos of the area. After dinner I head out again for more. It’s inspiring and keeps me fresh when I return to my studio.


    All in all taking a workshop is a quick yet deep and delicious way to improve yourself as an artist and a human being.

    See you at the next workshop!

    Your friend in art,

    Doug.


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    Light colours in shadow & dark colours in light • Art Lesson by Doug Swinton

    Here is where the lesson begins: Notice that the value of any colour, from the darkest to the lightest can live in either the shadow or the light section of the painting. In other words, you can have a light value living in the shadow family and a dark value living in the light family.

    These reference photos illustrate the extremes in value separation. Look carefully… Just because something is black does not mean it lives only in the dark family.

    Let’s observe this on the boat “Lady D”. Notice the black band painted around the bow of the boat. Look at it’s value on the side lit by the sun. Now notice that the white on the base of the boat in the shade - it lives in the shadow family and is actually darker than the black that is in the light family. The white is darker than the black!

    lady-d-boat-value

    Let’s pause here and let that sink in…

    Now let’s look at another example, on Mirabell the cow. Look carefully. The dark patch of her hide that is in the sunlight (even though it’s black) is lighter than the white that is in shade!

    cow-value

    Keeping your values straight by continually comparing and actually seeing them for what they really are and not what you think they are is a concept the can raise your paintings to new heights.

    Don’t forget these couple of aids that can help in the assessment of value.

    value-finders

    Once you have found the correct value, match it to the colour you want to paint. That’s a lesson for another day.

    Hope this helps. Keep those brushes clean! Class dismissed.

    Your friend in art,
    Doug

    PS - Leave any questions or comments below. 


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    Developing superior colour sensitivity • by Michael Downs

    Hardly any person would argue that to be an expert sommelier a key skill is superior flavor perception, or that to be an excellent conductor a key skill is superior sound perception. Since color is primarily how we describe any visual subject matter, it ought to follow that to be an exceptional painter a key skill would be superior color perception.

    Color perception skills in painting evolved mainly during the Impressionism movement. Prior to this time in history, paintings were usually executed using a tonal/value approach, due in large part to the limited range of pigments available (mostly earth tones). With the onset of the industrial revolution, came two major advancements for painters:

    • The invention of new metal based intense pigments that enabled painters to actually make a realistic and complete color wheel.
    • The invention of paint tubes that made painting outdoors more practical.

    In the late 1800’s, Monet took advantage of these modern conveniences, and ventured outside to paint. Over a twenty year period of plein air painting, he “discovered” (or really just saw), that changing light affected the colors of the objects he was observing. In 1890, his observations culminated in a thematic study – 25 works in total – of haystacks to demonstrate how the time of day, different seasons, and various weather conditions altered color. This was not an arbitrary or subjective study of color, but rather an objective study of how light conditions affect color. The industrial revolution gave painters the ability and Monet gave painters the awareness to go beyond value-based perception into the new realm of color-based perception.

    Today, we have more modern pigments than Monet could have ever imagined, but even one hundred years later color is still being overlooked. I ask myself why this is the case because in all fairness color, NOT value, defines our visual world. Yet it seems that learning and developing color perception is being largely ignored in favor of value. The only answer I have for this incongruity is that color is much more perplexing than value to master. The following quote alludes to the fact that even Monet had to constantly challenge his brain to defy his own preconceived color notions, and to allow his observations of true color to create form.

    “I wish I had been born blind and then could suddenly see. Then I would naturally just paint the colors, and not be distracted by the objects in front of me.” – Monet

    While many artists have studied color extensively, there is still little understanding about color perception, despite the concept existing since Monet. The problem seems to be that most artists are taught color understanding and that is a very different thing from color perception. This very basic comparison expresses some differences between the two and will give you an idea of whether you use your understanding of color or perception of color when you paint.

    Color Understanding

    Knowledge & Recall

    • Blue and yellow make green.
    • Ultramarine is a warm blue while Cerulean is a cool blue.
    • Mixing colors across the color wheel results in “mud”.
    • Easy to learn (a memorization of facts, that can be presented in a book)
    • One time acquisition (once you learn that blue and yellow make green, you know it)
    • Very useful, but often limited (allows you to copy, paint by formula, or make subjective/expressive color choices)

    Color Perception

    Sensory Input & Evaluation

    • What are the qualities of the color I am looking at? (warm/cool, dull/intense, light/dark)
    • How does the color vary from one area of an object to another?
    • Is the relativity of the color correct within my painting?
    • Challenging to learn (a training of the eye to become more sensitive to color input and a training of the brain to properly interpret rather than insert previously acquired information, that can only be acquired through training, practice, and experience)
    • Ongoing process (once you begin, you will continuously be refining your perception skills)
    • Very useful, limitless (allows you to make objective color choices giving you complete freedom to paint any subject matter in any style desired)

    Color can be mixing paint and learning the color wheel, or it can be so much more… it all begins with your eyes. 

    Michael is well-known for his teaching style and teaches methods used by professional artists. He believes in showing students the foundations of both drawing and painting, so that students can take their skills and apply them to any style and medium of their choosing. In oils Michael encourages his students to work "directly" to take advantage of the properties of the paint. In watercolor, his philosophy is simplicity, keeping it fresh and luminous. In both mediums he emphasizes training the eye to see both shape and color, to quickly improve skill level.


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    by Charles Movalli

    by Charles Movalli

    Some so-called “painterly painter” are devoted to outdoor work. Some do still lifes, some figures. But all share certain attitudes. Not all of these attitudes are the exclusive property of painterly painters. Most painters, when pressed, believe in similar broad principles. But keeping that in mind, let’s try to generalize about the mind of the painters who loves paint. Rough painting, after all, is not simply a style. It’s a way of thinking about the world.

    charles movalli-artwork 01There have always been painters who love the look of a brush stroke and who, as a result, are willing to sacrifice “accuracy” for the sake of suggestion and implication. It’s the age-old struggle between those who define and those who seek the fleeting impression. The conflict reaches far back in time. We don’t have paintings by the great masters of Greek art, but we do know that Zeuxis disparaged rapid execution and praised diligence and care, while Apelles was praised for his ability to know the value of the word “enough.” Ancient China saw the same aesthetic distinction: there was the Northern or “gradual” school and the Southern or “sudden” school – the school of intellect and the school of intuition.

    Keeping the Chinese phrases in mind, we can see that there has long been a “sudden” school in the United States.

    Two of its best expositions – the sacred texts of all painterly painters – are Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit and Charles Hawthorne’s Hawthorne on Painting. Both books are dominated by the words “economy”, “mystery”, “joy”, and “invention”. Hawthorne even says that when a painter thinks, he’s done for. Although he contradicts this opinion elsewhere in his book, the implication is clear: there’s a value to spontaneity that “finish” can never equal. Intuition is what counts, and since spontaneity, the vehicle of intuition, is by definition fleeting, painterly painters have little interest in the dogged pursuit of “perfection”. If anything, they’re hostile to it. “Perfection is the enemy of great art,” says one such painter. “Make a few mistakes,” recommends another. Eugene Delacroix talks about the kind of mindless industry that, were it possible, would spend just as much time on the back of a canvas as on the front. The effect of the minute must be caught in the minute. Don’t niggle over the parts. Move on or start again. When an eye was wrong in a Sargent portrait, he scraped out the entire head. It might take a dozen tries to get a spontaneous, unified effect, but the effort was not just a matter of counting brush strokes. It was a sign of Sargent’s search for the brush strokes that gave the most expression with the least waste of energy. It’s the difference, as one painter remarked, between the picture that tires you by exhibiting the labor put into it and the one that exhilarates you through the seeming ease of its execution. The painterly painter uses the viewer’s experience to give life to the work.

    charles movalli-artwork 04Painterly painters believe that an abbreviated style is best suited to capturing elusive effects. But although they consciously strive to develop a rapid execution, their detractors often criticize this characteristic, dismissing their work as little more than sketches. The criticism creates more problems than it solves. For what is a sketch? More importantly, what is “finish”? The painterly painters labor under a disadvantage, since their idea of finish is not that of the general public. Robert Henri understood the problem: When people ask for finish, he wrote, they’re really asking for the expected. The problem has been worsened by the camera and the way its image prejudices the eye of the viewer. Our painters have little use for photography, and although some people claim the camera is the highest form of visual truth, the painterly painter declares it the most obvious example of the visual lie. One painter summed it up: “One eye, no brain.” Another declares he notonly can tell when a picture is done from a photograph, but he can also detect whether the film used was daylight or indoor! The painterly painters prefer to work directly from the subject or from sketches don on the spot. They have stacks of such pictures which they call their “brains”. They rarely sell them. In this, they’re like John Constable, “I don’t mind parting with the corn,” he said, “but not with the field in which it was raised.”

    Yet some viewers still find the summary execution of a picture annoying. They want their money’s worth. They want the facts. And they’re hard put to figure out what Sir Joshua Reynolds meant when, over two hundred years ago, he declared that detail in a painting was a sign, not of industry, but of “idleness”. Blades of grass can be done when the painter is half awake, but there’s no room for “idleness” when the artist seeks a subject’s important relationships. The painterly painter is then in the highest state of tension, and the relaxation of this tension signals the finish of the picture. That’s what is meant when someone like George Bellows is called a “body painter”. The body participates in the painting process: the body often says when to stop. Picasso summarized this view when he said that his hand told him when a work was done.

    charles movalli-artwork 06Many viewers have trouble agreeing with the painterly painter’s hand. They find brush strokes confusing – and some how insulting. The brushstroke is like a piece of the painter’s handwriting. Of course, rough pictures demand something from the viewer. But such a demand indicates not contempt for the viewer’s wishes but rather a respect for his or her intelligence. The viewer is asked to join in the creative process. All painterly painters agree on the fact that they’re in a partnership with the viewer. What the viewer brings to such paintings is almost as important as what the painter puts into them. The painterly painter uses the viewer’s experiences to give life to the work. Instead of being a passive receiver of information, the viewer becomes a participant. As one painterly painter noted, the highly finished picture exists whether you look at it or not. It’s as alive in a closet as on the wall of a house. But the painterly work needs the viewer to complete it. Since half the painting is suggestion, the “completion” varies with the viewer. Some paintings, one of our painters observed, look as if all the air has been sucked out of them: others give you room to breathe. After all, he continued, it isn’t the painter’s job to give people what they want but rather what they ought to have. One of his painter friends has a rough portrait of himself hanging over his sofa. “I made the artist stop before he thought he was done”, he explains. “He’d put in all I needed – all I could use.” Another painter sums up the question even more tersely: “Do you paint to be understood, or do you paint to understand?”

    What, in the view of these painters, should a picture convey to the viewer? The painting, they’d all agree, is a record of an experience. Its aim is to communicate this experience to the viewer. But our painters also believe that an experience is based on very elusive and intangible qualities in the subject. Facts and details cannot convey it. If anything, facts, as Tolstoy said, stand in the way of the truth. That’s what Van Gogh meant when he told his brother that his life as a painter was devoted to finding those lies that would give him the truth. The “lies” – the exaggerations and omissions – are what convey an experience to the viewer. The individual parts of the subject count for little. What is your relationship to them? How do they rank in your response to the subject? What is the special order that you want to record on canvas? Painterly painters admit that nature is full of detail, but they also insist that the eye sees little of it. Constantly moving and changing its focus, it sees three-fourths of the world as a blur. The painterly painter is obsessed by what the eye doesn’t see. But seeing what we don’t see is a complicated problem, for life gives us knowledge and knowledge transforms our way of looking. On the face of it, the easiest of all activities should be seeing what we see. In reality, it’s the hardest. As Henri said, it’s harder to see a landscape than it is to paint it. And the great John Ruskin exclaimed that “the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what he saw in a plain way. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion – all in one.”

    charles movalli-artwork 02Because of the painterly painters’ belief in their subjective definition of “finish” – a quality that cannot be judged by outside standards – they often make quirky teachers. How do you explain the inexplicable? One school says that if you study great art and figure out how it works, you can apply the lessons to your own pictures. But our painters tend to take the opposite view. They say the mast is a master precisely because you can’t explain his or her work. Explanations don’t add – they diminish. What counts is the fresh view, the personal vision. Be a spider, one of our painters used to say, and spin your own web. “The word,” Constable wrote, “is full enough of what has already been done.”

    This kind of talk makes little sense to the beginner who is usually convinced that painting consists of technical tricks and secrets – exactly what the painterly painter is reluctant to discuss. This reluctance can easily be mistaken for secretiveness. The irony is that our painters, so often criticized for the cleverness of their technique, hardly ever talk about it. What interests them is the experience and the process involved in capturing it. The fun is in the seeing. The painterly painter avoids the how-to approach, suspicious, as ever, that technique will obscure his or her vision. Their interest in the final product is minimal. They have an intense sense of the moment, and that’s what they live for. In fact, one of the old-timers used to say that if there was a heave, it must be here on earth, for the earth is so beautiful.

    What is the student to make of all this? One often hears complaints about the outdoor teacher who made a student remove a color from his or her palette one week only to have the student reinstate it a week later. The advice seemed contradictory. The problem is that the teacher wasn’t talking about technique. He or she was discussing the nature of two entirely different days. A color that worked in one situation would not work in another. John F. Carlson, the great landscape teacher, said he could give students the technique to paint a masterpiece in six months. But what would students do with it? That’s what frustrates them. It’s hard to be content with the sort of advice given by one painterly painter: When you don’t know what to do, forget everything anyone ever told you and just take a look. It’s more comforting to think our problems lie in a faulty technique, a technique that can be salvaged once the right teacher is found. A problem that lies in the eye seems harder to control. Frustration increases as we realize that the fault lies in ourselves and not in our instruction. But so does the challenge. A couple of painters were talking about a friend whose highly finished work was a great favorite with the public. “Criticize him if you want,” said one, “but there’s no denying he’s a competent painter.” There was a brief silence “Well” said the other, “is that what you want written on your tombstone: He was a competent painter? Not me.” He continued, “I want He tried to be an artist!”

    charles movalli-artwork 03If the aim of art is to see nature for yourself, to discover how you feel about what you see and how you can interpret it, then style becomes a direct expression of the personality of the painter, and the brush stroke is like a piece of the painter’s handwriting. Pictures are large pieces of calligraphy, written as much as painted. With this sort of attitude, it’s not surprising that the painterly painter’s approach usually becomes progressively more summary and expressive with the passage of time. He or she moves toward greater and greater simplicity of statement. The greatest sinner, from this point of view is the instructor who hands out pre-packed brush strokes and formulas, thus short circuiting thought at its most critical and important stage. One of our painters refuses to touch the work of his students, fearing, he explains, that the student could mistake his brush stroke for the way to paint an eye or a tree. It might take the student ten years to find out differently. The situation is much like that described by Eugen Herrigel when he tried to learn archery from a Zen monk. Unable to discover the “trick,” he cornered his teacher and demanded practical guidance. The master replied that if he gave techniques at the price of the students’ experience, he’d be a terrible teacher and should be fired. It’s this extreme emphasis on the experience that characterizes all painterly painters. An Old-timer once noted that he loved the work of a friend because he saw the most familiar things in the most unfamiliar way. That’s why Hawthorne told his student to paint studies that would surprise him, that would make him feel the shock and thrill of their discoveries about the world and themselves.

    Our painter is almost as interested in learning how not to paint things as he is in learning how to paint them. In fact, the painterly painter avoids the how-to approach, suspicious, as ever, that technique will obscure his or her vision. Here he or she shares another idea with the Oriental sages; learning gained is learning lost. Vigilance is everything.

    Some of our painters, debating the nature of their activity, once decided that it was like performing on a high wire. Each brushstroke counted and there was no time to nod or rest. Each day presents a new problem and demands a new solution. Experience can’t solve a problem, but it helps the painter to see what the problem is. The greatest temptation (and danger) is to rely on previous solutions and thus paint the same picture for the rest of your life. Some feel that the professional is, by definition, the one who can always turn out a good piece of work.

    charles movalli thaw seasonThe painterly painters, as usual, feel quite differently. With everything depending on experience and alertness, the work is bound to fluctuate with the disposition of the artist. One of our painters destroys four out of every five picture declaring that “a dud is a dud”. All of them ignore the idea of “skill” when defining “talent” and prefer more generalized terms. One says it’s “simply a liking for something.” Another, that it’s “enthusiasm,” and still another, “interest”. The difference between a commercial artist and himself, says on e painter, is that the commercial artist can do a job and repeat it over and over again. He can’t. He tried once, when money was scarce. A dealer suggested doing pictures by the gross. He tried to do ten of a certain subject. The first was good, the second, not so good, the third, terrible. “Some people think painting is painting,” he explains, “and that all practice helps, even doing a hundred of the same thing. But that doesn’t make you better – it makes you worse.”

    So our painterly painters are surrounded by seeming contradictions. They finish by not finishing, include by leaving out, paint more by painting less. Their means are easy to see, the results, immediately felt. But how such seemingly insufficient means lead to these results is a mystery. It’s as if the magician at the carnival explained his trick and still fooled you. In more finished pictures, there exists a one-to-one relationship between effort and effect. Dutch painters made grasshoppers look like grasshoppers, and you saw the veins in the legs because the artist painted them. But when the legs aren’t painted and you still sense the veins, curiosity and interest are added to simple admiration. Then industry gives way to the magic of art.



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    Painting from a reference in your art studio.

    Printed photographs depict a three-dimensional object in a two-dimensional representation. When working from photos we need to take this 2d image and work it back to the 3d realm. It’s a giant leap that painting from life doesn’t require. But let’s face it - we can’t always work from life.

    In this country, where it’s winter 9.5 months of the year, photo reference becomes a way of life. Sometimes it’s the only way to paint a subject. Some subjects just move too much - such as horses, which don’t sit still very long (though Bill AntonNed Jacob and our own Michelle Grant would tell you otherwise). There are also times when you can’t finish a painting in one sitting. In general, photos are great for resurrecting the vision you had of the real thing.

    So if we must use photos, then let’s use them to the best of our ability. The next leap from a printed photo is using a tablet or a monitor.

    Some monitors have very high resolution and can render a subject almost clearer than life.  Monitors cost more than a TV but the colour retention is stunning. If your monitor is hooked up to your computer, you can calibrate your photo using Photoshop (in LAB mode) and with this tool you can adjust almost anything. Photoshop is a great tool to get you on the right track. Often, manipulating photos is an important part of the process of getting you to produce a great painting.

    Personally, I don’t use a monitor, I use a TV. TVs are cheaper than monitors and you can get them as big as a house. I have a 32” Sony smart TV. Smart meaning it has WiFi capabilities. I use it with my computer but I don’t need to use any wires or because it streams the image wirelessly. This means my computer doesn’t even have to be in my studio. I can’t adjust the colours as much as I could if I had a monitor but then I can’t adjust the colours on a regular photo once it’s printed anyway.

    Below are a few pros and cons for you to consider when deciding whether to paint from a printed photo or a monitor...

    Monitor Pros

    • Once you have a monitor you don’t need to make prints of your photos any more and this can save you money in the long run.
    • The image is much bigger for you to paint from. You can make your reference picture almost as big as you want.
    • You can zoom in to get close ups and details if you need.
    • The colour is cleaner, brighter and stronger.
    • You can claim to be in the studio working and just watch hockey.

    Monitor Cons

    • Monitors are hard to take to art class.
    • They cost a bit of money up front.
    • They take up space if you have a small studio.
    • You cannot test paint colour on a monitor the way you can on a photo. If you put a paint daub on the screen it just turns black.
    • If you need to put a grid on the picture the size you want is hard. On a monitor unless you know a thing or two about Photoshop, gridding is a pain.
    • Sometimes there is almost too much information. If you find it hard to divorce your self from the photo you’ll have a harder time with a monitor as there is even more information saturating your eyes.

    Photo Pros

    • There is a tactile nature to photos that I love.
    • Being able to put the photo right next to your painting makes it easy to compare values.
    • Holding the photo and being able to get a close-up look is also wonderful. Monitors are always a bit too far away from your painting.
    • You can draw grids and paint right on the photo to make changes. Putting a small stroke of colour on a photo is a quick way to tell if your close to what you’re looking for in value or colour.
    • You can take photos to paint classes or workshops.

    Photo Cons

    • Printing photos can be expensive. Unless you wait for Costco’s 10 cent sale the money you spend on prints tends to rack up.
    • Unless you’re ready to spend even more money, size is an issue.  I try to print my photos 5x7 rather than 4x6. I like the bit bigger format, as it’s easier to read. For really good photos (the money shots) I use 8x10 or 11x14 sizes.
    • Photos have a bit duller colours.

    Notes on iPhones, iPads and other tablets.

    Nothing is more annoying than trying to paint from an iPhone. The screen is just too small, it shuts off all the time and you can’t get it anywhere near your painting for a reference check. If you have to spend time fiddling with your phone to see your reference, you are taking away from the creative process and your painting will suffer.

    Tablets can have the same problem. Unless you adjust the settings, they shut off every few minutes and if you have to put in your password to find your photo, well, forget it. It's too distracting, not to mention the temptation to respond to an email that just popped up. Tablets are hard to place next to your canvas. I haven’t found a device to prop up your iPad next to your canvas but if you can figure out a way than tablets are actually not too bad. Just remember to put it in airplane mode.

    I use both printed photos and a monitor. I have thousands of printed reference photos and love going through the pile to see what the day will bring. I also have thousands of photos on my computer that I can use on my monitor. The larger format is very appealing to my older eyes. 

    All that said, if I had my way I’d rather be outside swatting flies while painting from life.

    Hope this helps. Leave me a comment below.

    Your friend in art, 

    Doug.


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    How do you know if you're making progress?

    Has this happened to you? You did your first few paintings and you thought to yourself "Gee, I can do this. It looks OK. I need more practice, but I'm pleased with the results for a first try". And then, a few paintings later, all of a sudden the paintings look awful! Nothing seems to work, you've got ideas but can't seem figure out how to get them on canvas, the colours don't look right, you'd forgotten completely how to draw, etc. The longer you paint the worse you seem to get!

    First of all, let me say, this is common. It happened to me, and to pretty much every artist I know. This can happen for two reasons:

    1). You just think you're getting worse. Your eyes are getting much better at judging. With each painting you do, you see more, you understand more about how the paint works, you begin to study other artists more and judge yourself more harshly. As well as happening in the early stages, this can rear it's ugly head again any time during your career, when you're feeling a little short on ideas, when you're trying to work at a time when you're overtired, when you've done a little too much reading or studying of other artists and instead of spending time painting.

    It's also common to take on bigger and bigger challenges. That can make it see like you're backsliding, even though you are learning and growing.

    2). The second possibility is that you actually have gotten worse! Let me explain.

    Because you can see more, you were noticing more colours and more values, particularly in the shadow areas and putting them there, and losing track of which areas are in light which areas are in shadow. Adding too much colour or using too light a value in the reflected light areas of shadows is one of the main problems painters have. Check the painting you're working on to make sure that the areas in shadow stay in shadow. Don't be seduced by too much light and colour, particularly in the shadow areas if your goal is to keep the image realistic. If you're having difficulty seeing this, snap a photo of your painting and either print it out in black-and-white or change it to black-and-white (the camera on your phone, if you have one, should do this) and check your values.

    If you're studying the work of too many other artists you might be losing "yourself" and instead trying to emulate someone else and missing the mark. If you're going to experiment, try to pick one thing at a time, for example:

    • in this painting I am going to work on keeping strong contrast between light and shadow
    • in this painting I'm going to try working with a really limited palette 
    • in this painting I'm going to concentrate on establishing a distinct centre of interest.

    Give yourself a focus and it will be a little easier to grow, one step at a time. Rome wasn't built in a day!

    With any of these problems, the main solution is to paint. Forget about reading art books and magazines  for a while if that's your issue. If a painting hasn't turned out the way you like, set it aside for a few days and then look at it with fresh eyes. You may see an easy fix to the problem you are having. You don't necessarily have to go back to painting on it (there's nothing wrong with moving on to the next one and just calling it a learning experience).

    Give yourself time to learn and grow, no matter which stage you are at in your painting journey. We all have ups and downs. Some days things just flow, and some days you're completely stuck.

    Many of the artists I know, even long time professionals, are currently going through an evolution, a time of change, a feeling that what used to work doesn't anymore. It seems to be something in the air this year! If that's the case, rest if you need to, but continue to explore. Try little paintings. Experiment with a different medium. Play and put the joy back in your work. Take a break if you need to. Or replenish your spirit first and then come back to the easel.

    Most challenges with painting can be overcome by simply painting. You can read, study, take workshops etc. but ultimately, you have to learn how you apply the paint, how the world in front of you translates for you. It's different for everyone. Keep painting. It'll all work out. You will improve. Trust me.

    Adeline Halverson


    adeline halvorsonAdeline Halvorson Artist Bio

    Adeline Halvorson knew at an early age that she wanted to be an artist. In her rural upbringing, animals, especially horses, played a very important role. Her entire working life has been dedicated to her art career. Through experimentation, endless reading and hours of practice, she continually hones her techniques in acrylic or oil.

    She spends most of her time researching and creating the paintings she markets to a growing group of collectors. She enjoys the variety of diverse subjects - floral, still life, dogs, or a childhood scene, and most often, her favorite equine subject matter. Years of riding and grooming horses has given Halvorson a knowledge of anatomy and muscle movement that her painting skills bring to life on the canvas. The shapes and movement of muscle, variety and texture of harness and trappings, as well as the horse and its interaction with its human counterparts provide endless artistic inspiration for one who grew up with a love for one of the world’s most beautiful animals.


    By the way - Adeline is teaching a workshop this coming January. Check it out!

    painting-pet-portraits


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    How to simplify your subject to produce a better painting.

    The tendency to start painting every detail right from the get go will produce a painting that is busy and confusing. The answer is to read between the lines and simplify. But how does one do that? 

    My process is to begin by breaking the picture down into more manageable bites. Grouping similar masses will help you decode the structure of what it is you’re trying to paint.

    Massing Groups:

    • Similar shapes
    • Similar values
    • Similar colours
    • Similar temperatures

    Start by breaking it down into some simple large shapes. Try not to have more than 5 major shapes in a painting. Any more and it gets confusing. 3-5 makes it easy for you to paint and for the viewer to understand. 

    Example:

    This photo of winter trees is just oozing with information.

    Let's break it down into manageable chunks:

    1. Divide the image into 3 shapes, making them different in size to ensure an engaging composition.

    01-simplification

    2. Divide those 3 shapes into smaller shapes. Doing so lets me get to the heart of the picture.

    Note: You do not need to draw every tree and branch! You only need to place a few choice trees and make sure you have identifiable tree bits at the tops. Placing the rest in a similar value block will make it read as trees.

    02-simplification

    3. Divide the tree chassis into light and dark families.

    Here is where I get to use my artistic savvy and amp up the composition even further. By splitting the light side and dark side into unequal parts I will get one to dominate over the other and also make it easier to paint.

    I also divide the light side and the dark side into warm and cool, further establishing the look of the painting.

    03-simplification

    Dividing the scene into manageable morsels will help you handle the paint application with more confidence and your painting will look looser and more accurate.

    Your friend in art,

    Doug

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  • 01/23/17--18:00: The Magic of the 70/30 Split
  • Using opposites to create a dynamic painting.

    You achieve the desired impact only by using a large amount of one effect and a much smaller amount of the opposite. Anything less than 70/30 and you’re in danger of falling into the Black Hole of Boring.

    Breaking a composition down to 50/50, say half shadows and half sunlight, is mundane. Even 60/40 is too close. Avoid! The larger the proportion differential, say 80/20 or oven 90/10, the more eye popping.

    Here are a few examples:

    In this painting, Lori Putnam is using the light versus shadow opposition. Notice how much light she has placed in comparison to the shadow. 70% of this painting is in light and just 30% is in dark.

    1

    Lori Putnam Demo at Swinton's - REGISTER


    This Randy Sexton’s painting shows the opposition of large shapes versus small shapes. 70% of the painting is large shapes and 30% is small shapes (details of the scooters.) If this composition was divided into 50/50 of each, the viewer would not know where to look and the painting would become rather boring. It’s not only the use of opposites that works but the differing amount of opposites that gives this painting zip.

    2

    Randall Sexton Workshop & Demo at Swinton's - REGISTER


    In this selfie pastel by Harley Brown he uses warm cool opposition. Using 70% cool colours and 30% warm colours, he gets the colours to pop. It’s the small amount of warms that makes the cools come to life. I invite you to cover up that little hit of red on the right and watch how the painting falls apart.

    3


    In this beautiful painting, Ingrid Christensen has about 90% painting and 10% drawing. She has used a little bit of line in opposition to the brushwork to accentuate or outline some of the painterly areas in this work.

    4

    This can be used to your advantage the other way around as well. As opposed to Ingrid’s 90% painting 10% drawing in this work I used 90% drawing and 10% painting.

    5


    Here we see the king Richard Schmid using his patented brushy vs. detail method. 30% detail sharply stands out against the 70% loose brushwork surrounding it.

    6


    Just about anything you put on your canvas can have an opposite to enhance the effect:

    • Light vs. Dark
    • Bright vs. Dull
    • Warm vs. Cool
    • Big vs. Small
    • Loose vs. Tight
    • Hard Edged vs. Soft Edged
    • Scribbly vs. Rendered
    • Blocked In vs. Painted
    • Red vs. Green
    • Finished vs. Unfinished
    • Man Made vs. Natural
    • Bouffant vs. Square

    The trick is to use differing amounts of opposition.

    I hope you will use this principal in your next attempt and make your painting come alive.

    Happy Arting. :)

    Your friend in art, 

    Doug


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  • 03/20/17--19:56: The Secret Curve
  • Using convex vs. concave lines in life drawing.

    When things cease to grow they begin to collapse and we see concave lines forming. Just look at a sick un-watered plant all shriveled and withered.

    Convex lines are strong and powerful. Concave lines are weak and create a sinking feeling and unless they are needed for an artistic purpose they should be avoided.

    Let me show you how this works...

    Using convex lines will give your figure drawing a lively feeling. Conversely, concave lines portray a feeling of weakness. Nobody knows this better than Disney. Let’s use our old friend Scar as example. Scar was drawn with concave lines to show he was weak and sickly. Simba (the good guy) was drawn with convex lines to show his strength and health.

    disney-convex-concave-lines

     


    Apply this concept to life drawing...

    vanderpoel-concave-01


    Note how the major curve of the body (the blue line) is made up of three outward lines, not one inward line. This is what creates strength in the drawing.

    vanderpoel-3-1-concave-line


    Outward lines portray volume.

    Notice also that what one side does so must the other. If one side curves outward than so does the opposite side, or the drawing will look awkward.

    mya-ryan-volume


    Extra Tip: This little secret works for landscape painting as well…

    Here is our old friend Aldro Hibbard. In his painting the inward curve of the land is made with multiple outward lines, which helps the landscape portray upward rising hills of powerful nature.

    landscape-concave-convex


    Hope this little secret helps you attain a natural feel to your work.

    Happy Arting. :)

    Your friend in art, 

    Doug


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  • 05/02/17--11:10: The Painting Purge
  • Getting rid of studio clutter to achieve new directions.

    Unfinished, underdone, unrealized, over realized, overworked, overdone, exhausted or bedraggled, paintings don’t spoil like eggs in the fridge. Chances are they were rotten to begin with. Let them go!

    Sometimes it can be the “I’m not finished yet” syndrome along with the old “I’m still working on this one” that leads to the mounting pile. Remember friends, paintings are never really finished, they just present interesting places to stop.

    Another condition is the constant and perennial need to achieve perfection. This tendency leads to a lack of vision and to possibility for self-improvement. Growth is stunted when the artist works from an ivory tower of perfection.

    The opposite of this can be a factor as well. The “nartist”. The narcissistic artist is one who loves everything they make and treats every work as a special child and thus keep’s everything they make and the pile just keeps getting bigger.

    Let the purge begin...

    One way to start is to purge any paintings over two years old. By this I’m talking about unfinished, unfulfilled, undeveloped, incomplete, fragmentary paintings. Not the work you’re storing for sale. If you have a pile of half-baked and confused paintings that are over two years old, get rid of them. You are not the same artist you were two years ago. You are wiser and more seasoned and full of new tricks. All your newfound skills will clash with the old paintings anyway. Paint from the leading edge not the rear-view mirror.

    Another way to purge older work is to crop. Look for well painted passages that might make a smaller painting. Try putting a smaller frame or a mat around select areas and see if anything sings. If something does, you may have a new painting to frame!

    Fact is, you will not generally improve by misguided analysis of your own efforts. Brutal honesty is what’s needed here. Divorcing yourself from the majesty of your efforts and seeing your work as it really is can take time, mileage and a lot of wine but it is an essential task.

    Compare the work in your portfolio that has met the standard with dubious work that is unfinished. Ask your self a few hard questions like:

    • Will this ever meet my standard?
    • Am I ever actually going to work on this painting?
    • Do I really even like this painting?
    • Might this idea work better if I had a fresh start? 

    If you’re still unsure, use the Robert Genn patented “three bins” technique by sorting the work into IN-OUT-MAYBE categotries. Then take a second pass and you will find that the work in the “maybe” bin will often tip to the “out” bin.

    Another invigorating way to get rid of work is to T.O.D. it. “Time of Death.”  Play a coroner, take a big black marker and write TOD 10:15 am. right on the painting in big bold letters. This is a very euphoric and liberating experience.

    burning-paintingLastly, one thing that’s always fun, is to have a ceremonial burning. Throwing unrealized paintings in the fire releases the bad energy and evil spirits that blocked you. Doing this in a group with other artists is very tribal, ethereal and freeing with lots of good karma all around.

    How wonderful it feels when this thing is out of you life! Once you rid yourself of all the clutter in the studio and have freed up some cranium space, new work will begin to bloom. A good cleaning will spawn growth, fresh ideas and new directions. 

    For me it was spring that brought it on but anytime can be springtime in the studio. :)

    Happy fresh painting! 

    Your friend in art,

    Doug


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    How to get the best results from your next art workshop.

    1 - De Soto said so. 

    Be open to new ideas, exploring lands and uncharted waters.

    The worst thing an instructor hears from a student is… “I don’t do it like that, I prefer to do this….” Granted, some of the things you are about to learn may be unfamiliar but you may be rewarded if you are willing to give them a try. Later, you will sort through those new nuggets of knowledge, adopting some and letting others go.


    2 - All the right stuff.

    Follow the supply list as closely as possible. Every instructor has specific requirements, having honed their skills with a particular set of products, and mastering all the subtle nuances they provide. They do not want you to spend your money frivolously. They want you to succeed with superior products that work for them and the techniques they plan to introduce. Be prepared with all of the materials suggested on the supply list to get the BEST results out of your workshop. You may never use some of those items again and may just put them to pasture, however, one of those new products may just be the answer you’re looking for!


    3 - Stop, look and listen.

    Choosing a workshop can be a daunting task and picking the right one is very important. Here are few things to consider:

    • You can’t learn it all, so choose a few specific things that excite you about this artist’s work and focus on those.
    • Choose a style that will help your work. It’s one thing to try to loosen-up, but to take on an abstract workshop when you’ve been a realistic painter all your life may be a poor choice.
    • Is this workshop within your scope of abilities? Don’t dive into an advance workshop if you have only been painting for a short while.
    • Workshops are demanding and need your full attention. Can you afford the time? If you plan to attend only half of the session due to time restrictions, wait and do it when you have the time. If you are not fully committed you're wasting your money.

    4 - Three little piggies.

    Bring a notebook/sketchbook and a writing implement. When you take a workshop, no matter the duration, you will be inundated with new information. Sometimes it will come fast and furious. Be prepared to take copious notes - the more wordy the better.

    My general rule for a lucrative workshop is that if you can learn just three things, you will have successful results. Three things that you can remember, practice and repeat. Three things you want to adjust. Three things you can do to make improvements in your work. Three things you can take away and work on in your own time. These three things may not sink-in immediately but with practice and consistent implementation they will become second nature.


    5 - Re-hash the hash.

    One great thing to do once you have returned home from the workshop and had a nap is to retreat to a peaceful corner and take a few minutes to sit quietly and review your notes. You will be amazed how much more information will be gleaned from your notes after distilling them from all the fervour of the day. A mere ten minutes alone with your sketchbook will rehash the entire day and solidify the knowledge you acquired.


    6 - The show must NOT go on.

    Workshop time is learning time. Experimental time. Adventuresome time. Not a time to bring in all your unfinished paintings to be fixed or to get work done to fill your impending exhibition. Leave the unfinished business for some other time. Allow your brain to be open and inspired to create in new ways. Adding new cutting edge abilities into your work-in-progress can make it look inconsistent and disjointed. Acquired skills take time to work themselves out.


    7 - Don’t stop till you drop.

    I was amazed recently, watching the documentary “beyond the lighted stage” (okay I watch it every year) on the Canadian band Rush. After some 30 years at the helm of the drum kit, Neil Peart found himself a bit weary of doing the same thing and went looking for a spark. He sought out drummer Freddie Gruber, and asked for lessons. Being a seasoned professional jazz drummer Freddie knew exactly what Neil was after - a fresh perspective.

    I find it outstanding that one of the world’s greatest rock drummers is not beneath learning something new and taking instruction from another who has something new to offer.

    Taking workshops will keep your ideas fresh. I recommend you take one workshop per year and wouldn’t recommend you take more than two workshops per year. All these new found ideas can get jumbled in the brain and you risk confusing concepts.


    8 - Workshop junkies.

    Workshops usually look like a box of Timmy’s doughnuts. There’s a little bit of everything. Pure beginners, hobbyists, right through to gallery selling professionals. Never be intimidated by the results you see from other artist’s brushes. You don’t know their level of experience. Often there will be an artist that can already do what the instructor is doing. They may have attended such a workshop many times and are honing their skill. Some people are workshop junkies and love to follow an instructor around the country taking their every workshop. Don’t let this rattle or dishearten you. You are on your own journey and going at your own pace. Keep your eyes on your fries. Learn what you set out to learn and enjoy the ride.


    9 - We can be friends

    One of my favourite things about taking a workshop is learning from other attendees. Chatting with other students will fetch a wealth of newfound tidbits. Enjoying a lunch together or after class conversations over bevys are a great way to discover loads of new ideas: Tips on supplies, brush cleaning, storage and traveling with paints. You will find out about great places to paint or photograph and about galleries or museums that are not on the local radar. Most importantly, you might find out about other workshops worth taking. You might even make some lifelong friends!


    10 - All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.

    I consider attending a workshop part of my art practice. It’s work. That being said, if you happen to travel to a new city or even a different country for a workshop, remember to have fun in your downtime. Soak in all there is to offer and don’t forget to snap lots of reference photos. I always go out a few hours before the workshop and take photos of the area. After dinner I head out again for more. It’s inspiring and keeps me fresh when I return to my studio.


    All in all taking a workshop is a quick yet deep and delicious way to improve yourself as an artist and a human being.

    See you at the next workshop!

    Your friend in art,

    Doug.


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    What to do when your painting is not at it's best.

    1. You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

    Remain Calm! If you ask the correct questions you will find solutions. First and foremost, ask yourself the following:

    • Is this painting fixable? Is it worth the effort?
    • Are the values legible or are there too many muddy passages?
    • Is the drawing correct? Is the composition sound?
    • Is there a good balance of grayscale design? Or does it look like a cut-out?
    • Does it have enough gradations - large and small and interlocking patterns?
    • Does it have an area of attention or a centre of interest?
    • Maybe it needs a sense of mystery, fantasy, illusion or wonder?
    • Are there too many slashes, swipes and textures?
    • Are there quiet areas to contrast the visual noise?
    • Does it needs one area to determine what another area will be?

    2. Wipeout!

    Sometimes things get too busy and need simplifying. Take a palette knife and CAREFULLY wipe out sections of the painting to get back to some sort of underpainting stage that can be built up again. With watercolour you can soak an area and blot it to get you back to an early stage (provided you're not using too many staining colours).

    If it’s in the early stages of the painting, you can wipe the entire surface back and start all over again. If you’re in a bit deeper, perhaps you just need a light removal. Wipe away enough to leave a ghost of your painting to work upon. If it’s the little things that need removing, the humble Q-tip can be your new best friend.

    3. Big brother is watching.

    Look to your peers or mentors to offer suggestions on how to salvage your painting. Look up an artist or artists to see what their answers to a problem have been. Every good painting is a solution to a set of problems. This isn’t the time to re-invent the wheel. Somewhere out there someone has come across this problem before. At the very least, you will find an artwork to get yourself inspired.

    4. Room with a view.

    Looking at your work in a mirror will give you a fresh perspective. Place it on the floor (paint side up of course), and look at it upside down. The fresh view from a different location will provide much needed brain fodder.

    5. B2B

    Go back to the source. Remind yourself of what it was you had originally set out to achieve. Are you capturing what you originally wanted to portray? Is the painting following the sketch you set out for yourself? (Of course you did a thumbnail sketch to begin with didn’t you?) 90% of problems occur in the first 5 minutes of a painting.

    6. Lab coat and goggles.

    A bad painting is a good time to experiment. If your painting is getting beyond the wipe-off stage, why not let loose! Take a shot at some new process and experiment. Explore a new technique or use a new colour. Take a crack at that funky big brush you bought on sale and have been too chicken to try. Now is the time!

    7. Simple Simon

    If you need to start over, take some time to re-centre yourself. Take a break and walk away. If you find that you have bit off more than you can chew, get back to basics and paint a simple subject, like an apple. Just a lone apple without too many colours. This practice resets the brain, helps you refocus and remember what you are trying to achieve.

    8. Run around Sue.

    If your painting seems beyond repair, don’t despair. Here is Sue Contini’s patented list of “10 Ways to Save a Painting” 

    8.1 - Cut out smaller paintings from the big one. Look for mini compositions that can be smaller paintings.

    8.2 - Is there a section to make a bookmark out of?

    8.3 - Cut out pieces to create a collage painting.

    8.4 - Cut some panels into Xmas ornaments and covered them in glitter. Glitter fixes everything!

    8.5 - Cut the painting into strips to weave into coasters and placemats, or to wrap around baskets.

    8.6 - Cut interesting sections into squares and rearrange them in a grid to turn them into book covers, wrapping paper, wine gift tags and bows. 

    8.7 - Make a painting apron out of a couple of duds sewn together. You can also make shoes and hand bags.

    8.8 - Block print over it with a high contrast colour for a unique effect.

    8.9 - Glue-gun them into little 3-d hearts for valentines day.

    8.10 - Give pieces to kids to make 'imagination art', dollhouse rugs, a waterproof mat under the dog dish, Hallowe'en costumes, etc.

    9. Burning at the stake.

    A stack of bad paintings can make for a great burning party. Don’t miss this opportunity to get your fellow artists together and get your pagan on. Oil paintings torch rather well! Take a matt knife to the canvas first. The sound and feel of slashing canvas is morbidly gratifying.

    10. Tinkerbell

    Sometimes, if you simply walk away from your bad painting and go to bed, the fairies work their glittering magic and you wake up with a lovely painting. Don’t get too bent out of shape if the fairies don’t show up. It happens. One day chicken and the next day feathers.

    It’s never too late to start over. Don’t get too attached to your paintings. If plein air has taught me anything, it’s not to get too attached to a painting.

    Slow down, relax and take some time to analyze. It’s all about the journey, not the destination.

    Happy painting!

    Your friend in art,

    Doug.


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    By Chantel Lynn Barber

    Allow 20-30 minutes to begin a painting and then step back and evaluate your start. If I don't force myself to do this, I inevitably end up ruining a strong start. I am not saying this is easy. In fact, I believe every artist should have someone standing behind their easel who can drag them away, by force if necessary, after the 30-minute mark has passed. What exactly are you looking for in this evaluation? Look for areas that are already reading strongly. These may still need minimal work or no work at all to remain strong. If minimal work is needed, write down exactly what you feel needs to be done in order to help you think through it. Next, look for areas that are weak or unfinished. Ask yourself why these areas bother you and what can be done to improve them. When you pick up the brush, begin making these improvements rather than muddling in areas already strong. 
     
    Wipe off any stroke that is offensive. This is a biggie. Don't continue to blend away the stroke hoping it will improve. More often than not it will become more muddled than it already is. In I Thought I Had Lost You, that is exactly what happened. This painting is aptly titled because I actually did think I had lost her. I allowed several areas to build up in not only an unsightly fashion but also a confused mess. In order to save the areas that remained strong, there was only one option available. I had to wipe, scrape down, and sand the areas off. It was not easy to remove strokes I had laboured to put there, but it was absolutely necessary. Why? Because I had allowed a good start with strong, energetic, fresh brush strokes to decay into a garbled mess.
     
    Constantly check and see how your painting is reading from a distance. Looking at your work from a distance reveals mistakes that you cannot see when you are nose to nose with the piece. My grandma gave me some of the best painting advice - and she wasn't even an artist. She asked why was I so close to my painting, it seemed as if I was suffocating it. As a young artist, I took offence and promptly replied that that was just the way I painted, thank you very much. Afterward, I began to think about what she had said. It actually made sense. Why was I right on top of the painting suffocating it? How many of my viewers would look at the finished work nose to nose? I began to wear a path in front of the easel always moving back to see how a stroke was reading from a distance. Did the stroke make things look stiff?  Was the value correct? Did it create the nuance I was working to achieve? One of the greatest compliments I have received as an artist is when a student offered this up - "You are like a cat circling the easel, you analyze it, and then rush forward and apply the perfect stroke." I hope that at some point that can be said about all of us who struggle with finishing a good start.

    Chantel Lynn Barber

    chantel barber bioChantel is currently the Tennessee State Ambassador for the Portrait Society of America, and is also a member of The Chestnut Group, and the American Impressionist Society. She is past President of Artists' Link in Memphis, Tennessee.

    chantel barber acrylic portrait workshopNOTE: We are very honoured to have Chantel teaching a workshop at Swinton's...

    This comprehensive three-day workshop is designed to share tips and techniques learned from over twenty-five years of working in the acrylic medium. Chantel’s gentle teaching style will enrich the painting skills of beginners and advanced artists alike as she demonstrates painting the portrait from reference photos, without losing the energy and [...]

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    by Doug Swinton and our students.
    1. Improve. A workshop will make your artwork more magnificent than it already is. The skills you pick-up from experienced artists add up to mastery.
    2. Energize. You will gain newfound skills and set new wind in your sails, rejuvenating your creative juices.
    3. Fresh. No matter which workshop you take, you will build on your knowledge. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
    4. Bravery. Taking a workshop allows you to step outside of your comfort zone. Even if you never use any of the techniques learned, you will gain a sense of fearlessness to try something new and to experiment. We could all use a little of that.
    5. Unique. Workshops let you play with techniques you never thought of, and create something distinct by adding to the tried and true techniques you already use. Newfound knowledge will spill over into your artwork in unexpected ways.
    6. Social. Bonding with other like-minded artists can expose you to new tricks of the trade like: framing ideas, art by artists you’ve never heard of, cool products that make painting easier, galleries and museums to explore, and even new music to listen to. There are many fringe benefits in the workshop community.
    7. Motivation. This is one of the biggest reasons to take a workshop. After immersing yourself in a busy workshop, you will find a desire to work at that concentrated rate. Many artists report an urgency to dive back into their artwork with a rabid work ethic after a workshop.
    8. Realization. You might just experience that AHA moment. That one tidbit of new knowledge that elevates your work to the next level, and puts the WOW factor into your next painting.
    9. Rejuvenation. Seeing a master artist at work, watching their deft mark making and precise colour mixing or feeling their energy as they work can be captivating. Furthermore, watching the process and examining their original artwork up close, gives you a clear sense of what to strive for.
    10. Choices. Last but not least, taking an art workshop will help you avoid bad reality TV shows. :)

    Treat your self to some higher learning and check out our extensive list of upcoming workshops. Trust me, you will be glad you did.

    Your friend in art
    Doug

    (Leave us a comment below if we missed your reason.)


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    The award goes to Doug Swinton.

    Most of these 200 gems are my thoughts from time spent at the easel and some are the thoughts of countless others, acquired from their books, workshops and time spent together sharing art tips (and a gin or two).

    In no particular order…

    1. It’s easier to warm a cool colour than to cool a warm colour. Start with your warms.
    2. For outdoor painting, your darks are usually lighter than you see. Paint them a touch lighter and your painting will look fresh.
    3. Branches on trees get lighter and cooler as they get smaller.
    4. Branches coming toward you will get darker than those moving away from you.
    5. Branches coming toward you warm and branches going away from you cool.
    6. Paint your sky to reflect the land. If you paint your sky first it will likely be too blue and too dark. Put it in last and you can adjust it to your land mass values.
    7. Remember what you are painting, regarding one of five light sources:
      - Light
      - Mid-tone
      - Dark
      - Reflected light
      - Accents
    8. Shadows determine your lights. The warmer the light the cooler the shadows.
    9. Broken colour and greying with compliments is always better than greys from a tube.
    10. Use the 2nd stage of painting for top to bottom and side to side design. Use the 3rd stage for front to back design.
    11. Render your lights and simplify your shadows.
    12. Paint details to the outside of objects and texture to the inside.
    13. Texture gives an implied sense of detail that works better than detail itself.
    14. If it’s about the light simplify the shadows and vice versa.
    15. If it’s about the colour simplify the values and vice versa.
    16. Find what’s important and simplify the rest.
    17. A painting should be a poem not a police report.
    18. 20% underdone is better than 2% overworked.
    19. Tell me When you were painting not What you were painting.
    20. 20. There are rules and there are laws. Rules can be broken, laws can’t. Learn both.
    21. A good shadow and reflected light beats a highlight every time!
    22. Paint every day, at least in your mind. One should paint at least three days a week just to keep up.
    23. Suggestion beats detail every time.
    24. When at an impasse, look at the work of masters. Keep lots of books of the pros on hand or hit the internet. No need to re-invent the wheel.
    25. Learn your materials and what they can do. You’ll thank me.
    26. Use the best materials you can afford.
    27. It’s not so much whether your blue has red in it as much as whether your red has some cool in it. Think temperature more than actual colour.
    28. Back off on the zoom Billy. Avoid telephoto pile-up. Use your computer to zoom in on a subject not the camera.
    29. Straight Cadmium Lemon is brighter than Cadmium Lemon with White. White dulls colour.
    30. Shadows define the structure. Light defines the colour.
    31. As white recedes it gets warmer. Opposite to all the other colours.
    32. Detail is over rated. Texture is underrated.
    33. The brighter your light source the more you will have reflected light. Think Monet and high key.
    34. Snow: The higher the sun, the cooler it is. The lower the sun, the warmer it is.
    35. Large to small. Thin to thick. Dark to light. Always.
    36. Fast and furious at the beginning; Slow and steady near the end.
    37. Remember local colour. The shadows may look red but if the light is warm then the shadow must be cool! (see rule #1)
    38. Addition of white always cools a colour. (and dulls - see #29)
    39. Distant colour is not always a greyed version of the mid-ground. It may sometimes be a completely new colour.
    40. Texture = art. Detail = zzzzz!
    41. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Practice is a waste of time unless you have a goal.
    42. Repetition is key boys and girls. Paint similar subjects until you get familiar with them.
    43. The first 90% of the painting can take as long as the last 10%
    44. Large paintings are creative. Small paintings are intellectual.
    45. Keep things as close to the same as possible. Your outdoor set up should be the same as your indoor set up. Same paints, same brushes, same beer.
    46. Squint for: shape, relationships, values, simplification. Also squint to be cool.
    47. Photo reference: Find the truth that’s in the photo before you paint the reality.
    48. First, learn to see. Next, paint what you see. Then you can learn to paint what you want to see.
    49. Learn to practice retraining your brain so it’s used to asking what’s next. This will allow you to never fall into bad or repetitious habits.
    50. Look carefully. Do not assume. The part you made up is almost always the part that’s not working.
    51. If you identify the problem you can find the solution.
    52. Values, temperatures, colours. Compare, compare, compare.
    53. Don’t stay in one area too long. Dart around. Things get over worked if you linger.
    54. The more you finish the background (or non important stuff) the more you will need to finish the main subject of focus. Let the background be underdone and the main stuff will read better.
    55. Do not recreate, interpret.
    56. Nothing in the background should compete with object your painting.
    57. Light on ground swells. Warm in the middle and cooler on the tops, picking up sky colour.
    58. Anything below your line of sight will rise to it and anything below the line of sight will drop to it.
    59. Use a dry brush between your masses to soften the desired edge. (That’s a clean dry brush)
    60. Equine tip: Vertical planes tend to be neutral. Top horizontal planes tend to cool picking up on the sky. Bottom horizontal planes tend to warm, picking up the reflected ground colours.
    61. Think… is this a landscape with a barn in it or is this a barn with landscape around it. Make sure you are telling the right story.
    62. Warm colours tend to look lighter and cool colours tend to look darker. You can paint them the same value and they will look different. Compare, compare, compare.
    63. Zinc white is great for portraits. It’s slightly transparent and offers great luminosity.
    64. Smooth paint reads lighter and thick paint reads darker.
    65. Short paint (thick) can read half a value darker than thinner applications.
    66. Cloud highlights are warmer near the horizon.
    67. Doors and windows: Cool in the lower area picking up the sky, warm on the inside top.
    68. Black is a value not a colour.
    69. Always put a temperature into your darks to give them life.
    70. You’re better to fail by painting too warm than too cool.
    71. Receding hills have more to do with the sky than they do with the landscape.
    72. Mountains have more to do with the sky than the land.
    73. Try red violet in your distant hill rather than blue, to make it recede more.
    74. White is an absence of temperature. Always give your white temperature.
    75. Put warmth on the light side of your clouds. The grey blue bellies will look softer and you won’t need as much blue in your sky making it look more natural.
    76. Besides Burnt sienna and a white ground, the simplest palette I know of is The Zorn Palette: Napthol Red , Yellow Ochre, Ivory Black. The black, when used correctly, will be your blue. Alizarine Crimson, Cad Orange, Cad Yellow, Ultramarine Deep (Rembrandt) and Titanium White is another simple combination to use.
    77. Go to sleep thinking about what you’re going to do first thing tomorrow.
    78. Don’t be an art snob. This is a survival game. Most painters I know supplement. Teach, do illustrations, sign paint, murals or work in some art-related field. We’re all just trying to stay alive.
    79. Study those that have come before you. It’s surprising how much you will retain.
    80. When painting outdoors, sit on your hands and look long and hard before starting.
    81. Study how Rembrandt creates flow of tone. You wont be disappointed.
    82. Find the artists who are on your wavelength and constantly increase that list.
    83. “I haven’t the time.” You have as much time everyday as the great masters.
    84. Study artists who have dealt with the same problems that you’re trying to solve.
    85. Look for what you can learn from the great painters, not what’s wrong with them.
    86. Howard Pyle said, “Throw your heart into a picture and jump in after it.”
    87. Always adjust for value first, then grey it. If you do it the other way your colour will look chalky.
    88. Reflected lights are lighter than the mid tones but not as light as the lights and are generally warmer than mid tones.
    89. Tie you shapes together with the darks whenever you can.
    90. The definition lines or perspective lines in your foreground should be warm.
    91. Outdoor painting process:
      - Analyze your subject
      - Pick your motive: Foreground, mid-ground or sky
      - Identify your masses (no more than 5)
      - Place you horizon line
      - Place your ground planes and sky planes
      - Work darks, mids, lights, then reflected lights
      - Tweak the centre of interest
      - Work the edges
      - Sign your work. (I wrote an article about this - HERE)
    92. Ways to make edges soft: Same values + Same temperatures + Same colours = Smudge.
      Ways to make things stand out: Different values + Different temperatures + Different colours = Coherence
    93. Detail in an object only happens when you have a high value exchange.
    94. The more you blend an edge, the more your colours will loose their identity, becoming sullen and overworked.
    95. MUD!
      - Bad value exchange; values are too close.
      - Bad temperature exchange; temperatures are too close.
      - Mixing too many warms and cools together.
      - Over blending your colours making them indescript.
      - Dirty water, brushes, rags, palette, mind.
    96. 5 different ways to start a painting:
      1 - Mono chromatic. The more you use value the less you need colour.
      2 - Complimentary block-in; Great for getting warm and cool relationships.
      3 - Full colour block-in, Start with the colour you want to finish with. Wash in first then build up.
      4 - Light and shadow block-in. Good for strong light situations. Morning evenings, dramatically lit still life. Simple divisions of shape, no detail at first. It’s either light or it’s shadow.
      5 - Direct painting. Not for the faint of heart! This is the fastest way to get into things. When time is something of an issue… One stroke next to one stroke so each one will mean something. It doesn’t matter what you put down as long as it’s accurate.
    97. Clean your water bucket (thinner pot) often. Use one pot for cleaning and one for mixing. Dirty water makes for muddy painting.
    98. When painting, always keep in mind what your picture is about. Don’t get lost.
    99. The answer is never “More”. When in doubt; take it out.
    100. It’s almost always an issue of adding more light, almost never dark.
    101. If you’re bogged down with detail try using a bigger brush.
    102. Look at your palette. How much red are you using? Use more red!
    103. You can make big shapes into little shapes but little shapes can’t be made into big shapes. Start with big masses, then divide.
    104. You can’t paint the fleas on the dog until you have painted the dog. Big shapes first.
    105. The key to good painting is a good foundation. I don’t care what kind of house you build, I don’t care what colour you paint it. I DO care what kind of foundation it’s on. A bad foundation won’t hold up no matter what is on top of it. Select, reject and arrange.
    106. Loss of confidence. Loss of enthusiasm. These two things make paintings go south more than any other.
    107. On the plains of hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions who at the dawn of victory lay down to rest, and in resting died.
    108. The more ornate the frame, the less you need darks and large value exchanges. In other words, heavy value exchanges are better suited for less ornate frames. Softer paintings can handle a more ornate frame.
    109. Watch the direction of your brushstrokes they must be varied but also must conform to the item that they are trying to depict.
    110. Similar values in your large areas. Use a temperature change more than value or a colour change. This creates more interest without using detail.
    111. Take advantage of your brush getting “dirtier” from your strokes by working into greyer and noncommittal areas of the painting.
    112. Shadows tend to cool as they move away from their source. Also, the farther away from the source, the more light moves in.
    113. Leave room in your darks for accents and reflected lights. Go too dark too fast and you won’t recover.
    114. Try using an alien colour to enhance a focal point.
    115. The area between the light and the dark is called the “war zone”. This is where to watch your edges the most. Not too soft, not too hard. This is a delicate area.
    116. It’s not the way of painting. It’s a way of painting.
    117. A rag and a wipe will correct faster than a brush and a mark.
    118. The habit for putting too many brilliant lights on all forms or planes is responsible for many good studies coming to grief. Lights usually belong only on the horizontal planes.
    119. Sacrifice everything in your painting for unity.
    120. Horizontal marks tend to recede and vertical marks tend to advance.
    121. Warm colours advance. Cool colours recede.
    122. Cool colours tend to fall and warm colours tend to rise.
    123. As Rembrandt said: “Give me mud and I will paint the skin of a princess, as long as I can paint what I want around it.” Nothing exists alone. Local colour is only as good as the colour next to it.
    124. Don’t think: I’m going to get there eventually. You’ll never get there that way. Instead, go for the gusto right away - especially early in the process while your actions are fresh.
    125. 90% of problems are value related.
    126. The more thought and preparation you put in, the more likely you are to reach a good outcome.
    127. Paintings never really end, you just chose interesting places to stop.
    128. Reflected lights and accents exist not only in the darks but in the lights as well.
    129. The brain is always ahead of the hand. No one can paint better than they know how.
    130. The stronger you paint in value, the better painter you will be.
    131. Reserve is strength. Over statement is weakness. Just ask Winston Churchill.
    132. Recognize your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses.
    133. Remember: Michelangelo was once a helpless baby. Great works are the result of heroic struggle.
    134. Inspiration doesn’t come when you are idle. It comes when you have steeped yourself in work.
    135. Repeat themes often. Vermeer found a life’s work in the corner of a room.
    136. Starts are more important than finishes. Make lots of starts and some of them might reach a finish.
    137. Memory feeds imagination. Repetition is key to learning.
    138. Don’t paint too thick too soon. Save the thick paint for the end. Reserve is the key.
    139. It’s better to look over your shoulder than to paint into direct sun.
    140. Refections: Darks are lighter, lights are darker.
    141. Refections: Cools get warmer, warms get cooler.
    142. Darks say more than lights. Transition in shadow is more important than lights. Another Rembrandt quote: A painting is complete when it has the shadows of a god.
    143. If you’re at a loss for what to do next, paint a self-portrait.
    144. If your sky won’t settle down try adding a bit of green near the horizon.
    145. Holding your brush back near the end will make for more delicate strokes.
    146. 3 kinds of motive: Foreground, mid-ground, background. Which one is dominant in your composition?
    147. Toning a canvas: There are more cool lights outdoors than there are warm tones. Tint your canvas warm and paint the cool lights over top to achieve vibration. Keep the tone warm, transparent and fairly light, to the higher end of the mid-tone. This will allow you to paint that the real mid tones as opposed just leaving the mid-tones. The lights and the darks will look more natural and will keep every value in good relation.
    148. It’s easy to use full colour but when your painting starts to fall apart, but what will you have in reserve to pull your self out? Learn to back off a little. Save some for reserve.
    149. Simplification is really just not painting anything you don’t need.
    150. There’s no such thing as under painting. It’s all part of the process.
    151. Be careful of what you are thinking. It gets into your painting.
    152. Not till you give up the will to fail will you succeed.
    153. Keep a clear understanding of what it is you are about to paint. If you get lost, your painting gets lost.
    154. Compliments: A colour doesn’t come alive without its compliment. Blue and orange are the same colour just at the ends of their spectrum.
    155. Colour characteristics. Colours that are close on the colour wheel are trully friendly. Colours that are far apart on the colour wheel are friendly. Colours that are somewhat far from each other are unfriendly and do not work for colour harmony. These colours are called discord colours.
    156. Discord colours are like hot peppers in cooking. Doesn’t take too much to overdo it.
    157. If it's chroma you’re looking for; Do less mixing and use more pure colour from the tube.
    158. Only break a rule when you’re sure you need to and you’re absolutely sure you can get away with it.
    159. Breaking a rule; If it’s a broken rule and looks wrong, it’s wrong. If it’s the right rule but looks wrong, it’s wrong. If it’s a wrong rule and looks right, it’s right. Now my head hurts…
    160. The most important thing about painting: Show up and pay attention!
    161. The less you fiddle with a brush mark the crisper your colours will look.
    162. If the ability to learn was just the accumulation of knowledge, we would all be geniuses. Practice, practice, practice.
    163. Nature will never reveal itself to any artist who will not humble themselves to it.
    164. Your philosophy will determine some of what your style will be.
    165. Composition is the element that tells the viewer what you are trying to express. It’s the foundation of all good painting.
    166. Everything you think and everything you feel comes out the end of your brush.
    167. You don’t have to have perfect perspective but it certainly shouldn’t detract from your painting.
    168. Enjoy your subject matter or don’t even bother.
    169. Backing away from your workstation helps you make better decisions.
    170. Through your eyes you understand everything. Learn to trust them.
    171. Once you have realized your scene in paint you have a painting. This is a good place to stop.
    172. Revisit compositions. A slight tweak can make a whole new thing.
    173. Unconvincing and unconfident areas in a painting come from worry and indecision. Try painting faster.
    174. Paint fast enough to keep the left brain chasing the right. Thinking and indecision will not get in the way.
    175. Chasing the evening light is easier than chasing the morning light, but all light is paintable.
    176. Believing in a philosophy of painting will allow you to paint from start to end without expectations.
    177. The sky is bluest looking directly overhead because the observer is looking through less air, resulting in a deep blue sky. You can see farther at the horizon than you can if you look up resulting in a greening near the horizon.
    178. After you learn to paint what you see, paint how you see it.
    179. Paintings are part of a process. Know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
    180. Read values relatively. Find the lightest light and compare all other light values to it. Do the same with the darks.
    181. Squint your eyes to find the big, fluent shapes.
    182. Your own standards have to be higher and more scrupulous than those of critics.
    183. Guiding the viewer through the nonessential parts of the painting is just as important as having them pause in the essential areas of focus.
    184. Think “Edges” all the time. Beginning, middle, end.
    185. Have a strong light and dark pattern. Light and dark is the most powerful tool we have.
    186. In painting, sacrifice everything for unity.
    187. Don’t tell me who the model is. Show me what the model is doing.
    188. Form is defined by shadow, not the light.
    189. Shadow patterns hold the reality.
    190. Is your painting about trees in shadow with a little bit of light or is it about trees in light with a little bit of shadow. Never make it 50/50 (Article: The Magic of the 70/30 Split)
    191. Is this a painting of a horse with a bit of landscape in it or is this a painting of a landscape with a horse in it. Be careful not to make the subject and what’s around it the same visual weight.
    192. Black is a beautiful colour but when to start to use it for darkening colours it’s time to take it off your palette.

    193. Don’t go back to the palette and make the same colour.

    194. The viewer’s imagination can finish it better than you can ever paint it.

    195. If you’re going to lead a viewer somewhere, there better be something interesting to look at when they get there.
    196. Broken lines or entry points will weld you to the environment. Don’t build walls. Let the eye travel through areas. Pathways create unity.
    197. A head on a figure in a street scene can work if it is too small but make it too big and it’s the kiss of death.
    198. Too much interest will kill a painting. Interest should be found almost accidentally and not hit you over the head with a hammer.
    199. Big shapes are restful. Medium shapes are for transition. Small shapes are busy and interesting. Use small shapes in your centre of interest.
    200. We identify things pictorially, not by colour. Trees do not necessarily have to be green.

    Painting is peace but it can be a struggle. I hope some of my observations help you find your way. 

    Your friend in art,
    Doug.


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  • 12/04/17--12:10: 10 Things I Know About Red
  • by Doug Swinton

    3. Keep it bright. Red turns pink when you add white to it. White will not only desaturate the colour, it will bring out the red's true nuance, its pinkness. You have two options when you want to lighten your red. Purchase a brighter red OR dull down whatever is around the red you are using to make it appear brighter.

    4. Don't let it bug you. A non-toxic source for red pigment, the cochineal bug, found living in the prickly pear cactus, is used to colour lipsticks, blush, food and many fabrics today. It takes 70,000 insects to make a pound of Carmine dye. Why not make your own: LINK 

    5. Red is not always warm. Red can be warm or cool. Like any colour, the temperature is actually determined by the colour that is around it. Alizarin Crimson which is a delicious deep red will look warm when placed amongst the greens of a forest but will look cool if placed on the shadow side in a portrait.

    6. Speaking of portraits… If you mix Cadmium Orange and Quinacridone Rose it makes Cadmium Red! Put a little more Cadmium Orange in it and you will get a really nice Cadmium Red Light which is perfect for using in skin tones.

    7. Bright does not always mean light. Don’t be fooled by red. Even though a red might look bright in intensity, when you look at it through a Value Finder or take a photo of it and turn it black and white, it will look very dark, almost black. Be carful where you place reds!

    8. Be biased... For cleaner red mixes use colours that have the same bias. If you choose a Cadmium Red which has a yellow bias and mix it with a blue like Cerulean which also has a yellow bias to it, the yellow (a purple opposite) will negate the effect of having a bright clean colour and will dull your purple, making it look muddy. If you want to make a clean purple use a red the tends to the blue side like Quinacridone Rose and mix it with a blue that also has a red bias to it, like Ultramarine. The resulting purple will be clean and bright.

    9. Red warm in nature. To make a deep rich warm red use Cadmium Red Deep. Most reds will turn purple the minute you try to darken them. Cad Red Deep is the only red I know that will stay red when you add Ultramarine Blue to darken it. The result is a deep rich red that is warm in nature. Great for warm darks when you have cool lights.

    10. Use it more... My guess is that you don’t use enough red. When I look at people’s palettes I always see big squeezes of blues and greens and the tiniest dots of reds. Try using more red on your palette! It’s not as scary as you think.

    Here is another article I wrote some time ago on the colour red: Introduction to the Pigment of Love. Add depth to your palette with this guide to the history and variety of different red pigments.

    Having issues with your reds? Tell me about it below and I will try to help.

    Your Friend in Art,

    Doug


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