Monday, August 17, 2015

Life Gets in the Way - So Study

There's something to that old adage about life getting in the way - sometimes, you just can't help it, you can't paint! As an artist/teacher/designer, I understand the importance of practice. Actually, we all understand that practice is most often the difference between being great at something, good at something or just adequate. I've worked hard the past year or so to always set aside time for me - better known as "painting time." But, there are times (traveling being one) when circumstances prohibit me from doing something I not only should do, but I actually love to do - paint.

So, I wanted to share a new insight, an epiphany I had yesterday as I was traveling the interstate; this world is a beautiful place and offers us as artist the opportunity to study our art, improve our skill, at any given moment. Instead of just looking at cloud formations, I studied them. I noticed the values of blues and grays underneath, the warmth of the "whites" as they billowed from the top back and toplit from the sun...i was in aww. The rainbow that presented itself was one to behold. I could see all the colors of the spectrum. And, where it appeared to touch the ground in the valley between the mountains, the intensity of the reflecting light caused me to pause for a moment and wonder if there was truly gold at the end of that rainbow. Some of the trees seem to be taking on a pre-fall cast of yellow-green. What a treat to see up close the variations of warm and cool leaves, cast shadows and the effects of the atmospheric moisture (haze) at the horizon line.

WOW what a wonderful, beautiful day immersed in the study of art. I can't wait to see what today's studies will reveal as we travel further north. I hope you find art in your world today as well. Whether it be with brush in hand or through a car window, enjoy your studies and practice.

Enjoy the Journey,

Monday, August 10, 2015

Color - Experiment, Discover, fall in Love!

"I hate to mix color!" As an artist/teacher/colorist, these words are like nails on a chalkboard. You know that deafening sound - the one that just grabs your attention in the middle of an over-crowded room. You can't help but wonder what horrible experience they must have endured to so taint their view that they express it with that foul four letter word - HATE. Were they tortured by a palette of pure pigment or, perhaps, they were threatened bodily harm by a brush loaded with beautiful reds and yellows marrying together as it struck the canvas creating hints of some of the most beautiful oranges you could ever have imagined. What crime against artists did your most precious, most coveted element of art commit? Why is mixing color considered such a heinous act?

Perhaps it's simply inexperience? Or plain ignorance?

First, you should understand that I LOVE COLOR. I LOVE TO MIX COLOR. I LOVE TO EXPERIMENT WITH COLOR. I LOVE TO DISCOVER COLOR. I LOVE TO KILL COLOR AND THEN ATTEMPT TO REVIVE IT. I LOVE THE SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT WHEN MY DISCOVERED COLORS WORK. I LOVE (well not so much) WHEN MY COLOR EXPERIMENTS FAIL. Color, for me, is more than the same 300 bottles of predictable color on my wall. It is never exactly the same as it was yesterday, an hour ago or even that last brush stroke. It varies, it lives, it expresses, it makes me happy! It brings joy to my art!

I'm often asked by those who paint with me how I "know" what to do with an intense (bright) yellow or green background. How, they ask, is it that I can just reach my brush into a color or two, work it into the background and "fix" it. It's simple. I understand a lot about color. For me, color is the primary foundation of painting, of becoming an artist. You can have all the brush skills in the world, you can "know" everything you think you need to know about how to paint a flower, a landscape, or still life; but, if you don't understand color, in my experience, everything else will fail. Think about it. Color - the value of it, the intensity of it, the temperature...everything we as visual artist create is dependent on color!

We all know the primary colors of red, blue and yellow. Most of us understand that red and yellow make orange, blue and yellow make green and red and blue make violet. But, did you know that red, blue and yellow in various degrees make the most beautiful browns; raw sienna, burnt sienna, burnt umber, raw umber... add some white and black to your palette and you can paint almost anything, (add red violet and you can rule the world).

Another question I'm often asked, is why Heritage? Well, all brands do not mix the same? All brands are not of the same quality to perform like I want them to perform. All paint is not created equal. Some have filler, some have more filler than pigment, some also have binders...mix them together and you can see the difference. Experiment. Take various brands and mix a bright red and bright yellow together. Beside it, do the same with a pure pigment, artist quality tube acrylic (Heritage Multimedia Acrylics) - see for yourself. It's not rocket science. As I always say, the proof is in the pudding.

Perhaps you read this and rolled your eyes...I see you, I know what kind of painter you are. And, that is okay. However, you should know that color is more than just those paintings on your easel or your craft table. Color surrounds you in every way every day. You just finished that most beautiful piece; whether it is a wooden box, plate, canvas, matter. You varnish it and set it out for display or hang it on your wall. Maybe you head to a local framing store and frame the 100 - hour still life in that perfect frame. It's just right. Yet, much to your chagrin, the piece looks absolutely hideous in that special place. It looks lost, or it clashes, or it just doesn't complement the room. It's simple, it's color. How do I know, I know color. I know that an apple green wall is going to really clash with a beautifully hand-painted tavern sign featuring a cool, turquoise blue. That dark black frame on that white wall is going to draw your attention away from that softly painted, pastel floral. You can't escape it. Color!

My point - I knew you'd ask. No matter what your path, whether it be 300 bottles of paint on the wall or just six tubes of pure pigments, you can't escape color. Understanding it will make you a better artist. Becoming less dependent on premixed formulas will bring out the creativity in each of you. Is it easy? It depends on your perspective? Is it worth it? Again, it depends on your perspective. 

Create it once, enjoy it, paint with it and then, create something a little different! 

I love this Picasso quote:

They'll sell you thousands of greens. Veronese green and emerald green and cadmium green and any sort of green you like; but that particular green, never."
Pablo Picasso, 1966.

Enjoy the Journey!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Sometimes Flowers Just Fall Off the Brush - Sometimes They Don't

You know the feeling, you sit down to paint, you have the perfect plan; and, seemingly without effort, the perfect flower just happens. You feel it, it's magical. Today, art is magic. That near perfect painting (nothing is really perfect you know) just "blooms." Excited, confident, proud, you wash those brushes (okay, you should wash your brushes) and prep your painting station for another day. The "newest" addition to your garden sits drying on the easel. You wake up the next day excited to tempt fate stroking your brushes across yet another canvas striving to reach new heights in your art experience. It's a new day, a new flower, perhaps a new color palette - no worries, yesterday was almost effortless. Load, tap, tap, strike, strike, push, pull, - wait...what happened? Time passes. You can't see it? What happened? You lost your flower! How? Why? How do you "fix" it? It has to be fixed. That "30-minute" timed painting drags into an hour, two hours...well, at some point you decide, it's just good enough. You set it aside for the day. Ah, but, not so fast - it catches your eye again as you head to bed. You simply won't be defeated. It's actually a lovely painting; it's just not what you set out to achieve. Perhaps a bit more of this, a bit more of that. You hit a stride, keeping at it for another hour or so. Wait, you should have stopped, 45 minutes ago. You remember - it was taking shape - before it looked belabored. What happened to that plan? You didn't stop and think before you continued with that last stroke of green. (Or was it the blue?).

It happens to all of us. Learning opportunities. Think about it. If every single painting just "fell off your brush" what would you learn, how would you improve, why paint more? 

My point - you ask? Enjoy the journey, every  last bit of it. Make a plan, stick to it - but, be prepared to chart a different course. It's only paint! I started out a few nights ago looking for that "white flower" experience once again. I found the search continued well into the night, into the next day and was revisited a third time the following day. I was thinking, perhaps overthinking my painting at this point. I was on a mission. I shifted my thought process and allowed myself to embark on a journey of discovery. I painted - I painted in, I painted out. I experimented with colors and mushed them into my background (I think "mush" qualifies as a technical term). I wasn't to be defeated - my paintings along the way were pretty. They just weren't what I was looking for. So, I ALLOWED MYSELF TO LEARN! Thus, today I am an even better artist! Learning through experience is the best type of education there is. Make your mistakes, power through those paintings that don't happen as quickly as you had hoped. Or set them aside until tomorrow. Enjoy the ones that just happen and, for goodness sake, allow them to do just that "happen."

Don't beat yourself up, learn

We all need learning time. Sometimes as designers/teachers we forget to allot time for this, for learning, for experimentation, for discovery...(By the way, you don't need much white for a flower to register white. But, I already knew that!) Thankfully, it's just paint!

Enjoy the Journey!