Friday, June 21, 2024

Painting Daisies by NOT Painting Daisies

In this new video on YouTube, I explore the practice of negative painting.


The idea is to paint the negative shapes around the white shapes of the daisies. 

The goal is to reserve our attention for the spaces between things.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Is Competition Good for Artists?

Art students in Cincinnati portray a crucifixion scene based on a live model.

A history and discussion on my free-to-participate Substack page.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Be Consistent With Titles


I called one painting "Rainbow Bridge" in one exhibit and "Gideon's Bridge" in a book.

Unfortunately, both names will follow that image forever.

'Untitled' is a Title: Eleven tips for titling paintings. 

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Archery Target


Someone must have set up this target for archery practice. It's in a lonely place way down below a high bridge.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Rendering Realistic Fur in Gouache

 Carl Brenders (b. 1937) is a wildlife artist from Belgium known for his richly detailed gouache and watercolor paintings of mammals and birds in their environments.

How does he do it? There’s not much information about his technique available online, but I did some digging.

He begins by taking a lot of photographs of the animal and its habitat.

According to his 1994 book Wildlife: The Nature Paintings of Carl Benders:

“Even after spending weeks of research and photography in the field, the artist devotes more time to develop the concept of the painting.

“With this planned, he first makes a complete pencil drawing of the entire subject, including the background.

“Over his pencil work he then paints with sepia watercolor much like pen-and-ink drawing. On top of the sepia he airbrushes areas in watercolor, and then paints over all this with gouache.

“He finds the combination of gouache and watercolor perfectly suited to his detailed work; it achieves an effect he finds impossible with acrylic or oil paint.

“Only the Flemish masters, says Brenders, could achieve such detail in oils.”


Quotes by Dana Cooper from the book Wildlife: The Nature Paintings of Carl Benders

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Degas' Experimental Foregrounds

What's going on with the two cows in this pastel drawing by Degas? The one on the right appears to be grazing, but we don't see its head or its feet.

Degas loved to experiment with cropping elements off the bottom of his compositions, most likely influenced by photography. Here he seems to be having fun, just seeing what he could get away with.

 More about breaking the foreground line on my Substack post. 

Monday, May 20, 2024

The Lights Go On at Lightbox

Tickets go on sale today for Lightbox Expo in Pasadena, California this October. 



It's an inspiring gathering of concept artists, animators, plein air painters, and illustrators. Everyone is super friendly, sketching all the time. 


You can meet and hang out with artists like Angela Sung, Craig Mullins, Kiptoe, Jess Karp, Marco Bucci, Aaron Blaise, and artists who work for Blizzard, DreamWorks, Disney, and Pixar (I’ll be there too, with a new book). Find out more at the Lightbox Expo website.


Friday, May 17, 2024

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Inside Dog, Outside Dog

Hand-painted T shirt design.

I'm always amazed how Smooth changes when he steps outside the house: ears unfurl, fangs come out, and tail goes up. It's a Jekyll & Hyde transformation.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Parrish Describes Pyle


In his reply to a young art student, Maxfield Parrish said: "I do wish you could study under Howard Pyle: indeed you would enjoy it. I did myself for two years. He is so full enthusiasm there is plenty to spare and you get a lot that is left over. He does everything the same way: he goes in bathing, walks, plays games as if he were saving his household goods from a fire."

Thanks, Steve!

Friday, May 10, 2024

Chinese Academic Drawing

A Chinese academic drawing in four stages. More information and commentary on my free Substack forum.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Painting Trash and Weeds

"Anything that excites me for any reason, I will [document it]; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual." —Edward Weston

I paint some trash tossed into the weeds alongside a stretch of parking lot.
More about painting "non-motifs" at my post on Substack.

Link to Video on YouTube

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Beginning and Ending a Painting

 A reader asked: “How is your thought process different at the beginning of a plein-air painting compared to the end?”

At the beginning of a painting, I think about the concept or feeling that I want to convey. That intention guides the choice of framing and the colors I may choose. The thought process always comes before the painting, and if it’s a studio illustration, I work it out in sketches.

If I were to start drawing or painting without a clear idea, it’s likely to be a dud.

My first goal is to make a foundation in simple lines drawn with a brush, graphite pencil or watercolor pencil. If my goal is to capture the subject fairly literally or accurately, I might do some measuring and checking. Other times I may just use the elements in front of me to build an idea that’s half formed in my head.

Either way, my goal at the outset is to place the big elements.


















For example, when I painted this Irish graveyard, I was inspired to express something deep emotionally. It’s hard to put into words, but I suppose it’s about life and light transcending the bounds of earth and stone. That feeling comes partly from the early morning light touching the tops of the stones. I had to move the gravestones around like chess pieces and make one of them central.

There may be moments of struggle, especially in the early stages when trying to align the actual painting with the original vision in my head. To overcome this, I often focus on finishing one area and building from there.

As I progress towards the later stages of the painting, my focus shifts into the scene. I think about the details. If the painting is going well, my attention shifts from the mechanics of brushes, surfaces, and strokes to the virtual space I’m trying to evoke.

If I get too caught up in such superficial concerns late in the game, I’ve probably lost hold of the idea. Jotting down the initial idea in a quick sketch or even a couple of words can be a big help.

The most difficult part is the thinking stage, which is why I say: Painting is easy, thinking is hard.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Thinking Humans

Image: Rodin's Thinker

How do thinking humans survive in a world of intelligent machines? That's the question I pose in my latest deep dive on Substack, called: "10 Thinking Strategies."

Bottom line: If we nurture the thinking strategies that are unique to the human experience, we can live our best lives in a world that’s more and more populated by intelligent machines. 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Denison in his Study

 

Arthur Denison, chronicler of Dinotopia, in his study with Bix, his sidekick Protoceratops. 

From Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara

Monday, April 22, 2024

Leyendecker in Paris

J.C. Leyendecker, during his student days in Paris, wrote home to Chicago describing the work he was doing in the Académie Julian under Benjamin-Constant, Lefebvre, Bouguereau, and Laurens:

"Thoroughness is the principle upon which the French Art Schools have won their success. It doesn't take long to discover that style and dash will not make a drawing or painting go here as it will an illustration back home. Serious work—getting right down to the foundation principles—is the demand which is laid upon every student over here. 
If I learned anything it was that a picture is really only valuable for the thought behind it. There is little talk of 'handling' and of the catch tricks of the trade, and much emphasis upon a deep and serious significance in everything attempted." 

More on Substack

Friday, April 19, 2024

Painting the Kurbmaster



I painted this dead van in Greenport, Long Island using watercolor and gouache. You can watch the YouTube premiere today at noon NY time.


Stage 1. Measuring

I establish a unit of length. The distance from the left edge of the windshield to the back of the door equals the distance from the A-pillar to the back of the van.



Stage 2. Mapping.
I mark out the basic lines in a red-brown watercolor pencil.



Stage 3. Blocking in.
I use a flat brush to establish major shapes.



Stage 4. Big areas first.
I’m eager to dive into the details, beginning with the reflections in the windshield, and after that I’ll do the front lights and grillwork.



Stage 5. Getting Opaque.
I paint the leaves transparently on the first pass, then start bringing in opaques


Stage 6. Pencil Lines.
A ruler and a pencil for the fine lines of the clapboards on the far building.


Bring your questions to the 39 minute YouTube premiere today at noon NY time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Two Roads to Career Building

 There are two roads for building an art career online.



Watch the public premiere of the full 39 minute video this Friday at noon EST, or, if you’re a supporter on Substack, you can see it now. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

How to Overcome Creative Melancholy

Feeling stuck? Need a fresh approach to your creative practice?

Dürer's Melencolia I

Here are four tips to help overcome creative melancholy:

1. Set up a different workstation. For most people, doing work means facing a computer. If it's a laptop, bring it to a new spot in the house or try working in a library or a café. Setting up a standing workstation can be a gamechanger. 

2. Invent an alter ego and let them solve it. Pretend you've hired a specialist to help you with the part of the process that stymied you.

3. Trust the process, follow the workflow. For me, that means doing thumbnail sketches, planning tonal studies, doing a perspective drawing, gathering photo reference, etc. 

4. Leave an easy step unfinished at the end of a work session. That way, when you return to work you know exactly what to do and how to do it and you don't need much brain power.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Tronies Exhibit in Dublin

 Not all head paintings are intended as portraits of specific individuals.

Joos van Craesbeeck, 1605/6-1660/1 The Smoker

Sometimes the goal is to capture a facial expression, a character type, a weird angle, an exotic costume, or an exploratory lighting arrangement.


Adriaen Brouwer, The Bitter Potion, 1636-1638, Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany.


In the 16th and 17th centuries, Dutch and Flemish painters developed a whole series of experimental modes of head painting.

Frans Hals, Laughing Boy, 1625, Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands.


There’s a lot of fun mixed in with serious art-making.



On Tuesday we visited the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, which is hosting an exhibition of these amazing head paintings, known by the Dutch and Flemish artists as tronies.


Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Red Hat, 1665, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

The name of the exhibition is Turning Heads: Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer.



The exhibition includes head paintings by other well known painters of the day, including Anthony van Dyck (above), who painted this head study between 1618 and 1620.


Several of Rembrandt’s tronies explore characters in exotic costumes lit by strange, mysterious lighting.


The show will be on view through the 26th of May, 2024.