Saturday, December 31, 2011

This was a 24x36" plein air painting I did in oils in 1968. It has survived but throughout all these years the oils have cracked and the varnish has turned an splotchy ugly yellow. It does have an old charm and some of that is because the yellowing has created a color harmony in the piece, however if you were to see it close up the age has really taken a toll.

This painting was done in acrylics around the year 2000. I have many paintings in my possession that are well over 40 years old and done in acrylics that have not cracked and the colors still look fresh and vibrant.
So, are acrylics better than oils? I know there are oil paintings in museums that are hundreds of years old but they have been cared for. For someone like myself who has had to store paintings in all sorts of places and conditions, acrylics stand up so much better.

Friday, November 18, 2011


When painting murals for outdoor locations consider using paints that sign painters have used for years. The brand is called One Shot. When billboards were painted by hand this is what was used. I prefer their oil based enamels. They also come in a water based variety but I find they don't work as well.
The boards were made of 3/4" MDO (medium density overlay) boards. It's basically an exterior plywood that has a smooth almost tan colored masonite looking top layer to it making a great surface. And the best part is that over the years it doesn't crack or check.
Here are a few examples of murals the repainted murals that I originally did about a dozen years ago (There were 24 of them in all).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Working from a photo

This is the photographic image I used to create the painting on the post below. Nothing very inspirational but it does have strong shapes that aren't broken up into tiny pieces. In other words, it gives me solid masses in which to build a composition. Most of the detail is gone in the dark areas but in this case it was satisfactory and probably kept me from putting in a lot of detail that wasn't necessary.
Photographs are very limiting. The eye can see so very much more than the photo. I always study colors and values no matter where I go. It helps me when I have to deal with a photo like this where the colors and values have basically been reduced greatly from real life.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A few principals to follow

Here is an example of a simple painting that expresses distance. The center of interest is of course obvious but the eye is directed even more to that area because the darkest darks and the lightest lights are next to each other. Had that patch of sunlight in the distance been way over to the right, the eye would tend to bounce back and forth between those two points. As a general principal, the contrast should be greater in the area of the focal point.
This also expresses another principal. A painting should have a dominant area of color (the bluish sky), a sub dominant (the warm reddish earth and tree) and an accent (the yellow distant marsh)
These are principals, not rules.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Painting on Masonite

Here is a video I made about the panel boards I use to paint on. It's very economical and the boards are very nice to work with. One advantage in using masonite boards is they don't take up very much space which is great when traveling or plein air painting.
Be sure to cut most of your boards in standard sizes as frames are much less expensive to purchase that way. Many frame shops cut their scraps into standard sizes and sell them cheap. You can end up with great frames for a fraction of the cost.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just to clarify

I am often asked about showing how I do the finishing touches to the paintings we air on PBS television. Some of the programs show me finishing the painting and some don't but the real lessons and basics are in the program. The finish is nothing more than poking around a bit with the small brush which isn't that interesting to watch. Really! It's getting the basic shapes, values and colors down in the first stages that will make or break a painting. The details are nice but are of much less importance.
So, in the programs I try to get the big picture of what's important. The details are just that, details. Like a few colorful sprinkles on an already tasty ice cream cone. Many paintings are ruined by worrying about detail. If the shapes, colors and values are strong you'll find that little detail is needed.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Tones tell a story

Here's an example of using an overall tone in a painting (in this case warm) to suggest the feeling of fall. Even the angle of the light which is low on the horizon can suggest that it is a season coming to an end. The subtle touch of red colors under the tree suggests fallen leaves. This suggestion does the trick much better than actually trying to paint leaves with small strokes.
It's actually a very simply done painting with attention to detail being paid to only the areas of primary interest.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Green paintings

I've been told that paintings with lots of green in them are hard to sell. That very well may be true. To avoid making a green painting, I often leave green off my palette entirely but mix my own greens instead. This avoids having that green tube color dominate which everyone can recognize as a tube color. Mixing reds or sienna colors with greens helps. Also starting with a burnt sienna undertone in the painting will cut down that green look and warm the overall colors of the greens.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Insuring a center of interest

One way to insure that the center of interest stay as the focal point is to place the darkest darks next to the lightest lights.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Framing paintings for the web

When you see a framed painting on my website or newsletter, most likely it was not framed at all. It's difficult to photograph a framed painting because often the straight edge of a frame can be warped or curved because of the camera lens. Using a 50mm lens usually fixes that but in my case I have photographed a number of frames without paintings in them.

So I photograph frames that I like. I've even photographed frames in frame shops with the owners permission and it really doesn't matter at that point if they have paintings in them or not. I then adjustment those images of the frames in Photoshop to make them nice and rectangular and so on and from then on out, I have a ready stock of frames that I can then easily drop new paintings into.

The small and the big

It's very important to learn how to see the subtle nuances in the subject you're painting especially with colors and values and at the same time keep a major focus on the big shapes.
In this plein air painting I tried to keep my major shapes large while also trying to capture the subtle changes within those larger shapes. One of those subtleties was getting perspective lines in the sand that ran down towards the water.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Working with color

I am frequently asked how I choose colors for a painting. It's possible to do a painting with any three very arbitrary colors. A full set of colors or even the primary colors aren't totally necessary.
Yesterday a friend was visiting the studio and the subject came up, so Sarah chose the three colors to the right and I was challenged to paint with these plus white.
Here is the result. (note: the board did have a burnt sienna ground to begin with)

The blue oxide is a color that was on sale for practically nothing at an art store. I did use it on one of our PBS shows we did in the Caribbean as it was a good color for the water down there. I'd use caution with using such colors though. They are full of white and can generally be mixed with colors you already have. Mainly there is a danger with using these odd ball colors because you can quickly loose any harmony in your painting. They simply won't harmonize well with other colors.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Overall tone

Keeping an overall tonal color to a painting is determined before the painting is started warm orange tone helped greatly to unify the entire painting.
Doing small paintings like this 5x7" piece also offers good practice in getting images, compositions and colors down quickly without investing lots of time. Do them, learn a few things and move on to another.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Duplicating Shapes

In general it is not a good idea to duplicate shapes throughout a painting but in this case it seems to work well. The triangle shapes of not only the mountain but all the fields help build a strong composition and gives the painting an almost abstract quality.
The painting was done in Flat Rock, N.C not far from our summer studio.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Last Light

It was just about sunset and the light was fading fast. Sound familiar? Well, it always seems to be the case about painting outside. The light is always changing. In this case I had to deal with a warm light coming through the glass of this greenhouse from one side and a lot of reflected light directly from the sky overhead. Working fast forced me to analyze the colors and values quickly.
I never would have gotten these rich colors had I worked from a photograph. There really is nothing like painting on location to see colors. The painting may not turn out as good as the studio paintings but for learning about color, it can't be beat.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Creating texture

In this painting I tried to create a lot of texture that represented the old fort here in St. Augustine. One way I did this was described in a DVD I did which partially dealt with the subject of creating texture easily and effectively.
To read a bit more about this you can go to this link and look at the bottom of the page for a program called "South Haven Lighthouse"

Beware of Post Office

This 8x16" painting was done on Masonite and purchased and sent to Canada. Masonite is pretty tough and I packaged it with several other pieces of heavy cardboard sandwiched between the painting. When it arrived in Canada, the painting had been broken in half. Fortunately the person who bought it let me replace the painting with another one. Insurance in my opinion for such a small painting is almost worthless since there are hoops to jump through to collect. My advice is pack things about double what you think they need. Sometimes the post office can be awfully rough.

Big eyes

This small portrait of a German Shepard was done on a 5x7" piece of Masonite. I had a thin wash of burnt sienna on the background as a base and this let all those warm colors of the dog come through the sketchy painting nicely. I pushed the cool colors of blue into the fury areas of the back coat so they wouldn't fight with the warmer colors in the foreground.
The cool colors under the dog made for a good balance putting all the focus on the animals face. I always make the eyes a bit larger in animals than they actually are. It gives them a much friendlier look.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A palette for outdoors

I've been using a glass palette when I paint outside and my acrylics often dry very quickly in the sun. Here's a tip thanks to Jay Babina who sent me an email. She writes:

I was painting acrylic outside and was going through the usual spraying the pallet routine etc yet once the sun popped out, my mixtures were literally drying in minutes.

I investigated the stay wet pallets and tupperware pans etc too.

What I tried that worked out great is corrugated cardboard. I use a regular piece of glass as you do and just placed a wet piece of regular light brown corrugated cardboard on top of it. I wet both sides pretty good letting water run into the corrugations. It works great. It holds the moisture, doesn't designate or fall apart and best of all, it's free. A piece will last for hours or more with an occasional spray if needed - but nothing like glass where thin mixtures can dry in less than a minute on a sunny day. It actually traps water on the underside if on glass. When you're done, just throw it away. I know your pallet is fairly vertical in which case you may have to experiment with some tape etc.

Give it a try and see what you think.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

East Point

Here is an example of an 11x14" painting that was done using only three colors. Alazarin Crimson, Indian Yellow, and Ultramarine Blue and of course white. This painting was done as a demonstration before a class and finished in about an hour not counting the time I took to sketch it out on the board.
The idea here was to create a mood expressing the rather warm but somber mood as this town of East Point, (near Appalachicola, Florida) is both charming and economically depressed.
By using only three colors the harmony within the painting remains stronger than had I introduced other tube colors such as green.