Tuesday, December 09, 2014

How Oil Paints are Made

During our travels filming new "Painting and Travel" espisodes for PBS we had the opportunity to visit the Jack Richeson & Co. in Appleton, Wisconsin. They make a large line of fine artist materials including easels, stretchers, and paints. Here's a video we shot showing how oil paints are made.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Being a plein air artist

While we were traveling in Minnesota, Sarah and I met plein air artist Neil Sherman. Here's a video interview Sarah and I made with Neil in his studio. We think you'll enjoy listening to this artist who has the kind of dedication it takes to succeed.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Time Lapse of Barn Painting

Here's a short time lapse video of a plein air painting done near our studio in Flat Rock, North Carolina at the Carl Sandburg home and barn which is now a National Historic Site.
Clicking on the image below will take you to the YouTube video.


"Sandburg Barn"
9x12" / Acrylic on board

Painting Late Afternoon Light

Here are a few step by step comments on a recent painting titled "Saluda - Last Light". 

I began with a 9x12" Masonite board primed with Gesso. I toned the board with a thin coat of Ultramarine Blue applied by simply wetting the board slightly with a mist bottle and then squirting the paint from the tube directly onto the board and wiping it around the entire surface. Most often I tone my boards with Burnt Sienna to give me a warm tone but in this case with the disappearing evening light I wanted to give an overall look of very cool tones. This would in the final piece give more emphasis to the warm tones by contrast.

I drew the basic shapes of the building with a brush and then began adding the dark using only transparent colors. If I were to use opaque colors at this point they would begin to cover the blue areas and not allow that blue to show through.

Here you can see some areas of the buildings and background that were painted using rather thin layers of paint allowing the Ultramarine Blue to glow through. Other areas such as the sky were painted with thicker opaque color.

I took the original photo as reference knowing it would be very dark but I wanted to capture the mood with its dimmly lit passages. I used the photo on the left primarily to work on the final painting but I also duplicated the photo and in Photoshop lightened it which gave a better look at the detail that was not evident in the original. I was careful not to take too much information from the overexposed photo as I did not want to loose the feeling of the scene by adding lots of features that were not necessary to convey the mood of the painting.

"Saluda - Last Light"
9x12" / Acrylic on board

Painting the pumpkins

Here are a few step by step comments on a recent painting titled "Pumpkins on the Hearth".

I began with a 16x20" Masonite board primed with Gesso. I toned the board with a thin coat of Burnt Sienna applied by simply wetting the board slightly with a mist bottle and then I squirted the paint from the tube directly onto the board and wiped it around the entire surface. I then drew the basic shapes on the board with charcoal.

I'm using acrylics which dry fast allowing me to apply glazes easily but at this point I'm simply blocking in the colors and values. The Burnt Sienna undertone helps to more easily unify the painting. I'm using mostly transparent colors at first to get rich dark tones.

This process continues being careful not to get carried away with any detail until I'm sure that the placement and values of each object is where I want it to be.

This block in continues carefully but freely using paints that are quite thin at this point.

Now I begin to refine some areas of the pumpkins to give them form where the light it hitting them from the window.

The detail starts to build using simple forms and heavier paints are applied as the painting progresses.

The leaves in the window and on the hearth start to take shape but I kept them as loosly undefined shapes until this point which kept the painting fresh.

Finally touches of detail such as rim lighting on the leaves of the plant near the window and a few individual kernals of corn (not easily seen in the photo) are added.

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Timucuan family house"

"Timucuan family house"
12 x 20.5" acrylic on board
The Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine is one of my favorite places to visit and paint. If you're in the area and want to get away from the roller coaster side of Florida attractions, this is a great place. To begin my day I drank a cup of water from the fountain and began this plein air painting.

Note: Here's a webpage of downloadable video demonstrations.

 This is a masonite board primed with Gesso. I used charcoal to establish the composition which was basically the three huts. There was a lot going in the scene in addition to the three buildings (Timucuan Indian family houses) but they would be the center of interest so placing them in the right place was of prime importance. The shelters reminded me of the haystacks that Monet once painted.

Acrylics were used in the paining and the large shapes were blocked in. A very limited palette was used consisting of White, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Indian Yellow, Cad Yellow Light, and Alizarin Crimson. I did add some Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna towards the end of the painting.

Establishing the patterns and values was of prime importance getting my darks, middle tones and lights in the piece. Since acrylics were used, it all dried very quickly allowing me to layer color on top of color in order to build up nice layers of colors and tones.

This is how the scene looked through the lens of a camera. You can see that highlight values in the sunlit sides of the shelters show up with very little color, one of the disadvantages of working from photos. Fortunately, I had plenty of time to work on location and didn't have to rely on any photos. As I look at the photo, I'm personally amazed at how little information is in the photo as compared to what I was actually seeing while on location.

Refinements were made and large areas and shapes began to be refined. Negative areas were carefully placed.

Here in the final painting, I added a few figures and the small wood fire with a hint of white smoke rising up. I also simplified and darkened the foreground so as to bring more attention to the area where the figures are standing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hidden Cove - Step by step

Here's a step by step look at a recent southern landscape painting titled "Hidden Cove".

I began painting by placing in the sky using acrylics. Often I put the sky in after putting in dark areas of trees and such but in this case I placed the sky first. On the occasions where I paint the sky later it's usually because I want to play with the negative areas more but I really didn't have much of an idea as to where this painting was going although I knew this warm sky feeling would be a major part of the piece so that's what I began with.

Here the clouds and grey areas of the sky were placed in the piece. I knew I wanted water in this scene so I extended the grey towards the bottom of the painting which would later become the water.

With a combination of Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, and Indian Yellow, I made a dark color which because the foliage and carefully began to build up the composition.

A few cabbage palms were added using a light touch of the brush and simply dragging the paint from the middle of the palm outward creating the feathery edges to the palm.

A few more palms were added and birds in the foreground. Some distant palms were placed near the horizon in a blue color but the composition just seemed too bottom heavy.

In order to resolve this problem, I took out those small palms (in the previous photo) and brought the horizon up to a higher level in the picture plane. This took care of that area in the painting were nothing of interest was happening. More trees were added on the left to fill up the space more appropriately. Then another layer of foreground was placed in the lower right with the darks. The shape of the trees on the top left and the ones on the bottom right echoed each other and almost gave a framed look to the painting helping to hold it together.

To finish the piece, some dull green was added to give the foliage more form. I also added more variety to the sky as the palm trees and the clouds seemed to follow the same downward sloping line. This change made the sky more natural looking and filled the solid blue area of the sky with more interest.