Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Silhouette

A tell-tale silhouette is often the cure for the over detailed and textured depiction of a subject.  These Monterrey cypress trees are easy to caricature because of their zig-zag shapes. 

More paintings fail because the descriptive silhouette takes second place to details in the interior of the shape.  Get the silhouette right, and it will carry the day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Sketchbook Habit

"An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached." --Irwin Greenberg

Preparation in art is a matter of keeping your eyes in training.  I often say that each year when I return to Maine, I get my eyes back.  Looking and seeing are two different activities.  The former just needs to identify objects without much detail identification or naming.  But seeing implies that you stop for a longer studied view of things:  their shapes, values, subtleties of color and texture.  Giving your brain and heart the time to connect with what you see is an invaluable skill in the production of meaningful, emotional art.

Your sketchbook is the shorthand reminder of these moments.  Jotting down impressions helps to free us from overwhelming details and allows us to be free to adjust things and improve them.  To find patterns, alter colors, add figures, experiment with values....All are easier when dealing with a reference sketch.

So tuck that sketchbook in your car, and take advantage of waiting times or unexpected vistas.  Keep your eyes and your hand busy and they will be ready for you when it comes time to paint that masterpiece!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Demo

Last night the members of the Art World Association here in St. Louis invited me to give them a demo at their monthly meeting.  I was a bit nervous as I planned to do a painting using the technique I've been doing for a while now which starts without any drawn plans.  Facing a totally empty white piece of paper with no preconceived notion of what the end product will look like is normally daunting;  doing it in front of an audience is nearly paralyzing!

I gave them two choices:  horizontal or vertical format?  warm or cool colors? They chose a warm, horizontal theme.

I then proceeded to carve out the whites.  Look carefully at the four corners of the finished painting and you'll see that they are all different sizes, shapes and directions.

Then I started placing the midtones, defining the normal objects found around a working dock.
Last came the carefully chosen placements of darks.  I think the final product has a vibration and movement that resounds with the energy around a seaside dock.

Thanks again to the Art World Association for having me!

I'm going to try to move on to some new subjects next week.  Tune in again soon!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


In this painting, I began with an abstract underpainting of cool blues ---cobalt turquoise, thalo blue, and ultramarine blue--and cobalt violet to give some warmth to the painting.  Then I went back with darker values of the same colors to add some buildings and signs.  Finally, I left a trail of dark accents.

I think you can see that the preserved whites left after the initial underpainting all point to the busy focal points of the design.  Intuition played a large part in placing the buildings and signs.

Early this week I kept getting into trouble because I was trying to include too many colors and none of them clearly dominated the paper.  When you have too many warm colors to choose from, the temptation is to put them all in.  To get out of that problem, I decided to stay strictly on the cooler side of the palette this time. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Design is the hardest part of producing a successful painting.  One consideration is to contain the subject matter within the parameters of the  paper.  I am very mindful of the negative space in the background.  Keeping the background relatively quiet will certainly focus attention on the focal points of the subject matter.
The values and textures should be limited to the focal points, keeping the background area quiet and subdued.

P.S.  Design is not an easy thing to achieve.  I've attempted at least ten paintings in order to produce one that hopefully accomplishes these attributes.