Ignorance IS Bliss!

Like most artists, when I first started painting I grabbed a couple brushes and a few tubes of paint and gave it a go. It was great fun just trying to paint something and seeing how it came out. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do, and through trial and error I was able to create something that made me happy. Other people responded well, so I kept at it.

As I continued to paint I started wanting to learn more, to overcome challenges I was having. So on to the internet, websites, blogs, artist pages, and YouTube.

Well. It didn’t take long before I started learning how to mix colors. Cool.

Then, I started learning that I should be paying attention to values. So, more videos, more blogs, more learning. And then, composition. I needed to plan my paintings better to have better composition. Then edges, and blending. Color temperature, brush handling, techniques, etc. etc. etc.

Soon enough I found myself with a dizzying list of things I needed to know, and practice, in order to be “good”. What was once a fun way to splash color on a canvas became a bit intimidating.

I was reminded of this today talking to another artist. He was saying how sometimes when he sits down to paint he starts worrying about the details and loses sight of the big picture. He, like me, would focus on one part of the painting trying to get it right.

Continue reading “Ignorance IS Bliss!”

Painting Luminous Trees

I recently received a question on how I painted some trees in the painting you see below. So I thought I would walk through this painting to illustrate how I went about getting the luminous quality of the backlit tree which is the focal point.


To start with, since the whole purpose of the painting was to capture that moment when light hits this group of trees creating a backlit glow, I thought about how best to capture that effect using paint. The three things I knew would help in this were the concept of simultaneous contrast (the effects of two colors next to each other), contrast (light and dark) and saturation.

But before working out those details I knew I wanted to start with a colored ground for my canvas, using a color that would enhance the vividness of the orange tree. So I chose to cover my canvas with a combination of Cadmium Red Light and Burnet Umber. I could have chosen to use Yellow Ochre, but I wanted the red ground to add some energy to the hills and greens so I went with this choice. I knew the orange/yellows on top would pick up some of the undying redness and energy of the ground anywhere it peaked through and would maintain its brightness on top of it. Continue reading “Painting Luminous Trees”

Bluebirds & Dogwood (in 12 steps)

Here is a breakdown of how I approached my latest painting. The painting itself was a request, and for guidance I had an idea of the color palette and that it should be calming. I also knew it should be fairly large, and in landscape orientation. So I first drew a number of sketches, to get a general idea of the composition. Then it was time to paint. I chose a 15″ x 30″ canvas and paint the edges (1 1/4 inch deep)

Step 1: Blocking in the background.
For the background the initial step was just to get color on the canvas. You can see in the photo below that first I blocked in a lot of color in the general color family I wanted for the final result, but without worrying at all how it looked. The photo below shows the end of that block in and the start of step 2.

Step 1: Background Block-In


Step 2: Working the background for atmospheric effect.
For this step I worked with the same color palette I used for the blocking in of the background, but now started applying final color in blotches using a 1″semi-soft synthetic brush that let me blend the splotches as I went. As I worked I would adjust the colors, lighten some areas, and go back over areas to soften or adjust the colors and values. I kept my sketch handy to inform me where I would be putting elements on the canvas so that the background would compliment the focal points. I keep the corners darker and light in the center to draw attention to the middle of the painting and keep attention from leaving at the edges. Continue reading “Bluebirds & Dogwood (in 12 steps)”

Finding Your “Style”

About a year ago I was slightly obsessed with figuring out what my “Style” was. I had read that to be successful it was important to develop a unique style. An artist that is recognizable by their style of painting is, so they say, worth more, since buyers know what they are buying and what they can expect from that artist in the future. At least I think that’s the theory. Wikipedia states it like this: “The identification of individual styles is especially important in the attribution of works to artists, which is a dominant factor in their valuation for the art market, above all for works in the Western tradition since the Renaissance.”

Regardless, I was struggling to figure out what my “Style” of painting was, or should be. Should I paint in an Impressionist style, like Monet? A realist, or photo-realisitic (or hyper-realistic) style? Something in between? And how would I stand out? What would set me apart from the thousands of others painting in the same artistic space? Continue reading “Finding Your “Style””

Taking Stock

It was 2 years ago this month, sometime in the 3rd week of December as I recall, that I decided to try painting again. That first painting, which you can read about here, got me to pick up the brushes and start my journey back into art. It was a year ago in January that I started this blog. So I thought it was a good time to take stock of where I started and how far I’ve come.

I remember distinctly thinking, when I painted that first Triptych as a Christmas gift, that if it worked out I would keep painting, and if it was a disaster I could just go back to my photography hobby and graphic design to satisfy my creative itch. Here I am two years later spending more time painting and making a bigger commitment to improving, painting, and sharing what I learn as I go.

In January of this past year, when I started this blog, I set out to have long and short-term goals. I decided if I was going to be serious, I needed a plan. Part of any good plan is to review progress towards those goals.

So how have I done? In the banner above, and the larger montage below, you can see some of the paintings I’ve created over this past year. Most, not all, can also be seen on this site on my Paintings page. Along the way I’ve learned from many, through lessons, workshops, painting side-by-side with other artists, reading, and learning from anywhere I could. It takes time, and more time, to practice what I have learned, but I am quite happy with the results. Not only have I met goals this past year to display my work publicly, I have participated in plein air events, regional art shows, and hung my work in a number of public settings. I have sold work, developed this website, created a youtube channel and posted videos, created a Facebook page, and an e-newsletter. I have painted a lot, made lots of new friends at the Essex Art League, met new artists, learned more than I anticipated, and had a ton of fun.

Where I have fallen short of goals is mostly in getting myself out there. I need to work on expanding my email newsletter list, and I need to post more often, both here and on Facebook. I need to polish my video and editing skills, and post more to youtube. And I need to practice more, draw more, paint more, learn more and find new outlets for showing my work.

Its been a great two years. I’ve been bitten by the painting bug. I will be revising my plan, updating my goals, and working harder on my craft. Look for a future post on planning and committing to my art. I’m thankful you’ve found this blog, and invite you to share it along with my Facebook page and YouTube Channel with anyone you think may be interested.