Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Brush or knife?

I usually paint on a larger scale with most supports 36" wide or tall and ranging from a mere 4" or 48".  Painting solely with a knife takes its toll on my hand, making it still after painting for a couple of straight.

To ease the stiffness,  I take a break and draw or, funnily enough, do dishes!, as the warm water helps bring back mobility quickly.   This time I thought I'd try painting with a brush.  I started out using brushes years ago and then moved on the painting knives, enjoying the texture and speed of painting more.  However, brushes don't have the same demand on the hand, so I thought I'd try it on a small piece.

Little Red Riding Boat II (brush)

This is a 4" x 4" painting using a brush and oils.  I can't tell you much about the brush except to say that it is a flat and a hogshair.  I don't have many brushes, having used knives exclusively for a long time, so grabbed what I had available.

It felt awkward to use a brush again but I persevered.  Thicker paint application provided a similar impressionist technique that I use with a knife and I think I used the brush almost like a knife with no blending.  I laid down colour, one stroke at a time.

Little Red Riding Boat II (knife)

I had another little canvas so I thought I'd create the same subject using a painting knife.  Painting on a very small scale with a knife is challenging, no matter how small the knife is and I felt like I was using a shovel at times on this one!  Here I was more comfortable with technique, despite the problems of working on something this tiny. 

Brush (left) vs Knife (right)

The results are two similar but different paintings.  The impressionist technique is present in both but, to me, the brush marks look more evident in the first.  That can be a good or bad thing depending on the viewer thoughts.

Will I go back to brushes?  I doubt it unless I have major hand issues that prevent me from doing so.  If that were ever the case, I may have to relearn how to use a brush again.

What are your thoughts?  Which version do you prefer?  I'd love to know which and why.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Wearing (and painting) of the Green

24" x 30"
oil on canvas

Green is one of those colours that a lot of artists have trouble coming to grips with.  Me included.  Maybe it's not so much the colour but the subject as I think of landscape frequently when I think of greens and the vastness of landscapes can be daunting.

I can't give you a precise formula for mixing greens, as I use so many small amounts of other colours when creating a colour which is specific to the subject and light.  But I can share the basic colours that I do use as the hopping off points for many different shades of green.

On my palette you'll always find

  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Pthalo Blue (green shade)
  • Cadmium yellow light or medium
  • Cadmium lemon 

ultramarine blue and cad yellow light
pthalo blue and the cad lemon

These two mixes provide strong basic greens to which I can lighten with the yellow or darken with more blue, changing the way they "lean" i.e. warmer or cooler. With the addition of other colours I can create other hues.

You can watch a short Youtube video I made on basic colour mixing here to see some of the base greens that I mix using these colours.  And another on colour matching here. This one deals with the principle of colour mixing and doesn't specifically deal with the colour green.

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day?  Let your walls join in and celebrate "the wearing of the green" all year round!  Save 17% from March 16 - 23 on select original green paintings.  Click here to see what's available.

And Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Thoughts on Abstraction

Circles and Ladders
12" x 36"
oil on canvas

From time to time I wander into abstraction.  Never purposefully, more by accident.  A stroke here or there that is misplaced but looks interesting leads to other strokes placed more deliberately but without a concrete subject in mind, just colour against colour.

Abstraction is seen as easy and something anyone can do.  And there is a lot of bad abstract paintings out there just as there are in representational work.  Abstraction demands colour and value knowledge and a lot of patience.  It takes endless layers and decision making to create something that is pleasing to the eye. 

Cropped detail section

As this piece emerged, I considered why it emerged and what I was thinking as it developed and put some of those thoughts into words in a short video.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Freeloader blues

24" x 36" x 1.5"
oil on canvas

I loved all the blues in this subject when I first saw it.  Then I hated all the blues in this subject by the time I really got into the painting.

Isn't it like that sometimes?  The concept seems perfect but the execution doesn't go quite as planned making the urge to abandon things very strong.

I have to remind myself with pretty much every painting that it goes through phases and that sometimes the "ugly" phase takes a bit of time and effort to push through.  It's well worth the push and the angst when suddenly everything starts to gel and you can see just what stroke to put where and it works.

It's often little things that create that turning point, like deepening contrasts and adding just the right amount of detail to make object come alive. 

In reality this painting did not take the forever that it felt like while creating it, but it did test my patience and my observation skills from the initial drawing, which was complex (a lot of measuring to get proportions right), to tackling all those blue hues.  Using colours that are very similar, like these blues, require the insertion of other colours to liven them up.  Complementary colours and touches of contrasting colours provide some reality and vibrancy, even if at the time, they seem unreal.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Beginnings, middles and ends

Paintings are almost like books or films with predictable processes - and unpredictable results. 

They have a beginning where I have an idea, some thumbnail sketches and a colour study.  It's like starting an introduction to the characters and setting the scene if it were a book.

The middle is where the action starts.  I put down paint, change ideas and colours and sometimes even scrape back the whole piece and restart! It can be unpredictable.  I know that sounds odd but I often don't know just how the painting will turn out as it evolves so much over time.  The plot thickens as the paint is applied and decisions are made and reversed.

Finally, the end is in sight, where I can see the goal.  Suddenly one day, after hours and days of work, that "light bulb moment" happens and things all start to fall into place.  My favourite part is the end.  At that point I can forget form and values and concentrate on details and touches of colour that bring a painting to life.   Once I can add no more and am simply fiddling with paint, I know its time to call it finished.

This painting is at that final stage now where I can start adding detail.  It is a restart over an previous work (Recycling) and has gone through its stages.  Each stage has its own challenges and rewards but for me, the end is sweet.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Gallery Insider - Rejection is a good thing

Bottoms Up
36" x 36"
oil on canvas

It's not until you own an art gallery that you truly appreciate the work that goes into making art available to the public.  Running an art gallery is not for the faint of heart, but that is true for any entrepreneurial undertaking. 

Artist partnerships are the backbone of the business and developing relationships over time is crucial.  While hard and firm contracts are not always the norm, especially in a seasonal gallery, quality is and with the curation of what goes on the wall comes rejection of paintings or artists whose work doesn't fit for a variety of reasons.

Rejection is often seen as a terrible thing and I've seen (and heard) lots of complaints about gallery owners who decline artists' work.  I've been there too, believe me.  I don't think there is an artist on the planet who hasn't been had a rejected application or painting for a show.  While it may sting a little at first, rejection sends artists a message and an opportunity.  In many cases, rejection of a piece of art provides the artist with the opportunity to reflect on their technique, process, subject and style and look at ways to improve it.   With so many people dipping their toes into the art world these days, Pareto's Principle applies:  20% of artists will be saleable; 80% will not.  Producing art that the public wants is subjective of course, but good art and good materials are objective from the gallery perspective and non-negotiable.

I see work submitted on inferior supports and materials and off the shelf framing that sends me the message that the artist does not take their work seriously.  If I can tell if you have dollar store canvas and whether you know technique or colour theory, so will a potential buyer.  Yes, it is expensive to paint and to frame with quality supplies.  But supplies are the tools of the trade and to be represented at a fine art gallery and have the public spend money on your art, it needs to be the best quality that you can afford.  If  quality products are not used to create, artists may need to rethink where they want their work will hang.

So, how do you improve your chance of getting into a gallery?

1. Read the (usually downloadable) information on submitting work to a gallery.  It is there for a reason and usually answers most questions that you may have about responsibilities of the gallery and the artist, as well as financial transaction information, intake dates, etc.  Follow the instructions, provide the necessary information and don't turn up at the gallery with a car load of paintings that you expect will be approved on the spot.  "I didn't know" doesn't sit well for gallery owners and may well get you a rejection.  Again, its about professionalism.  Your art is your business.  If you don't care, why do you expect someone else to?

2. Use quality materials.  Quality shows in everything, from the painting to the framing.  It is your representation to the world.  Make sure it is the best you can offer.

3. Research the gallery genre and make sure your work fits in.  If you've never visited in person or even been to the website and you make X when the gallery only sells Y, you'll be rejected.

4. Don't cut and paste your cover letter/email to the gallery.  Sure, its quicker if its very generic, but if you don't take time to tailor it to the curator/director, your professionalism is judged immediately.  Cut & paste also runs you the risk of adding details of another gallery or show in the body of the email.  A sure fire way to be rejected.

5. Find your own style and stick with it.  Hopping from medium to medium and subject to subject confuses buyers and galleries.  The gallery is there to sell your work and be your spokesperson.  If four of your pieces look like they are from completely different artists it is a problem.  Also if your work looks like ten other artists' work, or the work from an artist at the latest workshop you've attended, that is a problem too.

6. Hone your technical skills.  Poorly executed art shows lack of knowledge and technique.

7.  Don't take rejection personally.  It is an opportunity to study your work, where you want to go with it and how you want to improve it.  Take advantage of that so when you apply to a gallery again, you'll have some more meat on the bones of your art.

For information on  2019 submissions to The Baccalieu Gallery, Heart's Content, NL Canada, click here to download gallery information and submission form.

Friday, February 08, 2019


A couple of times a year I do a clear up and purge of art supplies and old paintings.  I throw out or burn unusable things, give away what I know I'll never use and recycle what can be saved.  I also vow to not buy more supplies than I know I'll use.  Well, I try.  To be honest, I don't buy a lot of random art supplies any more.  I have a pretty strict art supply list that I stick with that consists of oil paints and canvasses and tend to buy in bulk twice a year.  Of course a few "treats" find their way into those orders, using printmaking supplies and a nice fountain pen and ink.  See how easily I get waylaid?

Among the usual stash of pencils, paints and papers that I part company with, there are always starts on canvasses.  They were ideas that never took shape or simply went in the wrong direction.  If they're not textured and if the medium used can be painted over, I reuse them for another piece.  Sometimes, I gesso over the piece, sometimes, as in this one, I draw directly over the old start then paint over it.

This was a start of a flooded path in the woods that didn't inspire me so I turned it upside down and created this dory.  I rather like how the boat form envelops the previous work in its initial stage.

So what does your stash look like?   Do you have a sampling of everything or do you stick with materials that you constantly work with?