Saturday, November 15, 2008

Good Painting Habits

I stress good work habits in class because it increases your pleasure in painting and helps to make your art better. We often don’t notice the little things that sap our time, energy and enthusiasm but it can make a big difference in our work if we eliminate them. Efficiency counts. Make these simple practices a permanent part of your painting experience.

1. This may be the most important habit of all. Leave your easel and paints out and ready to paint at a moments notice. I find I can easily talk myself out of painting at all if I have to lay out my materials before I can get down to work. It’s so easy to put off making my art when I have to set up, take it down and clean up afterward. If your space is limited find a small corner somewhere to leave your easel and a small table. A TV tray will do. I’ve also used a plastic storage bin, which makes a great place to store extra tools and supplies when they aren’t in use. If you’re always ready to create, you will paint much more often.

2. Keep your work-in-progress in plain sight. Out of sight is out of mind, you know. My current project sits in the living room even if I’ll be painting it somewhere else. I like to watch my painting while taking my breaks, having dinner or during television commercials. Much of the work of painting involves just looking at your canvas. Really study it. Take notes. Then when you pick up the brush you’ll know exactly what changes you want to make or problems you need to fix. Whatever you do, don’t hide it in the closet or the garage where you never see it.

3. Keep your paint, palette, knife, brushes, and water or solvent jar in front of your dominant hand. That will be on your right side if you are right handed. All you lefties need to reverse this and put everything on your left. I see so many people reaching across in front of their painting to clean brushes or to pick up paint. This causes accidents not to mention physical strain. Your body and your clothes will thank you. Oh, and for safety’s sake, put your drink on the opposite side. You’ll be less likely to wash your brush in your root beer.

4. Position your photo reference on the opposite side of your canvas from your paints and brushes. That is the left side if you are right handed and the right side if you are left handed. It should sit upright at the same angle as the canvas. This will prevent many drawing mistakes. If the angle of your photograph is different from the tilt of your canvas it causes a false perspective. Most of my students use a small stand or easel for their photo. A stand made for typists works quite well.

5. Check your values by squinting when you look at both your subject and your painting. This makes contrast more obvious and color less distracting. Squint often. Get those darks and lights right if you want a strong picture.

6. Step back from your work. Do this often. It will allow you to spot patterns, mistakes, and relationships between objects. You will see the overall composition instead of the details. You can’t see the painting for the brushstrokes when you are working up close. Keep in mind that we normally view finished paintings from a distance. The stretch feels good if you usually paint sitting down too. Here’s a tip for those of you who have physical problems that make it difficult getting out of your chair. Get one of those peepholes like you install in doors so you can see who’s outside. Keep it in your paint box and use it to look at your painting while you work. It gives almost the same effect as viewing your work from a distance. There is some distortion but it’s better than never stepping away to look at your picture at all. Looking over your shoulder through a mirror helps spot problems too.

7. Stand or sit directly facing your canvas. If you are sitting at a table arrange the easel so that it is parallel to the edge of the table right in front of you and comfortably within reach. If you need more distance use longer brushes. You shouldn’t have to lean across the table to work. Your back will be grateful.

8. Last but not least, paint on location as often as possible. There is no substitute for painting your subject in person. Photographs cannot convey all the information from the original scene. Colors are fewer and incorrect, and depth disappears. Contrast is lost and values skewed. Many details don’t show in the photos.

These ideas (when used) will give greater enjoyment to your painting experience and improve the quality of your work. See you in Class. Until then, Happy Painting!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Class Supplies

Just the other day I was teaching in Knoxville when a lady came in to ask about classes. I answered her questions and referred her to the front of the store for a supply list. I hope she got one because when I left for the day my section of the rack was empty. Oops! My bad. She did get a business card. I'm keeping brochures and cards on hand from now on, I promise. For those of you who need schedule information or a supply list when the store is out (or you are out of the store) I'm including it here.

Maryville Hobby Lobby Schedule
Thursday: 6:00 to 8:00 PM
Friday: 1:30 to 3:30 PM

Knoxville Turkey Creek Hobby Lobby Schedule
Monday: 12:30 to 2:30 PM & 3:30 to 5:30 PM
Wednesday: 12:30 to 2:30 PM, 2:00 to 4 PM
& 6:00 to 8:00 PM

Knoxville Clinton Hwy Hobby Lobby Schedule
Tuesday: 12:30 to 2:30 PM

Start Date: Anytime. This is an ongoing class.

Tuition: $20.00 Per Session + Supplies.
Special Price: Pay for 5 sessions in advance and get the 6th session FREE!

For questions or to sign up for classes call: (865) 765-5479

Supplies (All Media)
The Following Paints:
Ultramarine Blue
Titanium White
Cadmium Yellow Medium
Burnt Sienna
Cadmium Red Medium
Yellow Ochre
Alizarin Crimson
Ivory Black

Photo Reference to Paint From

16 X 20 Stretched Canvas
Assorted Flat & Round Synthetic Brushes
Paper Towels or Paint Rags
Table Top Easel
Palette or Painting Knife
Vine or Willow Charcoal
Disposable Palette
Jar for Water or Solvent
Tool Box or Tote Bag

Supplies (Oils Only)
Odorless Paint Thinner
Linseed or Poppy Seed Oil
Assorted Bristle Brushes

Supplies (Acrylics Only)
Small bottle of Alcohol
Small Spray Bottle (Fine Mist)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Useful Painting Tips

I love to share good ideas and sometimes those ideas deserve an entire article of their own. Then there are those little gems of information that are helpful but not worth going on and on about. Here are a few short tips you’ll find useful.

1. Use hair styling gel to reshape your paintbrushes after cleaning. There’s more about this in the article on brush care but it bears repeating.
2. Keep wet wipes in your paint box for those emergency cleanups and to remove paint from your hands. These are wonderful to have on hand when you are painting on location.
3. Use rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer to clean acrylic paint out of brushes. The hand sanitizer suggestion was from my student Carolyn. Keep some in your painting kit.
4. Squeeze top water bottles are handy to have in your acrylic, watercolor and water miscible oil paint boxes. If you are out and decide to paint on the spur of the moment you are always ready even if there is no other source of water available.
5. If you have a wooden standing easel with a chain holding the back leg you have a paper towel holder. Just run the chain through the cardboard tube in the middle of the roll.
6. Always arrange your palette the same way. You can put them in the order of the spectrum or group warm colors together and cool colors with other cool colors. You won’t waste time looking for the specific hue you need.
7. About palettes: Line up your paints around the edges of the palette to allow maximum mixing area in the middle.
8. Styrofoam plates make good disposable palettes for acrylic or watercolor paints. I suppose you could use them for water miscible oils also if you aren’t using solvents. I like the rectangular sectional plates. The sections make great paint wells if you are painting with thin washes of color.
9. Keep pliers in you paint box for those stubborn tubes of paint that just won’t let go of their lids. Sometimes you may need pliers to loosen tight bolts or screws on your equipment too.
10. Use liquid dish soap to clean your oil painting brushes. It contains a degreaser that helps dissolve the oils and is gentle to your hands.
11 Hang a plastic shopping bag on the ledge of your easel for trash.
12. If you use a wooden palette, oil or varnish it to protect it and make it easier to clean.
13. Stubborn brushes that refuse to be reshaped can be given a new life by dipping them in boiling water for a minute or two. Careful with synthetic brushes or plastic handles as they can melt if heated too long.
14. Save those old scruffy brushes. They paint great foliage.
15. Trim random gaps into a cheap fan brush. Use to paint trees, grass, bushes and fur.
16. Use a strip of thin cardboard dipped edgewise in paint to draw thin lines for power lines and rigging on ships. Bend the cardboard to make curved lines.
17. For perfect placement when drawing your preliminary sketch onto your canvas, draw a mark at the place where you want the top of your subject. Draw marks at the bottom and at each side. Then fit your subject into the marks you’ve just made. This positions your subject perfectly. You’ll never draw too close to the edge or misplace the subject in relation to other objects in your composition again.
18. Keep a small level in your paint box. Check your canvas to make sure it is level on your easel. This is especially useful when painting buildings.
19. Outfit a toolbox with everything you need to hang paintings. This is invaluable for art shows. You’ll need a small level, hooks to hang artwork on your display screens, a ruler, picture wire, screw eyes, saw tooth hangers, a level, hammer, nails, pencil and screws. I also keep black wax shoe polish, gold, silver, and white painter’s pens and gold, copper and silver “Rub n Buff” to touch up frames. Furniture touch-up pens are handy too. Put some extra cards, labels and price tags in there too.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The unVarnished Truth About Protecting Your Art

So, you’ve finished your first painting. Now what? Well, if it’s an oil painting…you wait. You can’t do anything with it until it dries. It should take a few days to a couple of weeks to be dry to the touch. That doesn’t mean it’s really dry however. There are impressionist paintings in museums over a century old that are still wet under the skin. That shouldn’t be a problem for you unless you painted your picture in a heavy impasto technique. Still, it will likely take at least 6 months to a year for your painting to dry all the way through.

“How do you protect it until then?” you might ask. Spray a light coat of Retouch Varnish on your painting. There are several good ones on the market. Just follow the instructions on the can. This will protect the artwork while still allowing it to breathe enough to continue the curing process. Your painting will look better in the mean time as the surface will appear more uniform. Your colors will be deeper and brighter just like when they were wet. After about a year or so you can seal your painting with Damar Varnish. This is available in both spray and brush-on formula in either gloss or matte finish. Read the label and follow the instructions carefully. Before you start, dust your painting with a clean dry lint-free cloth. If it needs more cleaning than that get in touch with me for more details. If you are using spray varnish, hold the spray can out far enough away from the painting to spray lightly. Keep it moving. It’s much better to apply several diffuse coats than to risk runs. If you decide to use a brush-on varnish use a large, flat, good quality brush with fine, split hairs at the tip. You don’t want your brushstrokes to show. I have some very nice house painting brushes I use for this but sable or synthetic art brushes will do just fine. Your brush should be one to two inches wide. Do not shake or stir your varnish. That will only create bubbles. Lay your canvas flat on a table to work. You’ll want to brush slowly, as quick strokes leave bubbles in the surface. Let the picture dry thoroughly before brushing on a second coat.

Now if you paint in acrylics, varnishing is a bit easier. At the very least you can get it done soon after you finish your painting. Wait a week or three then apply 2 coats of Acrylic Varnish in your choice of matte, satin or gloss. Personally I prefer a gloss finish. Again Read the label and follow the instructions! I’m just filling in the details here. The same warnings I gave you about bubbles in varnishing oils, apply here as well. Use a good brush, don’t shake, and brush slowly. I like to start at one corner and work from side to side using X strokes to avoid obvious brushstroke patterns. When the first coat dries I give the painting a second coat. It is vital that you work slowly to prevent tiny bubbles that make the surface appear milky when dry. Also it’s best to use only two coats because the finish is not perfectly transparent. Too many coats will dull your colors and look like a haze on your painting.

That just about covers the subject of varnishing. I’ll discuss framing and displaying your work in a future article. Until then, Happy Painting and see you in class!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Myths About Art

I keep telling my students that they have all the talent they need. Just by virtue of being human you can learn to paint. That doesn't mean that some people won't be better at it than others but desire and persistence are more important than talent. You don't have to know how to draw in order to learn to paint either. Check out the following link for some good articles about six art myths that may be getting in your way as an artist. Be sure to click on all the links at the bottom of the first article. Happy Painting!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Color Mixing With A Limited Palette

A limited palette simply means that we restrict the colors used to a small number of predetermined paint tubes. You can mix most of the paint you need with only 5 basic colors. Add the 3 optional colors and you can paint any subject and get good realistic color.

I recommend the following Basic Colors:
Cadmium Red Medium
Cadmium Yellow Medium
Ultramarine Blue
Burnt Sienna
Titanium White

These colors can be useful but are optional:
Alizarin Crimson
Yellow Ochre
Ivory Black

If you paint a lot of landscapes you may wish to add Sap Green, Pthalo Green and Prussian Blue to your palette of colors. For floral painting I find Magenta and Permanent Rose are essential, and when painting a portrait I like to add Venetian Red to my choices.

I limit my selection of paints for several reasons. First I want to have good color harmony. This is easiest to achieve if I use just a few colors. Also I want my students to learn to mix paint. With only the 5 basic colors it’s a simple matter to learn to mix almost any hue and repeat the mix later. I believe almost anyone can learn to mix by eye just as a musician can play by ear.

There is no need to memorize complicated formulas. It’s simple to remember that red and yellow make orange. Yellow and blue make green and so forth. Looking and really Seeing do the rest. For example to make a particular green, mix one part each of yellow and blue. Look at the color you just mixed. Is it too blue? Too yellow? Is it too bright or too dark? Too green? If the color isn’t right, divide it in half and push one half aside. This is so you won’t have a huge mountain of one color that you don’t need. You’ll probably find uses for the in-between shades you’ll mix trying to get that perfect green.

Now look at your palette. What color looks closest to what you are trying to mix? Add a little of the new color to half of the color you just divided. Take some of the color on your palette knife or brush and hold it up next to the color you are trying to match. Don’t try to judge the color on your palette. The distance and the color of the palette itself will throw you off. Is it right? Closer? If it still needs some adjustment divide it again and add more of the color you think will fix the problem. Maybe it’s too bright green. Just add a little burnt sienna, red or black to dull the color. Or try a different yellow. Yellow ochre gives you nice natural greens. Divide the color in half again each time you add another color. That way if you make a mistake you still have the original color and all its variations to try again and the extra shades will be useful in other places in your painting. (Remember to spray water on your palette often if you are using acrylics.)

Keep trying till you get it just right. With practice you’ll get just the right shade and value without wasting a lot of paint. It won’t take as long as you think either. Eventually you will mix color without having to think about what you’re doing. It will be almost intuitive.

Because you are only using a few tubes of paint you will quickly learn how all your colors work together. When you are ready to add other colors to your palette, do so one at a time. Experiment to see just how the new color mixes with all of your other paints. Create a few pictures with the new color before you add any others.

Here are a few Guidelines to mix by:

1. Red, Yellow and Blue are Primary colors. You cannot mix them. If you are having trouble getting the color right, switch to a different primary. Cadmium Red instead of Alizarin Crimson is a good example.
2. Green, Orange and Purple are Secondary colors. You have to mix these. I’ll discuss the Color Wheel in a future lesson.
3. Yellow + Blue = Green.
4. Red + Yellow = Orange.
5. Red + Blue = Purple.
6. Black + Yellow = Green.
7. Red + Black = Brown.
8. Burnt Sienna + Ultramarine Blue = Black. You can make a wide range of rich, beautiful Darks by varying the amounts of each color.
9. Use Black or Blue to darken other colors (except yellow).
10. Use Burnt Sienna, Blue or Black to darken Red.
11. Use Burnt Sienna or another Brown to darken any Yellow. If you try to use Black you will get Green.
12. Use White to lighten colors.
13. Use Complementary colors to dull or gray down colors. (I’ll go into that more completely in a future article on colors and their complements.)
14. Use a minute amount of yellow to brighten white. White is the lightest color you have but it is not the brightest. White with a hint of yellow can look brilliant in your painting. Remember that any color looks brighter when placed next to its complement and lighter next to a darker color.
15. Divide your mound of paint in half each time you add a new color so you don’t have too much of any one shade.

That’s all there is to it! The rest is just practice and training your eyes to see color accurately. Practice is the key to your ultimate mastery of color.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Robin's Paintings

Here are three of Robins Pictures. I know you will all enjoy them. The Egyptian Painting was her first. The Fawn is one of her latest. Robin has been my student for over 2 years. You've come a long way, Robin. Keep up the great work!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Untitled Painting by Dianna

Here is one of my oil paintings. This is a 16 X 20 and may be seen in person at the Hobby Lobby store in Knoxville, TN. I'll share more of my artwork soon. See you in class!

Jeanne's Art

These are a few paintings from one of my students. Jeanne 's enthusiasm inspires all of us. I thought you'd enjoy seeing some of her work.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Ideal Paint Box

First you’ll need something to carry all your supplies. I suggest a tool or tackle box. The same companies that make them also make boxes designed specifically for paints or other craft supplies but you may find you like a toolbox from the hardware store better. I started with a small toolbox that I picked up at Walmart. My oil painting kit kept outgrowing me so I eventually upgraded to a large toolbox on wheels by Black & Decker. Expect to pay about $30 or $40 for one like mine. It’s big enough to carry all my oils, mediums, brushes and easel. It’s very strong and can double as a seat or table when I’m out in the field.
Below is a list of things you should pack in that nice new paint box of yours. You should have a different kit for each different medium you use. Make sure to keep your oils, watercolors, and acrylics separate. Remember oil and water don’t mix.

1. Paints in all your basic colors
2. Bottle of water or solvent
3. Painting knives
4. Paper towels
5. Palette
6. Brushes
7. Mediums (oils, liquin, gels etc.)
8. Smock or apron
9. Pliers for those hard to open paint tubes
10. Container to wash brushes
11. Small easel if your toolbox is large enough
12. Sponges (In several different textures)
13. Tube keys (These gadgets get all the paint out of your tubes)
14. Hair styling gel (See the article on cleaning brushes)
15. Small bottle of alcohol (Acrylic paint box only)
16. Small squeeze bottle of liquid soap
17. Craft knife

That’s a great start but you’ll probably find tools and supplies you can’t do without to add to the list.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Brenda's Rose

Here is the rose painting that my student, Brenda finished at class last week. She paints lovely florals. Good work Brenda!

Brush Up On Brush Care

Okay folks, I’m getting up on my soapbox here. I’m not going to rant and rave (not much anyway) but I’ve seen some badly abused brushes lately. If you have sad, stiff, scruffy brushes in your paint box, shame on you. You might as well use Popsicle sticks to paint with if all you have are hard brushes with paint dried in them. You could paint better with your fingers. We all know that good tools make great paintings so lets take care of our brushes.
Unless you’re using watercolors or Genesis paints, the most important thing you can do to extend brush life is to wash those brushes. Now, not later, wash them as soon as you’re done painting. If you’re using acrylics keep your brushes wet the whole time because those acrylics do dry fast. You should thoroughly clean your acrylic brushes before you take a break if you’ll be gone more than a few minutes. Wash those oil brushes as soon as you finish for the day. Yes, clean those brushes before you leave class. Too many times we mean to do it when we get home and then we get distracted and find our brushes ruined a few days later.

Here’s how to do it:
1. Wipe off the excess paint on a paper towel or cloth.
2. Swish that brush around in your solvent if you’re using oil. Use water if you’re painting with water miscible oils, acrylics or watercolors. No, no, no you’re not done yet!
3. Now take those brushes to the sink, put some liquid soap in your palm and scrub that brush. Soap up a good lather and work the suds into the ferrule and all through the hair.
4. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse & repeat. Continue until all paint is gone and the soap bubbles are clean. This may take 5 or more times. You can wash several small brushes at once but it’s easier to do large brushes one at a time.
5. Squeeze out the water and dry your brushes on a towel.
6. Now put a dollop of hair styling gel (yes, the kind you put on your head) in your hand. Rub it through the hairs of the brush.
7. You want to shape the brush as you do this, pressing the hair between your fingers. Shape flats and brights to a chisel point by flattening them between your thumb and forefinger. Spread fans out to (you guessed it!) a fan shape. Rounds are pointed by using your thumb and 1st two fingers pressed together and stroking the brush through the tunnel between. Pull the hair out to a sharp point. The styling gel will stiffen the brushes to protect their shape yet easily rinses out when you’re ready to paint.
8. Let your brushes dry before rolling them up in a canvas or bamboo brush keeper. I lay mine in the top tray of my paint box and roll them up when they are dry.

That’s all there is to it. Next time I’ll tell you how to save those dry hard brushes that you forgot to wash. Until then keep those brushes clean!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Welcome Friends & Students!

Here it is! I'm now present on the web. I don't know how this is going to work out but I'm looking forward to finding out. This is where I will post news and updates about classes as well as tips & how-tos about art. Eventually I will share samples of my work and links to websites of interest. Some of my student's work may be appearing on these pages as well.

You probably know already that we are all set for classes at Hobby Lobby. Let me hear you cheer! Yaaay!

The schedule is as follows:

Mon, March 31 at 12:30 PM-Knoxville

Tue, April 1st at 4:00 PM & 6:00 PM-Knoxville

Wed, April 2nd at 12:30 PM-Maryville

Thu, April 3rd at 12:30, 4:00 & 6:00 PM-Knoxville

Beginning the 2nd week of April we will meet at the Knoxville Hobby Lobby on Mondays and Thursdays and the Maryville store on Wednesdays. I'll let you know if there are any changes.

I hope you will all be very patient with me while I get this blog up to scratch. Like life it's intended to be a work in progress.

See you soon!