Monday, August 29, 2011

On Creativity, and Beyond

Vik Muniz, takes image making beyond the box of paints and brushes, his humor and quirky take on art will refresh you in this TED Talk. He uses chocolate, sugar, even dust from the floors of the Whitney Museum to make amazing representational pictures.  It is so easy as a painter or just a human being to get settled in one point of view. People like Muniz wake us up, one of the purposes of art and creativity.
 This painting is made entirely with sugar on black paper of one of the children on a plantation he visited in Saint Kitts. is "Sugar Children" series consists of photographs of drawings he made in sugar of children whose parents and grandparents have worked on the sugar plantation on the island of Saint Kitts.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The World's Most Beautiful Wave

I have a guilty pleasure,  I love surfer movies, and I have  a link on the internet that gives me the surf reports for North Salmon Creek so I know when the big waves will come. On that site is a video of the big waves at Cortes Bank off San Diego, the biggest most beautiful wave. On this vid is also some great computer modeling of wave forms so enjoy and see this primordial wave move and develop, Click on the link below the photo to see the video.

                                                           CORTES BANK WAVE 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Final Exam

I set myself a challenge of 100 paintings of waves a little over a  month ago, and as I completed it, I set myself a final exam. I did these four little paintings from memory, to test all my skills. Most of the old seascape masters I've read say you must be able to paint the sea from memory to do it well. They used sketches and studies made on the spot but all of them spent many many hours just watching and studying the water and weather.William Trost Richards son said his father spent so much time standing in a trance on the beach watching water that people thought him insane. Then in the studio( many painted before the camera was so easy) they would rely on their memory and maybe a few small sketches. We artists today do not have or use our memories so much, and even in school kids don't have to memorize poems or the Gettysburg address like  they used to. For  seascape painter memory is a must, you can't just stop the water and light.  A camera is not much use either if you want to paint like the eye sees, it is a blind mechanical thing, the human eye is attached to the heart and mind of a person with feelings, something no camera has.

So this is my exam, 4 little works about 4.5 x5 inches each...this is a great exercise to try, it tells you what you know and what you don't.  This took about an hour total

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Far Horizon

The " horizon line" in a painting is where the sea and sky meet,  at the eye level of the viewer, so if you are standing looking at the sea, it is one place, if you sit down it will shift higher. Here is the wiki definition if you want to get more technical and a picture of the horizon line from space 

The horizon line is the first thing I put down in a seascape. I have lots more to say about horzions, but placement is the basis of the painting so we'll start here. Where you draw the horizon line  dictates the point of view of the entire work, where you will stand in your own mind as you enter and enjoy the painting. It has great psychological effect and sets the tone and mood. After all it is where you are placing your viewer, so think carefully about where you put it.  Placed high you have room for a foreground and plenty of wave action, placed low the sky will start to dominate. One of the painting principals I use is; What ever is most important gets the most real estate.  So if I'm interested in the wave, it will have a big chunk of square inches in the work. I will not have room for a big wave unless I place the horizon line high.

Here are some samples of seascapes, some contemporary most from 1850-1950. Notice where the horizon line is, and how that affects the emotional state as well as you look at these. 

 Clyde Aspevig, The Headlands
Here he has put us way up in the air, on a high cliff looking down. This could be tricky except in the hands of a master like Aspevig.

 Alexander Harrison, The Wave
Here we are standing on the beach, perhaps sitting on a small sandbank, your eyes are level with the true horizon

Charles Vickery, Pacific Voyage
notice on this one the horizon is only implied, we'd have to be in a small dingy to get this view, and I would be hanging over the side getting rid of lunch. Vickery really knew his water and his ships.

Frederick Waugh, Evening Surf
We are standing on the beach or maybe some low rocks

Frederick Waugh, Glint of Sun
this is more ambiguous , we could be on a surfboard, or standing in the water or on a jetty.

                                                                                           William Trost Richards, Summer
We know exactly where we are here and not worried about storms or big waves, riptides, so we can completely relax into this tranquillity.

It is possible to paint a seascape without any horizon line at all, as in this David Curtis painting a view common if you stand overlooking the ocean from a high cliff, but here our eyes are directed down, not out as in the first Aspevig work.

Monday, August 22, 2011

When a painting goes wrong

While this painting is working ok, my eye tells me its heading downhill. First I made an error in putting the birds so close to the edge, which will become a center of interest,  even if I mute them down, as living things catch our attention.  So this close to the edge it's not going to work well, there will be a fight between the  foreground and midground. So most of the birds have to go. then there is the sort of ho hum line of the foam of the wave, too much action in the background, and the pull of the center rock with a  big empty space in front.

Here the wonders of Photoshop come to our aid. With PS I used the clone tool, and paintbrush tool to try out some possible solutions. I deleted most of the birds, raised the front rocks on the right side, added some water to marry it to the rest of the painting and changed the line of the wave, it looks better now to me I can go ahead and alter the painting. I will make more changes as I actually paint, to create a more interesting space below the center rock.

 No artists in history have been able to try out without messing up all the real thing until now. It could be this will never really quite work, but improving it will satisfy me anyway, and I can take the learning into the next painting. Stay tuned.  See if you think these changes help.

here is the previous version

A Great Compliment

One of the biggest compliments a painter can get is when another artist buys your painting. Carolyn Wilson is a fine artist in her own right.

I was so lucky to have her gracious even tempered presence next to me at the Gravenstein Apple Fair, my first outdoor show. She is a veteran of these events, and really helped me out. It was very busy, 20,000 people go to this event now in it's 35th year. She bought not one but 3 of my seascape studies, one was a gift for a friend.  Her luminous watercolors over a delicate surface of rice paper are truly beautiful. Thank you Carolyn!

Here she is with her two paintings of waves inside the rolled up white paper, my sturdy if some what inelegant solution of how people could take home the raw canvas studies I stuck up on peg board with double sided tape. Twenty six painting sold,  the most I've ever sold in one go. I wanted to see if there would be a response to my new direction and the answer was a big YES.  Besides Carolyn 4 more artists bought works, that is something I really treasure.

On the Easel : Shoreline Delights 11x14 oil on oil primed linen

One of the best times I have out plein air painting at the sea is watching the bird life. One day at North Salmon Creek Beach, I wandered along studying the rocks. I was staring at some of them and the surface began to move. It was covered with small birds, called surfbirds, that hang out near the smaller waves...They were fascinating to watch, dodging the water and working hard for their meal. I always wanted to include them in a painting and when doing one of the 100 wave studies I just finished I came up with a sketch and this work is based on that.

The trick here is to get the birds to be one of the last things you see, just like I discovered them for the first the rocks and birds must blend, as they do in nature... most of the rest of the painting is finished, and I'm working now on the bottom rocks and birds are just sketched in, I'm trying to decide if I can sneak in  a couple more.

I'm moving up in size at last this is 11x14 oil on oil primed linen

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why do we paint?

 In the midst of all our complex and sometimes scary world, I wonder what I'm doing at my easel daubing away. Painting is not just a personal act, it is a human one. At these times I remember the earliest humans painted, 32,000 years ago. And not just crude likenesses but exquisite works that speak to us today, and move us with their beauty like the Chauvet Caves. Here they are not just flat or crudely done, but carefully modeled and realistic, even using the form of the rock to create sculptural dimension.

This speaks to me so deeply, and connects me as a painter to all of human history, I started out in representational work as an animal artist, you can find it on this blog Artist for Animals where I will still occasionally post new work. The act of making an image on a flat surface, is calling out to Creation, I see you, I know you, I am part of you, and I bow with my small gifts to you! that is the most human of all endeavors.

Werner Herzog , made a film of these caves  Chauvet - Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Friday, August 19, 2011

Painting seascape: lines of flow

Painting the sea is not for the faint of heart. Turner had himself tied to the mast of a ship in a storm to observe the big waves, Frederick Judd Waugh one of America's greatest seascape artists, had a place on  an island on the East Coast where he used handholds stuck in the rock by pirates a century ago, so he could hang out over the stormy sea. What they were doing and what any seascape painter has to figure out is what I call the flow lines of the water. You must know which way each part of the water is moving. Put these lines down as a sketch, I even use arrows, before you start.

Here is a painting I'm working on. I did a small study first, when I began the larger work I started with a sketch of flowlines

sketch lines of flow

underpainted layout

Closeup of brushwork
This is the under painting close up so you can see the brushmarks.  I have changed it from my sketch to create more rhythm with my wave. So if those flowlines were drawn now what would they look like?

Monday, August 15, 2011

How to Mount Canvas on a Panel

I promised a post on how to mount canvas on a panel for some of the wonderful art collectors who bought my little studies this weekend at a local fair. Twenty three of them sold, most on loose canvas, the way I generally paint.

So here are the simple steps, and the materials you need. This also works if you want to make your own panels to paint on. Materials Acrylic Gel medium, hardboard panel cut to size( MDF, wood or hardboard), foam or bristle brush,

You need Acrylic gel medium and a panel cut to the size of the canvas. You need a foam brush or cheap bristle brush you can get at the hardware store.                                                                                              

Paint a thin even coat on the surface of the panel, make sure the panel is wiped free of dust etc before you paint.

Lay the canvas down lining up the edges very well before you press down, when it's right, then smooth it down with the palm of your hand.

Check to see if any of the gel got on the surface if you see any wipe with a damp sponge. Sometimes you need a dab more on the corners if they don't stick

let it dry with a book on top, that's it all done.

Brushes I found useful for painting the sea.

Before I started this blog I did a long thread  on painting waves on Wet Canvas, some of the photos disappeared so I will be pulling over the best ones for this blog and tag them technical information so you (and me too) can find it later. Here is the thread, Wave Studies 100 its big but if you want to paint the sea, it has some real gems I discovered, and you can see where I started and began to work up to higher levels.
I'm beginning to have a feel for certain brushes for making seascapes. More than any other painting I've done I'm using my brushes more specifically for effects. When I paint larger I will have to buy bigger ones, nothing over 3/4 inch here. The bristle brushes are more costly, the rest are synthetic so more affordable. They are arranged in the order of most use.

The top favorite is the Da Vinci Top Acryl, quite stiff, great for rocks and also laying on thick foam, used almost like a palette knife sometimes. Makes thin lines, layins, lifting off back to canvas with turps, makes edges, dragged over paint moves it without blending, my all around brush, pretty pricey for a synthetic brush so look for a sale.

next the short bristle Winton fine hog...for laying out the rocks scrubbing fast and thin. not for upper painting of rocks except for some soft places where they meet the water

DaVinci makes a synthetic cheap student brush line called College, which are perfect substitutes for sable, very soft, great for blending and foam or laying a glaze over wet colors below

Princeton, only one I have that is useful is the long flat, for water and rocks

Round, need this on upper layers foam, maybe to adjust edges

the rigger , for the top breaking up surface foam, the foam trails.

Syn Mongoose, gets me small bits little lines and shadows, and good for tweaking areas, not much use painting, does not leave a defined stroke. Soft enough not to disturb lower layers.

A hog basting brush from the cooking store, for knocking down ridges of paint, softly pulling paint to show movement, and stippling scatters of foam.

You can see by the numbers of the sizes that they mean nothing except within the brand line.

One more thing not here, a short palette knife. For scraping off errors, and very carefully using the edge to create accidental blends in rocks, or smushing edges in the water layers.

you can see I keep the paint to the tips of the brushes , I wipe between colors so there is not a lot of cleaning in solvents, just now and then when it gets too mixed

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thanks to My New Collectors

Today was a banner day, I put my first seascape studies out in public at a lovely local summer event in Sebastopol CA  called Gravenstein Apple Fair one of the best attended events in my area which has a 30 year  history. The weather was glorious, ( it can be hot) the music superb and 20 people walked away with my art and my heart as well. You know who you are, and I'm just saying a big thanks for all the comments and positive response to my new work. I'm over the moon, including the ultimate compliment of 5 different artists who purchased, it just doesn't get any better.  You really give me the courage to go for it and become one of the top seascape painters on the West coast.

 here are some of the sold works they all have wonderful homes!

I am getting help here in blog land to get some new posts for people who'd like to paint the sea, to share some of my secrets with you...Stay tuned,

Thanks to My New Collectors

Today was a banner day, I put my first seascape studies out in public at a lovely local summer event in Sebastopol CA  called Gravenstein Apple Fair one of the best attended events in my area which has a 30 year history. The weather was glorious, ( it can be hot) the music superb and 20 people walked away with my art and my heart as well. You know who you are, and I'm just saying a big thanks for all the comments and positive response to my new work. I'm over the moon, including the ultimate compliment of 5 different artists who purchased, it just doesn't get any better. You really give me the courage to go for it and become one of the top seascape painters on the West coast.

I am getting help here to get some new posts for people who'd like to paint the sea, to share some of my secrets with you...Stay tuned, as soon as I recover I'll put them up, in the meantime here are some of the sold works

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Welcome to the Beginning of my Dream

This moment is the beginning of the unfolding of a big dream, to drive and live along the Pacific Coast and paint the sea for a year. I've just completed 100 studies of waves from various places along the Sonoma Coast, and I'm making them available first in an art show this weekend. When it is over I will post some of them here.

I've spent the last year plein air ( painting in the open air) all along the coast where I live, traveling at least twice a week to paint both winter and summer.  As I prepare this year I hope to post the paintings I'm doing, making them available for you to enjoy or purchase, and have many join me in this adventure.

This is a dream right now, a sort of build it and they will come place. I have no idea how it is coming about, but my vision is blazing in my heart and on my canvas. Stay posted.

I also have to figure out how to do this blog thing as I go so it will evolve technically too as I go. Thanks for being part of it.