Thursday, August 31, 2006

Painting Apples two Apples

A different beginning this time. Strong complimentary colors.
You can see my trusty old shadow box being employed again. I like the contrast and the complimentary colors that give it a punch.
Here is a deep thought (I only have one of these a day, so pay attention)....Have you ever noticed it is actually more fun to paint with complimentary colors than not. I think there should be a government funded psychological study done as to why that is. Imagine the government spending money on learning the causes to having fun. Increase the fun budget!
Two Green Apples
oil on canvas panel
No two apples are alike. That is why I think artists never grow tired of painting them. We are just like cooks or bakers in the kitchen. We experiment with different ingredients trying to come up with something new and exciting to serve our friends. In this case the background color and lighting were used to create a mood for two green apples served on a white napkin.
Food and art go so well together. Check out one of my new favorite blogs(Parisbreakfasts) for a real culinary treat and some eye candy.

Time to reflect and plan:
I have completed my first full month of blogging Daily Painting Practice and experimenting with selling these small practice paintings on Ebay. In all, I am overwhelmed by the response.
To date: 3550 visitors, from 31 countries.
Ebay sales: 10 (with 3 more having current bids)
Blog sales: 2
The best part for me has been corresponding with so many kindred spirits and new artists. I have to thank my friend (Darren Maurer) for introducing me to this new art community.

Plan for September:
Time to get bold here.
If I go public with goals for the coming month will it help me commit to achieving those goals? Let's find out. Here's the list:
1. Keep up the daily paintings but start painting outside of the studio.
2. Complete 1 larger painting each week for my website.
3. Complete the portrait.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

For the pure joy of pushing paint

Painting simple everyday objects doesn't require much, just look around you. There are so many possibilities. Common objects are screaming to you...
"Paint me ..Paint me!"
I remember grinding down pencils until they couldn't be sharpened any more. A pencil is such a cool invention.
Pencil sharpener
oil on canvas panel

School started here in Omaha last week. This old pencil sharpener and especially the lined paper just remind me of school days. In the top ten of - happiest days of my life - number 9 : the last time I had to write my name in the top left hand side ...

This was a quick fun practice. I had paint left over from yesterday and I wanted to just enjoy moving paint around. I picked the first thing I saw. Not every painting needs to be sold or be important. Some could just be for the pure enjoyment of pushing paint ..... It has taken me 30 years to realize that... I am a slow learner.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Painting a honey jar

The best part of doing a painting of this honey jar was the wonderful smell of the honey. If I was a bee I would have taken a swim.
I had to hurry a little on this one. I used the light from two windows and it was changing minute by minute.

Honey Jar
oil on canvas panelSOLD

This painting is a nod to (Justin Clayton.) A daily painter since January, and one of the best , I think. He does stunning work and his honey jars are some of my favorites. So my lid is off to you Justin.

Self Critique time:
I like that I didn't fuss too much with this one. The light was different, coming from two different sources. I could have spent more time and tightened it up a bit but I am pleased with it for a practice painting.

Monday, August 28, 2006

progress report on portrait painting - step 2

(Click Here to go back to first post.)
Time for round two. All set to begin. (Tea at the ready - a safe distance from the turps). I mixed cobalt blue, burnt sienna , a touch of ivory black and flake white. I have 9 values 10 if I count black.
This painting is full of firsts for me. It's the first time I've ever tried two people in a single portrait, the first time I'm trying this technique(underpainting with cool grays) and the first time I have pre-mixed so much paint. First time doing it in front of people (OK, so it's only those reading this blog), but you still are people.

Painting is all about making decisions and following through with action. My first decision - was not to follow through and do a full value charcoal drawing. (It was more of a reaction really - so does that count as a decision?) I was too impatient and decided to jump right into painting. I sprayed the drawing with fixative and gave it a light wash to kill the white of the canvas.
A start with the major darks.
I tried to keep the shadow side of her face transparent. Even though it is the same value as the background, just touches with the neutral gray. You can begin to see the rough lay in of the values. I don't want to blend the paint at this point just make a patchwork of values. The thickest paint will end up being where the light is.(second big decision - I am making this technique up as I go along)

Painting is made up of hundreds of dangerous decisions. I pray one of the benefits I will eventually get from daily painting practice will be improved technique. Practice won't eliminate those hundreds of decisions, but it should make most of them second nature. I think this is because your brain starts to remember the repetitive decisions. When this happens your artistic or creative mind should have more freedom to interpret emotion.
Ahh,Freedom... That only means more choices, doesn't it? Vicious cycle.

try try again.....then again

This is a post in how NOT to paint a still life with flowers. You will see how I broke the first rule in painting a still life with flowers... ALWAYS PAINT THE FLOWERS FIRST!
You are about to see the sad sad tale of a painting gone wrong.... get out the tissues, this one's a real tear jerker.
At this point I am happily painting the teapot. I don't even notice the wilting flowers. Duh! I even forgot to put water in the glass. The paint fumes must be getting to me.
Now I turn back to do some real painting on the flowers...Look at those beau... those things in the background. That's about how I felt by the end of this weekend of painting.
Sunday morning I replaced the flowers and tried again. Note the sad little flat flower bud. This painting fails on so many levels. This is what happens when you spend too much time on a painting then when you look at the result you say to yourself " Look what I did... I murdered a painting!"
Self Critique Time:
First, I did not establish a focal point. Is it the flowers or the tea pot? Second, the background is not a part of the picture. Third, I painted the flower petals as individual petals and not as light falling on the flowers.
After this I quit and went to watch Tiger Woods win yet another playoff. Now there's an artist at work!

PS I even had to write this post twice because of HTML errors.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Painting old tools- on the level

You can see I am back using the shadow box. Another low tech tool. And free!

Here is a great tip for all of you still life painters with very little studio space.
The stand you see in my pictures comes from Dick Blick Art supply store, but you can get it through any art supply catalog. It is supposed to be used for a projector but I had other ideas. I can adjust the height and it folds up to store away. It costs about $100.Projector stand page
On the Level
6"x8" oil on canvas panelSOLD
Tools have such a unique personality. I don't think I could grow tired of painting them. This is one of my rusty squares. It seems every square I have ever owned has rusted or has lost parts. It's like socks in the laundry. I always end up with pieces and parts .

This painting almost painted itself. I love when that happens, it makes me want to do another one right away.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

painting portraits

This posting is a real gamble for me. It means I must commit to following through to completion and I must try to make progress in a logical order. I don't do well with either one on large paintings. I struggle, scrape, wipe off, fiddle with details, change background colors, draw, re-draw and hopefully end up with a painting. This time I am hoping my daily painting practice has built in some better habits.

This will be a 36"x36" oil portrait of my daughter and her husband. I am drawing in charcoal. It is easy to make changes with charcoal and it allows you to build up the values slowly.
This portrait will be done from photographs I have taken. We went through 3 separate photo sessions before finding the right setting, pose and composition.
I work from a computer screen for the most part. I can zoom in and around the photo, change it to black and white even edit. Amazing technology. But in the end it is the painting that I concentrate on. I try not to copy every wrinkle or every detail in the photo. It is a great tool , but it has pitfalls. You must look out for color distortion, foreshortening, and loss of depth. The most important thing to keep in your mind is that the camera freezes an image in a fraction of a second in time. When painting from life, an artist is making choices and interpreting what he or she sees over a period of time. It may sound funny, but I think Time is the most important ingredient an artist adds to a painting.

a single pear

Pear Study
oil on masonite panelSOLD
I am sorry that there are no progress shots with this one. This is what I call a reserve painting. I actually did this painting just before I started my daily painting practice blog. You might say it was a practice painting for the practice paintings...Come on all of you daily painters out there, it's time to confess, we all have done this ... stick an old painting in when we have either messed up our daily painting or were too busy to get one finished.
My excuse? I started a portrait yesterday and went out to see a gallery.

I like this study though, I tried very hard not to put any opaque paint in the shadows and reserved the thickest paint just for the light. I also like the fact that this painting has very few brush strokes and yet tells a convincing story: light washing over pear.
My reserve of reserve paintings is now empty. I'll have to think of something creative for tomorrow.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Painting Gladiolus

Gladiolus in mason jar
oil on masonite panelSOLD
Omaha has a great farmer's market on Saturday morning during the summer. I purchased these beautiful gladiolus from a lovely lady who sells flowers there each week. I couldn't wait to paint them.
I am sorry I didn't get my camera angle right for the best comparison.

Almost finished. The background should be gone over a little. I think it is too distracting. I apologize for the photo a little glaring.
I really enjoyed this painting even though I struggled with that intense red of the gladiolus. I think I fussed too much with it. That's a bad habit I return too when I am not confident in my color selection. Practice is the only remedy.

Summer is almost gone and there are so many flowers I wish I could paint before they wilt away. But Autumn has it's own rewards which should be fun to discover how to paint.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

painting Jane Austen

Another first attempt gone bad. The painting just didn't hold my interest. Of course I had to go this far before I quit.
I like this layout better. Although ...I am having second thoughts about finishing the first one. Indecisions, indecisions...Remember, it's the practice that's important.
A light wash just to check the composition before applying paint.

My wife came in took one look at the flowers in the ink well and my over stuffed arrangement and made a few adjustments. ( For the better I think, but don't tell her.)
When I went to commercial art school, 150 years ago, they taught lettering. I was never very good at it. This was my fourth attempt at the title on the book, and my guide lines were crooked again!!! The easiest way I found to get a clear letter was to scratch it out with a nail.
Reading Jane Austen
oil on masonite panel
My wife came up with this great idea for a series of paintings. We both love books. (We can't pass by a used book store without taking a few hours to explore.) "Do a series of still lifes with books by authors we enjoy." she said. I admit she comes up with all the good ideas. Since her favorite author is Jane Austen, I started with that.
I placed the ink well on top because Jane Austen hand wrote all of those amazing stories with a quill and ink. Try writing a letter to someone with a pen that you dip into ink. They will enjoy it and you'll have a great lesson in patience.
Self critique time:
Today's critique is very simple, I don't think I did one thing right in this painting.
Oh my dear I prejudice or just proud?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

painting grapes in an oriental bowl

I love the bend in the grape vine. It reminds me of a crane, the bird found so often in oriental art.
Increasing the size to fill the canvas helps keep your attention focussed on the grapes.
Grapes in china
oil on canvas panel

I don't know why, but it is so much fun to paint grapes. They have translucent and deep color. They catch highlights and reflective light. They are warm and cool and they have character as a cluster and as an individual grape.
I love painting my wife's little bowl with the oriental design. She may get a commission if this one sells.
Self critique time:
I like the composition. The picture has a story to tell and I didn't get in the way. By that I mean, I don't think I distract the viewer with my brush work, even though I wish I had a more fluid touch. I did manage to keep the shadows very thin this time (yeah!).

painting tomatoes...again?

I know, I know. How can he paint another tomato? It's summer, I have ten thousand tomatoes growing in my garden. What else can I do?
Cezanne-ish beginning.
However, this one just flopped. Not to worry though....

One of the benefits of still life painting... sometimes you get to eat the props.
I began again. I think a better composition this time, it tells a story.
The painting gods were playing with me again. You know how books always say how a north window gives such even light.? Don't believe everything you read in art magazines! Check this photo to the previous one. My soft light has vanished. This is a demonstration in how powerful clouds can reflect sunlight. Even through a northlight window.Young & Old
oil on canvas panel
I like the pairing with the new smoother tomato. Here is my big ugly german heirloom tomato again this time with a beautiful round, perfectly smooth, bush tomato. I love growing different variety's. I should paint an outdoor picture of the German tomato vine. It is as mis-shapened a plant as it's fruit. But a lot of fun.
Lesson of the day: I think Composition is 90% of a successful painting. A painting can't tell it's story if the composition fails to support it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Painting the Bird Bath

Bird Bath
6"x8" oil on canvas panel
I must have been feeling adventurous yesterday. I needed to break out from the studio painting and still lifes. So I walked into my back yard and painted the first thing I saw. These are some of our marigolds and zinnias we planted around the bird bath.The weather has changed here in Omaha from high humidity and 100 degrees to a beautiful breezy 80degrees.
I have not painted outdoors live (Plein Air) more than a dozen times in my life. I find it very difficult and I greatly admire those who can do it well. The problem is the light and colors change so frequently and fast. I start painting one picture and end up finishing a different one on the same canvas. The result is a much more impressionistic style than I usually do.
Anything that I am this uncomfortable with only means I need more practice. So, I guess in the near future I will be outside on beautiful days. (Life as a struggling artist has some benefits)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Painting cornbread

My wife suggested I break away from a flat horizontal perspective and try something different. She is usually rrrrrrrright. It makes taking progress pictures more difficult though. I need to remind myself that this is daily PRACTICE painting. Remember Peter.......try new things... develop confidence in paint.... enjoy the process!
I begin to think too much about too many things. Just paint and enjoy it.
I'm trying hard to leave the shadow transparent and not bring any opaque paint in there. I have a very bad habit of killing shadows with opaque paints. That kills a painting faster than you can say "wha happened?"
oil on canvas panel
Corn bread and coffee the ideal breakfast for sitting around the table on a lazy weekend. The arrangement of the butter knife looks like one of those warning labels. "NO CORNBREAD ALLOWED"!
Self Critique:
The cornbread looks and feels like cornbread. So I like that part. I struggled with the plate and I think I rushed to finish it. Patience is a quality to practice as much as daily painting technique.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Painting Needle & Thread

I quickly sketched in with charcoal then blocked in the shapes with Burnt Sienna. Notice the blue/grey paper for the background.

I didn't like that background color so I removed it and went with the more neutral green of my studio walls.
I didn't see the leaning tower of yellow thread until my wife kindly pointed it out to me. Every artist should marry a person with a great eye for perspective. They should teach you that in art school.
Needle & Thread
5"x7" oil on canvas panelSOLD

Pin cushions always fascinated me as a kid. I'd push all the pins in then pull each one out to an even length. Then I would push all of them back in again. I was easily entertained.
Self Critique time:
I like the idea or theme of this painting, but that's about it. I should have been more painterly and not so concerned with details. I find when I concentrate too much on seeing and painting details, I lose connection with the spirit of the objects I am attempting to paint.
I should remember to treat each still life as a portrait.

This is the second painting in a row involving sewing. Painting these has me thinking how challenging it would be to paint a series. Paintings based on a theme. Check out daily painter
  • Jon Conkey
  • his entire blog is based on monthly themes.