Monday, July 24, 2017

How to fill a Sketchbook

Just a short video for this Monday.  How I stumbled onto this one I have no idea but it was fun. WARNING! She can be a bit crass, as you may be able to tell from the opening scene, so if you're overly sensitive and easily offended just skip this one. If you're not and you want some ideas on how to fill a sketchbook, take the time because she has some good ideas.
The reason why I'm sharing this one is because I just had a conversation with some friends about how people are so intimidated when it comes to painting, drawing, etc. There's some sort of fear of messing up a blank sheet of paper or canvas. What I can't wrap my head around is that as children we can't wait to be adults so we can make up our own rules. Kids are constantly told, don't do that, do this, that's wrong and on and on. Remember back to when you were a kid and you'll probably remember pouting and making all sorts of plans for how you were going to do it your way when you were older. Now that you're older are you doing it your way, or are you going back to the way someone told you how to do it?
Another reason why I shared this one is because this time of year is perfect for taking out a sketchbook and throwing down quick studies. Her idea of going to the library (I think she said libary) is great. Get some reference material and cool off in the air conditioning. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Summer Reading List

Cloud Study 9x12" pastel on paper
Hopefully you've put a pretty good dent in your summer reading list by now. If not you still have time.  Between comic books and a box of old pulp fiction novels that was gifted to me by a friend, I've been going through Lorenzo Chavez's recommended books
When I first came across this list I thought, there's no way! I'll be spending all of my painting time reading and I can't give up my painting time.  Well, that's not the case, there's plenty of time to read, I just don't have plenty of time to watch TV and the fact that I'm not on Facebook seems to leave me plenty of free time. (try it, you might like it)  I had considered giving a review on the books but that would take up too much painting time.  Instead I'll give you some snippets of  what I found interesting or helpful, or perhaps both. 
From "Hawthorne on Painting", 
  •  Don't try to be an artist all at once, be very much of a student. 
  • Be always searching, never settle to do something you've done before.  
  • Always be looking for the unexpected in nature. You can never have formulas for anything. 
  • Don't learn how to do things, keep on inquiring how. 
  • You must keep an attitude of continuous study and so develop yourself. 
  • Discover beauty where others have not found it. 
and my favourite
  • One of the greatest things in the world is to train ourselves to see beauty in the commonplace. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

1/4 Great Artists in Their Own Words - But Is it Art ? (1966-1993)

The show for this week, "Great Artists in Their Own Words".  The BBC is a treasure trove of shows about art and artists. PBS has some but they don't seem to be presented as well. This show clearly gives the appearance that they're not sold on the artists and their art but at the same time it gives them the platform to explain themselves. I certainly felt the same as the woman who said Carl Andre was having a laugh with his pile of bricks but when he was given the opportunity to speak about his work I actually believed him. He really believes in his work and sometimes that's just as important as having technical skills. It's broken up into 15 minute sections and you can easily find the other three segments.
This first 15 minute segment touches on the happenings. I remember one of my art history professors talking about them a lot. She was really good at her job and I could never figure out if she liked them or thought they were incredibly ridiculous. I remember not fully understanding what they were supposed to be about, nor how they were funded. Were they done by people without jobs, or were they on their lunch break? How do you live a life of leisure where you can just throw yourself on top of a car, call it art and pay your electric bill? Today we have things called "flash mobs" that at least make some sort of sense and can be enjoyed by most. 
This type of "happening" looks like fun and would almost motivate me to go shopping. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Jefferson Street at Night

Jefferson Street at Night 5x7" watercolour sketch on handmade cotton paper

It's much too nice outside to be inside watching movies or even working so I'll give you a movie tomorrow.  Today is this quick sketch I did of an evening scene in my hometown. This is Jefferson street and it has changed a lot over the years. I remember going shopping for school clothes on this street, being drug by the arm to go listen to Walter Mondale give a speech here, playing in the fountain (that's no longer there), being in parades, watching wiener dog races, watching bicycle races and endless amounts of other activities. It's funny how the shops on the street have changed over the years, even the street itself, but the memories still hold fast. This scene is typical, for this end of the street, at night. The other end of Jefferson would be filled with cars and no trees. I chose this block because of the trees and how they were lit up underneath by the street lamps. I thought it would be tough to do but if you stick to a traditional way of working in watercolour it was actually pretty easy. I drew in my basic shapes then painted in the sky and did a wash of yellow over the rest of the paper. Once it was dry I went in with the local colours and added a few details. The hardest part was judging that value of the lit portion of the buildings. When first looking at them they look extremely bright but squinting down it's only the windows that allow the light through that were bright and the rest was in a more muted middle value. Going back in and trying to correct that, after I thought I was done, was quite tricky.  Next time I'll try to be more mindful of that.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Hunting and Gathering

Heron Bend 3x4" watercolour sketch
Once had someone tell me that one of my paintings looks REALLY bad in the picture I posted online but it didn't look that bad in person. That person can go kick rocks. Not because my feelings were hurt, because they weren't, but because if you're going to dish out criticism like that you better have a solution to the problem. Fine, thank you for telling me that my paintings look less crappy in person than they do on your computer screen.  Hopefully some day they'll have a camera setting that's specifically to make your paintings look less crappy on a computer. Until then, you'll just have to imagine that, in real life, they don't look as bad as they do in cyberspace. 
Bridge at Ely Ford 3x2.5" watercolour sketch

Unfortunately it's not just cyberspace we have to worry about our paintings looking differently. I don't know how many times I've heard this from a plein air painter, looks good now wonder how it will look when I get it inside. The lighting will sometimes change how paintings appear.  I found this article from artists, Mitchell Albala. It's got good information so if you have time give it a read, if not  scroll down half way and see how he has his easel oriented to demonstrate how light can change the way your painting looks. He's actually demonstrating how to keep your palette and canvas in the same light so that you won't be surprised when you mix paint and apply to your canvas, but it also shows how the painting looks different in sunlight and shade. When I first started plein air painting I didn't realise how much the light on my work effected the way I saw it. I could plainly see how it effected the landscape, but didn't really consider it might be changing the way my paint looks. Now I'm more mindful of this and make attempts to adjust my easel and choose optimal locations. In this sweltering heat we're having that's easy to do, pick a shady spot and stay there! On other days it's not so obvious. I have written in my notes that someone said, plein air painting is really just information gathering. If you think of it that way and you go out and keep in mind that you're out to learn something you won't go home disappointed.  The more you go out the more information you gather and the easier it will get.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Andrew Tischler's Studio Setup - How to create an amazing art space (on a budget)

This Monday's movie is a short video from artist Andrew Tischler. It's not a feature length movie but they don't always have to be.  I was describing this video to some people last weekend and thought why not just share it for today. There's a part in this video where he explains that you need to have your studio set up so that you actually want to work in it. I laughed because I figured if your studio was such a mess it would motivate you to go outside and paint. In all honesty I have to agree with him. You should put some effort into your work space, make it so your materials are easily accessible. Just like painting outside, you need your supplies to be user friendly so that you actually use them. If you were hoping for a two hour movie this week he has several other short videos you can watch to fill up your time. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Up a Creek

Dry Creek Bed 31/2x5" watercolour sketch on Kraft paper
Up a creek but no paddle was needed. The summer temperatures and lack of rain have contributed to the drying up of this creek bed. On one hand it's sad, on the other I was ecstatic because I was able to get to places and see new things that I haven't been able to  before. Well, without getting my feet wet. These trees had fallen across the creek from the cliff side down to the lower lying land and they really caught the light nicely. I'm guessing after these trees fell it created a hole in the canopy that now allows the light to shine down on this spot. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Plein Air Don't Care

Lily Pads at Heron Bend 3x5" watercolour
My group of plein air painting friends and I have been asked to have another group show. It will be in February 2018 but we're already in the planning stages. We had to come up with a title for our show and I jokingly threw out the name Plein Air Don't Care.  I sometimes use it as a hashtag on Instagram when I post my plein air adventures. Sometimes it's the attitude I feel you must take in order to keep doing what we do. For example, it was 104F today but I don't care, I still went out to paint. Evidently fishermen and most other people don't take on a similar attitude. I ventured out twice today and went to three different locations.  The first two I was all alone, except for the frogs, which was fine with me. 

Path at North Heron Bend 5x4" watercolour
Each sketch took me only 20 minutes. It's amazing what you can get done when there's nothing around to distract you. Oh, and sweltering heat to keep you motivated. 

Lily Pads at Riverview Park 3x5" watercolour
This last one was done at 9PM.  There was still a hint of sun as it was setting but unfortunately it wasn't enough to light my palette. I took Petey (one of  my dogs) down to the river for a walk.  I figured I'd paint after we got done and he was more than agreeable to that arrangement, however I forgot to bring my book lights and the car lights were attracting too many bugs so I did this one in the dark. Considering how it turned out I'm going to proudly display this as a good argument for using a limited palette. I couldn't see what I was mixing but I know what paint I have and where it is on the palette so I was painting with no light but not completely in the dark as they say. 
Also, it's world watercolour month so get out there and celebrate! 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day

My day almost always begins with some sort of warm up sketches, affectionately referred to as daily doodles. Today I decided to go patriotic. I was going to do the usual Superman sketch but remembered the other all American super hero, The Greatest American Hero. I remember watching the show as a kid and got a kick out of how horrible he was at flying, but never gave up trying.
This was done with a limited watercolour palette and kuretake ink. It was fun for a quick little doodle.
Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Jasper Johns

Your movie for this Monday, Jasper Johns. I chose this simply because whenever I hear the name I immediately think, American flag.  I always found it interesting that he made paintings of the flag.  When I was a kid it was taught that the flag was pretty much sacred. You weren't supposed to have things like we do now, beach towels and flip flops with the flag on them and the flag was never to touch the ground. You were never supposed to fly a flag that was worn out and torn and our flags weren't made in China.  Here we are 241 years later and anything goes. Happy Independence Day USA. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Eye Scream

Ice cream  8x6" casein on illustration board
This morning I had my annual eye exam. With my new and improved vision I can nearly see into the future. Seriously, I have eyes like a hawk, or at least a sniper. My eye doctor has got to be one of the coolest guys I've met in a long time. You wouldn't know it if you looked at him, your nerd alert would go off in an instant but once you start chatting with him he's a lot of fun. So much fun that I ran an idea by him today. I told him I've been trying to figure out a way to blur my vision for when I go out painting. He didn't think this was crazy at all and immediately started pulling out lenses from his case. He said I need a frosted lens. What? Apparently they make a frosted lens for people with certain eye conditions. He said it's usually for a person who has had a stroke and they end up with double vision. The frosted lens will do something to the eye so that it "quiets" it down so they mostly use one eye. Unfortunately he didn't have any frosted lenses in his case today.  He did pull out a +5.25 reader lens that absolutely did what I was aiming for. Unfortunately they don't sell that strength over the counter. WHY do I want to blur my vision while painting? Keep reading and I'll explain.

Hopefully these two photos look different to you, if not you need to make an appointment with my eye doctor. Message me and I'll get you his info. The top photo is in focus and is what it would look like if you were out on location painting this scene. The bottom photo, hopefully, demonstrates what the same scene is like when you squint your eyes. Squinting is one of the greatest tools a painter can use. Most artists squint to get values. When you squint it blurs the objects and it's easier to see the darks, lights and middle values.  I also use it to help me determine what general shapes are in the scene. When the details are fuzzed out it's easier to see the big shapes. The hard thing about this is explaining it to someone who refuses to squint. You REALLY have to squint. Squint all the way down, like you're looking through your eyelashes. I have a friend who teaches workshops, he's a fantastic artist, and he always tells the story about a student who kept making the funniest faces while trying to paint. He finally asked her if she needed help, perhaps she had something in her eye. She responded by telling him she was fine, she was just trying to squint without squinting because she didn't want to get the eye wrinkles like he has. This is why I've been trying to find a way to blur vision, without spraying pepper spray or punching someone in the face. So until there's a way to tape someone's eyelids in a squinting position I came up with this. 
I couldn't find the super power strength readers, +3.25 was as high as I could find, so I got a +1.00 and some sand paper. This isn't perfect and I can only wear them for about 30 seconds before I feel funny, but it blurs out the details much like squinting. If you want to try this I recommend going to the dollar store for your glasses and possibly the sand paper too. I got lucky and my dollar store had both. Sand the lens slowly. Sand it and check, then sand more if needed. You can sand too much and then it's like looking through a foggy glass which isn't the same. The other thing is you have to get in the corners and edges too. I found if I missed a spot my eye went right for that spot.  Clearly my brain is telling my eye to focus on the clear spot and before I can tell my brain to stop over correcting it's too late. 
This isn't something I'd use every day, but it's a good tool to use to demonstrate the benefits of squinting. I'm curious what they will do on a really overcast day. Those types of days are always the hardest for me to squint and find my values. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

British Masters - In Search of England (Episode 2)

For this Monday the movie is episode two of "British Masters: In Search of".  Episode one was posted back in November of last year.  This episode was amazing, inspiring, depressing, and all other sorts of adjectives. What is so great about this series is that it focuses on great British artists that you probably never heard of. It's a great piece of art history, not the type of art history you get in school either. It explains what was going on at the time and why it shaped the way these artists worked.
It's funny to hear that Alfred Munnings was ostracized because of his speech. They didn't play the whole thing but what he said was fairly mild compared to what we hear today. It's too bad his mouth put a shadow over his work, his paintings are breathtaking. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Plein Air Packing Part Three: Oil

Hibiscus 8x10 oil study on panel
Each medium has its pros and cons when plein air painting. When it comes to plein air competitions oil paint is one of the easiest to work with, mostly because you don't have to worry about mats and glass when framing.  As far as traveling with oil paint, it's not as easy as watercolour. The Gamblin website has a treasure trove of information on how to travel with your oil paints. If you're road tripping you won't have much to worry about.
Here are the items I pack when oil painting. Again, this is just my setup, yours will vary depending on your needs and techniques. 
  1. Lammert Paint Box
  2. Lint roller- this is one that may have you scratching your head, but it's handy if you're worried about ticks. The areas I spend most of my time in are known for ticks. Just roll over your clothes to pick up any critters that may be trying to hitchhike. 
  3. Bandage spray- I actually need to put some of this in each of my setups. It's better than a regular plaster/bandage because it won't get gross with paint and fall off. 
  4. Back scratcher- I honestly bought this to use as a makeshift mahl stick but my friends have used it more as a back scratcher than I've used it as a mahl stick. It's proved to be very useful.
  5. Multi-purpose clips- come in handy for all manner of situations. 
  6. Multi-tool-  This has come in handy when needing to repair easels and it's useful when needing to frame. It's also come in handy when the cap on a tube of paint wouldn't come loose. 
  7. Sunscreen-This is a Neutrogena brand stick of sunscreen. It's non-greasy and has a pleasant scent. 
  8. Viewcatcher- You can read more about this tool in a previous post here
  9. Tissues- these come in handy during allergy season and when you forget towels.
  10. Pencil Case-The contents of the pencil case are listed in a post here
  11. Messenger bag- I picked this one up for $8 at Menards. You don't need anything fancy, just something that works. 
  12. Panels and panel holder- I cut and prime my own panels from masonite.  The wet panel carrier is from Joshua Been. He makes and sells these in several different sizes and will custom make them for you as well. 
  13. Sketchbook- a good all media sketchbook

The inside of the Lammert Paint Box.
  1. Towel- just a regular old towel to wipe my brushes with.
  2. Oil Paint- I take a limited palette of; titanium white, cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, burnt umber, ultramarine blue and viridian. I also take a small jar of linseed oil. 
  3. Glass palette- the glass palette comes in the Lammert Paint Box and is removable.
  4. Paint Brushes- various brands and sizes. The Rosemary & Co. brand sells their brushes in both long handle and short handle. I prefer long handle but the short handles fit better in the box so I ordered some of my favourites in short handles. 

That's it.  Not a ton of stuff and it's easily manageable. If you have any questions about my setups or want to add something drop me a line or leave it in the comments. Hopefully this helps and you'll get out painting soon.

Monday, June 19, 2017

John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 4 (1972)

This week's show is the final episode of "Ways of Seeing" and it's a doozy. He's trying to compare publicity, advertising and oil paintings. He makes a good argument about how advertisements and oil paintings are very similar. It's a great slap in the face to wake you up about things that you may not have thought of, or haven't thought about in some time.
He makes the statement that society has changed. I'm not so convinced. I think the way we look at it has changed, perhaps our tolerance towards certain things has changed but things, sometimes sadly, still seem to operate much the same way.
There was something that struck a chord with me because it related to a recent conversation I had. He spoke about how publicity/advertising is telling you to buy something so that you'll be better. A recent post about how practice and hard work gets you places rather than the fanciest tools brought about a conversation. The person just wanting to start is frustrated that a master will not share what kinds of tools they use. The would be student is angry because it's not fair and how will they ever be as good if they can't use the same pen/paintbrush? The master is making a point that they put in the hard work to get there. Without their hand that pen/paintbrush would just sit there and do nothing. It's a great conversation because both sides have valid arguments. However it's sad that "publicity" has driven this wedge between the two.  Advertising and marketing would have you believe that by simply buying this specific thing will make you better.  On the other hand the person who has mastered that thing only wants to give credit to their hard work and dedication. Then there's the poor guy who just wants to know where to begin.  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Plein Air Packing Part Two: Pastels

Here is part two of my plein air packing, this is what I pack when I go out with pastels.  There has been many discussions about the pros and cons of using pastel while on location. The very first con that most people list is that you have to take a ton of stuff. When I first started plein air painting I only took out pastel because that was my preferred medium. I wasn't in competitions and didn't need to consider framing and things like that. I took out EVERYTHING I had. So it can be done if you really want to, but it's totally unnecessary. Out of curiosity I weighed my gear to see just how much heavier the pastels are compared to the oil and watercolours.
(A few of the items are repeats from the previous post that you can read here. )
This setup weighs 13 pounds, which is pretty much the same as the oils so no more excuses that pastels are too heavy. 
  1. This is my pastel box, it holds a very large number of pastels. There are probably about 200 or more in this box right now. The number can vary depending on what I put in. A lot of pastels come in half sticks and with those you can put in more colours. 
  2. Handy dandy rucksack. This backpack has been with me for a very long time. It's a Jansport brand, something most people might buy their kids for school and has no signs of wear nor tear.
  3. Multi-media sketchbook
  4. Masking tape. Same cheap masking tape I use for watercolours. 
  5. Hand wipes-pastels go really fast for me so I often need to clean my hands in between and after I'm done. Pastels will end up all over your clothes and face but don't worry they're easy to clean up. 
  6. Sunblock-sunblock is important for all year around painting. 
  7. Multi-purpose clips for all manner of emergencies. 
  8. Pencil case- this is filled with a bunch of stuff that is listed in this previous post
  9. Bug spray
  10. Tissues
  11. Plastic bag.  When working in pastel I use a lot of those wipes and tape so I like to have a bag to collect my trash in. 
Inside the box of pastels I keep the rest of the supplies needed to work with. 
  1. Hardboard panel. This is an 11x14 piece of 1/8" masonite but any hard surface to tape your paper to will work. In a pinch I've even used a piece of cardboard when I forgot my board. 
  2. Pastel paper. I pack several different sizes of paper, usually 9x12, 8x10 and 5x7. 
  3. Glassine- Glassine is what I put on my finished painting to protect it until I get home or frame it. I hear a lot of people complain that it's too expensive, but I buy a roll, cut off small pieces and even reuse it. I bought a roll three years ago and have a ton left. 
  4. Pastels- Both sides of the box are filled with pastels of various brands. 
This is the whole thing set up and ready to use. You can see it takes up very little space and after weighing it, now I know it doesn't weigh that much either. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hugging the Learning Curves

Seems like so many things we see and do have a video or some sort of interactive part to it these days. I'm not going to lie, sometimes it's fun to watch other people paint. Everybody loves happy little trees!  This is my first attempt at trying to record myself inking this quick sketch.  I used my Google Glass and some Sony software to speed up a 10 minute video to about a 30 second video. It was interesting, for me, to use the Google Glass. I could see just how fast I was going. It felt like I had been working on this for an hour but glancing at the display I was only 6 minutes in. There are parts where you can't really see what my hand is doing and I think that has to do with the Glass being too big for me. You wear them like glasses so they move with the movement of your head, not your eyes. Sometimes I'm actually not moving my head just my eyes and the Glass doesn't follow where my eyes and hands go. They're a pretty cool piece of technology but they obviously have their limitations. 
(for those having trouble watching the video on here, click the link to my Instagram here and you can view the 1 minute version). 
If you thought learning how to paint was hard, try learning to paint and record a video of yourself at the same time. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Abstract: The Art of Design | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

Your Monday movie this week is a series put out by Netflix called, Abstract:  The Art of Design. I stumbled upon it while looking for background noise while working on a project. At first that's what it was, then the person asking questions quickly caught my attention.  They were asking some of the stupidest questions and I thought this was a joke, possibly a spoof or something.  No, it's actually a series that showcases designers/artists of various genres. Shoe designers, stage designers, etc. The first episode focuses on Christoph Niemann and it's wonderful. When he began explaining his work I started rolling my eyes. Making stuff with Legos, it deserved an eye roll but keeping an open mind I could appreciate what he was doing. His work is fun and inspiring.
If you don't have Netflix search Youtube for the first episode.It may be morally corrupt and if we all end up in Hell for watching pirated videos on Youtube I'll bring the beer, you can bring snacks. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Plein Air Packing Part 1

Here is part one of my plein air packing tips. This is a far cry from where I began. I used to drag as much stuff with me as I could. Now I work to condense as much as I can. It seems like every time I go out I try to remove something or find something smaller so I can be more compact.  The ultimate goal for anyone wanting to plein air paint is to pack light enough and get gear that won't be too cumbersome. If setting up your easel takes 45 minutes and is no fun then you'll come up with excuses to not paint. You don't need the fanciest, most expensive gear, just something that will work for you.
This first part is the gear I take when I plan on painting watercolour/casein.  When I want to paint in watercolour I just grab this bag and go.

  1. Corrugated plastic- 11x14 sized piece of corrugated plastic that I use for my board.  It's super lightweight yet tough enough to travel and withstand wind. 
  2. Masking tape. Plain old $0.98/roll masking tape. 
  3. Mini-Lammert Paint Box- this is the smaller version of the Lammert Paint Box. It, along with everything in this photo fits inside the messenger bag.
  4. Bug Soother-any bug spray is better than no bug spray but this brand is really nice. It's all natural and has a pleasant scent and most of all works. 
  5. Tissues-an all year 'round necessity. 
  6. Pencil Case-contains tons of stuff that will be listed in an upcoming photo.
  7. Bottled water-no brand in particular and I reuse the bottle. This is for painting but if I get too thirsty and forget something for drinking I can drink this. 
  8. Mesh Reinforced Vinyl Zip Bag-This is an 11x14 size that holds watercolour paper of various sizes. This brand and size was found at Hobby Lobby but I can't seem to find a working link on their site. 
  9. Chapstick-Painting outdoors, especially near the water and in windy conditions you need this BUT be careful with what kind of lip balm you choose. If it smells too sweet you attract gnats and other annoying bugs. If it's too sticky those same bugs will get stuck on your lips. Stick with a soft scent. This one in the picture is the Chapstick brand key lime scent. The citrus scent hasn't attracted too many bugs. (yet)
  10. Sunblock- Like the bug spray any brand is better than no brand but I highly recommend this Banana Boat stick. Very VERY light scent, not greasy and the stick practically takes up no space in the bag. 
  11. Clips- These are heavy duty clips that come in handy for many things. If the easel is acting up they can hold parts down. If I run out of tape they can hold down my paper. 
  12. Messenger bag/Backpack- Again any brand will work but this L.L. Bean messenger/backpack is pretty great. It's about 20 years old and hardly shows any wear and tear. Everything fits in it with tons of room left over. 
  13. Sketchbook-any brand and any size sketchbook will work. These are handy for thumbnail sketches and notans so it may be a good idea to find a sketchbook that has a good multi-media paper. 
This is what is packed inside the Lammert Paint Box pictured above. 
  1. Chamois cloth-this one came from the dollar store and is basically one of those crazy Shamwow chamois cloths. These work great for watercolour painting. They're reusuable and I don't have to worry about forgetting paper towels. 
  2. The Lammert Paint Box-they come in two different sizes. This smaller one is perfect for my watercolour setup. 
  3. Spray Bottle- This came from the travel section at Shopko. Shopko is the Midwest's general merchandise store. I only mention it because I've never seen this kind at Target/Wal-Mart etc. The nozzle is adjustable and it locks closed. 
  4. Palette- This Holbein palette fits perfectly inside the paint box.  There are other brands that will fit just fine too.
  5. Faber Castell collapsable water cup.  This collapsable cup is perfect. It's lightweight and cleans up easy. The one pictured here is a couple of years old so it's pretty durable as well. 
  6. Brushes- Rosemary & Co. squirrel hair brushes in sizes 16, 10, 8,6 and 4. To be honest I usually only use the 8 and 4 and the Connoisseur Happy Dot Detail so you don't need to pack a ton of brushes. 
  7. Ruler-I keep a ruler in my pencil case but this one takes up hardly any room so it just kind of hangs out in the paint box. 
This is the pencil case. The pencil case isn't static, the stuff in it always stays the same, but it moves from bag to bag. I can grab it out of my watercolour bag and put it in my oil painting bag and my sketching bag. 
  1. Moo Eraser-This eraser is amazing for erasing charcoal and pastel. 
  2. Kneaded eraser-Love these things. They can double as a stress reliever. 
  3. Pencil/ink eraser-this type of eraser is handy when watercolour painting. The ink side can do some lifting. It stays in the pencil case for when I'm just going out to sketch. 
  4. Pencil sharpener-This pencil sharpener is like the town floosey, everyone has used it. Honestly, they're the one thing most people forget to pack so leaving one in the case has saved many of my friends.
  5. Mini pencil sharpener-this is for my lead holder.  It sharpens the graphite to a perfect point. In a pinch I can use the regular pencil sharpener but I do my best to always have one of these in the case. 
  6. The pencil case-any kind will work, this one came from the dollar store and is about four years old. It's finally starting to show some wear and tear but I'll use it until it completely falls apart. I forgot to label the rubber bands on the outside. They're there for use not because it's holding it together. 
  7. Ruler- After being tired of wishing I had a ruler with me I finally got a small one that fits in the case so I can take it with me whether I need it or not. I use it quite often. 
  8. Cardboard ruler-I wrote about this cardboard ruler in a previous post you can read here. It's not necessary but comes in handy for making the rectangles for sketches. 
  9. Pentel Pilot Petite Pen-refillable ink pens come in three sizes. I use this one and the next one pictured the most. 
  10. Pentel Pilot Petite Pen-refillable and when the you put the cap on the end it's a relatively normal sized pen. 
  11. Pilot Pocket Brush Pen-my favourite brush pen. Only draw back is it's not refillable. 
  12. Wide tipped black Sharpie-extremely handy for Notans and recently a friend borrowed it to cover a nick on a black frame during a plein air competition. Super handy. 
  13. Prismacolor Drawing Lead Holder- these come in several brands but this is my favourite. It's the best balanced.  Only drawback is the metal clip can sometimes be a pain when when working outdoors, you get a nasty glare from the sun. 
  14. White coloured pencil-rarely use this but comes in handy every once in awhile. 
  15. Princeton Neptune watercolour brush size 4-comes in really handy when going out sketching
  16. Robert Simmons white sable watercolour brush size 6-also comes in handy when sketching. 
  17. Graphite-the tube is from the Staedtler brand but I refill it with Prismacolour graphite because I've found that the Prismacolor brand has way less grit than any other brand. I keep 2B and 6B in it. A 2B is great for drawing with and 6B is wonderful for doing value sketches. 
  18. Waterbrush- I have these in every size available. I keep this one in the pencil case because it holds more water than other brands and is easier to refill. 
  19. White gouache- this is all purpose.  Works for watercolour sketches and value studies.  You can also use it as white-out if needed. 
This may look like a huge list of stuff, and maybe some of it can be omitted but again ALL of it fits inside the bag and actually weighs less than my plein air pastel box alone. Four other things that I've not shown here but always have, usually in my car, my tripod for the paint box, a hat, antibacterial wipes and my phone or a camera. I will compile another list for my oil painting setup and one for my pastel setup. They're pretty much the same with a few variations. I hope this helps. It's not, by any means, what everyone should take with them, but hopefully it gives you some ideas on what to pack for yourself. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Questions From a Girly Mag

Someone asked, what are the essentials when you go out painting? Am I the right person to answer this question? Today I left the house without my easel. Luckily I was only about a mile away from home when it occurred to me.  I always have a sketchbook with me so it wouldn't have been a total loss today but still. I'm now working on a post that will cover my essentials that I always take with me, or try to, when I go out on location.  It might be fun to see what everyone else packs. Either share your own post of essentials or message me with some things you must have when plein air painting. You can e-mail me or leave them in the comments section below. On top of that I'll pose this other question. Back in the day I was reading one of those girlie magazines, not a GIRLY mag just a girlie magazine. They posed the question, if you were on a deserted island and could only bring one beauty item which would you choose; lip balm, sunscreen, or mascara.  After compiling your list of essential plein air paintings items which ONE item would be your must have? Aside from easel, paint, brushes, the basics, what's one thing you absolutely need?

Monday, June 5, 2017

John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 3 (1972)

The show for this week is episode three of Ways of Seeing.  John Berger's hair just gets better and better.  This one took a minute to get into, meaning I wasn't quite sure where it was going. However, like the previous two episodes it got me thinking right away. 
"If you buy a painitng you buy also the look of the thing it represents".  Not exactly sure what that means but it got me thinking about a conversation I had with my friend and fellow painter, Deb. We were discussing an artist and I said I didn't like the colour palette they worked with. She said she didn't mind the colours but the application is what she didn't like. So would we not buy their paintings because we didn't like the representation? For me that's exactly what that means. I love strawberry milkshakes but if someone painted one in a way that didn't make me want another strawberry milkshake in my life there's no way I would buy it. If Picasso painted that strawberry milkshake you know someone would pay millions just because it was a Picasso. No thanks. That's when paintings turn into investments and not something to be enjoyed. 
Then when he started speaking about the people who could afford to buy paintings and commission portraits. This got me thinking about this "white privilege" crap we hear so much about today. Why can't we have more diversity in films? Why can't we have more women in political office? Why can't people shut up? Anywho, so rich people could afford paintings so that must've influenced some artists to paint things that they would purchase. Some artists do that. Some artists look for the trends and paint what is selling. Does that make them artists or businessmen? Furthermore, if anyone could afford to buy a good painting what would they want to have hanging on their wall?  If someone living in poverty had the chance to own a good painting what would they want? Since some people are so convinced that rich people are the only ones who have influence it makes me curious as to what they would want or even commission. It would probably really surprise everyone.  Just because you have a lot of money doesn't mean you have good taste and just because you have no money doesn't mean you don't have any taste.  And just because you think you have good taste or your grandma tells you that you do, doesn't mean you do. Just because you can pay an artists to paint your portrait doesn't make you any better looking or more important than the next person. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Let's Not be L7

Thumbnail sketch made in proportion for a 9x12 finished piece.
Yes, let's not be L7 but if you're too cheap to buy a View Catcher go ahead.  A lot of plein air painters can be seen making the infamous rectangle to the face that used to be made fun of exclusively in TV shows and movies when a crazy director could tell you had the look and you needed to be in their next film. What they're ultimately doing is framing their shot or if you're a landscape painter framing the scene.  This handy little gadget called the View Catcher does the same thing but with a few benefits.
It's basically a 2x2" square with a sliding piece in the centre so you can adjust the size to fit standard sized panels/frames. It also has that tiny hole that can help you isolate colours.  The benefit to using one of these over just using your lumpy fingers is that it's a little more accurate plus you can use it for thumbnail sketches.
In a conversation with fellow artist, Diane Tough, she was telling me how it was frustrating to see some people make sketches that were completely out of proportion to what their final painting was going to be. For example, say they were going to paint on an 8x10 canvas.  They could certainly do an 8x10" sketch but what's the point of that? No, a quick thumbnail sketch to get composition and values is sufficient, but what a lot of them do is just make any old sized rectangle in their sketchbook and get to work. Then when they go to start the painting they can't figure out why they can't work out the composition correctly. If their thumbnail had been in correct proportion it would make things a lot more simple, and HOORAY, this handy little gadget will help you do just that. The View Catcher adjusts to standard sizes, 8x10, 8x12, 9x12, 11x14, 12x16 and any size square.  I do a lot of 5x7 paintings so I did the math and marked spots on the view catcher for that. If you're too lazy to do the math yourself it's approximately somewhere in between the 8x12 and 9x12 mark (but it's closer to the 9x12).
So all you have to do is slide the View Catcher into whatever position you want and trace around the inside. I took a picture just in case. You know, some people like to tell you what to do but they can never actually show you what they mean, so here you go.
It's truly ideal for making thumbnail sketches and, as per the point of this post, will help keep you in proportion. If you're too cheap to buy one and not afraid of doing math you can easily cut up some pieces of cardboard or matboard that would be the correct proprtion and trace around those.  I keep the cardboard backing from a package of framing D-rings in my pencil case for a back up in case I forget my View Catcher.  Why the cardboard package from framing D-rings? Because most brands are really nice and have a ruler printed on them, they're 2" wide and easy to trace around.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 2 (1972)

This week is episode two of "Ways of Seeing".  Sorry if you were looking for this post yesterday. Next week I'll go back to posting the movies/shows on Monday.  
I wasn't sure if I was going to post any more of this show but John Preston told me he watched this and found it fairly interesting so I thought I may as well.  Wow, there's a lot to chew on in just 28 minutes of content. My mind is still swirling and I'm having a hard time nailing down what to start with. The nude vs naked topic might be a good place. In college one of my art history professors brought up this topic.  It was a lot more funny when she spoke about it though because she was an older, very petite, southern belle. When she said the word naked we all giggled. I think the woman towards the end said it best, naked is a costume you can't get out of. Some people have those nightmares about being naked in public spaces. Like giving a speech and you suddenly realise you forgot to put on your trousers that day. In those instances it's probably a fear of being judged for something you're not presenting. Sometimes you hear a woman say something like, I feel so naked without my lipstick. It's because when they wear a certain lipstick they're presenting themselves in the way they want to be seen, but without it we see them the way they really are. Nine times out of 10 they look fine either way, but if the lipstick gives them the confidence they need it can mean the difference between conquering the mountain or not getting out of bed. 
Going to the beginning of this episode it was said that with the paintings, "we can see how women were seen"  Can we? I'm not so sure. It seems to me we can see how some women were seen by some people and interpreted by certain painters. This combined with the comments towards the end of the show abut not being able to relate to the women in the paintings is something we still struggle with. I've always questioned whether or not people REALLY looked like how they're depicted in a Renaissance painting. Did they all have that pale, dead looking skin, almond shaped eyes and long pointy noses? Evolution, right? They could have really looked like that and we've all just evolved to look the way we do now. Hearing the woman comment on how the women in the paintings are not realistic and it's why she can't relate gave me a sigh of relief. The paintings were like the first photo manipulation software. The painter could make the women look a certain way even if that's not how they really looked. Photoshop isn't such a new concept. 
Again, there is a lot to chew on with this episode. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Competition One is Done

Spring Blossoms 8x10 oil on panel (took 3rd place in the competition)

The first plein air competition, for me, took place this past weekend and it was SO MUCH FUN!  I was painting all weekend with some of my good friends and some that I usually only get to see at these competitions. I also met a lot of new people and the weather couldn't have turned out any better.  It was supposed to rain all weekend but we never got a drop. 
Saturday night some of the painters got together and were treated to margaritas and snacks. While we were relaxing (shooting the breeze if you will) we got on the subject of listening to music while painting. John Preston told us he prefers to not listen to music while out painting because he wants to take it all in. That's probably part of the reason why he captures the atmosphere/mood so well in his paintings.  I absolutely enjoy being outside, being present, listening to the sounds, but I had to confess that unless I cut off one of my senses I'd never get any painting done. I told them how earlier that day I had to put my headphones on or I  would have still been at Indian Lake chasing a snake. 
While in the middle of painting this small, 7x5, pastel I was distracted by everything around me. The kids at the beach, the butterflies swarming, and the snake swimming along in front of me. 
After following the snake for about 15 minutes I realised that I was supposed to be there painting.  Yea, it's pretty sad how easily distracted I am while outdoors, so I've found that by listening to music it takes something out of the equation and I can focus a little more on the task at hand. It doesn't keep me completely calm and focused, but it helps.  The day before the headphones helped block out the noise from a squeaky swing set.  There have been a couple of drawbacks to listening to music while painting. The most notable was when I was listeining to Goblin's soundtrack to the movie Suspiria and some creepy looking guy came up from behind and tapped me on the shoulder. Maybe some day I won't be so A.D.D. and I'll be able to soak it all in without getting so easily distracted but until then I'll be "one of those" plein air painters who wears headphones while they paint. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

5 Things Top Realist Painters Do Really Well

Sometimes lessons are hard to learn For whatever reason things just don't click the first time. Sometimes the teacher just doesn't say it in a way that makes sense. Sometimes it's the attitude of the student or the teacher that's fighting against the lesson. Whatever the cause may be I urge any realist painter to watch this video and if it doesn't click the first time watch it again later. 
Steve Mitchell is mainly a watercolour painter but these lessons , he calls them suggestions and tips, work in any medium. One of the great things about this is he gives examples of what he's talking about and presents it well. I was recently telling someone how I don't understand why so many artists and teachers urge others to read Harold Speed's books. I read one and sure some of the information was helpful but the book was so disorganised, jumping around from topic to topic, and on top of that he had a wrank attitude and inserted his opinion at every opportunity. Sure, it's his book so he can put whatever he wants in it, but guess what, we don't have to read it. Point is, sometimes it just takes the right person to say something in order for us to learn.  Steve Mitchell gives his five tips in a way that I'd like to hear all 5,000, or however many he has.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Upcoming Shows and Events

This weekend kicks off the plein air competitions for me this year and I'm excited to get back to it.
Here's a list of upcoming stuff.

  • Paint Van Buren this weekend (May 26-28) beginning in Keosauqua, IA. I can't find a website or any info but I know there's still time to participate if you want to join, or just come out and watch us paint. 
  • Plein Air Group Show at Art Domestique The opening for this show will be June 1, 2017 6:30-8PM. I can't find any info for this so you'll just have to trust me on this one. The Farmer's Market will be on the square and some of the artists in the show will be out there painting before the opening. I heard there will be music as well and a possible Patrick Hazell siting. 
  • River Bluffs Paint Out is a three day event in Canton, MO, Quincy, IL and Hannibal,MO. 
There are about a gillion other events coming up and I'll update on those soon.

Monday, May 22, 2017

John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 1 (1972)

Your Monday movie this week is episode one in a short series put out by the BBC back in the early 1970s.  I can gladly say that was before my time yet sadly cannot say I didn't escape that horrible fashion era. This first episode wasn't exactly what I had expected but I found it interesting nonetheless.  It focuses on how advances in photography have changed the way we view art.  I need to make a note to see if they've done an updated version of this show because wow, has that technology changed since 1972. One thing that I really considered, after watching, was how a painting can look different out of context. If an altar piece is seen somewhere other than a church does it have the same sort of impact?  Towards the end Berger shows a group of school children a Caravaggio and asked them what they thought of the painting. This was worth watching alone.
The show still left me wondering about how we look at things. For example, when someone urges you to watch a movie in the theatre, in IMAX even, they tell you this because it obviously made them feel a certain way, watching it on a big screen with surround sound that could shake their shoelaces.  It doesn't look and feel the same as watching it on a 32" screen at home. Some paintings, such as altar pieces, were surely meant to be seen in person in the church rather than on a page of a book.  Is it the job of the modern day artist to make work that can be seen on every platform? Should it be a goal? Lots of things to consider here.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I Beg Your Pardon

I went painting in the rose garden. Yea, I hope that song is stuck in your head now too. Today I ventured out with one goal in mind, and it was to paint a landscape. I had just done a flower in my yard and I wanted to get out some place where I could do a real landscape, not just an up close and personal one. So upon arriving to my destination the first thing I decide to paint was a flower. What is wrong with me? In all fairness it was a particular shade of pink that I'm not overly confident painting so I decided to challenge myself. I'm not crazy about the end results but it's closer than I thought I would get. I think I must have some sort of a brain block when it comes to certain colours. The rule goes, warm light equals cool shadows. You may not like rules but that one's a good one to follow. So the problem I think I'm having is, if you're painting a warm colour how do you make the shadows cool? It's like having brain freeze without any of the benefits of eating ice cream. 
I eventually moved away from the rose garden and painted something more along the lines of what I originally intended.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Peonies en Plein Air

Peonies 9x12 oil on panel
Have you ever started a painting and then asked yourself, what the hell was I thinking? Don't lie.  Yesterday I was admiring my peonies and today I talked myself into going in the backyard to paint them. At first I was in love with the idea. What better place to plein air paint than in your backyard? Seriously, it was great, I had every tube of paint and paint brush at my disposal. Usually when I go out to paint I try to only take the bare essentials, so I was excited at the thought of being able to go in and grabbing whatever I needed. Turns out I used the same stuff I always use when I plein air paint. At least I had the opportunity though.  
Here's the what the hell was I thinking part.  Painting outdoors is a challenge all on its own so try not to pick a subject that's going to make you want to pull your hair out. To be fair it wasn't the peonies fault, it was the wind that kept blowing them around. A big blossom on a long skinny stem doesn't sit still very long. It's probably like painting a portrait of a two year old and expecting them to sit still for a couple of hours. This was a great lesson in finding the basic shapes and painting fast. You can't be too fussy, you have to observe and be confident in your choices. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

The A to Z of Contemporary Art Part : 1

Again, it is much too nice outside to be stuck inside watching movies so this week it's just a short, 30 minute, show. Perhaps watch this on your lunch break but beware, it's funny. We don't want you choking on Cheez-its.
With all of the frustrations that come with "contemporary art" this pokes fun on both sides of the fence. All cheekiness aside it's also informative. Make sure to take notes on the topic of "Artspeak". Out of all of the things in the world of art I think that's the thing that irritates me the most. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Know Your Limits

Road to the Beach 3x10" pastel on paper
A few weeks ago I gave a workshop to about 50 high school students who were interested in learning about pastel.  When the school teacher offered to bring sets of pastels I had a pretty good hunch that she was going to bring sets of Alphacolor soft pastels.  To a lot of pastelists this would seem like a huge setback. How can students learn about the medium with these cheap sets? Well, we all have to start somewhere and I fondly remember them being my first set.
What really amazed me was what they achieved with such few pastels. If you use pastel you're probably in the boat with most who think you can never have too many pastels. Trust me, I could pilot that boat, but I'm starting to question just how many we really need. I decided to challenge myself and use just a handful of colours to do this small landscape.  It wasn't an "Alphacolor challenge" because I did choose several greens, but I did limit myself. 
Only 19 colours which is less than the set of 24 that most of the students were using.  I'm not sure what more I could achieve with more colours.  This little exercise was fun and is really getting me to rethink some things. Is this the first step to overcoming my art supply addiction? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Power of Petite

Look up the definition of the word petite and you may get a laugh, but when it comes to plein air painting I'll take my pint sized paintings over a mural any day. Recently I've been taking an 8x10 sheet of watercolour paper and dividing it up in to four sections. Most days I make it a goal to do all four, but some days it just doesn't work out that way.  It seems to work well for me because I can get several small studies in and if one turns out decent I can go home feeling like I accomplished something. Today fellow plein air painter and friend, Carroll Michalek, invited us to her beautiful home to paint.  I took the opportunity to practice my green on green on green landscapes. Spring/summer in the Midwest can be tough as a good portion of the scenery is green. It's great to look at but hard to paint. 
Mark Twain said something like, if you don't like the weather in the Midwest stick around. The same could be said for the greens. The top study was done around 1PM and this second one was done about 3PM.  As the sun sets the light changes and it all looks different. Just by sticking around I was able to practice my warm greens and cool greens.
 If you're on Instagram you might want to follow @plein_air_forum  They have Tuesday Tips from really great plein air painters. Marc Dalessio suggests you get used to reading weather reports, not just for the temperature and precipitation but for the clouds and wind as they also greatly effect the light. "Colours will be warmer or cooler depending on where the wind is coming from".   

Monday, May 8, 2017

Julian Schnabel / MASTERCLASS Episode 9

It's much too nice outside to be inside watching movies so I chose this one for this week. Just a short, 25 minute, show featuring Julian Schnabel.  His work may not strike your fancy but it's interesting to watch him talk to the young students. It's a nice reminder to just consider all of the possibilities and to take a step back and look at things differently. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Roll Up Your Sleeves and Get to Work

Raccoon River 3 1/4 x 10 1/4 pastel on paper
Last Friday I participated in a pop gallery with several other artists.  I know most of them but I really enjoyed getting to know them better.  One of them was telling me how she's taken up making tiles. It's a new project she thought she'd like to do and knew nothing about it beforehand. She was jumping off the high dive into the deep end for sure.  What impressed me was how knowledgeable she had become and she wholly attributed that knowledge to just jumping in and doing the work. Setting a goal and following through. After making her first 25 tiles she knows a few things now. This is exactly how we improve and become more successful.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Painters Painting (1973)

Your movie for today, Painters Painting.  It's a documentary made in the 1970s.  The quality in some parts is not so great, but it was the 70s, they didn't have an app for that yet.
You really need to keep an open mind while watching this one. These are real interviews with real artists about their work and at first it feels like it's all about Jackson Pollock, but it's not. I had to pause and walk away several times from this. The BS was just getting too deep.  About half way through I thought to myself, these are artists alright, con artists, but sadly they were conning themselves. When some of them spoke about their work I sensed a feeling of sadness, like they could tell they were having a bad case of word vomit but if they didn't say these things nobody would take them seriously. It's like they had to live up to the hype. They wanted to continue being Johnny Bravo and hopefully nobody would notice that the suit was starting to go threadbare.
There was an actual laugh out loud moment when de Kooning was being interviewed and was asked something like, what does it mean to be painterly. His response, after a very long pause and dumb look on his face, "You can see it was done with a brush".
Moving on to the artist that carried on about how important titles of paintings are. A title must lead you into the painting, blah blah. Then he goes on to describe how he came up with a title for a piece he couldn't come up with a title for. Open a book, it has to be a favourite, and there you go. He opened a book, didn't look and placed his finger on a page and wherever it landed that was the title. That's how you art!
Then there's this one, "it's a zip, not a stripe".  Sir, you painted stripes, those are stripes. It's even more funny when he goes on to explain that he painted all of these "zips" then had to go back and figure out why he did it.
There are some quality moments in this one, lots of food for thought is served up so give it a shot. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

What Do Artists Do All Day ?

The Monday "movie" for this week is from another BBC series.  This one is called, What Do Artists Do All Day?  There are about 20 artists in the series with a half hour show dedicated to each one. I haven't watched all of them yet, but I've watched a good portion of them and so far they're all entertaining, informative and fairly interesting. Clearly it's not just one singular day where a camera crew followed around one artist. It's a composite of what they generally do on an average day.
I chose to start the series with Jack Vettriano because that's the video I stumbled on first, then learned it was a whole series.  I've seen his work before, it's very popular on social media. Lots of people post and repost his work all over the place and never seem to give proper credit because I didn't know it was his work until I watched this show. Turns out he doesn't get proper credit in real life either. There are several artists out there who are highly successful with sales yet get no recognition from the establishment. Some of them probably for good reason but there's something about Vettriano's work that I think he should be at least given a little wink and a nudge. His work may not be everyone's cuppa but it seems he should be given respect for the effort he puts into his paintings. He puts a lot of thought in and there's a story behind each one.  That's a lot more effort than some artists do.
If I posted this correctly the second half of the show should automatically begin and the rest of the series will follow.  Some of the shows have sound issues so if it seems like there's no sound just wait it out and it will come.