Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tuesday Tips #5.5

 So the last post I was trying to explain the many pitfalls of relying too much on a photograph for the information you need to create a painting. This time I'm hopefully going to point out some other reasons why your camera and photos aren't giving you the correct information and I'm also going to touch on  how filters, auto setting and polarized lenses are going to corrupt your reference photos.
I'm going to start with non-photo issues first though. The best way to paint real life is to go out and paint it, no photo reference and certainly no sunglasses. This photo of the two frogs are of the same exact frogs, same lighting, same camera, and same camera settings. The only difference is I set different sunglasses in front of them.  The differences can be subtle but if you look closely at the red frog you can see how the different lenses affect the way the red shows up in photographs and how the white backgrounds are greatly effected by the type and colour of lens.
You definitely don't want to be wearing sunnies while painting people.  
Getting back to photo references and how you shouldn't copy them.  Last week I used the word plagiarize and I want to make it clear that it was a metaphor, or analogy, or whatever non-literal way of taking things there is. No, you shouldn't use someone else's photograph without their permission but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about don't take a photo then go back to your studio and copy every thing in the photo. You could also look at it this way. The camera and the photos printed from them are going to lie to you so copying it is going to perpetuate a lie. It's like retelling gossip. Aside from your computer screens not being calibrated to show the correct colours, or just different from someone else's, you're most likely using settings on your camera that give you the wrong info to begin with. If you have your camera set to auto then you're getting misinformation. HOWEVER, if you're simply using the photo for reference, like you should, an auto setting is perfect. Knowing that you're taking a photo that is giving you false information should put you in the mindset to make adjustments to your painting. If you still don't believe me about your camera giving you false info please take the time to check out this article about how auto white balance is probably screwing up your photos. If you don't feel like reading scroll down to the pictures. There are three photos of the same exact sky but using different auto white balance settings. Again, if you're only using a photo for reference, and not to copy exactly what's there, it shouldn't matter what setting it's in because you, as an artist, can paint the sky whatever colour you want.  Don't chain yourself to the photo. Don't say I have to paint the sky pink because that's what colour it is in the picture, or you have to paint in all 2,567 tree branches or blades of grass because they're in the photo. 
The last thing I'll touch on here are polarized lenses. The photo here came from this article explaining how polarized lenses work and how they're not always a good idea. Hopefully the other photos already gave you a good enough reason to not paint plein air while wearing sunglasses but if they didn't add this one to the pile. The other thing about polarized lenses are that you may be using one on your camera and it's also skewing your reference photos. Polarized lenses do a really great job of removing glare and making colours vibrant, but they also remove a lot of information. Then there's the polarized windows in your car too. A lot of new cars have tempered windows for the rear and passenger windows. During the tempering process something called stress birefringence happens. The tempering is done so if the window breaks it doesn't break in sharp pieces. The effect of the process is basically having two polarized lenses for windows. So keep that in mind if you snap photos through passenger windows. 
In no way am I saying you should abandon your camera and photos and only paint from real life. We all know that sometimes that's just not possible. What I am saying is, when you grab that photo to paint from don't copy it. All of this information I'm throwing at you is simply to show you how your photo references aren't true to life to begin with so why bother copying them? 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

I know it's not Tuesday but I wanted to post this to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I hope you come back on Tuesday because I've worked out what I hope to be an informative post.
So Merry Christmas and all that stuff. Here's my Christmas pickle.  For those of you who don't know, that's an ink sketch of my dog named Pickles. Recently I was at a store and saw a pickle ornament and thought it was fun, goes along with Pickles. Then I read the story about it, something to the effect that in Germany it's tradition to hide a pickle in the Christmas tree and whoever finds it gets an extra gift. I don't know any German who has followed this tradition so I think that whoever made up the story got an extra gift for tricking people into buying a ridiculous ornament. Whatever your traditions are I hope they bring you happiness and joy and all that sort of thing.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuedsay Tip #5: Photo References

"In extremely low light, such as under moonlight or starlight, our eyes actually begin to see in monochrome."
 
Let's start with some vocabulary shall we?
REFERENCE noun  use of a source of information in order to ascertain something. verb provide (a book or article) with citations of authorities.
Second word is..............
PLAGIARISM noun the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own. (a synonym of plagiarism is copying)
Perhaps if you started thinking of photo references as you think of references when writing papers in school you won't plagiarize so much. I don't know about you but when I had to write my first paper my teacher put the fear of prison in me. She had the class believing we'd be hung at high noon if we copied someone else's words and tried to pass them off as our own. Then there was the reference sheet that went along with that paper. Why was it so important? Because it's the fastest way for someone else to check and see if you copied word for word. Why is copying word for word so wrong? Because it's not your work and you shouldn't be so lazy, among other things. So how does this apply to using photo references?
First off, that's just it, they're references. If you want to plagiarize a photo why not just be a photographer? If you're just going to paint what's exactly in a photograph you're missing the point of being a painter.
Second, a photo just isn't that good of a reference. Every time a new iPhone comes out people go nuts over the new camera in them. Big deal, it will never be as good as the human eyes. You may make some piss poor excuses about how your eyesight isn't that good anymore or you can't zoom in with your eyes like you can on a camera, blah blah. Here's the thing a camera is monocular and humans are binocular. Unless you're One-Eyed Willy, then it's debatable. And if you don't understand how this makes much of a difference, wear an eye patch for a day and try to paint, or do anything for that matter. Here is a link to a very well written article comparing and contrasting the eyes and a camera.
If you click that link and scroll down to item three; Sensitivity and Dynamic Range, you'll see an example of the main differences with our eyes and our cameras and why we need to not plagiarize our photos.  This explains that our eyes can focus back and forth from near to far where a camera can not. The 3 photos partially demonstrate a technique some photographers use called bracketing. Bracketing is taking three photos where one is underexposed, an auto camera setting and overexposed in order to get the best exposure. But if you're bothering with all of that why not just hang up the paint brushes and focuses on being a photographer?
Third, you can't trust a photo. I know the saying, pictures or it didn't happen, but that's highly debatable. Give me a couple of hours with Photoshop and I'll have Pee-Wee Hermann, the Pope and Darth Vader playing pin the tail on the donkey.  Point is, point and shoot cameras and cameras on phones have settings and technology that are there to make even the worst photographer take a passable photo. A great photographer can take a good photo with any kind of camera, they don't need a fancy one with a selfie setting.  Someone who's just taking a quick photo with no interest in being good at it needs the extras to help them out and they do, by removing shadows, automatically taking out glare and autofocus to name just a few. But the even bigger problems for painters using photos for reference is when you upload the photos to a computer or print them out. Computers, or any electronic device that you're going to display your photo reference probably isn't calibrated to accurately show the colours that the sensor in your camera captured and they're 100% not going to show you the same as what you saw in real life with your eyes. Then there's the glare from those devices, etc. Move your laptop screen around or hold you tablet at an angle, the colours will look different.  Printing the photos will give different results as well. What type of paper it's printed on, the chemical mixture, or if you're printing it out on a laser or inkjet printer. They all have an effect on your photo and therefore an effect on your reference material.  Printed photographs fade as well, there are a lot things to factor in here.
Here's a real life example, I had a conversation with someone about a painting they were working on. They asked me what needed to be done to make it look better. The first thing I noticed that was off was the lack of a shadow.  I could clearly see it was a sunny day. Some of the buildings and vehicles that were in the painting had highlights and such, showing that the sun was shining on them. If I were there in person I would easily be able to point out the fact that these objects were casting shadows, but the artist shot back at me with their fact that there are no shadows in the photo so they didn't put them in. This is the problem, or part of the problem.  It's a reference for a reason, it's not something you should copy word for word. Again, if you're just going to copy what's in the photograph then be a photographer. The photo may have been old and the shadows were faded away. The photographer may have taken an overexposed photo which would "bleach" out the shadows. There are a gazillion reasons why the photo didn't show shadows, but common knowledge says that all of the other conditions in the photo would imply there were shadows in real life.
Getting the experience of painting from life you'll accumulate the knowledge to fill in the gaps of your reference photos. In other words, you'll be able to write the paper for your teacher, in your own words, site your references and not plagiarize.
Next time I'm going to try to explain another effect that happens with a camera vs. eyes and polarized lenses. It seemed like too much to cover in this one post. In no way did I even scratch the surface of this topic, there's so much more to learn but I hope I picked some of the more obvious reasons why you shouldn't be copying photographs.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday Tip #4: Beware the Bargain Beauty

This can be said for just about anything you're going to spend your hard earned money on. If you want something that's good and is going to last save your money and buy the best you can afford. If you're not looking for long term use then feel free to go cheap.
For artists, buying supplies and tools can be one of the most agonizing parts of the whole process. You have a lot of people telling you what brand they prefer, what colours they use, so on and so forth. Unless you're planning on becoming a master forger there's no need to purchase everything your favourite painter uses. There's a chance that your favourite painter is also getting paid to say they prefer one brand over another when secretly they don't. On the other hand it's nice to know what other painters are using because when you go to the store or look at the catalogs the choices are overwhelming. We need somewhere to start. A lot of times our impulses tell us in order to try new things we should buy cheap so we can try out all of them. DON'T do that. In college one of the drawing instructors was big into using gouache and we all wanted to try it. Back then I was in the mind of more is better so I bought the cheapest, but biggest, sets of gouache I could find. I used them once and threw them away. Threw them away because the quality was so poor that cheap kids' tempera paint put it to shame. I wasted money and had regrets. If I had been smart I would have purchased fewer paints of a better quality. Paint, especially watercolour, grants us the luxury of only having to buy a few tubes and mixing from them.
Another thing to consider is canvas and paper. When I got back into painting I went out and bought a huge roll of canvas because I was going to go gung ho and paint big and paint a lot. I still have 85% of that roll of canvas taking up space in my studio. I don't even really like painting on canvas.  If I had purchased a couple of ready made canvases, used them first, then remembered why I didn't like it I would have saved money and space. Same with paper. I've taken workshops where the teacher recommends a specific paper to use and like an idiot I went out and bought pads and pads of paper when I could have just bought a single sheet and tried it first. At the time I figured if the teacher was telling me to use it it must be the best. Maybe it's the best for them but I have loads of it taking up precious space in the studio. (An aside note on this particular example, if you're taking a class and the supply list includes specific material like paper, ask the instructor if they sell sheets or samples that you can purchase at the class).
This even goes as far as pencils. PENCILS!  The art supply snobs are most prevalent in the world of comic books, at least when it comes to pencils, ink and brushes. If you're not dipping a Winsor Newton Series 7 in your bottle of ink you're just not doing it right! That's a load of bologna right there, but some people buy into it, literally. I've been to demos where some of the most prolific artists were demonstrating their skills and all they were asked was, what kind of pencil are you using. REALLY!?  Like the magic pencil is doing all of the work. Have you ever been to a restaurant where you really enjoyed the meal and thought to yourself, hmmm I wonder what kind of pots and pans that chef uses because the food was really good?  I doubt it, so why do we do that to artists? When I was a kid I used a school pencil and a fine tip Sharpie.  The other day I got out one of those yellow school pencils and turned out the drawing I used for this post. I started out with a fine tip marker but switched to ink, but the point is, it's not how expensive or what brand of pencil it really is how you use it. Or more importantly how often you use it.
Honestly, painting and drawing aren't easy to begin with so why pile on regret by spending a lot of money on supplies you don't need or won't use more than once? Just because an item's on sale doesn't make it a good purchase, especially if you're never going to use it.
Stay tuned for the upcoming tips as I'll be writing about limited supplies, what to save on, what to splurge on and tools you can purchase that will be multi-functional to help save money and space.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday Tip 3: Paint With a Purpose

Meat Counter 4x6" watercolour & coloured pencils on paper
To say, paint with a purpose, might sound like something a jerk would say. Duh, if you're painting you must clearly have a purpose.  It's not that simple because a lot of people think the purpose is simply to paint. Anyone can paint. Seriously, check out James Gurney's post on Pigcaso the painting pig.
Having a purpose to your painting will serve two-fold and possibly more but I'm only going to give two examples.  One, if you paint with a purpose it will show in your work. If you're just here to splatter paint around you might work out a way to get treats like Pigcaso, but most likely you'll have something else in mind.  This one is a little harder to explain but I'll give you a windy example. I used to take a sketchbook with me everywhere I went and sketched whatever was in front of me. I did it simply because I thought that's what I was supposed to do. So and so does it and they're  a great painter so I should do it too. Here's the problem, I had no purpose behind it other than I thought it was the key to being a better painter. I got bored drawing the random stuff in front of me and I eventually got out of the habit of sketching.  If I had only changed one thing about doing that I would have never stopped. If I had just had a purpose to sketching like say, I want to get better at drawing ellipses or work on perspective or any specific reason I wouldn't have gotten bored. It's like going to the grocery store with no specific purpose. You have no idea what kind of food you want to eat so you just buy a bunch of random things and by the time you get home and unload the bags you realise you really have nothing to make a meal with because it's all so random.  The second reason why you need to have a purpose to a sketch or a painting is to keep you on track. This works especially well for plein air painters. How many times have you been 3/4 of the way through a painting and it starts to fall apart and you can't figure out what to do to fix it? This is when you go back to that original purpose. What was it specifically about the composition that made you stop and want to paint it in the first place?  What was the story you were originally trying to tell? It seems ridiculous but more often than not a painter will get most of the way through the painting and forget why they originally started the painting. Not because we've been sniffing too much paint thinner but because it's easy to get caught up in minor details somewhere other than where we began.
Having a purpose works really well for students, especially if your instructor gives you an idea of what they'll be teaching before you head to the class/workshop.  Sometimes an instructor will tell you to bring your own photo to work from.  In a situation like that you have every opportunity to work out the reasons for choosing that composition.  Do you want to practice painting trees, people, buildings, etc?  When you choose your subject matter keep in mind the reason why you did, that way you can ask your instructor specific questions. If you chose buildings because you want to work on drawing in perspective let them know that, that way they'll know what you need help with. If your instructor assigns you a subject, study it and decide what it is about it that you need the most help with.  Go into the assignment with a purpose and not just the purpose of having a finished painting by the end of class. That's a good goal but if that's your only purpose you may as well ask for a paint by number assignment.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tuesday Tip: A Thumbnail A Day

These are the four thumbnail sketches I did for a set of paintings that will be part of the Fairfield Art Association Member's Show. It wasn't that long ago that I thought thumbnail sketches were a waste of time.  My first few experiences plein air painting only reiterated that thought. I felt I didn't have time to do a small sketch because the light was going to change so fast. That was all half ignorance and the other half misinformation. I didn't know and I was too busy listening to what others had to say not considering that we all work differently and we all have different goals when we approach a painting. In school I found them to be a waste of time because I was always on a deadline, get it done fast. Never mind if it's good just as long as it's done. Now I know better.
A thumbnail sketch is useful for all matter of things. You can work out your composition, find any problem areas and fix them before you approach your final painting. You can work out your colour palette. You can place your values down so if you are painting outdoors and the light changes you have a "cheat sheet" that will tell you where the lights and darks were when you started. There's an endless list of reasons why to do them.  They don't have to be big, fully detailed or even pretty.  A lot of artists do them simply as a warm up. Athletes warm up their muscles before they take the field, artists should do the same. Writers begin with a rough draft, consider a thumbnail to be an outline or a rough draft to your finished work.  Once you get in the habit of doing them you'll find they take very little time.
On a side note, I finally had the opportunity to watch the documentary on the Ghost Army.  These men were/are amazing.  If you get a chance you should definitely watch it. They show pages from their sketchbooks and they're breathtaking. These men took advantage of their down time to do small sketches whenever and wherever they could.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tuesday Tips #1: Men WITH Hats

Hardcore fans of 80s pop music will understand the title. For the rest of you, sorry you missed out on the Safety Dance.
On Instagram I follow an account called studio and pleinair that does a weekly "Tuesday Tips".  They gather tips from artists around the globe and share them for others.  Recently they asked viewers to kiss the butts of the artists who share these tips. (No lie it's right here kiss butts here).  I'm not going to ask anyone to do that but I'm going to try to do my own Tuesday Tips here. I'm still not sure I want to even continue this blog but if I do I'll start here with one post a week.
So here's my first Tuesday tip(s), practice makes progress.  This year I learned something valuable, if you're not good at something keep doing it. For example, I'm not good at painting clouds.  Before I would avoid them, put the horizon line near the top so I wouldn't have to worry about painting the clouds in. Cover up the sky with trees and buildings, all sorts of things like that. Finally I set myself a goal to do 1,000 cloud studies.  Sounds like a lot but the clouds change so quickly you can easily do 20  thumbnail sketches of clouds in one afternoon. After doing about 200 I got fairly comfortable with them. I learned a lot in just that small amount. Small compared to my final goal. I still have a lot to learn but from the studies I've done I'm comfortable enough to not shy away from them anymore. Now my goal is to improve my skills at drawing people wearing hats. I want to work on a specific project that involves men in hats but there's a problem, I'm not good at it. It takes me a really long time to make it look right. Drawing people isn't easy and drawing them in hats is less so. There is no magic pill that makes you instantly good at drawing people in hats, trust me I checked. So the only thing to do is to draw as many men in hats as I can until I feel comfortable with my abilities. I set a goal and even made a sketchbook with a set amount of pages in it specifically for this. One hundred pages of men in hats. Thank goodness for the insane amount of western movies out there I have enough reference material to get me through this goal and if it's not enough there's an endless amount of westerns that I can draw men in hats for the rest of my life if I want. 
This is page two of my sketchbook I made in order to reach my goal. I hadn't realised how bad my posture was until I scanned this in. This is what happens when I sit at my drafting table and sit on one foot, everything goes at an angle. Here's where my Tuesday Tip comes in and I call it, Nothing Comes from Nowhere. Sounds stupid, but so many young artists believe the opposite. They see someone, who's been doing this forever, pick up a pencil and start drawing something, something from nowhere. Or so it seems. It actually comes from somewhere, their long hours of practise. When you first learned how to ride a bike you may have had training wheels and they were taken off once you got comfortable with what you were doing. Same goes for drawing. Don't feel embarrassed if you have to draw in guide lines in order to construct your drawings. You can think of drawing like cooking from a recipe. The first time you try a new recipe you may check it several times. You measure the ingredients carefully  and follow the recipe to the last instruction.  After making the same dish a few times you get comfortable and you look at the recipe card less and less. Eventually you no longer need to look at the recipe card and somewhere down the road you even put your own spin on it by adding some new spice or something. This is how we learn to draw. We first use our forms, or scaffolding, to help guide us.  Then after several times of drawing similar subject matter we gain confidence and take off the training wheels or put the recipe card away.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Just Keep Swimming

Went out to Lake Geode to paint today. The lake has recently been drained in order to perform some maintenance, which hopefully includes the removal of several tires that are currently stuck in the mud. Hiking along one of the lesser known trails there were a bunch of dead fish and several swarming eagles. It seems as though when they drained the lake they left some of the "undesirable" fish to fend for themselves and the shallow creek they found is basically a shallow grave. These fish probably won't make it unless there's a monsoon in the forecast.
My friend John and I set up our easels and started to paint. We both brought watercolours today, the easiest medium to travel with, thus we were able to hike on that lesser known trail. Unfortunately the watercolours weren't drying very fast today. In between waiting for paint to dry we were discussing my previous post about Victor Lundy. He was telling me how it reminded him of a documentary he watched about the "Ghost Army". Here's a short article about them with a couple of sketches done by Victor Dowd. "Design a Tank? Yes, a Fake One"  It references the movie that John mentioned and here's a link to PBS with a trailer and more info on the group.
Aside from being amazed at their talents my take away is that it's amazing how in such horrible conditions these men were able to be creative. Think about it. Today people feel as if their world is going to crumble if the internet is down for five minutes and they just can't cope. These men were in war torn villages, where buildings were destroyed and people were dying and could still pull it together.  After seeing what these men achieved there's just no excuse for not getting the work done.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Take Off, Eh!

Ink on vellum 
Last night I came across an article that prompted me to come out of early retirement.
I originally had this really long rant typed out about people who sit around and say they're going to do something vs. those who actually do something.  I deleted it because I figure it's a waste of time. Plain and simple there are just those types of people who would rather sit around and talk so they can hear the sound of their own voice and there are those who will let their actions speak for them. But for those who are teetering, for those of you who haven't yet decided if you're a person of words or a person of action, here is the link to the article that inspired this post. http://mymodernmet.com/victor-lundy-wwii-sketchbooks/
This is a short article with several pictures of Victor Lundy's sketchbook. When I first read the article and looked at the pictures I was in awe at how great and how young he was. Then it hit me.  How often do you hear someone yammer on about how they'd like to get better at something and then make the excuse that they don't have the time? Oh, I'd like to be able to paint like so and so but blah blah.....SHUT IT!   If this man could find the time to sketch while bombs and bullets were flying past his head then you have no excuse! It's just proof that if you really want to get better at something you'll find the time.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Dog Gone

5x6 watercolour sketch
This is a farewell post. Just wanted to thank all of you who read my ramblings and nonsense and even left comments. It's time to let this thing go.  I'll leave the blog active for another week then shut it down so fill up on all of the ridiculousness that you might have missed. Thanks again and take care.

The vanishing point

Here's a trailer for this Monday's movie, The Vanishing Point, or Ce Que Mes Yeux Ont Vu. It's a story about an art historian.  At first it seems like the storyteller wants you to believe Lucie has some sort of sixth sense and can get in touch with the feelings put behind the paintings. She's on a mission to uncover a mystery about the artist and at first she's given full support from professors to pursue this, then for some reason one tries to stop her from uncovering any more information about this particular artist. Could it be perhaps because it's ridiculous?  Seriously, why can't a painting just tell it's own story, why does one need to reveal all of the scandals and whatnot of the artists' personal life? Aside from all of that nonsense it's a good movie, especially if you enjoy a good suspenseful mystery. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Factory Girl


Your movie for this Monday is Factory Girl.  It's a movie about Edie Sedgwick, played by Sienna Miller, and Andy Warhol, played by Guy Pearce, and what her life was like as Andy's "muse".  I put muse in quotes because this film doesn't so much portray her as a muse, as we've all been told she was, but more of a whipping post for pretty much everyone. I just recently watched this film, like last week recently, because I don't know anyone who enjoyed this film. It turns out that maybe people didn't like this film because it shows Warhol as a huge asshole and a bit of a sadist. He really was all about himself, according to this film. It sort of makes him look like the David Koresh of the art world. Really, those two were quite similar. Mediocre talent, but had the persona to sell an umbrella to a fish. I enjoyed the movie, not all of the acting was great, but Miller and Pearce's performances saved it.
If you're interested in a little info about the Bob Dylan/NOT Bob Dylan character in the movie you can read about it here. The movie is available to stream from several places like, Youtube, Google Play and Amazon.  It was on Showtime last week so if you subscribe to that you can probably find it there. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Campbell's Soup of Art School

Marigolds 4x6 oil on panel
Sharing some more words of wisdom with you today.  These words come from a book I picked up at the Half Price Book store called, "Art School How to Paint and Draw" by Hazel Harrison.  I picked it up because it looked "elementary".  Every once in awhile the local art association asks me to give an after school class and I really enjoy doing them so I thought it might have some good ideas for kid friendly classes. Turns out it's kid friendly and anyone who wants to learn about art and the materials.  Seriously, don't judge a book by its cover. This would actually be a great book for any of those self-proclaimed "self-taught" artists as it is like a condensed version, or crash course in college art courses, or the Reader's Digest version of art school if you will. At first when I started reading it I thought to myself, this feels like work, but it occurred to me, DUH, art school was work not just goofing off like some people probably envision. The author makes you work for the lesson, lets you think for yourself and gives great examples.  Here's an excerpt from the section on watercolour. After reading the last sentence you'll see that it doesn't just apply to watercolour. 
"For some reason watercolour has attracted a more comprehensive- and often inexplicable- lists of dos and don'ts than any other medium.  People feel that there is a "correct" way of working and that any departure from this constitutes a kind of unfaithfulness to the medium.  For example, we are told that we must never use opaque white because it will spoil the lovely translucence of the colours; while good painting aids such as masking fluid are described as "mechanical" and therefore in some way immoral.  Eyebrows are raised if you try anything new-it is simply not done.  Interestingly, all these theories of correct procedure have only sprung up in this century, while the more rigid rules surrounding oil painting were the product of 18th-and 19th-century academic tradition and have since been largely abandoned. The best 19th-century watercolours, particularly those by Turner, reveal an enormous variety in the methods used, as well as many practices which might be frowned upon today.  Turner used opaque paint; he moved the paint around on the picture surface and allowed colours to run; he smudged paint with his fingers and even scratched into it in places.  In short, he used the medium as the servant of his ideas rather than the other way around."

Monday, August 21, 2017

The World's Most Expensive Stolen Paintings - Documentary


Your movie for this Monday is a documentary about stolen art. It's actually a great documentary explaining why work gets stolen and what possibly happens to it. There's some great history in here too.  I love a good mystery and one that involves art theft is even better. Like this show says, it's much more "glamorous" than just a plain old convenient store robbery.  There's a lot more James Bond type stuff involved. Casing out the place, sneaking in through windows, smoke bombs and all of the planning involved.  It's not like an art thief simply walks into the building and grabs stuff off the walls. They have to be a little smarter than that. What I found really interesting is the theory of what happens to the work.  Mobsters using the paintings as a sort of currency, like bitcoin but in oil paintings. I never would have imagined.  This is a great show, only an hour long and worth the watch. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

MoMA Monday

This Monday I've chosen to share a podcast with you instead of a movie or show. I rarely ever listen to podcasts or talk radio shows, they annoy me to no end. Especially podcasts, they all sound like Delicious Dish to me.  If you don't know what Delicious Dish is click this link and thank me later. I'm sharing a podcast with you because I finally found one that sounds like a real conversation about stuff I don't understand, modern art. Sometimes when I hear people talk about "modern art" the scene from White Christmas comes in my head where Danny Kay is dressed in black, "doing choreography".  Whut? Oh that's choreography, it's modern so excuse me while I put on my old school Capezios and pirouette my tutu on out of here. This podcast covers all those feelings and tries to explain what we might not be getting and I love it. Here's a short Youtube video advertising the show. 

I've heard of Abbi Jacobson, not familiar with any of her work but I've quickly become a fan of her podcast.  You can listen to it here on the MoMA site. Or download it from Google Play or Apple Podcasts.  Like I said, it's a real conversation, not a weird delicious dish one, so there is a smattering of profanity, just put your big kid pants on and don't get so offended. Seriously, we need more of this in our lives. All of it, the show, the not being so offended, the bad dancing. More of it! Go listen and enjoy. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hopefully Yours

Hopefully Yours 7x5" waterolour on Strathmore 400 series cold press
This is the front of the former Hopefully Yours store.  It moved to a new location but I thought the old building had a bit more character to paint. Unfortunately when I went the lighting wasn't so fabulous.  The front of the building faces north and the sun coming up over from the east at least made the turret fun to paint.
James Gurney has begun a new challenge to "Paint a Storefront", and it inspired me to go find an interesting building to paint. I have a love for old buildings so I should paint more of them. I guess it's a fear of not doing them justice is what holds me back from painting more of them.  My paintings just don't capture the personality of the building. Old buildings hold a lot of history in them. The people who owned them, the people who would go in them, who built them who maintained them, a lot of memories are held within the walls of old buildings.
Some history on the building is that it's part of the original Manufacturing and Wholesale District which had a unique hybrid style of Romanesque Revival, Renaissance, Classical Revival, Craftsman and 20th Century Modern. If my brief bit of research is correct this particular building was constructed in 1892. The three story Romanesque Revival originally held John Blaul's Sons Company, which was a wholesale grocery business.  In 1903 a four story side addition  was built, and today is a tattoo parlour. The most recent history of this building is that it was home to Hopefully Yours.  It's a thrift store that helps raise money for Hope Haven Development Center. "Hope Haven is a private non-profit organization that provides vocational, residential, community employment and living services for over 530 mentally and physically challenged persons in Southeast Iowa". One of the services they provide is to help their clients get jobs.  I remember working with a couple of them when I was in high school.  I worked at a restaurant called Carlos O'Kelly's and every morning Janet came in to mop the foyer and bathroom floors. To the rest of us it was a crappy job that nobody else wanted to do so we were just glad Janet came in to do it. For Janet it was her job and she took it very seriously.  She was very professional, on time, there to work and never complained about her job.  We all should have tried to be more like Janet.
On a side note, I was asked to test out this Strathmore watercolour paper and so I did.  My thoughts are, don't use it. It may be useful for crafty purposes but a lot of techniques used in watercolour painting can't be done very well on this paper. I can do a more in depth review on it if anyone's interested.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Eric Hebborn - Portrait of a Master Forger


Your movie for this Monday, Portrait of a Master Forger.  Stolen art and forgeries fascinate me to no end. Why? I have no idea because to me it's all about people wanting what they can't have or can't afford.  It's like fake handbags and other fake designer clothing. I always laugh at people who buy fake watches and handbags.  I think to myself, if you didn't buy so many fake ones you might have enough money to buy an authentic one.
I'd never heard of Eric Hebborn before stumbling on this documentary.  The way he describes his own life compared to what others have written about him, it's hard to know who's telling the truth. He is a forger after all, so is he truthful? Something about the way he presents himself in this documentary makes me question whether to believe him or not. He seems honest about his personal life but as far as his professional life, not so sure.
If you have time look him up, he has quite an interesting biography.  His death is shrouded in mystery.  Beaten over the head and left to die in the street, it's sad and fascinating all the same. Did someone want him dead so he couldn't claim any more forgeries?  Was it an angry art "expert" seeking revenge for being tricked?  Was it someone with the notion that his work would be worth more after he was dead? It's fun to speculate on a Monday. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Experimenting on the Experimental

Turquoise Edsel watercolour sketch on cotton paper
This looks like a 1958 Edsel Corsair to me.  Edsel was only in production from 1958-60 so I can't be too far off.  The Edsel began in 1955 as the "E car" and the "E" stood for experimental. Ford was trying to develop a car that would put them in competition with the other big names; Oldsmobile, Buick and DeSoto.   When it went into production they named it Edsel after Henry Ford's son.  Unfortunately the Edsel was a flop. I wasn't around for it but I can only imagine it was like Geraldo opening Capone's vault.  So much marketing and hype went into it and when the big reveal came it sold well at first but soon fizzled out. If you're a fan of The Simpsons you might be replaying, in your mind, the episode where Homer's brother let him design a new family car and it was a huge disaster. Edsel's disaster wasn't exactly due to poor design like Homer's monstrosity.  The people at Ford want you to believe it was due to a turn in the economy and the big bulky engine that required premium gasoline. In the late 50s a lot of people were moving towards more fuel efficient vehicles like the VW Bug. (It's hard to beat good German engineering) so the Edsel didn't sell well. Only 2,846 Edsels were manufactured in 1960 and the resale value made them so undesirable that dealers didn't want to sell them.  There was another one on this property so out of the only 118,287 ever made I got to meet two of them. It's fun to imagine where these cars may have gone and the conversations people had in them while tooling down the road.
Like the experimental vehicle I experimented with this sketch.  I can't recall ever trying to paint rust before and I knew it would be harder than it looks.  The parts where the rust and the paint mix, is difficult to render. Busting out your dry brush technique is helpful with that.   The parts, like the roof, where it's completely covered in rust was a little easier but the little bit of light hitting on it really makes a difference in the way it looks. You think you can just pull out your burnt sienna because it's a fairly rusty colour, but then you realise rust isn't just one flat colour. I ended up using a combination of burnt sienna, brown madder and raw sienna to get the subtle differences. If anyone has any tips on painting rust throw them my way, I have a few more of these old timers I'd like to paint.

Monday, July 31, 2017

1/2 Ryan Gander - The Art of Everything: The Culture Show


Your show for this week is an episode of The Culture Show. The show began in 2004 on BBC Two and covered artists, writers, music, fashion, performing arts, etc. The show lasted until 2015 so there's a huge catalog of episodes with film directors, actors, painters, sculptors and so on. At random I chose the episode featuring artist Ryan Gander. I must remember to be more like Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade and choose more wisely.
While his work is not my cuppa it may be yours so keep an open mind. One thing I have to comment on was his "portraits".  He explains to Miranda Sawyer, the presenter,  that he actually destroyed all of the portraits and what you're seeing are the palettes on which the paint was mixed to make the portraits.  He wants you to look at the palettes and imagine what the portraits would look like from that.  I immediately thought, hmmm wonder how it would go if you went to a restaurant, ordered a meal and the server brought you a plate full of crumbs and told you to imagine what the food would taste like.
I walked away from this asking myself, what does this guy actually do? What does he create? From what we see in the show, he comes up with ideas and everyone else does the work. How does that work? Mr. Brainwash (Thierry Guetta and a whole other can of worms)  admitted to doing the same thing. He hired a team of graphic designers to do all of his work for him.  What is the deal with the people who actually make the work and allow the artist to take all of the credit? We need a documentary on that!  The Wrecking Crew is a wonderful movie about studio session musicians who are actually the geniuses behind most of the pop music from the 60s on up.  They're the ones who came up with the music but the guy who fit the suit got all of the credit in the public's eye. It feels like a similar situation with these artists who put their name on something but don't put in the work. Not sure what to think about it all.
This episode is split into two parts and the second half should start right after this one, if not here's the link to part two

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Halt, Put the Paintbrush Down

Salon 406 9x12" oil on panel
After another weekend of plein air painting I have come home with another fun story of my adventures. My friend Deb and I decided to do a nocturne Friday night. We parked a block away from a barbecue contest and a cover band from Omaha.  Deb set up on the sidewalk and painted a scene up the street and I set up in front of my car and painted a hair salon that was across the street.  Deb was done before I was so she started walking around looking at some of the other buildings while I kept working. When I was alone, facing across the street, a cop came up behind me and scared me. He thought I was trying to break into a car, which happened to be my own.  When he saw what I was doing he laughed and admitted that I scared him. I guess I know what I'll go as for Halloween this year.

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.