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.