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Ask the Expert…Ann Larsen

Question: There are problems in my latest painting that I can’t seem to solve, what should I do?

Answer: Don’t Give Up on a Painting…it Might be a Winner!

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“Clear Sailing”

How many times have you worked and worked on a painting and then just quit out of frustration because parts of it you love and other parts you just can’t get to work. So, you let it dry thinking you will come back to it later just to see if you can save it. It might sit in the corner for months or even years.

Sometimes we can save a painting and sometimes it should just be scrapped down and set aside. Recently I had just such a painting. My photographer husband and I had taken a wonderful trip to Glacier National Park and up the Icefields Parkway into Baniff National Park. What a spectacular artists landscape! This is a area that was so wonderfully captured by the Canadian Group of Seven and Canadian artist Carl Rungius.

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“Bow Lake”

After returning from the trip with studies, photos and sketches I was energized to start some larger studio pieces while my memory was fresh from the field work I had done. I quickly got my composition worked out and started the painting. “Bow Lake” (16×20) started as one of those paintings that seems to paint itself. Everything was working so well and I continued to refine and tweak the painting for several days. But, I kept thinking so much of the painting was strong, but I felt I had hit a roadblock. Sometimes this happens if I am away from the subject for too long. So, after looking at the painting until I was so frustrated with not being able to resolve it, I put it facing the wall and started on something else.

Occasionally over the next several months I would bring it out and try and resolve what was bothering me. There seemed to be no ready solution.

Then the 2016 Oil Painters of America national exhibition was coming up and I wanted to enter, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to enter. Then I remembered the “Bow Lake” painting that I loved. So, once again I propped it on my easel and began to think critically about how to resolve the issue I was struggling with.

Sometimes in our artistic development we have to work through problems with composition, value or color harmony by just putting brush to canvas, by painting miles and miles of canvas, working through problems on our own until we can do what we couldn’t do before. Sometimes we have to keep reminding ourselves that we are creating works of art and not being slaves to a scene or idea. This is what had happened with this painting. I began to give myself permission to create a piece of art. I now knew how to resolve the problem!

In my studies and photos there really was no foreground, only water with beautiful reflections. Those were the elements that had attracted me to the scene in the first place. But, the painting needed weight and to be grounded so to speak. So, I added more color, reflections and downed logs that pointed into the painting and towards my focal point. Now I was happy and felt it was worthy of entering the Oil Painters of America exhibition.

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“Fading Light”

Let me deviate a moment and talk about altering a scene to create a stronger painting. There is a wonderful painting of Bow Lake in the National Wildlife Museum in Jackson Hole, WY done by Carl Rungius. Now I can’t be certain of this, but after having stood virtually on the same spot Rungius stood to capture one of my studies, his painting has a grove of trees in the foreground. But, there aren’t any there. I believe he put those trees in, or emphasized them, in order to ground his painting, to create a better composition. Altering nature for this purpose is perfectly alright. Also, this is a good reminder that we are creating a painting, a work of art, we aren’t just recording. That is what we have our cameras for.

So, back to the subject of not giving up on a painting. Getting into an OPA National is no easy feat. They have many, many entries to go through and their shows are top notch to say the least, but low and behold the painting got in! An award in itself from my perspective. It was a great honor to have my painting hanging with such wonderful artists’ work.

Now to make my argument about not giving up on a painting because it might be a winner, I needed a piece to send to the American Women Artists National exhibition in Bennington, Vermont. To my absolute surprise and it won Best Landscape!! One of the jurors wrote me a nice note to say “… I was proud to be a part of the jury and pick your piece. It really stood above most every other landscape in the show with it’s strong design, color and in the confident brushwork. Loved it.” What better testament to not giving up on a painting than that!

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Ann Larsen, AWAM, AIS, OPS

To learn more about Ann and her beautiful artwork CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

 

 


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Don’t miss your chance to be eligible to win 6 months of gallery representation and be part of the Art Muse Contest Winners show at Jack Meier Gallery in Houston, TX.*

We are the only online art contest where you compete at your skill level.

Monthly cash prizes are $500, $250, $100 plus other prizes!

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*(Only Emerging and Master Class Artists are eligible. See contest info. for details.)

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Ask the Expert…Ned Mueller

Question: Are value studies really worth the extra effort?

Answer: It never hurts to work out your design as early as possible.

Just turning 76 and being marginalized with some frustrating physical issues I have just so many “great” paintings left in me and as a result I have been increasing my process of doing more value and color studies. I will mostly discuss doing the value studies as the color studies get more complicated and we only have so much time and space here to discuss things.

As an Illustration major in art school we were trained to do multiple value and color studies, comps as we called them, to work out design or composition ideas before doing a finished Illustration. They helped clarify our ideas and design and enabled us to make sure we were on the same page as the Art Director in charge of the project. I found this process to be incredibly helpful when I got into the Fine Arts and was faced with multiple choices of what I wanted to paint and get some successful results. When I am Plein Air painting I will do quick little idea/value studies to get some design ideas down on paper and especially when I am working in the studio with a more complicated landscape or multiple figure composition.

Value study 1. Color study 1.

My failure rate goes down with this process and although it is not always foolproof, I seem to end up with a lot fewer clunkers when I do a study or two..it helps me sort out confusing areas and to get a more unified painting. I use to do the value studies in oil and sometimes still do, but now am doing them mostly in conte as it is more manageable, quicker and easier to do right on the spot. Every other month or so I will take a batch of photos and do around 20 or 25 conte value studies and then pick out the best 10 of those that I feel good about, then do oil color studies of those ideas. Lastly, I pick out the best 5 or 6 of those to take on to finished paintings.

Value study 2. Color study 2. Value study 3. Color study 3.

By the time that I have gone through this process I am pretty confident that I have worked out most of the major design and color issues and am not faced with as much doubt about what will work best. That is not to say that I don’t also dive right into a canvas and let things happen as they may without doing all of this preparation – I come up with some pretty satisfying results and am convinced that there does not need to be some formula that works for me or anyone else at all times. I do find when I am doing complicated multiple figure compositions of 5 to 25 figures I need organize it with more preliminary studies to get it to where I feel that it works well. In my teaching, in general I find most students doing value or color studies usually get caught up with detail and that defeats the purpose of doing the study in order to work out the values and shapes that make up the design. It is dependent on getting an interesting arrangement of values (darks, midtones and lights), shapes and edges for a value study and for a color study an interesting arrangement of colors (which includes values), shapes and edges.

Value study 4. Color study 4.

We need to ask ourselves questions as we work these studies out and try and remember that usually balance in art means unbalance. A good example being a large dark tree will be balanced by a small dark tree – equals become boring and so on. One usually would like to have your picture more dominant with darks, or with midtones or with lights. More dominant midtones would be balance by a smaller group of darks and so on. We usually see too much, so generally work from bigger value and shape relationships to smaller.

Value study 5. Color study 5.

As we usually see too much squint down to try and see the larger value and shape relationships and not the detail and minor accents at the start Try and think in shapes and not in line. It sometimes helps to define shapes with a line but it is the massing and relationship of values and shapes that are important. Do I have a nice arrangement of large, medium and small shapes and values, some busy, busier and quiet areas to enhance the picture?

 

 

Value study 6. Color study 6.

Do I use dark and light shapes and similar colors to move my eye around the picture and sharper, softer and darker and lighter edges to help lead my eye to where I want to viewer to go?  Am I using shapes of different color, but similar values to form more interesting or dominant shapes, and the same with lights and midtone? Can I change a shirt value and color, add a bush, a group of rocks, or take out things that will make the picture more compelling or beautiful?


Value study 7. Color study 7.

It really helps to be familiar with the subject so we can add or subtract things that can enhance or hinder the picture. Use  imagination and ideas that will make it more of our unique voice. I hope this helps you with creating studies They don’t have to take long. They are usually quite fun and often better than our more “finished” paintings. The color studies take a bit longer but can really give a heads up on resolving a lot of major color relationships and issues early on.

Visit Ned’s website to learn more about him and wonderful work.


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Only 2 months remain to be eligible to win 6 months of gallery representation and be part of the Art Muse Contest winners gallery show at Jack Meier Gallery in Houston Texas!*

*(Emerging Artist and Master Class entrants only. See contest rules for more info.)

Plus we award cash prizes of $500, $250 and $100 every month and so much more.

We are the only online contest where you compete at your skill level against a small number of artists. You won’t find odds like this anywhere else!

Don’t delay, enter today!

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Ask the Expert….Cheryl Magellen

Question: Any advice for artists who want to become portrait painters?

Answer: Getting Started as a Portrait Painter

 

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The Screen Printer, 16×12, oil

Generally speaking, artists who choose to paint portraits have an undying passion for painting people. Although they may paint other genres, they will find their joy and a challenge in portraying the human form. They may have particular types of people they prefer to paint—children, women, family members, ethnic groups, etc. — but the common thread among these artists is the ever-expressive face.

As long as there have been artists, there has been a need for portraiture. In most cases, the end result portrays the character and unique attributes of the sitter but the style of the artist will set each work apart. In early Egypt, portraits were done in profile, romantic portraiture was more animated, and Expressionistic portraits were more colorful and garish. The Grand Style depicts more idealized or larger than life forms, whereas prosaic style is more realistic in nature. Then there are the types of portraits: religious, historical, celebrity, nude and vanity portraiture. And, portraits do not have to be limited to people. Several portrait artists use pets as their subjects.

Portraits can range in scope from closely cropped images similar to Ivan Kramskoy’s “Portrait of Unknown Woman” (1833), to complex figurative pieces with multiple subjects as in Joaquin Sorolla’s “Seville, the Dance” (1915). When painting to please yourself, you can choose to paint as much or as little of a figure as you want, but when working with clients, you may find yourself limited by the client’s budget.

FINDING YOUR STYLE AND YOUR CLIENTS

In today’s world of contemporary portraiture, it is difficult to find an artist who works in a style that is totally unique. Whether intentional or not, each piece of art produced will have some similarities to the work of another artist. What we want to do as artists is to find the subject and style that works best for us. This certainly does not mean we can’t experiment or change, but it is helpful to have at least one thing about our work that sets it apart. This can be as simple as using a similar framing style, using the same light source or body position, using the same color palette, or by obscurely placing the same symbol or item in each of your paintings.

Ask yourself, what style of painting are you interested in producing? Do you enjoy tight, photorealistic styles, or loose, impressionistic styles? Totally abstracted portraits and figures? If you aren’t sure how you would like to draw or paint your subject, do some research to seek out artists who paint in a style or method that appeals to you. Try duplicating sections of their work to see how they were able to get the effects they did.

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                                                The Antique Dealer’s Daughter,  18×24, oil

Most people who have been classically trained to draw will more than likely continue to paint realistically, but realism is not the only way to paint. Sometimes being less realistic and more creative in your painting style may lead to more decorative artwork that would be desired by persons who don’t care to hang a portrait of someone they don’t know in their home or office. Or, if it is someone they do recognize, perhaps they want the painting to portray the character of the person rather than their likeness. Character sketches are a testament to this. The clients who publicly sit for character sketches seldom expect the finished work to look just like them. The upside of abstracted portraits is that they are sometimes easier to market because they are more generic. Clients who seek these out may be looking for a particular color scheme that goes with their decorative style. Painting a repetition of the same color harmonies may lead to multiple sales, as well.

The upside of realistic portrait painting is that it is a field of study that is highly respected. Many top awards are honored to artists who are successful in their craft and these artists are sought out to do commissions for people from all backgrounds and artists can make a decent living if they are among those chosen artists. Other artists may also choose to purchase paintings from these accomplished artists.

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Crew of Four, Private commission, 18×24, oil

Finding those clients can, however, be quite challenging without extensive marketing efforts. Popular thought on who buys realistic portraits of recognizable people suggests locations where family history is of value. These commissioned works become treasured family heirlooms, made to be passed down from generation to generation. The lives and accomplishments of the subjects portrayed turn into stories to be told over and over, throughout time. Another group of clients may come from the business and professional world—presidents, CEOs, professors, and other distinguished persons, and clients who commission these works will more than likely be found through referrals.

If you are new to portrait painting and don’t yet have a body of work, choose a location where your chosen subjects might be found and ask a few people if they wouldn’t mind sitting for you for the practice. This is a great way to build your portfolio, and there is a chance you might end up selling a finished piece. Just make sure you get a good quality photograph for your portfolio before you let it go!

Lastly, if you are painting the subjects you have chosen to focus on, your sales will probably come from the same group of people who are providing you with references. For example, if you visit religious organizations to gather reference materials, this will also be your target market. Leave business cards on bulletin boards, advertise in their newsletters and talk about your art with people who are gathered for a public function. Offer to display one of your paintings in a prominent area.

If you truly love painting figures and faces, you will be motivated to find new and interesting subjects and figure out ways you can make your paintings stand out from the rest. The important thing is to keep painting. Remember the saying: “If you build it, he (they) will come.”

Visit Cheryl’s website to learn more about her and her work.


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There are only 2 months left to enter and be eligible to win the opportunity to be part of a gallery show and 6 months of representation at Jack Meier Gallery in Houston, TX.

Don’t miss you chance to compete at your skill level against a small number of entries, win $500, $250 or $100 and much more!

We are the only online art competition with a prize package that offers gallery representation and a gallery show.*

Click here to enter today!

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*For Master Class and Emerging Artist Winners.