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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.

 

 

 

 

 


Today is the last day to enter the November Art Muse Contest.

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!

Click here to enter.

*(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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Featured

Ask the Expert…Debra Joy Groesser

Getting Your Work Out There – Tips on Entering Juried Shows

by Debra Joy Groesser, CEO/President American Impressionist Society

Why Enter Juried Shows Anyway?

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“Gone to Check the Lobstahs” 1st Place Signature Award Winner at the Plein Air Artists Colorado National Juried Show

There are juried art shows out there for all experience and skill levels. Entering a juried show can take some courage, as not everyone who submits work will have their work accepted. Knowing and accepting that going in, juried shows can be a great way to get exposure for your work. Juried shows can offer:

-Exposure to galleries, collectors and the media (all but one of the galleries I have ever been represented by found me through a juried or invitational show.)

-Discounted advertising opportunities with show media sponsors

-A way to build your resume

-Awards and recognition

-Sales potential

If any of these are part of your career goals, then juried shows may be worth your time and money. A word of caution: you will not be accepted into every show you enter. You will face rejection (in fact more often than acceptance usually) and must be prepared to accept that it is a part of the process and your growth as an artist. More on that later.

How to choose which shows to enter

Choose shows that are appropriate for your skill level and quality of work. You may be ready for national shows or you may want to start with more local or regional shows. National shows are normally much more competitive than local or regional ones.

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“Breezy Morning, Ephraim Beach”

Make sure your work fits the show’s criteria (examples: plein air, impressionism, a specific medium such as oil or pastel). If you enter an abstract or non-representational piece in a show which is for realism or representational work, your work will be disqualified for not adhering to the show criteria.

Check out the reputation of the organization or organizer sponsoring the show – beware of scams – talk to other artists who have been in the shows you are considering.

Larger shows often have online catalogs of previous years’ shows so you can check out the type of work that is accepted. This will really help you get an idea if your work is a good fit for a particular show.

Check out the number of entries vs the number of accepted works (if that information is available). Some shows may accept up to 50% or more of the submitted entries. This year, the American Impressionist Society received 1349 with 140 accepted (about 10%). The higher the percentage, the better your chances are of being accepted…if you enter your best work!

On Judges and Jurors: The judges (who give the awards) are nearly always publicized. The juror or jurors (who score the works and whose scores determine the pieces accepted in the show) are usually anonymous in the larger, national shows. There are several reasons for this. When jurors’ names are publicized they are sometimes contacted by artists who are not accepted into the show, expecting to get an explanation or a critique. Occasionally they are openly criticized on social media (please don’t ever do this!). Although jurors are usually paid a small stipend, they are not paid to do critiques in addition to jurying. Some people enter shows based on who the judges and jurors are…they try to “paint for the judge” thinking if they paint the subjects or style the judge does it increases their chances of acceptance or awards. This is just usually not the case. In my experience, you have a much better chance of acceptance if you enter your best work regardless of who the judge or jurors are.

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“Gentle Cascade”

You’ve chosen a show to enter…now what?

Read the show prospectus carefully. Note deadlines and follow the instructions to the letter. Avoid having your entry disqualified because of careless errors or omissions.

Nearly all shows use digital images for their entry submissions. You will need high quality photos of your work…use a professional photographer if necessary. Your photos must not show frames or any extraneous backgrounds…only the image of the artwork itself. They must be in focus and oriented correctly. The jurors have a very short time to view each image and they have to score your work based on the image you submit. If they can’t see the work clearly, it will hurt your score or could even disqualify your work. Make sure your image is sized correctly according to specifications for the entry system.

Fill out the application and make sure all your information is entered correctly.

If you are entering a show sponsored by an organization, where membership is required to be eligible to enter, be sure to pay the membership fee before submitting your show entry. These type of shows usually require a show entry fee in addition to membership.

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“Last Light-Olivia’s Overlook”

If you are entering a show that will be held in a gallery, work will almost always need to be for sale and must be priced according to your established sales prices. Do not overprice your work because you don’t want it to sell. That is not fair to the hosting gallery or the organization sponsoring the show and can put you at risk of disqualification. If you sell a painting that’s been accepted into a show and then pull out of the show, you risk being ineligible for subsequent shows.

Submit your entry well before the entry deadline. The majority of entries for juried shows usually come in during the last week prior to the deadline, many on the very last day. For shows using online jurying systems, once the deadline has passed and the system has closed, it cannot be reopened to accept late entries. Inevitably problems can and will arise at the last minute, so it’s best to plan to submit your entries a few days ahead of that final deadline.

Enter your very best work and again, double check your entry before you submit to make everything is complete and correct.

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“Woodland Water Lilies”

Jury Results – Elation or Deflation

This is the nerve-wracking part of entering juried shows. The waiting and anticipation is hard! Every show will list notification dates for the jury results. Mark that on your calendar and note if the results will be posted online or if you will receive an email notification.

If you are accepted:

Note shipping and delivery instructions and dates on your calendar. If you don’t ship your work to the show on time, you risk disqualification from that show and subsequent shows.

Make sure to include any crate fees, return shipping labels, bios…whatever is required.

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“Granddaddy Willow

What if your painting sells before the show? Usually the gallery hosting the show will handle the sale and take their commission according to the show prospectus. Normally, you will be required to send the painting to the show regardless. Again, adhere to the rules as stated on the prospectus to avoid possible disqualification from future shows.

Try to attend the opening reception if at all possible. This is a great opportunity for networking, meeting gallery owners, collectors and other artists. There’s a higher chance of selling your work if collectors can meet you and connect with you.

If your work is “declined” – the dreaded “rejection” letter

This is the hardest part…hands down. I once heard OPA Master Neil Patterson say: “If you’re accepted, you’re not necessarily as good as you think you are, and if you’re rejected you’re not as bad as you think you are. Just keep painting the best paintings you can and eventually you will be accepted.” It’s true!

Don’t give up. It took me 13 times entering the Oil Painters of American National Juried Exhibition before I was finally accepted. Persistence, hard work and perseverance do pay off. The only way you will never get into a show is if you quit trying and not enter. The only way your last rejection will be your last is if you never enter again.

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“Reverence”

Personally, I take each rejection as a personal challenge to try harder, to make my next painting even better than the last. Do I get down and discouraged? Absolutely! Go ahead and have a pity party for a few hours or a day, but don’t let it overwhelm or defeat you. Above all, be gracious and be professional…refrain from complaining to or about show organizers, judges and jurors about not being accepted.

Know that in EVERY show, there are always a lot of deserving works that do not get in. Every show has limits as to how many pieces they can accept. Every juror or panel of jurors is different. Every show you enter a particular painting in, you are competing against an entirely different group of paintings. Most artists, myself included, have experienced having a painting rejected from one show only to win an award with the same painting in another show.

Bottom line…juried shows can be a great way to get your work out there. It takes courage and you will have disappointments along the way, but it’s all part of the process of growing in your work and your career. Be patient, keep trying, keep working hard and growing…and don’t give up.

debra-joy-groesser-garrapata-1

For more information about Debra Joy Groesser and to see more of her beautiful artwork CLICK HERE.

Debra is CEO and President of the American Impressionist Society. For more information about the AIS including their national art show CLICK HERE.

 


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Don’t miss your chance to win gallery representation at Jack Meier Gallery in Texas, $500, $250 or $100 and many more prizes!

CLICK HERE to enter today.

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Ask the Expert…Haidee-Jo Summers

Question: How do you know when to stop working a painting?

Answer: How finished is finished?

allotment hens

“A fine suggestion, a sketch with great feeling, can be as expressive as the most finished project,” Eugene Delacroix

When I’m teaching I often come across artists who say “I liked it better before but now I’ve finished I’m disappointed with it.” I certainly can relate, and I think we’ve all experienced those feelings of heightened excitement and possibility in the early stages of a piece of work, only for that work to then come to an end borne of our own limitations to satisfactorily take the work further and a sense of frustration at not quite fulfilling the early promise, an opportunity lost.

Old milking parlour

I’m sure you’ll understand me when I say I’ve seen many a piece of work lose all it’s vitality and freshness when “finished,” and ending up with a range of malaise from muddied colors to having lost sight of the drawing. Usually an overworked painting is recognizable by being too stiff, somewhat lifeless and lacking in recognizable focus. Despite what anyone else thinks, as an artist we just know when we’ve gone too far.

fishermans shelter

Is the real problem here that we get too precious and the longer we work on a painting we may get quite defensive about all that time we have put into it and soldier on with a grim determination? If you find this happening I suggest you put it away for a while and when you come back to it be prepared to make a radical overhaul using your largest brushes or a thorough scraping down with a palette knife or a good “tonking” with paper. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Guard against being precious and working to tried and tested formulas. We learn far more by being daring and trying new approaches, and are more likely to recognize when something isn’t working and make the large changes it needs. To get a fresh view of a piece of work when you know something is wrong with the drawing but are unsure what it is, try looking at it in a mirror. Or turn it upside down and consider how the colors and values are working together as an abstract arrangement. Is there discord where you were seeking harmony?

Beach boys

When I was a student I read a quote by an American artist which said, “Say what you need to say in the painting then get out. There is no use chattering on after you have made your point.” I don’t remember who said it or where I read it, but I have never forgotten it. It struck a chord with me and has been my mantra for the past 24 years or so. Always I am striving to say more using less means. It’s important to ask yourself before you start “What am I trying to say in this painting?” If you can’t answer that then you can’t expect to know when you’ve said it.

penelope rose 1

My painting approach is to work on all areas of the canvas throughout, considering the entire composition right from the beginning rather than working section by section in a piecemeal fashion. I concentrate on bringing the painting along as a whole, and am always alert as to when I might have said enough. I may start a painting with quick linear marks positioning the subject but I am keen to soon move on to large areas of tonal value. I believe this approach helps me to form the main structure of the painting before getting involved in details that don’t add very much impact. I aim to make a concise statement.

If you suspect that sometimes you go too far in your own work I have a few ideas that may help.

When working plein air or from life, turn away from the subject from time to time and regard the painting rather than the subject. Ask yourself what’s the biggest difference you can make to move from where you are now with the painting to where you’d like it to be when finished. Go on from there to asking what else the painting needs to improve it and keep in mind the initial inspiration behind it or the feeling you are trying to convey.

hens

If working in the studio consider taking more breaks. A break is either a time to think and absorb ideas about the painting or to get away from it altogether and come back to it with fresh eyes. Looking at a painting in progress in a mirror can help you to see any inaccuracies with the drawing. Desirable as it may be to achieve a loose impressionist look to the work you still need the underlying structure or drawing to read well, otherwise you will lose the believability and it will be difficult for your viewers to engage with the piece.

Another idea for self-training purposes is to take regular photos of a painting during the stages of its production. You might find afterwards when looking at the series of photos that there came a point where you continued working and actually lost more than you gained from there on. This can be something of an eye opener and can help you to spot when and how you might bring future paintings to a different conclusion.

GracieAlso consider timed exercises. Painting en plein air is terrific training for getting an idea down quickly and developing a short term visual memory. Even when working from a static reference it is a good project to set strict time limits to train yourself to get a complete idea down quickly and with minimum fuss.

 

 

The thaw, Drove allotments

The level of detail and finish that you aspire to is a personal choice and it would be a boring world if we all responded the same way. What excites me is that people perceive a level of detail in my paintings that isn’t really there, and I love them to get up close to the surface and see the abstract marks, dots and patches which led them to believe that they could see a whole village on a mountainside. Knowing when to stop is hard, but think of your painting as a collaboration with the viewer and try to leave a little something for them to work on. Notwithstanding all of that, the very best way to finish a painting is to start on a new one.

pGpH_TyyTo learn more about Haidee-Jo Summers, visit her website.

 

 

 


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Allan Duerr, publisher of Art of the West Magazine, is the July judge for Art Muse Contest.

You don’t have to enter a western themed piece of art in this month’s contest, however, if that is a genre you enjoy painting you should really consider entering.

Watercolor, pastel, oil, acrylic and mixed media 2D artwork are eligible to enter.

Compete at your skill level for the chance to win $500, $250 or $100.

Plus the opportunity to win 6 months of gallery representation and participate in the winners show in 2017.

Deadline is July 31st.

Click here to enter ArtMuseContest.com

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#westernart #westernpainting #contemporarywesternart #cowboyart #nativeamericanart

 

Art Cafe…Remembering Ken Auster

The art world lost another great member last week. I wasn’t lucky enough to have the opportunity to study with Ken and understand he was a fun and fabulous instructor. Many years ago I came across a short video of him demonstrating how to paint a palm tree. Eye opening for a beginning painter. I thought I’d share it with you in memory of Ken. He is definitely here in spirit.

Intellect & Passion from TKO Design Group on Vimeo.

Ask the Expert…Todd Williams

Question: What do you see are the differences and purposes between a plein air painting and a finished studio painting from the original piece. I so often like the studies better because of the immediacy and reduction of detail. Yet, I know there is greatness in a studio piece as well.

Answer:

Plein Air Painting vs. Studio Painting

For me each painting should have it’s own goal or vision to be achieved, whether it is plein-air or studio.

This starts with a strong vision and design, along with the chosen subject. (I’m thinking of writing a book, written specifically for new artists to learn how to chose the right subject to paint.)

"Lauritzen Victorian Garden “ oil, 9" X 12"
“Lauritzen Victorian Garden “ oil, 9″ X 12”, plein air

Your personal vision is the heart and foundation for every painting. Without a strong concept they can become another series of what I call, ‘formula paintings’. They have no direction and all look the same.

Out on location (plein air), an artist has but two or three hours to capture the light and shadow. In some ways, what we are doing artistically, is capturing that exact moment in time.  Often the beauty of spontaneous mistakes can sometimes be genius because we don’t overthink it.

"Mitchell Pass - Oregon Trial", oil 20" X 30”, Studio
“Mitchell Pass – Oregon Trial”, oil 20″ X 30”, Studio

On the flip side, a studio painting allows you the time to concentrate on the disciplines of creating a strong painting and even experiment with a different approach or new color palette.

It is said of Nicolai Fechin, that his paintings look spontaneous and quickly done. In actuality, they had been heavily labored over for hours and sometimes days, weeks and even months. Painting areas, scraping them down and then repainting them.

"Niobrara State Park", Oil. 9x12, Plein Air
“Niobrara State Park”, Oil. 9×12, plein air

Plein air painting has a lot of positives. It helps you learn how to see and study light. To see the relationship from life of values, edges and color temperature. The downside with limited time and a smaller canvas is they often lead to the artist producing paintings that are cliché or formula looking. They can sometimes lack distinction or individuality. It’s a catch 22 where there can be the spontaneity and happy mistakes that take place, but at the same time, limit the ability to take the paining beyond a certain desired look.

I truly believe an artist that is still growing and maturing needs to have both disciplines of painting from plein-air and studio. The studio allows you to dissect the different keys that go into creating a great painting. It also gives you extra time for more problem-solving to take place. The danger with studio painting is your piece may look over worked or labored. So, to have some of those happy plein-air mistakes also take place in your studio paintings is a must.

"Prairie Settlers - 1893", Oil, 24" X 30” - Studio
“Prairie Settlers – 1893″, Oil, 24” X 30” , studio

For me personally, my desire is to create a powerful design and subject that will evoke emotion in the viewer. Also, to take the painting to the next level of what I call ‘high art’; which would include the spirit of the paint within the surface texture that creates a work of art both exciting and interesting in it’s abstract passages within representational shapes.

My main goal as an artist, is to not just paint another pretty picture, but to create a “legacy” in every work of art…

Todd is currently working on a 5 year historical project, “Legacy of Nebraska” 2017, Collection and Exhibition. This is one of the key initiatives in celebrating Nebraska’s 150th Statehood Anniversary. The exhibition will open March of 2017.

Visit Todd’s website to learn more about his work.

Ask the Expert…John Lasater IV

Question: How do you approach painting nocturnes and not arrive home with a bad painting?

There are a lot of subjects I’m interested in, but not all of them are easy when it gets down to it, like posing a model, or waking up early for a sunrise. Plein air nocturnes are difficult to get motivated for because it’s at a time of day I’d much rather be sinking into the couch. All of my nocturnes have come with some element of struggle, so that has to be part of the experience for me. It might explain some of the “bad paintings” as you put it.

The start is always the hardest part, but there’s a meditative mood to the night. Once I have a piece going, nocturne painting becomes one of my favorite experiences.

Here are a few of the basics when it comes to setting up and painting a nocturne.

Equipment

Good equipment is obviously important, especially the lighting. I used to clip flexible book lights to my canvas and palette, which was simple and cheap. Recently I’ve upgraded to a Revelite, which distributes the light more evenly. The Revelite also allows you to dim the lights to your pleasure. One warning though: I’ve found you can easily over-illuminate your canvas. A dim light is better, because you can see the value separation more truthfully.

This is Revelite

 

Color Control
This is the Revelite
Color Control

Because there is typically one main light source in a nocturne scene, you will observe a tonal, or monotone, key. One of the biggest hangups I’ve noticed with beginning nocturne painters is they color their piece as if they were painting a daytime scene. The alternating light sources of sun and blue sky makes a myriad of color vibrations in the daytime that are significantly missing from most nocturne scenes. For this reason, I practice color control, which means, I keep a limited color palette for the scene. Below are some examples.

The first scene, entitled “South and Carroll,” was under complete influence of two or three incandescent streetlights. This gave a very warm, or orange, tone to the whole painting. Instead of pushing any of the cool colors in the sky and shadows, I made sure they were strongly influenced by the warm colors I was mixing into everything else, because the shadows had no significant light source.

"South and Carroll"
South and Carroll

The second scene, called “Elkhorn Avenue,” was strongly influenced by the dusky cool sky light. The colors I chose for the shapes influenced by that light were limited to give it a more monotone effect. Also, knowing that I wanted to emphasize the warm points of light given off by the city, I made sure to grey the cool colors surrounding them.

"Elkhorn Avenue"
Elkhorn Avenue

The third scene, called “Corridor,” has a more divided concept. I was struck by how the brilliant, warm section of town was framed in by its surroundings. To accomplish this piece I literally divided the composition and divided the light sources as well. The diagram shows how you can see a similar temperature and color brought about by the two distinct types of light sources.

"Corridor"
Corridor
Movement

Because of the various isolated points of light in a nocturne, composing is trickier. In the daytime, it’s easier to see compositional shapes connecting with one another, but at night they appear more isolated. Finding a scene with midtone shapes that can connect the lit areas helps.

In the scene below, called “Cellar Door,” I demonstrate the movement of the eye, and how the midtones play a role in directing the eye to the brighter shapes. This is a large painting (24×30) created on location in a basement at a local resort. No photo of the scene would do it justice.

Cellar Door
Cellar Door
Going the extra mile

Beyond the unique considerations that a nocturne requires, I like to take my paintings a step further. One of the exciting things to study at night is the effect of glow around a light source and the colors that vibrate around it.

Oakes Street
Oakes Street

In this painting, “Oakes Street,” I looked carefully into and around the street light and the neon sign. It would be easy to be formulaic as often as I’ve painted things like this, but for this one I took my time. It was my hope that the painting would look like it had an internal light source. I’ve included details of those areas, so you can see the color treatment around the lights.

Detail
Detail
Detail
Detail

Get on out there and give it a try. Don’t worry about the failures. Simplify your colors, get a good composition going and go the extra mile!

We usually do a nocturne a day in my workshops, so check out the schedule.

John lasaterJohn P. Lasater IV developed a love for art working as a designer and illustrator for a division of Hallmark Cards.

John now paints full time, both from his studio in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and on the road painting “en plein air.” He also teaches national workshops. John’s honors include many Best of Show or First Place awards in national outdoor painting events, an Award of Excellence from the Oil Painters of America national exhibition, Artist in Residency’s, dozens of mentions in art magazines and feature articles in Southwest Art and Plein Air Magazine. He also served as a faculty member for the 2015 Plein Air Convention put on by Plein Air Magazine.

We Interupt Our Regularly Scheduled Ask the Expert

ken dewaard profile
Ken DeWaard, January Judge

We’d like to announce a new approach to make your mark. Welcome to Art Muse Contest where you can compete in a different way. The contest begins January 1st with Ken DeWaard as the judge. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to win.

  • Compete with your peers at your skill level
  • More chances to win with limited entrants in Jan., Feb., & Mar.
  • Max. 150 Entrants for Emerging & Budding, Max. 75 Entrants for Master Class
  • Low Entry Fees
  • Great prizes and special awards, including an opportunity for a gallery show and gallery representation
  • New judges every month

Visit Art Muse Contest for all the details and enter early.

Awesome Artists, don’t forget your special perk. Enter today!

Art Cafe…Words to Paint By, Irwin Greenberg

irwin greenbergIrwin Greenberg was a watercolorist who taught at the High School of Art & Design and at Art Students League of New York. Below is a primer that he would hand out to his students. He died in 2009 but his Words to Paint By still resonate.

Words to Paint By, Irwin Greenberg

1. Paint every day.
2. Paint until you feel physical strain- take a break and then paint some more.
3. Suggest.
4. When at an impasse, look at the work of masters.
5. Buy the best materials you can afford.
6. Let your enthusiasm show.
7. Find the way to support yourself.
8. Be your own toughest critic.
9. Develop a sense of humor about yourself
10. Develop the habit of work. Start early every day. When you take a break, don’t eat. Instead, drink a glass of water.
11. Don’t settle for yourself at your mediocre level
12. Don’t allow yourself to be crushed by failure. Rembrandt had failures. Success grows from failure.
13. Be a brother (or sister) to all struggling artists.
14. Keep it simple.
15. Know your art equipment and take care of it.
16. Have a set of materials ready wherever you go.
17. Always be on time for work, class and appointments.
18. Meet deadlines. Be better than your word.
19. Find a mate who is really a mate.
20. Don’t be envious of anyone who is more talented than you. Be the best you can be.
21. Prizes are nice, but the real competition is with your performance yesterday.
22. Give yourself room to fail and fight like hell to achieve.
23. Go to sleep thinking about what you’re going to do first thing tomorrow.
24. Analyze the work of great painters. Study how they emphasize and subordinate.
25. Find out the fewest material things you need to live.
26. Remember: Michelangelo was once a helpless baby. Great works are the result of heroic struggle.
27. There are no worthwhile tricks in art; find the answer.
28. Throw yourself into each painting heart and soul.
29. Commit yourself to a life in art.
30. No struggle, no progress.
31. Do rather than don’t.
32. Don’t say “I haven’t the time.” You have as much time everyday as the great masters.
33. Read. Be conversant with the great ideas.
34. No matter what you do for a living, nurture your art.
35. Ask. Be hungry to learn.
36. You are always the student in a one-person art school. You are also the teacher of that class.
37. Find the artists who are on your wavelength and constantly increase that list.
38. Take pride in your work.
39. Take pride in yourself.
40. No one is a better authority on your feelings than you are.
41. When painting, always keep in mind what your picture is about.
42. Be organized.
43. When you’re in trouble, study the lives of those who’ve done great things.
44. “Poor me” is no help at all.
45. Look for what you can learn from the great painters, not what’s wrong with them.
46. Look. Really look.
47. Overcome errors in observing by exaggerating the opposite.
48. Critics are painters who flunked out.
49. Stay away from put-down artists.
50. If you’re at a lost for what to do next, do a self-portrait.
51. Never say “I can’t.” It closes the door to potential development.
52. Be ingenious. Howard Pyle got his start in illustrating by illustrating his own stories.
53. All doors open to a hard push.
54. If art is hard, it’s because you’re struggling to go beyond what you know you can do.
55. Draw everywhere and all the time. An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached.
56. There is art in any endeavor done well.
57. If you’ve been able to put a personal response into your work, others will feel it and they will be your audience.
58. Money is OK, but it isn’t what life is about.
59. Spend less than you earn.
60. Be modest; be self-critical, but aim for the highest.
61. Don’t hoard your knowledge, share it.
62. Try things against your grain to find out just what your grain really is.
63. Inspiration doesn’t come when you are idle. It comes when you have steeped yourself in work.
64. Habit is more powerful than will. If you get in the habit of painting every day, nothing will keep you from painting.
65. There are three ways to learn art: Study life, people and nature. Study the great painters. Paint.
66. Remember, Rembrandt wasn’t perfect. He had to fight mediocrity.
67. Don’t call yourself an artist. Let others name you that. “Artist” is a title of great weight.
68. Be humble; learn from everybody.
69. Paintings that you work hardest at are the ones you learn the most from, and are often your favorites.
70. Read values relatively. Find the lightest light and compare all other light values to it. Do the same with the darks.
71. Grit and guts are the magic ingredients to your success.
72. Let your picture welcome the viewer.
73. Add new painters to your list of favorites all the time.
74. Study artists who are dealing with the same problems that you’re trying to solve.
75. Have a positive mind-set when showing your work to galleries.
76. Don’t look for gimmicks to give your work style. You might be stuck with them for life. Or, worse yet, you might have to change your “style” every few years.
77. If what you have to say is from your deepest feelings, you’ll find an audience that responds.
78. Try to end a day’s work on a picture knowing how to proceed the next day.
79. Don’t envy others success. Be generous-spirited and congratulate whole-heartedly.
80. Your own standards have to be higher and more scrupulous than those of critics.
81. Pyle said, “Throw your heart into a picture and jump in after it.”
82. Vermeer found a life’s work in the corner of a room.
83. Rembrandt is always clear about what is most important in a picture.
84. If, after study, the work of an artist remains obscure, the fault may not be yours.
85. Critics don’t matter. Who cares about Michelangelo’s critics?
86. Structure your day so you have time for painting, reading, exercising and resting.
87. Aim high, beyond your capacity.
88. Try not to finish too fast.
89. Take the theory of the “last inch” holds that as you approach the end of a painting, you must gather all your resources for the finish.
90. Build your painting solidly, working from big planes to small.
91. See the planes of light as shapes, the planes of shadows as shapes. Squint your eyes and find the big, fluent shapes.
92. Notice how, in a portrait, Rembrandt reduces the modeling of clothes to the essentials, emphasizing the head and the hands.
93. For all his artistic skills, what’s most important about Rembrandt is his deep compassion.
94. To emphasize something means that the other parts of a picture must be muted.
95. When painting outdoors, sit on your hands and look before starting.
96. Composing a picture, do many thumbnails, rejecting the obvious ones.
97. Study how Rembrandt creates flow of tone.
98. If you teach, teach the individual. Find out when he or she is having trouble and help at that point.
99. Painting is a practical art, using real materials — paints, brushes, canvas, paper. Part of the practicality of it is earning a living in art.
100. Finally, don’t be an art snob. Most painters I know teach, do illustrations, or work in an art-related field. Survival is the game.

Paint On!

Quick note: Art Muse Contest starts January 1st. Start painting and enter. Watch the video to find out more about Art Muse Contest or visit our site.

Ask the Expert…Shannon Smith Hughes

Question:

What does a typical artist’s day in the studio look like?

Shannon Smith Hughes
Shannon Smith Hughes

If I am not in my “outside studio” in nature painting en plein air, I can be found tucked away in a beautiful room full of windows over the garage in my home studio. It is my sanctuary….a place where the entire creative process becomes self therapeutic for this busy modern day mom and wife. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having my work space separate from my living space to retreat to and lose myself in my world of painting.

Studio
Studio

Shifting gears from my role as a mother to an artist is a sensory process that fuels my creativity. Walking into my studio, the overwhelming smell of oil paint awakens my senses gets the creative juices flowing. I open my palette and squeeze out fresh paint, and I’m already anxious to feel the buttery flow at the end of my brush.

Blue Ridge Oil Paint, handmade artists' oil paint colors
Blue Ridge Oil Paints, handmade artists’ oil paint colors

Depending on my mood that day, I select my music albeit classical, alternative rock, or country. Now I am beginning to relax and prepare my soul for rejuvenation. Painting is a process I call “getting in the zone.” It is a time when I am solely focused on my work and all of those lists of things to do go away in my head. There is an intensity to being “in the zone” that I would compare to how it feels to lose oneself in a really good book or movie. In order to get to my place of zen, I think about what is my inspiration for my next painting. What am I excited about painting today and why? Now it’s time to get visual. If I am unsure of what I want to paint, I retreat to my library nook in the studio and study my favorite art books and magazines. Some of my top sources of inspiration are Joaquin Sorolla, John Singer Sargent, Andrew Wyeth, and the American and Russian Impressionists.ss3

I usually have a stack of plein air studies lying around and may choose one to develop into a larger studio piece. My other source of inspiration is the thousands of photographs filed on my mac. I may go through photos for 5 minutes or up to a few hours waiting to see what grabs me. Capturing the light is what excites me most about painting. I am drawn to light and how it interacts with the subject, whether it be a landscape, still life, or figure in an interior. Generally, if you are excited about what you are painting it will show in your work. I am a firm believer in this and therefore only choose to paint what I am moved to paint! I don’t encourage strictly painting from photos, but often it is the only option. Painting from life is the best way to learn and grow. I have noticed that plein air painting actually helps improve my studio painting. I will often use a combination of my photos with my plein air sketches to create a large studio painting.ss4 I merely use photos as a reference, since it is the next best thing to painting from life. I can manipulate my image as much as needed through editing, color correcting, and cropping for the best composition. I can freeze the image to fill the screen on my monitor.

 

I was recently painting with PAPSE (Plein­Air Painters of the Southeast) Fine Art in Nashville, TN in the Leiper’s Fork area. There was a beautiful big red barn that I was already familiar with since I had painted there before.

Plein Air Study, 10x10
Plein Air Study, 10×10

Here is an example of a plein air piece that I later turned into a larger studio painting.

Studio painting, 24x30
Studio painting, 24×30
ss7
Other side of barn, 36×36

I was thrilled to return to a previous source of inspiration and further my studies. Drawn to how the tree shadows played on the sunlit barn and I couldn’t wait to get home to the studio to fill a big canvas with the other side of that big red barn!ss8

ss9I always begin my paintings with a rough sketch of thinned burnt sienna paint. A sketch allows for establishment of design and composition. Without getting too detailed in my drawing I am mostly concerned with placement of large shapes and making sure I have an interesting composition. I also want to identify my far end of the studio to see what I am doing. You really do need distance to see how the painting is pulling together. In fact, I picked up a great tip from a TN artist, Jason Saunders, to place my palette directly in front of my easel so that I am forced to stand a few feet away from the canvas instead of right on top of it.

ss10My work is not detailed but rather suggestions giving the viewer more information…impressionistic and painterly. If you have a successful start of strong composition, broken down to 3-­5 basic shapes, and proper range of values, you will have a visual map to guide you to complete a painting. The “details” are just small shapes on top of the big shapes.

Setting up a still life
Setting up a still life

My approach to painting still life is the same, except I always set up my own subjects and paint them from life. When we were building my studio, I knew I wanted a shelf to line the walls to display my collection of still life objects…i.e. vases, pots, bottles, all in glass, copper, silver, pewter, and pottery. I will spend as much time as I need arranging and rearranging these inorganic vessels with organic objects…i.e., various fruits, vegetables, fish, or flowers. I buy fish from the local seafood market and freeze it in between painting sessions…talk about a sensory experience! It is wonderful to paint from life when possible because you are seeing things in their truest form. Just remember when you are getting started, always make sure you are excited about what you are painting. I promise it will be one of your most successful paintings!

ss12

ss13
Fresh from the Market, 24×36

Most of my work can be found at my family owned gallery, Anglin Smith Fine Art, in Charleston, SC.