Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this blog is to promote an awareness and understanding of painting and the artist's spirit. It simply reflects the artist's personal experience and is not affiliated nor does it represent any individual organization or entity. All work and text within is owned by the artist and is protected by copyright. Please ask permission to use images and text.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stretching Canvas

Stretching your own canvas has its benefits. You are able to create unusual sizes that you would not find elsewhere as most pre-stretched canvases are standard sizes. You also have the luxury of stripping your canvas from the stretchers and recycling the stretcher bars for another painting. Stretching canvas takes a little time, some patience a wee bit of hand strength.  To stretch your own canvas you will need some supplies such as a roll of canvas, stretcher bars, canvas pliers, staple gun, staples, sharp pair of scissors and a small awl.  Start by putting together your wooden stretcher bars being sure that they are aligned perfectly.  A T-square can be used to check this. Once the stretcher bars are assembled, lay out your roll of canvas on a flat clean surface.  It is rather important that you do not crease or wrinkle the canvas.  With a sharp pair of scissors cut around the stretcher bars giving yourself at least two inch border from the bars to the edge of the canvas.                                                                              

Lay your canvas primed side down and place your stretchers on the back of the canvas. Take one side of the canvas with your canvas pliers, pull and staple the canvas to the stretcher bar.  Rotate and do the same to the opposite side. Then systematically pull and staple the canvas to the stretchers.  Be sure to keep the canvas taut as you staple. Before long you will have a nicely taut stretched canvas.                                                                                     

If for any reason you see some buckling in the canvas you can take your small awl and extract some of the staples and re-stretch and staple again.  Finishing the corners is a nice touch.  It helps to keep the corners nice and neat and prevents any excess canvas from bunching up under a frame.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tubing Your Own Colors

When I first started painting my teacher introduced me to tubing colors.  Being a new student I did not quite understand the benefits of tubing my own colors and thought the mixing and tubing process to be fun while being labor intensive.  Later on when I put those tubed colors to use did I realized just how beneficial it was to have an abundant supply of color on hand readily available.  There was no longer the need to be constantly mixing up color hither and thither. All I had to do was reach into my paint box, open a tube of color, squeeze out some paint onto my palette and start painting.  Now I am introducing the concept of tubing colors to my students.  It is a great kick to watch them take out their supply of empty paint tubes, pigments, palette knives and see the amazement on their faces as the pigments get swirled together into large toffee colored mounds of paint that morph into flesh tones that rival makeup foundation products.

When I proposed the idea of mixing and tubing flesh tones to my student Kay, she jumped right at the opportunity.  The series of photographs show her mixing and tubing and occasionally yours truly is shown giving a hand with the work.  

Toning Canvas-Simple Steps

Over the years many of my students have asked me how to tone a canvas. Often I would verbally explain how to prepare the canvas but found it was simply better to actually physically take a canvas, prepare the tone and demonstrate the process. Today my student Kay was at the studio and had some canvas she wanted to tone. I took the opportunity to show her the process and thankfully I had my camera on hand to document the simple steps of toning a canvas.                                        

Start with clean stretched canvas. Lay it on a flat steady surface be it a floor or a large table. Using your palette or taboret, mix up a batch of neutral color. The amount of paint mixed will depend on the size of your canvas or the quantity of canvas you are planning to prepare.                                                                 

Taking your palette knife, scoop up some of the mixed paint and gently smear it across the canvas. Then taking a clean rag, pour some odorless turpenoid onto the rag and gently push the rag over the surface of the canvas making sure not to push too hard on the canvas.

If the paint is not thinning out enough, add a little bit of the turpenoid directly to the canvas surface. The paint should thin out quickly and will become very fluid. Continue to gently sweep across the canvas with your rag in circular motions paying mind to cover the white of the canvas with the tone. The final product will be a canvas that is "stained" with a wash of color. Allow it to dry and use as needed.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Understanding the DuMond palette-A brief tutorial

Many of my students ask me, "what is this palette that you are teaching me?" To which I reply "a palette that my teacher's teacher's teacher developed some time ago long before you and I were born." Of course this explanation fetches some curious looks, but in truth, the palette has been handed down through the generations from teacher to student. Fortunately it was handed down to me and happily I am handing it down to a future generation of aspiring artists.

At first glance, the prismatic palette appears to be of a complex nature with many colors. As shown above it proffers an array of a multitude of manufactured and premixed colors laid out in strings according to values. The top string of colors are manufactured pigments ranging from white, yellow, orange, red, blue, and black. The rest of the palette is comprised of pre-mixed colors in eight equal steps of light gray to dark gray, eight equal steps of light blue to dark blue and eight equal steps of light yellow green to dark neutral green. When I first started painting I was immediately introduced to the palette and to be quite frank, I was unsure as to how to use it. But when it was explained to me that the steps correlate to the values seen outdoors was I then able to begin to understand the palette. Perhaps you are wondering about the steps and their usage, therefore allow me to briefly explain. Mind you I will only be chipping at the surface of an iceberg of information.

Looking at the palette identify the first several light steps be it within the gray, blue or green string. These light steps will fall immediately below the yellow colors on the top row. In theory, the first several steps could be utilized to convey flat plane sunlight and upright sunlight values. These light values are also known as "high key." Now locate the darker steps located immediately beneath the red colors. In theory, these steps could be utilized to convey flat plane shadow and upright shadow values. These darker values are also known as "low key." Those steps that lay between the "high key" and "low key" are known as the "middle key" and can be used in proximity to the lights or shadows and even perhaps worked into the light or shadow values. Often times when teaching my students the palette, I use the analogy of a music scale. There are notes and octaves. Individual steps are likened to notes. The "high key" is comparable to the octave above middle C, the "middle key" is comparable to middle C and the "low key" is comparable to the octave below middle C. In essence, the palette is set up in such a way to facilitate the student to target the steps thus giving the student the advantage of studying not only the appropriate controlled color values but also the key of a picture.

Perhaps aside from values one of the most important lessons that I try to impress upon my students is the study of prismatic light. Frank Vincent DuMond was purported to have said, "Silently glowing over this whole landscape is a rainbow. You must learn to see it. It is there always, and if you can get hold of that, you have something worth going after." Essentially he is saying that for the keen eye of the artist, the colors of the rainbow are everywhere and it is our job to find them and use them. And believe me, the colors are there.

Another truly exciting facet of the DuMond palette is its ability to aid the artist to create atmospheric prismatic paintings. I could go on further to elaborate however in order for one to truly comprehend and appreciate the beauty of the palette one really should study it under the guidance of a painting teacher who is knowledgeable of DuMond's painting principles and theories.

In summary, I have found the palette to be a great tool because it helps to simplify the understanding of value and color relationships especially for those new students studying landscape painting. The palette may seem like a formula however it is not but instead offers controls where a student can start and return to as needed. Those of us who study this palette are very fortunate to be bestowed with such a gift.

Published in AMERICAN ARTIST magazine

AMERICAN ARTIST magazine showcased one of my works to announce their on-line plein air painting contest Showcase Your State.  The painting "Springtime in the NJ Highlands" can be found in the February 2009 edition of AMERICAN ARTIST magazine.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Alla Prima Preparation Demonstration

Sometimes I find that setting up a still life is the most complicated part of painting. Trying to find the right combination of textures, colors, surfaces etc. can drive me bats. Then there is the composition. For whatever reason I have a tendency to keep my compositions simple. Perhaps there is beauty in simplicity, who knows. Well once all of the still life objects are set up and a pleasing composition is arrived upon, I work to set up the easel. A toned linen canvas is placed upon the easel and the palette is prepared. Time is taken to prepare the palette and as you can see in the pictures, lots of paint is mixed. After the palette is prepped, a rough sketch is made upon the canvas and once the drawing is place then the painting process begins.

Still Life Alla Prima Demonstration

Alla prima is a painting technique that means "at first." An artist completes a painting in one sitting. This grouping of photos shows how I start an alla prima painting. I first prepare my palette by laying out the colors according to their value (degree of lightness or darkness.) Once the colors are laid out I start to mix piles of colors. These piles of color help me to cover the canvas quickly. I always make it a point to take the ten minutes to prepare my palette ensuring that I always have enough prepared mixed pigment available. Time is of the essence and I find more time is lost trying to remix or reclaim a particular mixture of colors. Ergo, the desire for a prepared palette. The painting is started with a rudimentary drawing. Thereafter with a loaded brush, the shadows are massed followed by the addition of the light masses. I am extremely careful to keep my shadow brushes separate from my light brushes. That is a few brushes are strictly designated for painting the lights (bright values) and several brushes are solely for painting the shadows (dark values.) The separation of the brushes helps to prevent any cross contamination that may occur from dark colored values going into light colored values and vice versa. This strategy almost guarantees that the lights and darks remain pure and clean giving the painting that "juicy, rich" quality. The painting is developed further by merging the shadow areas with the light areas or half-toning. A clean soft bristle brush is used for this. Careful blending creates an atmospheric appearance within the background and within the objects. After the light masses and shadow masses are completed, more details are added and ultimately the painting is finished within a few hours. Before the picture is "complete" I check up on the values of the painting making sure that the darkest darks are applied and that the highest light is at the appropriate value. After a final check on the symmetry of the vase I smooth out and soften edges in strategic areas while tightening up in other areas. This I call the lost edge-found edge game. Once all of this appears to be in place then do I call the painting "finished."