Here are a few pieces I’m currently working on. So far this year, I’ve been enjoying the little 8×10 canvases. They’re quick and easy to work on; good for little studies and trying out new techniques.
Oh, So That’s How That Works
I’ve been obsessed with realistic paintings of gems and jewelry for about a year, since I discovered a realist painter whose work I really like. She paints Indian brides, so naturally there’s a lot of shine and bling in her art. I was puzzling for months about how to get my images of gems as realistic as hers, and then I discovered she actually glues glass gemstones onto her canvases; it’s not actually paint.
So in the spirit of being really amused by this, I decided to continue trying to get ultra-realistic gems into my work. I found this cool picture of an Arabic-looking woman online and took a shot at it. It’s not done yet, but I’m learning that a minimal touch seems to be the key for suggesting ornate jewelry.
Might As Well Go For It
I also finally committed to working on the biggest canvas I’ve ever bought. I started out by just filling the entire thing with an improvised abstract, forcing myself past a fear of ruining a beautiful, blank sheet of white potential. Then I went away to Toronto for a few days, came home sick, and had to spend another few days just lying around doing nothing — while contemplating my new abstract.
Today I decided it needed to tell a bit of a story, so I sat down in Photoshop and mocked up this design. I’m looking forward to taking this to the studio and trying to apply it to my big canvas. Not exactly sure how to pull that off yet, since the mockup is quite a bit smaller than the actual surface. But, we’ll get there. I don’t do much freehand drawing these days, so it might be good practice to tackle it that way.
It’s been an odd few months around here; for some reason I’ve barely made it to the studio, and I can’t really put my finger on the reasons for that. I’ve got a bit of a rut going on; but I’ve just set a goal for next year — to do another minimum of 12 paintings, like I did the first year I had the art studio.
I was Skyping with one of my web clients the other day, while sitting on my living room couch, and she commented on how much she loved the paintings hanging behind my head. Hearing an internationally acclaimed artist saying my work was good — that’s motivational!
Anyway, I’m hoping to take a week or so off between Christmas and New Years, and I’m thinking it would be fun to bring a Thermos of hot chocolate to the studio and just hang out for the entire day, more than once.
Meanwhile, here are a few pieces I love, by my friend Lydia Knox. I’m hoping to try a few forests in a similar style to hers at some point. Both these paintings inspire me. You can see more of her work on her Facebook page.
You can find tons of video tutorials online, for learning how to paint with acrylics, but it’s still really worth investing in some good books too. Here are a couple of my go-tos. I like the first one because it helped me to understand the chemistry of the paints themselves. The second is a great ongoing resource for techniques.
Artist and paints developer Tauchid explains the properties and applications of acrylics, a medium touted as “the most adaptable art material of the modern age.” Tauchid begins by characterizing this do-it-all, fast-drying paint with its unparalleled clarity of dried pigment and bondable, virtually glass-clear polymers that do not degrade, discolor, or become brittle with time. These nontoxic chemical inventions, on the market for some 50 years, comprise more than 60 percent of all artists’ paints sold in North America today. Technical in its approach, half the book describes the chemical components, attributes, production methods, and grades, moving on to a basic primer that lists materials and equipment. Tauchid then progresses to basic applications, which include glazing, underpainting, and staining, and goes on to discuss barrier-breaking alternative approaches (stained glass, acrylic transfer, even soft sculpture), complete with demonstrations. A variety of artists’ work in eye-popping color and a wide range of styles amply illustrate this well-indexed resource.
Painting in Acrylics: The Indispensable Guide provides comprehensive guidance for painters of all experience. Realist painter Lorena Kloosterboer, known for her exceptional technical skill, starts with the basics and progresses to advanced techniques and professional practice.
My partner, Greg, and I have been getting lots of walking in this summer. We always did do a fair amount (because North Bay is a beautiful city and best seen on foot), but Pokémon Go has been contributing. We’re also more motivated to get to our art studio, because it’s in a Heritage building that’s been made into a Poké Stop. While we worked yesterday, we checked in at intervals to grab more Pokéballs. Very convenient.
On Art and Pokéballs: The Art Part
Here’s the most recent piece I’ve been working on. The right side started out planned; the left was essentially a doodle. Sometimes I like to improvise at the start, to make myself come up with ideas on the fly while the painting is in progress…and sometimes I just like to paint for the fun of it, with no idea what I’m doing 🙂
I’ve wanted to be a painter since I was quite young. If it’s true that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, I’m still an enthusiastic amateur at art. (By comparison, I’ve got almost 30,000 hours into my website development career–but people pay me to do that for a living, so it’s easier to find time for it).
Even though I don’t get to put in as much time as I’d like to, necessarily, I can see how my own technique has improved over the years.
Case in point…my early efforts to be a painter:
These two pieces are attempts at painting a “hermit’s lamp” scene, separated by about ten years. The one on the right is still in progress, and is on my easel right now. I did the one on the left about eight to ten years ago.
I can see a quality difference, and I’m interested to see what another ten years of trial and error brings.
The main things I’ve learned are:
get good reference material,
study the material closely
be prepared to put in a lot of time.
Also, never get lazy about observing the reference material, because as soon as you get sloppy and start imagining the shapes of light and shadow, rather than actually seeing what the real image looks like, that section is going to start looking cartoonish.
Also, it’s a really good idea to push yourself. While working on this painting, I bought skinnier brushes than I’ve ever had, and used them to painstakingly work on his beard, and the tree branches. It’s my first time aiming for serious realism with the trees (not photorealism, which is a whole other can of worms), and I’m also hoping for the ground and the rose to come out looking like I put some major effort into them.
Tip: if you like to paint flowers, go to Michael’s and pick up some of their very realistic artificial ones. Being to control the light source, pose the flowers, and change the arrangements is really helpful.