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Check out this blog post by keri smith on creativity and success. I thought it was a gem. She touches on things close to my own heart, it’s just nice to hear them said by someone else.

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Paintings in progress

April 26, 2012

Painting in progress

This painting is just being started. It is in acrylics and painted much more loosely than the previous ones- I’m getting closer to my goal of working as spontaneously in oils paint as I do in oil pastels.

Before this one, though, I started one in oils, it is going well, but I have to wait for it to dry before going further. That’s why I’m using acrylics on the one above.

I’ve got some tips for working with acrylics which might be useful, I’ll make a short post of those, (scroll down to the post below this one).

Here is a peek into the process of the oil one. By the way, these are, for me quite large- 50 x50cm or about 24″x 24″.

The study below is in acrylic and is only about 20c x 20cm, 8″x8″. I purposely limited my time working on it to about 25 minutes and didn’t correct or improve.

Study for painting, acrylic on board

Below is the underpainting in acrylic for the large format oil painting.

Acrylic underpainting

I wanted to catch the colors that still glow out of the bottles when their real colors are added.

Here is this one in progress:

Oil painting in progress

Acrylic tips

April 26, 2012

Keeping acrylic paints wet

This is a quick post to share a few things I’ve learned in the years I’ve painted with acrylics.

In between sessions, I keep my squeezed out colors moist by first spraying them with a plant sprayer then covering groups of colors with these little plastic mixing cups. Anything else will do, small bottles or jars, but they can’t have too much air in them or the paint will dry. I can keep the colors workable this way for about a day and a night.

And my other tip, learned in the recent workshop I took and wrote about here is to use a big jar for rinsing brushes during painting, filled with hot water. It dissolves the paint much faster and more thoroughly.

Try it, it makes changing colors while painting really pleasant and easy.

my bottle collection 2

The composition is a crop of the first painting in this series.

It was three quarters done before I took the loosening up workshop mentioned in the last post, and is quite smoothly painted,  so I completed it in the same style. Actually, even though I felt I was working looser than number 1 in the series, it looks a lot tighter.

At the last minute I added the metal ring on bottle 2 from the left. That saucy little horizontal line makes it for me. It pulls attention away from the high contrast bit on the left flank of the blue bottle and balances the composition.

I washed my brushes this morning, it is turning into a favorite pastime instead of a dreaded chore. Sun coming in through the kitchen window, morning blackbird song.  And no solvent soaked newspapers or odor, thanks to j.harms who commented on this post.

No blue skies allowed

April 15, 2012

Yesterday I attended an all day workshop on how to loosen up your painting technique.

We were a group of about 15 people at various levels of ability under the instruction of Antje Sonneschein, a German artist living in Holland. Below is a painting of hers. Here is a video of one of her workshops, in Dutch, but you get an idea of the work and atmosphere.

The Red Farm by Antje Sonneschein. Image from Kunst.nu

Her style is reminiscent of the  (founded in 1918) Groningen Expressionistic group called ‘de Ploeg’ which means ‘The Plow’. They used bold forms and bright colours to paint the Groningen countryside and villages. See below, a painting by de Ploeg artist Jan Altink.

Painting by Jan Altink. From the site of JBalvers .

In the morning we selected a landscape photo to work from.

We could do anything we wanted- with one stipulation, we were forbidden to paint the sky blue.

The reason for this was that the sky determines the coloring for the whole painting, so by choosing an alternative color for the sky, you immediately are thrown into a different palette than your familiar one.

First, we made a charcoal sketch on a small piece of matte board, already making decisions about what to leave out, change or add to make a better composition.

Then we went to work, over the charcoal, in acrylics with a relatively large brush and quickly mapped in the colors. We had 20 minutes from start to finish including the sketch. This resulted in the most spontaneous work of the day. Here is mine.

The photo I selected is fairly close to this. I liked the flowing landscape, the road, and the grouping of trees on the right. The yellow is a mass of dandelions which made a very troublesome foreground, and I chose that as a challenge.

Then we started on a large version of our painting. About 18 x 24″ on a thin piece of MDF board coated with a thin layer of neutral grey. We sketched in our composition with white pastel and went to work with thin paint and a large brush.

I liked this underpainting so much for its rhythm and confidence (sound familiar?), I didn’t want to ruin it so I started another one. (We worked from background to foreground, so the trees will be added later).

Underpainting

My epiphany for the day was when I asked the instructor how to progress from the underpainting and keep the same freedom. Whereby she came along, and with my permission, took an inch wide brush, a huge glob of white paint and some ochre, and in a few quick strokes, painted in the sky.

It is difficult to describe my reaction. Read the rest of this entry »

van Gogh still life taken by me standing in front of the original

No, sadly enough the above image is not my new still life. It is an early van Gogh.

I treated myself to a midweek excursion to a museum I’d wanted to visit for years, – the Kröller Müller  in the Veluwe area of Holland. It is a 3 hour train journey from up here in the north. I found a good hotel deal and took off on Thursday.

It is a lovely museum, if you are into museums. I don’t know what was wrong with me that day, but all the glass, white walls and modern art were oppressive. (Whereas in England and Scotland, the often historical buildings which house their art museums are magical just to enter.)

I went mainly for painting inspiration. I wanted to be taught by 19th and 20th century masters how to handle paint in a more spontaneous way. Well, the only moments of awe or magic I had were in front of the van Goghs.

Helene Kröller-Müller started collecting his paintings early on, and these less known works are just so beautiful. (Amazingly, this museum allows you to photograph the art as long as you don’t use flash. I think they just gave up the fight, how can they take everyone’s iPhones away?!).

So the photo above was made in front of a real van Gogh, the canvas bearing the marks of his hand and eye and heart. It was extremely moving to be in the presence of this work, it is so sensitive and full of love for the object, for life, for colors.

The way of working is delicate but strong, and the strokes, though stylized have not yet evolved to those whirling impasto strokes characteristic of his later work. I must say though, that some areas of some of the paintings were so thickly applied, they looked sculptural. This is completely alien to my way of working,  I really have to get my head around it before I can experiment with it myself.

Luckily I just signed up for a full day workshop on how to handle paint more spontaneously. I’m looking forward to loosening up!