Feb 062010

In this blog post I will discuss the techniques that I use to paint the shy and water in the painting “Thoughtful Spot”.

First let me point out that I use Golden Fluid Acrylics exclusively and LOVE them. They are the best on the market as fare as I am concerned. They are a creamy consistency that has all of the pigment as a heavy bodied Acrylic. This allows you to thin them with water in order to get the type of detail that I like to get in a painting, and still keep the coverage and bonding ability. Fluid Acrylics are a must for anyone painting detail!

One thing that I have learned after doing it several times and then being disappointed is, you do not need to put a lot of detail into the background of a painting that will eventually be covered up with detail in the foreground. Even though I have learned this, I am still guilty of putting too much detail into part of the painting that will gust be covered up later on in the painting process.

In this case the sky in “Thoughtful Spot” will be covered up for the most part with the tree limbs, branches and leaves. Because of this, it is not necessary to put a lot of clouds in the sky. This particular sky is a very, very pale blue, as is in the photograph. Most skies are lighter at the horizon and deeper as you get to the top of the painting. If you work from a photograph as I do you can easily see this. With this painting being only 12” x 24” the shy is not all that large, however when your are painting with Acrylics they dry so fast that it can be difficult to blend from the lighter to the darker parts of the sky. You can use a Retarder which will slow down the process but you have to go by the directions on the bottle or the paint will become gummy and not dry. I prefer to not use a Retarder myself but just work fast. I have a four fluid ounce bottle of Retarder that I have used for the past ten years and still have a third of it left.

When I first started painting skies I had to paint them over and over until I got the look I wanted. Some times it took me two or three hours just to get it right but that was part of the learning process. One shy took over four hours but I found myself going to hat painting over and over again just because I could loose myself in the sky. It was just perfect to me and I learned more in those four hours from that experience than I had learned my whole life until that time about painting skies. You too, will learn a lot by just doing. This is how you will develop your own technique.

In this painting I mixed my darkest blue for the shy on one side of a Styrofoam plate and put a small pile of white on the other side of the plate. I left the blue in my brush from mixing the paint and mix that with pure white and begin the sky at the horizon adding more of the light blue, which I have already mixed up, gradually until I reached the top of the painting. By the time you do this the paint on the horizon will already be dry and you will not be able to go back into that part of the painting or it will mess it up. You have to work with the wet edge as quickly as possible.

Thoughtful Spot Sky and Water 800

This is the technique that I used with this sky, in this particular painting. I also used this technique in the water reflection just in reverse, with the lighter sky area at the top of the reflection and the darker sky area at the bottom of the reflection. In this particular painting I did the sky and the sky reflection of the water with the step of laying in the color as in the early blog on this painting. This is a short cut for this painting because the shy is simple and the water is only the preliminary painting that will just have the reflection painted over it at a later time.

There are a lot of different sky techniques that I have used and I will discuss them in a later blog. Some with a wet technique like painting with water color and some with a dry brush technique depending on clouds and what affect you are looking for.

The best thing you can do with painting skies is just practice and practice. With my first few paintings, after not painting for twenty five years, I found painting the sky and water always the most challenging. But to me, the finished effect of the shy and the water is the most rewarding as well. I find the most challenging things about painting the most rewarding once you have mastered them. Painting water was my greatest challenge at first and the sky being my second greatest challenge.  I don’t know if that will be the same for you or not but it was for me. Jump right in and tackle the thing that you fear the most with your painting and you will find that will give you the most reward in the future. Good luck and happy painting.

Feb 052010

In this blog entry I want to discus the first step in beginning the acrylic painting process. I will go into the details of exactly how I get the basic outline for the painting and lay in the color.

The first thing that I do is take the photo image that I have printed off. In this case it is the photo that is made up of six sheets of paper that I printed off with Adobe Photoshop and then cut the edges that overlap and taped them together with glossy scotch tape. The photo is the exact size of the painting that I will be painting.

Thoughtful Spot larg photo print

I use the most inexpensive, photo quality paper, to print these images on. I tried to use just plane paper but, not having at least the quality of a cheep photo paper to look at, drove me crazy. I couldn’t even paint until I printed out another print. I also keep my notes on the side of the photo. I wright down how many hours each step takes for documentation. I then know how many hours each original takes. This is something that I have just started doing.

After the standard hardboard is prepared as in the post “What Surface Should Be Used For Detailed Acrylic”. I then lay graphite tracing paper on the board and lay on top of this the photo lining up the corners. After that I lay a piece of see-through tissue paper on top of this and trace the main lines of the painting.

Thoughtful Spot grafite and supplies 800

I do not trace the whole image but only the main lines that will help me lay in the color. Some of these just get lost when the color is laid in but it gives you a starting point. This is just a short cut to getting the image transferred instead of having to do it by laying the grids in as in the past. I have drawn countless detailed drawings in the past and I just want to get the paint laid in quickly and not waste time in this process. I use a blue ballpoint pen and press hard in order to transfer the lines.

Thoughtful Spot tissue paper 800

(Note:  I did not photograph this one step with “Thoughtful Spot”. These last two pictures are of two other paintings of French Creek.)

The blue is to help me see where all I have traced so that I can complete this process quickly. This process takes about five minutes to complete. You don’t have to take a lot of time because you will just have to draw it in with paint later anyway.

Thoughtful Spot drawn in 800

After this step is completed I then lay in the color. With this process, I lay the color in taking the time to get very close to the color that I want to end up with in the final painting. This will enable you to paint in the detail and not worry about covering all of the background surface,  the background color will already be there. This process will take about half and hour to forty five minutes depending on the differences in the subject matter. Some times the color has to be laid in several times to get it dark enough depending on the color and shade. Black for instance usually takes two or three coats.

Thoughtful Spot color layed in 800

Note: I sometimes lay in the color for sever paintings at one time in order to have several paintings to the point of laying in the detail. It can speed up the process especially if the paintings are similar. Some days you may feel like laying in the prep work and not doing the detail. Other days you may feel like doing detail. It is nice to have paintings at different stages depending on your mood that day. For the most part I love the detail days the most but occasionally, I just want to do prep work. Your will have a lot more detail days than prep days.

I like to use the layer of see-through tissue paper over the photo and draw the blue ink lines on it instead of drawing them right on the photo so that I can still lay the photo on the table above the painting in progress in order to get the detail. At first I just drew on the photo but I learned by trial and error that I prefer to not have the lines on the photo.

Thoughtful Spot double 800

When laying in the color you begin with the sky and water, then the tree line in the far background on the other side of the river, after that the trees and the main limbs and last the grass. Usually you lay in the color for the objects furthest away first and end with the objects closest to you.

As I mentioned in earlier blog post, I am a self taught artist and all of these steps are steps that I have developed over the last ten years that have made the process of painting a painting easier for me. I want to pass them on to you to make your process easier from the beginning. If any of these steps can make it easier for you it would make writing this post worth it.

Now you are ready to start the serious painting. I would subject that you go threw this process with your own photo and not try to copy mine. You would not be able to blow this one up for one thing and your will not be a pleased with it if it is not all your own. I painted two oil paintings from an art book thirty years ago. They showed you how to paint the painting step by step as an exercise in painting an oil painting. You were to end up with the experience of the project along with your own painting of the painting the author did. Although I learned a lot and my painting was not exactly like the artist’s in the book it did not mean as much to me as one that I have done myself. I did two of these exercises and ended up with two rather nice paintings but every time I think of them or see them the thing that comes into my mind is, “They are not originals of mine”. I would never want to show them to anyone because of this. I am only giving you these steps so that you can come up with your own masterpiece that will be all yours. It will just make the process easier.

Feb 032010

It is great to be able to blog again. I want to take one painting and go threw the whole process, step by step, in detail  to get across all that goes into a great painting. You can master the techniques in order to create photo realism but if the subject or composition are not strong all that effort will not be appreciated to its full potential. I feel that an acrylic painting needs to have a strong composition so that it can stand alone without a frame. With watercolor you can add several mats and a frame that fits that particular painting and it can pop . However, with acrylic and oil paintings all you have is the frame, which to me is a plus, but the composition has to be strong.

In this post I want to discuss in detail the composition of this one painting, “Thoughtful Spot”. I will begin with the original photo that I took and then cropped. A digital camera with 12 mega  pixels or higher is one of the best tools for a realism artist. You also need  a computer, a good photo program and a good printer.

Here is the original photo I took with my Kodak EasyShare Z980 camera.

Original Photo Thoughtful Spot 800

With the digital image and a good photo program you can then crop the picture into a strong composition to paint. It is rare for me to use the picture exactly as I have taken it. I like to crop the image into several possible compositions and sizes of  paintings and then choose the one that I think will make the best painting. I use Adobe Photoshop and have for years.  I like to crop it into the same size that I am going to paint and them print it off to use as a reference. This is helpful if you like to paint detail as I do. This next image is the one that I cropped for the painting “Thoughtful Spot” and it is the one that I printed off on my printer in an image that is 12″ x 24″. The Adobe Photoshop program will print it off for me in several sheets of paper that I then cut with a paper cutter and tape together. I like to use the shiny scotch tape because the image is clearer with this tape. I cropped four different possible paintings and chose the image below. Of course I only print out the one composition that I have chosen to paint.

french creek crop selected

Here is the painting that I painted from this photo.

Thoughtful Spot 800

This painting is titled “Thoughtful Spot” and is 18″ x 30″ framed.

(Please keep in mind that the photo of this painting was taken in artificial light. Because of the glossy protective finishes that I put on the originals after they are done they do not photograph well. You usually see a glare on some part of the photo. The amber color  in this photo is not in the original. It is lighter and the white in the sky and water  is more like the original photo.)

Keep in mind that when you are using the photo program you can also adjust the photo and add  contrast, brighten it a bit as I did in this case or even adjust the color. I do all of that with different photos in order to get the feel that I want.

As you can see there are still some adjustments that you may want to make in the final painting. In this one I did not add the bridge in the background. It was early fall when I took the picture but wanted to paint a summer seine. I also added some sunshine on the tree trunks to help the trees stand out and add some warmth to the painting. You can also see that by having the picture the same size as the painting you can add the detail like the detail in the tree trunks and branches that help to make the painting.

In a later blog I will go into more detail about composition but I would like to make one more point here. You want to have at least one center of interest in your painting. This is a place in the painting that causes the viewer to pause and focus on different interesting places that their eye naturally wants to linger. This along with the ability to paint light will be what makes the viewer linger on your painting when it is hanging in an art gallery over other paintings that may be next to it. In this painting there are three or four centers of interest.  As you can see the main one is the two tree trunks on the river bank. The second one is the grass on the bank, after your eye first goes to the two main trees, it then goes to the grassy bank and your eye pauses there for a moment, after which it goes on to the next center of interest which is the water and its reflections. After pausing there a bit your eye goes back to the trees and then the bank and then the water again, only to then see the last center of interest which are the three trees on the bank in the background. After pausing there a bit it then goes on to what is not seen and you begin to daydream about what is just beyond the bend in the river and you have found that in this interaction with the centers of interest you have placed yourself into the painting.

This brings me to another point that I would like to make about composition. You want to keep the eye of the viewer on the image. You do not want their eye to be drawn off of the image, right onto a painting in an art gallery that is next to yours. Once  you catch their eye, you want to keep it on your work for a while. In the paragraph above, I mentioned the forth center of interest which was the three trees in the background that caught your eye and then you would start to daydream and wonder what was around the bent. If the tree to the fare right was angled to the right instead of the left it would at that point pull your eye off of the image. Instead as you begin to daydream and get to that point with your eye the tree angled to the left pulls your eye back into the painting.  Two more points, first the two main trees in the first center of interest, as your eye focuses on them with the way they are angled, the one to the right pulls your eye to the grassy bank and then the one to your left with its slant to the left along with the first tree branch pulls your eye to the water. Then the reflection in the water to the left with the point of the V in the reflection, pulls your eye right back into the painting onto another center of interest. If the two main trees were angled toward each other your eye would go two that point where they meat and stop without flowing onto another center of interest. Also if the V in the reflection was pointing the other direction it would pull your eye right off of the painting.

This is not something that the viewer is awaire of in most cases, but  is a very important aspect to consider when deciding on a strong composition.

If you look at the original photo that I used to crop for this painting you will see a tree to the fare right that is angled too sharply to the left. I cropped this tree out of the painting because it would have been a negative center of interest that would have been distraction to the composition and would have been in contrast to the relaxing and peaceful mood of the painting. When my eye went to these two trees they just stopped. I could not get them to move at that point. You don’t want the viewers eye movement to just stop or they will also move onto another painting that just might happen to be next to it in a gallery. You want the eve movement to continue so that they linger a wile with constant eve movement.

As you can see a lot of thought goes into the composition of a great painting. One more thing that I thought about was putting a fisherman in the painting. I have not put people into my paintings yet but have been thinking about doing so. After thinking about it for this painting I came to the conclusion that I wanted the viewer to see an inviting, sunny, grassy bank that would make them want to linger a wile. I have found myself feeling like I had to move on when I go fishing and find a beautiful spot to fish, if it is already occupied. I didn’t want the viewer to get this feeling when viewing the painting and not inter in.

This is a lot to take in, at least it was for me, but as your mind dwells on this topic you will be able to comprehend these concepts and it will become second nature to you in time.

Cameo of Thoughtful Spot 800

One last thought about your eye being drawn into the painting. The detail that is put into the individual blades of grass draws your eye into the center of the painting. By not putting the same level of detail into the lower right hand corner of the painting, where there is also grass, helps to draw the viewers eye to where you want it to go. Different levels of detail also have an effect on the eye movement of the viewer.

Jan 012010

Flat Painting Surface

It has been hard to blog lately with the holidays and such but I wanted to get back at it. The above photograph is of my work surface. Is is a table that is 30″ deep by 42″ wide. The paintings are painted on standard hardboard as described below.

In this topic, I want to talk about the type of surface that I have used in the last few years for my detailed Acrylic paintings.

I find that the best surface to paint detailed Acrylic paintings on is standard hard board. The tempered hardboard has oil in it and is not acid-free. When I started painting after twenty five years off, I did my research and found out that standard hardboard is the surface of choice of many artist that paint detail in Acrylic.

I researched artist in “the Artist’s magazine” and found out that several of them paint on standard hardboard glued to cabinet grade plywood. Standard hardboard is fine by itself, if it is a smaller painting, but once you start painting larger paintings you needs the plywood to make it more firm.

I also went online to find out as much as possible about the artist that inspired me to paint again, when I had my “aha moment,” Fred Swan. After searching the web, the original paintings that I could find, that were for sale, were painted on hardboard.

That sealed it for me. That is all I have painted on since.

I have painted on canvas, in the past, but with my detailed style, I wanted to be able to lay the painting down flat on the painting table that I work on. I like to be able to rest my hand on the surface in order to get the extreme detail that I like to put in my work.

You can buy hardboard, pre-cut panels from any art supply shop or catalog but I like to make my own. I read an article in one of the issues of “the Artist’s magazine” and found an artist that cut his own hardboard out of standard hardboard that he got from a local building supply companies. He then glued it to cabinet grade plywood.

I prefer the quarter inch board over the eighth inch. It is much sturdier and can stand on its own without plywood if it is 18″ x 24″ or smaller.

After I cut the board on a large table-saw, I sand the edges and painting surface, remove all dust and put three coats of Acrylic Gesso. I sand each coat in-between and remove all dust. The board is then ready to paint on.

One thing I have also done is glue linen to the hardboard with Acrylic Soft Gel Medium and then put the three coats of Gesso on, sanding lightly in-between coats. This gives you a canvas look to the painting. The last few years I have preferred just to paint in the smooth surface of the prepared hardboard without the linen.

There are many other surfaces that you can paint on but this is my surface of choice. Good luck and happy painting!!!