Sunday, August 26, 2012

People - Can You Paint Them in 60 Seconds?

At "This Is The Place Heritage Park," my students were asked to paint images of people as they walked back and forth along the street.  Oh, yeah. This proved to be a challenge!

Pedestrians don't hold still!

After a few rough attempts, my students began to get the hang of it. They drew the tilt of the trunk and shoulders first, blocked in the line of the legs, then dropped the head on last (heads, hands and feet of people in the distance should be small and delicate).

It was fascinating to note that even though we were observing the same people while they walked around the park, we each painted our images of them in a unique manner. It's like a signature; each person signs their name in an unmistakable way.

When we focused on painting trees, our individual styles became apparent. Some of our paintings had gentle pastel colors and soft brush strokes while other students chose to use brighter colors with stronger brush passages.


We decided that one style is not better than another - they are just different from each other! Each style reflects the artist's individual interpretation and personality.


The whole point of plein-air painting is to get outside and have a first-hand, real life experience of your subject. Use your senses. Smell the flowers, touch the leaves and feel the sunlight. You can better paint something if you are familiar with it. Of course there is the occasional storm, mosquito or bug and even the occasional "tourist pest" (the kind that doesn't stop talking and bothers you with too many questions). 

But hey, how can you accurately portray nature without having an experience of it? 


Friday, August 24, 2012

Paint A Self Portrait - While You're Still Young!

Get those brushes out and create a visual record of yourself by painting a self-portrait. There's no question about it - the clock is ticking...and you're not getting any younger!

A portrait is more than a photograph.  It has a certain "qualite emotionnelle," a softness or sense of "other-worldliness." As an artist, you can be the editor. Don't like those wrinkles?  Leave them out. Want to take a few pounds off? Paint yourself slimmer.  Or if you're a realist, capture the actual truth by painting yourself as you are - warts and all.

Just think, in ten years you'll look at your self-portrait and say, "I was so young then..."

If you paint from a photograph, make sure it is a good one.  Don't use flash photography because it washes out the color and form. Use a strong light source if you want a little drama. Make sure the light comes from above (it looks more natural that way) and that it passes transversely across your face. This will create shadows that show-off your features and describe your form.


Set up in front of a mirror and paint from direct observation. It doesn't matter how you do it, the point begin painting. 

Learn To See - By Painting From Real Life

If you're tired of painting from photographs that are fuzzy or completely washed out from a flashbulb, try painting from real life.  In a real life setting, you won't have to guess at what you are seeing, you simply walk right up to your subject and examine it closely. Perspective isn't skewed, textures are recognizable and the color is more accurate. 

No detail escapes your scrutiny.  

You can get multiple paintings from one still life.  Choose a portion of the still life, create a painting, then move to another place and paint again from a different view. 

Voila! You are training your brain to see the subject from all sides.

Here's a recent set up from my studio. Students selected a portion of this still life then painted their composition in one of six ways: 
  • Black, white and shades of gray
  • Using a palette knife only
  • Limited palette - red, yellow and blue
  • Limited palette - ochre, cadmium red and black
  • Clean brush strokes with no blending
  • Start to finish within the two-hour class period

 David is painting using black, white and shades of gray.

Elynn is using a limited palette of red, yellow, blue and white.

Painting from real life, whether it's from inside a studio in a controlled setting or outside in the open air allows you to really see shapes, values, color and form without distortion. It's an exercise for your brain.

Why not try it on a regular basis?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stress Relief? Attend An Outdoor Workshop

When you’re lucky enough to live in a place as beautiful as Salt Lake City, you want to take advantage of your surroundings. That’s why I jump at the chance to take my Art Workshops outdoors - especially during these gorgeous summer months!

Join us for our Illustrated Journal outing, which will be held on 

Saturday, August 25, 2012 
This is the Place Heritage Park 
9:00 am

Spend your morning sketching and painting in this historic atmosphere. We paint as a group in a different location each month. Check my website to find information about the locations and dates for our future adventures