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Cleaned up my long arti­cle on color and color mix­ing. I think it’s one of the bet­ter ones on this site.

Posted in art technique, color, painting.

Michelangelo’s grocery list

Very cool.

Posted in art history.

Flash mob recreates Rembrandt’s “Night’s Watch”

Very cool.

Posted in art history, the art world.

Well, damn

First, Stu­dio Prod­ucts, a maker of high qual­ity oil paints and spe­cialty artist sup­plies, closes its doors. But their sub­sidiary, Realgesso​.com, became inde­pen­dent. Realgesso makes truly excel­lent pan­els with glue-chalk gesso or oil primed linen grounds.

Alas, I just got an email from them announc­ing that the will also be clos­ing down. I just hate that.

They are sell­ing out their remain­ing stock, with dis­counts for large orders. Here is their link. Stock up while you can.

Update: Now gone. Oh, well.

Posted in art suppliers.

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Two variations on a theme.

Still some touch-up work, but mostly done. Both are 8 × 10”, oil on panel.

Posted in David's work.





Posted in David's work.

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I wish I could dance like Jan Vermeer

I wish I could dance like Jan Vermeer.

Posted in art history, artists.

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Dean Cornwell video by James Gurney

The invalu­able James Gur­ney nar­rates a short video on the process that clas­sic illus­tra­tor Dean Corn­well fol­lowed in pro­duc­ing an amaz­ing paint­ing of two Roman sol­diers fighting.

Check it out.

Posted in art technique, artists, demo/in progress, oil painting, painting.

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The verisimilitude test

I’ve come to real­ize that, in judg­ing real­ist art, my pri­mary stan­dard has become verisimilitude.

verisimil­i­tude. noun. The appear­ance of being true or real : the detail gives the novel some verisimilitude.

I’m not talk­ing about a per­fect imi­ta­tion of visual experience—that’s only one pos­si­ble tool for achiev­ing verisimil­i­tude. I’m talk­ing about look­ing at a paint­ing (or part of a paint­ing) and know­ing what it’s like to be there, look­ing at the the thing the artist sees or imag­ines. It’s a sense of recog­ni­tion, of grokking. Some highly “real­is­tic” paint­ings have no sense of verisimil­i­tude; some highly styl­ized paint­ings have it in droves.

For me, most pho­to­re­al­ism is lack­ing in verisimil­i­tude and there­fore doesn’t draw my inter­est. Mak­ing a paint­ing that looks like a photo cre­ates no feel­ing of recog­ni­tion. Most paint­ings by Paul Cezanne, although on one level rel­a­tively styl­ized, have a sense of real­ity that is com­pletely engross­ing. Any paint­ing that effec­tively cre­ates a sense of verisimil­i­tude is inter­est­ing to me. Any paint­ing that doesn’t, regard­less of its tech­ni­cal achieve­ment, tends to bore me.

In look­ing at a par­tic­u­lar paint­ing more closely, I often get a sense that the artist has nailed the verisimil­i­tude in some parts of the work but not oth­ers. That’s often my sense of paint­ings by Van Gogh, for example—I see pieces that bril­liantly let me see the artist’s view­point, while other parts just look like a scrib­ble in paint.

In judg­ing my own work, I find the same thing. Parts of any paint­ing seem to have a high level of verisimil­i­tude, while other parts are just place­hold­ers for what I didn’t have the skill to prop­erly rep­re­sent. I know I’m done with a paint­ing when I don’t know how to give any part of it any more verisimilitude.

Posted in art technique, painting.

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In the gallery

In The Gallery (Dire Straits)

Harry made a bare­back rider proud and free upon a horse
And a fine coalminer for the NCB that was
A fallen angel and Jesus on the cross
A skat­ing bal­le­rina you should have seen her do the skater’s waltz

Some peo­ple have got to paint and draw
Harry had to work in clay and stone
Like the waves com­ing to the shore
It was in his blood and in his bones
Ignored by all the trendy boys in Lon­don and in Leeds
He might as well have been mak­ing toys or strings of beads
He could not be in the gallery

And then you get an artist says he doesn’t want to paint at all
He takes an empty can­vas and sticks it on the wall
The birds of a feather all the phonies and all of the fakes
While the deal­ers they get together
And they decide who gets the breaks
And who’s going to be in the gallery

No lies he wouldn’t com­pro­mise
No junk no bits of string
And all the lies we sub­si­dize
That just don’t mean a thing
I’ve got to say he passed away in obscu­rity
And now all the vul­tures are com­ing down from the tree
So he’s going to be in the gallery

Posted in art business, the art world.

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In water­color, the tra­di­tional tech­nique involves the use of no white paint, instead depend­ing on the white of the paper (i.e., areas with no paint on them) for whites and on dilu­tion of paint to deter­mine the value of any par­tic­u­lar part of the paint­ing. (There are, of course, ways to “cheat” by using white.)

In paint­ing with oil, it’s stan­dard to use white to lighten mix­tures. White (whether lead white, tita­nium white, or zinc white) is incred­i­bly use­ful as there are many col­ors that can’t be obtained with­out it. Con­trari­wise, there are also col­ors that can’t be mixed if you use white. White light­ens, but it also cools (in most cir­cum­stances), decreases chroma (except when applied in small amounts with some cool col­ors), and increases opac­ity. There are some cir­cum­stances in which you want to lighten (increase the color’s value) with­out the other effects of adding white. For example:

  • In tra­di­tional oil paint­ing tech­nique, it is often appro­pri­ate to keep shad­ows trans­par­ent. That basi­cally means mix­ing shadow col­ors with­out any white.
  • Because white usu­ally decreases chroma, mix­tures involv­ing white can be lower in chroma than you want. As a result, painters some­times com­plain of paint mix­tures that are too “chalky.” They get lights that have a pas­tel look with low chroma. While that is some­times exactly the right color (in which case no one com­plains) we some­times want lights that are as high in chroma as possible.

While oil painters don’t gen­er­ally depend on white-freen paint mix­tures to nearly the degree that water­color painters do, it’s impor­tant to know how to paint with­out white when you need to. If you just need a dark color, that’s easy. If you need to paint a range of val­ues, then you’ll need to find mix­tures that achieve that value range. The ease of doing so depends on what part of the color wheel you’re work­ing with.

There are plenty of high-value yel­lows, for exam­ple. If you need to lighten a yel­low or brown mix­ture, you can usu­ally do so by mix­ing in a lighter yel­low (I like lead-tin yel­low for this pur­pose, or a cad­mium yel­low if I’m look­ing for higher chroma). Reds are more difficult—it’s hard to mix a light red with­out drop­ping the chroma (i.e., mak­ing it pink). Gen­uine ver­mil­lion is some­times use­ful because it is some­what light and doesn’t drop chroma in mix­tures the way cad­mi­ums of sim­i­lar color can do. Oranges can be light­ened by adding a lighter yel­low and then, if nec­es­sary, adjust­ing back to the right hue with a bit of red. A yel­low green can sim­i­larly be light­ened with yellow.

Cooler col­ors (blue, green, blue-green, pur­ple) are more dif­fi­cult to lighten, since the tube col­ors in this range are often pretty dark. Some cobalt blues can be rel­a­tively light and there­fore quite valu­able (although they are also opaque, so they don’t help as much if you are look­ing for transparency).

The other solu­tion, of course, is to paint thinly onto a white sur­face, just as in tra­di­tional water­color. The method used by Ted Seth Jacobs and his stu­dents such as Tony Ryder, for exam­ple, typ­i­cally begins with a “color wash.” That means apply­ing the first layer of paint very thinly, mixed with dilu­tant. While wet, the color can be light­ened by wip­ing away paint with a dry rag or brush; or one dipped in dilu­tant. In this method, the ini­tial color wash layer is later painted over with opaque paint mixed with white. A sim­i­lar method can be used with tra­di­tional glaz­ing tech­nique or when a cer­tainly watercolor-ish look is desired.

If you’re not used to paint­ing with­out white, a good exer­cise is to try to com­plete a paint­ing while using white only when absolutely nec­es­sary. That can gen­er­ate an over­all range of value and chroma that is markedly dif­fer­ent than a paint­ing in which white is used lib­er­ally. If you strug­gle with “chalky” mix­tures, a min­i­mal white approach can really help.

Posted in art materials, art technique, color, oil painting, painting.

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What I did on my hiatus

I orig­i­nally titled this post, “What I did on my hiatal vaca­tion,” but thought bet­ter of it. You’re welcome.

Here are some things that hap­pened in 2010:

  • Lost 34 lbs. in the first half of the year. Now well within nor­mal body mass index.
  • Kept the weight off through the sec­ond half of the year.
  • Exer­cised quite a bit. Now in much bet­ter shape.
  • Dis­cov­ered that I am gluten-intolerant. A num­ber of minor health prob­lems have cleared up by switch­ing to a paleodiet/primal/ancestral approach to eating.
  • Com­pleted graduate-level course require­ments for board cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in behav­ior analy­sis. Got an A in each course. Yay, me.
  • Kept my day job and have trav­eled a lot through­out the U.S.
  • Stayed mar­ried (hap­pily). Kept my son Bren­dan (Now 4 1/2 years old) alive and cared for.
  • Stopped paint­ing for about 6 months. Now back to it.
  • Stopped updat­ing this blog for about 6 months (other than site main­te­nance, delet­ing spam, and respond­ing to com­ments). Now back to it.

Posted in personal.

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How to stand without hurting yourself

How not to standThis year, I decided I want to live for­ever or die try­ing. That means learn­ing how to be healthy and con­sis­tently choos­ing healthy behav­iors. Lots of that has noth­ing to do with the sub­ject of this blog, so I won’t bother to dis­cuss it here. One aspect of health that’s applic­a­ble to paint­ing is posture.

There are two basic posi­tions for painting—sitting and stand­ing. For oil paint­ing, I gen­er­ally find it best to stand. It’s in the nature of paint­ing that you stand in one posi­tion for long periods.

How do you stand com­fort­ably for hours at a time? Mil­lions of peo­ple in West­ern coun­tries suf­fer from back pain, in large part because of poor pos­ture. It’s impor­tant to avoid stand­ing while paint­ing in a man­ner that con­tributes to your own back problems.

Here are some basic prin­ci­ples to keep in mind:

  • Slouch­ing for long peri­ods will even­tu­ally wreck your back.
  • Stand­ing up “straight,” with your back mus­cles at ten­sion, is uncom­fort­able and you will stop doing it as soon as you are no longer pay­ing attention.
  • Instead, you’ll need to develop a stand­ing posi­tion that keeps your head over your spine, your spine over your hips, and your hips over your heels. That keeps your body in align­ment so that stand­ing does not place undue pres­sure on your spine, back, hips, neck, or other parts of your body.

How do you do that? Stand up. Feet fac­ing for­ward, about shoul­der width apart or a lit­tle wider.

Now feel your hips. Many peo­ple in West­ern coun­tries habit­u­ally tilt their hips back­ward. This leads to a rounded back and hunched shoul­ders. Instead, tilt your hips for­ward. Your waist­line should be at an angle down­ward, so that the buckle of your belt (if you’re wear­ing a belt) is a bit lower than the back of the belt.

Don’t overdo it to the point that you feel ten­sion in your lower back. The idea is that you are stack­ing your spine so that it bends cor­rectly and is bal­anced directly over the hips.

Stand­ing with your hips tilted for­ward tends to pull your shoul­ders back, but if you’re used to rolling them for­ward, make sure they are aligned back­ward. If you’re a woman, that means boobs up, ladies. This makes breath­ing eas­ier by expand­ing your lung space. You should feel your spine align itself over your forward-tilted hips. This is a posi­tion in which your spine can be at rest while you are erect.

Your head should also be aligned straight, with your neck over your hips. Mov­ing down­ward, your weight should be bal­anced over your heels, not your toes.

This is a com­fort­able stand­ing posi­tion that can be main­tained for long peri­ods. If it’s not your habit­ual way of stand­ing, then you’ll need to train your body to do it. The hard part is that paint­ing takes so much focus that it’s very dif­fi­cult to also con­cen­trate on pos­ture. One way to do that is to start paint­ing in this posi­tion, and make sure that every few min­utes you take a few steps back from the paint­ing and look at your progress. That’s very good prac­tice when paint­ing any­way so that you don’t get tied up in fussy details. While you do that, attend to your  posi­tion and when you go back to paint­ing, make sure that you’re stand­ing cor­rectly. Over time, you’ll catch your­self in the cor­rect posi­tion with­out hav­ing assumed it con­sciously. Your back will thank you for it.

For more infor­ma­tion, read Esther Gokhale’s excel­lent book 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back. Even if you don’t usu­ally have a sore back, do your­self a favor and get a copy of this book. It’s that good.

Later on, we’ll talk about how to paint in a seated posi­tion with­out hurt­ing yourself.

Caveat: I have no cre­den­tials that sup­port giv­ing health advice. Please don’t assume that I know what I am talk­ing about. If you have any rel­e­vant health prob­lems, con­sult a pro­fes­sional before doing any­thing I suggest.

Posted in art technique, painting, personal.

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Well hey! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? How have you been?

I now have more time to devote to things like paint­ing, draw­ing, and writ­ing blog posts about paint­ing and draw­ing. So in the next few weeks I’ll have fresh mate­r­ial here.

To any­one who’s been check­ing back occa­sion­ally or sub­scrib­ing to this blog’s feed, thanks. I appre­ci­ate your patience and hope to come up with some good stuff to jus­tify it. If you’re new here, please take a look around. I think there’s a lot of valu­able mate­r­ial for artists on the site.

Posted in personal.

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This site is cur­rently on hia­tus. Please feel free to look around at posts. I’ll also tend to respond to com­ments or emails. I’ll be back when I have more time. Until then, keep smear­ing col­ored mud on flat surfaces.

Update 28 Decem­ber 2010: Back to post­ing. Thanks for your patience.

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