Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tweet from Bob Ross (@BobRoss)

Bob Ross (@BobRoss)
The thing that's so fantastic about painting, it teaches you to see. Teaches you to notice nature ...

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Don't Fear the Pack [feedly]

Don't Fear the Pack
// Artist Daily

Painting in a group means gaining insights from others and solidifying your own point of view.
Painting in a group means gaining insights from others
and solidifying your own point of view.
As much as the stereotype of the solitary painter working alone and shutting him- or herself off from the world makes artists seem mysterious and cool, I've found that artists tend to be fairly social creatures, and their cool factor isn't lessened by their sense of community. Sometimes this is situational—you are in an art class or drawing workshop, and you swap stories and commiserate and encourage your fellow students because you are working through the same art lessons and assignments.

But I think it is mostly about enjoying each other's company. Working creatively takes a lot of personal perseverance and being able to come together as a group with friends and fellow artists makes the struggles seem less insurmountable and the successes a lot more worthwhile. And there is always the opportunity to learn from each other—that's what I enjoy the most. Open and honest dialogue on what we are all passionate about, and art instruction that is organic to the task at hand. I first learned about putting a palette in the freezer to keep it from drying out when I was with a bunch of artists who were just working together.

Sometimes you compare and contrast working methods and come away with a better understanding of how the process can work for you and how you can achieve your own vision knowing what others have tried. I learned way more over a weekend session with a bunch of encaustic and mixed media artists than from just my own experimentations with the medium's art techniques.

You can also get exposed to new ways of working and share discoveries you have made about your medium of choice or working method. One of the most challenging parts of the art process is color. We respond to color, we want to recreate the colors we see in front of us or in our heads, but how to paint and mix colors in order to do it? I think one of the best ways is in a group painting session. When you are all looking at something similar and everyone is experimenting to get there, moments of discovery and insight naturally come about. It's the same with learning the techniques associated with an unfamiliar media, like acrylic painting is for me. That's why I think of Acrylic Painting with Passion, as the culmination of a really fulfilling group painting session. All of the details on paint texture and surface treatment and the details on color pairings and mixing is more than I could ever discover alone.

Sometimes painting in a "pack" reinvigorates you because you link up with like-minded artists who share many of the same goals. But I think the best takeaway is always leaving the group steadier and more confident in your own work and your own choices. Whether you decide that means meeting up with artists or continuing on your own independent path and making the most of resources like Acrylic Painting with Passion, I wish you much success however you choose to find it.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

The miniature marvels of Simon Bening [feedly]

The miniature marvels of Simon Bening
// lines and colors :: a blog about drawing, painting, illustration, comics, concept art and other visual arts

Simon Bening, illumination miniatures, book of hours, calendar, labors
Prior to the mid-16th century, watercolor was primarily used for the painting of miniatures in illuminated books. These hand-painted and inscribed volumes were usually devotional, but sometimes were essentially calendars.

Perhaps the greatest and last Flemish master of this form was Simon Bening. He was a member of a family of artists. His father, Alexander Bening, was a painter, his eldest daughter became court painter to Edward VI of England, and another daughter was an art dealer.

The best examples, in terms of quantity and image quality, are on the Getty Museum site. There are 90 images. While some are illuminated pages of text with images around the edges, those at the very beginning and very end of the selections are full images. Once you click to the detail page for an individual image, look for the "Download" link under the image for the high-resolution version.

These paintings, done in watercolor on vellum, occasionally augmented with gold leaf, were tiny. Those at top, first two (each shown here with a detail) were on pages roughly 7 by 4 1/2 inches (18x11cm).

At the very end are two horizontal images that are roughly 2 by 4 inches (45x10cm), one of which is shown above, with detail — bottom two.

My favorite series, however, is the Labors of the Months, from a book of hours and calendar, accessible on Wikimedia Commons, though the images are not as high quality or high resolution. These are essentially a wonderful series of miniature landscapes, at a time when landscape was just coming into favor as an important subject. There is information about a facsimile of the book here. It is roughly 5 1/2 by 4 inches (14x10cm).

I love the rich, painterly quality Bening achieves with his watercolor (and/or gouache, I presume), even at the restrictive size in which he was working.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Magic Digital Paintings

Sargent watercolor techniques: Five observations [feedly]

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Sargent watercolor techniques: Five observations

This is the last weekend for the Sargent Watercolor exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The show combines the best watercolors of the collections of the MFA and the Brooklyn museum, along with a few oils.  

We saw the show a couple of months ago, but beforehand, we visited behind the scenes with conservator Annette Manick (second from right. That's Richard Scarpa at the far left, Garin Baker, and Jeanette).

Annette Manick showed us swatches made with the actual pigments recovered from paint tubes in Sargent's paint kit. She also made a number of test swatches to experiment with some of the unusual techniques that Sargent was known to use with his watercolors, such as wax, gouache, gum arabic and oxgall.

In the back of the show catalog, Manick goes into great detail about these painting methods. I think this represents an exciting new trend in art history scholarship. Conservators, working closely with art historians and practicing artists, are trying to reconstruct the practical methods of artists from the past.

Here are five quick observations that struck me again and again as I visited the show.

1. Unlike many of the British watercolorists who believed in using purely transparent pigments, Sargent used gouache whenever he needed it. This passage of a white dress has opaque white in the bright lights and in the open shadows. He often lays down a spot of white gouache and then, after it dries, he goes over the spot of paint with transparent colors to keep the gouache stroke from jumping out of the paint surface.

2. He used wax as a resist to give a scintillating effect. Here he first laid down a yellow green base color, then stroked it with wax, which resisted the brownish later layers.

3. In the dark passages, Sargent stays away from black, and generally mixes bright blues with browns at the same value. You can see it dramatically in the lower central area of this detail.

4. Sargent was incredibly daring, taking huge risks with big brushes at every step of the painting. It's not just pure boldness and freedom, though, because he's also deliberate and considered, too. I can just picture him thinking, waiting, or planning, and then diving in with an apparently reckless move, cursing under his breath all the while.

5. He defines only what he wants to define, and leaves a lot quickly stated. There are no individual hairs defined in the beard, nor are the lips defined with a strong line between them. The result of this simplicity is that the eyes, with their sparkling highlights, really grab the viewer. This informal portrait is called "The Hermit." It was really painted from a fellow artist who posed for him.

The exhibition will continue through January 20
Thanks to Marc Holmes and Greg Shea for the closeup photos. Marc has a great blog post with more Sargent watercolor insights. 
Catalog of the show 

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