Thursday, January 22, 2015

Eye Candy for Today: Louis Apol winter landscape [feedly]



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Eye Candy for Today: Louis Apol winter landscape
// lines and colors

Een januari-avond in het Haagse bos (A January evening in the Hague forest), Louis Apol
Een januari-avond in het Haagse bos, Louis Apol

In the Rijksmuseum. I think the title translates roughly as "A January evening in the Hague forest".

In addition to the muted colors and soft edged value transitions in which Apol achieves his almost tonalist atmosphere, I particularly love his textural application of paint.


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An Incremental Approach to Pastel Painting [feedly]



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An Incremental Approach to Pastel Painting
// Artist's Network

As any artist that has worked with pastel can attest, pastel is an extremely versatile painting/drawing medium. The techniques used for its application are unlimited and easily reflect the personalities of those working with it. There are three major external components that affect application and appearance: surface tooth (how easily the surface grabs the pigment); undertone (the general tonality of the surface or underpainting); and the relative softness and shape of the pastel stick being applied. The hand of the painter then governs the method in which the pastel is applied. Some artists use very light pressure to gently drift pastel onto a surface; while others aggressively trowel it on the surface. The gesture and size of the pastel strokes also cover a wide gamut of artistic personalities. They might be large swipes that are similar to hefty paint stokes; angular hatch strokes that retain line and texture; or tender breathes of pastel that are reminiscent of glazing techniques. Add to these the potential to smudge, smear and blend, and we begin to understand the unlimited potential of pastel application.

012015-mckinley-pastel pointer

This example of a detail passage of a painting in progress shows incremental pastel applications.

 

Combatting the Christmas Ornament Effect: An unwanted side effect of pastel application, no matter the technique of application, is that subsequent layers can take on a disconnected appearance and look artificial if not nuanced. This is due in large part to the dry nature of pastel, which makes it harder to fuse than wet paint. I refer to this as the "Christmas Ornament" effect. The additional pastel marks begin to stand out too much, looking more like garish ornamentation. A little ornamentation can be effective, creating interest, but too much and the painting starts to look fake. To remedy this I've developed what I call an "incremental approach" to pastel application:

  • Instead of leaping to the desired final color or value of pastel, I go forward in gradual steps. Let me give you an example: If I need to darken an area, instead of selecting the final dark pastel that I want the area ultimately to be, I will gradually step down to the desired value. Sometimes this may take several graduating steps.
  • This holds true for color shifts as well. If a drastic change in color temperature is needed, I'll go incrementally around the color wheel until landing at the desired hue. Think of this like traversing a bridge. To get from one side to the other, a bridge is built that connects the two. To travel across, some steps are involved. When taken in stride the steps are gentle and non-jarring. When a giant leap is taken, it can be jolting, potentially creating discomfort.

More Tortoise, Less Hare: This incremental approach to pastel application allows for a minimum amount of blending, which can easily create dull, dead passages. It provides a subtle, gradual transition between contrasting areas that better represents the bending/refracting of natural light. Ultimately this produces a more realistic representation of nature. An incremental approach is not meant to hold back artistic expression. Bold ornamental pastel strokes have their purpose. But, sometimes a little more of the tortoise versus the hare wins the race.

 

 

 

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digiartlab: Color Theory [feedly]



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3 Techniques Moved Me to the Head of the Class [feedly]



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3 Techniques Moved Me to the Head of the Class
// Artist Daily

At least I feel that way. I set myself a goal this week—I wanted to learn a few new watercolor painting techniques because I feel like when I contemplate working in watercolor, I only know the "first gear" approaches.

I feel like Tim Saternow (West 20th St from 10th Ave, 26 x 40, 2008, watercolor painting) is skillfully able to create cloudy opaque passages and virtually transparent ones in his watercolor works.
I feel like Tim Saternow (West 20th St from 10th Ave, 26 x 40, 2008,
watercolor painting) is skillfully able to create cloudy opaque passages
and virtually transparent ones in his watercolor works.

Watercolor Painting Tips 1-2-3

In order to rev it up a little, I did some sleuthing and found some great techniques that might be out of my league right now, but it was still enlightening to look at the watercolor art created with them, and they definitely inspired me to keep moving forward. 

#1. I've always loved the transparency of watercolor, so much so that I think I forget that opacity is a possibility. But to put opaque pigment over transparent, all I have to do is spread a wash on wet paper, then go in with paint of the same tone but very dark. Because the tones are unified, the differences in dilution really stand out.

#2. Cold press paper is popular with watercolor artists, but I wanted to explore hot press paper, which is the smoothest watercolor paper out there. Aiy! It was tough. It absorbs moisture fast, so I found that you have to use more water than usual to keep the pigments from streaking in a way I didn't intend. But it did let me see a lot of the tonal ranges of any one color, which is helpful because I'm just learning to understand all that a color can do on my watercolor palette.

Peggy Williams is a master of light and shadow. Her strokes are almost imperceptible and give a sense of a form with just one swipe (Warrior, 18 x 25, 2006, watercolor painting).
Peggy Williams is a master of light and shadow.
Her strokes are almost imperceptible and
give a sense of a form with just one swipe
(Warrior, 18 x 25, 2006, watercolor painting).
#3. Light and shadow are tricky for me with watercolor painting because I'm always thinking of the objects like the sky, a tree, land, or a sunset in a flat one-dimensional way. I put them down as if they are cutout pieces of construction paper. To break out of that I learned that you can alter your strokes with a flat brush, for example, to visually create irregularities in tone that make it seem like an object is moving forward and back in space. Zigzagging sap green over cadmium yellow gives a sense of a tree's leaves blocking out the sun. I want to continue practicing this, but I had never thought of one stroke being able to do so much.

Spending time in the studio practicing, experimenting, and studying watercolor techniques, I was able to come away with several advanced (for me) watercolor painting approaches as well as several inspiring next steps for me to explore. It's exciting to know that working with a medium can always be like discovering uncharted territory.

If you are a watercolor painter or are interested in another medium and want to explore more, take a look at all the resources and art supplies available at the North Light Shop right now during the New Year, New Art Sale with 40% off everything store-wide. Enjoy!

 


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Anders Zorn's "Une première" [feedly]



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Anders Zorn's "Une première"
// Gurney Journey


The painting "Une première" was one of Anders Zorn's first experiments portraying nude models in the open air. He was fascinated by the waves, the water reflections, the shifting weight, and the colors of the flesh as the woman and child wade into the shallow water.

Anders Zorn, Une première, gouache, 1888, 76x56 cm,
(29.92 in x 22.05 in), at the Nationalmuseum, Blasieholmen, Stockholm.
Zorn said, "My model was in Stockholm staying at a shoemaker's family with many children when I came along and asked to borrow a boy. The shoemaker had nothing against being rid of one for a while. The boy that suited me was sickly and close to death anyway. But what an effect fresh air had on a naked body. A couple of weeks later, I returned the boy and he was so healthy and rosy-checked that his parents hardly recognized him."

The original version of this gouache painting won a medal, but Zorn decided to rework it. He became so dissatisfied with the outcome that he angrily folded it and hacked it to pieces. A fellow artist, Christian Eriksson, gathered the fragments and put them back together. It is now considered a masterwork of figure painting.
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thevaultofretroscifi: Michael Whelan, Nor Crystal Tears [feedly]



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Atelier Bingo are back with an abstract conversation between two aliens [feedly]



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Atelier Bingo are back with an abstract conversation between two aliens
// It's Nice That

Atelierbingo-list-int

Up to the point when I opened Atelier Bingo's new zine Wogoo Zoogi I'd never wondered what two aliens in heated conversation might look like. Having had a read I can now confirm that the answer is "they are speaking, singing very strangely, and they have a hair on their tongues." The newest bout of work from French illustration and surface design duo Adèle Favreau and Maxime Prou is a wonderful celebration of playful, dynamic, abstract art; blending shapes, colours and patterns in a glorious puddle of chaos thinly disguised as alien chat. In fact, it's everything we've been led to expect from the pair, who we've dolloped praise on in the past.

Read more

Advertise here via BSA


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Painting Large | David Firmstone Watercolor Landscapes [feedly]



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Painting Large | David Firmstone Watercolor Landscapes
// Artist's Network

For British artist David Firmstone, working large—often in the 3- to 4-feet range—opens the door to creative techniques not usually associated with watercolors. He has received international recognition for his extremely large watercolor landscapes and seascapes that, while clearly rooted in reality, have a dreamlike, sometimes unsettling, quality.

Painting large opens the door to the application of unusual techniques, and Firmstone has taken full advantage of that. Not only does he coat the paper with several layers of gesso, which he then scores and scratches to create texture, he also uses a spray gun or pours diluted paint onto the surface and moves it around.

"Why do I paint so large?" the artist asks. "It's because I like to create problems—and
accidents—for myself and then solve them. I frequently 'pour and draw,' which requires
a big surface. Initially, it was about getting rid of the white space, but then I found that the marks from the pouring loosened up my watercolor process."

Learn more about Firmstone and his techniques in the April 2015 issue of Watercolor Artist, available now in print or as a download at NorthLightShop.com (and on newsstands February 17).

Subscribe now to Watercolor Artist! 

Tree Under Cloud (watercolor under paper) by David Firmstone

Tree Under Cloud (watercolor under paper) by David Firmstone

Backwater Bembridge (watercolor on paper) by David Firmstone

Backwater Bembridge (watercolor on paper) by David Firmstone

Honed by the Wind (watercolor on paper) by David Firmstone

Honed by the Wind (watercolor on paper) by David Firmstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE RESOURCES FOR WATERCOLOR ARTISTS

• Subscribe to Watercolor Artist magazine

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• Online seminars for fine artists

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Painting the Town | Watercolor Cityscapes by Pablo Ruben Lopez Sanz [feedly]



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Painting the Town | Watercolor Cityscapes by Pablo Ruben Lopez Sanz
// Artist's Network

Subtle pops of color punctuate the gray streets of Pablo Rubén López Sanz's large-scale watercolor cityscapes, enticing us to view the world anew.

The Spanish artist says that because he only paints landscapes and cityscapes, "travel offers the best way to find new subjects. All of my paintings are based on places to which I've actually been.

"For me, the most important aspect of a painting is that it captures the real atmosphere of the place, not an illustration," he continues. "Staying away from colorful scenes helps me to avoid that kind of artificiality. When possible, I try to use only two dominant colors and a few touches of their complements in any painting … In the focal point, I add dots of a brighter version of a color from elsewhere in the painting to attract the attention of the viewer. To me, it's important that a watercolor has uniformity; 'unity in diversity' is the key."

Learn more about Rubén López Sanz and his international cityscapes in the April 2015 issue of Watercolor Artist, available now in print or as a download at NorthLightShop.com (and on newsstands February 17).

Don't miss an issue of Watercolor Artist. Subscribe now!

 

San Angelo Bridge (watercolor on paper) by Pablo Ruben Lopez Sanz

San Angelo Bridge (watercolor on paper) by Pablo Ruben Lopez Sanz

Market Street VII (watercolor on paper) by Pablo Ruben Lopez Sanz

Market Street VII (watercolor on paper) by Pablo Ruben Lopez Sanz

 

 

Gran VaX (watercolor on paper) by Pablo Ruben Lopez Sanz

Gran VaX (watercolor on paper) by Pablo Ruben Lopez Sanz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE RESOURCES FOR WATERCOLOR ARTISTS

• Subscribe to Watercolor Artist magazine

• Watch watercolor art workshops on demand at ArtistsNetwork.TV

• Get unlimited access to over 100 art instruction ebooks

• Online seminars for fine artists

• Sign up for your FREE ArtistsNetwork email newsletter and FREE download

 

The post Painting the Town | Watercolor Cityscapes by Pablo Ruben Lopez Sanz appeared first on Artist's Network.


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To Paint Is to Love Again: Henry Miller on Art, How Hobbies Enrich Us, and Why Good Friends Are Essential for Creative Work [feedly]



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To Paint Is to Love Again: Henry Miller on Art, How Hobbies Enrich Us, and Why Good Friends Are Essential for Creative Work
// Brain Pickings

"What sustains the artist is the look of love in the eyes of the beholder. Not money, not the right connections, not exhibitions, not flattering reviews."

One particularly icy winter day not too long ago, I reluctantly retired my bike, took the subway into Manhattan, and gave up my seat to a kindly woman a few decades my senior. We struck up a conversation — an occurrence doubly delightful for its lamentable rarity on the New York City subway. For this radical act we were rewarded with an instant kinship of spirit — she turned out to be the wonderful artist Sheila Pinkel, visiting from the West Coast for a show she was having at a New York gallery, and bonded over our mutual love of Henry Miller, lamenting how much of his magnificent and timeless writing has perished out of print — things like his beautiful reflections on the greatest gift of growing old and on money and on the meaning of life.

Right before I hopped out at my stop, Sheila mentioned one particular book that had made a strong impression early in life, but which she had been unable to find since — Miller's 1968 lost gem To Paint Is to Love Again (public library). Naturally, I tracked down a surviving copy as soon as possible and was instantly enchanted by this rare and wonderful treasure trove of Miller's paintings — for he was among the famous writers who were drawn to the visual arts, producing such lesser-known treats as J.R.R. Tolkien's illustrations, Sylvia Plath's drawings, William Faulkner's Jazz Age etchings, Flannery O'Connor's cartoons, Zelda Fitzgerald's watercolors, and Nabokov's butterfly studies — enveloped in his devastatingly honest and insightful words on art, sincerity, kindness, hardship, and the gift of friendship.

With his characteristic blend of irreverence, earnestness, and unapologetic wisdom, Miller — who began painting at the age of thirty-seven in 1928, while he was "supposed to be at work on the great American novel" but was yet to publish anything at all, bought his first watercolors and brushes in the midst of poverty, and was soon painting "morning, noon and night" — explores the eternal question of what art is and what makes one an artist.

Henry Miller: 'The Hat and the Man' (Collection of Leon Shamroy)

Somewhere between the great scientist as a master at the art of observation and the writer, whom Susan Sontag memorably defined as "a professional observer," Miller places the painter:

What is more intriguing than a spot on the bathroom floor which, as you sit emptying your bowels, assumes a hundred different forms, figures, shapes? Often I found myself on my knees studying a stain on the floor — studying it to detect all that was hidden at first sight. No doubt the painter, studying the face of the sitter whose portrait he is about to do, must be astonished by the things he suddenly recognizes in the familiar visage before him. Looking intently at an eye or a pair of lips, or an ear — particularly an ear, that weird appendage! — one is astounded by the metamorphoses a human countenance undergoes. What is an eye or an ear? The anatomy books will tell you one thing, or many things, but looking at an eye or ear to render it in form, texture, color yields quite another kind of knowledge. Suddenly you see — and it's not an eye or an ear but a little universe composed of the most extraordinary elements having nothing to do with sight or hearing, with flesh, bone, muscle, cartilage.

In this art of seeing Miller finds the essential question of what a painting really is:

A picture… is a thousand different things to a thousand different people. Like a book, a piece of sculpture, or a poem. One picture speaks to you, another doesn't… Some pictures invite you to enter, then make you a prisoner. Some pictures you race through, as if on roller skates. Some lead you out by the back door. Some weigh you down, oppress you for days and weeks on end. Others lift you up to the skies, make you weep with joy or gnash your teeth in despair.

Henry Miller: 'Man and Woodpecker' (Collection of William Webb)

But in contemplating this spectrum of the viewer's emotional experience, Miller counters Tolstoy's idea of "emotional infectiousness" between artist and audience and writes:

What happens to you when you look at a painting may not be at all what the artist who painted it intended to have happen. Millions of people have stood and gazed in open-mouthed wonder at the Mona Lisa. Does anyone know what was going on in Da Vinci's mind when he did it? If he were to come to life again and look at it with his own two eyes it is dubious, in my mind, that he would know himself precisely what it was that made him present her in this immortal fashion.

And yet the intensity of the artist's own emotion, Miller argues, is the true lifeblood of art and of optimism about the human spirit:

To paint is to love again. It's only when we look with eyes of love that we see as the painter sees. His is a love, moreover, which is free of possessiveness. What the painter sees he is duty-bound to share. Usually he makes us see and feel what ordinarily we ignore or are immune to. His manner of approaching the world tells us, in effect, that nothing is vile or hideous, nothing is stale, flat and unpalatable unless it be our own power of vision. To see is not merely to look. One must look-see. See into and around.

Henry Miller: 'Street Scene: Minsk or Pinsk' (Collection of Henry Miller)

He recounts the profound transformation he witnessed within himself when he "first began to view the world with the eyes of a painter" and learned a whole new way of paying attention — a way that lives up to Mary Oliver's beautiful assertion that attention without feeling … is only a report." Miller writes:

The most familiar things, objects which I had gazed at all my life, now became an unending source of wonder, and with the wonder, of course, affection. A tea pot, an old hammer, or chipped cup, whatever came to hand I looked upon as if I had never seen it before. I hadn't, of course. Do not most of us go through life blind, deaf, insensitive? Now as I studied the object's physiognomy, its texture, its way of speaking, I entered into its life, its history, its purpose, its association with other objects, all of which only endeared it the more… Have you ever noticed that the stones one gathers at the beach are grateful when we hold them in our hands and caress them? Do they not take on a new expression? An old pot loves to be rubbed with tenderness and appreciation. So with an axe: kept in good condition, it always serves its master lovingly.

Unlike his longtime lover and lifelong friend Anaïs Nin, who believed that "if one changes internally, one should not continue to live with the same objects," Miller extols the gladdening assurance of the old:

I have always cherished old things, used things, things marked by the passage of time and human events. I think of my own self this way, as something much handled, much knocked about, as worn and polished with use and abuse. As something serviceable, perhaps I should say. More serviceable for having had so many masters, so many wretched, glorious, haphazard experiences and encounters. Which explains, perhaps, why it is that when I start to do a head it always turns into a "self-portrait." Even when it becomes a woman, even when it bears no resemblance to me at all. I know myself, my changing faces, my ineradicable Stone Age expression. It's what happened to me that interests me, not resemblances. I am a worn, used creature, an object that loves to be handled, rubbed, caressed, stuffed in a coat pocket, or left to bake in the sun. Something to be used or not used, as you like.

Henry Miller: 'Girl with Bird' (Collection of Leon Shamroy)

Noting that he never dares to call himself a painter and yet he does paint, Miller considers the psychology behind this ambivalent attitude — something at the heart of Ann Truitt's insightful meditation on the difference between "doing art" and being an artist — and writes:

I turn to painting when I can no longer write. Painting refreshes and restores me; it enables me to forget that I am temporarily unable to write. So I paint while the reservoir replenishes itself.

This, of course, is a strategy that many celebrated creators used — Madeleine L'Engle read science to enrich her writing and Einstein, who termed his creative process "combinatory play,", is said to have come up with his greatest physics breakthroughs during his violin breaks. But it also makes sense under more formal psychological models of how creativity works, all of which require some form of incubation period, or what Alexander Graham Bell called "unconscious cerebration" — a stage during which "no effort of a direct nature" is made toward one's creative goal and the mind is instead allowed to perform its essential background processing.

This notion comes very much alive in Miller's account of those early days when he first became besotted with painting and its singular way of seeing the world:

Though my mind was intensely active, for I was seeing everything in a new light, the impression I had was of painting with some other part of my being. My mind went on humming, like a wheel that continues to spin after the hand has let go, but it didn't get frazzled and exhausted as it would after a few hours of writing. While I played, for I never looked on it as work, I whistled, hummed, danced on one foot, then the other, and talked to myself.

[…]

It was a joy to go on turning [paintings] out like a madman — perhaps because I didn't have to prove anything, either to the world or to myself. I wasn't hepped on becoming a painter. Not at all. I was simply wiggling out of the strait-jacket.

He draws a further contrast between painting and writing in their respective effects on the creator's psyche:

I enjoy talking to painters more than to writers… Painters give me the impression of being less used up by their daily task than writers or musicians. Also, they use words in a more plastic way, as if conscious of their very substantial originals. When they write … they reveal a poetic touch which writers often lack. Perhaps this is due to living continuously with flesh, textures, objects, and not merely with ideas, abstractions, complexes. Often they are mimes or story tellers, and nearly always good cooks. The writer, on the other hand, is so often pale, awkward, incompetent in everything except the business of putting words together.

The disposition of the painter and the writer, Miller observes with the warm wryness of someone very much aware that he is first a writer, differs not only in their psychic state during creation but also in how each relates to their finished work:

To paint is to love again, live again, see again. To get up at the crack of dawn in order to take a peek at the water colors one did the day before, or even a few hours before, is like stealing a look at the beloved while she sleeps. The thrill is even greater if one has first to draw back the curtains. How they glow in the cold light of early dawn! … Is there any writer who rouses himself at daybreak in order to read the pages of his manuscript? Perish the thought!

And yet Miller notes that many celebrated writers were also "painters, musicians, actors, ambassadors, mathematicians," of which he observes:

When one is an artist all mediums open up… Every artist worth his salt has his [hobby]. It's the norm, not the exception.

Henry Miller: 'Marcel Proust' (Collection of Henry Miller)

For Miller, part of the allure of painting lies in its superior, almost primitive sincerity, of which only children and the rare adult artist are true masters — for the same reason that children have a wealth to teach us about risk, failure, and growth. Miller writes:

For me the paintings of children belong side by side with the works of the masters… The work of a child never fails to make appeal, to claim us, because it is always honest and sincere, always imbued with the magic certitude born of the direct, spontaneous approach.

[…]

Paul Klee … had the ability to return us to the world of the child as well as to that of the poet, the mathematician, the alchemist, the seer. In the paintings of Paul Klee we are privileged to witness the miracle of the pedagogue slaying the pedagogue. He learned in order to forget, it would seem. He was a spiritual nomad endowed with the most sensitive palps… He almost never failed, and he never, never, never said too much.

Paul Klee: Senecio (1922)

Miller compares his own way of learning to that of children:

We all learn as much as we wish to and no more. We learn in different ways, sometimes by not learning…. My way is by trial and error, by groping, stumbling, questioning.

Noting that very few American painters excite him at all — among the exceptions he admiringly cites Georgia O'Keeffe and Jackson Pollock — Miller condemns the toxic effect of consumerism, something he had spiritedly condemned three decades earlier, on the creative spirit:

To paint is to love again, and to love is to live to the fullest. But what kind of love, what sort of life can one hope to find in a vacuum cluttered with every conceivable gadget, every conceivable money maker, every last comfort, every useless luxury? To live and love, and to give expression to it in paint, one must also be a true believer. There must be something to worship. Where in this broad land is the Holy of Holies hidden?

[…]

The practice of any art demands more than mere savoir faire. One must not only be in love with what one does, one must also know how to make love. In love self is obliterated. Only the beloved counts. Whether the beloved be a bowl of fruit, a pastoral scene, or the interior of a bawdy house makes no difference. One must be in it and of it wholly. Before a subject can be transmuted aesthetically it must be devoured and absorbed. If it is a painting it must perspire with ecstasy.

Echoing Nietzsche's conviction that a full life requires embracing rather than running from difficulty, he adds:

The lure of the master lies in the struggle he engenders… [In America] for everything which taxes our patience, our skill, our understanding, we have short cuts… Only the art of love, it would seem, still defies the short cut.

Decades before Lewis Hyde's now-legendary manifesto for the gift economy and half a century before its modern-day counterpart, Amanda Palmer's manifesto for the art of asking, Miller writes:

Certainly the surest way to kill an artist is to supply him with everything he needs. Materially he needs but little. What he never gets enough of is appreciation, encouragement, understanding. I have seen painters give away their most cherished work on the impulse of the moment, sometimes in return for a good meal, sometimes for a bit of love, sometimes for no reason at all — simply because it pleased them to do so. And I have seen these same men refuse to sell a cherished painting no matter what the sum offered. I believe that a true artist always prefers to give his work away rather than sell it. A good artist must also have a streak of insanity in him, if by insanity is meant an exaggerated inability to adapt. The individual who can adapt to this mad world of to-day is either a nobody or a sage. In the one case he is immune to art and in the other he is beyond it.

Henry Miller: 'A Bridge Somewhere' (Collection of Howard Welch)

Miller traces this purity of intention back to one of his first mentors and greatest influences, the painter Lilik Schatz, who never condemned Miller's lack of technique in painting but had no tolerance for "lack of feeling, lack of daring." Miller quotes Schatz's memorable advice:

Do anything you like, but do it with conviction!

For their sincerity and integrity of conviction, Miller held painters in high regard his whole life. He describes them as "all lovable souls, and some … possessed of a wisdom altogether uncommon." Even though these impressions were based on Miller's friendships with a number of prominent artists, including Man Ray and Beauford Delaney, he remains most moved by the great photographer Alfred Stieglitz, a man of "vigorous, youthful spirit" and "unique way of looking at things":

No one had ever talked painting to me the way Stieglitz did. It wasn't his talk alone either, but the look in his eyes which accompanied it. That he was not a painter amazed me…. If ever the artist had a friend, a spokesman, a champion defender, it was in the person of Alfred Stieglitz… He was one of the very few Americans … whose approach to a work of art inspired reverence for the artist, for his work, for art itself. Lucky for us who come under his spell that he was not a painter, that he had created for himself the role of interpreter and defender.

Miller's deep appreciation for such champions of the artist echoes, coincidentally, what Georgia O'Keeffe — the love of Stieglitz's life, and a legendary artist whose own career was sparked by a friend's unflinching faith — once wrote of the only true measure of success in art. In a sentiment that Robert Krulwich would come to echo half a century later in his magnificent commencement address on the importance of "friends in low places," Miller extols the enormous spiritual value of such supporters:

Usually the artist has two life-long companions, neither of his own choosing… — poverty and loneliness. To have a friend who understands and appreciates your work, one who never lets you down but who becomes more devoted, more reverent, as the years go by, that is a rare experience. It takes only one friend, if he is a man of faith, to work miracles.

Henry Miller: 'Young Boy' (Collection of Henry Miller)

But Miller's timeliest point is his word of advice and admonition to young artists, heeding which is doubly important in our networked and networking age preoccupied with how large an artist's Twitter following is or how "successful" her Kickstarter campaign:

How distressing it is to hear young painters talking about dealers, shows, newspaper reviews, rich patrons, and so on. All that comes with time — or will never come. But first one must make friends, create them through one's work. What sustains the artist is the look of love in the eyes of the beholder. Not money, not the right connections, not exhibitions, not flattering reviews.

Miller intuits with great poetic precision what we now know empirically about grit being more important than "genius":

To win through by sheer force of genius is one thing; to survive and continue to create when every last door is slammed in one's face is another. Nobody acquires genius — it is God-given. But one can acquire patience, fortitude, wisdom, understanding. Perhaps the greatest gift [is] to love what one does whether it causes a stir or not.

In yet another stroke of prescience, Miller reveals himself as an early proponent of the pay-what-you-wish model of funding creative endeavor — the model that makes Brain Pickings possible — and adds:

Who knows what is good for man in this life? Poverty is one of the misfortunes people seem to dread even more than sickness… But is it so dreadful? For me this seemingly bleak period was a most instructive one, because not being able to write for money I had to turn to something else to keep going. It could have been shining shoes; it happened to be water colors. To make water colors for money never gave me the least qualm. I set no price on my labors. Whatever the buyer chose to offer, whatever he thought he could afford, no matter how ridiculous the sum, I said yes… I earned just enough to keep my head above water. It was like writing songs and getting paid to whistle them.

Henry Miller: 'Clown' (Collection of Hoki Miller)

Having written about the beautiful osmosis of giving and receiving nearly three decades earlier, Miller closes with a wonderfully touching personal anecdote — the kind found in Charles Bukowski's beautiful letter of gratitude to his first patron. Illustrating the mutually ennobling effects of this kindness economy, Miller recounts one such early friendly spirit to whom he owes his creative destiny:

All this good fortune — of being able to work like a dog in happy poverty — was the result of a chance encounter with Attilio Bowinkel who ran an art shop in Westwood Village. One day I entered his shop to buy two tubes of paint. I asked for the cheapest water colors he had. When he asked me if that was all I needed I told him frankly that that was all I could afford at the moment. Whereupon the good Mr. Bowinkel put me a few discreet but pertinent queries. I answered briefly and truthfully. Then he said, and I shall never forget it: "Choose what you like … paper, paints, brushes, whatever you need. It's a gift." A few days later he came to the Green House to inspect my work. I blushed when I showed him what I had on hand. He didn't say whether they were good or bad but on leaving he took a few with him, and the next day, on passing his shop, I noticed two of them in the window, beautifully framed. They were sold that very day, to Arthur Freed of M.G.M., a collector of modern European paintings… In Attilio Bowinkel I found a friend and a saviour.

To Paint Is to Love Again is hard to find but well worth the effort — it is indeed the kind of book that might one day possess you to do something as crazy as telling a stranger on the New York subway about it. Complement it with Miller on the art of living, the secret to remaining young at heart, the greatest thing about the universe, and his eleven commandments of writing.

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Julius Kronberg, Swedish Academian [feedly]



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Julius Kronberg, Swedish Academian
// Gurney Journey




Speaking of Swedish painters, blog reader Staffan Alsparr shared some information about Julius Kronberg (1850-1921): "I thought he might be an artist that you haven't heard of before, which isn't strange at all, he is very unknown here as well."

Kronberg, Portrait of Artur Hazelius, 1910
Mr. Alsparr continues: "The two Swedish artists that most people do know are Anders Zorn and Carl Larsson. Kronberg was contemporary to them, although he followed a more academic path, and was very popular in his time, but largely forgotten today, like many of the academicians."

Julius Kronberg, David och Saul, 1885

Julius Kronberg and his daughter, with charcoal preliminary for a mural
Maquettes by Julius Kronberg
"I thought you might find his work interesting since he worked with imaginative subjects and built his own models, props and maquettes to aid him in this, just like many others and like you've written about in Imaginative Realism." 

Julius Kronberg Queen of Sheba
"His studio is now also part of Skansen, an outdoor museum in Stockholm, and it is open to the public but only a few weeks a year." 

Thanks, Staffan.



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Painting Buildings: How to Approach Edges [feedly]



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Painting Buildings: How to Approach Edges
// Artist's Network

In part 1 of this blog we saw how representing a building exactly as it appears in real life can produce an unrealistic image. I mentioned how painting buildings with harsh, straight lines creates an uncomfortable image for the viewer, and suggested some techniques to compensate for this. When painting man-made structures and placing them in context, you'll be faced with another problem: edges. In nature, unless something is moving, such as clouds, waterfalls and crashing seascape foam, all static objects have hard edges.

For example, in the macro world, when we see a row of evergreens behind another row, we can estimate how many yards back the second row is from the front row. Our brain interprets the field of depth in its own way. This sense of depth goes unquestioned, and it isn't necessary to manipulate any edges to make things appear as if they're receding. In a painting it's a different ball game!

Photo reference for painting buildings

Photo reference

In photos and in the real world, buildings always have hard edges. If there's foliage or a hill behind a building, they'll also have hard edges. The planes occupied by these elements will compete. That's why we need to manipulate the edges in the further plane–the one that's behind the building–so the building appears to come forward and we regain the field of depth in an illusory way.

Grandma's Flower Garden (oil painting) by Johannes Vloothuis

Grandma's Flower Garden (oil painting) by Johannes Vloothuis. Click here to "pin" this lesson to your art board on Pinterest.

Compare Grandma's Flower Garden (above) with the reference photo (top). Even though the photo is more of a faithful version of the real-life scene, the photo seems more flat and two-dimensional than the painting. In the artistic rendering the contrast of soft-vs.-hard edges helps bring the houses forward. As a rule of thumb, I diffuse all edges behind man-made structures. This principle will apply to all mediums. In watercolor you would resort to a wet-into-wet paint application. If using oil or pastel, you can soften the edges to your heart's content by smudging. With acrylics, you can scumble the contours by feathering the paint. This practice will also help to avoid a cut-out/pasted-on effect. ~J.V.

The Wheel No Longer Turns (watercolor painting) by Johannes Vloothuis

The Wheel No Longer Turns (watercolor painting) by Johannes Vloothuis

In The Wheel No longer Turns (above), practically the entire background was done on wet paper. The edges are soft because the pigment bled into the paper.

To learn more about painting buildings you can find "The Complete Essentials of Painting Buildings" and other video courses (some of which are on sale – download for only $5!) at NorthLightShop.com.


Johannes Vloothuis is a regular contributor at ArtistsNetwork.com and teaches online art classes with WetCanvas Live. To reach Vloothuis for these classes and to acquire teaching materials visit ImproveMyPaintings.com. Come back soon for his next blog post with more tips on how to paint.

Bonus: Enter your email below for a FREE downloadable reference photo by Johannes Vloothuis when you sign up for the
Artists Network newsletter!

The post Painting Buildings: How to Approach Edges appeared first on Artist's Network.


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Plein Air Watercolor Survival Guide [feedly]



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Plein Air Watercolor Survival Guide
// Artist Daily

When plein air painting, one of the most enjoyable and facile medias I've found to work with has to be watercolors. Hands down. The supplies are minimal, you can paint quickly and move from place to place making sketches of what catches your interest, and the paintings dry so quickly that there's no stress involved when it comes to packing up and moving out.

A Break in the Weather by Jim McFarlane, watercolor painting.
A Break in the Weather by Jim McFarlane, watercolor painting.

But there are a few learning curves that artists can hit along the way when painting outdoors. That's why I want to share a few tips straight from the brightest plein air artists in the biz so we can all paint with confidence when we are painting outside.

Opportunistic Landscape Painting

Jim McFarlane focuses on using a limited number of values when he wears his plein air painting hat. It requires you to link areas of similar values together, resulting in larger shapes and sounder compositions.

McFarlane also encourages painters to be opportunistic--look what is around you and take it as a visual gift. If there are unexpected views or situations, make the most of them. Don't get bogged down in preconceived ideas about how you want the painting session to go before you even leave the studio.

The first question McFarlane always asks himself is, "Where's the sunlight?" That becomes the white of his paper, and from there he knows that anything that isn't sunlight at least gets a light value, which is especially helpful with shadows that move so quickly when you are painting en plein air.

China Camp Village by David Savellano, watercolor painting, 14 x 21.
China Camp Village by David Savellano,
watercolor painting, 14 x 21.

It can be a jungle out there, and one way San Francisco artist David Savellano stays focused when plein air painting is to write down the title of the piece before he starts painting to maintain a sense of purpose and continuity throughout the process.

Savellano also cautions artists to forego multiple layers when painting outdoors. Instead, he encourages focus on painting with the fewest expressive brushstrokes that you can manage, and trying to get values and colors right the first time. It may not happen that way all the time, but it is a goal worth striving for.

For more survival tips for watercolor landscape painting--especially for depictions of the sea and the vessels that float on its surface--I recommend Painting Boats & Harbors in Watercolor. You'll find watercolor paintings that give coastal landscape painting a modern makeover, and how to paint water with water. What could be more appropriate? Enjoy!

 


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Videos

The Nutcracker and Mouse King Ghibli Exhibition

http://halcyonrealms.com/japan/nutcracker-mouse-king-ghibli-exhibition/


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