Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Alla prima

al⋅la pri⋅ma[ah-luh pree-muh]
noun Fine Arts.

a painting technique in which a canvas is completed in one session, often having a thickly applied impasto.

< It: lit., at the first

Monday, December 22, 2008

Learning to See

As artist's it is essential that we be constantly expanding our minds, especially where our creative skills are concerned. Whether your already an accomplished painter, or just beginning on your path to artistic excellence, there is always more to learn, and higher levels of perfection to aim for.

Study good art

We should always be improving and growing, and there are several ways of doing this. One way in particular stands out to me, mostly because it is so often underestimated, and therefore over looked: Studying good art.

By "good art", I mean work (whether paintings, sculpture, or any other medium used to convey a message) that is created by accomplished artists who have proved themselves to be the best at what they do. "Master" is the title often given to such a person, and rightly so: They've established themselves as worthy of the title through many years of study, and devotion of their lives to their craft.

Not having had the privilege of studying under a great master artist, but endeavoring still to increase my knowledge where painting is concerned, I've had to generate methods of teaching myself, and as a self taught artist, I've found it necessary [for my growth] to study works of art that not only inspire me, but are also executed extremely well. I know that through careful observation of these masterpieces, I can learn to “hone in” on my own painting skills, and benefit from what the artist has already tried and proved in their own work.

Your eyes are gates

By "Study", I'm not referring to casual glances, but rather, careful and in-depth scrutiny of masterful artwork.

We must understand that the more focus we place on observing good artwork, the more our own will begin to improve. The reason for this is quite simple: When studying art, such as a painting, our minds store the information gathered while viewing the piece, and the longer we look at it, the more we'll see. As we then endeavor to create our own works of art, we subconsciously make decisions based on the information we've received.
Basically, the art that we spend the greatest amount of time screening, will most influence the decisions we make while painting (or sculpting, etc.).

For example: Have you ever read a fashion editorial, and later found yourself in the middle of a department store buying an article of clothing that closely resembled what you saw photographed on a model in that particular publication? You probably would have chosen something completely different were it not for your liking the way it looked in the magazine, and analizing those photographs influenced your decision where your attire investments were concerned.
Why is it that millions of dollars are spent every day by large companies on television commercials? Because those companies know that if you view their advertisements long enough, and frequently enough, you'll be more apt to invest in their products. They know that your eyes are like gates, and images can be used to enter into your thinking. We should take on the same mindset when it comes to art. The more time you spend studying it, the more it will begin to show through in your own work, and influence the decisions you make, good or bad.

"Don't watch something you don't intend to do yourself"

That's what I was told growing up as a child, where my television viewing choices were concerned, and you know, it's true. If you put something before your eyes long enough, chances are you'll eventually find yourself acting it out. That can be a good thing, or it can be bad.

I say good or bad, because it works whether you’re observing an exceptional piece of art or something created with no real skill ever developed on the artist's part. We must be conscious of this, if we desire to take our work to the next level.

Some questions to ask yourself when viewing a piece of art

What is the artist trying to say?
What is the focal point of the composition?
What techniques have been used by the artist to create the specific look of the painting?
How would I have painted this piece?
What use of drawing, value, color, and edges has the artist made?
By asking ourselves these simple questions about every work of art we examine, we learn to really see, and then take from it the information we need to be successful in our own work. It's from these images stored in our brains that a foundation is formed for our creative knowledge to be built upon. After all, a good design for a painting means nothing unless you have the knowledge and skill it takes to execute it in a way that will satisfy you.

Happy Studying!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This Month's Recommended Reading

By Sandro Sproccati

Out of print
Used copy available through Barnes & Noble

"Richard Schmid Paints Landscapes: Creative Techniques In Oil"
By Richard Schmid

Out of print
Used copy available though Amazon

"Norman Rockwell
332 Magazine Covers"
By Christopher Finch

Available here

Friday, November 28, 2008

Henri Fantin-Latour: The Still Lifes

"Asters And Fruit On A Table" 1868

Born in Grenoble, France, and receiving an artistic education at a very young age from his father Théodore, Ignace Henri Jean Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) began his career as a traditional painter, and studied in the Louvre, making copies of old master paintings. He later worked in Gustave Courbet's studio, where he drew and painted from live models. Fellow painters Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, and James McNeill Whistler were among his friends. In 1859 he paid the first of many visits to London, where he exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1862, and the following year he showed at the Salon des Refusés in Paris because his paintings had been rejected by the official Salon. Moving away from the academic approach however, he began to give more place to his romantic visions, and focused a great deal on capturing the momentary beauty of flowers (along with various inanimate objects) through painting still lifes.
Cut flowers, because of their being short lived, are considered by many as symbols of mortality; Though hauntingly beautiful, they inevitably fade with the passing of time, not unlike our lives here on earth. By expressing sensitive awareness for these mere mortals, one can at the same time feel in touch with a more lasting reality; A reality of hope (Have you ever surrounded yourself by nature, and suddenly felt the urge to speak to God?).
Fantin-Latour was among those captivated by the simple beauty of flowers, and he was a celebrated master at painting the subtle effects of light, illuminating simple subjects, as seen in "Plate of Peaches" (right). The fruit in this piece is done splendidly, with a great understanding of edges. Also, note the simplistic composition; Just three peaches, resting on an unadorned plate, glowing against a dark background that seems to continue up to the top edge of the painting, revealing no breaks in color, or further detail.
"Roses In A Glass Vase" and "Roses And Nasturtiums In A Vase", the two paintings below, show the same careful attention to light and shadow, on a subject that often found a place in Fantin-Latour's still lifes. Latour very frequently incorporated these treasured flowers into his work, with great success. He applied thick strokes of paint to every petal; And created variation of color, by adding different colors to the brush, without blending: A technique that, when mastered, results in a luminous effect, causing the flowers to appear life-like, and glow against a rather muted background.
Latour painted modern subjects realistically and expressed a sense of time momentarily arrested. In his works one can see a direct relationship between the artist and his subjects, and take away a sense of appreciation for the objects shown, and the stories behind them.

"Capucines" 1893

"Bouquet de fleurs" 1889

"Still Life With Flowers" 1881

"Still Life With Flowers And Fruit" 1866

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Freedom From Want" by Norman Rockwell

"Saying Grace" by Norman Rockwell

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Closer Look At Linen Canvas

Just as you are what you eat, your art is whatever you've used to create it; An Artist's technique is only as good as the materials he or she has readily available. Does that mean that if you have the best paint, or most expensive brushes, you'll suddenly posses the ability to paint like the (recognized) Masters of your particular craft? Certainly not; It still requires a great amount of knowledge, and skill, to be the best you can possibly be; But the right equipment can most definitely assist you in achieving your artistic goals.

Some Fact's About Linen

The Flax Plant is an annual, with stalks reaching from 20 to 40 inches in height, and spear shaped leaves, branching only at the top, each branch ending in a vivid blue flower (see photo). Note: The seeds of the flax plant are known as linseed, and we know linseed oil to be the most common base for oil paints.
Linen Canvas is made from the long (and extremely strong) fibers that originate from this plant, and is very expensive to manufacture. It is harvested by hand, and continues through a lengthy process to become the finished product that we're accustomed to seeing: Sitting on the shelves of our local art supply store, ready to be primed and/or painted on. The best quality linen is produced from the best quality flax; And the best flax comes from Belgium, or France, because of the prime growing conditions of those particular regions. It also repels dirt, and is moth resistant.

Linen Canvas is widely known for it superior quality, and strength. Throughout the years it has proven to stand the tests of time with the greatest durability, and the master artist's of old recognized it as the prime surface to adhere paint to; Resulting in the wealth of extraordinary works of art that we are privileged to view, appreciate, and emulate, even to this very day. Thus the desire to have the best quality available (when it comes to choosing my art supplies), has become a driving force in me. My paint, canvas, and brushes, must meet these standards of quality, not only for my work to look the way that I've intended (though it is of great importance to me that it does), but also for each piece of art to have maximum longevity.
As a collector, you also should never allow such matters to be overlooked. Quality of material should dictate to whether or not you invest in a painting (or any other work of fine art), because should you (depending upon the value of your investment) wish to resell the piece, or pass it on to your heirs, it must be able to remain intact, and maintain it's integrity throughout future years. Linen Canvas has certainly been put to the test, and I believe that it's reputation (for being the best) will continue to live on for centuries to come, and through paintings yet to have been created.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Winter Landscape: With Snow!

How I wish it would snow where I live; If only to have opportunity to capture beatiful scenes on canvas, such as these by the artists I admire most.

"The Magpie" (top) has always been a particular favorite painting of mine. It's creater is none other than Claude Monet (1840-1926), the name most associated with Impressionism today. Monet endeavored to render the fleeting affect that sun and shadow created in this icy landscape, on location near Etretat, using pale colors, and suptle tonalities; Notice the importance placed on the shadows in the forground snow, adding interest to the composition.
Though rejected by the jury of the 1869 salon (just five years before the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874), this piece still garners praise today, by artist's and art lovers accross the globe (and rightly so).

Like Monet, Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), an associate of Monets, painted snow covered landscapes using an inpressionistic brushstroke technique. Though not nearly as popular, Sisley was none the less an exceptional artist, whose critical work has greatly contributed to the art world, as his panting "Snow at Louveciennes" (right) makes quite clear. From viewing this piece, one can accurately see his unique sensitivity, and use of color harmony.

Lastly, a contemporary master, Richard Schmid (b. 1934-) often paints the snow laden locale of New England (among other seasonally frozen terrains, found in the US). Though I haven't been informed as to where this particular "Victorian Winter" (above left) took place, it is, in and of itself, captivating; A hauntingly beautiful piece depicting an old Victorian abode covered with fresh snow. Another of Schmid's many wintery landcapes of note, is "Snow Maples" (below).
As I learn to accept the gross lack of frozen water desending from above my part of the country (with the help of friends in colder climates, offering to package a snowman and send it my way), I will continue dreaming of removing myself from this golden state, if only for a moment, to a much colder place, paint brush in hand, ready to capture, and keep, snow laden memories of my own.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recommended Artist

Casey Baugh

Casey is a talented young artist, whose work is garnering it's fair share of attention and acclaim these days, and rightly so. His work has the elegant look of an accomplished painter, and his subjects (mostly portraits and figures) are executed in oil with a masterful hand, and give the viewer a feeling of grace and power. You can view his work in two recent magazines...

The November edition of American Art Collector, and...

The December issue of The Artist's Magazine.

To learn more about my friend Casey, and see recent work, visit his website

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Newest Painting!

"Tea Still life"

24" x 30" Oil on linen

Still Life

–noun, plural still lifes.
1. a representation chiefly of inanimate objects, as a painting of a bowl of fruit.
2. the category of subject matter in which inanimate objects are represented, as in painting or photography.



Saturday, November 15, 2008

This Month's Recommended Reading

"The Art Book"
by Phaidon Press, Susan Stirling, Claire Van Cleave
(Paperback - Miniature Edition)

Available at

"Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting"
A standard in classical art education.
by Richard Schmid

Available at

"Sargent and Italy"
by Bruce Robertson, Ilene Susan Fort, Jane Dini

Available at

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Palette

After much study, and testing, these are the basic colors of my palette. I find that from this collection of fine "artist" grade oils, I can create just about any color needed to realistically paint my subject; Whether it's a still life, landscape, or figure, these time tested paints have stood by me throughout the years, and have proven to be of the best quality available.

Windsor & Newton

Alizarin Crimson*
Cadmium Red*
Permenant Rose
Terra Rosa
Titanium White*
Yellow Ochre Pale*


Cadmium Lemon*
Cadmium Orange
Cadmium Yellow Deep*
Cadmium Yellow Pale*
Cobalt Blue light
Transparent Oxide Brown*
Transparent Oxide Red*
Ultramarine Deep*

A * indicates colors always on my palette

Thursday, October 23, 2008

American Art Collector Magazine

Be sure and check out this months issue of "American Art Collector" for an article featuring some of Richard Schmid's most recent works. Along with being my favorite artist, and the biggest influence in my painting career (though we've yet to actually meet), he is an internationally recognized Master Artist, and his works have been featured in countless publications.

For a complete biography, and more information about Richard's work, visit his website

"Walpole Farm" Oil 16"x20"
© Richard Schmid 2008

"Maple Leaves & Flowers" Oil 16" x 20"
© Richard Schmid 2008

Some Of My Recent Paintings

"September Pansies"
10" x 10" Oil on linen

Every Autumn, I eagerly await the arrival of these little gems at my local nurseries. They have such a delicate look, but are rather strong as small flowering plants go. They weather it out each Winter, and bloom profusly through Spring. I love them!

"Gray Afternoon"

10" x 10" Oil on canvas
Ever since I was a small child, I loved rainy afternoons. They make you want to stay inside and read by the fire. Of course you have to venture out into the rain every now and then, especially to capture the moment in a painting. Fortunatly, I could do this piece from the comfort of my studio, using refrences, and paying close attention to an inspiring painting, by one of my favorite artists.


8" x 10" Oil on linen
I really wanted to paint the teacup in a different way than I usually do. I feel that I succeded in capturing a likeness of the cup, while still giving the composition interest.