It is You, Not Your Materials That Count
Pretty heady stuff. Painting genius? I know there is a big chunk of work involved in producing world class paintings. But let me ask you this. If you worked on your painting consistently for an hour every evening would your paintings improve quickly and consistently. Of course you must agree, because this should be self evident. Time is something we can manage if we want to. But what is really holding you back?
A painting workshop is always a bit nerve wracking as you are not sure what the response will be. Add a long trip to another location and the potential for hiccups grows. But thankfully artists are a keen bunch of people with a passion for painting. The group that I met in Greyton were all that and more.
Set in a stunning village, nestled alongside the Sonderend mountains in the Western Cape, Greyton has all the natural features for outdoor painting. I had the good fortune to host a workshop there recently and it was a pleasure to meet a dedicated and fun group of artists. We had an active day with lessons and practical painting outdoors. A sneaky Autumn wind arrived later in the day to keep us from getting too adventurous, but this was no problem. The weather behaved and we had a good time.
You can see a few highlights in the video below.
I am looking forward to the next workshop in Greyton and if you would like to stay in the loop for dates please add your name to my mailing list below.
A BIG thank you to all the participants for making this a lovely day. I hope to be painting with you again in the future.
Plein Air Painting Course:
If you would like to learn more about outdoor painting you may also be interested in my online course. This course aims to show you how you can easily add another dimension to your painting through the medium of plein air. See more details here.
A question that comes up often is how should new artists price and sell their paintings. I get asked this usually through email because most artists are not comfortable talking about this face-to-face. At least that is my experience of it. This is a pity, as business tips and anecdotes from artists can be enormously helpful. It is a fact of life - we make a living partly or wholly from art. Let’s talk about it. So here goes!
No More Starving Artist
Let us agree to get rid of the starving artist myth. Sadly Van Gogh is often used as an example, but this is grossly unfair. Surely if Van Gogh had a healthy mind he would have reached financial success too? I am confident of that. Your art business, whether full time or part-time, is simply a business with a reasonable chance of success.
In Part 1 I look at the essential qualities you will need to grow your business.
A review of my favorite Rosemary and Co oil painting brushes by Malcolm Dewey
Do premium, professional brushes make a difference to your painting? Are they worth the cost? I was able to get some answers when I recently received my new Rosemary & Co oil painting brushes from The Italian Art Shop in Cape Town.
The Classic bristle brushes included long flats, filbert and Egbert brushes. A rigger brush rounded off the bristle brushes. A fine hair badger brush from their Master’s Choice series was included too.
First impressions? The bristle brushes have interlocking bristles which means that the brush keeps its shape. No splaying or misshapen bristles ensures each brushstroke is true. There is good flex in the bristles too. The handles are long and the manufacturing quality is excellent. There is also a generous amount of bristles in each brush. The brush head seemed thicker than other premium brushes that I have used.
The Egbert brush was impressive with especially long bristles for a more carefully applied paint stroke. The rigger also has lovely long bristles making it a superb brush for fine lines.
Rosemary & Co are a small UK based company that hand make their brushes. They have a fast growing following among artists worldwide including many artist superstars. So I was keen to use the brushes and see what the fuss was all about.
My Studio Workhorse
I was not disappointed. The long flat brush is the workhorse brush in my studio. It must withstand vigorous brushwork. Be versatile enough to be used for many different strokes and not lose bristles in the process. The brush must keep its shape after daily cleaning and last for several months or more. This long flat easily ticked all of those boxes. So too the filbert. The rigger was a delight when I used it in a painting of yachts. Of course to paint the rigging and to sign my name.
What About a Fine Hair Paint Brush?
The badger hair brush is sublime for fine paint strokes in the true old master tradition. This brush has a generous amount of hair making up the brush head. The brush should last years if cared for. See my suggested method for cleaning brushes.
Although the brushes may cost more than basic student brushes they will last a long time if properly cared for. Much longer than cheap brushes. Plus the quality of brushwork is markedly improved. Precise brush-marks, clean lines and edges are assured. Plus no frustrating hairs falling out during the painting process! All of these qualities make for better paintings and a happy painting experience for the artist.
All things considered Rosemary & Co brushes are an excellent investment for both amateur and professional artists.
PS: You can see these brushes in action in my yacht painting demo here.
This review also appeared in the SA Artist Magazine. Subscribe to this magazine here.
We all have those times when our art seems to be flat lining. You reach a plateau and every painting is just so-so. Painting is no different. Been there plenty of times. But that is a good thing. No really, because the only way you can lift up your work is to be sick and tired with where you are right now. It is time for a kick in the pants (or whatever suitable metaphor works for you).
Here are seven suggestions:
1. Take a Mini-Sabbatical
This is a tough one, but you have to drop your painting for a while and decompress. But you must not fret either. Take a few days and do something out of the usual routine. Go for walks. Visit some scenic spot nearby and simply look. Take the kids and get ice creams. Do gardening. Your mind does take time to unwind so give it a while to get your creative mojo back.
2. Sneak Up on Creativity
Yes it sounds weird, but your creative side and your mind are not the same thing. Or so it seems. What I mean is that your mind sulks and you feel down. But do something unusual and your creative side says "Cool lets do more of that!" For example take your camera and a list of ten words. Then take photos of things that you associate with the words. Pick the words at random out of a dictionary then go for a walk and take the photos.
3. Work Upside Down
No not you, but hey, if it works go with it. Or instead try painting from a photo that is upside down. Simply paint the shapes you see as they appear upside down. No pressure of trying to make it look like an actual scene. Not only is this amusing, but it is a great learning exercise in seeing shapes. Then turn the painting around and see how accurately you record the shapes. Interesting.
4. Bag It
Put all your paint tubes in a bag. Reach in and randomly select three tubes. Add a tube of white. Paint a scene.
5. Take a Trip
Not always possible, but sometimes all you need to do is say "The heck with it, I'm booking a trip to ..." Before you know it a long weekend is booked somewhere different and you are excited. Your family thinks you are a hero and everyone has a breather. Often a one week holiday keeps me inspired for many months. Such a trip always pays me back tenfold. It is kind of an investment for mind and wallet.
6. Try New Techniques
Doing the same thing and expecting different results is madness, they say. The most common complaint I hear is artists trying to loosen up their painting style. In fact a have devoted considerable time to making a course that will help with this issue. (See below) The fact is that you unlock creative energy when you try something new. Paint a portrait if you always do landscapes and vice versa. Use different materials. For example use pencils to sketch an entire landscape scene. Really go for it and push yourself.
Artists are often pretty unfit. Yup guilty of that. A little exercise goes a long way to kick starting your energy. But avoid rushing out to buy exercise equipment. In fact avoid shopping. That saps your spirit. Use what you have and get moving. Leg bends, press-ups, squats or simply stretching for ten minutes. Google exercises you can do with your body weight. You will never need a gym or equipment to get a good workout. Feel the energy come rushing back.
My Personal Choice: Numbers 1, 5, 6 and 7 are favorites for me. Number 2 is fun as well. Let me know what works for you.
The Loosen Up Your Painting C0urse
Now live and looking good. Try out the techniques and lessons in this course. Frequently updated with my personal tips and painting lessons. I have a special offer on this course with 20% Off for a limited time. Expires 2 April 2017. To grab this offer click here.
Painting landscapes in in a bold, expressive manner is great. But often artists forget this approach when painting portraits. The portrait is painted in a tight style with little brushstrokes. All the excitement is gone and you may feel disappointed with the result. Trying to get a likeness becomes inhibiting. But it does not have to be that way. You can still get a likeness and use bold brushwork and color.
In this week's video diary I am painting an oil sketch to illustrate this idea. Using a size 8 long flat bristle brush to ensure that loose and painterly style is not lost. So often artist leave the bristle brush for soft hair brushes when they start a portrait. That is okay if you want a smooth photo finish. But bristles can leave a wonderful texture even on portraits. Plus you will note he wide variety of brushstrokes and details that this large brush can achieve.
Maybe you will be inspired to try a loose approach with your portraits. Go for the gesture and achieve a likeness this way without worrying about a photo-real painting.
Take a look at this oil sketch to see what I mean.
Discover how to paint in a loose style: Now you can learn how to paint in that loose, impressionist style you love. Find out at How to Loosen Up Your Painting.
Painting in the studio has its advantages. The environment is comfortable and easily managed. You have your privacy and the time to consider your next steps. It is especially suitable for larger paintings that may take days or weeks to complete. Unlike spontaneous outdoor painting, the studio has a more considered approach. But it is not that simple.
Time Can Let You Down
Time to consider often leads to second guessing yourself. Changes are made to the painting. These changes often lead to frustration and abandoned paintings. Other times we may overwork the painting. The result is a tight and dull painting. This outcome is sadly easy to achieve if you do not have a system to prepare your painting.
The System that Works Everywhere
There is a simpler way to get results consistently. Have a system for preparing your painting. Even better is to use the same system outdoors too. This way ensures that you approach each painting more or less the same way. So the system must be simple and effective. Quick enough to use outdoors, as far as possible and easily applied indoors.
Are Photos Your References?
First off are your studio paintings inspired by photographs? Probably most artists would say yes. Photos are popular references. That is fine so long as the photos are your own. This takes care of any copying issues. Plus it ensure that you have an emotional connection with the scene. Here are tips on how to use photos effectively as references.
Avoid Photo Dependency
A better approach for your studio painting is to include small paintings, studies and sketches as your primary references for the actual painting process. Yes the actual subject may be recorded in your photograph, but if you have these other references to work from you will find the painting much simpler.
In the video below I refer to a number of small paintings and studies for a large painting of eucalyptus trees. So let us have a look at the three essential steps I use to prepare.
Three Steps to Prepare a Successful Painting
1. Reference Photo: Most commonly you would be inspired from a place you have visited. Then you consider photos when you get back to the studio. Perhaps even sketches taken at the scene? The reference photo will provide the key information to drawing the scene.
2. Notan Sketch: As shown in the video a little sketch using a black and grey wedge shaped marker is enormously helpful. It sets out the structure, mass shapes, three values and helps compose the painting. All in a little two-minute sketch. Fantastic. If you want a quick course (plus 50% off) on how this system can add power to your paintings try this one called (not surprisingly) How to Add Power to Your Paintings Instantly.
3. Small Studies: I rely on small paintings more and more. Especially paintings done outdoors. You can get outdoor studies simply looking out of a window, in your backyard or at any outdoor scene you like. The point is your response to the scene in paint creates a fantastic reference for the actual painting in the studio. A photo does not convey your brushwork and how you solved the painting problems the scene presented. But a small painting gives you the insight you need.
TIP: So start making studies for future reference. Keep these near your easel for reminders. They also boost your confidence when you are struggling with a large painting.
The three steps above can make a huge difference. But you can add watercolour sketches, pencil or pastel sketches and paint mixing exercises too. The latter can help you plan your painting mixes for tricky colours.
Ultimately you decide on what works for you. Some artists are impatient to get started while others can take days to plan and prepare. But preparation will make your painting improve quickly. And that makes for a happy artist.
Ready to take your painting skills further? All of these methods and much more are captured in seven hours of video , notes and assignments in my flagship courseLearn to Paint With Impact. It is worth considering if you want a sure method to vastly and consistently improve your painting.
What to do when your painting progress stalls?
We all get stuck now and then. I had this problem recently and was getting frustrated with going in circles trying to force my painting. Finally I realised that I needed to go back to basics. Work from there and enjoy the bold statement. This worked a treat!
So I was inspired to set out a few videos on Loosen Up Your Painting to help members facing a similar problem. At some point you will feel the same way I'm sure. We will walk through the process that gives you the most impact, but is still simple to implement quickly.
Then a little bit about keeping your colour clean and vibrant. This is key to bold paintings. This is a major problem for new artists getting into oil painting. It involves the type of brushwork used as well as mixing paint. We all get annoyed when colours turn dull and muddy. That can happen if you are not keeping an eye on the type of hue being used.
I hope that you enjoy this month's installment. If you are not a member of this growing community of artists why not give it a try. Discover more here
Do you remember the TV series Cosmos hosted by Carl Sagan? It is a wonderful series and Carl Sagan remains peerless in communicating the mystery of all things universal. Episode 8 stands out in my memory. The part where Sagan illustrates some of the weird things that will happen if you could travel near to the speed of light.
An Italian teenager decides to go for a scooter ride. Before he sets off he says goodbye to his young friend, Vincenzo, who is sitting on a bench in the village square. Our scooter rider does even better than Valentino Rossi and manages to travel near to the speed of light. All sorts of strange things happen at such speeds as described by Albert Einstein in his Theories of Relativity. When the rider returns after about fifteen minutes of travel he finds the village square deserted. Except for a very old man sitting on the bench. Yes, the old man happens to be Vincenzo, the formerly young friend waiting in the square. The teenage rider has not aged, but his friend is now a geriatric. Ouch!
Moral of the story? If you want to cheat time find a way to travel near to the speed of light. But you may not like the consequences. Short of light speed we all need to find another way to occupy our limited time on this isolated planet. I like the idea that if you keep moving you are able to make the best of your time. This got me thinking about creativity and artists. Do we have a special opportunity to get more out of time?
Playing in Life's Second Half:
I am sure if you are north of forty years old you have noticed how time seems to move quicker. As a child an hour could feel like days. Especially on a Sunday afternoon! Now the hours fly by in seconds. I cannot help but notice that I am now playing in the second half of life’s game. And it is in the second half of any game where greatness can be achieved. Think of any sport and there will be many examples of great feats of achievement in the last moments of the game. Why not in life too?
Artist's Unique Opportunity:
Artists have a unique opportunity to make the most of time. I speak of art in the broadest sense. Everyone who puts their heart into their work goes beyond mere step-by-step performance. These people transform their work into art. Some stand out as shining beacons over time. Da Vinci, Picasso, Einstein and many more. Immortal in their achievements.
How We Can Transform Time:
What about the rest of us who do not rise to these illustrious heights? No problem. We must remember that the object of life is not fame or fortune. It is rather about making the most of our talents in the time we have been given. Create, share and contribute something positive to the world. All of these actions create positive energy. Ripples that keep going. You may never know it, but your creative actions may influence greatness in someone else. Plus you feel better and more energised and the cycle continues. You have transformed your time into something meaningful.
Yes there are ups and downs, but as they say, it is the trend that counts over time. If the trend is up then you can safely say that your life has been pretty good. Like Sinatra says, as long as your regrets are too few to mention.
So how to go about the daily grind with a creative attitude? Not everybody finds this easy to do. Especially when life has been dishing out some tough moments. Here are a few bare-knuckle thoughts:
1. Be Aware of Your Thoughts and Words: Possibly the most important thing any of us can do is to become aware of our own thoughts and words. How we think about others and ourselves determines our attitude to life. So often we blame others, but never consider our own part. Or we say negative things to ourselves and to others. Those words are powerful. So begin by stepping back and observing what you say and do. For example if you catch yourself losing your temper try and stop the flow of anger and think about what triggers you. Is it worth the drama?
2. Be Aware of Others Who Negatively Influence You: This can be friends, family or the media. Ask yourself who brings you down or depletes your energy? It is time to take responsibility for your creative energy and attitude. Avoid the negative people or media that bring you down. Start today by ditching the newspaper that makes you boil with indignation every time you read it.
3. Identify Your Passion: This topic may sound a little trite these days. Follow your passion is a cliche, but simply try to identify what you love doing. That activity that engages your mind and body fully so that time seems to fly by. You emerge calmer and happier. Plus there is something positive to show for it. A piece of art, a chapter in a book, a new bookshelf, a loaf of bread, a new tune on your guitar and so on. These are your passion activities and you need to nurture them.
4. Drop Your Baggage: This links up with item 1. But it includes taking responsibility for yourself. Have you listened to someone you know carry on about something that happened long ago? They blame a parent, boss, partner or circumstance. No matter that the event took place thirty years ago. Some folks just cannot leave it alone. They nurture the negative energy. The result is an excuse for not trying anything worthwhile. And true failure only happens when you do not try at all. Plus it is so boring to listen to that sort of stuff! So drop the baggage so that you can move on and do something that gives you joy. That helps you grow and find the peace you deserve. Then you can use time properly.
5. Make a Start: Are you too busy? Too scared? Too lazy? What is really keeping you from starting your creative work? Ask yourself these provocative questions, because honesty is critical. No more deluding yourself with excuses. Get tough and get started. Yes you may have to sacrifice something like binge watching on Netflix. If it is using your time then you need to make sure it is truly worthwhile. If your deceptive mind yells out: I don’t have time! Then add these two words: ...to waste! You do not have time to waste. Momentum is key. Begin and the work becomes easier and you get results.
Measure your Time:
I have developed an idea that each painting produced is a marker. It marks a moment in time used well. I can look at the painting and know that my energy and hands created something. My precious time was not wasted. Whether the painting is sold or not is irrelevant. I know that I was doing something meaningful. This also helps me to be aware of time. When goofing off I know that time is being wasted. So I know that I must cut out the waste and get back to my art. Having fun is not goofing off either. I am not talking about living a dull working life. We need to know the difference between living fully and wasting time.
The Clock Keeps Ticking:
Time machines may exist one day when we can travel close to light speed. But then again maybe not. For now all we can do is make the most of the time we have right now. Starting today. Know that as an artist you have a duty. To Create Art. In this way you contribute to the world today and perhaps leave your mark on the world tomorrow.
Do you want to rekindle your creative talent? Perhaps you have retired and used to paint long ago. But getting started seems silly or difficult? Leave a comment or Contact me and I will see if I can help.
Who does not love painting water scenes, the sea and yachts? Most landscape artists love the idea of painting these scenes, but are intimidated by the prospect. After all water is moving and full of shifting shapes, colour and light. And as for yachts. Unless you are familiar with them painting the boats is also tricky.
Water in the Impressionist Style
In this month's installment of How to Loosen Up Your Painting I am showing members how to paint water in a loose and vibrant style. Our source of inspiration is none other than Claude Monet, the master of impressionism. Monet loved painting water as well as the yachts and boats on the sea and rivers. He was inspired by Turner as well and visited England to paint there too.
Yachts are Complicated Subjects
Well that's true if you are learning to sail them, but we are only going to paint them. The loose style means painting shapes of colour and value. I will show you how to simplify this potentially complicated subject into the essential mood of the scene.
Interested in Membership?
Join us and access all the past lessons and a full year of upcoming lessons. Plus you can add your work to the site for feedback from me and other artists. This is a useful way to get objective comments and help when you need it. Learn more about this opportunity here.
View a sample of the lessons in the video below:
NEW: 2 DVD SET
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