by Janet Glatz
Man. I have never worked so hard on a painting as the one that’s on my easel right now. I deliberately chose this scene because it contains the things I’ve been trying to master: realistic flowing water, and life-like foliage. After watching teaching videos about a hundred times, and practicing a lot on watercolor paper, I felt that I had the foliage down. (Oh, yeah.) I also practiced the water quite a bit. Strangely, though, it was the water that turned out to be the easier piece.
In this painting, there are old hemlock trees, a couple of young deciduous ones, a whole bank of ferns, and a lot of moss. The ferns were a bear-because there were so many, and because they are made up of so many small parts. Had I tried to paint each part of every plant I would have been a month on those alone. So I fudged a bit on the farthest away and put more attention on fewer close up ones. I didn’t have any trouble with the moss.
Painting in the hemlock forest started out fairly easy—just a bunch of straight trunks and branches fading into the background. The trouble came when I attempted to add the sparse little bunches of needles. Frankly, I made a mess of it. So, then I had to repaint most of the tree grove before I could take a second shot at that darn foliage.
It takes a great deal of finesse to paint delicate foliage in such a way, and in such color tones as to be identifiable, but not overly obtrusive. I started out pretty well, but as often happens, my patience deserted me and I got heavy handed. Damn.
I had been quite happy with the deciduous tree which stands midground in the composition. Trouble is, it was overlying a piece of the background I messed up, so half of the tree went with it. I also realized that I’d neglected to leave enough open space among the branches of that tree, so I’ve added them. They will blend in when I add back the leaves.
All that being said, I am posting here the painting as it stands right now. It should take me another week to really finish it.
Patience, patience, patience, patience…………..
by Janet Glatz
Nobody says you shouldn't enjoy summer--heck no! What you should do, however, is budget your time.
Each Sunday night, take a few minutes to plan your week. Check the weather forecast. Take a look at when paintings are due and plan accordingly. Note any appointments, guests arriving, etc. that would interrupt your work. Block out some time each day for concentrated painting.
This way, even if you get that call from a friend to let loose and enjoy the sun, you'll still have plenty of work time scheduled.
The satisfaction of completing pieces or starting new ones is almost as satisfactory as getting your tan evened out. Besides that, it'll bring in some money, which the beach or the hiking trail can never do.
Just like good record keeping, responsible planning is the mark of a professional. Keep your career moving in the right direction with careful scheduling.
by Janet Glatz
Yes, I am a realism painter, but even if you are not, it is vital for you to find and refer to images of everything you paint (unless you've painted said "thing" a hundred times). If you don't, your shape, shading, and color will be all wrong.
I have done many a painting without referring to photos, and I've even sold quite a few of them. In those cases, the works were rather naif and stylized. I don't paint that way anymore. I prefer to represent mother nature the way she prefers to be represented.
Even with photos like the ones above you have to be careful. Often the colors are enhanced to an almost neon quality. In the wild, the ambient light is almost never of a quality to produce this in-your-face, exuberant color. So be ready to knock the chroma down a bit if you want to be taken seriously.
A note about using images without paying for them. I think this is okay as long as you use them with the identifying labels still on.
Using reference photos will help you with the tones and values of your shadows as well. Note the blue cast of the shadows in the left photo. They are also present in the fern photo, but mostly in the water.
Lastly, pay attention to your color wheel when using greens in your landscapes. Keep the colors harmonious by using your triads, as this will make for a much more harmonious painting.
by Janet Glatz
There are two sides to this question: A resounding, "Never!" and a kindly, "Why not?"
Those who would never donate talk about "devaluing their work" or "working for nothing."
I guess this depends on why you make art. Do you want people to see and appreciate it? Do you want it to make peoples' lives better? If the answer is no, then I guess we know where you stand.
However, those who believe in donating art find some surprising benefits to the practice:
I have donated art quite a few times. Sometimes the response from the organization is kind of meh, but often, the reaction is delight and admiration. Who doesn't need a dose of that sometimes?
Try giving a small piece or two to a cause that speaks to you. I don't believe you'll regret it for a minute, and you'll add to the giving tree a bit at a time.
by Janet Glatz
Sometimes a painting that doesn't sell leaves the artist wondering Why??? After it's been reframed, tweaked, and advertised and shown ad infinitum, still it remains in your inventory.
For instance, the painting below was originally done in 2013. Personally I love this work. To me, it is a consummate vignette of life in Maine. (Not prejudiced, of course.)
What are some of the reasons a painting doesn't sell? Here are a few:
time honored "Private Collection".
In the illustration above, you can see that this block in is more than simply slopping on the paint in shapes vaguely resembling the trees and bushes. Instead, what you see are a variety of strokes. In the foreground, the yellowish tree has a shadowed area with medium green stroked on vertically. Same with the top, less shady area in lighter yellow-green. Next to that is a tree with three different tonal areas. This is ready for the first layer of strokes resembling leaves but by no means the last. In the bottom area, a medium green will be laid on in shapes resembling boughs. In the next level up, a lighter green will be used, and a still lighter, more yellow green for the top. This process is repeated for each tree.
by Janet Glatz
The gorgeous oil painting below is by Daniel Edmondson, who offers instruction on video. He is just one of hundreds of great and not so great artists peddling their expertise on Youtube.
Speaking personally, this artist knows fully well that she still has a lot to learn, and always will. Now, thanks to the good old internet, it's easy to find another artist a few ticks up on the proficiency ladder from which to gain invaluable knowledge and expertise.
Don't get me wrong; it's not easy, because while watching a video it's hard to paint at the same time. Can't ask any questions either! But what I do is pick a certain technique or stroke, or light and shadow treatment and practice it on watercolor paper. That way you don't waste canvas.
That being said, I can't stress enough how invigorating and inspirational watching a master painter can be. Here's a quick taste:
Some videos are free, others are not; this has no bearing on quality. Choose what moves you to paint and to advance your skills. Then practice, practice, practice!!!
You really can't call yourself a painter of Maine land and seascapes if you can't paint water.
This is something I've been working on for twenty years, and I still have lots of room for improvement. For me, the most difficult to paint is a fast flowing river or stream. (None of those in my body of work!) But I'm working on it. Tonite I practiced on watercolor paper. I plan to keep practicing until I get it right. Soon you'll see a painting of one of Maine's fast flowing rivers!
by Janet Glatz
Definition of being and artist on "automatic pilot: "Brain absent; hands working on their own."
When an artist is painting with all systems go, the brain communicates with the five senses and remains focused, but is also constantly checking the entire canvas to keep things like tonality, color temperature, composition, and harmony on course.
But, as a teacher of oil painting, I see something else happening all the time. It happens to me, too:
You get in the groove--it feels good. It seems right. Your brain kind of shuts down and your hands keep working away in a repetitive motion. In short, you forget to stop, step back, and check and see what and how you're doing!
I've found that this happens to me when I'm distracted by something else, very tired, or simply lazy. And you know what? When you finally realize what you're doing to that poor painting? It is too late my friend. You need to go back, wipe or scrape off the crap, and start again. I know! It is aggravating to say the least. You feel like an idiot because you know so much better than you have just demonstrated. ( Just be happy you don't have an audience. )
Sometimes this rote action can be defined as "overworking" a part of your painting. For instance, if you're painting a tree; you've got the shape right, and the light is falling on the correct side. So you'll work on highlights. Oh, yeah. Those little bits of bright yellow look great! But only if you don't overdo them. So often I find students who just don't know when to quit.
The solution to falling into autopilot? Force yourself to stop, look, and judge what you've done in the past few minutes. I guarantee you that the Old Masters kept a cold eye on their progress at all times. We mere mortals need to do the same thing.
by Janet Glatz
My last blog was all about ditching a show because of the weather. It was based on my real show in Bar Harbor, Maine. Up until Saturday morning, the weather reports said rain both days, and cold as well.
But when I checked (just a bit OCD) on Saturday, low and behold the weather for Sunday looked pretty good.
Me: "Okay, do you want to drive up (3 hours) in the morning, or do you want to leave this afternoon and stay overnite?"
My husband: "Aaaargghhh. Okay, let's stay over. I'll start packing. You find a room somewhere near the park." No small task. After frantic searching online and a couple of phone calls, I found a place that welcomed dogs as well as people.
We arrived in BH at 5pm, checked in and were able to relax for the rest of the evening. Next morning we were out the door by 7 and all set up by 9 am. Even tho the official opening time was 10, traffic was already brisk from 9 on.
Surprisingly, there were more people in the park during the cool, misty fog. I sold three paintings before noon. The afternoon was much more pleasant but the traffic slowed down. Maybe they all headed to the beach???
Regardless, I'm very glad we made it for one day. My latest painting of Bass Harbor Light did find a new home in Florida.
by Janet Glatz
Yes. Well, this weekend was supposed to be Art in the Park in Bar Harbor, my biggest show of the year. Weeks have been spent in preparation, finishing works, framing,and packing. A month ago, the weather forecast was great! Two weeks ago, passable. Today? Total thumbs down washout.
I'm sure there will be a few die-hards who will refuse to "waste" the money already spent on the show and slog through the wet grass laden with tent, racks, and paintings. The front flaps will open when it's just sprinkling, then get closed during downpours. This is a scene I am not in any hurry to repeat.
The two days will be spent twiddling your thumbs, then over-reacting to those few brave souls who do show up to see your hard work. You kill them with kindness. You might even come off as desperate. Not good, fellow artists. Desperation is a sale killer every time. In my experience, the less I care about how much I sell, the better I do.
So getting back to the decision making process when you are faced with terrible weather for your show. (Terrible weather=Rain, 90 degree heat, or gale force winds.) Do you continue to spend money on lodging, food, and gas? Add it up; you'll have to sell at least a couple of paintings to cover all those expenses. Chances are, with umbrellas in the air, your stuff is not going to disappear off the racks like it might on a sunny day.
What I do is a mini-profit and loss chart. What I've already spent on the show, and what the additional expenses will be if I do go on one side. On the other? The number of paintings I'll need to sell to do better than just break even. Even somebody with poor business sense can figure that one out.
Sometimes I'll grin and bear it--usually if the show is local and I've spent nothing on lodging.
Generally, though, lump in throat and all, you'll find me calling the hotel and cancelling the reservation. Damn! "Better luck next year," the clerk tells me. Yup. Better luck next year.
This blog post was written by acclaimed artist, Kathleen Dunphy in 2012:
During a recent interview for an upcoming article, I was told by the interviewer that he has seen a trend by several well-known plein air artists toward painting less frequently out on location and spending more time in the studio, relying on memory, photos, and imagination to complete their paintings. He asked if this were the case for me. Although each of us has to find our own way through our art careers and the artists he mentioned are doing beautiful work, the answer for me couldn't be farther in the opposite direction.
I require time outside. When I first started painting in Alaska in the late 90's, I was doing mostly colored pencil dog portraits and still life drawing and paintings. I remember working as fast as I could to finish up in the afternoon, watching the clock anxiously, hoping to get done and get outside before dark (sometimes a great challenge in the short days of an Alaskan winter!). Time outside hiking, skiing, running, or just puttering around rejuvenated me, cleared my head and made me happy. When we moved back to California and I began attending the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in 2000, I was introduced to plein air painting and realized that I could combine my two loves: being outdoors and painting. What a concept! I was hooked immediately.
But even though my first attraction to plein air was that I could work outside, I later came to realize the myriad benefits of direct observation. As I stated in my last post, nothing can compare to being in the landscape that you're painting. The sounds, smells, and feel of an area are somehow transferred through the artist and onto the canvas. Colors are truer and so much more complex in real life than in a photograph. There is a communion with a higher source - God, Nature, the Creator, whatever you want to call it - that happens for me when I'm out there. On the days when the stars are aligned and the paintings work, it's such a high to capture that moment on canvas and preserve that slice of time. Of course, not every day outside is a perfect experience that yields a successful painting; in fact, the vast majority of my plein air studies never go further than the burn pile. But the education and stimulation that comes from being outside is integral to my development as an artist.
All that said, yes, I do paint in the studio and yes, I do enjoy it. With a plein air painting, I only have a relatively short period of time to paint before the light has changed. So often I get frustrated and wish I could develop the painting further, or I wish I had designed the painting differently, or I want to add animals to the scene that won't stay still long enough to paint them on location.
That's when I head to the studio. It's an entirely different discipline for me, one that is much slower-paced and more analytical. Outside, I react to the scene, trying to convey the emotion of the moment. Indoors, I use my intellect (and all the finer points they taught us in art school!) to construct my painting. I always strive to have the excitement of the study come through in the studio paintings, and my best work is a balance of both emotion and reason.
Right now, I'm in the studio looking at a study I painted two days ago on the Mokelumne River. It's a relatively simple-looking scene of rocks in the water, but the infinite amount of subtle information that was in front of me was mind-boggling. I spent two hours observing and painting....and listening to the water and the birds and the wind in the trees. I looked at the photos that I took that day, and I don't hear anything. But when I see that painting, I hear birdsong and the sound of water tumbling over rapids. The trick now, as I take out a larger canvas and start on my next studio piece, will be to make that music indoors.
by Janet Glatz
Tourists like (need) to travel light.
Tourists like to take home a "piece" of their itinerary.
Tourists need accurate information about the area and you need to be the expert.
Tourists are often on their honeymoon, anniversary trip, or graduation adventure.
by Janet Glatz
Though I am an artist known and recognized by my color work, among other things, I have learned that some collectors appreciate a subtler approach.
The painting above certainly was not the best one I've ever done, but it was rather unique in that it was a monochromatic treatment of a cold day in early Spring. Surprisingly to me, it sold immediately at a show near Cape Cod.
Here's another more or less monochromatic painting of the Strait of Hormuz. This appealed to my step-son (who graduated from Maine Maritime Academy) so much that I made him a gift of it.
This one, entitled "Antiquity", is quite understated to go along with its aged subject matter. Again, it was very popular; I sold the original and some prints of this right away.
The message here is: It is perfectly possible to stay within the parameters of your personal style while varying your color palette to include more subtle, soothing hues. Don't be afraid to go outside of the box at times. You'll be surprised where it can take you.
I started out selling my work to a collector who loved my bold colors and lighthouse scenes. He bought four and I was ecstatic. So excited that I never gave keep record of the sales at all.
I don't even remember when I began keeping an inventory, or for that matter, photographing my work. (Another story entirely!) In thinking back, it all started to come together when I decided to become a business and to pay taxes on my sales.
The lost ones: There was the piece out of my imagination of a lone Adirondack chair overlooking a lake at dusk; a walled garden with a pond and flowers; a chair at the end of a hallway; a schooner moored at dock in the dark and highlighted by onshore lights. (Called Night Music and sold to an out of state developer who could have been a great resource). These are only the ones I can remember. I regret my lack of forethought to this day; don't you make the same mistake.
by Janet Glatz
It took me years to realize that what you paint on affects the end product in many ways. (You must remember, I'm a self taught artist who began when I was very young.)
I started out painting on student grade stretched canvas, or canvas board at times, both of which have a pronounced, fairly rough and "thready" finish. I would struggle so hard to get clean edges and wonder why my attempts at realism looked messy. In my ignorance, I didn't realize my brushes had to "jump" every little thread when trying to form a line. At the time, I thought everybody had to suffer this little pain in the neck. Wow--that was a long time ago. If I'd been applying heavy layers of paint, this would have been less of a problem, but then-realism is hard to achieve with thick layers. (I know, the old masters did it with many layers and a ton of expertise.) So I went on like that until I finally learned how much better my paintings could be on different surfaces.
My favorite is linen canvas, extra smooth. This type can be rather expensive, but worth it. Your brush glides along unimpeded by "tooth", and blending turns into an astonishingly easy thing to do.
Next below linen would be wood panel for me. You can't get anything a lot smoother than a well sanded slab of wood. However, it has no "tooth" and requires me to use light layers (which dry quickly on this surface) in order to create my own foundation. After that, it's pretty much like painting on linen.
Next down would be higher quality regular canvas, designed to make the surface have a lot of tooth, yet be smoother than student grade. This is what I use for my classes.
Of course there are many surfaces on which to paint, ranging from wildly expensive to the cheapest of cheap. Try to find one that feels right for you and doesn't send you to the painter's poorhouse. Cheers!
It isn't always green!
by Janet Glatz
Painting foliage is such a broad subject it is rather difficult to teach and write about. Consider all the variations in species, color, shape, and size.
Being predominantly a realistic painter, I usually try to make foliage appear as true to life as possible in the foreground, but of course as the picture fades into the distance, the trees also blur into masses of color.
Seasons have a huge affect on all kinds of foliage, but this is also complicated by location. Here in Maine, there's a pronounced difference between summer and winter. Even spring and fall are diametrically opposed! (Why I love Maine) Point being, if you're painting a seasonal scene, be true to the hues of the time of year. One of my paintings, called Royal Color, depicts several mid fall trees: oak, maple, red maple and birch. It was a joy to showcase the peak of color for each species and provided a lovely contrast. Live in Florida? That's a totally different story, right?
Now, painting an up close tree or bush could be an arduous task if you tried to paint each leaf, one by one. Rather than go blind doing that, try "pouncing" in the varying shades of green (on a very dark background), then add in small groups of correctly drawn leaf shapes here and there, especially in the very front.
Treat trees exactly like the shapes they compare to: spheres, groups of spheres, cones, cylinders.
By this I mean apply the various shades of color as you would in painting a shape, with the lightest ones directly in the sun and then gradually darkening toward the shadow side. This will give your trees a better, fuller shape. Don't forget to leave dark space in appropriate places. To the right you see the red boathouse...notice the horizontal spaces between branches in the pine trees.
Remember to leave small areas of sky showing through, within which you might have a limb crossing. Be careful to keep the size of the limbs in relation to the trunk size.
Small plants often require more careful brushwork, simply because they won't look like the species you are trying to depict if you don't take care to paint the leaves and blossoms realistically. Again, you can "cheat" by having the background blossoms and foliage "fuzzed out". Don't forget details like stamens and contrasting coloration of the center of the flower.
This was just a few hints that will hopefully make your job a bit easier!
by Janet Glatz
No artist wants to hear the words "possibly thunderstorms" in the weather forecast for her weekend show. Realistically, if the reliable weather stations predict soaking rain for two days, I don't go. Damage to paintings and equipment and zero traffic make it much smarter to stay home.
For my show in Bar Harbor, it looks pretty good so far. Could be a day of occasional showers, but I look at it this way-everybody watches the weather; they'll be out on the best day, just like you.
And, sometimes a little rain works to your advantage, in that beaches are out, and shopping is in!
How to prepare for possible rain at an art show? Check off the following:
by Janet Glatz
Some of you may recognize this painting of Portland Harbor, even though it looks somewhat different than it was the first time I posted it. See below:
What I didn't like about this first version was:
So what do you think, better?
by Janet Glatz
The above image is of a watercolor painting by Carol Evans of British Columbia. I find Ms. Evan's work to be exciting and awe inspiring. Even though she paints in watercolor, the authenticity of her work and her use of color inspire an oil painter like me.
I search for inspiration like this periodically; finding an artist who simultaneously challenges me and whose work isn't too far from my own in style makes my blood rush. I think: I can do this with some hard work and practice! Look how she does that water! Look at that spectacular use of light! Realism at its best.
So I might print off a copy of the painting above and pick a couple of square inches, say of the water, and try to duplicate the strokes that make her water look so real. Then I might try a section of her rocky coastline. You get the idea. No way would I ever copy or try to duplicate Carol Evans' work--my paintings need to retain my own signature and style. But that doesn't mean I can't learn from an expert.
I encourage you, whatever your skill level, to search out inspirations of your own. If you don't know the possibilities, how can you improve your painting? Good luck.
by Janet Glatz www.janetglatz.com
Don't make the mistake of believing you know what objects look like and how they are formed.
The above image is of a random search of beginner's paintings. Anyone can tell a novice painter made it, but what are the factors that make it stand out as amateurish?
After thirty years, can I make a reasonably good painting without references? Sure. After thirty years I should be able to; but I still use references, even for the smallest things--the tie-up on a dock; the particular movement of a twisted branch. These are the things that make one a realistic painter.
....Different, but really the same thing.
by Janet Glatz
It never occurred to me to advertise lessons in drawing; I've been drawing well since I was in grade school and have always taken it for granted.
Now, I'm suddenly getting calls about learning to draw! I'm delighted about that. This new fork in the road offers up many opportunities for myself as well as the public who know me, or find me on the internet.
Drawing runs the gamut from the basics of shapes, creating light and shadow, texture, depth, and values. Anything in this world can be your subject and can be made to appear like a treasured objet d'art if done well.
Many years ago I got into pen and ink drawing, and created large scenes of nature and structures. I'm sure all that practice added to the confidence I feel today as I construct the basic forms of my paintings to be.
And it's so portable! A sketch pad and pencils under your arm and off you go, hiking, riding a train, boating. If you wish to add some color to your drawings back in the studio, the sky is the limit.
So I welcome those calls from people who want to literally start from the beginning and, hopefully, move on from that sound basis to whatever feels right for them.
by Janet Glatz
Yes, this is Bar Harbor, Maine. I can't think of a more beautiful spot to have my first go at the tourists who flock there starting in June every year. In fact, that schooner you see in the picture was the subject of a large painting that sold there last June.
Preparing for any outdoor show is not for the fainthearted. My list looks something like this:
by Janet Glatz
In past posts I've described the absolute necessity for A+ presentation, so yesterday, I spent the whole day on inventory: counting, posting, noting problems, etc. My goal is to make every piece as good as it can be before the show season. In past posts I've described the absolute necessity for A+ presentation.
One finishing touch some people forget:
With the continuing popularity of floater frames, having finished edges is paramount. Nothing irks me more than a nicely framed painting with ugly raw edges peaking out!
Of course an unframed painting should always have the edges done, but even it you are using other than a floater frame, it is still important to carry the paint around the edges to ensure no bald patches or flaws exist.
Some people paint all the edges the same color (hopefully one that blends well with the piece). I personally think that is a lazy way out. It always shows in a floater frame, causing a line of demarcation. Instead, I recommend carrying your painting out and around the edge, using the same colors as on the face, in the same configuration. If it is a tree, then continue those branches around the corner. If it is sky, simply extend it back around. Sure, it can seem like a pain, especially if you wait till the whole painting is finished before doing the edges. (I'm guilty of this too often!) So if you want to make it easier on yourself, do as you go. That way you won't have to mix colors anew and dirty all those brushes!
You are a professional, right? Then present your work as a professional artist would.