However you choose to frame (or not frame) your work, please try to keep your styles compatible if not identical. There is nothing worse than a display with an unattractive melange of styles.
by guest blogger Johannes Vloothuis
1. Using Underpainting or Fast-Drying White to Enable Over-Laying
One thing that has dissuaded some oil painters from using this medium is that when you add a layer of paint on top of another, they tend to intermix. For example, it is hard to add snow on top of a blocked in mountain while the first layer is still wet.
When an artist is all pumped up and his adrenaline is in high mode, it is frustrating to have to abandon the painting and resume it days after. There are new options of white paint over the classical titanium white that solve this problem, making oil painting so much more cooperative. It’s called fast-drying white, or underpainting white. I use the Winsor & Newton brand. This can be substituted in place of titanium white. This paint tends to be thicker than ordinary whites, so use mediums such as Liquin, walnut or linseed oil to dilute.
2. The Thin Line Enigma in Oil Painting
Most, if not all, oil artists have been frustrated trying to achieve thin lines with oil paint, especially when the paint is still wet, because of the fatty vegetable oils which tend to not dilute well (water-soluble mediums are more cooperative in this regard). Even signing a painting is not that easy if the signature is small. One way to achieve thin lines is to wait until the paint dries before depicting them. Here are some methods:
If you ever visit a top gallery and see a painting close up, you will see little specs of broken paint that expose a warm burnt sienna underpainting. This has the following advantages:
One big advantage of acrylics and oils is that you can build up thick impasto that will help convey a three-dimensional look. Other media such as watercolor and pastels lack this quality. My advice is to apply thick paint in the foreground and gradually go thinner with the paint as the planes recede, leaving just a thin layer in the most distant background. Add blobs of paint on tree trunks, rocks, flowers and protruding leaf clusters.
5. Dry Brush to Create Texture
Indicate clumps of leaves, clusters of grass, and water foam in crashing waves and waterfalls using the “dry brush” technique. Dry brushing is a term used to relate to skipping the brush and allowing the paint to peel off. Graze the brush, holding it horizontally, and tickle the bottom surface while dragging it in different directions. This method will make wood look weathered, produce an array of small leaves, make water foam look bubbly and add weeds to grass.
For more texture techniques that work for both oil and acrylic, watch this short art video on how to paint tree bark in acrylic using a choppy short stroke and a melodic line.
6. Working on an Already Dry CanvasAlla Prima or wet-on-wet is a popular oil painting technique. However, time and the size of the painting may not allow you to complete the artwork in one sitting. Working on a dry painting does not give that blending effect. This can be a problem when doing water reflections which call for blurred forms.
To work on a dry painting, I recommend you first add a thin layer of Liquin, after buff it off like waxing a car. The new paint will melt in, yet won’t merge with the previous layer. This way you can soften edges to your heart’s content!
7. Spend on Professional Quality Paints and Save on Canvases
Linen is an expensive and mostly an unnecessary expense, however, many professional artists prefer to use this top-quality painting surface.
I admit there is some benefit when it comes to dry brushing on linen, as it breaks up the painting nicely, but I still don’t feel the cost merits the benefits.
You can prepare your own painting canvases just by spreading super heavy gesso from Liquitex with a paint roller onto your painting board. This will leave random protruded little bumps similar to linen. Use masonite or birch Wood for your board; and, instead of spending money on linen, divert that cost to professional paints where you will reap the benefits.
8. Vary Colors to Generate More Interest
During my online classes, I make constant references to color variegation. Solid monochromatic colors are boring, so top artists exaggerate and add several variations of similar hues in one area.
Try this: Partially mix the colors in question on your palette until you neutralize the saturation (about 50 percent mixed). Wipe your brush dry and double load it. Apply a lot of pressure when squeezing the paint out. You should be able to see the subtle color variations in each stroke. It takes some practice but, once you master it, your paintings will look more alive.
You can also use color-mixing variegation for painting foliage, grass, and rocks, as you will learn in this short art video below, which shows how to paint a variety of greens for realistic foliage.
9. Create Mist for Atmospheric Depth
I feel fog is quite undermined in landscape painting. These scenes, when well depicted, can add mood and tons of depth to your artwork. In a top gallery, I once saw this beautiful painting of Upper Yellowstone Falls with a lot of mist where the falls hit the bottom. Yet I was able to see through some of that mist, and it looked so believable. That was achieved by using zinc white, which has the characteristic of being semi opaque. You can also use this to add haze to far away mountains and other areas that can benefit from atmospheric perspective.
10. Use Your “Green Thumb” to Blend
There is unwarranted fear of using oil paint, especially when there is contact with the skin. Take into account that leading manufacturers post the toxicity levels on the tubes of paint, in case you wish to consult the health labels.
I am big at blending with oils, and I want to get my edges just right. Because your fingers have nerves, you can adjust just the right amount of pressure to smudge lines to end up exactly as you want them. This is not achieved as easily with just a brush.
by Janet Glatz
Yes, it is only November, but before you know it, it will be the beginning of 2018. Do you have any shows lined up yet? Probably not. Sure you know which ones (maybe) that you'd like to be in, but you won't be able to sew them up until after the first of the year. Mark your calendar to remind you to search show listings and contact the organizations you've used before.
Until then, I hope you heed my prior advice about painting to suit the audiences in the areas you'll be showing. You'll have a significantly higher chance of selling works if they relate to tourists or depict iconographic settings. I'm currently painting two pieces with my June Bar Harbor show in mind, and will do more as time goes on. The sizes and subject matter vary, but good old Bass Harbor Light will be hanging center stage as usual! Below are three paintings (I've sold many more in B.H.) that have recently sold at the Art in the Park show there. The bridge is one of the several on the horse and wagon/bike trails in the State Park.
I've also been scoping out frames because of course my new works will need them. This can be fairly expensive so I like to look for the best deals and shop early. My usual method is to buy them online and do the framing myself. This saves me tons of money. When you order online, each one comes with all the hardware you need. Not so in stores.
Once the underpainting is dry, fight the urge to dive right in with details! This is a beginner's most common mistake and leads to stilted, stiff paintings. At this stage, you should be modeling the different shapes with color, light, and shadow. Adjust as you go along, keeping the whole piece in mind and in view as you work. When you have the canvas covered in paint, let it dry again.
Next session, when the paint is fairly dry (enough to have some tooth), start work from back to front and refine your shapes, emphasizing the direction of the light, and the depth of the cast shadows. Remember to add color to those shadows by tinting them with a complementary of the object's color. Your lightest and most saturated colors should be in the foreground. However, you should not have much sharp detail, if any at all, in the direct foreground. This keeps the viewers' eyes from traveling around the painting.
Okay! Whew! Now you can add all those details you've been dying to add! Just don't overdo it. Less is more. Keep some soft edges; blend like crazy in the sky and in the water. Save your pure whites for the very end, and use them sparingly. The viewer should see the light on the subjects as if he were standing there with his hand shading his eyes from the sun.
by Janet Glatz
I believe an artist must never fool themselves into believing there's nothing more to learn.
Or worse, that what is left to learn is too hard. I guess I'm a slow learner, as it has taken me over twenty-five years to become a fairly good painter. And that is all I am. Fortunately it is enough that people want to buy my work and hang it on their walls.
So what do I want to learn this winter? COLOR - how to mix more purely; how to limit my pallet more than I do; how to combine hues to provide a glow and a richness to my work; how to pre-tint my canvas with the correct tone for the piece I am planning to paint.
And how will I go about learning these things?
Art buyers are nothing if not emotionally driven. They look at snow and ice in a painting and will often visibly shiver right in your steaming tent. This is never the response you want, is it?
Save the chilly pieces till fall when they might have a prayer of selling.
A painting like the one opposite evokes responses like, "Wow...that is so relaxing. I feel like I could lay down under that tree and sleep for a week." It might do very well in a show you expect to be hectic and harried.
The bottom line is this: Keep your market in mind when you decide what your next painting will be. Also, remember to size it appropriately, as well as plan the framing ahead of time. You should be able to visualize the finished product before you even lift a brush.
Keep your frames generally similar; a hodgepodge of sizes, finishes, and shapes will not display your work in a professional light. I go so far as to diagram my hanging plan so that it ends up looking like a well planned wall hanging you might put in your home.
by Janet Glatz
I have found that using a simple spread sheet on Excel or a similar bookkeeping software works very well, can be updated easily, and is portable (i.e., can be sent to someone else, for instance.)
Even if you don't have any training on Excel, you can still do it. Here are some tips.
by Janet Glatz
So how does an artist deal with the upcoming costs for the shows they plan to enter throughout the upcoming season? Here are a few tips:
by Janet Glatz
Below left you can see that the distant mountains are getting their second layer of lighter color over the very dark green/black. This alone could suffice for that particular area, but usually some highlights are added where the light falls. To the right, you see a lone tree having its individual leaves painstakingly painted in with a liner brush. The paint needs to be thin and opaque in order to effectively depict the foliage. Notice the dark gaps in the branches that give the tree a realistic feel.
And here is a final image of an exquisitly painted landscape by Smith. Though each leaf and blade of grass looks individually created, some of that effect is an illusion done with applied layers. Nevertheless, this kind of painting takes a lot of time if done right.
by Janet Glatz
My art students are provided with lots of visual stimuli during art lessons: reference photos, what I'm demonstrating on my own easel, and of course the many beautiful colors of the paint. To a seasoned artist, it seems only logical to allow all these visual cues in, and to use them as we are painting.
I find, however, that it is often difficult for students to remember to compare their strokes, or blending, or compositional work to either their reference photo or to my canvas, let alone both. So I find myself regularly reminding them to look and compare what they are putting on their canvas with the reference materials they see in front of them. When they are able to do this, it makes a big difference in their results. Trying to paint without a visual "map" is like trying to play piano without
Just as important is the habit of listening to everything, I mean everything, the instructor says. So often I give a verbal cue only to see the student go ahead and make a stroke or lay in a shape that goes totally against my verbal direction. Then, a few minutes later, they'll ask a question that, if they'd been listening in the first place, they would already know the answer to and their painting would not need to be corrected.
Too often, as one of my students said the other day, "...we just go into automatic pilot." I sometimes do the same thing myself--and it always ends up a big mess. There is a difference between letting the hands and brain do what they have learned in a coordinated, experienced manner, and shutting down everything but your hand and laying down stroke after stroke with no mind for relational values, tonal corrections, or repetitive nonsense. If you find yourself "zoning out" while you're painting, shake it off! Get back to your aware self immediately, and you'll end up with much better results.
By Janet Glatz
Below is an in-progress photo from a two day workshop I taught this week. Mine is on the right.
Below you see Marie with her finished painting. How great is that?? She was an absolute delight to work with.
I'd love to have the opportunity to work with you, too! Openings weekdays or weekends depending on the week in question.
All the time I was trying to improve my work--trying new things, seeing what worked. Then I did some research and learned that pricing art low often makes it seem less purchase-worthy to buyers, even if they like the piece. So they don't buy.
A few years later, when I was working full time and could afford it, I hired an art consultant. She did a lot for my art career. What she did not do is give me good advice about pricing my work. Maybe she thought I was aiming to be represented by a gallery. Not sure, but she gave me this formula for pricing that shot the rates up to ten times what I'd been asking.
I knew that wouldn't work, so I cut it in half. This brought the largest pieces down to $750 or so (24x30). I tried those prices out for about a year and sold almost nothing! The following spring, I made some drastic changes.
Nothing in my inventory was priced any higher than $500. Since I sell all my work framed and ready to hang, this makes my profit margin kind of slim. With the smallest pieces going for less than $200, though, my sales started to grow. Finally I was back in the black once more because I was moving multiple works at most every show.
My lesson learned? If you are not in galleries, don't fool yourself into thinking you can get thousands of dollars for your work. It just doesn't happen that way in my experience. Perhaps the very best painters at shows will get over a thousand, but that is rare, and their work should be in galleries (and might be).
by Janet Glatz
The art display below is neat, well organized, and the art is beautiful. So what's the problem?
If you were an art buyer looking to choose something for your home, would you find it easy for your eye to differentiate one from another? Would you be thrown off by the colors being so close together? I believe I would.
Buyers' attention is already overwhelmed by long rows of white tents filled with colorful art creations of all types and sizes. They often have to compete with a group of people already in your display to view your work. When they walk into your tent, you can almost hear them sigh if the display is nicely spaced and organized.
In the image below, you'll see that the paintings are widely spaced for impact. There is plenty of room to view each one as if it were all by itself.
Yes, it is a temptation to display all you can in that tent--from top to bottom, in the corners, and all. But I'm going to suggest that nobody spends much time looking at a piece of art that is crammed into a dark corner or hung so low they have to bend over to view it.
Try to stop yourself from thinking that this display looks sparse and bare. Think of it like a gallery; let your works get the attention they deserve. Sure, you could hang these pictures a bit higher and hang a second row without compromising the effect too much. Just remember to group like with like regarding shape and size.
Natural light, often referred to as full-spectrum light, is generally considered the best illumination to work under. Unfortunately, the term “full-spectrum lighting” has no fixed definition.
The phrase is used by the lighting industry to denote bulbs that mimic the properties of sunlight, but some bulbs designated this way perform better than others.
What to Look ForThe color-rendering index (CRI) indicates a light’s ability to illuminate color accurately. The sun has a CRI of 100. Bulbs with a CRI of 80 to 100 are best at revealing vibrant, natural hues.
The correlated color temperature (CCT), measured in Kelvin, refers to how warm or cool a light appears. Too warm a bulb may tint work reddish yellow, whereas too cool of a light can turn things blue.
For a good balance of warmth and coolness, look for bulbs with a CCT of 5500 K, the equivalent of the midday sun. If you prefer cooler light, akin to north light, look for bulbs rated 7500 K.
Luminosity or brightness is also important to consider. The formulas for measuring brightness are complicated. Suffice to say that you want as many fixtures as needed to give yourself ample illumination.
This may sound obvious, yet I’ve been in many under-illuminated studios that just needed another fixture or two to remedy the problem.
Where to BuyMany hardware stores sell fluorescent bulbs with good CRI and CCT numbers (read the packaging carefully). I’ve seen 80 CRI/5500 CCT compact fluorescents for as little as $3 a bulb. Online stores sell bulbs as well, but shop around, as prices vary tremendously.
Make sure the bulb you buy is compatible with your existing fixtures. Rows of fluorescent tube ceiling lights provide good luminosity but are costly.
A more affordable option is to install strips of track lighting that can be plugged into existing outlets and outfitted with screw-in, compact fluorescents. I recommend you employ an experienced electrician for any electrical work.
by Janet Glatz
Teaching young art students has been a continuing joy for me. Their pride in what they accomplish each week, and their eagerness to return makes my day.
After I posted on face book this photo of two of my “girls” displaying their work, I got many, many likes and loves; however, there was one comment that struck me as veiled criticism. The poster wrote something like this: “allowing the free expression and individual thought to emerge”.
I know that art teachers in schools design their classes around the exploration of all kinds of art. I also know that they do not focus on any one kind of expression very long. So the students end up with a smattering of experience with loads of art forms over their elementary school career.
This is wonderful! Children need to experiment with and gain knowledge about all kinds of art.
What I attempt to do with my students is teach them the fundamentals of realistic painting: how to paint shapes with shadow and form; how to blend colors; how to create believable depth of field; how to handle their brushes correctly. I alternate between painting landscape-type works with fun and whimsical images so that the kids don’t get tired of painting endless leaves, grass, and mountains.
Yes, these two girls have done the same picture, but they each are a bit different because they not only hand draw the piece, they mix colors on their own, paint with some direction, but independently, and end up with something they are very proud of.
Each lesson they have, no matter what the subject, increases their mastery of paint and brushwork. Their confidence grows with the correction of every mistake; with the realization that they can produce something really nice; and with the knowledge that each week, their work gets better.
I am proud of what I do and how I do it, and I think I should be allowed to do it without snide criticism from a public school art teacher.
When I was just starting out in my painting career, I would paint on anything, just to get a feel for different types of surfaces. Canvas panels; used canvas that I'd paint over; even thin wood panels. My financial situation also came into play, as I really couldn't afford anything but the most rudimentary type of canvas.
Cheap canvas is okay for learning on, but these are it's drawbacks: It is extremely coarse, making it very difficult to create a crisp, straight brush stroke. Both hard and soft edges are more frustrating. It is also tricky at best to blend colors on, as the paint collects in the rough texture, thus making the paint hard to mix on the canvas. (Blending is a refined method of mixing colors on the canvas).
As soon as you can afford it, you should jump to a finer quality canvas that is smoother and better primed. With this one improvement, you'll find you can manipulate the paint more deftly, and your brushes will even perform better. But even this better quality canvas is not as good for realism painting or portraits as my favorite: linen canvas.
Ahh. How can I describe the joy of painting on smooth, quality linen? It's the difference between sleeping on rocks as opposed to sleeping on feathers. Suddenly you feel like a better painter. You have a steadier hand; your edges are ultra sharp where you want them to be, and softer than soft where you wish the object to recede.
I wish I could justify buying the most expensive linen canvas, but it is much more pricey than the mid grade. So I purchase the lower priced linen and couldn't be happier.
Maybe next year I'll graduate to the super quality. Who knows what that'll do for my painting!
by Janet Glatz
Art is all in the eye of the beholder, or so I'm beginning to take pretty seriously. The above piece is my newest--a local spot that had escaped me until recently when my husband and I made a trip there.
I fell in love with the architecture of the lighthouse and knew I would go home and paint it. So I took some reference shots and here it is. I absolutely adore this painting. For its simplicity; for its feeling of isolation; for its graphic accuracy.
So when I posted it on Facebook, I was surprised to find that, though it got a lot of likes and hearts, it got very few comments, such as "Wow. That is beautiful," and the like. I gotta say, I am puzzled by this.
Perhaps my fan base is more used to a liberal use of color. Perhaps they wanted more detail in the rocky little island. For whatever reason, their responses disappointed me.
To me, Cuckold Light is gorgeous. I will hang it proudly on my wall if it doesn't sell. The first show it will be offered at is York, Maine, which is quite a distance from the mid coast location of this lighthouse. We shall see how people like it there. I'll let you know.
by Janet Glatz
The foundation of all paintings, with the exception of some plein air and ala prima works, is blocking in the underpainting.
Some artists even prep the canvas with an overall tonal coat that will give the painting a subtle warmth, or coolness. I skip that step usually; the blocking in can serve the same purpose.
One thing I have learned in painting realism for so long is that blocking in should be done very carefully. I was not so careful in the past, hastily slapping on the shapes and not caring if the edges were right or not. Now, if I'm painting a house with all its straight lines and angles, it is imperative that I maintain those crisp edges, saving the soft edges for the foliage, the clouds, and the water. This saves a lot of time later, believe me.
Another thing to remember is, wait until the underpainting is totally dry before touching it again. There's nothing worse than making mud out of your tones by painting over the base too early.
I recommend covering the whole sky with the color of your sky even though you'll be adding clouds. That way, you'll be able to scumble the cloud color over the base sky color and leave some natural looking open places in the clouds. It will also allow you to feather out the tiny random edges of the clouds without having to worry about anything else. If you mess up, you can easily wipe it off with a damp paper towel without hurting the dry underpainting.
Make sure you choose dark enough mixes for the base of anything that will have a final treatment that is mid to light tones. You'll need the contrast to approximate depth and detail.
If you're blocking in a body of water, make the base the darkest hue you see in the reference photo.
A good underpainting may take some time, but the difference it will make in your final work will convince you that it is something you cannot skip.
by Janet Glatz
I happened to read a face book comment the other day that was very disparaging of art fairs. This artist was bitter because she felt show producers were making the big money while artists were taking the brunt of expenses. You can look at this subject from the artist's perspective and from the producers'. Let's do that.
From the Producers' Perspective:
Beginning art show participants need to learn the ropes before they start selling very much, but a veteran artist can sometimes net thousands at a single show if their work is priced right
And, that of course, depends on how salable the art is.
by Janet Glatz
When I'm not teaching over a fairly long period, such as during the construction of my new studio in a new town, I tend to forget the high I get when I'm working with students.
I think I would have been a good teacher of other subjects too, because of this inner thrill I get from seeing another person make progress under my tutelage.
I've had young students who knew absolutely nothing about art start to make paintings with depth and overall continuity of tone in just a few weeks of hourly training. You can see the delight on their faces at the creativity they've discovered in themselves. It's just too much fun!
Adult students with some experience and a fairly good grip on techniques are, of course, a whole different animal. I advertise that I will design a student's lessons around where they are in their progression toward the proficiency they desire.
On occasion I've been delighted to find a student who did not exaggerate her proficiency and who was a delight to paint alongside. In truth, we learned from each other. More often, though, the student hasn't been able to adequately describe his or her level of proficiency and my work is cut out for me. I need to start back at some of the basics, such as composition, brush handling, and tonal work. Usually this is taken with good humor and the student is ultimately pleased with the progress they make after this temporary back step.
As opposed to hourly instruction, two day workshops are my favorite. The curriculum starts with brief brush ups of the fundamentals and choosing reference photos on the first day, and then on the second we do a painting from start to finish. The end of that second day is filled with satisfaction of a job well done, and a lot of progress made.
I hope some day you'll join me in this process. You won't regret it.
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.