Value studies help when there’s a gunfight!

The unexpected always happens when you’re painting on location. I have had anything from flies, annoying onlookers, bank trucks blocking the view to complete weather changes!  I never had a ‘gunfight’ until a few days ago, that is!

While painting at Old Tucson as a faculty member of this year’s plein air convention, I was suddenly approached by a cowboy with a Winchester Rifle. He told me I had to leave my painting spot because there was going to be a gun fight at noon (actually it was 5:30pm, small detail)
He had a fierce look, kept spitting and carried a gun. I thought it better not to argue. Luckily, I had done my value sketch and could finish my painting in the studio later. So, there you go! That’s why we do the value sketch, because you just never know for how long you can paint at a certain spot!

This is what I should have said in return: “Stranger, this town is not big enough for the two of us…”, but I wasn’t that quick witted, plus I was unarmed!!
Old Tucson was the set of many well known western movies and shows, i.e. ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Bonanza’, ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and others.

 

 

 

A different kind of painting tip!

Workshops teach techniques. Every workshop instructor will have their own method of painting. So you might be taught to never do ‘this’ in one workshop, and to absolutely do it in another.
Art has no rules. Anything can be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, often only depending on timing or intention.

There is too much talk about ‘best painter’, ‘master painter’, this and that. People being put on pedestals, like they’re deities. If you classify people you create hierarchies and that creates suffering.
Looking for validation outside yourself is tricky business. If you try to paint like so and so, you’re setting yourself up to suffer because you’re not so and so.
Same thing happens if you’re painting to be ‘liked’. It is certainly good to get validation from your peers (notice I did not say followers) but not if you’re painting to impress someone or to get into competitions. Again, you’re setting yourself up for suffering! Be mindful of your motivations. Look inside of you for guidance.

I’d love to quote my favorite poet here when asked by a student if his work is good or not:
‘A work of art is good if it has grown out of necessity. In this manner of its origin lies its true estimate and value: there is no other.” by Rainer Maria Rilke

In other words, it comes from a deeper place inside you. You have to paint, you have no choice! You will find subject matter that moves you, because what you love you’ll paint better. You need to express yourself that way and that in turn makes your art real.

New website live!

My website is all new and updated! It’s also responsive, that means it works on smart phones as well. I can now upload pictures myself and finally keep it current. Web design by Indus3ous.com. Have a look, if you like: http://www.frankeber.com

I will continue to post paintings and painting tips here on my blog and, reluctantly, on facebook also. I generally detest anything social media and I think it’s insidious how they exploit this thing that was once good!
Just to give you an idea: An art page that doesn’t pay them money (like mine) won’t get the posts seen by many people. Even if the number of page followers is high, the algorithms they’re using make it sure that posts are not distributed widely. Same goes for posting itself: if you spend less time on there it works against you! The less you post, the less traffic will be directed to your page.
All the pages, the ‘suggestions’ you see popping up on the right side of your stream are basically paid advertisements.

As artists we have no choice but to be on there for the obvious exposure. Although it is debatable what inherent value there is in connecting to all these other artists who basically do the same thing as me. Same goes for this or any other blog, of course. In the end it might be good for filling workshops and that’s about it!
Thanks for reading my general rant!

 

 

Available in my workshops: DaVinci Casaneo 498

 

I am so excited and honored to be working with DaVinci Brushes! Introducing my new signature wash brush, the Casaneo 498. It will be available for purchase in my workshops!

Most major art supply stores carry DaVinci brushes. In the United States this amazing German brand is represented by Gregory Daniels Fine Arts. If you can’t find them near you, just check in with Gregory!

I was invited for a factory tour at the company’s headquarters in Germany last November and the people at DaVinci introduced their amazing new brush to me. It is just like a squirrel mop but fully synthetic! I was pretty skeptical at first for I have tried many synthetic wash brushes before and they are just not on par with the natural hair brushes. But not this one! I honestly can’t tell the difference to natural hair in terms of water holding capacity! The fact that its bristles never break, something that all natural hair brushes constantly do, is just a nice side effect! It can be pretty annoying to get the broken bristles off the page without it leaving a dark mark behind.

Unbeknownst to me this brush manufacturer has been in my hometown since the 1950s.
To say that I was surprised to learn that would be a big understatement. Some things are just meant to be!

 

Composition: a path through the painting

 

We’ve all heard of the rule of thirds, but there is also another good way to create a focal point:

A path through the painting. That refers to the way line work creates a dynamic path that leads the eye around the painting. I often use it as it makes for a very interesting composition. When out in nature we have to look for these things. I think they are almost more important that the subject itself! A good painter can create a great painting out of the most drab and boring subject, i.e. a junk yard or an intersection with nothing much there but ugly buildings, just by making use of this!

That brings me to another point: it’s easy to get lost in the subject and neglect the composition. In this instance, dry docked boats with men working on them is great subject matter in itself. However, if we just show a boat on stilts and nothing else that can be a bit underwhelming to look at. After all, we just have our pathetic, two dimensional piece of paper or canvas to capture it all! So I tried to create a path to make it more interesting. I also created big areas with, what I call abstract painting. The entire hillside behind the boat and the entire foreground has an abstract quality to it. I always say, in representational painting, 80% of every painting is non-representational!

Finally, ‘pardon the dust’, so to speak: my website is currently down because it gets a much needed revamp. Hopefully it won’t take too long. Stay tuned!!

 

The California challenge! NOT looking at the bright side..

As a plein air painter I get to see and know the state pretty well. One of the most depressing things about California is the fact that anywhere you go, everything is fenced in. No exceptions. Even if you drive into the most remote areas, there’s apparently still enough money to put up fences, making it all but impossible to paint from anywhere else than the road.
That way many of the most beautiful vistas cannot be visited because the owners of the land put up barbed wire and signs that threaten legal action. A recurring theme in the USA.

Having said that, it’s not like that everywhere in America. In Vermont, for instance, you can park at the side of the road and with few exceptions walk anywhere you want. No barbed wires there. California? Forget it unless it’s BLM land, state owned land or a National
park. We live in this huge state and 90% of the land is inaccessible! Kind of sad, isn’t it?

So for those of you who come from out of state and especially visitors from other countries:
You may look at the beautiful rolling hills but you may not walk around and explore! Private property, no trespassing!

In Europe it’s completely different. I painted in France so much in 2008 and 2009 and never had a problem. Park at the side of the road, take gear and walk into the fields. Nobody cares. Sometimes I had to park my vehicle in someone’s vineyard, no problem either! I just put a sign on the dash (artist painting in the area) end of story. Imagine that here. Your car would be towed and they would sue you for trespassing, just because you want to paint ‘their’ land.

There’s a gynecologist in the area who actually threatened to sue an artist for painting his estate on a hill off of Highway 46. When she painted it, she wasn’t even on his land.
Her painting was on exhibition in a nearby vineyard where he spotted it on the
wall and demanded it taken off. When the owner of the vineyard refused, he pulled it down himself and took it with him. The artist had to actually call the police to get her painting back. True story!

I know this is an extreme case but you’ve got to wonder! If we don’t revere art and artists, what kind of a society are we?

I don’t want to be completely negative here because there are many people out there who welcome artists on their property. Even if they don’t know anything about art, they understand that artists play an important role in a society and they try to be supportive. My deepest thanks goes to them!
It is never a good idea to generalize everyone, but I am trying to make a point here.
In California, the fact that you own property means that you can put barbed wire around it and keep people out. In Germany and France you own the property also but you have no problem with someone walking across it and let them enjoy it as well.
The question is, why are two seemingly similar societies so different in that regard?

Simplifying a scene

Painting, writing and music have a lot in common. Have you ever tried reading a book
that was written with too much trivia and detailed descriptions? After a while it became a chore
to keep going instead of a great read.
In music, if the composition is too complicated with lots of intricate passages, it’s hard to listen
to it. Some Jazz music is like that.
Well, it’s the same with a painting. The artist can get lost in detail and trivia as well. The
camera is already master at recording every single detail. The artist’s job is to take the subject
apart and find the essence. That what gives it life, why it is interesting and why it is worth a
painting and capture that essence.
Every painting has a key component that has stirred the artists soul! It can be the design,
light and dark patterns, the subject itself, for what it is.. The main inspiration.

One of the hardest things to learn is to weed out what’s unnecessary and to develop what makes the scene. If we edit out too much we might end up with a painting that’s somehow not working. If we leave too much clutter we might end up with something that is confusing.

That’s why, once we pick a subject we must have a clear vision of what we want to accomplish. We can’t hope that it will work itself out during the process of painting!

Here are some tips to stay focused:

-Always remember what it was that made you want to paint the scene.
-Unfocus your eyes a lot while painting
-During painting, always step back and check if things are working out
-Never spend too much time on any section of the painting
-Work out a definite focal point
-Keep an eye on the time elapsed, spend too much time on the same piece and you start doing
too much!
-Make every brushstroke count
-Try not to second guess what you just did

You can easily see that my blog is about painting, not limited to the watercolor medium only.
Painting is painting, no matter what choice of medium!