Tag Archives: American Watercolor Society

Available in my workshops: DaVinci Casaneo 498

 

I am so excited and honored to be working with DaVinci Brushes! Introducing my new signature brushes, the Frank Eber by DaVinci Casaneo 498. Sizes 2, 4, and 6 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!

Contact me for availability. Available for purchase at my workshops. More information here.

 

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!!

 

Lighting in painting

In the art of painting we decide what quality of light we look for. Sharp and brilliant or more diffused is one consideration. The color of the light itself, i.e. warm or cool and the direction where the light comes from will dictate the way we paint the form.

To paint light we must focus our attention on light itself. This means that we will not be painting the objects before us so much as we will be painting light and the way it falls on these objects or brings them into our vision. A painter once said: ‘A head is something you choose for the light to fall upon.’ Contrast determines the quality of light itself, sharp or soft or anything in between. In dim light conditions the separation may only be one or two value steps. In strong light in may be separated by three or four value steps.

For me, a painting with subtle, diffused light is very powerful. More so than one with extreme light and high contrast. It is also much harder to do!

One problem we have as painters is that our brightest light (the white) is never as bright as nature’s. All we can do is stay true to the relationships from lightest to darkest and paint them in that order, even if the value cannot match nature perfectly.

If we paint light correctly, it will make the form work out itself. We think about the light, halftones, and shadows. We make sure we have the correct sequence of value relationships (lightest to darkest) and getting the color within these values. That’s it. Now that sounds easy but, of course, is a lifetime endeavor right there.

Light and its effects provide the best means of bringing unity and consistency to a subject. The light will effect everything in the subject the same way. Everything will take it’s relative place in the whole scheme and all values and colors will be brought together into a single effect. This is unity that creates beauty!

By using color and value right, we can create a powerful and elegant painting even with mundane subject matter!

Thanks to all of you who followed my blog in 2015. I wish every one of you a successful and prosperous new year! Here’s to 2016!! Let’s pray for a more peaceful world.

Plein Air vs. Studio

There is definitely a resurgence in plein air painting going on right now. Especially watercolor painters understand their medium is the best for painting finished paintings on site. But plein air does have it’s limitations and that’s what this blogpost is about.
First the part that makes plein air so important: there is a wide variety in color nuances in Nature that cameras ‘don’t see’. Same goes for the values, the human eye is so much better understanding different qualities of values (in shadows, for instance).

What’s not working so well is painting a more accomplished piece, especially in a bigger size. By that I don’t necessarily mean more detailed, but more elaborated and more thought out.
Plein air is always rushed and for obvious reasons: light’s changing, you can’t spend all day thinking about what to do next.
Once you have a painting you did outside and combine it with photo references you’ll be able to paint a more accomplished version. The wonderful thing is, it will still have the same spontaneity to it, almost like the on-location work.
To illustrate what I mean have a look at the two images here. The first one was done on location. I am tempted to call it the Violin player since I had to endure his playing the same three pieces over and over (let’s just say he wasn’t a virtuoso)
The second one, done in the studio, is larger (14×20 inches) and I have made a bigger effort working out the shadows and ‘controlled chaos’ in the areas where the focal point is.
Something I would not have had time for outside.

Other problems with plein air painting is often the subject itself: 90% of the scenes you encounter are not paintable as they are.
So you end up changing it, making stuff up. While that works most of the time, it’s easy to get suckered into painting a scene that is just not suitable for painting.
Some plein air painters change the scene so much, it almost looks like something from another place. I don’t believe in that. If I paint plein air, my goal is to catch the mood of the scene before me. Otherwise, I might as well make up a painting from a photograph. No need to go outside if you don’t paint what’s there!

Without having painted outside, I would’ve not ‘understood’ the colors in these buildings. Only by painting while looking right at the real thing is this possible. A big thing for me is to be actually there and taking it in with all the senses. Seeing, smelling, walking through it… some of that will go into the painting! Sometimes, the better painting is the one done on-site. Other times it’s the one done in the studio! You just never know!

Workshop at Abbondanza in Tuscany!

Every good thing comes to an end and that also goes for the long anticipated 2015 workshop in Tuscany, Italy. We were guests at Abbondanza Toscana

This was an exceptional workshop for several reasons: The location will no longer be available in the future as they are moving it into a bigger place nearby. There will still be workshops, but not where we were. We were the last group, and what a group it was!
It is not often in a workshop that people click during a 10 day period the way this group did!
I was happy to do my part!
We were super spoiled with excellent food by the in-house chef Karolina Novak and the organizer Paula Sullivan was open to changing the schedule around to accommodate our painting needs.

I will definitely come back to teach there again! If you always wanted to go to the beautiful Tuscan area of Italy, the Abbondanza venue is your best bet. Watch out for the 2017 calender when I will return!

As for painting locations: we went to Volterra, a hilltop town with breathtaking views over rooftops
and narrow streets, with buildings hundreds of years old. Also on the schedule was a seaside resort town ‘a la Cinque terre’ (actually not too far from it). Our host keeps this place pretty secret as it has all the charm of cinque terre without being overrun by tourism. The only tourists you find there are other Italians! Go to Vernazza or Monterosso, you’re lucky to find room to stand as it is marketed as a destination in the United States, China and other countries!

Lucca itself served as a painting destination and we haven’t even scratched the surface!
It will just take a few more visits in the near future!

I thought I finish this blogpost listing some unspoken facts while painting outdoors on this trip.
(All tongue in cheek!)

Aside from the obvious distractions when painting city scenes, here are the scenarios you’ll
have to be ready for:

While painting, some guy with a violin sets up next to you and starts playing the same three hideous pieces over and over! Worst thing is, people actually drop money in his hat!
Remedy: wear earphone with your own music!

Remember, you always get the village idiot! Sure enough, it’s the one that lingers and holes you with questions and comments while you’re trying to paint, all in the language of the country
you’re painting in. (mostly colloquial, on top of it)

If you didn’t bring warm clothes, it will be super chilly! Yes, you have gloves and a hat but they
are in the hotel because it was sunny and warm when you left. There was no way of knowing that we’d be painting in a windswept alley in 42 degree weather. The sun is out, yes, but it’s behind the buildings we’re painting and it’s late October!

If you’re setting up next to a building entrance (you’re happy you’re off the road) the probability of someone showing up and wanting to get inside is: 100%

If you’re a watercolor instructor and found the perfect spot for the class to easily paint three pieces, someone in your group will take 1 1/2 hours just to do a drawing

And lastly, don’t count on the fact that you’re in Europe and people love art and admire you. You’re still just a lowly painter, mostly in everybody’s way and nobody is interested in you or your art. I actually like that! It’s watercolor painting we’re doing, we’re not creating world peace. Get off your high horse! 😉