Tag Archives: Aquarelle

A week in La Crosse, WI

Thanks again to Bob Witte (http://wittesendstudio.blogspot.com/)
for inviting me to teach a workshop in La Crosse!

On the short flight from Chicago to La Crosse I flew over the most scenic, rolling hills you can imagine, littered with working dairy farms. I knew I was in for a treat!
La Crosse did not disappoint and I can genuinely say that I loved the area! It reminded me so much of Bavaria Germany, minus the buildings, of course.

If you’re not familiar with LC, I highly recommend a visit. Expecting midwestern flatness, I was quite surprised to encounter the most beautiful landscape with endless subject matter to paint!
More paintings in the next blogpost!

The workshop went really well and we all created some interesting paintings. Credit for the photos I posted goes to Dave Bass, photographer and proprietor of the SG1311 Gallery in La Crosse (http://www.sg1311.blogspot.com/)

Have a look at his excellent work here http://www.dbassphoto.com/
Thank you, Dave!

When is a painting finished.. and other musings

As I come to the end of a painting, this question always rears it’s ugly head: what else does it need?
The one after that I hate even more: couldn’t I have done a better job with this or that section? Is it a good painting? how good? My philosophy here is that I did the best I could do with what I have and who I am right now. I move on to another painting. This becomes very apparent to me when I look at work I did a few years back. It was the best I could do at the time. End of story.
You cannot ‘make’ a masterpiece. One day it may happen or it may never happen. It is a waste of time to think ‘this is it, this time I’ll do it’.
Doesn’t work.

Lack of decision and endless fiddling with the current painting is a harmful thing. You have to learn from the mistakes you can spot at the end and make amends, but the energy must go into a fresh effort! Learn to use your time wisely.

A word about talent: to any artist who has slaved over years to acquire his skills in painting, it is the most irritating thing to hear that your ability is just a ‘gift’. Talent is the first step, you have to have it. Absolutely. But nobody who paints amazing paintings has done so from day one. They put thousands of hours into it. There is no formula in art that will not break down as soon as the effort behind it ceases.
A good analogy is athletics: do you know how many hours pro figure skaters or tennis players practice every day? No need to answer that. Talent may help get you to the elite, I don’t dispute that. Even if I practiced tennis 8 hours a day from now on, I would never play like Roger Federer. I know that, I just don’t have enough talent.
But to say as artists we just have ‘this gift’ is ignoring how much work we’ve put into it.

Of course nowadays there are many who put more effort into their social media page instead of their art, but that’s another blog post. Or not.

What makes a painting beautiful, Part IV

You ever look at a dark tree against a light sky? The sky wraps itself around the tree, or the tree reaches into the sky mass. Both is happening, naturally. As logic dictates there is no visible connection between the branches and the sky, right? Well, not exactly.

There is a modification of the light going on near the dark and vise versa. Very gently, but it is there. It is the phenomena of diffraction:

As dark masses approach a light mass they grow slightly lighter. As a light mass approaches a dark mass it grows slightly darker, next to the dark mass. The edge can still be hard, as a branch in a sky would be, but the sky goes a bit darker around them. At the same time, the branch gets a bit lighter in value before it meets the sky.

This is how Sargent did it:

The second thing is the color. There is almost an exchange of color happening as well. The hill color behind the barn can be in the barn also. Same goes for the hill: put some color of the barn into the hill and it will look more harmonious.
The most obvious way to see this is to look at a telegraph pole against a sunset. It’s pretty crazy that the pole would take on the red or yellow of the sun on the bottom and the blue of the sky on the top. Isn’t it just a brown pole? The effect of halation!

Nobody says you have to paint like that all the time. But remember the old adage: you have to know ‘the rules’ before you can brake them.

Eventually, I will write a book with all these weird painting tips. It is nice to help fellow artists improve their painting skills, but first and foremost I will have to work on my own progress in this strange art world. The teaching is but a small part of it and it must not take over. It is not my calling to be a watercolor instructor. My calling is to be an artist. Thanks for reading my blog.

Upcoming exhibitions

 

Just a quick post about some exhibitions and events I will be part of this spring:

April 13-17, Plein Air Convention in Monterey, CA
April 24-26 The San Dimas Art Festival  in San Dimas, CA
May 22-24 The Paso Robles Art Festival in Paso Robles, CA

Please consider visiting if you’re in the area and see some of my work in real life!

 

Color temperature!

While my paintings are mostly value based they also depend a great deal on color temperature. Color change does not necessarily mean value change, although a lot of times it is the case. So color change can therefore mean a change in value (intensity) or a change in temperature, or both!
This is important stuff because temperature affects our perception of form just as much as light. The change of value and temperature of a three dimensional object depends on how low or how intense the light source is. In low light conditions, the temperature changes are more obvious since there is no significant change in value!
Just take a look at some impressionists like Van Gogh or Cezanne who often painted work that is completely devoid of light and purely based on change of color temperature!

Great painting very much depends on subtle color (temperature) changes. It is at least as important as understanding your values.
When I first started painting this whole point was completely lost on me. Many artists are not aware of this, instead assuming that transitions in three dimensional objects are achieved with value change only! Often we see work that is completely based on overly dramatic, highly graphic and intense value changes and not much else!

Studying the old masters like JSS or Zorn will quickly show how the success of their work not only depends on values but ever so subtle transitions in color temperature. A humbling lesson on how to achieve lively, beautiful and timeless art!