l s

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The logic of color

Newton started it when he connected the ends of the prism to make the first color wheel. Some time later someone else noticed that certain colors, designated "primary colors," could be used to mix other colors in paint. Eventually, another individual discovered the nature of complements, opposites on the color wheel. Understanding these characteristics of color is key to good color in artwork. Some people have an intuitive sense for color, but if something isn't working, they find it hard to solve the problem without going to color theory. Granted, the rules we know about color are "theories," but they're based on principles that work in the real world. There have been hundreds of color theories based on three to six "primaries,"; there are color wheels, color solids, color triangles and color bars. One theory that has stood the test of time is the color wheel based on twelve hues. This wheel gives you the primaries, the secondaries (colors mixed from two primaries) and the tertiaries (colors mixed from a primary and the secondary next to it). If the mixtures don't give you the results you want, it isn't the theory that's at fault--it's the paint. Our pigments aren't pure, spectral colors like the colors of light. Their density and handling characteristics sometimes get in the way. If you want to become a master colorist, study the properties of color, learn the characteristics of your paints and use the logic of the color wheel.

Labels: , , ,

There is a logic of colors, and it is with this alone, and not with the logic of the brain, that the painter should conform. --Paul Cézanne

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Artists sharing themselves

This was an amazing afternoon. Last week I was invited to a luncheon to be held today. I was told to bring a painting to show to the other artists attending. I had no idea who would be there, except that several of my watercolor students mentioned they would be coming. There were around twenty artists, nearly half of whom were my students. Some I had never met before, others I knew only slightly. The site was a lovely historic home filled with wonderful antiques and authentic historical artwork. Even the luncheon had its historic roots--pumpkin soup for starters. Fire in the fireplace, the house filled with conversation and laughter.

After coffee we were asked to show our artwork and say a few words about ourselves. Skill levels ranged from relatively new painters to highly skilled professionals in different media, but each artist was warmly received and accepted by the group. There was no sense of competition or one-up-manship. We felt comfortable and "safe" with each other. We asked questions, shared techniques, told stories on ourselves like old friends. We talked about how we started to paint and what inspires us. It was awesome. Some came as strangers and departed as friends. I've always felt that art has a unifying power but I've never seen it displayed in quite this way. It was an amazing afternoon.

Labels: ,

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens. --Carl Jung

Labels: , ,

Monday, November 28, 2005

Getting it right

Thirty-five years ago--I remember it as thought it were yesterday--I asked my watercolor instructor how to fix a muddy passage in my picture. He replied, "Get it right the first time." Those were the good old days of watercolor when we honored the white paper, used no white or black paint, added no collage, and didn't mix media. We've come a long way, baby. Or have we? I made that same statement today in a class critique, hoping to create awareness of the beauty of a directly painted, fresh section of a painting compared to an overworked passage in the same picture. From the viewpoint of the class they looked the same, but at closer range, there was a world of difference. These days painting is much like everything else--it doesn't matter how you get there, as long as it works. Somehow this doesn't ring true to me. There is nothing like an elegant brushstroke or a masterful color wash--and you know it at once when you see it. I hate to think that these traditional qualities could be completely lost as the watercolor societies become more and more open to acrylics-as-watercolor, watercolor-on-canvas, watercolor-and-collage and other contemporary techniques. It almost seems as though the permissiveness of our society has crept into the discipline of watercolor painting. To me nothing is more impressive than a well designed and masterfully executed watercolor and I'm grateful there are still a few national groups that honor this achievement. Striving to "get it right the first time" should be every watercolor painter's number one goal.

Labels: , ,

How varied are the delights which may be gained by those who enter hopefully and thoughtfully upon the pathway of painting; how enriched they will be in their daily vision, how fortified in their independence, how happy in their leisure. --Winston Spencer Churchill

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Music and Visual Art

Do you listen to music when you make art? I asked the artists on two mailing lists several months ago and got very different replies. On one list the artists listen to pleasant, upbeat or classical music while they paint. On the other, they use music mostly to drown out other distracting noises. This group leans toward jazz, rock and more contemporary sounds. Some find music too distracting and don't listen to anything. A few keep a TV going in the background. Ever since I read Music and the Soul I've been convinced that artists can select music to complement the emotion they want to express and it will help them bring it out in their work. I'm looking into this. My son, Kurt Leland, wrote the book, and it was a revelation to me. He recommends that you make a playlist of music that inspires you and record it to listen to while you work. I wonder if some of our blocks come from having the wrong music playing in the background.

Labels: , ,

I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say ""he feels deeply, he feels tenderly." --Vincent van Gogh

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Testing watercolor paper

Yesterday I did an interesting experiment with my watercolor class. There are sixteen in the class, most of whom have been with me anywhere from eight weeks to more than three years. They tend to use the papers I use most (Arches or Winsor & Newton) or other acceptable, slightly less expensive papers. A few stubbornly persist in using student papers that hamper their capability of making smooth washes and rich textures. First I pointed out the differences in color of the "white" papers. Then I showed them the weights and textures. Finally, I laid out a variety of different surfaces for them to try: everything from 90 lb. printmaking paper to 140 cold press and 300 lb. rough. There were illustration boards, a gesso-coated canvas board, watercolor canvas and Yupo. Fabriano, Strathmore, Winsor & Newton, Arches, Bainbridge, Langton, Montval, Jack Richeson. It was fun to watch their reactions. Some loved the 300 lb., others the 140 lb. Arches, W&N and Fabriano were popular. No one liked the watercolor canvas. Most couldn't make up their minds about Yupo, probably because they're still struggling to control watercolor and the idea of painting on a surface that is more or less out of control is very intimidating. The difference in the student paper was obvious. I'm hoping I'll see more good paper come to class now. It will make my job a lot easier!

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Every man's work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself. --Samuel Butler
(Thanks to Ben Rayman for contributing this quote.)

Labels: ,

The sun shines bright...

The furnace is fixed, the croup is gone and the sun is shining brightly on southwestern Ohio. I managed to get to my studio today and have sent the art to my editor. She should have it by Monday. Hooray! Now to make a list for grocery shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. And to start thinking about art blogs again. I thought I was pretty good at multi-tasking, but baby-sitting doesn't allow for that. Or I should say, all the multi-tasking is devoted to that. Tomorrow evening I'll be back home and will try to post something artsy.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 18, 2005

Check out the archives

If you're a new visitor to my blog, please don't judge it by recent posts. There's a lot of content in the archives on paints, brushes, paper, and much more. Stay awhile and browse. As soon as I get back to my studio, I'll be back on track.


I'm not making this up.

The furnace went out last night. It's 52 degrees farenheit inside the house. The temp outside was 14 degrees or lower during the night. Little Artist woke up about three o'clock with croupy cough, so we tried the nest in the bed again. She was content to watch TV for kids and I expected she would go right to sleep, but nooooo! I don't know what time she finally dozed off, but it's now 11 a.m. and she's still sleeping. Meanwhile, I continue to be sleep-deprived and the only thing in the house that's warm is my lap, where I have the laptop sitting to type this.

Too bad, because we had a great day yesterday. We fingerpainted and did puzzles, among other things. Mommy had left a goody-bag with a coloring book and a couple of little "art kits"--invisible ink and such. Beware these things. The kit with the invisible ink didn't work and the other was supposed to have sparkly markers in it and the markers weren't there. I'm not sure where she got them, but I'm thinking it may have been one of those dollar-stores. Some of the items in those places are defective. You can't test them and you can't return them. It isn't fun to disappoint a three-year-old who doesn't feel good and Mommy and Daddy aren't going to be home for awhile.

I did think of an inspired solution to one of my book problems and emailed my editor this morning. At least my brain hasn't frozen over yet.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Continuing saga of the Little Artist

Things got worse before they got better. Problem: power outage at 12:20 a.m. How to entertain a wheezing three-year-old while waiting for the "power-man" to fix the lights. Solution: flashlight games on the ceiling and walls of the bedroom. Then a "nest" in the big bed, surrounded by pillows and blankets, nestled next to sleep-deprived Gammy. Greatly improved today, after new medicine prescribed by the doctor. She's coloring ladybugs, but that's the only art that's going on here right now. I'm isolated from my home computer and art stuff, so can't get my last minute tasks done for the book. It's a little frustrating, but basically the Little Artist is getting better and that's what matters. Earlier I found she had arranged all her teddy bears in a circle. She said it was a "bear ceremony."

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ups and downs

I'm baby-sitting the Little Artist this week. She's got croup. We're under a tornado watch. Are we having fun yet?

Labels: ,

Monday, November 14, 2005

Water-mixable oils

Because I'm a watercolor painter I'm attracted to the idea of oil paints that can be cleaned up with water instead of solvent. Many traditional oil painters don't have a very high opinion of this medium, but I don't have enough experience with oil painting to know the difference. Ignorance is bliss. I love painting with water-mixable oil paints. Over the past three years I've taken two brief workshops in oil painting using them. The instructor used regular oil paints in the first workshop and acrylics in the second, so there was no instruction in the water-mixable oils per se. The first time out I used too much water and Winsor & Newton paints. This last time I added some Holbein colors and used only a very little bit of water, except for cleanup. I preferred the Holbein paints. They seemed creamier and more consistent in handling from one color to another. While I respect acrylics and like to use them with collage, I think if I had to choose a painting medium other than watercolor, I would go with water-mixable oils. They would be better for travel, since you can't carry solvents when flying; and I think there might also be a benefit in plein air painting. If you want them to dry more quickly, there is a drier fluid available. I don't know if you can use Liquin and Alkyd paint with water-mixable oils, but they say you can combine them with any oil paints, so I don't see why not. However, you have to switch to solvents when you add these to the mix.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right. --Henry Ford

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The New Creative Artist update

I turned over the last of the content-edited pages of my book to my editor yesterday morning. She'll be taking it to the designer next week. I can't wait to see what she does with it. There's so much new material in this book--new text, art and activities--it will be a challenge to make everything fit. Often a revision is pretty much the same text with a few updates. Not this one. I've completely revised and reorganized the text and have added sixty-five new artists to the ones who have been retained from the original book. Instead of cutting the book down in size, North Light allowed me the option of increasing it by sixteen pages, a full signature. Yay! A whole new chapter! Release date is still June, as far as I know.

Now I have to focus on baby-sitting my granddaughter for eight days while her parents take a cruise. Her daddy got back in August from deployment in Kosovo and Bosnia. I'd better go sharpen my crayons.

Labels: , , ,

Painters are concerned with ideas, not with an anecdotal inventory of visual details. --Frederick Gore

Labels: , ,

Friday, November 11, 2005

Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe. --Winston Churchill

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Watercolorist's best friend

Bruce MacEvoy of handprint.com has a spectacular site with everything you ever wanted to know about watercolor. He has informed me that Grumbacher (now owned by Sanford) is no longer making Grumbacher Finest watercolors. Whatever you find online or in the stores is the last of it. If you're a Grumbacher Finest fan, now's the time to test other paints for suitable substitutes for your favorite colors.

Labels: , ,

Mixing black

I don't like "formulas" for color mixing. And the reason I don't like them is that some artists are too quick to depend on a formula mixture for black instead of mixing the colors used throughout the painting. The result is often a screaming black hole wherever black appears. That said, here are a few combinations that make pretty decent darks. But remember that the named pigment colors should be a part of the palette used throughout the painting and not stuck on as an afterthought. Use rich pigment in the mixture for the darkest darks. Let the painter beware!

-Alizarin Crimson/Phthalocyanine Green (or Winsor Green)
-Alizarin Crimson/Phthalocyanine Green plus Phthalocyanine Blue for blue-black
-Burnt Sienna/French Ultramarine for Payne's gray mixture
-Brown Madder/Indigo
-Rose Madder Genuine/Viridian/Burnt Sienna for "darks" in delicate paintings where black would be too harsh

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Essential Vermeer

Charley Parker of lines and colors blog describes a fabulous site on artist Johannes Vermeer. Read Parker's column before exploring several links to the world of Vermeer and his paintings.

Labels: , , ,

Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life." --Pablo Picasso

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The art of Emily Carr...is the art of eliminating all but the essentials...and then setting these down in the starkest, most compressed form. She had no wish to paint, or to describe in words, the things around her as other people saw them. --B. K. Sandwell

Labels: ,

Monday, November 07, 2005

Back in editing mode

I'm working on the last half of my book this week, so I don't expect to be blogging much. Catch you later.

Labels: , ,

Don't drive faster than your angel can fly. --Author unknown

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The little artist

Our two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter visited this afternoon. Jenna and I are very close and like to build towers with blocks, read stories and play with her dollies and Little People. She loves to finger paint and color with crayons and markers. It's fun to see how she's developing as a "junior artist." She knew her colors before she could talk. (I didn't drill her, honestly.) Mostly she scribbles, but some time ago her marks become more purposeful. She drew a straight line and said it was Daddy, then put a Mommy line next to it. She makes circles and zigzags, too. Today she used colored markers in a coloring book. The picture had six bunny rabbits in it. She colored each one a different color, happily unconcerned about going outside the lines. She used her right hand except for two small bunnies that were side-by-side. She colored the one on the right with her right hand and switched the marker to her left hand to do the other. Two of my children (her mother is one) are right-handed but use their left hands for many tasks. How about those genes?

Labels: , ,

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it, we go nowhere. --Carl Sagan

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Watercolor on canvas

This seems like an oxymoron to me, purist that I am in watercolor. I can't help wondering what all the fuss is about. I like the look of watercolor on paper, but not just any paper. I used to love working on handmade paper, but it's so expensive. Most of the popular papers are machine-made and many have surfaces that imitate the textures of handmade paper. They work well with transparent watercolors, especially the granulating pigments. Some artists don't like the way staining paints lock into the paper fibers and can't be scrubbed out without ruining the paper. I'm told that with watercolor canvas you can wipe your watercolor painting off and start over. Well, I wonder about that. I've got a couple of samples of watercolor canvas here in my studio somewhere. Guess I'll have to dig them out and find out for myself. Truth is, if I'm going to work on canvas, I'd rather spread oil paint like butter than run a watercolor wash. But I guess I'd better try watercolor on canvas to see what I've been missing. Any advice?

Labels: , ,

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely. --Auguste Rodin

Labels: ,

More about writing and editing a book

My editor brought me half of my book last week and I finished my review last night. I feel the editor shares my vision for the book, which is really important as we go through this process together. Everything is looking good so far. She has come up with clever headings for the sidebars and activities (no sidebars in the original, and the activities were titled "Activity"; not too creative!). We needed to discuss a matter of political correctness and found a workable solution together. I had way too much stuff on one page, so something had to be cut there. My books tend to be dense because they have so much instruction and a great variety of art. Because I have a background in writing my text is clean as far as grammar and spelling go. I appreciate her input on anything that makes content clearer. I know one artist who claims her book was published exactly as she gave it to her publisher (not North Light). You could tell. It would have been so much better with a good editor.

The rest of my book will be here on Monday and I have until Friday to finish it. So I have the weekend to get caught up on other stuff. I'm going outside to work in my woods and bring in my house plants before they freeze. It's a beautiful fall day in southwestern Ohio.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, November 04, 2005

The idea that creativity is a potentiality which all people possess to different degrees is now generally accepted by researchers in the field. They consider creativity as more than the manifestation of a unique talent possessed only by gifted artists.... It is also believed that the individual's potential creativeness can be stimulated and fostered by providing conditions which allow and force it to happen. --Hastie and Schmidt

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Taking time

I'm hard at work on my book, and as Georgia says, it takes time. I'll be back at the blog soon. In the meantime, read a good book, listen to some great music and give somebody you love a hug.

Labels: ,

Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small it takes time. We haven't time and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time. --Georgia O'Keeffe

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. --Scott Adams

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Writing and publishing art books

I'm sitting in my studio waiting for delivery of the content-edited manuscript of my major revision and expansion of The Creative Artist. I can hardly wait to see the editor's comments and suggestions and to compare her thumbnail layout with the rough flat plan I submitted with my manuscript in mid-September. I have a week to review the manuscript, then I'll send it back and the design phase will go into full swing.

Artists often ask me about writing and publishing a book of art instruction. They're usually shocked to learn that it takes nearly two years to write and publish an art book of the quality produced by my publisher, North Light Books. It's actually longer than that, if you include the preliminary research and proposal phase. Once the contract is signed, the artist has about a year to write the book, and the company has nearly a year to get it through production and on the shelves of bookstores.

Every book is different and content is handled in different ways. I incorporate the work of many artists--more than 100 for this revision--to illustrate my books, so I have extensive correspondence with artists from all over the U.S. and Canada to procure artwork. Artists who do step-by-step demonstrations of their techniques must paint and photograph the stages of their work.

If you're considering writing a book, your first step is to determine whether your book offers something that isn't already out there. Also, there must be a perceived demand for this book. You write a proposal for the publisher, describing how your book fills this need. A brief letter, a short outline, a sample of your writing and your artwork make a complete proposal package. It's wise to call the acquisitions editor to request permission to send your package for consideration.

A committee made up of editors, designers, marketing and business people will consider your proposal, if the acquisitions editor thinks it's worthwhile. Then, if your proposal is accepted, a contract is offered that sets out the length of the book, the royalty agreement and a deadline for manuscript submission, among other details. Once the contract is signed, your work begins in earnest on the book.

My publisher requires that the author make a "flat plan" that is like a map of the pages of the book. Once you've visualized how your book will look, it's a relatively simple matter to plug in the content and illustrations. But all of this takes time and most authors use up their allotted time. You have numerous captions to write. Your illustrations must be coded and matched to the manuscript and the flat plan. You must secure permission to publish art from contributing artists and collectors. The list goes on.

After you hand off the complete package, the content editor combs the manuscript to make sure it makes sense and looks for places where there might be too much or too little text. The editor examines all photography to ascertain that images will be sharp and clear. A copy editor checks grammar and spelling. At this point the author gets the edited manuscript for review and approval.

Meanwhile, the marketing department is preparing advertising copy for catalogs and presentations to book outlets. When the edited manuscript goes to production, designers develop the visual appearance of the cover and contents. The graphics department resizes illustrations to fit the designers' specifications. Occasionally the author is asked to provide more text to fill an empty space or to trim text so an illustration can be more prominent on the page, but for the most part your work is done once the edited manuscript is handed off.

If time permits, you may have an opportunity to see printed proofs after the design process is completed. When the editors have completed the proofreading, the index is prepared by someone other than the author. The finished pages are sent to the printer, usually out of the country in the case of art instruction books, because of prohibitive costs of color reproduction. It may take several months for the book to be printed and bound. A production editor will follow the book through this process until it is "in house" and ready to ship from the publisher to the book club and distributors.

After I've completed a book (this revision is my sixth art instruction book) I tend to get involved in other things and forget about it until it resurfaces in the next stage, then I get excited all over again. For some reason the time has been shorter for preparation of this book--just short of a year for writing, about nine months for production. The Creative Artist is scheduled for release in June, 2006.

Labels: , , ,

Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love. --Rainer Maria Rilke

Labels: ,