Friday, February 27, 2009

Concept: What's the Big Idea anyway?

Before your brush ever touches the canvas, you should already know several things.  First and foremost, you should have clearly in mind the subject matter. This is rather self evident with still life, since you've arranged the objects you want to paint!  It's a little more tricky with landscape, especially plein air painting, because you must select, from endless possibilities and detail out there, the little portion of the view that you want to put down on canvas.
Once you know WHAT you want to paint, you need to settle on WHY you're painting it. Let's speak in terms of still life only for right now. I arranged this still life, because I wanted to paint this wine bottle with it's colorful label. But the real "big idea" behind this particular arrangement was the way the light traveled across the tabletop and landed squarely on the pears.  THAT was the "concept", or the "big idea" of this painting - to try to capture that feeling of the way the light flows.   
The importance of having a "concept" can't be overstated.  If you don't know why you're painting something, then your painting doesn't have a real purpose. I could certainly have painted this arrangement and accurately portrayed the objects. They may have been believeable. They may have been well done.  But, it would have been, yawn, boring!  
The concept gives you a clearly defined goal.  In this example, it was to try to capture that light.
So, that means that I need to paint everything in such a way as to enhance that idea.  What do you see when you first look at this painting? Your eyes go right to the pears and how they almost glow from the strong light on them.

In the real set-up, this distinction was not nearly so evident. But since I had a concept clearly in mind, some objects in the arrangement became subordinant (that bottle almost fades into the shadows on the left) and others (the pears) became the focal point.  And I think it worked. You "see" that light!
Next time you try a painting, decide on your "big idea" before you ever start.  Then paint everything to communicate that idea. Or, if  you're not an artist, then take a look at some paintings, and see if you can determine what the artist's concept was. If you can't, then likely they were simply painting "things" and not communicating an idea.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

painting glass

Here are three examples of painting glass, both clear glass and colored glass. It's actually quite fun to paint glass, and, unless you are aiming at photo realism, it's not that difficult. 
There are a few principles to follow.
1. paint the background color in first.  
2. very lightly sketch in the shape of the glass. For clear glass, using a color appropriate to the color of the glass.The amber glass in the still life above obviously has alot of red and orange. Clear glass might call for a more bluish tone. The dark green bottle had alot of black and green in various mixtures.
3. Light travels THROUGH glass, so the lighter side is generally the side AWAY from the light source, except for highlights.
4. Highlights occur in places where the glass either bends (as in the junction of a bottle top and the body of the bottle) or on edges (such as the top lip or edge).
5. Refractions - simply pay attention to what happens to objects that appear behind or through the glass, such as the cloth in the peaches still life.  If you observe carefully, and paint what you see, you can make these refractions believable.
That's it! Glass is a fun challenge, and can make for some beautiful paintings!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Morning Mist

This little minature, 4x6, is set to go to the Cape Cod Art Association's "Off the Wall" fundraiser.  It was while attending a workshop at CCAA that a friend and I first heard of the concept of "Off the Wall", and we brought the idea here to our community.
We ended up with a fantastic, successful evening, raising $10,000 for the Jaffrey Civic Center's elevator fund (to make the building truly handicapped accessible).  So, in gratitude for such a great idea, I'm donating a couple of paintings to CCAA's Off the Wall this year.
What is Off the Wall?  It is a unique art sale.  All  paintings (each 4x6) are sold right "off the wall" for the incredible price of $60.
None of the paintings are signed on the front, so buyers will not know whose masterpiece they are buying until after purchase. This adds a bit of mystery and fun, and also allows the art to
stand on its own, without an artist's name to influence the purchase.  There are well known artists participating, whose works sell for many times more than $60, so it's a great opportunity for buyers and fun for all. This year's event is at the Cape Cod Art Association, in Barnstable, MA, March 13-16.
This photo is a bit fuzzy, and I'm too lazy to try to take any more photos tonight!