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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Painting rainbows in watercolor

Somebody in my class asked me a couple of weeks ago how to do this. Not that it's a great idea, because rainbows are so variable and tend to look hokey in your paintings, unless you happen to be J.M.W. Turner. Nevertheless, yesterday I showed them a way to do it in watercolor just by blending clean, diluted pure colors on slightly damp paper. It isn't hard to make a rainbow, but to put one in a painting and have it look realistic is a whole different thing. That takes practice. My first recommendation is to Google "rainbows" and see what they really look like. Most of them aren't complete. The colors are brighter near the ground, then they often disappear before the arc is completed. And red is always at the top, with violet at the bottom (and often hard to see). If there's a second rainbow reflected above it, the colors are reversed. And just in case you learned ROYGBIV when you were in grade school, there is no "I" for indigo in the spectrum, therefore it's actually ROYGBV. Newton must have been having a mystical moment when he described the colors--had to have seven, as in the days of Creation and notes on the musical scale.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Charley Parker reviews The New Creative Artist

One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is lines and colors. Charley Parker writes in depth of contemporary art, artists and illustrators and also of museum exhibits and master painters. His reviews include links to many images and references. I learn a great deal from his blog and have linked to it often.

Charley has reviewed The New Creative Artist. His blog audience is probably an edgier group of artists than I wrote the book for, but he nevertheless found it to be worthwhile. It takes a lot of time to do a book review. Thanks to Charley for taking a good look and writing about my book.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

To read or not to read

My first reaction to this article in the New York Times was shock, then disappointment, to think that a university literature professor in Paris would write a book about how to pretend that you've read a book so you can talk about it with others or fake it in a class. Being an avid reader, I've never been able to understand why people do this. I had a brother-in-law who thought Reader's Digest Condensed Books were the best thing going for a businessman on an airplane; at least he was actually reading the books. But as I wondered about faking it for social purposes, it occurred to me that this could spawn a whole new generation of readers: people who buy books so they can pretend they read them, and then get interested in them while they're scanning for talk points or in a conversation about a book that takes them back to the book to see what it's really about. Maybe this professor is on to something. His book, “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read,” is a bestseller in France and will no doubt be available in translation in the near future.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Emily Carr retrospective

It seems fitting that I would discover a retrospective exhibition of Emily Carr's work just when I've been immersing myself in her writings and her art on the Internet. The Art Gallery of Ontario (Canada) is hosting the exhibit from March 3 to May 20, 2007. "Emily Carr: New Perspectives" ran at Ottawa's National Gallery in 2006, before travelling to the Vancouver Art Gallery. After the Art Gallery of Ontario, the exhibition moves to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. I really really really want to see this show. It's about eight hours from here to Toronto--maybe a long weekend in April?

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The Artist's Showplace Workshop

There are still a few openings for my collage workshop in Dallas, Texas March 22-25. Check it out! I'm looking forward to getting back to Dallas and away from the snow and ice. Although by then, the daffodils will probably be blooming here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How to store your watercolor crayons

Here's a great container for watercolor crayons and Prismacolor sticks. The plastic jar shown is an empty coffee container that held Nescafe Taster's Choice gourmet instant coffee. Their regular instant coffee comes in a slightly taller jar. The labels can be easily removed and no coffee odor remains when the jar is washed. The lid snaps on tightly and pops open with a push-button. The frosted plastic sides are semi-transparent, so you can see what you stored inside the jar.

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A useful design tool

Several weeks ago when I was reading Emily Carr's writings I came across her reference to a book called How to See Modern Pictures by Ralph M. Pearson, published in 1925. Carr seemed to think highly of the book so, although I knew it wouldn't be considered "modern" today, I was curious how it might have influenced her work. I located a copy on the Internet and found it very interesting. I discovered a design tool that I think will help my students with composition.

This grid consists of two diagonals from corner to corner and a rectangle or diamond shape connecting the mid-points of the four sides. The diamond-shaped areas within create optimal areas for locating major and minor focal points. The lines suggest movement and turning points across the surface. My students often place objects in dead center or to avoid that, too close to the edge. I'm hoping this grid will help them to avoid these pitfalls.

Pearson describes the division of space in such a way that you can locate your important areas within sections of a grid that is simple and easy to use. I selected a Rembrandt painting at random (The Feast of Belshazzar) to see how it might fit into the grid. It was a good fit. I've read that Renaissance artists revived the practice of using various grids, especially in laying out complicated subjects and large compositions.

I've taught both the rule-of-thirds and rabatment (See The New Creative Artist.), which locate "sweet-spots" at the intersections of lines, but I think I prefer this method of using an area rather than a spot.

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Artella's Daily Muse interview

My interview and bio were posted yesterday, but I've only now figured out how to get back into Blogger. To access the interview, the ID is "february" and password is "artiste" without the quote marks.

Artella's Daily Muse is a content-rich online newspaper for arts and crafts, with motivational essays and lots of fun and creative stuff available to members. You can sign up for a free two-day subscription to try it out.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Fits and starts

I've been having trouble getting into Blogger for some reason. I have no idea how I managed it this time, but I'll try again later to see if I can begin posting again. What a pain!


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Change of pace

Monday afternoon after watercolor class I picked up the Little Artist at daycare and drove her home. I had packed a suitcase, briefcase full of work, and several small totes filled with books in anticipation of staying with her and her mother if the predicted storm materialized. It did and I did. I just got home a short while ago. There were buckets of freezing rain and ice, 8-10 inches of snow, roads closed, schools closed. My car was encased in a block of snow-covered ice. But we were snug as a bug in a rug. Our little four-year-old ran me ragged for two-and-a-half days, upstairs, downstairs, all around the house. We did so much playacting in squeaky voices for the dolls, bears and other animals that I almost lost my voice. Today we made valentines and had a party with the bears. Fortunately, Daddy was able to make it home from Boise this afternoon. It was great fun, but it's early to bed for me tonight.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Lighting by the Kelvin Scale

When I set up my studio in 1983 I consulted a lighting specialist who advised me to buy fluorescent lighting that was 5500 degrees Kelvin. Whatever that meant. I followed his advice and found that the lighting was ideal for my color studies and painting and have recommended to my students that they use this kind of lighting in their studios. A couple of weeks ago I showed my class what a difference it made in my color charts to see them under a portable Ott-lite. The classroom has regular fluorescent lighting in it. I went to the Internet and found several charts, which I combined into the one you see here. The best lighting for artwork is in the range of 5000-6000K. The Color Rendering Index (CRI) should be 70 or higher for excellent, 60-70 for good color matching. Anything under 60 is unacceptable. There are several companies that make lights that meet these specifications. Google full spectrum lighting to look over your options. Expect to pay more, but expect them to last longer and give you much better results than incandescent or halogen quartz lamps.

References: www.3drender.com

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Valentine collages

The Little Artist spent the afternoon with me today and headed straight for the collage box. I told her I was thinking of cutting out some hearts, so she picked the colors and made a beautiful valentine for Mommy with hearts, stickers and coloring all over it. To my surprise she printed her name--or close to it--on the card. This was a big day for playing with dollies. She brought two, one for me and one for her. We also looked at her Mom's baby pictures and she said in amazement, "She looks like me!" We're supposed to get snow tomorrow and Tuesday, so I'm going to stay with them overnight tomorrow in case they get snowed in.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Portraits vs. Caricatures

I've been thinking about the differences between portraits and caricatures and I realized that this caricature of me clearly shows the difference. It was done several years ago by Susan Moreno,one of my color workshop students who is a professional caricaturist. She took several photographs and sent the finished pastel after the workshop was over. My friends were horrified when they saw it, and I was taken aback, but when I got used to it, I realized it really does capture some of my characteristics. Compare it with a photo that was taken around the same time. She got the hair, the chin, the eyes (a little less smiling in the photo) and the nose is close. I'm not so sure about the chipmunk cheeks, but that makes the caricature funnier. The spindly neck is funny, too. And that's what I think caricature is about--exaggeration and humor. A portrait is a completely different animal. Apparently master portraitist John Singer Sargent got so tired of hearing sitters complain about small details in their portraits that he finally abandoned his lucrative practice of portrait painting, saying, "A portrait is a painting with a little something wrong about the mouth!" If you've ever done a portrait, you've no doubt heard something like that about your picture.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Portrait Commissions

A friend of mine recently had a portrait commission rejected. The person she did it for was extremely rude in calling it a "caricature." Of course, the artist was disappointed and hurt at the reaction. I seriously doubt that she will want to try to make it right. I wouldn't, under the circumstances. I have great admiration for artists who do commissions of any kind, because there is so much pressure to perform with a commission. The stress is unbelievable. It's even worse for portraits, where a likeness is expected, and rightly so. One of my instructors told us not to worry about the likeness, as long as the portrait looked human. Good advice. Unless it's a commission. This portrait of my Little Artist isn't a perfect likeness, but it captures her spirit.

I did "house portraits" for awhile early on, but I had learned a few tricks of the trade from a friend who was constantly pestered by clients who wanted this and that changed in finished paintings, even though the elements they wanted weren't in the photos they provided. First of all, get a non-refundable deposit. Then, make it clear that you're going to paint it your way, and if they don't like it, they don't have to take it (but no deposit back). Then I would do a painting I liked and show it to them. Once in awhile I would provide preliminary sketches for approval. I never had a commission turned down. I was also extremely selective about what subjects I would paint on commission. It had to be a historic home or something with character that I would enjoy painting. I deviated from that once when my sister asked me to copy a watercolor of her home that I had given her as a gift. She wanted an original for each of her three children. I got around that one by using the same drawing three times--in different seasons. I think that was the last commission I ever did and I'm not likely to do another.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Request for paint names on the color wheel

A blog reader asked me to post a larger version of the pigment color wheel so she could read the labels on the colors. Believe it or not, it's better if you don't know the names. The value of the exercise is in using your own paints and testing them to see where they fit on your color wheel. When you buy new colors, before adding them to your palette, add them to your pigment wheel so you can see their relationship to your other colors. Paints with the same names may be very different in various brands. Not only that, what you see on the monitor or in a printout is not a true match for the actual paint color.

I've blogged before about split-primary color-mixing, which may help you if you're struggling with mixing. You'll find just about everything else you need to know about color mixing in Exploring Color. There's even a pigment wheel with color labels on it. Just remember, the printed colors aren't matches for the pigments.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Digital Scrapbooking

It's a cold, blustery day in Ohio and ideal for staying put in my studio and learning something new. Scrapbook Max! sent me a review copy of their digital scrapbooking software after noticing my recent blog post about the scrapbook I made for my granddaughter. I've been playing with the software this afternoon and I think it's pretty amazing. I should mention that I once installed a competing product and got so frustrated with it that I deleted the program from my computer and put digital scrapbooking out of my mind.

But Scrapbook Max! is so easy and the selections of templates, embellishments, backgrounds and objects is huge. I decided to keep an open mind and got to work. I began with a template called "Girl Friends" that had five pre-designed pages. I selected nine photos from Jenna's Build-a-Bear party to tell the story of her new friend, Genevieve Bear. The first and last pages seemed too busy for my taste, so I found a simpler template for the background of those pages and resized some of the flowers, making them a bit smaller. I liked the paper dolls and other embellishments, which you can see in the photos.

Once the photos were in place, I wrote captions and a short journal entry. I chose a funky font and a contrasting color for the text. I moved, cropped, resized photos and tilted the captions, using both the menu bar and the icons, which are very easy to find. The whole thing went together in a snap. I'll admit that it helps to be computer-savvy, but I think most people who are reasonably comfortable with a computer will find this progam easy to manage.

The program has an astonishing variety of photo editing options for such a reasonably priced package ($39.95). When I finished and saved the pages, I emailed a copy to myself and my daughter. They looked great! Then I resized and uploaded them to my server so I could put them on my blog. You can also make slide shows and order prints online from your browser. Scrapbook Max! has a lively community forum, which I scrolled through to see how the neighborhood looked. I found friendly faces and helpful support for all questions relating to digital scrapbooking. There are galleries of pages that people have uploaded to share.

Registered members may share their original designs for embellishments and pages in template libraries. The web site also offers a free newsletter. Additional booster packs may be ordered online. You might want to try the easy tutorials and then the free trial version of the Scrapbook Max! program.

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Jan van Eyck

Charley Parker's blog describes van Eyck's Arnolfini double portrait in some detail, and also explains early techniques of tempera and oil painting as used in the 15th century. He links to several other van Eyck paintings and museum sites worth exploring. Sit back and browse awhile.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

The pigment color wheel is finished

Finally I've finished the watercolor wheel I started for my class several weeks ago. I did blue first, then added red the following week and yellow a week later. (Click on the "color wheel" label below to see the three work sheets and watercolor wheels that I painted last month.) Today I filled in orange, green and violet secondary colors and the neutrals in the center. I finished it in my studio so the class wouldn't lose painting time next week. I'll show them the finished wheel, explain a couple of things and they can examine it more closely later if they wish. Mind you, I'm not advocating having or using all these colors. I want to show that there's a continuum around the color wheel that reveals temperature relativity from one color to the next. This is a good exercise for your "color eye," to see if you can distinguish between warmer and cooler colors and see how their neighbors on the wheel influence their temperature. The colors around the perimeter of the wheel are mostly high tinting-strength, high-intensity colors. Except for a few colors in the red area, outside the perimeter are the low tinting-strength, high-intensity colors. Inside the wheel are the low-intensity colors and neutrals.

Here's the test sheet for the colors I did today. It doesn't matter whether you make a wheel or swatches, but this is a good way of learning about your paints. As I said in an earlier post, the color wheel above is similar to the one I made for my first Exploring Color book, published in 1985.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

A new collage artist

The Little Artist came over after school today. She walked into her playroom and said, "What are we going to do today?" I said, "Would you like to make a collage?" She smiled and sat down at her new table--just her size--and said, "Yes." Then, "What's a collage?"

We had a great time. I had lots of colorful rice-paper scraps. She picked out her favorite colors and tore and glued them all over the outside of a folded (5 1/2" x 8") inexpensive blank greeting-card. Then she colored the inside on one page and added stickers to the other. She told me the card was for "Mommy, Daddy and me."

Now and then, after she announced that it was finished, she took it out of the envelope and added a new embellishment or two. A born collage artist.

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