Sunday, October 31, 2010

Some Reading

Ivan Kramskoy. Sophia Kramskaya Reading. 1863. Oil on canvas. 
The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

A student had asked if I could hand out a list of books, blogs and internet sites to read. I can't stress enough how important it is to constantly be reading about your craft. Read stacks of books, blogs and sites written by artists you like and admire. In this way you will get an understanding of how a painter works and thinks. You need to get the brain of a painter. The "red and blue makes purple" information or suggestions of special mediums to mix with your paint are not as important as the bigger ideas. I also suggest you read mostly dusty, old books, the older the better often. Many of the bigger ideas of painting have been lost to the majority of working painters. So many of the instructional step by step books you see today will teach  tricks, but will not make you a better painter. Surprisingly, most of the books I most strongly recommend have few if any pictures, and if they do, it is a great painting that demonstrates the execution of one of these bigger ideas.
I will try to post links to the books on Amazon. Some of these I have posted before, over time I will try to give the entire list. Paul Ingbretson, my painting teacher, gave us a great two page list of books that, if read, have all the information one would need to become a world class painter. It was an adjusted list that he got from his teacher, Gammell.

In a few posts, I will provide links to the books, starting with the ones I strongly suggest.

 Strongly suggested:

The Boston Painters 1900-1930
Twilight of Painting
Dennis Miller Bunker
The shop-talk of Edgar Degas

This next one is an electronic version, and is not a format I would recommend. You can find this one online for free. Click Here

VELAZQUEZ by R.A.M. Stevenson

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Become A Revolutionary

As you know I like to occasionally give the Modern Art movement and serious kick in the crotch. I have been criticized for doing so. Even my wife has suggested that the time would be better spent painting.
Yes, I probably should be painting, but I think part of my duty as a painter is point out scams, lies and the ugliness in the art world, and there is a lot of it. Most of the museums that have decided that what the public wants is irrelevant. Most colleges have moved from teaching drawing, painting, and sculpture to brainwashing young people into believing that beauty is irrelevant and that art is about ideas. This is easier than teaching people how to paint, sculpt or compose- especially if you have no idea how to do it yourself.
Thankfully, in the last 10 to 15 years I have seen signs that beauty is again starting to gain favor. Artists are studying great painters, working with other trained painters to master the craft.
Though as I say this I still see my young niece come home from school ready to ask her "artist uncle" about the great Picasso that she learned all about at school (I know the correct pronoun after Picasso was "who", but I chose to use "that". Picasso is more of a thing than a person at this point). My niece is also taking a "drawing class" where they did action painting in the style of Jackson Pollock. That is not drawing! I bet it was fun, but it is not useful to a child who may find it useful to be able to draw at some point in her life. So, still we are brainwashing these young minds into believing that the visual art is not about beauty or skill or love or the universal. If you are a parent, you can do something about it. Talk to them about what they like and why, take them to museums, and maybe even get them into art classes that actually teach useful skills.
I wanted to share this series of videos put together by Scott Burdick. He is a very skilled painter whose work I have always enjoyed. This is a one hour slide show he did in Laguna Beach for the American Artist's "Weekend with the Masters" event.
I suggest you have a look. If you have been told over and over why you should like a Picasso, despite your first inclinations, watch this and then decide for yourself.

As a follow up in this subject, you should read this book. I have mentioned this book before. It is a great read and can be finished in an afternoon. Check it out.

Friday, October 1, 2010

How to paint Architecture.

First I would like to post a retraction for my last post. Well, at least a partial one. Since that post I have been receiving some nasty hate mail- well, more than usual. In that post I complained about the artwork of chimps, but then refused to help them. That's just not right.These painting zoo animals are doing terrible work, but it is not their fault.
My class starts tomorrow and as of right now there are two spots open. I want to offer my class to any apes, monkeys, and even elephants that would like to study the impressionist method of painting. I am very sorry for being such a speciesist. It will not happen again.

As a follow up to a  previous post  on using the right size brush for the job I thought I would post some photos demonstrating the correct (Classical) way to paint your garage. Keep in mind this was a hot summer, so I reluctantly decided to work without a tie. A gentleman would have been wearing a hat, but as I said, it was very hot and humid. So, forgive my appearance.
"While painting any part of the garage, you must paint that part as it relates to the whole!"

A question I so often get asked in landscape painting classes is, "How do I mix brown?"
It is no secret that for this job, I had Sherwin Williams mix it for me, though  I did decide on the formula myself.
In my class you will learn how to mix your own brownish colors.

The above silliness helps demonstrate a point, that you need to have the right sized brush for the job. To paint a garage with a number #6 oil painting brush would be outrageous- though it looks very cool to do so.
To start in on a canvas using a #2 sable brush would be equally silly. 
My fall class is starting now. I am thinking of having some of the more advanced students invest in larger brushes (12's, 10's. and 7's). I just read a book by Emile Guppe', called Brushwork. While I must admit, I  am not a huge fan of his paintings, much of the advice in the book is quite good. For one thing, he suggests using bigger brushes and a good sized canvas (around 16"x20"). Then you just have to paint with authority. What I mean by authority is mixing the right color, the right value, and placing it on the canvas. 
"But what if it's wrong?" 
Well, then you do again, only righter. Students think that if they keep stroking the paint it will get more correct than when they put it down. So if you can use a good size brush, and put down with minimal strokes, it will force you to paint smarter. As a result you will build a powerful impression that has the sparkle of life.
Smaller brushes cause the painter to "lick" at the canvas with the brush. Do Not Lick Your Painting!
One quote I always liked was that "the painter should decide what brush would be best for the job, and then grab a brush two sizes bigger".  I don't remember who said it. Sounds like something Sargent would say. If anyone out there remembers, post a comment below.
I tend toward filbert brushes, which I think are a good all around brush. They have qualities of both a flat and a round. If turned and used correctly you can get a big flat stroke, or a fine line. 
Hope all of you animals out there enjoyed this post. 

 Please note,  when I painted the garage, I ended up switching to a 4" natural bristle angled brush. Some of the best work I did all summer.