Saturday, March 7, 2009

BONHEUR'S LAW: In a battle between a bull and an easel, the bull will almost always win.

This story comes from Jeffrey Freedner....thanks, Jeff!

The funniest sods law story I have ever heard was from a friend of mine who was out landscape painting one fine afternoon in Vermont.

He was painting in a far end of a cow pasture when he suddenly noticed that there was a bull coming towards him at a pretty good clip.

In fact it was charging him.

He had to run and take refuge up a tree as the bull was faster than him and pretty serious about my friends infringement on his heard of cows. Needless to say, the bull quickly tired of head butting the tree trunk in an effort of dislodging the artist. Frustrated by these turn of events the bull then turned his sights on the tree-bound painter's easel. Of course the results of this encounter were not favorable for the easel which even though it had three legs it was not fast enough to escape the bull.

After the bull finished off the easel he stood around for awhile as by now the cows had come over to see what all the fuss was. The bull, no doubt happy with his conquest of the day trotted off with a few of his heard for his reward. The painter, now safe in his tree top fort waited until the bull was out of site to come down. While he was waiting he was had to have the added humility of watching the cows lick his painting clean as well as his palette.

The result was the cows now had, blue, phthalo green and cad yellow snouts. After about twenty minutes or so he thought it safe enough to get down out of the tree. He quickly gathered all evidence of his trespass and made for the nearest bar to calm his nerves as well as to curse the bovine art critics.

--J. Freedner

So - that must be how they make this?

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

TIP: Smartflix

DVD's are so expensive.... rent them. SmartFlix has thousands of DVDs that rent for pretty reasonable prices, kinda like Netflix except the fees vary depending on the DVD. Also their supply isn't limitles like Netflix - you'll occasionally find yourself on a waiting list.

What's in there? Actual people you have heard of, that's who. Robert Johnson's Floral Still Life, Richard Schmid Painting the Landscape, Kevin Macpherson Paints A Landscape, Figure Painting With Sherrie McGraw. Also each video has comments from other viewers to help you decide. And they have a guarantee.


But seriously, if you are on a waiting list, why not rent a vid on Marine Diesel Engine Maintenance?

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SITES WE HAVE BOOKMARKED: Mark Harden's Artchive

Check out Mark Harden's Artchive .

Browse his extensive collection of master paintings by painting movement or by individual artist - read bios of each artist, and with great high-res scans, virtually put your nose right up to a painting (okay...your screen) without risking a single museum cop yelling at you.

A must have link if you're doing old master copies.

There are also links to current online exhibits, and analysis, theory and criticisms of famous works. It's difficult to find out much about Mark himself, except that he writes for an online art magazine called Glyphs.

And, I just love the pun in the site's name. :)

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009


9:30 am, painting from life. The bouquet isn't dry so that one will have to wait. I promised Ego I'd paint some glass.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009


I will be continuing the bouquet commission via live webstreamin' video on Monday at 3pm cst (Chicago time), so the folks out there on the other side of the world can see it too.

This session will be first color underlayer and last probably 3 hours. If there is time I will bring the glass vase mostly to finish so if you're interested in a glass painting demonstration this might be a good one.

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Friday, February 27, 2009



Sadie Valeri is teaching a workshop! Classical long pose figure drawing. This is a wonderful opportunity to study with someone who really knows what's up. I haven't studied with her but by her YouTube vids, she sounds like a caring and precise teacher

Check it out. I wish I were in San Francisco.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Flight to Quality - An essay on traditionalist painting.


This was written by Jacob Collins - an extraordinarily talented American Realist painter. Jacob founded the Water Street Atelier in Manhattan. Many thanks to Jacob for allowing me to re-post his essay, as its message is incredibly heartening for artists in today's world.

The "Art World" is in free fall. The world of Avant Garde, theory driven, museum supported institutional modernism threw in its chips with the highest bidder. Over the last decade or so there was an accelerating frenzy resulting from this relationship between the "Art World" and the world of investment bankers, hedge fund managers and their wealth generated by bad credit. Its over now and the art dealers and art they dealt will be just as toxic to the world as the sub-prime mortgage derivatives that paid for the party.

At a moment like this the financial investor will flee to quality. He will look for things to invest his remaining money in: actual companies that make sense, that actually make things and make real profits. He needs to feel confident that he will not be duped again. He curses himself for ever investing that much in something he knew deep down he didn't understand. It is now widely proclaimed, that not only did the dupes fail to understand the chicanery of the markets, but neither did the "experts."

These are the classic conditions for a flight to quality in financial markets and I believe we will be seeing a flight to quality in art as well. Six months from now, when reality has sunk in, the horror amongst the collecting world will lead to questions as to whether any of this ever meant anything at all. What was it for? Did anyone understand it? The art collecting world will definitely be smaller. like the investing world, but it will refocus itself on things that are understandable. Things that resonate with the qualities that we all know deep down are artistically meritorious: beauty, skill, poetic feelings, delicate and simple thruths. These are the values that art and its admirers have traditionally aspired to, and these are the values that it will be natural to return to after the the smoke clears over the carnage of our self destructing art world.

My guess is that it is already happening. I hear that nothing is selling in the "Art World" I see articles announcing that a high percentage of the edgy galleries will be shuttered soon. But I know that a number of my classical artist friends are selling well through all of this. I have spoken to a few in the last few weeks. All selling strong. I bet in the next while we will find more traditionalists just humming along in a new flight to quality environment.

-Jacob Collins • February 23, 2009

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Otto Lange does some really creative, funny, joyful work. I love the look of the modern mind plus the old fashioned iconography. Remind you of anybody? Magritte maybe?

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


In this 8 minute video, I'll go step by step through applying a glaze to an underpainting to get crytal clear, realistic detail on this painted vase and bowl.

Available as a premium download for just $5. It has great closeups, better video quality than youtube and you can download and save to your hard drive. Click here for more information and to watch the free preview.

This is just the first of hopefully a lot of added-value demonstrations Cindy and I will be putting together. Based on the feedback I've gotten, people want the videos I've made slowed down and explained, and I'll be posting some of those too. I hope you like it!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009



I'll be painting tomorrow morning 9:30 am CST live. Come and join me if you've got a minute. It's kinda fun!

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BLOGS WE READ: Terry Miura


Sometimes it seems like a lot of really great artists got their chops as illustrators. Terry Miura's work has that confident, easygoing look of someone who knows what's up. I like his color a lot, and I like his pithy, opinionated posts too!

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

TIP: Master Copies

If you haven't done this, believe me, it's totally worth it. Copying another artist's painting is like stepping into their brain. Sadie Valeri wrote a post on this with a very cool drawing. Maybe I'll do a real demo of this one day, but here are just some random thoughts on the matter, on how to get the most out of it.

It doesn't really matter if you're copying drawings or paintings. They're both highly informative. I did a few copies of Sargent drawings here and there - and hey I noticed Paul Foxton copied some of the same drawings. Cheers!

OK, that was a few years ago and I would do lots better now, I swear. But through that drawing, I learned a lot about his hatching, the lines he chose to erase vs rework, and how he distributed the shadow parts. That moustache is awe inspiring. I wish I could grow one.

The best place I know of to procure digital images for study is the Art Renewal Center. In their museum, there are loads and loads of high res images.

You don't have to copy a whole painting. Copying chunks is good too.

When you sign the painting, sign it "XXXX after Rembrandt" or whomever.

This is a biggie - try to match the work, stroke for stroke. The benefit to having the hi res images is that you can poke around in the corners looking for hints at the color of the ground, the quality of the sketch, the colors and finish level of the underpainting, and the technique of the final layers. This mental exercise is half the benefit of the process.

The other half is making your hand do what their hand did, after your brain does what their bran did (sorta). It's not enough to think it through, now do it. Do it to the nth degree. It's not easy - I won't lie to you.

When you've picked your painting, crop it to size, and work on a proportional surface. Gridding will help get the drawing in correctly - and you don't want to cut corners on this step. If your drawing isn't spot on, do not proceed.

Those are my random, disorganized thoughts on th ematter while we are out of coffee over here.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

PONDER: Why Painting From Life?

The insistence on painting from life is one of the things I initially thought the artiste elite said in order to make the path difficult for us self-taught folks. I mean, you have to paint from life, copy Bargue plates, study in Italy, use $20 brushes, buy $600 rolls of linen, etc etc etc. True? Not all of it.

So, I started by painting from photos. And I can get pretty true to the photo *golf clap.* But what I know now is that painting from photos is part of what slowed my self-education. When I finally relented and painted from life, I got a lot better, really fast. It's actually pretty easy to make the time and space to do this - easier than working from photos, it turns out. Here's how, and here's why (I think).

1 - Painting from photos reinforces bad habits you were taught in grade school. Because you're copying a 2-d image to a 2-d image, the impulse is to COPY. And that means contours and outlines, and that means filling in contours like a coloring book. Sometimes - and you can find lots of this on Youtube - it means TRACING. That's right, it's only natural. If your goal is to make something look like the photo, well, you want everything in just the right spot yes? Tracing is an effective way to get it in the "right spot."

2 - The procedure for life is fundamentally different. When I copy a photo, I draw the contours and color them in. When I work from life, I situate the important landmarks relative to each other and then build the form in planes. The painting is brought up as a whole. Each thing is done so that each next thing makes sense and has a place to live - like making sure the background is the right color so that I can see whether the light side of the object is working. The artifacts of this method - edge variation, exagerrated focal point, vivid color and brushwork, perspective - are what makes a from-life painting look more alive.

The benefit to building forms in planes is that they look more natural. One of the hallmarks of a copied photo is value transitions that don't go anywhere. The painter analyses the photo for shapes to copy, and then puts them on the canvas. But those shapes all are supposed to mean something, and what they usually mean is "I am a form of XXXX shape in XXXX light and I am angled this way." Once you've divorced the form from the symptoms of form (e.g. changing values), you get a lot of miscellaneous shapes and values that don't necessarily do the job of making XXXX form turn where it's supposed to. When you're painting from life you'll eventually ask yourself, "Is it round? Is it the right kind of round and the right kind of shiny?" But with a photo you're more likely to say "What shape is this context-free band of grey?"

3 - We don't see like a camera. The camera takes its best guess at highlights and deep shadow. There's some distortion - uhm, to be honest I don't think I see that as much as other people say they do. But what I know is true is that the highlights and shadows are wrong. When you look into a shadow, you see more. Same is true for highlights. Prove it to yourself - take a photo of the thing you were going to paint from life and see if they look the same. They don't. Not to mention, your head moves and the camera doesn't. Painting from a photo is like pinning a bug to a board and recreating it in chunks. Painting from life is like following the bug around, disassembling it mentally and reassembling it in your brain.

4 - Painting from photos makes you look like a noob. Everybody knows. You can totally tell. (See #5)

5 - Painting from life makes photo work a million times better. Come on! Who the heck always paints from life? There are effects of light that you can't paint because they're gone in a few minutes. Kids and animals do not sit for portraits. Flowers die and fruit changes colors. Sometimes your spouse wants the dining room back. OK? But if you have practiced painting from life, you can make photo work LOOK like it was painted from life by building it as though you were painting from life. It makes you smarter. The photo then is a resource, not a goal.

6 - It's totally easy. Make a box, line it with paper, light it from the side. Controlling the lighting simplifies the scene. Light your canvas with the same kind of bulb. Mix your paints to match what you see, on the real object. It will take a half dozen or so tries to stop trying to get the scene totally static in your mind if you're used to photos. Trust yourself. Use the Force, Luke.

Of course, if you're a photorealist, this is all moot. Carry on.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Color Names and Stuff


A cool article about "real" colors w/r/t the EM spectrum:

OK, but as artist, WE know there are lots of colors and color effects that are best when they're using several points on the spectrum. What kind of color isolation tank is this woman living in anyway?

But just in case your color vocab is losing its zing, try this list for dazzling color names you can whip out at parties. Amaze your friends!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

DEMO: Mounting Canvas to Panel


Whether you're making your own small panels with blank canvas, or mounting completed paintings, here is a super easy way to put it all together.

Step-by-step demonstration at the main site,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Hope springing ever eternal, I'll be painting live tomorrow morning, Wednesday, at 9:30 am CST. First color layer on the new chickens. :-)

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

PONDER: Thinking About Thinking


Sort of off-topic, but not really... Do you wonder how we wonder? Do you wonder how we make what we make and think what we need to think to do our work? Do you wonder why some parts of our efforts are wordless, and some are so locked into vernacular permanence they're like mental shackles?

Jill Bolte Taylor gives a talk on TED about what her stroke taught her about how her brain hemispheres function.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

TIP: 10 Ways To ABP


How do you manage an art career/studies, kids, spouse, other employment, and the rest of your responsibilities? Painting may be a consuming obsession, but for most adults, the necessary mental and visual training required is practically impossible if you have anything like a regular life.

We can't all be at our easels at every moment. But then again, there's still a lot of time left over, just wasted standing on line in the grocery store.... doing dishes... bathing the dog... whatever. All of that is potentially art education time. It's ABP. * Always Be Painting.

Here are 10 ideas to stuff more training and productivity into your life. See if you can work these in between doing leg lifts while on hold at work.

1. Carry a sketchbook with you. Those little moleskin things come in all sizes. Do 3-value sketches while on the train, waiting at the deli counter, watching the kids at the playground. When you have time to paint, you also have a sketchbook full of ideas, and you've spent a lot of hours doing pain-free drawing training. The better you draw, the better (and faster) you'll paint.

2. Spend your insomnia wisely. The inability to sleep can be a real gift if you need extra time to make to-do lists, write a business plan or think out new compositions.

3. Be prepared. There are few more frustrating things than finally getting a few uninterrupted easel hours and finding you have to clean your palette or brushes before you begin. Or worse - finding you have to run to the art supply store. Eliminate all excuses for procrastination, including "I have to organize my studio," or "I have to buy more white paint."

4. Get kids to work with (for) you. They get quality time - you get work done. You can arrange some crafty-type things you can do together, take them to galleries and museums with you, and show them the joys of priming panels and assembling frames. As Peter Fonda said in On Golden Pond, "What's the point of having dwarves if they don't do chores?"

5. Carry a viewfinder. Either make one out of L-shaped pieces of paper or use your thumb and forefinger. There are compositions for paintings all around you. Train your brain to think about them all the time. And don't be shy! Whip that thing out while you're staring down the aisle at Target so the composition (not to mention persepctive lines) become plain. Sing or dance a little too. Everyone wishes they were the sort of person who would sing in public - or be arty in public, I'm asserting.

6. Make the viewfinder neutral grey. Another training goal is to be able to see warm and cool, and relative chroma. Quiz yourself, "How yellow is that near daffodil compared to that far daffodil?" And that sort of thing.

7. Squint. Squinting is how you see values in a composition, but it's also sort of fun. Look around you at red lights and explore the value composition of the scene around you. If you do this all the time, you're training yourself to see values better and also collecting observations about how common scenes change with the weather, season, time of day, etc. This is my favorite one. Crowsfeet are a small price to pay for being able to judge values correctly.

8. Immerse yourself. Get a painting-a-day calendar. Bring art magazines to work. Keep them in the car. Collect art books. Collect objects you might like to paint. Make your life all about paint. The more you think about paint, the more you'll think about paint. And you know innovation favors the prepared mind. Somebody else said that. It's a good one.

9. Schedule tasks at the right time. If you're working around an infant, figure out how to parse your work into 2 hour nap-ready increments. If you need natural light, paint in the day. Leave the value work for night when the light and color are all weird. You can draw while your family watches Survivor. You can draw your family! Use prime painting time for painting, and pack the non-prime hours for non-painting work, like shipping, reading art books, prepping panels, etc.

10. Figure out your Scooby Snack. Everybody (I think) has some mental hang-up that keeps them back in ways big or small. Personally, I let self-doubt trick me into procrastinating. What a waste of time! If people are going to reject me I should let them, and not do it in advance, to myself. So over the years I've learned to give myself little pep talks as I'm painting like, "Yeah! Great job! That looks awesome!" And in this way, I trick myself into completing the painting. Completely true, if slightly nuts.

This rather compulsive-sounding pep talk is probably a little hard to swallow all at once. But I really do all this stuff. Except for #3, OK. I'll bet you have great ABP tips too - let us know in the comments section.

* With apologies to Robert Altman and anyone else associated with Glengarry Glenross.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

TIP: Gridding in Photo Software


If you use a grid to transfer photo references to your canvas or panel, here is an easy way to get a proportional crop to your intended painting size, and then lay any size grid on it in about 2 minutes. Save paper, save toner, and save photo resolution.

Screenshots and explanations based on Corel Paintshop Pro, including transation into Adobe Photoshop.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

DEMO: Adams Sunshine Bowl


Michael Lynn Adams posted a neat demo on his site of a copper bowl filled with lemons. Beautiful work. You know I'm a sucker for glowy still lifes.

In case you're not already aware, yellow is a pain. I have such a time with it! But I keep trying to work with that quadrant of the color wheel because it has such life to it. Michael's demo is a sweet solution.

It also has another of my favorite juicy paint effects - halation. Halation is the bounce of strong light over an object, so that the light bleeds into the air around it. That red glow over the lemons is halation. It helps give the effect of "painting the air."

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I'll be doing another live painting session tomorrow, Wednesday, 9:30 -1:00 CST (Chicago time).

Chickens, for sure.

UPDATE: this went great... until the I killed the Internet. The first hour-ish is taped and available on the channel, and the final painting is on my blog.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

TIP: Repairing Canvas Dimples and Divots


What do you do if your canvas gets dented? Depends on how bad it is.

First, I want to say that not every factoid Cindy and I possess is related to clumsiness. We know LOADS of other stuff, k? Just wanted to make that clear.

OK, so your painting has clattered to the floor, gotten stabbed by a brush, or had other stuff leaned on it. These tips relate to canvas, not linen, because I don't know anything about linen.

1. If there's a big wavy potbelly in the middle: It might be that your frame is out of square. Try using the keys that come with canvases to re-square it. Tap those puppies into the voids created at the junctures. If you flip them over, they'll either lay flat against a brace, or stick out into the middle. I can't see any difference other than aesthetic.

Measure from corner to corner to see if you're in square. The measurements should be the same. If you're not out of square but still have a potbelly or wave, then try restretching. Carefully remove the canvas and stretch onto new bars. And heaven help you, because this is no easy feat. Next time buy a better canvas.

2. If you actually poked a big hole in it: Oh man. Really, what you should do is get to a conservator to mend the canvas. Repairing canvas tears is not for the untrained - any patch would change the way canvas expands and contracts with the weather and you'd see it from the front in a right hurry.

If this is not an heirloom - repaint it. Sorry.

3. If you poked a really TEENY hole in it: If it's really small, I mean like almost no more than a pen nib size, You can probably use one of the methods in #4. But I wouldn't sell it.

3. If there's a divot, dimple or ridge: Don't panic! You can probably fix this. Look very closely to make sure you haven't separated the cross fibers (as in #3). If you have, then use a pin or embroidery needle from the back and poke the fibers back into order before you continue.

First, mist the back with water. Not like a huge amount, just as much as you would use if you were ironing. If you don't know how to iron, this is a pump sprayer 2-squeeze-from-18-inches- away sort of mist.

Then, the old credit card trick: Use a credit card to smooth the ridge, divot, dimple. If there's no painting on there yet, you can do this from both sides.

Let it dry, preferably in the sun so the warmth can help those fibers retighten. Even if the credit card didn't pull it out entirely, let the drying do its work before you go much farther. Chances are good they fibers will become taut, but if they don't you can repeat the process.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

BOOKS WE LOVE: Betty Edwards - Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

I absolutely loved this book.

Personally, I think anyone (who really wants to) can learn to draw, and learn to do it well. It's a matter of training the right side of your brain to do something better, and training the left side of your brain to let go and let the other half do its work. This book will help you do just that.

There's a companion workbook, too, where you can chronicle the progression of your ability to see, and to draw what you see. I recommend folks buy this book - and if you do - click on the link above to do it - so we can earn a penny or two for the referral. :)

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

PONDER: The Best Way to Learn

What's the best way to learn to draw and paint? I think it depends on a few things. Having done it the wrong way, and the LONG way for sure, I hope this persective will be useful. That said, if you have an opinion, please hit the comment button and let us have it.

GO TO UNIVERSITY: No, don't bother. Save your money for art supplies, or a mortorcycle or porcelain veneers. I went to art school in the 80s, so my perspective is extra cynical, but here it is: universities are in the business of babysitting adolescents and taking their parent's money. Unlike doctors or accountants, there's no glory (money) in turning out well trained artists, so they don't bother, they just keep you there. The poeple who are teaching aren't that great, and many of them still subscribe to the idea that art training will crush the delicate flower of your soul, so they actually "unschool" you. It's a stupid waste of time.

GO TO DESIGN SCHOOL: Now we're getting somewhere. If you're under 25, let's face it: you are in the best position to train your eyes, mind, and hands on this business, while your grey matter slowly ferments into something people want to hear about. Design school is a "trade school" and while that sounds like a dirty word to some people, it's highly effective. They're invested in the success of their graduates, and engineered to prmote both technical training and the mindset of innovation. Plus, you may end up with a degree, thus allowing you to go somewhere (like university) and teach one day, changing the world forever. Or allowing you to get a totally unrelated job when your spouse tells you to grow up.

GO TO AN ATELIER: Wow, this is dreamy! If you can afford this, it's a great way to spend a few years training yourself to be a great artist. It's expensive, but thorough, thorough, thorough.

LATCH ONTO A MASTER: Yeah, this is the one I'd pick if I could do it again. Art is a business, art makes a product. The concept of not having a degree in this society sounds like balls-out-crazy-talk. But if degree-making institutions don't have master-level teachers, then who cares? You have to go to the mountain, shackle yourself to the mountain, and hang on the mountain's every word for 10 years or so. Some of these people are at RISD and PAFA, I hear. One on one coaching as an apprentice is how you would learn, say, small engine repair. Or emergency medicine. Possibly it's cheaper than an atelier too.

WAIT UNTIL YOU'VE HAD YOUR KIDS AND READ A LOT OF BOOKS: This is not impossible, but it's pretty tough. It's how I did it, with a lot of Internet discussion group critique, which helped a LOT. If you are a grownup, the obstacles have multiplied on you, so do youself a favor: waste no time. Get in the habit of drawing a lot - carry a moleskin with you. Post your work for critique, and listen to the critique. Download hi-res copies of old master paintings and copy them stroke for stroke. Go to live workshops. Find out the general curriculum of an atelier and try to recreate it. If you don't have the discipline to do that - get the discipline! Believe me, there are no shortcuts, only long, circuitous routes where you end up having to do the same work eventually anyway. So just do it.

BTW, this is the main reason Cindy and I started Art Studio Secrets. We both used the Internet to find information, and believe in the power of the self-directed individual to accomplish this stuff. And now that we know a few things, and know just how powerful demonstrations are in helping that process, we wanted to get involved.

THINK ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME AND DO OTHER STUFF INSTEAD: Gee, when I say that way, it sounds kinda dumb right?

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Friday, February 6, 2009

FUN STUFF - Collage Maker

The National Gallery of Art has a really cool website filled with multimedia goodness. Check out their Collage Machine. It's fun for kids of all ages. :) It has a library of pictures, and you can re-size them, change their opacity, and flip images.

Try clicking the "Auto" button to automatically generate a sample collage.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009


I used to paint in a dungeon.

Well, really it was a basement, but it had all the requisite elements of dungeonosity - dripping water, clammy moldy-ness, low open ceiling (joists for the first floor) where spiders nested and procreated profusely, torture devices and ghosts.

Okay, there weren't really any ghosts.

Anyway - last year I moved with my husband and kids to Chattanooga, TN. We bought a house on a mountaintop - I wanted a grand old craftsman style home with a big porch, and most importantly, a view off the side of the mountain. Cruel financial realities meant that we were in no way, shape or form going to get the view. And I didn't get the craftsman, either. We wound up with an 80's modern style in an historic district called "Olde Towne" (you know it's quaint and old because they added "e's").

For the first time as an artist, though, I now have a real studio - above ground and everything - it's in the "bonus room" above the garage. It needs more light - we have plans to install a couple of skylights on the angled part of the roof. I'm positive I'll need diffuser shades, but the skylights will be facing north, so that's cool.

Here's my workspace in action. Like Lisa, I have everything on wheels (which I need to learn to unlock, right?) so that I can move them out of the way in order to dance like a madwoman to my iTunes library do my other studio-type work.

For studio lights, I use my photography lights on either side of my easel, with 6500K compact flourescents in them. Overhead is a track lighting strip, with halogen spots that I sort of angled towards the ceiling so I can get the bounce light without glare spots.

On the left is my rolling desk - a small jobbie from IKEA - its only flaw is that there are no drawers. I keep my computer on there, where I use the monitor as a painting reference. Not shown, to the left, is the table where I set up my still lifes. (Lives?)

My taboret is a piece of storage furniture I bought at Le Targ├ęt. I screwed a piece of MDF to the top, for a larger surface on which to cram all my painting junk. I especially like my brush holders. They smell yummy. :)

Behind the easel, against the wall, is my favorite piece of studio furniture. It's actually a kitchen island from IKEA. Here's where I stretch my canvases, varnish paintings, and store art supplies.

Next up, just to the right, is my easel retirement community. I've rolled (or skittered across the floor) my working easel and taboret to visit with the old folks, to leave room for dancing other work. This is also a good view of the laminate floors my husband and I installed. I should have done the "green" thing, and left the carpet in there, but I didn't have wicked cool sculptured green carpet - it was plain old beige plush pile.

Also visible is one of two huge storage closets, and that white thing behind the easel on the wall is a heater/air conditioner. One of these days I'm going to insulate the ceiling in the garage, so that the ambient temperature in my studio does not mirror the temperature of the great outdoors.

This is a good shot of the track lighting - and how I've angled them upward. Look how yellow the light is.

Panning around to the right, you get to the 1/2 bath - where I wash my brushes. You can see my set up is fairly simple - I have a brush washer filled with OMS, and a cake of Ivory soap.

By the way, this photo does not even begin to come close to accurately capturing the electric turquoise color in the bathroom. That color was in the studio, too. It had to go. But, I got lazy inspired to keep the color in the bathroom just to wow my guests at its perfectly 1000 watt turquoise blueness.

So my studio serves double duty as a guest room. I know, that stinks, right? Oh well, it is what it is. I bought a futon, just so my guests will be guaranteed to have a horrible nights' sleep - insurance against anyone staying too overly long. Panning right, past the bathroom, and entrance to the studio, is the really small guest room - more of a "nook", really. Tall folks better not stand up too fast, or they will hit the ceiling.

Like how that window mirrors the slope of the ceiling? Yeah, me, too. :)

Panning right you get the guest's TV and my bookshelf. I just moved in here not too long ago (before Sept. 08, this room was temporarily occupied by my oldest son who is now in the Navy.), so I haven't unpacked all my art books. I will need more shelves when that happens.

So that's it. Thanks for visiting. Hope you can come back and see me again sometime soon. There's even a nice comfy futon for you. :)

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Today I'm broadcasting the day's painting LIVE, as it happens, across the web.

Tune in, 9am CST to to watch some chickens get painted. Or a still life. I don't know for sure yet. Probably chickens.

Nope, a still life. Possibly a pomegranate. Or grapes.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I am so a clumsy person. You could ask my husband Clay - he'd tell you that my headstone will read "Way to go, Grace." Or "And now, for your next trick..." Or "Look out, there's a wall there." Or some equally snide comment. So, of course, my clumsiness rears its clumsy little head in my studio all the time.

This Never Ever, though, is basically a redux (except for the broken nose part) of Never Ever #7 - which I took to heart clearly ignored.

Forthwith, here's a Murphy's Law #8 - NEVER EVER attempt to move your easel without first unlocking the wheels. If it's locked, it will skitter across the floor, shaking violently, and if your painting isn't clamped in with that little clampy thingie at the top, it's gonna fall.

Face down.

p.s. Anyone have a good tip for removing dirt from a very tacky paint surface without disturbing the underlying paint (and ruining hours of hard work in the process)?

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

DEMO: Gloria Orange and Silver

Right off, this video mostly shows you what a struggle the right corner of this painting was, ending with an abrupt scraping off and repainting at the end.

But, I'm posting it. I wish someone would have told me - Hey! Not everything can be saved! This isn't your last brushstroke ever! If it stinks, wipe it off and start over!

This is one of the (many) benefits of painting all the time. If you only make 3 paintings a year, every moment better be genius. OTOH, if I make 50 paintings a year, I can pick 3 really good ones with relatively little stress.

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TIP: How to Make a Video

Making a video of your work is pretty easy, but does take almost as long as making the painting. Here are some tips and notes. If you make one, send Cindy or me an email so we can see it!
  • Check your regular camera - you may already have what you need. I have a regular consumer grade camera, a Sony Cybershot, that has video on it.
  • A tripod is a necessity. Set it up behind you and off to the side a little bit so your melon won't be in frame all the time.
  • Set the focal distance on your camera. Autofocus is nauseating. (See my first video LOL)
  • You'll need a lot of light. Digital cameras work best under lots of light - less light and the picture is all grainy. Play with the ISO setting to get the least grain with your lighting. The ott-light I was using put out the light you see in my vids, but I'm getting rid of that light, so I don't know what to tell you.
  • The vids are uploaded into the PC, then imported into Movie Maker. This software came installed with my PC. A gig or more of memory is a great idea, and you'll need a lot of space on your hard drive because each 45 minutes will be about a gig.
  • Movie Maker can make titles, edit out sections, suppress sound (or add sound), add transitions, and add effects. My vids are at 32x or 64x regular speed. If you have ever used Flash or any other timeline-based software, Movie Maker will be easy peasy. If you haven't the tutorial should get you started.
  • Uploading to Youtube takes forever. You'll think it's stalling out, but it's not.
  • Youtube has the music in a program called Audio Swap. Music people are crazy bout the copyrights, so I use YouTube's music until I can figure out something better.
  • Youtube will degrade the quality of your video like crazy. doesn't degrade the quality as much, but there's no music, and no traffic.

I think that's all you need to know, but post a comment if there's something else you're curious about and I'll try to answer.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

TIP - Saving Paint

Here's an easy way to save paint - by using paper palettes.

At the end of a day's painting, cover the palette with plastic wrap. I store mine in the garage, instead of the freezer. I think it's actually colder in the garage right now.

The next day (or next painting day, that is...) just uncover the palette, tear off the top sheet, and slide it down just a bit. Begin transferring the paint nuts to a fresh sheet of palette paper. (Don't forget to wipe the palette knife between colors.

Any paints that are too depleted or too dried out (umbers don't last very long) don't get transferred.

Replace or top off any paints that you need to, and get to work. See where this is going? If you keep using up and replacing your paints, you never waste anything. And, in this economy, who can afford to waste a paint nut, I ask you?

I'll do this also with any pre-mixed paint in a value string - they go vertically instead of across the top.

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This is my studio. There are many like it, but this one is mine. I could have cleaned up for you, but that would have been a blatant misrepresentation, and we are all about the Truth over up in here.

My studio is at the corner of the house, measures about 10 x 14', and has windows facing south and west. These are the worst possible directions. I like cloudy days because the light is more even, but this is the room that was left after everyone called their bedrooms.

That's an ott-lite on a dick blick easel. It's a cheap easel, and I wouldn't recommend it, mostly because the shelf where the painting is doesn't stay horizontal, which seems like it should be one of the top 10 non-negotiable assets for easel design. I'm getting rid of the ottlite too. The color has started to seem too green and too bright to me, making my paintings too dark and too cool.

In the foreground you can see Lulu's "desk," a leftover rolling nightstand. She paints when I paint, if she's home. Quite a good artbuddy. She's 6. One day I'll be able to renovate the attic, but no time soon. Please buy my paintings.

To the left (not shown) is a desk with a PC on it where all the blog and website maintenance happens, photo scanning, resource viewing, etc. I don't know what we did before computers.

Having stuff on wheels is a mandate, as it makes it easy for me to move easels and large paintings around, and set up still lifes in different corners. This tabouret was my husband's when he was studying interior design. It is a very cool tabouret, but mostly for a designer. Check the flyout drawers! I'm keeping my eyes open for something more paint-appropriate, but nothing yet.

Flat space - an Ikea table that's made 3 house moves and is still stable after 10 years. There are some Lulu drawings, too, and stuff that hasn't made it out of the room to be processed yet. The flat space is supposed to be used for packing/shipping, but has turned into a weigh station for items coming in or out of the room. Also, it's a shelter for our pug Hector's crate, which backs up to a heating vent. Pug heaven.
That frame in the upper left is part of a piece of purple 80's corporate art that my husband hung on the wall to both inspire and revolt me. He's just a little bit evil. I would show it to you, but it would be like the "Ring."

This looks like a bookshelf, but in fact it is a drying rack for small paintings. Has anyone noticed the avacado colored sulptured carpet? There are really nice floors under that carpet, which will be rediscovered after I move to the attic.

The easel in the foreground is another cheap easel - this one from Richardson, about $149 when I bought it. It's heavy, and it has no bells and whistles, but I love it. The tripod in back is for display only. That type of easel is not really suitable for work.

On the top shelf of the drying rack is a pochade box, another handy type easel. It is worth it, IMO, to pay for a better one rather than go cheap on the pochade. These have lots of small brass fittings, and precisely cut pieces of wood that unfold like a crazy Transformers object into a nifty plein aire easel. If the pieces aren't right, it doesn't unfold, or re-fold, and doesn't stand stable. So buy a good one.

This thing is actually a closet organization unit from California Closets, which we got on sale at Target for $17. It is probably the only perfectly usable thing in the room. The bottom 3 shelves pull out like drawers, and those are Acro bins (from the hardware store) which hold paint and other supplies. This thing holds all the tiny things I need to keep track of, and there are a lot of tiny things in painters' studios. At the top are the styro mannikin heads that I use for day 1 of my portrait drawing class. The corduroy curtains block out the southern light completely if needed. The wallpaper was just a bonus that came with the house.
Next to it are rolls of canvas. Rolls of canvas work well for small paintings, studies, etc, and can be glued to panels. I prefer not use them in large sizes because the unwaving process (the canvas holds the round shape of the roll) is a pain in the butt, and unpredictable at best.

So that's it. Hope there was some useful info in here for you.