Tag Archives: painting instruction

What pigments are you using?

I was taking inventory of my paints in my studio recently and it dawned on me that I have a LOT of paint.  As I was sorting my paints into categories by color, I realized that I didn’t really know all of the various nuances of the paints I was using.  Yes, of course, I often to return to favorites and use them  frequently.  But I decided it would be helpful to have a chart of samples of each hue.

As you can see by the charts below, there can be many slight variances by manufacturer.  Some qualities you cannot actually see but you know in the “feel” of the paint, i.e., creamier, richer, stiffer, etc. Although I generally use Artist grade paints, I had accidentally ordered some Student grade paint.  You can see by the sample comparing the various Raw Sienna varieties that one is much thinner, meaning there are more fillers and less actual pigments.  It always pays to buy the best you can afford. Oh, and I had 58 different colors or brands of oil paints.

Color sample chart #1

Color sample chart #2

Other variations include how the pigments behave over time.  Some yellow or change color. Others thin, particularly something like Titanium White, which means if they are applied over a darker ground, you may find the background bleeding through over time.

While I had all my paints out, I also decided to create a few charts of the pigments that I use most frequently.  My top ten oil paints are:

  • Titanium White
  • Cadmium Lemon
  • Raw Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Sap Green
  • Winsor Green
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cerulean Blue
  • French Ultramarine
  • Prussian Blue
  • Cadmium Red
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Cobalt Violet
  • Ivory Black

Although it is rare that I would incorporate all of these colors into the same painting, I often try to have a cool red and a hot red, a cool blue and a hot blue, etc. Usually just one green and no black.  My favorite brand is Winsor Newton but I try some others, too.  For instance, I love Richeson’s Hansa Yellow Medium because it’s so creamy.  There are no hard and fast rules about how many paints you need, except that generally fewer colors will result in the artist creating more colors by mixing, resulting in greater harmony in the long run.

Color samples made with Cadmium Lemon

Color samples made with Titanium White

How long does it take?

I have frequently posted paintings on here that are quick sketches, plein air or otherwise.  These usually only take an hour or two.  I have friends who can knock out four paintings a day, and darn good ones, too.

But…sometimes it is good to spend some time studying a subject.  These two paintings that I completed this month are examples of that philosophy.

Ginko, watercolor on paper.  19.5 x 27, Kit Miracle

Ginko, watercolor on paper. 19.5 x 27, Kit Miracle

Ginko is one that I’ve been rolling around in my head for a couple of years.  It is a full-size watercolor.  I haven’t done a watercolor of this size for several years so it was good to try my hand in it again.  (I painted watercolor for 25 years before switching to oils several years ago.)  Ginko is a study of the ordinary.  What is below your feet.  I saw this one day as I was leaving the post office.  The Postmaster later told me that many post offices in Indiana have ginko trees planted outside (males only).  I think he said it was some kind of Girl Scout project but I’m not sure about that.  I just loved the soothing shapes and colors.  The painting itself was a lesson in patience.  Why did I choose to paint all those rocks!?!

Generosity, oil on canvas, 20 x 16, Kit Miracle

Generosity, oil on canvas, 20 x 16, Kit Miracle

The second painting is an oil that I call Generosity.  It is from an very old black and white photo of a family member.  She was always so generous; you never left her house empty-handed.  I actually worked on the prep for this for several months, doing countless studies in pencil, charcoal, etc.  This painting may actually end up being a preliminary study itself as I was planning to do a much larger work.

So, the lesson here is to enjoy the fast painting, dashing off a sketch or plein air piece.  But sometimes you can be rewarded by taking your time and creating something really worthwhile.

Plein air painting

 

Irises by the Woodshed

Irises by the Woodshed

May is a very busy time here in the country.  Cleaning up winter debris and preparing and planting summer crops.  However, I have managed to find some time for some plein air painting, mostly sketching really.

The first three paintings are just around the yard.  I try to catch the spring flowers before they’re gone.  I particularly like watercolor with pen and ink overlay.  These were all painted in a Pentalic Aqua Journal, 5 x 8, landscape format.  The double pages really are challenging but, as you know, artists always like trying new things.  The watercolor is actually a small travel set that I’ve had for years (decades?).  And the pens are Micron in various sizes .01 to .05, mostly black but I am experimenting with red and burgundy.

Azaleas and Hostas by the Woodshed

Azaleas and Hostas by the Woodshed

On the Patio, watercolor / pen and ink, Kit Miracle

On the Patio, watercolor / pen and ink, Kit Miracle

At the Riverwalk, Jasper IN, watercolor / pen and ink, Kit Miracle

At the Riverwalk, Jasper IN, watercolor / pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Riverwalk, brown ink, Kit Miracle

Riverwalk, brown ink, Kit Miracle

 

Self-Portrait with Still Life

 

Self-portrait with still life (2)

Self-Portrait with Still Life, 24 x 30, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Most artists create a self-portrait every few years so I painted this one last month.  I had recently purchased this old mirror and thought it would be interesting to set it up as a still life.  My portrait isn’t really the first thing the viewer notices (I hope).  The challenges with this painting is that there are two light sources: one on the still life in the foreground and one me as I paint.  An additional challenge was to prevent other light sources so I had to black out the windows.  This meant I was literally painting in the dark.  Check out the step-by-step view of the painting process at this link. Self-portrait with Still Life – step by step

Gardening with Scottie

Gardening with Scottie, 20 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Gardening with Scottie, 20 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

I recently completed this winter still life painting.  That is, when it’s cold outside, I usually paint inside.  The theme for this painting is planning my spring garden.  There were many challenges, especially all the circles and ellipticals as well as that dang ceramic dog.  I’m not sure I’m done with this yet as I keep tweaking it every time I walk past it in my studio.  Check out the demo for Gardening with Scottie.

Plein Air Painting In the Neighborhood

Mentor Road, Birdseye, Indiana, oil on canvas, 18 x 24, Kit Miracle

Mentor Road, Birdseye, Indiana, oil on canvas, 18 x 24, Kit Miracle

Writers are often advised to paint what you know.  I believe that this advice holds true for artists, too.  You know your own neighborhood best, the most attractive features, the back roads, and the best seasons to view the scenery.

My neighborhood, as the title of my blog implies, is a rural one.  This time of year the farmers are baling hay.  Those big round bales often remind me of the wonderful haystacks of Monet, and their rotund forms litter the fields until they’re tidied away in neat rows.

A couple of days ago, I rode around the neighborhood looking for likely painting spots, especially with an eye to catching some hay bales still lying in the field. Other criteria for me are where can I park and will I need permission to go onto someone’s property.  Most people are very gracious about allowing  artists to venture on their land but it’s always best to ask if you can.

Today I returned to a likely spot.  Actually, I had intended to climb into the field but found that I liked the view from the road better, especially with the roof of a house showing which added an interesting focal point.  The painting went well and I came away with a pretty complete piece.  Some challenges were the wind so I had to improvise a weight for my portable easel.  Also, the flies were ferociously biting me.  Glad to have brought bug spray which is always in my travel bag.  And finally, I am positive that the manure spreader which passed my position three times, intentionally spilled a bit on the curve on which I was painting. Really!

Anyway, here is the final product and a few preliminaries.  It was painted on a toned canvas, 18 x 24, and took about two hours.  Feedback is always appreciated.

Hay bales, one potential view

Hay bales, one potential view

Final view chosen.  Loved the overhanging tree, the shadows and the contrasts.

Final view chosen. Loved the overhanging tree, the shadows and the contrasts.

First laying in on toned canvas

First laying in on toned canvas

Final painting with scene behind.  About two hours.

Final painting with scene behind. About two hours.

Improvised weight to hold my portable easel in the breeze.

Improvised weight to hold my portable easel in the breeze.

Car studio.  Easier than packing everything and a lot roomier.

Car studio. Easier than packing everything and a lot roomier.

Using red gel to determine values in your paintings

Sometimes using a piece of red gel (acetate)-  as in lighting gel – will help you see the values of your subject and painting better.  This seems to work best with landscapes as the red gel counteracts the greens, just leaving the values.

I’m not quite sure where I came across this idea but I always carry a piece of red gel with me.  You can acquire leftover pieces from most theaters in your area, even some universities. They use the gels to color the lights for the stage. Or you can buy it new on Amazon.com or at a theatrical supply store.  If you use a viewfinder, there is even a really neat gismo which you can buy at www.pictureperfectviewfinder.com which has the red gel built in, along with some value markers and different size openings for standard painting sizes.  Try it.  You’ll like it.

Piece of red gel, about 4 x 6

Piece of red gel, about 4 x 6

Folded over Picture Perfect View Finder showing the red gel and composition grids.

Folded over Picture Perfect View Finder showing the red gel and composition grids.

The Picture Perfect View Finder

The Picture Perfect View Finder

Back side of the viewfinder

Back side of the viewfinder

Landscape without the gel

Landscape without the gel

Landscape with red gel showing values

Landscape with red gel showing values

Using the red gel to look at computer photo

Using the red gel to look at computer photo

A landscape painting with the red gel

A landscape painting with the red gel

A landscape final version showing the values in the photo on the computer

A landscape final version showing the values in the photo on the computer

Plein air painting with acrylics

First of all I will admit that I am not an expert in acrylic painting.  Yes, I’ve painted watercolors for over 30 years and have tackled oil painting for about ten years.  But I’m pretty new to acrylic painting.

I got into acrylics painting artwork last year when I had some commissions which needed to be completed quickly.  Mainly I was looking for something durable but which dries more quickly than oils.  And after my last foray at a multi-day plein air event last month where I seemed to get Titanium white all over everything, I thought acrylics might be a good idea to try.

I have a beautiful little pochade box which I purchased last year but have never used so this was to be my designated acrylic box.  (For now.)  I loaded it up yesterday morning and drove out to a place down the road that I’ve been eyeing for a future painting site.  It was so peaceful and I arrived just before the sun arose.  I will say that the hardest part was attaching the quick release to my tripod, but after several attempts, I finally got it.  Not too thrilled as it wiggled a bit but otherwise it worked.  Then I unfortunately sat on my only plastic water container and smashed it.  Humph!  Artist ingenuity jumped up and I cut the bottom off a bottle of water.  Worked perfectly.

The next test was the new mini Stay Wet palette that I added too much water to the sponge.  The paper palette wrinkled a bit but I could work with it.  Lesson here:  try new equipment at home before you hit the road.

Here’s a photo of the beautiful rolling fields that I was trying to capture.  I find that I really only have two hours to make a go of a painting before I lose the light but this was enough.A sunny early morning photo 1000

And here’s a photo of the field painting at the time I packed up.A sunny early morning photo - 2-1000

When I got back home, I wasn’t quite satisfied with the colors or composition of the painting so decided to work on it some more.  You can see where I lowered the clouds to emphasize the dawn.  Then I pushed back some hills and brought forth some of the sunny highlights. A sunny early morning painting2-1000 I’m not totally satisfied with the overall painting but I usually have to live with them for a while.  It doesn’t seem to have the personality of the scene I was trying to capture but barring that, isn’t too bad.  What do you think?  Which one do you like best.

So, lessons learned from my first acrylic plein air painting adventure.

  1. Test out new equipment first before you take it into the field.
  2. Be adaptable.
  3. Acrylics are nice in that they dry much quicker than oils but are more opaque than watercolors.
  4. And….don’t sit on your water container!

How to convey a feeling in painting

Winter in Mentor, Final, 12 x 24, oil on Canvas, Kit Miracle

Winter in Mentor, Final, 12 x 24, oil on Canvas, Kit Miracle

Artists usually have some reason that they paint a subject.  This could be a desire to convey beauty, despair, record something historical, or whatever.  In this painting, I wanted to convey the bone-chilling cold one early morning this month.  Check out my step-by-step page.

Finding time to paint

A few weeks ago I was showing my studio to an elderly friend of mine who commented, “How do you find time to paint all these pictures?”  Now this woman has been a professional artist all her life, including many years as a commercial artist so I was a bit puzzled by her remark.  This reminded me of a situation a few weeks before then.  I was at a picnic with a group of friends.  They were sitting around talking about all their favorite shows, how they had downloaded several years worth of episodes.  Interestingly enough, I hadn’t watched any of the shows.  Ever.  Not one episode.

So back to the question of how I produce so many paintings.  I guess I just work at it.  It’s all about priorities.  I don’t have any more time than anyone else, probably less considering my day job as director of a multi-discipline arts center with some real crazy hours.  But this is just what I do.  It’s all about priorities.  Yes, I watch the news and might get sucked into Jeopardy or Antiques Roadshow, but mostly if I’m not painting, I’m reading or working outside.  I can usually squeeze in 15 or 20 hours per week which is the equivalent of a part-time job.  Even if I get only one painting done a week, that is still 52 per year.  Usually way more depending upon the size and complexity of the works. Not all paintings are the same quality and some are just sketches.  A plein air painting may only take a couple of hours before the light changes.  And I may work on it a bit more in the studio.  Some are just studies.  Some are more finished pieces.

So my usual reply to people who say they don’t have time to paint (or learn a musical instrument, read a novel, write a novel, etc.) is, “You can always make time for the things that are important to you.”

My question to you, is, “What are your priorities?”  Make the time for you.

Path to the Beach, 24 x 30 oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Path to the Beach, 24 x 30 oil on canvas, Kit Miracle