Reference Photo

How Everyone Sees Things Differently

The above is the reference photo we were all working from, it is amazing how everyone came up with a different view of how to interpret the reference photo. The same basic tonal evaluation was used to begin the painting and then glazing was applied – wow – just look at the different way everyone saw the daisies in the basket with the flowers !









Tonal Exercise

Recently I have had a new group of people start with me and we were looking at how to improve their work and what they needed to add to their arsenal of painting techniques and understanding of the process of painting.  We decided to explore colour and for the last month have been working with limited palettes, colour combinations like complementary, colour mixing and of course tonal evaluations.

Tone is actually more important to get right in a painting than the actual colour.  If your tone, and by that I mean the darks to the lights, is right, it really doesn’t matter what colour you paint your subject with.  You can test this out by using your computer to display an image and then go through all the adjustments from black and white into the reds and blues etc, you will see that since the tone is correct the piece works.  This is especially important to achieve depth in your pieces. Of course, there are also your warms and cools to consider.

Following are the four steps we took to achieve this.  The first piece was an evaluation of the darks to the lights, this can be done by simply squinting at your reference and seeing the lightest lights and the darkest darks, establish these and then go for your midtones and then then tones between the mid and dark and the mid and light. Simple really ! We used ultrmarine blue, burnt sienna and white to establish this base layer.  Then we moved on and put in more detail until the piece could be a finished painting but simply rendered in those three colours and their combinations.

When we were happy with this stage, we then started to glaze colour onto this under painting, using mostly transparent, single pigment colours. The resulting works were wonderful, with great depth and atmosphere.  At the end, you must also consider your warm colours to bring the foreground forward and your cools to push things back.

Here are the stages of the painting – step by step – try it for yourself at home.

Happy experimenting !

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3


A quote from one of my favourite artists – Richard Schmid

71336-fiddle faddleThe following is a quote from one of my favourite artists – Richard Schmid.   ‘Artists are lucky to be artists.  We certainly made decisions about entering the field of art, and most of us work hard at it, but we did not create the choices offered us, nor did we generate our ability or inclination to follow them.  We speculate endlessly about why we paint, but the primary reason we are drawn to our labour remains a mystery.  We should never forget how privileged we are to be given a passion for our work.
  Even if some have the effrontery  to believe that God or some grand design in the universe handpicked them to be artists, they can’t ever know why, much less take the credit for being among the chosen.
  We have received a gift.  That much is all we know for certain, and it is a precious gift, not be taken lightly.  Not only that, we also enjoy the freedom to express almost anything we wish in any way we choose.
  I believe all of that represents a trust, and therefore an obligation to act wisely and unselfishly.  In choosing our  subjects, let us think about what is important to us and what is truly worthy of expression.
I believe we should set our sights high. Great art, even when it deals with tragedy is always an ascending rather than a descending act.
Art at its best is a siblime vessel, hardly appropriate for taking out the garbage. In the end, no one really cares about our psychological problems or politics, and they certainly don’t want our preaching or grandstanding.
If we stubbornly pursue excellence in our perceptions and skills, we can offer paintings that are true in new ways.’ – Richard Schmid.

When Do You Call Yourself An Artist?

I was reading one of those art magazines and I came across the letters to the editor page.  There was a mother who by her own admission dabbles with paints, she was explaining that she had received a letter from an organisation addressed to the artist. Her daughter had spent many years earning a degree in fine art and the woman felt that she deserved to be called an artist, where the mum thought that it was inappropriate for herself to be called one.
So …. when do you call yourself an artist ?
When you earn your living from your work ?  Few artists ever do.
When you teach or tutor ?  There is an old adage – those who can’t – teach.
Do you have a day job to support your ‘real’ career ?
When you study and have letters after your name ?
For many years I simply called myself a sculptor and painter, sometimes I had to explain – no, not a house painter….  part of me was nearly embarassed to call myself an artist.  When you do call yourself an artist you will often see a disbelieving look on that person’s face or a look of awe.  I mean really, it’s only a job after all.

The Fear of Glazing

I recently met a gentleman, who now he has the time to paint and follow his heart and has been taking lessons (not with me!) .  He was talking about a painting he had been working on, where he was trying to differentiate the tonal values of a wall where the sunlight was falling on one part and the rest was in shadow.
I suggested to him that glazing would be the perfect way to simply change the tonal value of the shadow to appear darker without changing the wall, which had taken him a paintstakingly long time to depict.   He was terrorised !!!!
There is absolutely nothing intimidating about glazing …… it is simply the perception of it.  Glazing is probably the easiest of all techniques to master – it simply takes time and patience.
Glazing, put simply, is the building of layers of transparent or semi-transparent colour over dry underlayers.  It is a lengthy process if using oils, but the results are uncomparable.  It is the way the light shines through the layers of paint that gives glazing its amazing effects.
Many of the old masters used glazing : Rembrandt, Titian and Ruebens – to name a few.  Then of course you have Picasso – yes, even he used glazing in his famous work Guernica!