Monday, May 12, 2014

Top 10 Painting Tips Part Two

Like I promised, the nrs. 5 to 10 of my Top 10 Painting Tips. If you want to check out the first 5, please read my previous blog entry, or watch this YouTube Video.

6. Take A Plein-Air Class.

When I was younger I spent a lot of time painting outdoors. In the summer I took off to the Dutch islands, to paint the beaches, the dunes, the ocean and most of all the skies. I learned a lot during these years, most of all because I had to work fast. The light changes suddenly on these islands and before you know it, a cloud blocks the sun and you're looking at a different landscape.
What I learned most of all is the importance of observation. Just from watching a sky you learn an awful lot and that will be of great use later on, when you try to paint it. It’s a bit like the old Chinese masters, who (as the story goes) sat in a landscape for hours on end, went home and painted it in just a few minutes. I’m no Chinese master and it takes me more than a few minutes to paint a decent sky, but observation is the start if you want to learn how to paint clouds.  

Water color, 1998

7. Learn Linear Perspective.
Linear perspective is an age old way to make a 2D canvas look like it's 3D. Dates back to the second half of the 15th century, but it's still a very powerful tool. It is mainly used for buildings, but for a landscape painter it's very useful too. Check out this great YouTube video by Kenney Mencher and learn all about it.

  8. Try Different Sizes.

Do you feel comfortable with a small canvas or do you prefer a large size? Square or oblong? The only way to find out is to try. You'll be surprised by the possibilities an unusual format has to offer.

 9. Change from canvas to wood, or vice versa
In fact this whole painting business is about finding out what suits you best. For example: it took me quite some time to find out that painting on wood was the best choice for me. Turns out I love a really smooth surface. Prior to that I worked on canvas and on paper (still do).
Don’t be to hasty to decide that something is not right for you. When I first started working on MDF panel it felt like I was painting on ice. But now I wouldn’t change it for the world. Maybe you’ll have the same experience with canvas. Just find out!

 10. Try Working On A Colored Surface.
Most of us are used to working on a white surface. It has been that way for the last couple of hundred years. But some Renaissance painters worked on a deep red bottom layer and quite a lot of contemporary painters still do. For example my friend Frank Speyers (USA) in his wonderful painting Kelderhouse Farm. He tells me he grounded his panel with an acrylic cadmium orange. He left the windows unpainted hence the orange shows through…"As if someone were home. Crazy eh?" he says.

Kelderhouse Farm, Frank Speyers, www.frankspeyers,com

Perhaps you've noticed that most of my tips deal with change and experiment. The reason of course is that the only way to find out what you're comfortable with is to try stuff. Ironically, you will probably feel rather uncomfortable during some of your experiments, but you'll also make some exciting discoveries. Have fun!

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