Friday, May 30, 2014

Summer Exhibition

I'm working on a large painting for the Summer Exhibition at 'De Twee Pauwen' Art Gallery in The Hague (Netherlands). Their theme for this year is Water and that fits me like a glove. Thought it'd be nice to keep you posted with some footage of the painting process, starting with the design.

I spent quite some time on the design of this painting. In my archive I had a photo of a beautiful April morning cloud. Couldn't get a clear shot, because of the trees in the foreground. It needed a little Photoshop magic before I could use it for my painting.

Spent a few hours in my photo archive to come up with the right sea for this sky. I was looking for a 'bright-day-sea', that would dissolve into the sky on the left side of the picture. That is a bit of a contradiction, so it wasn't easy.

After some experimenting I started to like what I had, but I felt the picture needed a warm accent, so I pasted a beach (got a lotta beaches in my archive) in the bottom part of the picture. 

Please, click the play button to get a 40 second impression of the process.

I finished the design with a small beach pole in the lower left corner. It has a deep red top that adds yet another warm/cold contrast to the picture.

Next time some footage of me working on the painting. That's a bit scary; there is always a possibility the painting goes horribly wrong...

See you in a fortnight.

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!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Top 10 Painting Tips

Painting is a lot of fun most of the time, but once in a while it can really ruin your mood. Whatever you try, nothing works. You're stuck and you don't have a clue how to get back on track. Here are 5 of my Top 10 Painting Tips to prevent that from happening. I hope you'll find them useful!

1. Spend More Time Designing Your Painting.

Do you know that feeling, when it seems a painting is painting itself? From the first to the last brush stroke it's smooth sailing. Some people think there is magic involved and maybe that is true, but it's probably the magic of a good design. When comparing a few of my paintings where I've had this feeling I came to the conclusion they all had one thing in common: a good design. I know it's hard to define exactly what that is, but for now, lets just say you'll know a good design when you see it. Don't settle for less.

2. A Great Photo Doesn't Always Make A Great Painting.

A lot of painters use photo's in their work. Nothing wrong with that. Painters have always used the technical possibilities of their time to make their images more convincing. But you can't just copy a great picture and think it'll automatically turn into a great painting. A painting often needs a little more than that. It needs a clou, a focus point. 
I use Photoshop as a design tool for my paintings. If you want to find out how that works, please take a look at my Youtube video 'The Computer Is A Painter's Best Friend'.

3. Make An Oil Sketch Before Starting The Real Thing.

When you're planning a large size work, it can be useful to make an oil sketch first. Somehow the transition from pixel to paint tells you if it's a good idea to turn the design into a painting. Plus you can solve some problems in your sketch, that you otherwise would have to solve in the final work.

For more oil sketches, please check my online sales page.

Ocean With Clouds in Backlight, oil on paper, 15 x 20 cm

Ocean With Clouds in Backlight, oil on panel, 120 x 160 cm

4. Make A Plan.

A fellow painter once said to me: "Failing to plan is planning to fail". I don't know if that's always true; if you work in a spontaneous abstract expressionist style, you may want to avoid planning alltogether. But if you make realistic landscapes like I do, planning is pretty important. For example: I often have to make a choice between painting the clouds on a dry blue bottom layer or leave them white and paint them while the blue of the sky is still wet. I applied the latter in my Painting Clouds Video, but both approaches have their advantages. 

5. 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 and stuff, but for a landscape painter it can be very useful too. Check out this great YouTube video by Kenney Mencher and learn all about it.

 I'll be back with the second half of my Top 10 Painting Tips in about two weeks.  

Till then, please post your comments or mail me at