Monday, December 28, 2009

Let's Go Painting Episode: Aldeburgh, England is Online. Here's a peek!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Second installment......not bored I trust!

So into the next part.....

No matter how hard we try to humanize animals a painting is a painting only if it is done by a human. We humans conduct our lives with a high emotional content. The elephant and our other fellow mammals may but don’t know how to deliver it by way of drawing and painting..

So let’s redefine, for our purposes, a painting as a mark or assembly of marks on a surface executed by a human. And let’s call the human who executed the process an artist or painter.

That’s pretty close except for the artist/ painter part. I would prefer to separate the artist from the painter by way of consideration or compensation. The painter is the executor without consideration while the artist is the painter with consideration. In other words there is an implied professional dimension when the ‘mark’ generates consideration.

So to me it’s acceptable to describe someone who applies marks to a surface for consideration as an artist. Broadly,that artist may be otherwise known as a sign writer, an architect, designer, decorator and so on and is generally described specifically as this, within our present society, leaving our ‘artist’ as someone who connects at a different level and in a different way.

So ‘our artist’ is someone who applies a mark or an assembly of marks to a surface with a message. He’s a communicator in other words. Whether the onlooker to the assembly responds will depend on his emotional bank of experiences and disposition. He may respond in a positive or a negative way or with combination of both. The disposition of the viewer will initiate the interest. The energy of the painting will affect the level of his response. If it is generally positive it means he likes the work. Likewise if his general reaction is negative he will not like what he sees. In either case the witness may then project his disposition by sitting and admiring the work or walking away unimpressed. If the work is for sale the admirer may purchase it while his counterpart may express his disaffection by word of mouth or by walking on to some other assembly that presents a more positive connection opportunity. Either way the disposition of the viewer does not change the fact that the executor of the mark with a message is a painter or an artist. In his opinion he may be neither, either or both.

Different marks make different paintings make different connections…

So marks then have a capacity to transmit a message and thereby solicit an emotional response. Let’s analyze the simplest of marks for these properties as a precursor to entering the complex world of understanding an assembly of marks and then the very complicated process of generating such an assembly.

Lets reiterate- a work of art is an assembly of marks with meaning. During the process of constructing a painting we make small and large marks; we make marks with different colors and different values or tone. We make marks with varying texture and place marks pointing in different directions. Sometimes they may become lines. Any one or combinations of these properties will affect the mood of the work by summoning associations in us.

More shortly.......hope u like all this....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Reading....

Now it seems that most of the world that I interact with have gone somewhere else because there is little to zero happening around must be the rundown to the 'silly season' that being the nature of things I think it best I post something non active and a bit some excerpts from my book.....

I'm going to start with what is a painting?


'a radar on the landscape ahead'

Making a Mark and Making a Painting.

Where do I bloody start?

Let’s start by defining the subject of this book-painting.

What is the broadest definition of a painting we can give?
Answer: A painting is an assembly or combination of marks on a surface. The person who does this, with some apparent result is generally referred to as an artist/painter.

Does that mean that anyone who marks a surface is an artist?
Answer: In the very broadest sense the answer is, yes.

So the elephant who put paint on a sheet of paper at Nong Nooch village in eastern Thailand is an artist? According to this definition, the answer is again, yes. And that is exactly how Jumbo was described as I watched him slap paint around the other day during a very popular elephant show. After his painting was completed and sold to a fascinated Japanese tourist for 250 baht ($6.24) the elephant then went on to kick a soccer ball into a soccer net. Technically, I suppose, he then became a soccer player- otherwise known as a footballer- when that happened. People gave him bananas in appreciation for both endeavors- or was it consideration! And technically, I suppose, also the $6.24 consideration made Jumbo a professional artist as well, since it was money in exchange for a work of art.

Jumbo painting up a storm….

We will return to Jumbo later. Technically though, Jumbo doesn’t give a crap about the words-‘artist’ or ‘footballer’ or ‘professional’-all he wants is bananas! And the $6.24 cash payment converts to quite a big handful of bananas-technically speaking!

These definitions are too broad for me. I want to tighten them to make them more as I really view them. Anyone or thing that kicks a football into a net and receives consideration is not by my standards a professional footballer; nor is anyone, or thing, that can put a mark on a surface an artist-even though they get money!

But one thing so far is 70% right-any mark or marks on a surface is a painting, I suppose, if it conveys meaning and generates a response from an on-looker.

Now, I’ve got a zillion response buttons. Responses to do with shape, color, direction, size, position, tone and so on. Responses that spring from a stirred emotion.

If I was stirred by a mark made by a human then it has a connect value in as much as it was generated by a fellow human with a zillion response buttons like mine tied to an equally broad range emotions as mine. The mark, in other words, has an emotional quality.

Whoever put the marks together on the surface is connecting to my emotions through the ‘mark’.

If the mark, that I am responding to, was done by an elephant or a monkey though I would not take serious the connect value of the mark because it originated from something that does not have a human or sufficiently human-like emotional grid. I may see it as a humorous though!

Some people believe that because they see behavior that imitates our own in monkeys or elephants then such animal doodlings are therefore genuine art. My question to this is: Does that art reflect the history of mankind, or the history of monkey and elephant time? Does it spring from an emotion?

So a monkey combs the hair of its offspring; a female elephant about to give birth seeks out an ally to help her-actions which we relate to since we engage in similar behavior. We interpret the monkey to be maternal and the elephant chosen to assist to be a friend. Both emotionally based behaviors.

The question now is does the monkey or the elephant have the mental facility and manual dexterity to represent that emotion, or any other emotion, as group of marks on paper(=a painting), that we can understand and then relate to? The elephant in the show went through a series of movements with 2 brushes that were loaded with a selection of paint and given by his human assistant. The end result was some green trees with brown trunks. The elephant was rewarded with another handful of bananas. To jump from the picture of trees to saying that the elephant sought to connect to us an image of trees that was in its head, at that moment, is a major stretch. He was taught to do something that WE recognized. He didn’t have a clue what he was doing other than doing something to get a bunch of bananas!

I would call the art work that the elephant did just that-an art type of work, rather than a work of art. It should be seen in the context of the nature of the creative intelligence which delivered it. Until we can, like Dr Dolittle, actually talk to the animals the message is really only an ‘interesting or funny’ mark.

An event by way of a mark but without a message as we know it is simply a response to a physical requirement-just like the elephant taking a dump before it kicked the football was a response to his feelings of an imminent crap attack. For the Jumbo there was less emotion behind the painting then behind the dump. Both are nevertheless marks of interest! For jumbos fellow elephants the dump had more communication value than his ‘painting’.

Friday, December 11, 2009



With the figures in and a few cracks at them to get some bounce in the color and the shapes correct, I can go into the falling snow part. I'm not going to paint a blizzard-just a flurry will do. That way its not all obliterated behind a wall a white! I start with a blue white mix and dot it here and there in small marks. As I move forward I increase the size of the stroke and lighten the paint and add some yellow.

Lets see how it look all over.

Ok so far so good. We are at the line of the 2 cowboys and need to start painting some snow on them. Naturally it will be where it falls and rests...the hat, the shoulder, the knees, the horses head and neck and so on. We dont need to overdo it. Keep the marks clean and simple.

And more at the rear.

Its a case of picking your way along and thinking where the snow will grip and mass.

Now for the charge to the end and the flakes that are falling this side of the 2 cowboys. These will be lighter and less dense.... and slightly bigger. So its a straight run home now with this in my head. Around the trees first then the rocks.... then the space!

Until finallly we hare done.

Now to celebrate the launch of my new new web site I'm going to let this painitng go to the first party with a spare 1K laying on the floor. So if you are interested in it let me know and I'll dedicate it to you as well. In the meantime it will be in good care in my studio.......

Monday, December 7, 2009

On with the show....


Better get a move on with this painting. Want to finish it before the New Year and at the pace I'm going it won't happen. See what I've been doing is filming instructional material. I'm breaking down a painting into 7-8 elements-sky/foreground,distant trees/forward trees,trunks/branches etc and showing exactly the technique I use with extreme close ups and a clear and precise explanation of what I am doing.

Now that camera is high definition and shows up everything in a way you won't believe! And there are 3 cameras on me during these mini demonstations so nothing is missed. Anyhow, I'll put in a link when I put one of these on You Tube so you can see for yourself. You can also go to my You Can Paint site I'm working on at the moment which will house all this material.

Anyhow back to our painting and some highlights on the yellow slicker. This really pops with the blueish backdrop and by itself is a major item of attraction. This is straight paint on the little liner brush. There are 2 brushes I can't live without-this watercolor one and the kitchen pastry brush!

See how much a little bit of close work can lift a subject  but creep up on these areas and don't rush them. As I mentioned earlier I had to reverse the light to match the light on the 2 cowboys. The rocks in the painting had their shadows moved from left to right.

So on we about some falling snow next!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


So this is what we have got but dont be daunted by the size of the hill- it's all surmountable! This is what it looks like after another whack at it!

See its all a matter of steps and I have simply wainted a while for things to dry a bit, then gone back over with another layer of thin paint. Its amazing what a difference that makes. See half the problem 'artists in the making' have is trying to finish too early. Be PATIENT.

But one of the problems I just created for myself in my exuberance of finding a good subject was that  the light source I painted the background in was coming from the right while the source for the subject is from the left! So have a close look at what I've done to the previous painting! I've changed the light. See the tree trunk....before the shadow was on the left and now its on the right. Same with the rocks. I've moved the shadows from one side to the other. Not a big thing but its a detail that is noticed!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Storylines, Storylines....and more.....


Ok, so now we are into the storyline part of the painting and if you know me and have read any of my books you will know that I can't do a painting without some sort of story being told.

Let me explain why.

We all travel through life engaging others in one way or another. We dont live isolated . The level of interaction varies however from one person to another... and that is often reflected in the number of stories one can tell about 'this or that or whatever'. We all have a story 'bank' of experiences and for me, being bought up in a pretty isolated village of 30 people or so till 15 surrounded by mountains, bananas, mountain lorrikeets, river kingfishers and then going on to university etc., gave me a flying start to experiences I must say. Chillingham had just 1 shop and 1 butcher.

The General Store

But it had a waterfall,steep hills draped in bananas and a small fast flowing river that drained away the 60 inches of rain that fell each year.So I had a ball exploring, inventing and imagining!

 I had a pretty good place to muck around in!

From there with a scholarship under my belt I left for the 'big smoke' and my 'urbanization'. Part of my time in that little valley was spent riding horses-saddless and shoeless, of course and that brings me to a known starting point for the story in the painting.

Just about every painting I do has a connection to an experience I have had in my own life. Adventure paintings, western paintings, romantic paintings and so on, have ingredients that I have seen or experienced myslef. Not to make a painting have such a personal relevance is to not complete the painting. But I must say also that often a scene is in itself a complete painting and the 'story' is in the light or the drama or some other 'captivating element' the artist eye sees that triggers the emotional response. After all storyteling is about gathering in some sort of emotion in others.

In my 'Romantic Oil Painting Made Easy' book which still sells everywhere, and has a few flaws, but allowing for the 3 weeks I wrote it that is to be expected.-but I do 8 paintings and all have a story embedded in them.

The other books, 'Nostalgic Oil Painting Made Easy" and 'Painting Cowboys and the Old West', likewise have paintings that tell a story one way or another.

In the book I am presently writing, 'Absolutely Everything You Need To Know To Be a Successful Artist before You Die' I devote 3 chapters to not just how to do the painting, but how to develop a story, and the mind blasting combination and permutations that are available to a fertile mind. I think I came up with well over 1000 storylines for a simple beach painting! Imagine if each one returned $500 what that runs out to!

We dont need to reinvent the wheel just see it in different ways!

Anyhow back to the painting. So its going to a couple of cowboys in yellow slickers pausing for a moment to discuss something....thats it! Simple, commonplace and believable.

Now at the right of this column there is a video clip of me painting my dog Bullet and if you take a moment to view it you will see one way of drawing figures in a painting. Might seem a bit basic but thats what you will get from me-nuts and bolts!

This will give you a flying start. Here's what I have done as my first step. And its simple as pie...I've followed the shape and colored in...and that folks is something we ALL can do  SINCE we did it as kids! RIGHT!

If you have a close look you will see I have just stroked in the areas with the basic colors and some of the main light areas...nothing fancy AND I'm not going to try to finish it at this time. I will wait for an hour or so and then come back at it...for 2 reasons: 1) let that paint dry a bit, and  2) I want to be fresh in my head and hand since this requires deftness from both! I'll put up the source photo tomorrow if I can find it! My studio is a mess......


Monday, November 30, 2009

Grass Technique

Grass in snow is not hard if you know how to do it. Familiar isn't it! If you know how to do something you are not pioneering new territory and generaly speaking the only difficulty is remembering exactly how it was done previously. Now I want to focus on this because its about technique. Like just about anything there is a way of doing something efficiently and effectively and a way not to do it. The way that is the latter is generally slow and poorly executed with a result that is less than hoped for.

In grass as with just about any other feature I paint I look for the tool that will best serve the purpose. Now i carry on about my pastry brush for a very good reason-it works! And not just for skies and large areas but for smaller features-like grass. See the trick is to reshape it so it can perform the function I want. Now go and look at the grass in snow and work out the mechanics of it as a subject. It is spiky, long, thin and generally brown to yellow in color. So if i reshape the flat bristle of the pastry brush so they separate and have their own individual space and are still springy they should be able to gather paint then deposit it.

Heres my brush in a refashioned shape.... ready for work!

Now if I skip it through some fresh paint it should pick it up and deposit it just as surgically on the canvas like this....

Now I repeat this whereever I want grass. Then with the little liner brush I go to work defining these individual strokes making them both darker here and there and lighter.

And again....

See how easy this is. While I was doing this painting I was also filming how to paint a similar winter scene and demonstated exactly how I do this and the other elements that go to make up such a scene. In that demonstation I separated each element and dealt with each so that others can see exactly and precisely my technique. And of course it is all in high definition which is the ultimate in true to life imaging. So if you really want an eyeful take a look at this when it eventually surfaces. Its called painting a Winter Landscape and it is the You Can Paint site which will be launched in a month or so and contains all my instructional material.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rocks, Grass, Saplings etc


Ok, now to build up more of the natural elements in the forward landscape section. Its amazing how easy it is to make dull areas interesting.
While I painted this today I did some filming for a TV show called 'Lets Go Painting' which I'm developing and I needed to be on my Vespa riding through some low grassy type terrain as a get away moment from my outdoor easel. As I was doing this I was forced to ride over rocks and boulders and other undulations to make my ride sort of interesting and 'bouncy'! Well, during this process I was reminded of what a foreground can be and brought the experience I encountered back to the easel and this painting.

So often a moment away from a painting doing something not meant to connect to what was occupying my time earlier can feed information related to what's coming up! So the few bruises I had on my rump made me paint better rocks in the painting. And because I had good visuals of the rocks through the need to avoid them I think my painting of them was better. I made the pastry brush get to work with more deftness than I might otherwise have.

Now because I had my light entering from the right as I laid in the sky I need to mark shadows on the leeward side of the rocks. Rocks in snow are often rounded by the process of weathering but because of the change of seasons and the freezing of water in crevasses and cracks and the expansion that goes with that these cracks widen and cause mass wasting ot fragmenting-leaving sharp edges and acute angles. My shadows depict this feature yet they also show a flat and rounded surface. I suppose what I'm saying is that as artists we need to observe and try to understand the processes that cause nature to be as it is and as we see it. That way we are being true to a cause to some extent but its really a personal preference that we can choose to exercise or not. I prefer to.

Tomorrow I'll show you how I paint in that grass you see here and there-a feature that is real but important for the lovely dash of warmth it beings to an otherwise grey landscape.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

In with the Trunks and Branches


Now for some more tree elements-trunks and branches. Conifer tree trunks are reddish/brown in color with a broken surface. I want to be honest with what I paint so I always have a good look at the nature of things. In life I will walk up to elements whenever possible examine them for color and texture and run my hand over them to get an indelible read-so the information stays with me forever. When I need to paint that element I have a rich recall to base my actions on. So if my painting look real its because I do my homework and minimize the guessing part. Because I am featuring a tree trunk in the foreground I need to have this information.

I use the pastry brush to drag down a red from light red and a bit of blue then go to work breaking up the surface with a sloppy dark on the liner brush. The darkest side of the trunk will be the shadow side so its important to decide where the light is coming from. I make it enter from the right. I hope that fits with the cowboys I'm going to put in later!

Over the top of that I add broken strokes of light blue-the blue in the sky. This ties this element into the rest of the colors I have used in the landscape and is a color that legitimately occurs on the trunk as its both a surface that itself will have deposits of snow here and there as well as reflect the colors around it.

For the brances I use the liner brush and mix a light grey from the red/ blue and white. I use a blue to break up the foregrond in preparation for other work later. But all in all its starting to develop a nice look with some elements in there that make sense and build a realistic scene.

Tomorrow will build more on this strong start. If there is anything I have skipped that you want to know about ask me!

Friday, November 20, 2009

In with the Trees


Ok, so now the paint is dry lets get on with the trees. These are conifer trees and are adapted to snow conditions so their branches are generally downward sloping to facilitate the snow sliding off them. Some of the branches are pointed upward towards the sun but as they lengethen they droop especially when the snow burdens them. The first trees I'll put in are the distant ones. Because they are further away they are more blue- see as things recede the warm colors -yellow and red-diminish until a faint blue occupies the feature. Here I mix the alizarin red with the ultra blue and a spot of white and use the pastry brush.

The closer trees have more mass and color. I use a yellow ochre with the ultra blue on top of a deeper color from burnt sienna and ultra blue. The scraggly bit of foliage to the right is in preparation for the trunk. Now I ask you ....can you see the distance operating on color, tone and detail! Of course you can. That folks is the simple concept of aerial perspective at work. Easy aint it!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Off to a flying start!


So after a fair bit of fooling around with my Vespa's electrical engineering defects I eventually found my way free to paint. Taking one look at my palette I felt maybe I should go back to the impossible Vespa. That palette really does need a clean up but then again its always been like that no matter what!
Anyhow buried in there were my 3
 trusty brushes..the liner, the #4 flat and the mighty pastry brush, just waiting to go! All they needed was me and an idea. So a few days back I said I was going to paint a winter landscape scene step by step. If thats what I said I had better do it. Stay on the reservation.

So with a nostril full of Vespa fumes I laid in a a couple of soft colors that not only just look great together but occur naturally early in the morning during winter as the early sun burns off the mist allowing the soft glow of the yellow sun to bleed through.

Next was the foreground. Snow is white but oddly only when in sun and when it is overhead and you are looking pretty much down on it otherwise it is grey/blue. In fact it behaves a lot like water reflecting a notch darker than the tone of the sky. So with that powerful bit of observation I made during my one and only skiing effort I painted in the foreground.

So far so good. Now for a bit of joining. Bleed these 2 areas together at the skyline and we have a pretty handy atmospheric curtain for a winter landscape

Enough for today. Back to the Vespa and more repairs!

See you tomorrow for some trees.....
Happy painting!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Art of Technology

Due to a failure in my PC, I was unable to post yesterday, but that being the nature of technology, it short circuited my good intentions.

Fortunately things like that don't stop artists from painting as our tools have sophistication, not from gizmos and whizbangs but, from the dexterity we are able to exercise through our own hands-and that folks will never change!

I've seen the amazing effects that computer graphic programs can perform but they all lack one thing-among many-and that is the ability to inject personality and interpretation into a subject.The 'artist' is restricted to the span of effects of the program and so the end result can only ever be as good as the program.

Now I have started the winter landscape I promised while I finished another painting but because I am computer 'orphaned' I cannot show you my effort. I will tomorrow, one way or another, get you up to date with some visuals and running commentary.

Until anon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Painting a Winter Landscape

G'day out there! This is my first blog on my websites and it will be one of many now that I understand the system. To celebrate this momentous leap in technology that brings me in from the cold I am going to do a winter landscape....something that symbolises the condition in which recent advances have left me!

I am going to do it step by step but share with you some of these steps as I advance. It may take 4-5 days but it will at least be entertaining and informative for those who have interest in painting such a scene. As I get to the end of the landscape part I will have a beer and pat my dog and decide what I'm going to put in the scene. Later as this blog gets some momentum I will seek opinions as to what you would like me to include so its not just a self centered exercise.