Thursday, October 31, 2013

How to start a painting

#8 - Toning the canvas

The last 7 posts have been about value and color mixing,  a good thing to have under your belt before starting a painting. 

There are many ways to start a painting.  I'll include some of the options, but mostly the way I start a painting. 

1 -  Toning the canvas is the first option and decision. 

Toning the canvas means applying a wash of odorless mineral spirits in the color of your choice.  It can also mean using a colored gesso or an acrylic color applied to the entire canvas. 

WHY:  You have a value, usually middle value, to help you get started with drawing onto the canvas.
(Top left) In this example the  choice was red, the complement of green, chosen because complements together are exciting and the green of the pears will vibrate against the red.  This was done with acrylic.
(Top Right) - started on a white canvas.  The end result will be a high key (high value) painting. 
(Bottom left) - This one was toned with a neutral wash of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna (any mix of red, yellow, blue will give you a neutral)
Bottom Right - toned with a mix of cad light and yellow ochre
It all depends on how you want your painting to look in the end.  I've tried all of these, but the way I use most is the bottom left, using a neutral wash for the toning and the next step which is drawing onto the canvas. 
Tomorrow I'll include photos of the progression of a painting, starting with a drawing. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


October 28, 2013

If you are thinking about marketing your paintings,  ETSY is one more place to show your paintings online.  I have thought about ETSY for awhile, but have been worried about keeping track of another group of paintings and learning about how ETSY works.  My plan is to try it out and learn as I go.  There is a lot to learn.

I've listed these three paintings so far, maybe one a day for awhile....

Monday, October 28, 2013

More about color mixing

Color Mixing

One last exercise for color mixing. (also a form of meditation, at least for me) 

One of the first books I bought when I started to paint was Alla Prima  by Richard Schmid.  He recently published an updated version which is #1 on my wishlist for Christmas.  He said on of his teachers required that he do these color charts before he started to use color in his paintings.  I was so inspired by his book that I took on the challenge. 

I've had these boards for years now and still refer to them and they really helped me with color mixing. 

The concept is to decide on your palette, then mix each color with every other color:

(Link to photos of Richard Schmid's color boards on pinterest_   

1.  Use tape to create a grid.  I used 12 x 16 inch panels. 

2.  Start with the full strength color in the top row, then gradually add white in increasing amounts.

3.  Make a color board for each color on your palette.  For example, to do the cad red light board, you will mix cad red light with every other color on your palette.  The photos show it best. 

It will take awhile, but not only will you learn a lot, but it is like meditation to do these boards. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How to keep colors bright and clean

Mixing colors:  How to brighten colors and keep them looking clean

(I'm listing the learn to paint posts on pinterest )-eventually they will be in order 1-?

WHY:  Bright highly saturated colors come forward.  There is still a need for duller (less saturated colors, the ones that you want to recede or be less important. 

1.  When mixing colors keep the color bias in mind. ( Refer back to earlier blog about that)

2.  If you want to lighten a color, go to the neighbor (analogous color) on the color wheel that is lighter before using white.  For example, to make red lighter, go to cad red light first, then to orange and even yellow.  White will lighten, but also dull and cool a color. 

Mixes of red on the left are made with analogous colors and ones on right use the complement (green) for the dark value, red for the middle, and red mixed with white for the lightest value

Bright vs. dull

You see the differences with this close-up

Which two are the brightest? 

3.  If you want to darken and keep bright, also go to the neighbor on the color wheel.  For example, cerulean blue can be made darker with UB or viridian.  With red, the alizarin or magenta will darken yet keep the color bright.

Keeping colors clean

1.  When mixing use a palette knife vs a brush.  Keep the palette knife wiped off when you change a color.

2.  Keep brush clean by using a paper towel to pull excess paint off rather than dipping into odorless mineral spirits.  The oms will leave a mix on the brush that contaminates your next brush stroke. 
Dipping a brush into a color tends to leave a little paint behind and contaminate the color. 

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Recent painting:  I needed bright colors, unsaturated (dull) colors, neutrals, a little bit of everything here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

great sale - paint supplies

October 21, 2013 - good sale

By now you know how expensive paint supplies are. 

This weekend I discovered a clearance sale at Hobby Lobby for paint brushes.  These happen to be two of my favorite brands because they keep their edges and have a nice bounce.  The Liquitex is soft and doesn't leave brush marks and the Robert Simmons leave just the amount of brush marks that I like. 

I think Hobby Lobby must be discontinuing these brands and I'm not sure if the clearance is nationwide or just here in Fredericksburg, Va.  They are located in the store with the clearance items, not with the brushes.  They range from $2-3 dollars, unbelievable.  This is a good chance to buy BIG brushes.

Also, with a coupon, buying a roll of primed canvas can be a good deal, even cheaper than buying canvas pads.  I found this one  at Michael's, but later discovered that Hobby Lobby has it, too. 

Next blog will be back to color mixing and the topic will be "How to brighten colors?".  I have to paint same examples  so it might be a day or two. 
The canvas in the background is from the roll I bought.  I use it for studies. 
I like flat brushes the best.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

#5 Color Mixing - Complementary colors

Objectives of this Exercise: 
                   How to darken a color
                   How to dull a color
                   How to mix grays

 This exercise is designed to show how to darken a color and dull a color and how to mix interesting neutrals (grays).

Use three sets of complementary colors:

 *how to mix the best (brightest) oange, green,  and purple is on the previous blog post. 




Make a grid like the one in the photo.
Start with complementary colors at top and bottom, then gradually add increasing amounts of the complementary color,  When you reach the middle the result will be unidentifiable as either complement.  The result will be a neutral (gray) color that will often need to use in your paintings.

Notice there are two columns for each set of complements.  The second column is a "tinted" version of the first column achieved by adding white to the colors mixed in the first column. 

The first time you add a little of the complement is get darker and duller and this continues until you reach the middle (the fourth from the top grid where the color looks "muddy", dull and gray. 

Don't worry about making this perfect.  What counts is getting the concept of how to make a color darker by using its complement and seeing how you can predict what happens to color.
a lot of grays used here
dark dull yellows also used

Friday, October 11, 2013

Color Mixing

# 4

Mixing Secondary Colors taking advantage of color bias-  these exercises are  from the class I took with  artist Caroline Jasper who has written several books on color.  (listed in previous blog and shown on my pinterest board about color theory)

Materials needed:

Canvas paper


cad yellow light (or lemon yellow)  COOL because it has some green in it
cad yellow medium  - WARM because it leans toward orange

cad red light  WARM because it leans to orange
alizarin  COOL  because it leans to blue

cerulean blue -   COOL because it leans to green
ultramarine blue   WARM  because it leans towards red

1.  The limited palette called the "split primary", a warm and cool of each of the primary colors.  I like using this palette because the color biases help you in creating the brightest colors when you need them.

Mixing the warm and cool of each primary creates what we know as primary red, yellow and blue.

The following exercises take advantage of the bias of the primary colors.   The chart shows the mixes of warm yellow (cad yellow med) and cool yellow (cad yellow light or lemon yellow)  mixed with the warm red (cad red light)  and cool red (alizarin)

Mixing the warm red and warm yellow makes the brightest orange .  Notice when you use the cool red that has blue in it and the yellow that has green it, you get the dullest orange. 

These charts also take advantage of color bias for the best green.  The bluish red (alizarin) mixed with the reddish blue (ultramarine) makes the best purple. 



Recent painting using the limited palette.  Lots of warms and cools used here. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

#3 - Get to know your colors

Exercise #3 - Color - more to come about color mixing, but first get to know your colors

This exercise I did in a class I took with Caroline Jasper quite a few years ago. 

She has written several books on color, Painters' Guide and Color Manual and Power Color, posted on my pinterest board about color theory. 

The purpose was to get to know your colors:

(arranged according to value rather than color wheel) - more about that later


6 tubes of paint in the following colors:  (These are the ones I use for the limited palette).  There are several more exercises using these colors. 


cad yellow light
cad yellow medium

cad red light
alizarin red

cerulean blue
ultramarine blue

On the first day of the workshop we did swatches of each of our colors from the limited palette. 

 1. Cut out 6 pieces of canvas paper 2 inches by 4 inches.

2.  Paint half with full strength paint, then use some odorless mineral spirits to thin the paint on the edges of the block of color. 

3.  Write information about each color on the back, e.g., name, opacity, transparency, etc, info that you get from the label on the paint tube. 

Caroline then asked us to arrange the colors according to value.  (pictured here).  We then took a photo in black and white to see if our values were correct. 

#2 - Practice with the value scale

Applying different values to show dimension

I did this exercise with my students to show how different strength values can show dimension. 

It's good practice for seeing the importance of lights and darks.  The first cup has almost no contrast and looks flat. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

5 ( maybe more) painting exercises - how to get started if you want to learn how to paint with oils

The Value of Value

I'm going to include exercises that I use with my students.  The last one will be how to start a painting. 

#1 VALUE - understanding lights and darks


The reason you need to know this is because to show dimension, create form and shadow, you will have to know how to make different values (lights and darks).     

Example:  This shows at least 5 different values, but notice the apple and vase only have two values at this point. 

Materials:  Black and white paint (either oil or acrylic), small canvas or any kind of surface even paper if you use acrylics  (email me if you want the entire materials list that I give my students for the first 5 classes):

Create your own value scale of 10 different values: Start with black, the lowest value, #1, keep adding white for the next eight spaces.  The highest value will be #10, pure white.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Blog Topics

October 4, 2013

The 30 day challenge is over and I am having withdrawal symptoms.  Maybe that little pressure was a good thing. 

On the last day I posted this collage on facebook and pinterest so I will put it here, too. 

Also, I would welcome ideas for blog topics, I am in a slump there, too.  When I started my blog a few years ago I wanted it to have a purpose which was to provide enough info for someone to learn to paint and to save others time by learning from my mistakes.  I was thinking about including the lesson plans I use for teaching students the basics.  So far my sister is interested in that.  Please leave some feedback under comments.  (I removed the robot step so it is easy to do)  I've received a few comments that demos are helpful. 

I used "ipiccy" for this.  It's fun  and easy to use.  Don't forget about my other favorite "animoto".  I did one for the challenge, but my husband said it was "over the top". 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Paint a lot....

October 2, 2013

"The best teacher is the very act of painting"  by Joaquin Sorolla. 

During the 30 in 30 challenge I read this quote on the blog of Patti Vincent, a very talented painter.  One of the benefits of participating in this challenge was getting to see the art of many painters and learning about their approaches and seeing their art.   The quote she included hit me as being so true.  I know I mentioned how painting a lot is the best way to see progress, but this just put it so nicely. 

In one of my cleaning and organizing adventures I came across the various containers filled with paint caps so I put them all together and surprised myself to see them in one place.  I thought it would be a good visual to the Sorolla quote.  I have no idea why I started saving paint caps. 

Thank you to Patti Vincent for her insight.  I'm including the link so you can see her wonderful paintings.

(That's a Costco container)