White Christmas on Marco Island!

White Christmas on Marco Island!
So what if its a white sand beach instead of the cold blowing icy snow? This darling snowman was demanding to be painted, but after struggling with time constraints I decided to make gingersnaps instead. You can have a few if you stop by! Thanks, Vickie, for sharing the photo!
The next few days will be devoted to enjoying the holiday, family and friends. Hope your Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate this time of year will bring you much pleasure and good memories. I'll look forward to posting and painting again in the New Year.
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!


Condo View, Montery Studio painting by JoAnn Sanborn

This commissioned painting was fun to do. The clients live on the third floor of a condo, and the wife wanted a painting of the view for her husband who can't come to Marco Island quite as much as she can since he's still working. She wanted a wide expanse of transparent gulf, and to include the palms that they see from their window. The ground level was a particular challenge because despite looking out at really tall palms there was an understory of palms below. Trees are usually an upright element, meaning that they are a dark plane because less light falls on them. Seen from above, here, they become a flat plane, with more light falling on them. I compromised in value while painting them because if I had made them too bright and busy your eye would have been caught there instead of passing over them getting to the higher palms and the water. I didn't want this lower level of greenery to become too prominent. I'm pleased with the results, and wish that the painting will arrive on time for Christmas and safely with all the snow and storms up north! Let's also hope that the recipient doesn't take s sudden look at the blog and spoil the surprise!


Big Moon, Beach Palms Daily Painting by Everglades Artist JoAnn Sanborn

Sorry for the delay in today's post. Internet computer failed completely and a new modem was in order. Now I have cords all over the place until I get everything back in place. Funny how something I didn't need a few years ago, like the Internet, is now such a part of my life that two day's without it are difficult! Even missed my Twitter and Facebook friends!

Have you noticed that I've put a moon phase widget on the blog? If you ever want to know what phase the moon is in you can just take a look down the right hand column of the blog. Today it's a full moon, and the biggest moon in a very long time. Earlier clouds have cleared and even though it's getting cold (again) we should be able to enjoy tonight's big moon. Be sure and go take a look. It should be very beautiful, and If you're a romantic, take a nice long walk with a loved one or ones!

Today's daily painting is one that I'm trying out a couple of compositions for a large painting of one of the nicest Marco Island views. Palms on the beach are such a delight since they provide a nice vertical to our nearly horizontal landscape, and with just the littlest of breezes their fronds provide wonderful negative shapes against the sky.

Beach Palms
7" x 5" (17.8cm x 12.7cm)



Skies and Clouds, Late Autumn Studio Paining by Everglades Artist JoAnn Sanborn

Late Autumn

When we look at the sky to paint it, our first question is to ask if the sky is active or quiet. If active, our whole painting might take on the feeling of the wind moving over the landscape. It will affect the way we portray the trees, grasses, and any other part of the landscape that can be affected by the wind. Sometimes, it's only high above that we see the clouds racing by, and the earth remains somewhat quiet. Whichever it may be, remember that they feeling of your sky will affect the rest of the painting, and that they must not conflict. Learning to put volume into your sky is one of the most basic challenges of the landscape painter. But anyone who has spent any time looking up will know that the sky is like and upturned bowl, and that the sky color at the very top is usually very, very different from the sky color at the horizon. If you can follow this color change all the way to the background in the painting, your sky will have volume and will recede into the distance and give your landscape volume. Generally, the clouds overhead are much larger than you would expect, and clouds in the distance shrink in size and fade in color just like the rest of the landscape does as it recedes. The sky is most often cool in color, and the sunlit clouds are usually warmer. Up close the undersides of the clouds are usually darker and more ragged, but still much lighter than land. As clouds are seen in the distance, their bases become flatter and there image sharper and clearer. The also be come smaller, and will be warmer in color as they near the land. Practically, it will help to have your brightest clouds nearer to center of interest of your painting. Much of the painting above was done with a palette knife, and there's a nice sense of clouds and movement in the sky.


Wet into Wet Acrylics, Morning Meadow Painting by Everglades Artist Jo-Ann Sanborn

Morning Meadow

I tend to paint very thin layers, and get my depth of color by going over and over with almost a dry brush, creeping up on the values and colors that I want. Some people prefer work more wet into wet to get more of a brushwork feel with acrylics, so I’ll give you some suggestions for making the acrylics move around the canvas more easily.

In wet on wet work, colors blend together and are affected by the colors adjacent and underneath. Each brush mark is softened by the wet color painted in, edges are softened and colors are mixed. Since acrylics dry quickly, the paint itself must be altered to allow the slower drying and ease of blending

It’s important to keep high humidity for wet into wet in acrylics, so begin by using a spray bottle of water on the canvas to keep it wet. Spray frequently, but remember to use some acrylic medium now and then, to retain proper adhesion.

A few drops of Flow-Aid in the water will keep the acrylics open a bit longer allowing them to spread more easily. I use about 6-10 drops to a pint, especially when outside in the wind. It’s the one additive that doesn’t seem to otherwise change the properties of the paint except for the longer openness.

If this isn’t enough, matte or gloss medium will keep the paint open longer and make it easier to spread. This won’t change the viscosity of the paint, but as you add more the colors will become more and more translucent. Careful choice of colors can add a nice depth to the color without actually glazing. Slow-Dri blending medium will do the same thing and keep the paint open even longer.

If you want more brushstroke to show on the surface of the canvas, start by using a very heavy body paint. Heavy gel medium will also increase the viscosity of the paint, reduce drying, and add to open time.


Carlson's Theory of Angles, Night Mist Painting by Everglade Artist JoAnn Sanborn

Night Mist
I learned about the planes of the landscape by observing the outdoor elements here in the Everglades over and over again. I didn't intellectually understand what I as seeing until it was simply explained in Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting. John Carlson is a noted artist and teacher of the last century, who followed the Hudson River School style of painting.

His explanation of light hitting the landscape is easy to understand and makes sense. In the landscape the source of light is always from the sky. This light falls strongest on the flattest, horizontal plane of the landscape, the ground. That plane will always receive the most light and so be lightest in value. The light falls with medium strength on the slanted planes, like mountains and hills, so these will be medium value. The verticals, like the trees, being the upright plane receive the least light and so they will be darkest value.

As the painting progresses these value lessons can be applied to each element of the painting. A tree, for example, will be lightest at the top where the leaves form a flat plane for the light to fall upon, middle value in the middle as the light can't fall so directly, and darkest value on the trunk and under it, where little light falls. Carlson, however, cautions us not to break up the dominant value of the mass too much!

This is a broad, general rule of course, and there are times when it will be turned upside down. In the Everglades, the light sometimes comes from between the clouds highlighting one clump of trees making them very light and the ground much darker. Trees, even though they make be struck by extraordinary light will still retain their dark interior mass. This theory wouldn't work in snow, of course, when the snow mass would be lighter than the sky, and clouds in the sky require careful consideration of their relationship to the other elements in the painting.

My own work is often about the horizontals and verticals in the landscape. Here in South Florida we have no mountains and few hills, so must search for the middle values in our paintings. Our upright planes, for example the tall grasses, are upright up close but flatten out with distance, becoming flat planes with more light. With the open leave structure of many palms, light dances through the leaves and into the very heart of the tree form with the slightest breeze. In the Everglades we're often subjected to a changing light show that defies any rules!

In any case, learning about Carlson's Theory of Angles can help to define the large landscape elements easily into masses of values. If we interpret the relationship of these masses correctly it their exact color won't matter but the painting will make sense to the eye.


Rule of Thirds, Summer Silouette Studio Painting by JoAnn Sanborn

Summer Silouette
One composition decision that deserves some discussion is the rule of thirds. It’s a very simplified version of the Golden Ratio. Dividing something into one third, two thirds is very pleasing to our eye, and is an easy way to make sure the compositional balance of your painting will work. This can apply to any painting, but I’ll describe it through the landscape here.

If you are planning to focus on the sky, make sure it has the larger, two thirds portion of the canvas. If your painting will be mostly about the land, make that the two-third portion. Let’s say the land will have the larger portion. Divided that portion into the foreground, middle and background, make sure the one you want to focus on gets almost two thirds of the space.

Carry this rule of thirds out on every decision in your painting. One third above middle gray in value, two-thirds below. One third of the colors cool, and two thirds warm. One third in sunlight, two thirds in shadow. One third complement, two thirds dominant color.

Pushing the ratios even father leads to more interesting composition. Use this information as a tool, not a formula. But if you have a painting that isn't quite working, applying the rule of thirds can sometimes help you towards a solution.


Composition, Out to Sea Studio Painting by JoAnn Sanborn

Beach Music
Out to Sea is the latest in a series of palms on the beach right here on Marco Island. You can see the others in this series on my daily painting blog here. I've enjoyed exploring the shape and color of these and other palms under a variety of light and circumstances. There's probably a few more paintings on this theme in my future!

Today's art lesson is about of composition. Composition means how the various parts of the painting will fit together and is one of the hardest things to teach. Here are some tips for composing the landscape in a way that will be pleasing. Remember that art rules are really good for learning, but in the right circumstances can be broken!

Ten rules for good composition:

1. Choose the orientation of the canvas according to the subject
Vertical - More dynamic
Good for tall subjects, compressed, elongated images
Horizontal - More pastoral
Subject can spread out

2. Keep the horizon line above or below centerline for more interest

3. Look for interesting underlying shapes in your block-out and exploit them.

4. Use a variety of scale.

5. Remember that negative shapes are as important as positive shapes.

6. Leave a way into the picture - don’t put up a wall

7. Repeat Shapes for unity

8. Create a path for the viewer’s eye

9. Watch for and avoid conflicting lines

10. Above all, avoid monotony


On the Trail, Everglades Painting by JoAnn Sanborn

On the Trail
In the studio I've been working on a commissioned piece. On the Trail, today's painting, refers to the Tamiami Trail, a road that goes from Miami to Tampa. Once you get outside the population centers of Fort Meyers and Naples going south the road travels through the Everglades into fairly remote and protected areas. It's not uncommon to see alligators in the canal along the roadside. The road travels through the lush green of the Fakahatchee to the more open prairies of the Big Cypress and Everglades National Park. This scene is in the Fakahatchee, not far from Marco Island. I've painted in this area before, and did a small painting that can be seen on my blog in preparation for this larger commissioned painting.


Limited Palette Basics, Sun Shadows Studio Painting by Jo-Ann Sanborn

Sun Shadows

Using a limited palette is one of the best ways to gain control over your palette. You will become very familiar with each color you choose and are forced to explore the limits of it’s usefulness to get a full range of value and color in your painting.

Your palette will be purer and your colors clearer if your primary colors contain pigments for only one other color. For example, your warm red will contain red and yellow, and your cool red will contain red and blue. Your warm blue will contain blue and yellow, and your cool blue will contain blue and green. Your warm yellow will contain yellow and red, and your cool yellow will contain yellow and blue.

If you add any secondary colors to this basic palette, you will want to make sure that they are the true compliments of the primaries. If they are they will make a lovely, lively neutral color rather than a dead, flat color. Black should be added to the palette with caution, since it is a subtractive color that takes light and color away. It’s almost never a good choice to darken, and best used purely as the color black.

White can lighten, but it also neutralizes your color. Titanium is a heavy, opaque white used for good coverage, while Zinc white is more transparent. Transparent mixing white is a fairly new color that can be used to thin out and extend your color without neutralizing it.

In today's Everglades painting I’ve used a limited palette of Quinacridone Crimson, Cerulean Blue, and Lemon Medium Azo, Quinacridone Magenta, Ultramarine Blue and Naples Yellow and a Hookers Deep Permanent green to help with the darks, and Titanium White.

You can simplify even further by using only three primaries plus white and still have all the range you need. Try it, and you’ll find that you may produce some of your most colorful paintings.


Light in the Landscape, Standing Tall painting by Jo-Ann Sanborn

Standing Tall
Learning about Light is one of the most important elements of all painting. Without light there is no color—think about getting up in the middle of the night. Everything is grey tones, and it’s not until the light comes up in the morning that we can see the actual color of objects. Remember that light must always travel in a straight line!

The way light moves over people or objects shows us their shape and form. In landscapes, at least dayscapes, the sun is the light source. Look closely outside, in natural light, to see how the sunlight is affecting your subject. The seasons and weather conditions will have an affect on the color and character of the light.

Determine where the sun is in relation to your subject. Is it overhead? Think Hopper, with harsh glaring light and strong contrasts. Shadows will be reduced in size, but not strength. The lightest and warmest areas will be the flat planes of the landscape. Sometimes on an overhead, overcast day there’s a wonderful radiating light.

If the sun is striking the landscape from the side, strong contrasts will reveal the forms. More texture will be visible and long shadows can add a design element to your composition. Colors deepen and are cooler going away from the light source.

Sometimes the subjects are backlit. The sky will always be the lightest and warmest part of the painting in backlit paintings and the forms will be in shadow. Tones are deepened where the light strikes. The backlighting can be unifying and set a mood for the painting.

When choosing and using the light for your landscape the most important thing to remember is that the sunlight must come from a single, consistent source. Don’t have your shadows going in different directions!


Composition, Traveling Light Acrylic Painting by Jo-Ann Sanborn

Traveling Light
Traveling Light was constructed in exactly the same manner as the painting of the Everglades that I showed you in steps several posts back, however this painting is organized and simplified a little differently. Here the space is more open, and the composition leads you into the background. The viewer most probably enters the picture in the middle ground where the palm trees are located, is drawn into the painting by the color and palms, then into the background by the stronger background colors, and only then comes around to enjoy the foreground. In this way I've allowed the foreground to become a partner is keeping the viewer in the painting rather than a wall keeping the viewer out. The viewer is then drawn again into the middle space and so views again. The painting has a feeling of mystery and lightness and the palms feel like travelers rather than solidly planted in one place like so many palm groups.


Acrylic Mediums and Additives, Everglades Painting by Jo-Ann Sanborn

Big Cypress Morning

My painting today is one that I'm very fond of. We became very close as I worked it over again and again trying to get the look and feel that I wanted of a lovely day in the glades, but more of from a frog's perspective. It hung around the studio for quite a while I became more and more frustrated. One day I decided that drastic change was necessary and got out the big brush. Soon I was "in the zone" and when I stepped back a couple of hours later the painting had evolved to my satisfaction! Sometimes in art, just as in life, you have to let go and let it happen!

Now, for some substance! Acrylic Mediums come in a choice of matte or gloss, and are the consistency of thick cream. They are most usually made of acrylic binder and act as a colorless paint. Using medium can help the paint stay opened longer, economically extend the paint, and increase adherence. Acrylic medium is also perfect for glazing transparent or opaque paint.

Since the medium help binds the acrylic, it’s important to use some medium when thinning the paint. Always use a dab of medium to help the paint bind and adhere if you are thinning the paint with a lot of water. Using acrylic paint and water alone, especially as you get to a 50-50 mixture can affect adherence and a touch of medium solves the problem.

There are a number of gel pastes available for use with acrylics, each with it’s own special use. It’s fun to try these out now and then and when I hold a class I bring a number for students to try. These can act as a binder for another additive, like sand, can thicken the paint to improve the retention of brush marks, and double the volume of paint with little loss of color.

Most additives do not contain binders, and so should not be overused. Another type of additive is the flow aids. These decrease the surface tension, flowing and blending, and open time of the paint, as do the retartders.

If you’re an acrylic painter, learn more about the additives available for use. There’s a wide range of possibilities! Liquitex Paints provide a handbook with detailed information about they’re mediums and additives. This Guide can be read online or downloaded. Golden Paints has some great educational material on their site, too, and their newsletter is full of good information. They've also just come out with a new line of acrylics called "Golden Open", an acrylic with a longer open time.


Joy of Acrylic Paint, Kindred Spirits, Florida Everglades Studio Painting

Kindred Spirits

One of the most important things to realize when working with a new medium is that it will have it's own characteristics and will not behave like any other. This is especially true of acrylic paint, since so many people come to acrylics either from watercolor or oils. While acrylic has some similar characteristics of each, it is first and most fully itself. The joy of this medium is that it can be manipulated without the constraints of either oils or watercolor. It dries very quickly, allowing you to build a painting almost like a sculpture. You can go into it again and again and carve out the painting, and add more material at any time. Soft or hard edges are easy to achieve by choosing the right brush. Bristle for soft edges and synthetic for crisper passages. There are both opaque and transparent colors, and it's OK to use them together. Acrylics are environmentally more friendly in the studio, particularly for people who are sensitive to the oil mediums. Also, if you take most of the paint off the brush with a paper towel or rag and let it dry, the paint will not every become water soluble again and leach into the environment. Solids can be strained before the water is discarded.

Acrylics are particularly effective in achieving a luminous surface like the painting above. To create the soft sky, I scumbled over the canvas again and again with an almost dry brush, leaving thin layers of color for the sky and water. As the painting progressed, the lower layers still show through in many places leaving both a glow and a vibration, and giving nice variation from the more solid qualities of the land and trees.


Outdoor Art Shows, Studio Painting Meditation by Jo-Ann Sanborn

There's a lot more to do than painting when you are in business as an artist. Here in Florida September is quiet time, and a good time to catch up on work that's been delayed.

I'll be spending time this week getting ready for the season's upcoming art shows. There's entry forms to fill out, slides or digital images to prepare, jury and booth fee checks to write, stamped, self addressed envelopes to include, and then checking it twice so that I'm not eliminated for a technical error. Acceptance into the good, quality outdoor shows is not automatic and the fees are getting higher. Some shows will change up to one third of their artists each year to ensure a fresh, new and interesting show. Others get four or five entries for every space and have to make choices, and others have just so many spaces for painters, jewelers, etc. I feel fortunate when chosen, but that's why my schedule says "tentative" for so many entries. I'd like to be there--and just have to get a letter of acceptance to make it so.

This year we'll do a lot less shows that in the past. The art market has slowed, and although people still attend the shows, many have been affected by the slowing economy and are reluctant to part with money they may need for living expenses. Outdoor shows are a lot of work, we're aging, and getting up every weekend for months to be out of the house before first light, as lost some appeal. Still, outdoor art shows have brought great rewards and often beneficial surprises and acknowledgements. So, we'll limit our participation to just two a month this year. Here's my 2008-9 tentative schedule.

It's time to start writing a yearly letter to my friends and art collectors telling them about my art year. The fall letter has become a tradition, and includes a list of upcoming shows for them to keep as a reference. To do that there's printing of the two pages, folding, labeling and stamping. I'm always happy to have help with this job!

I've also let slide a lot of archival information. Business books are done on Quicken, an Excell spreadsheet contains collector purchase and mailing list information, each painting has a information page, and a photo program houses photos of the paintings. I'm trying to combine much of this information in a single new program, Flick. Pulling the information from the other programs is time consuming agony. I'd hire someone, but there's too much insider information to let someone else try! Ugly!

Today's painting is one of the group completed this summer for the show as August Artist in Residence for the Marco Island Center for the Arts. The show closed the end of August, and the painting is now back in my studio. A painting should have a predominance of warm or cool color temperature. This painting is predominately warm and the colors have been grayed and softened. A wetland waterway leads you into the painting and there's a sun softened by veiling clouds in the sky. A touch of complimentary green was added to the distant bushes for contrast.

Call first, but come by and take a look!


Color Vocabulary

One of the problems of discussing color is that everyone doesn't have the same color vocabulary. Here's a simple color vocabulary was developed for my students to ensure that everyone will have the same understanding when we talk about color. Once you understand these few words it will be easier to discuss color issues and strategies with fellow artists.

Color Vocabulary

Colors adjacent or very close on the color wheel
They share a common color - blue-green blue, blue violet
Brightness or dullness of a color
Brighter color, higher number on color scales - Cad Red, 13 Burnt Sienna, 4
Each color does not reach it's highest intensity at same value level, yellow-8, Blue-3
Complimentary Colors
Opposites on the color wheel (red-green, blue-orange, violet,-yellow)
Simply the colors name
Appears to "shimmer"
Requires gray to contrast
Local color
Color name, or hue of an object
A pervasive glow
Highest value or brightness in a composition
Light source must seem to "invade" entire painting
Use purest colors with strongest chroma
appearance of "brighter than bright"
keep area small and pure in hue, rely on black to contrast
One color mixed with black and white
Or many values, one color
Two complements mixed in such a way that each looses it's identity Result is neither warm or cool, nor shows a predominate color
Color with black added
Color with white added
Value of a color
Where on a gray scale will the color fall
Three colors equidistant on the color wheel
Degree of lightness or darkness in a color
Compared to black and white


Florida Everglades Painting set aside

Today I cut the sky into the trees and defined the forms more fully. I'll most likely do this at least one more time before the finish. The main palm is beginning to show some character. The two almost equal grass forms where the water goes left need to be softened and maybe joined, and the light can be strengthened. After these changes I'll put the painting up on my studio wall for a few days to see if it needs a final pass. During this "waiting time" I really get to know a painting and gradually see issues that need to be resolved to finish it or come to hate it and will almost start over when working on it again. It's a big difference from my daily paintings, seen here, which are done in one day.


Florida Everglades Painting, Finishing a Painting

I’m still working on the color strategy and building the forms and will do this until they come into balance and make sense on the canvas. I won’t worry about getting an exact representation of the scene any more because I have a sense of the place. I'm not doing a portrait but will want you to know the character of the main palm before I'm through. As I work I identify with the subject(s) more and more closely, and by the time I’m done most of the forms will be as familiar to me as my family. At his point I have added lights and darks three times and there's beginning to be a sense of volume to the forms, and of light coming in. I've also added some clouds and color to the sky. I still have a way to go before I'm satisfied.

Knowing when a painting is finished is the most difficult part of the process. It's only finished when the creating artist decides it's finished! Some artists will consider a painting finished when there is still some of the canvas showing—leaving bits of white or undercoat to contribute to the whole. Some artists start in one corner and work directionally and will never again touch the laid-down bits. When the canvas is covered, they’re done. Some artists work over the canvas surface again and again struggling to bring their artistic vision into form until the canvas contains even a piece of the artist’s heart. But in the end each artist must find a combination of methods and visions that work for them, laying down the brush only when confronted with a satisfying whole.


Process - Building Form

Today I’m starting to refine and redefine the value shapes. At the moment there are three values—the dark upright trees, the light sky, and the flat land. These will develop into many values as each form is built but will retain their original character. Now the ground is lighter and flattening out because it receives the most light. The uprights will always be the darkest value because they receive the least light, as does the bottom of the grasses. I want to remember to retain the water that can be seen in the foreground of the working photo, so I’ve put it in—it’s another “flat,” so it will receive more skylight and be lighter than the upright grasses around it.
At this point in the painting the main forms are also being built, with special attention to the negative shapes created. It’s a push-pull process. I’ve cut in around the main palm, reshaped it, and cut in again. The pines have been shaped and reshaped. For me this part is a building process –build up, reassess, tear down, build up again. I’m also very much aware of the edges of the canvas and how each of them contributes to pushing the painting into shape. And as the sky becomes yellower, the painting starts to lean in the direction of the original color stratagy.


Materials - Brushes

I’ve been putting off talking about brushes because I treat mine so badly. Hog Bristle is my brush of choice, and I often scrub with them and use them until they’ve been worn down into a whole new shape!

Brushes come in many sizes and types. Both synthetic and natural bristle brushes are great for acrylic, and each has its advantages. Natural bristle brushes are best for soft edges and drybrush, and synthetics hold a lot of paint and generally make harder edges. I personally like brights, a rather square brush with shorter bristles because they’re a little stiffer than longer bristled flats, great for scrubbing, but as Emil Gruppe would say, “why pay for less, since you’ll eventually wear it down anyway!”
As you become familiar with different brushes you will probably only use only a few favorites most of the time. But for some people, it’s almost like shoes and you can never have enough. If you do collect a few of each kind and you will occasionally find uses for most of them. Before ordering brushes, go to an art supply store and hold and feel a number of brushes to see what feels best in your hand. If you are just staring out, you can get by with a few flats and filberts, and a rigger, or thin, pointed brush for signing paintings. A couple of rounds are good, too, since they are versatile and very responsive to ary and hand movements in the early stages of a painting.

Start your block-out with the largest brush you can and work over the whole canvas. You can decrease in brush size as the painting progresses. It’s always a mistake to get tied up nitty-gritty small brush details before you have developed the underlying character of the painting.


Process - Color Strategy, Responsibility of the Artist

From this point on in the painting process, the responsibility of the artist is to the CANVAS, and will, hopefully, transcend the photograph. The photo has done its part by reminding us of the original idea for the painting and by providing the details of the scene that caught our attention. What develops on the canvas must go beyond the photo, bringing the spirit of both the place and the artist into the work. It may be referred to again for additional informational details, but should not be relied upon for interpretation.

I’ll now begin to develop a color strategy for the painting. My color strategy is intuitive rather than from formulas, but comes from a great deal of background study and interest in color. For this painting I know I’d like to push the pines into the background with with soft blue greens and work the whole painting into a more neutral vein. Working neutral is a struggle, but I love the results. So I’ve worked up a “color sheet” to keep me on track and will keep that paper at the easel to help me. Still, I will often throw my original plans to the wind when work on the canvas takes me in a different direction.

A small Masterson’s palette holds my color supply, and aluminum pie places will be used for mixing. This way the mix can be held right up to the canvas to check how the color will work with the whole. I never mix up too much of one color, and almost no paint goes on without being mixed up a little.

For this painting my palette will consist of the following colors: Liquitex’s Quinacridone crimson, Yellow Azo, Naples Yellow, Pyrrole Orange (a new favorite, it’s to soft) Aqua, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Green Gold, Light Portrait Pink, Burnt Umber and Golden’s Quinacridone gold, titanium white and parchment.


Process -Reviewing the compositon, building forms

You can see that the light sky is beginning to take shape, and the ground is flattening out. Because my process is a building one, the forms will be painted over and over pushing them into each other and around each other. By painting the sky, the edges of the trees are obliterated, and by repainting the trees the sky and trees will be woven together back and forth until each finds it place on the canvas. The same will happen with the undergrowth and grasses, yet unseen. Fortunately in acrylics this is easy to do, where in oils you'd be making mud.
Here composition is still being defined and strengthened and a dark barely seen in the photograph will help to carry your eye from the foreground into the painting. At this stage I work with a dirty brush, almost dry brush and haven't yet begun to form a color strategy for this painting.


Process - Painting from Photographs

Whether still life, portraiture or landscape, an artist needs to view a live version their subject in order to know it fully. A landscape painter must spent time outside to have the secrets of the land revealed. The landscape has many personalities, changes very quickly and reveals its secrets slowly. It takes patience and perception to see what she has to offer.

In the past I've spent many hours in the Everglades and in areas around Marco Island painting. I like responding directly to the landscape. My usually practice is to "block out" the painting outside, but take it back to the studio for further interpretation. Sometimes, however, it's necessary to work from photographs. This is fine as long as you took the photograph yourself and understand a photographs limitations. It's not a good idea to use someone else's photograph for many reasons, but that's a subject for another day! Photographs flatten the scene, and reduce the value range, so you'll have to make up for this in the painting.

I'm going to use the above photograph to start a new studio painting. I want the painting to be about the palm tree, so I'm going to shorten and push back the surrounding pines. There's a nice dark in the front that I'll carry through to the back, and some palmetto bushes to set off the palm. The light sky makes a nice negative coming into the foliage. Let's get started!
First mix up a nice dark use it to block out everything but the lightest portions of the composition. I use a mix of the warm red and blue on my palette, like quinacridone crimson and ultramarine blue. If it's too purple I'll mix in a little brown or green to keep it neutral. Using a fairly dry brush I scrub the shape of the dark trees and bushes into the dark canvas. You can barely see the forms, but that's OK. After I'm satisfied with the dark pattern, I very roughly block out the light sky. This is only the first stage, and the painting will be completed by many layers of paint as the forms are built.
Now it's time for a value check. This painting will be mostly darkish midtones, with a smaller portion being light sky and the smallest portion being the darkest darks. I'll take a break if it's going well at this point.


Materials - Preparing Acrylic Supports

Materials – Supports

First decide if you will be using the acrylic paints as water colors, as oil paints, or a mixed media. Acrylic can be used on, and will stick to most anything that’s not oily. If you plan on using acrylics as a water media, paper, or the new watercolor canvas will be your best support and no preparation is needed. If you will be acrylics in a manner similar to oil paints, you can choose canvas or linen, either stretched or on board. Mixed Media could go either way, only making sure that the support will be strong enough to hold any materials and additives you intend to apply.

We’ll focus on using acrylics in a manner similar to oil paints. I most often use professionally stretched canvas since I scrub the paint into the canvas. The professionally stretched canvases are tighter than I can do at home. Linen’s wonderful, but find it stretches too much when I get scrubbing unless I’m using it adhered to a board background. Canvas on board is a favorite, too.

Prepared canvas and linen support are available from a wide range of art supply stores and on the Internet. There are also some terrific small manufacturers of prepared supports. Check out what’s available at http://www.paintonthis.com/ and http://www.dailypaintingpanels.blogspot.com/. These panels come in a variety of sizes and are well suited for small, daily work, while larger, braced canvases may be better for larger studio work.

Once you have decided on your support, you may need to prepare it. If it has at least two coats of acrylic gesso, you may not need to do anything else. However it if has only one coat, or you can see through the canvas when you hold it up to a window, you may want to add another coat or two of acrylic gesso before you begin. This will thoroughly seal the canvas and prepare the surface for the paint.

Start with prepared acrylic gesso, thinned with a little water. It should be about the consistence of a cream soup. The gesso mix should be thin enough to spread easily without dripping. You can apply the paint using a house painting brush. Let the canvas dry completely between coats, and put the second coat on going in the opposite direction. If you are doing very fine work you can sand between each coat, but this is a person preference. I usually order and prepare a number of canvases at a time so there’s always one prepared when I’m ready to paint.

Once the canvas is prepared, you can begin to paint. Some artists like to work on white canvas and others prefer to tone the canvas first. Some us the complementary color of the expected painting, which sets up an immediate vibration. Some like to start with a middle value, and work both to the lights and the darks. My final preparation is to paint the canvas a warm dark, usually purplish. It’s so non-threatening to work on a dark background, and I love to see the painting coming into the light.


Materials - Acrylic Paints

Focus – Materials – Acrylic Paints

One of the first things to decide when starting a painting is what medium to use.
The choice for me is most often acrylics, and that’s what we’ll focus on in this blog.

Acrylics are made of pigment suspended in a plastic polymer. Sometimes filler is added to the mix, and sometimes the pigment is dispersed too thinly in the polymer. Generally, pigment drives the cost, and you get what you pay for. Often cheaper paints are often not worth the cost.

Choose a reputable manufacturer Even then, different dye lots from the same manufacturer may perform slightly differently, as will the same color name in different brands. Older acrylics will often develope a "sticky" feel.

I use mostly Liquitex acrylics. The manufacturer gives so much useful information on the label, and the larger, easy-off cap and easy to squeeze tube are a bonus. Liquitex acrylics are easily available and can be purchase through most art supply websites and most art supply stores. The Liquitex website contains a wealth of information about their product. Golden is another excellent brand. Their website is user friendly, tons of information, and they are serious about customer satisfaction. There is always a few tubes of Golden in my paint box.

There’s a lot of chemistry involved in producing quality products and each manufacturer has developed a line of products that work well together, ensuring good archival quality. Still, the lure of color is very strong, and most artists will pick up a beautiful tube of paint or try a new product regardless of brand. Use common sense when mixing brands.


Painting of Everglades "Warming in Sunshine"

Warming In Sunshine
This is the start of a new blog for the larger paintings that I do in my studio on Marco Island, Warming in Sunshine is one of the completed paintings done this summer in preparation for my show at the Marco Center for the Arts Wine and Art as Featured Artist for August. The show will hang for the rest of the month, and then unsold paintings will come back to the studio and wait to be adopted into a new home.