Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What is Style and how do you develop it?

I have a pair of old worn out slippers that I wear when the weather turns cold. They are ugly as sin, but they keep my feet warm and shield my ankles from drafts. I could throw them away and get another pair; but, hey, it doesn’t get that cold in Florida.

Like old ruts, my slippers are so comfortable it’s easy to forget how unsightly they’ve become. Like routines that become habits, old ruts are familiar and predictable. We sink into them easily without even noticing.
(Work in Progress) -- "Kindred Spirits"
Some people paint this way. I reviewed the portfolio of a young artist who was trying to develop a unique abstract style. Each painting looked much the same as the last. All of them used variations of red, green and blue on white. By the time I’d perused his portfolio, I was b-o-r-e-d! His theme became monotonous. 

Even the swipe of each brush stroke was similar in width and length, and no unusual center of interest emerged. The colors were all the same intensity; shouting for attention with no place for my eyes to rest.

We all fall into this trap at some time or another. We think style has something to do with similarity and recognition when style really gives us a larger picture of an artist’s capabilities and skill.

When you study the works of renowned artists, it is clear there are similarities in the way the brushwork is applied and in the colors used, but there is a greater principle at work. Style comprises the artist’s “world view” and how he connects to his or her audience. If a painting does not communicate, it remains stagnant and unremembered. Here are a few of my favorite artists and their unique styles:

Thomas Hart Benton
Benton was a “regionalist,” a painter who recorded the people and the places that he lived in and loved. I lived in Kansas City, Mo. when I first became acquainted with his work. His murals were in the capitol building and other public places. He painted the rural farmers, the railroad men, and the people in the city. His love was evident in the unique and swirling landscapes and in the curves and forms of the men and women who built the city from the ground up. The variety and the places he painted were so varied in content that even though his unique style is evident, each painting tells a distinct and original story.

Edouard Manet
Manet enjoyed surprising his audience. He preferred a loose and sketchy style, without fussy detail unless he chose to emphasize a certain area of the painting. He often used nudity to expose the foibles in the human condition.

Winslow Homer
Homer dappled in many mediums. He enjoyed watercolor as much as oil
He became skilled at both. You can almost see the growth in his style and skill with each painting. 

When he moved to Maine he began painting the sea in its wildest and most unpredictable forms. He became a master of the elements. The people he included in his paintings were often seafaring men and women, robust and hardworking.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Never Leave Home without your Camera

 Winter in Florida means a chance to see Manatees. They swim up the Orange River where warm water flows from the huge Florida Power & Light plant (FPL). A lovely park has been erected in their honor and thousands of residents and tourists flock there when the temperatures plunge to see these wonderful creatures.

At first glance, they look like humongous baked potatoes. Further scrutiny reveals a flat elongated tail and two dorsal fins closer to the snout. On females, a teat is located in the dorsal area where suckling’s feed after birth.

Manatees can stay submerged for long periods of time, so people wait expectantly for one to lift its large snout above water for a gulp of air. 

They can also be seen swimming up river leaving gentle swirls of water in their wake. A small patch of exposed back may crest the water as they move. Spotting an actual manatee swimming upstream brings squeals of delight from the crowd.

I’ve seen some beautiful paintings of these aquatic mammals, but I’ve never had the desire to paint them. On the other hand, I witnessed a flock of white pelicans that took my breath away, but I had no camera. These I would love to paint. I’m told that there are swans in Florida, but I’ve never seen one.

An artist should never be without a camera. If you’re like me, the times you have your camera, nothing happens. On the days you leave your camera home, wildlife is everywhere! I’m opposed to painting from photographs of others unless I have their explicit permission.

Final painting: "Bella Bellissimo" acrylic on 16 x 20 canvas
I have followers on Facebook from different countries. I was given permission to use their personal photos as they are not photographers or artists. I have done this for my India Rising Series, and for my African Series. When you can’t travel yourself, it’s the next best thing to being there.

Original photo of Bella
(I tried to make her look happier!)
If you use online photos or the artwork of others for inspiration, make certain you turn that painting into something uniquely yours. Change the pose. Change the color or composition. Don’t outright copy anything. If you do, you’re breaking the law.

I visited an artist blog recently where the author complained that someone had taken a photo of her painting and copied it authentically. If that were a writer, they could be charged with plagiarism. Copying old masters and declaring that you did is one thing. Stealing the ideas or paintings of someone else is downright criminal. If a person can’t fly by the seat of their own pants – they shouldn’t fly at all.

First drawing of Bella

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dare to Expose Your Soft Under Belly

(Work in progress; acrylic under painting)

I’m showing some of my art at a small café with a Bohemian flare. The owner is trying to create a unique niche in the community. Various groups have scheduled activities there on different nights: game playing, dancing, guest bands, etc. Whether the venture will be profitable is yet to be determined.

"Hey, Coconut Mon" mixed-media (oil on acrylic under painting) 18 x 24
I love the entrepreneurial spirit. I’m always amazed at the gutsy leap of faith that entrepreneurs are willing and eager to take. Which brings me to my next point: to be successful, you must be willing to fail. Taking chances must be an active consideration in making decisions. Either you take the plunge and risk humiliation, loss of money or reputation, in some cases, or you stagnate. It’s that simple.

Every entrepreneur, every artist gets bruised in the upward climb; daring to reveal his or her under belly in order to gain exposure. If you hold back or put self-imposed limits on yourself because of fear or embarrassment, you’ll never reach your goals nor fulfill your dreams.
(I'd like to paint this)
(Close-up of Morning Glories)
I recently purchased a rather expensive frame for a painting I want to submit to an art gallery. If it doesn’t make the juried “cut,” I’m out money and opportunity. I was still smarting for having been turned down because of a less than stellar frame. I may have over-compensated, but I’m determined.

Professionals walk a fine line between actual budgets and obtaining the necessary tools of their trade. The adage “it takes money to make money” is sadly true. Self confidence is equally important.

When you believe in yourself enough to stand up and be counted, your education and skills will make up for any lack of courage or timidity you may have. Negotiating and dealing with people are learned behaviors. Fear can be overcome through practice and determination.

(Beautiful scenes in my neighborhood that inspire me! -- This is winter here, folks!)
It never hurts to show your tender side. That doesn’t mean rolling over and playing dead, but it does mean making yourself vulnerable to exposure and opportunity.

(These sandhill cranes reminded me of Indians dancing and inspired the painting below)
"Sand Crane Dreams" mixed-media; 18 x 24

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hail to the Art Council of Southwest Florida

(A folk scene with a vintage frame)
 For fifty years, the Art Council has been “the voice of Southwest Florida’s non-profit visual arts community, providing opportunities for education, exhibitions, demonstrations, and most recently an interactive website to all affiliated organizations’ artists.”

The Art Council is a Cooperative venture encompassing 18 affiliated organizations comprised of members from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades Counties with a combined membership of over 6,750 artists of which I am one.

Yesterday was my day for working at the gallery, located at Coconut Point in Estero, between Panera Bread and The World Market. Each displaying artist volunteers at least one day every other month to support the gallery in customer relations and retail sales.

When I walked into the gallery after having been away for several weeks, I was blown away. “What a classy looking gallery,” I said to myself. With over 125 artists represented, the wide variety of items, styles and types of art creates an amazingly eclectic and sophisticated display.

(bird made entirely of glazed ceramic)

The remarkable leadership is supported by board members from the various leagues represented, including qualified judges who jury in each new piece of artwork. The gallery represents top-notch artists and a magnificent array of choices for the buyer.

One couple who visited the gallery yesterday remarked: “Oh, how we wish we’d found you before we decorated our house.” Enthused and excited about what the gallery had to offer, they assured us they would be back!

One young woman, pulling a piece of luggage on wheels, was flying back to Canada in a few short hours. She rushed in to buy a polka-dotted fish made from a palm frond that she'd seen before and couldn’t get out of her mind. We helped her bubble-wrap the fish which she intended to take on the plane as “carry-on.”

Many gallery artists bring their following of clients with them which boosts sales and attendance. New artists are continually being discovered, and an awareness of art is reverberating through the surrounding communities.

If you haven’t visited the gallery, you should. If you winter in Florida or vacation here, make Coconut Point Southwest Florida Art gallery a “must see” on your agenda.

See additional paintings below. Here are links for questions or information: or /

(A beautiful scene by Carol McCardle) Too high for a straight on photo.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Abbreviated World of Twitters and Tweets

"Maestro" 9 x 12 Pastel on Bristol

 Most of us Tweet, even though we’re not convinced it does anything for our business. The overwhelming number of tweets sent and received each day means that many are not read, let alone acted upon.

I discussed this with my son-in-law over Christmas (perhaps argue would describe it better) about whether social media and Twitter in particular increased sales or business. His conjecture was that it did not. My attitude was more positive, as I know for a fact that it has increased readership for my Christian articles.

It would be great to get your feedback on how social media and Twitter has either helped or hindered your business, i.e. does it waste precious time, etc.

When I first started tweeting, I tried to make my tweets profound, or at least somewhat interesting. 

Many of them had some good advice. I’m “retweeting” some of them in place of my blog today:

“My tools; my soul mates: pencils, brushes, paint joining together in pursuit of excellence; changing darkness into light and breathing life into shapes and forms.

“Hands tell a story. Their calluses and wrinkles define us. We talk and express delight with hands. We applaud those things we love. Handy!

“Lift up your heart to the music of creation. Paint the world fantastic. Let nature ring. Bring on the brush, baby!

“Artists deal in illusion, turning flat lines into forms and shapes that pull the viewer into a greater understanding of the world.

“An art show is like performing without a script. The fluid style of color and shape express the unspoken words of the heart.

“Touching brush to canvas, the artist consummates a passion-filled marriage that explodes into droplets of agony and ecstasy, fire and ice.

“An artist’s prayer: wrap my soul in your love Lord; whisper into my heart and draw out a masterpiece that awakens the world.

“A good painting provides eye calisthenics, inviting us to explore the details, subtleties, and deeper realms of human thought within.”

Do you have a favorite saying or tweet? Share them with us!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The New “Craze” – Painting on Glass

I’ve actually tried it; painted on glass, that is. I painted a pelican using acrylic paints. On the underside of the glass, I painted the water and some clouds. When it was dry, I cut blue card stock for the backing and added a frame. It wasn’t the most exciting painting I’ve done, but I was delighted with how the paint adhered to the cold glass and how easy it was to paint feathers and details.

(Drawing of Bella)
Glass painting has become a popular hobby. From painting wine glasses to adding a personal touch to pottery or plates, artists and craftsmen are discovering how easy it is to paint on glass.

I’ve also painted on mirrors which works the same way and there’s no need for a backing. If you want to add a tropical theme in a bathroom, or a vintage flare in a kitchen, painting on a mirror or the glass doors of a cupboard is fun and rewarding. The surface is cold and allows the paint to “gel” rather than run. Fine details stay put and the results are stunning.

It was the store Michael's that called this art form a new “craze.” Painting on wine glasses is the latest thing in Hostess Gifts because it adds your own personal signature and shows that you care. Other ideas and suggestions for painting on glass are found on a link I've provided below.

Painting on glass is a plus for artists because it makes affordable items for sale at boutiques and art shows. The designs can be more sophisticated than a stenciled design by adding an original twist that makes your artwork distinctive. Many artists have designed glass Christmas ornaments for sale during the holidays.

"Bella Bellissimo" Work in Progress
Painting on floor tiles that are naturally cold benefits from the same principles. Tiles are heavier than a canvas, but smaller. Sticky tabs for hanging can be placed on the back, and they make delightful mini canvases. 

I’ve not only painted on tiles, but I’ve printed some of my drawings and designs on decal paper and used medium gel to secure them to the tiles. Adding another coat or two of gel makes a nice glossy finish.

(My next painting will be "Kindred Spirits")
If you want a frame, simple modeling paste can be swirled or twisted around the edges and covered with a glossy paint. I personally like white on white so that my painting or decal stands out.

(Simplistic charcoal  drawing on 24 x 30 canvas)
If you haven’t tried it you should. It’s downright fun and satisfying. 

Here’s a link for more tips and informationGlass Painting Tutorial

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Adding Zing to Your Composition

(Alert; horizontal and vertical lines) "Anhinga in Paradise" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

Since the composition of an artwork is critical to the overall success of a painting, I’m adding a few more helpful tips. There are essentially three basic types of composition; each creating a different effect: Sedate, Alert, and Dynamic. Your choice will determine how your audience feels when they view your painting.

Sedate compositions focus on horizontal planes and lines; typical of pastoral scenes and calm seas. This type of composition lends a certain peace and stillness to the composition

(Sedate; horizontal lines) "Seashells by the Seashore" acrylic on panel 8 x 10
.Alert compositions arouse our emotions and stimulate energy through predominantly vertical lines amidst horizontal planes. Waves on a wild sea, for instance create a tremendous amount of energy contrasting with the receding smooth outflow of water. Mountains erupting from horizontal planes of farmland create push and pull contrast and energy.

(Alert; diagonal, vertical lines) "Prayer Circles" 18 x 24 acrylic on canvas

Dynamic compositions go a step further, creating interest, unease, and energy through diagonal lines and shapes. This can be done in many ways, including bending sails in the wind, making a surreal painting of leaning buildings, or simply bending grasses and flowers heavy with blooms.

(Dynamic diagonal lines and imposing shapes) "India Rising -- the Lost" 18 x 24 mixed media

Tips for enhancing the integrity of your painting:
Preserve the authenticity of your brush strokes. When applying paint: put it down, leave it be. Deliberate brush strokes give your painting a feeling of authority and professionalism.

Don’t skimp on paint. Beginners often paint timidly; applying too little paint until there are few indications that the paint was applied with a brush at all. Use enough paint so that your painting benefits from the full color and light of the pigment used. 

(Horizontal, vertical, & diagonal lines) "An Open Book" 16 x 20 mixed media SOLD (prints available)
Style determines color and line preferences and how you apply paint. Some artists like a smooth finish, especially on portraits. Others like to see color separation and brush work. The more you work with different types of paint and techniques; you’ll find the method that suits your style and taste.