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Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Expressionism- an art movement focused on depicting emotion rather than a sterile, accurate representation of reality. Though it is usually dated as to have begun in or around 1905, impressionists such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin are often credited as pioneers of the Expressionism movement.

Abstract Expressionism- a painting style that generally involves rapid, forceful strokes on large canvases. The general goal of the Abstract Expressionist is to capture emotion on canvas. These paintings are usually done spontaneously in an attempt to tap into the subconscious mind of the artist. Abstract Expressionism is more about the creative process then the finished product.

Here are examples of this method as executed by Jonas Gerard:

Jonas Gerard Live Painting

Jonas Gerard Interview

Jonas Gerard - Explaining and Demonstrating the Method

And a video clip of another abstract expressionist:

Abstract Expressionist Svein Koningen

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Composition: The Bare Basics

Composition is how the forms of the painting are structured. I'm not going to get into detailed instruction in this post. Composition could fuel the creation of a blog dedicated to the subject. Indeed, several books have been written solely on the principles of composition. The subject of composition is bound to recur in this blog. My goal here is to give you just a few basic guidelines.

One thing to remember when disussing composition is that its rules are rooted in sensory perception. Think about vision. Distant objects appear much smaller than they are. For example, a nearby tree is likely to painted larger than a distant mountain.

Overlapping creates the illusion of distance. A landscape without overlapping elements is likely to appear flat. Instead, think of the canvas as divided horizontally into thirds: background, middle ground, and foreground. Mentally dividing the canvas into thirds is called the rule of thirds. It is a guideline that helps artists judge composition ideas. When painting, the objects ithe background are painted first, followed by the middle ground, then the foreground. Objects in the middle ground overlap the background. Objects in the foreground may overlap both the middle ground and the background. The horizon should never fall across the center of the painting. Instead, it should be closer to one of the lines of thirds.

Imagine a simple still life painting containing a bottle and three pieces of fruit. Suppose the fruit and bottle were all against the left side of the canvas. The painting would end up looking extremely lopsided. The canvas may be visualized as being divided into three equal columns to help and artist judge the balance between the left column and right column.

Light and shading help the painting appear three dimensional. Visualize the light source. The sides of objects that are opposite of the light source need to be shaded. Shadows may be cast as well. Parts of objects that are directly in line with the light source may need to be highlighted.

Keep the viewer's perspective in mind. For example, painting a small animal or child from above may give the illusion that it is from a adult's perspective and could also encourage a sense of the subject's vulnerability or weakness. Painting such a subject from a low angle gives the illusion of importance or power. No perspective is wrong, unless it elicits feelings that are contrary to the feelings that the artist wants to invoke.

A goal of the painting is to attract and keep the viewer's attention on the painting. Therefore, if objects in the painting lead the viewer's attention away from the center of the painting, something should be drawing attention back toward the center or focal points. The focal point is part(s) of the painting where the artist wants most of the viewers' attention to be directed. When artists take the time to decide on the focal point for the painting, they can arrange the other elements of the painting to draw attention to the focal point.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bob Ross- Friend or Foe?

Many artists dismiss the value of Bob Ross' instructions. They claim that he doesn't teach art, but only how to copy his paintings. Well, that is true in a sense. But, I think there is value in his teaching method for beginners.

Bob Ross demonstrates various painting methods. First of all, his technique is called wet-on-wet painting. When he begins a demonstration, he almost always starts with a canvas that has been painted with a thin coat of liquid white. The liquid white is a base that allows easy blending of color and variation as is important when painting the sky.

The use of the palette knife and various brushes are thoroughly demonstrated by Bob Ross. How could you paint a happy tree without the use of a fan brush? Well, of course there are other methods to painting trees, but the point is that Bob Ross gives the beginner practice at such basic skills.

Copying is not self-expression, which I think is the foundation of art. However, Bob Ross instruction books and/or videos are not a bad place to begin to get acquainted with oil painting. Bob Ross gives beginners confidence and basic skills that increase their comfort with oil painting.

Beginner's Palette

I suggest purchasing the following colors when starting to oil paint:

Ivory Black
Titanium White
Burnt Sienna
Raw Umber
Cobalt Bue
Ultramarine Blue
Cadmium Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Alizarin Crimson
Cadmium Red Light
Sap Green
Viridian (Phthalocyanine Green)

Liquid White- a base oil paint sold in larger containers such as small, metal cans

If you are able to buy more oil paint, but don't know which colors to buy, I suggest:

Raw Sienna
Burnt Umber
Phthylo Blue

Don't feel like you have to have every possible color. It is quite possible to do very nice paintings with only 3 or 4 colors! One mistake that beginning artists make is to add many, unrelated colors to a painting thinking that a lot of color will make the painting good. Quantity of colors does not influence the quality of the painting. Some of my favorite paintings that I have done have only 3 colors: Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, and Ultramarine Blue, along with Titanium White.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Minimum Supplies

Whenever I start a hobby, I start small and build from there if I enjoy it. I suggest the same approach to oil painting. I'm going to describe the minimal supplies. If you'd like to buy more, I would suggest buying more colors and canvases before anything else.

Minimum Supplies:

Rags or Paper Towels: I use paper towels... rolls of them. Please don't rat me out to the green police.

Paint Thinner: I strongly recommend ODORLESS. You and your family will thank me.

Paint Thinner Container: I use an empty coffee can with a wire mesh brush scrubber inserted. Though you can buy a special container at an art supply store, I like this because it was cheap and I can cover it with the coffee can lid between painting sessions.

Paints: The prices of oil paints varies according to the color pigment used. I'll recommend a beginner's palette in my next post.

Tools: A collection of brushes and a palette knife are necessary. Do not skimp on the quality of the brushes. Cheap brushes often shed hairs that are extremely annoying to pluck from your painting while you work. As for the types of brushes, I suggest a large brush similar to those used for house painting, a fan brush, a No. 12 long flat brush, a smaller No. 10 flat brush, a No. 8 filbert, a No. 1 round sable brush. If you have extra money, one of the best things you can do is to add a few extra brushes to your supplies. The important thing to remember is to have a few of each of the basic shapes: flat, filert (rounded), and round.

I use my palette knife quite a bit. I'll be including tips on its use. For most items, I do not have a favorite brand. For palette knives, I strongly prefer the Bob Ross #10 painting knife.

Canvas: For a beginner, I recommend 16"x 20" canvases which can be purchased rather inexpesively at popular art supply stores. Canvas boards are also an excellent choice. These can be purchased at Walmart. The 11"x14" canvas boards are a good size for beginners.

Palette: Foam plates work great. I have a palette that holds the plates. I'll put 2 or 3 foam plates on the palette and discard them as necessary. Other palettes are available at an art supply store. It's really a matter of personal preference and ease of use.

Painting surface: I strongly suggest an easel. If you don't have the money for an easel at the moment, you could get away with using a table if you cover it with newspaper first. But, there are many forms of easels that are relatively inexpensive. If space for an easel is a concern, travel easels fold up and can be stored easily.

Oil Painting

I've received a request to write instructions on how to oil paint. Instead of doing so in the form of an article, I decided to create this blog in order to be able to provide more detailed information and photos.

I hope you'll give oil painting a try. If you prefer to use acrylic paints, that's fine too. I'll include information on how the oil painting tips could be used with acrylic paints instead. For more detailed information on acrylic painting, see my blog on the subject:

Painting with Acrylics

Most importantly, have fun!