Tuesday, December 18, 2012


The dawning of a truth comes with its actual application, not the day it is heard. And it enlarges in meaning with self-discovery of its merits in its application. 
- Andrew Loomis, Creative Illustration 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I found this flower picture on morgueFile and thought it'd be easy enough to paint.  Golden OPEN and Heavy Body acrylics on acrylic paper.  I love the colors Heavy Body can make, but really dislike the drying time.  The only reason I used it was because I ran out of OPEN Titanium White.    


Friday, November 16, 2012


So here I am on day 2 focusing on drawing.   I make a drawing I'm unhappy with, and have the itch to paint it.  What do you know--the painting turns out okay.   I don't know why, but I used Gouache and loved it.  The edges are rough in spots, the tones aren't the best and I struggled with the consistency, but this is the first painting I've made in awhile that made me smile.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Drawing a day

A few weeks ago, Armand Cabrera wrote a post on his Art and Influence blog that punched me right in the brain:
Students spend their time seeking the magical pencil or brush that their favorite artist uses. They are looking for that one brand of paint or canvas to solve their problem. They believe that with the right materials they will be freed from the drudgery of miles of repetitive work needed to succeed.
Man, does that hit home.

I haven't been doing enough.  It's hard to find time for this dream stuff when I have a day job and a family, but I want it badly enough that I should be doing more.  With my new focus on drawing, I'm going to commit to making at least one drawing a day, no matter how simple or complex. Every day I'll draw something, then post it to my Drawing a day Flickr set.  No more throwing stuff away--I'll post one drawing a day no matter how I feel about the results, starting today.

Today's inspiration:

This incredible 9+ year thread on ConceptArt.org by Jonathan Hardesty documenting his progress of learning to draw and paint.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Different Approach

Yesterday I tried to do another painting and was so frustrated by the outcome that I did what I promised I wouldn't do anymore--I threw it away.  

In trying to increase the potential for good paintings,  I have been drawing the subject pretty tightly, then painting over the drawing.   I am ruining good drawings with horrible paint jobs.  Drawing is so much more "direct" and controllable than paint and allows for undoing (erasing) what you have done.  What happens between my eyes and my hand when there is a paintbrush in it is baffling me.  I've gotten so frustrated with the difference between what I see in my head and the results I make that I'm going to focus more on drawing until I can figure this out.   There is still so much for me to learn about line, light and shadow that drawing can teach me.  I'm hoping that concentrating on draftsmanship will teach my hands how to work with my eyes.   

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Slowing Down

Today is just a simple value scale.

After throwing away more paintings, I've decided to slow down.  I'm still having a hard time seeing how light interacts with a subject, and an even harder time painting it in color.  My attempts at painting people have been a disaster.  There are too many variables for my brain to handle, which leads to really bad results and frustration.

Some adjusted goals:
  • Reduce subjects and compositions to simpler shapes/forms.
  • Reduce palette to white plus some other color, focusing on tones/values.
  • Slow down:  see, think, paint--resist the urge to lay down paint before seeing and considering the stroke.  
For this exercise I printed a value scale I found on the web.  This is actually the second one I painted.   I experimented with gouache on the first one, and it came out a disaster (man, do I have respect for people that can use gouache).   Even though this one has issues, I'm starting to feel bad for throwing stuff away instead of posting.  I switched back to acrylics on this one and had a small epiphany while painting it--by the time I reached the top row, I was able to squint and mix a closer tone.   After lots of failure, it was nice to have a victory.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I have a hard time "seeing" values.  For this one, I premixed 5 values of Van Dyke Brown and Titanium White without considering the actual values of the pumpkin just to see how it would turn out.   I may do some more of this little pumpkin.   I haven't posted as much lately, even though I've been painting.  I'm still throwing away paintings that really bother me.

Today's Inspiration:
The Your Dreams My Nightmares podcast by Sam Weber.  Sam asks great questions in his interviews with working illustrators and those within the field.   Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I think I'm sticking with acrylics.  The last couple were done using Golden Open acrylics with some Liquitex Basics titanium white because I ran out.  Golden Open are starting to grow on me.  I found these Strathmore 6 x 6" acrylic pads of paper at artmart for $5.00, so I picked up two of them.

I was looking at the analytics for this blog and saw that someone had found it by searching on the words "i'm finding it so hard to paint but i want to."  I know how it feels.  If it's just you with a couple of books and some YouTube videos, it's hard and frustrating.  You can't compare yourself to the great stuff  that's out there.  You have to compare yourself to what you've done before.  Every little better thing you do is progress.  Keep painting.

This painting was frustrating at first.  The colors were wrong, the paint wasn't going down like I wanted it to, etc.  I kept having the urge to go do something else, but I stuck it out and eventually it became enjoyable.    It's a great feeling when the complaints in your head quiet down and you just paint and let it happen.

Today's Inspiration:
Tor.com: Picturing Autumn, an Equinox Celebration.  There's some beauties in there.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Another Apple.  Back to acrylics.

Today's Inspiration:
The Lines and Colors blog.  Charley Parker always finds interesting stuff to share, across a wide variety of different art styles.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Threw away two paintings tonight.  

The first one was a simple still life of 3 bananas and a couple of  apples.  I had barely started when the urge to quit overwhelmed me.  I rushed through mixing the colors, knew they weren't right, but wanted to get something down.    I wanted to sketch out a drawing first, but did it in charcoal which was really dumb.  The paint mixed with the charcoal and I ended up with 3 terrible-looking bananas.  I threw the painting away, packed up my supplies and quit.

Of course I got mad at myself for giving up so easily, so a couple hours later I pulled out my paints and started again.  The second painting I consciously chose something simple:  a picture of a lemon I found on morgueFile (which is awesome, by the way).   I failed at color mixing, rushed, ended up not putting enough paint on the palette, had to stop and mix more color that didn't match well enough with what was already in the painting, rushed through the initial shape of the lemon botching it in the process, got frustrated and pitched it.

This is why people quit.  These are the thoughts going through my head right now:

  • This is too hard.  
  • It's too frustrating.
  • I don't get it.  How the hell do people do realistic portraits when I can't even paint the basic shape of a lemon?
  • Maybe I need to change what supplies I'm using.
  • Maybe I don't have it in me.
  • Maybe I don't have enough time to dedicate to this.  It will take a long, long time to get good at this.  
  • I could be doing something else that I might have better success with.  Am I wasting time doing this?
And a bunch of other nonsense.  I want to write this down because I'm not going to quit.  There's too many things I've wanted to learn, or too many hobbies I've wanted to try where I've been in this exact same position and ended up moving on to something else.  It's a pattern I know too well.  I don't want to move on to something else.   I'm going to come back and try again.  This is just how it feels and works when you stick something challenging out.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Finally an update.  The only positive thing I can think to say about this one is that it was my first experience with oils.  I fought this thing every step of the way for 3 nights.  I lost energy by the time I started on the "leaves" inside the pot.  I need to stop switching paints and stop painting objects floating in space.  On to the next.

Today's inspiration:
The video to Blown Minded by Young Galaxy.  It's an animation done by Carine KhalifĂ©.  She hand-painted every frame of the video in oil on glass (read the awesome description she provides under the video).  I think I watched it 8 times in a row when I first found it.

Friday, July 27, 2012


There's so much wrong with this one, but at the same time I feel I've made some progress.

My daughter and I are starting to get into a rhythm now.   Even though I still get frustrated, the more I paint, the more I want to paint.  I'm now constantly finding myself looking at things and wondering what mixes of colors it would take to paint what my eyes are seeing.  Books are becoming more informative as I have a better understanding of what the authors are trying to say.  There's so much to know.

No paintings for a week: we're taking a much-needed vacation.  I'm hoping to come back energized and armed with some pictures of things to work on.

Today's inspiration:
Zelda Devon:  What I've Learned in 5 Years

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I haven't made any posts in a while:  the last few paintings I've made have ended up in the trash.  I try to lay paint down in ways that make sense, but something is always wrong:  perspective, color, value, you name it.

Tonight I tried making a grisaille of a portrait, hoping to understand values better.   The colors I mixed just seemed wrong when laid down next to each other.   The critic in me got annoyed at my errors and childish-looking output and in frustration I threw another one away.

It's hard being at the beginning.  You look at the works of people that you admire and inspire you and it seems so far from where you are.

I'm not finished, just kinda stuck right now.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


  • Finally put out enough color.
  • I had been using wax paper for a palette (acrylics).   This time I used a paper plate with a waxy type coating and found it much better to mix with.
  • Still finding it hard to block in the major shapes and nail down proportions.  It's difficult to ignore details.   I'm not spending enough time on this.
  • I have a hard time creating the delineation between light and shadow.  It's like I can see it, but can't describe it. 
  • Felt lost in painting a couple of times with this one.  That's a first.
  • At some point, I need to stop creating these floating objects.  Right now I just want to do and not feel frustrated. 

Today's Inspiration:
Carol Marine.  Man, I love her stuff.  Her daily painting blog helped get me started.

Monday, July 2, 2012


Another object floating in space.  I think I did a better job with the color mixing on this one:   the colors are closer to the actual mug than what I've been able to achieve before.  I didn't leave the highlights out this time.  While painting them, they just didn't feel right, but now that I've come back to the painting, they look like they belong there. 

My first 3 paintings were done with my daughter painting across the table from me.  I hope she doesn't get bored--it's fun painting with her and watching what she comes up with.

  • I'm still not squeezing enough paint from the tubes.  The cost of the paint makes me nervous about how much I use.   I'm trying to stick with one paint type/brand so that I have less to worry about.   I don't like the cheaper paints as much--they dry too fast.  I just need to get over this.
  • I'm having a hard time translating and simplifying what I see in front of me onto paper.  I've seen others talk about squinting, and this definitely helps.  It's still hard to notice all the intricate ways light plays off of surfaces and either try to capture it or avoid it.  Everything I'm making right now looks childish.
  • Edges and places where color changes occur (including light and shadow) are difficult.  I'm going to consult a couple of books on this.
  • I have a hard time selecting objects to paint.  I look for things with interesting colors and shapes, but not too interesting so that I have a better chance of success.  Maybe this is limiting. 
  • I'm finding myself looking at things in life and wondering what colors it would take to mix what I'm seeing. 

Today's Inspiration:
Austin Kleon:  Steal Like an Artist

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Second one.   This time I used a color ground of burnt umber (Liquitex Basics) so I wasn't painting directly on white paper.  It seemed to get me into painting quicker, too--nothing to think about, just start doing.   For the apple I used the Golden Open Acrylics Traditional Color Set.   These paints were nice and thick compared to the Liquitex Basics, and stayed wet the entire time I painted.  The downside is that they are expensive.

Despite several flaws (the subject is too small and out of proportion--it looks like a green cherry more than an apple, it is incomplete--basically an apple floating in the background with no cast shadow, the colors don't convey 3 dimensions,  etc), it is better than my last one.

What I learned from this painting:
  • Painting is damn hard.
  • Mixing colors is hard.  Getting darker greens for shadow and lighter greens for light on the apple was frustrating.   There were so many variations of green and yellow on the apple that made it hard to simplify.
  • Mixing colors with a palette knife was better than using a brush.  More color left on the palette, an easier way to judge color (by holding the knife up to the subject), and cleaning the knife is easier.  
  • The paint on my palette disappears quickly.  I tried to premix colors to avoid having to do this while painting, but I'm not squeezing enough paint from the tube.  The tubes are so small and the paint is not cheap!  I went back to a tube 4 times to remix the same color.
  • Edges are hard.  I think using so little paint played some role in this.
  • I had to fight the urge to "fix" parts of the painting that I thought looked wrong--things that I could plainly see in the subject.   I left a ring of white light off the top of the apple because I thought it would look ridiculous on the painting.   How crazy is that?  I should never do this again.
Today's Inspiration:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Books vs. Videos

Usually when I attempt to learn something new, the first thing I research are the canonical books of the subject.  Amazon is great for finding these.  You can lose hours finding books and following the reviews of users that have similar taste.  Books have been my go-to for learning new programming concepts and languages.  For something as non-visual as computer programming, they have worked well.

Learning to paint from books is difficult.  I've never painted before.  I've never watched someone else paint.  I don't understand even the simplest concepts like how to pick up paint (how much?) using a brush (which brush?) and apply it (what type of stroke?) to a surface (which surface?).  Some books have process photos for things like this, but sometimes they're not enough.  

In addition to reading, I've been watching videos.  It's amazing how many painting instruction videos there are freely available on sites like YouTube.  I did a search for color mixing tutorials and found this page containing a video by Will Kemp.   While watching the video, these things jumped out at me:
  • Mixing paint with a palette knife leaves the paint on the palette.  When I tried mixing paint with a brush, the more I mixed, the more the brush took up the paint from the palette.
  • It only takes a little bit of a dark pigment to affect a lot of light pigment.
  • Holding the palette knife up to the target color is much easier than looking down at the paint on the palette or using a brush to judge the color.
Just watching someone go through the motions of mixing paint has helped me tremendously.  Watching Will hold up the knife to the target color to judge his mixture made me realize how flawed what I was doing was.  These things are obvious to those with experience, but they provide breakthroughs to a beginner's mind.  I've read many of these things in books, but seeing it in action took it from something theoretical to something I know I can do.  

I went out today and bought a cheap-o palette knife.

Today's inspiration:

Will Kemp's Acrylic Painting page contains a bunch of incredibly useful articles and videos.   He breaks down concepts so they are easy to understand and has a friendly, encouraging style.

Monday, June 25, 2012


My goal:  To make others feel the way I do when I look at paintings that move me.

I need to do something away from the computer.  I need to work on something that requires me to focus  without the web being a mouse click away.  I love making stuff, and I've always wanted to paint.  This blog is here to document my journey from painting truly awful paintings to something I can hopefully be proud of.   My goal is to post ~3 paintings a week and consciously learn from the mistakes I make in them.

The isn't going to be another blog where you look at the first painting someone has done and think "Wow, actually that's pretty good.  I couldn't do that."   Allow me to demonstrate:

This is my painting #001.  If I'm going to be honest, there was a painting #000, but it was so awful that I couldn't bare to post it.  I tried to do a still life of a cup, but it was so bad that I couldn't even find humor in how awful it was.   Getting time to paint is hard and I wanted to have something to show for myself, so I decided to just "paint a purple ball".   This painting I found immediately hilarious.  The reason why there's a bunch of darker marks around the ball is because I managed to pull some purple paint from the ball out into the "background".  The result is my attempt to hide that mistake.  The colors are almost straight out of the tube (Liquitex Basics).

What I learned from this painting:
  • I don't know what I'm doing.
  • Painting is damn hard.
  • I should avoid painting from imagination for now.  It's probably better to have a plan.
  • Mixing colors with brushes is hard--my little puddles of paint disappear into the brush the more I mix.
I've read several places that the best way to get better is to paint a lot and get the bad paintings out of the way.  1 down.

Today's inspiration:

Jen Lemen: What 100 Paintings Will Teach You