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