Loose vs. Tight, Aren’t We Missing the Point?

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The Devil is in the Intangibles

There is a larger issue artists of all stripes should spend more time contemplating. Loose and impressionistic, like tight and controlled handling of any art subject, involves numerous choices in the process, at the beginning and all along the way. In and of themselves, loose painting or tightly rendered detail are not artistic, regardless of what art snobs might say. Its how deftly you wield those styles that matter, right? Right! Sound a little obvious to you? Well it should, but its odd how little I see that aspect discussed. Loose painting is not more artistic simply because its loose. Its artistic because the loose passages were employed skillfully, maximizing the medium’s strengths and showcasing the beauty of color combinations, flow, center of interest, composition and a host of other elements that came together in a dynamic and pleasing way, albeit loose way. The same goes for tightly controlled, realistic rendering and detail. A piece is not strong because it is accurately rendered to the minutest detail. All the detail in the world, all the realism in the world can’t make a piece of art more artistic. Its the intangibles that matter: design, composition, light, value, leading eye elements or any of the other elements that also make a loose painting great.

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Strathmore Artist Workshops

If you follow my YouTube channel, you may have noticed that I’ve been uploading Strathmore Workshop videos over the last couple weeks. These were 4 videos done for their web site last spring (2016) and aired during each week of May. This year, as per agreement with Strathmore, the video rights revert back to me. So I thought I would also post all 4 workshop videos right here (as soon as each is uploaded) along with the downloadable photo reference I mentioned in the videos. Thanks for looking and post any questions you might have here or on in the YouTube comments section of each video.

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Art Critiques and Getting the Most from Input.

We all want to improve as artists don’t we? Growing as an artist is the key to more enjoyment and satisfaction as we tread this adventurous but sometimes frustrating path. Practice is a given, but what happens when we get stuck and don’t know how to improve. The brave artist seeks appropriate, constructive input and critique. Its a tougher challenge, though, than we sometimes realize. Asking someone to tell us what is wrong with our art, which is so often a personal expression of ourselves, is also risky, baring our soul to the cold frigid winds of potential rejection. So if its done, it ought to be done right. There is good input and bad input. How do you tell the difference? Here are some pointers from my experience.

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Veteran’s Day – Honoring the Decision

Veterans have served for a variety of reasons. For Americans, the reasons usually include the protection or our great nation, propagation of freedom and the dismantling of tyranny. While not all wars have been popular, the men and women who have served should all be revered for one simple reason – the decision to lay down their life, should they be called upon, for something greater than themselves. They did not serve a politician or a government but We the People, and an idea that this great Republic and what it stands for should continue for the good of all peoples.

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Seeing Beyond Bob Ross

Let me start by fully acknowledging the debt of gratitude the recreational art world owes Mr. “Happy Trees” Bob Ross. He got people painting who never would have dared pick up a brush on the best of days. Why? Because he made art technique accessible. He deciphered the complex with “light-bulb” art moments and gave aspiring painters…wait for it…a formula. Aah yes! The notorious painting “formula”, heralded by hobby “fun” artists as genius and scorned by the high brow “fine art” snobs as cliché and misleading.Read More »

Art Supply Obsession Intervention

Stop it alright! Just stop. The madness and the addiction has to end. Ok, no it doesn’t actually. Not completely anyway. I’m addicted too and as addictions go I could do a lot worse, but I wanted to sound semi serious for a split second.

What in the Sam Hill am I talking about?! Our beloved art supplies! We’re all obsessed aren’t we? Yeeesss, don’t deny it. I can see the 500 questions on the tip of your tongue right now. What brush is that? What brand? What size? What paint is that? What paper is that? Where can I buy it? What hand soap did you use before you started?

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I Did a Doodle and I Don’t Care!

Have you doodled lately? Well you should and regularly at that. I saw a Stefan Bauman video (below) a few months ago and it struck a cord. Like most people, I think a sketchbook is just a sketchbook, right? Something you draw in and use to try to improve through practice or just draw anything that strikes your fancy. Simple. Or is it? Actually, there is a lot of negative psychology associated with regular sketching in a sketchbook. What do I draw? How often should I draw? My sketches look terrible. Shouldn’t my book be a gallery of my best drawing work? blah, blah, blah. Welcome to the doodle sketchbook.

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More Than a Likeness: The Enduring Art of Mary Whyte

If you’ve frequented the fine art or painting section of your local book store, you’ve likely seen one of Mary Whyte’s Books. At least here in the Southern United States her books are a common sight. Watercolor Artist Mary Whyte may not be on the lips of every professional art connoisseur drawing breath, but something tells me that she will be spoken of more and more in years to come (If only by us “real folk.” Sorry art snobs. That probably doesn’t refer to you.) And in those years to come I wonder if we may one day speak of Mary as we now do wildly popular American artists like Andrew Wyeth. You know with that same reverential, wide eyed, understanding nod that makes us feel like we know at least a little something about art. “Oh yeah. that Andrew Wyeth, he’s the best.” But lets not trivialize her work. I have my reasons why I think the air around Mary’s work is rare. I may not be an expert on what makes notable artists notable in the years to come, but it won’t surprise me if Mary ends up as one of them. Who am I kidding, she’s probably half way there already.

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Do You Really Have Artist’s Block?

Staring at a blank sheet of paper and wondering what to paint is familiar and frustrating to any artist. So what’s artist’s block really all about?

For starters, I believe there are two types of artist’s block. There is what I’ll call “true” artist’s block, which I believe to be pretty rare, and the second more common version, which is simply “indecisiveness.”

Which One Are You?

True artist’s block could be defined as creative exhaustion. To be in this rare category, you’re probably a professional or practicing, prolific artist who has painted, drawn or designed their keister off and, for what ever reason, has reached a point of being out of creative gas. All of a sudden, no visual idea seems worthy to pursue given the body of work you’ve already done. You just don’t feel inspired with an idea you can use. If you’re a professional, full-time painter, designer or illustrator, you’ve probably actually faced this dilemma. However, for hobbyists or the casual spare-time artist its rarely the case. Why? … Stay with me here.

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What Exactly is a Painting Study?

Ok, so I hear this sort of confusion frequently, and I admit the term “study” sounds pretty stuffy and academic. It smacks of homework, research and other stinky school tasks many of us prefer not to revisit. However, in art it is very misunderstood.

Practice? Aww, Do I have to?

First off lets address the old joke: a study is any piece of art that failed. Yeah I know, ha, ha, ha! But not so fast. Truth my friends! Yeah, practice really is that simple. Try, fail, try again. I mean seriously, how many pianists have you heard of that can play through a totally new piece of music the first time without a hitch (pros and Mozart-like prodigies notwithstanding). One of my daughters was a college piano major and she would practice a single piece of music repeatedly in preparation for a performance. First few times was for technical mastery, that is, playing all the correct notes. The more she practiced a piece the more she concentrated on subtleties, changes in volume, tempo and style nuances that turned a collection of notes on a page into a beautiful, personal rendition.

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