moving on

So this is going to start differently. 

Months ago I started having my nails done.  As time goes by I work harder at dressing better, looking better, taking more time with my hair. Then I connected this with my art. I then reflected to my students and the progress they make in their paintings.

So here is my thought. As an artist you paint the painting. And yes you have achieved a success. Noticed by all around you. So this makes you strive to be better, and each time you receive the positive affirmation you strive for more success. To achieve more success you must learn more about the elements of design.

|Artist, you are now on the road to being an artist.



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why and what do you paint

So as the artist do we paint to replicate. In this time of our lives, I would say no.  There are so many outstanding ways to replicate which has nothing to do with painting.

As an artist we paint to depict a moment, a feeling and a connection to the image that we paint. We must as an artist touch our viewers beyond the composition we display.  Every image we portray should be talking about how that image talked to us. What we as the portrayer visualised. We are who make the magic happen.

Most people who do not see through the eyes of an artist have preconceived ideas of what they see.  A tree trunk is brown, leaves are green, roses are red.  Should I go on. What our viewers do not see is how the light or the shadow changes the image and makes it more than.

How do we obtain being able to put the images we, the artists,  see on a canvas.. We stop, we wait patiently and view what we are offered.  Students say to me, how do you see that orange, or that purple or any colour I may suggest in their painting.  I may not see it in their reference but I have seen it.  When I stop and look, I promise you all the compliment colours and the reflected light  and the discord colours are there.

Artists we are not only here to paint pictures we are here to teach our viewers to see the beauty around us in all its glory.  Go have fun and see our world in the colour that it is.

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Think about this


” Colour can be placed anywhere, as long as it is the right value and the right temperature”.

Your painting is not a replication of a photograph. These copies of nature are a two-dimensional representation of our lives. Take a look and tell me that the shadows are black and that the colour of the objects in the foreground are the same as the values in the back.

Here is the challenge.  Find a quiet place to watch when day is meeting night. Monet  repeated the same painting numerous times because he knew that as light changed on any given object, so did the colour of the said object. Your objective is to look at the direct light, the reflective light, and cast shadow.  In other words study value, temperature, and harmony in conjunction with light source.

Only to be repetitive, here is where you plan, decide what you are going to say.  Once the brush is in your hand you create.

Now back to my original statement. If you do your home work you will see how the light, as it changes, produces a different reaction to the emotional responses. Given this, brown can be purple and white can be light mint green. Colour is yours to explore.

All I can say is have fun. May be plein air is in your future.



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plein air

Plein air, still life, or live model.  We as artists must experience the subject we paint in real life.

Why? If an artist only paints from a printed image they can not experience the elements.The curve of the cheek, the reflected light that bounces off the vase from the flower above, the way the air affects the colour of the green in the landscape.

I remember the first time I was plein air painting. Oh my goodness. How overwhelming! Everything was there. I did not have the edges that my photographs gave me. I had so many decisions to make. Then there was the first time I had a real figure in front of me. Not only had I not experienced how truly beautiful every body is but how complex the angles were and yet how symmetrical each of us are. And yes I drew still life in high school, but not with the knowledge of composition, value, light and balance. Where was to start.

There is the point to start. To make the decisions. To view what is before you and to try to depict the image on your canvas. For all the first timers, that is what you are doing. Learning to depict what you see.  If you come up with your master piece then you are a master.  I can not tell you how many bad paintings I have had from these experiences. But here is the positive. I began to see.  I began to see how light never sits on the edge of a curve, because if an object is round, as it curves it is now heading away from the light. I began to see that even though the trees were the same colour as the ones that were closer to the horizon because of air and atmosphere they changed in value. Oh and the reflected light, our image catchers don’t get it.

I am not saying that you must work from life all the time, what I am saying is that if you experience the elements in real life when you work from your printed images, you see beyond them and paint what you know is real.

Now you are on the road to being an artist that expresses not only what they see but what they know.

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what is cool and what is accepted

Vanessa to heavy for her head

Again another thoughtful day at work.  So where I am going today is what medium should an artist paint in.  I had an interesting day. I got to be part of meeting with an art product representative and had my students asking questions.

First what I think is very important, twice today I was asked about mediums that the galleries will accept. “I was told that people do not like pastels or watercolors”, “What does the consumer want”.

First of all who cares what the gallery wants. Second of all why are we letting the public decide what is art and what is not. Right now in the real world galleries are not accepting watercolours or pastels. Why? because the public does not want them.

Somewhere along the way the people who buy art have been convinced that certain mediums are not accepted. Artists pastels and watercolours have been around since the 1800’s. Chardon, Degas’s, Turners etc. Those artists did not care what anyone thought.

I  have been trying really hard to be sensitive to those that only paint for those who buy. I can’t do it. I need to paint what makes me sing. And I have to tell all of you out there that when some one buys a piece which is who I am or the piece that just evolved from inside of me, my heart sings and I feel validated as an artist, as a creator of something that has touched  the new owner with a thought or feeling of what I was trying to portray.

Another point I have to make. What if all artists were to paint what is required for them to make a sale. Where would Picasso, Klimt, Vermeer, The Impressionist, The Group of Seven be.  Where would the art of the world be?

Creating is the most magical and wonderful feeling that an artist can have. And I’m going to tell  you that peice that makes you so excited and happy is going to touch the heart of a viewer who will see into your heart.

Michelle, colour is magic

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To Draw or to Paint

First studio nude painted in mid nineties

painted in the mid nineties
I’ve discovered a new kind of student. The academic student.  The student that wants to have all the steps set down so that they can walk through them and create their painting.  Can this be done. Most probably but is it the way to learn to paint. I am not sure.

A few weeks ago I had two new students that wanted exactly a step by step dialog of how to learn how to create art. So I set them on the journey of drawing and learning how to see. If we step back into the sixteen hundreds, this is how it would be done. Years and years of drawing before the student ever got to hold a brush in his hand. The future artist had to start at the very beginning.

Problem was that neither of these future artists were happy. They had come to learn to paint. So after deliberating for a week and trying to find a way to both teach and make these two students happy I came up with this answer.

I would give them both. The lessons they needed to learn the elements of art and a paint brush.  Art is visual, and abstract. A person cannot understand what value is until they realize that the colour they are using is not creating the effect that they desire. They can not understand harmony til the colour is not working in their painting. I truly believe art is a learn as you paint subject. 

Years ago I was Plein Aire painting at a workshop and I was trying to paint light that was filtering through the trees. I seen it as a bright light hitting the ground. The instructor tried to explain to me why it wasn`t. I couldn`t get it. During the workshop. he also commented that sometimes it will be months maybe years later that one day you will be painting and a light will shine and that issue you didn`t get will suddenly come clear.  You know what, he was right.

One other point I would like to comment on. Yes you can learn to paint using all the elements and make a perfect painting. I actually sold one of these. I remember how excited I was. I used all the rules and look someone liked it.  I make a comment to the gallery owner where I was showing and his reply was  `Yes it was painted correctly but it was boring. Their was no energy in the painting. `

My suggestion is paint the subjects you love, from that will come the passion. Learn from each of your paintings. Make notes, make charts, use what ever tools you need to keep honing your skills. Never, ever though quit striving to learn more to make your story more articulate and colourful. Lastly enjoy the journey. It`s a  heck of a ride.



                                         new exploration in mixed media
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An interesting week

I think we are all having an extended February blues. Interacting this week with my students has been an extraordinary voyage. Everyone has been self-critical of themselves and to be perfectly honest everyone is struggling. I’ve been getting questions . How should I paint? What should I paint? Why am I painting?

I am going to tell each and every one of you that every artist has these moments. How many times have I quit being a painter. More times than the paintings I’ve painted. Ask any painter and we all go through this.

This epidemic has been nagging me in the back of my mind and here’s what i have surmised.

Sometimes we forget why we are painting. As people we want to be as good as everyone else. But what is as good as everyone else. Art is what is what each one of us wants to create. I had one student that said,”My art doesn’t matter, no one is going to like it forever. My painting will end up in someones basement one day.” Let’s all shake our heads. We are not painting for anyone but ourselves and if someone loves what we do and can understand what we have tried to depict awesome. But how and what each of us paint is who we are.

There is no right style, there is no wrong style of painting. Whether we go from realism to abstraction each are valid for what they are. I think that the real style is that which is in you.

For years I studied and tried to learn how to paint in several different styles. I have painted from very realistic to very impressionistic. I have struggled to learn to paint in a certain style and been very frustrated.  In the last couple of years I have just played with different ideas not caring about the results and not thinking about whether it was acceptable to the art world.  In allowing myself to explore this I also discovered what I think is valuable information.  We should all paint subjects we love. and we should all paint in a style that takes us into the place where creativity takes over and the only thing that matters is you, the paint and the story.

Is every painting you do going to be a masterpiece. Not likely. Some of your ideas may not be as strong as you first imagined. Some of your colour choices may not be quite right. Hey but that’s okay because from one or two bad paintings will come a number of great ones.  The secret is not to beat yourself up and give up when you have a bad painting, but to be honest with yourself, look at all the elements of the painting, and figure out what you would do different in the next painting. Even better analysis your piece and do it over. Remember also, sometimes we just have bad ideas, and move on. ( Hence the 50 some odd paintings I have thrown out over the years.) On the other side of that, each of those bad paintings will have taught you something to take you closer to the masterpiece. 

Did you know that for most accomplished artists, only one in twenty-four is a masterpiece and the rest are acceptable.

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