Category Archives: Making art

To paraphrase Kermit – “It’s not easy painting green”

I’ve been doing a lot of commission paintings lately of wonderful, verdant landscapes. Forests, mountainsides covered with pines, flowering grassy meadows, homes set in expanses of green, green lawns  surrounded by stately trees.

It’s just not that easy to paint a subject with such a lot of green. You can fill the canvas or paper with swathes of lush shades of green – your trees can look just like trees, the grasses fresh and bright but somehow it just fails to look natural. Why is that when nature is so full of greens and they all look very natural???

I don’t really know the answer to that but I do know that there are ways to help avoid the “unnatural” greens.

Never use a green straight out of the tube – it’s a real killer 

  • mix your greens from blues and yellows
  • add a very little red, sienna , umber or  ochre for a more natural green
  • don’t over mix on the palette – let the colours mix on the paper/canvas
  •  here’s a good video on mixing greens

 

Underpaint with red or orange

  • adds a bit of a zing where the complimentary colour shows through the green
  • if you’re painting with pastels choose a red or sienna coloured paper

 

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Underpainting with red

 

Break up the green area

  • use wildflowers and weeds to add splashes of colour to meadows and lawns
  • use different textures with brushes, fingers, palette knife – more interesting that flat expanses of green
  • use several different greens to paint a single area

 

Don’t use green at all!

  • as long as you use the right tonal value it will read as “green”
  • mix it up with blues, yellows, oranges, ochres, reds all making up the impression of vegetation that you would normally think of as green

     

 

 

Use interesting darks in the shadow areas

  • try blues, purples ,violets, dark browns and deep reds instead of dark green
  • this is your opportunity to inject a bit of extra contrasting colour to break up the expanse of green so go for it!

 

Next time you’re faced with an expanse of green try a few of these techniques.

 

 

Moving on

My last post wasn’t very positive –  it was positively negative. I’ve lost a lot of reference photos but I’ve decided I just need to get over it and get painting. So here’s my latest.

 

I enjoyed painting a flower portrait for a change. There’s so much complexity and symmetry in floral subjects so they lend themselves to detailed paintings which can be very therapeutic – here I am in charge of my subject, studying detail and recording what I see. I can also be a bit looser in the background – mixing colours on the canvas, suggesting with a hint of pink and green that there are other proteas in the garden. I can take control , no passing clouds to change the landscape form, no scrambling to finish before the light changes.

Today that’s what I needed – a sense of order restored!

USA National Parks Sketchbook

After my post on how to make a concertina sketchbook I decided to try a little variation and whipped up a small panorama concertina sketch book with a window opening on the front.

Window concertina sketchbook 2

I added a brown leather cord to tie it shut and filled it with sketches from a recent trip to some iconic USA national parks. Here’s a few pages…

usa1

usa4

usa5

It’s very simple but quite effective. I’m thinking of including it in The Writers upcoming birthday present – he’s totally obsessed with desert landscapes at the moment. ( I’m a bit obsessed myself!)

The joys and pitfalls of commission painting.

Over the last few years I’ve done quite a lot of commissioned paintings. In lots of ways it’s very rewarding but it can also be a bit of a sticky wicket if you don’t manage the process well from the very outset. I was reading a great article by by Lori McNee that covers this topic from go to whoa and it made me think about some of my experiences with clients and what I’d learned from them.

What do I enjoy about painting a subject chosen by a stranger? Firstly – I feel a bit chuffed that someone who has never even met me has decided to trust me with their vision, their story and their cold, hard cash! Sure they’ve seen examples of my artwork and style on their computer screen but that can be a bit different than seeing a physical painting.

Secondly, I learn a great deal by letting go of the subject matter choice and moving outside my normal choices. I develop new insights and skills as I tackle different subjects and this can lead me down new and interesting artistic paths. Of course I’ve had to sit on  the chuffed feeling sometimes as it trys to egg me on to tackle a subject I know will be too far outside my skill set (portraiture – I once did a fantastic portrait of my teenage son with beautifully draped clothes, shiny metal chair legs and in his own words”the face of an ork!”. I did fix the problem though- when revealed to him a few hours later he was perfectly happy with the addition of the paper bag over his head).

Thirdly, I enjoy helping clients realise their artistic vision. I’ve created paintings to celebrate anniversaries, weddings, retirements,to immortalise family memories, homes and special pets.

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Heading Home

I’ve painted the lake where that proposal was made, the hiking track that gets visited every year, the view from the family lake house for a soldier on active duty.

I’ve had some wonderful feedback

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Thank you so much for making this a great Christmas for my family! My mother cried when she saw the painting and it now hangs over their fire place!”

… how could I not be touched when a client feels this way. It makes up for any frustrations during the process.

There can be difficulties. Maybe that’s because the reference photos I need to rely on are just not very inspiring, perhaps the client wants a composition that I know isn’t going to work or they have an unrealistic expectation of how long it takes to complete a painting. I recently had a request by a client in New York who hoped I could do quite a complex urban scene and have it reach her in New York from my island home of Tasmania in just 2 weeks. Postage alone would probably take more than 2 weeks!

I find that good communication will sort most of these problems out – I’m the artist and I need to be providing good artistic advice and choice about composition, colour and size of the painting depending on the subject and taking into account my clients own vision.

Taking on commission work has taught me some valuable lessons:

  • be clear from the outset what the client wants
  • be clear whether you can ( or want to) take on the commission
  • agree on all the details composition, size, cost, materials, delivery time
  • don’t give the client too many choices – less is more
  • put the details in writing
  • get a deposit before you start painting
  • provide updates as you go so you can make changes at an early stage if needed
  • pack well and always use a tracking service

 

 

If you haven’t tried commission work and you get an opportunity I recommend the experience as one that can grow your artistic skills and foster some very rewarding client artist relationships.