Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Dissection

Today I'm going to be dissecting the above Erin Hanson Painting. This is from her petite painting collection. A lot of artists complete several small studies of a painting before they move to a large canvas. These early versions are intended to allow the artist to work out the painting before moving to a larger, and more expensive, canvas. While Erin Hanson does not call her petite paintings studies, enough of them are similar to her larger paintings that is seems safe to say some are studies that have worked out well enough that people wish to buy them.

So why am I dissecting an Erin Hanson painting instead of running to a canvas and starting to make my own painting? Simple, because that is just not how it is done. Many, probably most, people have a romantic notion of how art is created. They want to believe the artist has some innate and natural talent that just allows them to stand in front of a canvas or a block of clay and create something beautiful. I think this notion is perpetuated for a couple reasons. First, because it is a nice romantic notion that there are these special people out there who are able to create beautiful things. By even more so, I think the notion comes from most people giving up at producing good art very early on. They try, and fail (because that is what happens when you don't try hard enough) and then, as humans do, just give up. Their egos, freshly bruised from their recent art failure then forces them to believe that they are just not one of those special people called artists. It is a coping mechanism to rationalize their failure. Art, like EVERYTHING else in life requires practice to do...and A LOT or practice and study to do well. If you read the biographies of any well known artist, you will find that they either spent a significant amount of time (years) in school or as an apprentice to a master. Sure they might have some natural inclination towards understanding color, or form, but no one has every been born with the ability to know what to do with a paintbrush, pencil, or chisel. So what does this have to do with today's post? Well, if I want to learn the methods Erin Hanson uses, I need to study Erin Hanson's work. Not just try to paint one of her painting, but really study it before I start. She does very specific things in very specific ways, and I need to know (as much as possible) before I even pick up a paintbrush. For example, most people will look at a painting, and never really look and enough to really recognize what colors were used, and then ask why. So, here we go:

Colors: This painting has a complementary color scheme, which Erin uses frequently. There are several values and tints of orange (on the cactus, rocks and lower sky). The upper part of the sky, rocks, distant mountain, and cactus shadows are painted in blue, the complement of orange. The sun side of the cactus (highlights) are painted in red. The rest of the cactus, rocks, and foliage are painted in green, the compliment of red. Notice that in every case, a color boarders its compliment color on at least one side. This is how most impressionists create identifiable forms even though they use very broad and loose brush strokes. Placing complementary colors next to one another creates a defined boarder without having to actually draw a border or outline. not only does the complementary color scheme create interest in the form of color, it is also used to define the forms in the image.

Brushwork: The brushstrokes in the sky are short and vertical. This is different than what most people might naturally paint as the sky is generally thought of as a horizontal element due to its alignment with the natural horizontal horizon. Here Erin uses vertical brushstrokes to create interest in an otherwise uninteresting sky (there are no clouds or other points of interest). In addition, the vertical brushstrokes lead the eye back down into the painting once the viewer investigates the sky. The cactus brushstroke reinforce their form, as is the case with the diagonal brushstrokes making up the foreground rocks and foliage.

Under painting: This painting uses a multi tone under painting. The under painting for the lower part of the painting is blue, and seen between the rocks and other foreground objects. The under painting for the sky is a light red, which can be seen at the very top of the painting. The blue under painting reinforces the notion of shadows from the very low setting sun in the foreground objects. The red under painting in the sky reinforces the colors of s sunset in the sky in a subtle way that matches the overall low contrast nature of the painting. Finally, the shapes of the cactus were laid in using a dark blue under painting. Erin then painted the sky around the dark blue shapes that would become the cactus before painting the main brushstrokes forming the detail of the cactus using orange, green, and red paint.

There we have it. That is the basics of this painting. Nothing magic.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Style

The style I am going to aim for is impressionistic. I have always admired the impressionists because of their use of color and their ability to bring motion and emotion into their paintings. I am interested in creating art, not trying to accurately reproduce the world I see. Not only do these ideas resonate with me, but I believe it will open my work to a larger pool of potential buyers. Highly detailed and realistic paintings certainly have a market, but I feel it is more due to the appreciation of the painter's skills, and not due to the feeling the work of art has on the viewer.

Yesterday I linked to Erin Hanson's website. She is the founder of a movement called open impressionism. I really like her style, and am going to start off by dissecting her style and try to reproduce it as a means to learn and branch off into my own style. I have done enough research and reading at this point that I understand the basics of her style and how she goes about things. She does use oil paints. I'm going to use acrylic paints. Acrylics dry faster, can be cleaned up with soap and water, and most importantly to me, do not require often toxic substances to thin.

Some of the things Erin Hanson does to achieve her look. She always uses a tinted under-painting, and that under-painting almost always shows through between her other brush strokes. This is how she creates color harmony and balance in her paintings. Other painters achieve something similar by using an mother color in their painting, which is a color that is mixed with all the other colors in the painting to bring everything together. I like what Erin does with the under-painting better. To me it makes everything look nice and loose and...impressionistic. In addition, I think letting an under-painting show through will be a way to prevent me from over working the painting. If I want to make sure the under-painting shows through, then I will have to stop painting before the entire canvas is covered. Erin also uses an impasto style of painting which employs thick paint applied heavily and leaves brushstrokes. I find this style very interesting as it provides motion for the eye to grasp, even when pretty much all of her individual brush strokes are laid down in a straight line. Finally, Erin uses a limit palette for each painting. They are usually a complimentary color scheme, and only 4 or 5 colors. The colors vary in value, but there are usually only 4-5 colors in each painting. While it might initially seem like this would end up being restrictive, I think it will be freeing for a couple reasons. First, it will require me to really plan out my colors and spend more time planning the painting. Second, working with that small number of colors will make it impossible to represent all the colors I would see in any landscape or still life, which will require me to paint my impressions of what I want to show instead of getting stuck trying to reproduce exactly what I see. 

Tomorrow I'm going to dissect this painting:


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Grand Experiment

Over the past couple years I have been working on various art projects. I am a decent print maker, and I have gotten pretty good with oil and soft pastels. My photography is pretty good as well, but has stagnated some. I have completed enough projects to recognize that I do have the potential to make some good art. Yesterday I decided that I want to be a good least known locally as an artist. Even more, I want to be able to make art that is good enough to sell. I don't want to sell my art to make money (although the money will be nice), but because I have noticed that most people are very complimentary whenever I show them any of my art, however no one has ever asked me to buy any of my art (with the exception of a couple of my photos which were sold at the cost of having them printed). In short, I think the true measure as to whether I am producing good art is when people are willing to actually give me money to hang the art in their house. Compliments are nice, but if people do not want my art enough to actually pay money to own it, then my art is really not that good.

As I decided yesterday that I want to really start taking my art seriously, I also decided that I needed to find a way to hold myself responsible for making art frequently. Work is very busy right now, and I don't have a lot of down time. I have noticed that when I do have down time, I read art books, but rarely actually work on any projects. I have a huge list of art project ideas, but are not checking any of them off the list as attempted. Having this growing list of art projects is starting to get in the way. I'm all over the place as to what I want to try, and start thinking of something new before I get a chance to try what has already been added to the list. This is part of the reason I am starting this blog. I plan to document my journey to make art worth selling. As a means to hold myself responsible, I will write something each day in this blog. It might end up being a description of projects as I am working on them. It might be a list of ideas. It might end up being posts about the business side of things. But the point is that I will be doing something art related everyday, even if it is just writing in this blog.

Finally, I have decided to thrown away the list of projects I have been keeping and concentrate on painting. There is simply no money in photography anymore. In the world of art, original paintings are the way to go when it comes to selling. No one in the world will argue that painting is not a form of art, and the vast majority of people out there would rather pay for a painting than to try and learn how to paint. I tried painting a couple summers ago, but quickly gave up. Luckily I did keep a journal of my attempts, including the small paintings I completed. At the time I felt they were complete trash (which is why I gave up). I looked at the journal a couple weeks ago. The paintings were better than I remembered, but more importantly, there was obvious positive progress from painting to painting. I could clearly see what I had been trying to improve upon with each painting. Someday I'll get back to print making, but that is going to have to wait until I'm living somewhere with more space as print making requires a couple large tables and places to put things like my drying rack. So painting it is. I know I have the ability to paint. I have the room to paint. Paintings sell (or at least have a better potential to sell).

Tomorrow I'm going to talk about the style of painting I would like too do, but here is the artist I think most closely produces the style I want to create: