How & Where You Can Save Money on Painting Supplies

How & Where You Can Save Money on Painting Supplies

I've found several students finding ways to cut down on the cost of painting. I want to tell you of some things that I think work well, others, not so well. There are ways to cut down on costs.

There are four things that you absolutely need to paint and they are: paint, brushes, canvas and easel. Most other things can be found around your house. Let's start with the four things your need. What can you cut down on and what do you need to spend your money on?

Paint - I can't stress this enough. DO NOT BUY STUDENT GRADE PAINT. What you will find with student grade paint is that it has less pigment in it and more oil or fillers. What does that mean to you? You won't be able to get as rich of a color as you will want. It is weaker. Titanium White is relatively inexpensive in paints. So, if you mix a student grade paint you will need more of the color to mix with your white than you will of a professional grade. Also, your colors will not be as vibrant, fresh and clean. I've seen this repeatedly with some of the colors and the frustration of the student in trying to get a nice, vibrant color.

There are some colors that are more expensive than others. Cadmium colors are expensive. Try hansa yellows instead of cadmium yellows. Use a perylene red instead of cadmium red. It's not exactly the same, but Gamblin's Perylene Red is closest to a true red. Don't use cobalt. Try mixing Ultramarine and a little Manganese Blue Hue together instead. A lot of the choices in colors is just habit. There are often alternatives. Then, learn to mix the colors together. Also, start with a limited palette. It's much better to buy a small amount of colors and learn to mix rather than buying more. You learn more and it costs less. If you haven't signed up for my  FREE email course on colors, do so. In it there is a video lesson on learning to mix colors.  

Brushes - I've had students come to my workshop with mangled, old brushes with dried paint in them. Then wonder why they can't get a nice, clean, crisp brushstroke. It amazes me. There are certain brushes that you can buy cheaper. The block in brush, a big brush to quickly put in the pattern of the painting on canvas. I've used throwaway, bristle hardware brushes and also, an inexpensive nylon flat brush from the craft store. While at the craft store, I will look for small liner brushes, or small round brushes. These are sizes that always seem to splay out pretty quickly, cheap or expensive. At least, that is my experience. So, I buy less expensive ones and then throw away once they splay out. I don't have the guilt of throwing a brush away when it costs $1 instead of $10. Other than that, save your sanity and frustration and buy good quality of brushes. If you want more information on supplies, I have a  FREE email course on Beginning Painting

brushes

Canvas - Now here is a place that you can save money, at least when you are starting to paint. Use a pad of painting paper or buy matboard and apply two coats of shellac from the hardware store to the matboard. You can cut matboard with an exacto knife. It's lightweight and inexpensive. I also use it for traveling when space and weight is an issue. I know that you will be much more likely to experiment and throw away when you have an inexpensive, easy to get painting surface. I've had students bring linen panels to a class and then decide the will save it for when they are better. Now, isn't the time to buy it.

Easel - I wouldn't go out and purchase one that is expensive. Until you start painting, you really won't know your needs with an easel. If you can, buy a used one or inexpensive and later think about what you want. Here's an article with more info on choosing an easel. Other supplies With a palette there  are a number of surfaces that you can use - glass, a piece of formica, plastic sheet, cookie sheet or piece of wood that has been oiled with vegetable oil. Paper towels (porous ones like Viva or Blue shop towels), Palette knife ( a medium size triangular knife) and solvent or oil. I use a glass palette on my cabinet. With my plein air easels, I have wood and plastic ones. With the plastic, I have to use a plastic scraper. Glass is my preference, but not always convenient for plein air or travel.  One surface that I often see students use if disposable palettes. The problem that I see is that the majority of people don't clean it off and they are searching for a clean place to mix their paint. It's possible to use it, but you need to transfer your paint to the next page more often to have a clean space. The next item is the solvent. For safety, I would skimp here. I use Gamsol, which is the safest on the market. But, you can recycle your solvent. I keep my old can and pour the used solvent into it. Then let it settle and pour off the clear into my clean can.

solvent-cans

Your solvent jar can be any jar or can with a water tight lid. As far as the oil that I spoke about, you don't have to use solvent to paint. Oil removes oil, so try some oil to remove the paint in your brushes. At one time I didn't use solvent, I used vegetable oil and I've used it since while traveling when I'm in a pinch. I don't like it as well myself, but it is a matter of getting used to it and making sure that all the oil is wiped out of your brush before getting into the paint. You can always give it a try. Another link to a related article. Easy Cleaning of Your Solvent Container

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Plein air umbrella, not for me

Plein air umbrella, not for me

I told all of you to keep in mind the last painting that I created which was in the shade, both my painting and palette. This piece was created in the full sun, on my palette and my painting. I had always been told to paint in the shade, someone instructors always used an umbrella. I've got an umbrella, but I find that it is always more trouble than it's worth, at least for me.

After struggling with the umbrella for years and always trying to set my gear up so that my painting was shaded, I gave up on it. I found a few times that the vantage point that I wanted to paint from would be in full sun.

So, how to manage that without an umbrella. I now paint in full sun when the need arises. But again like in the shade, my palette and my canvas need to be in the same consistent light. My first few attempts at painting in the sun created dark, limited value paintings, which is typically what I hear about.

I decided there had to be a way, painting was all about comparison anyway. I went through my colors and found where they are were on the value scale. I wanted to have a color that was right in the middle. I found that yellow ocher was that color. Even though I don't normally have it on my palette, I would put a little on my palette. That was my gage.

I could easily see which colors fell into my light side and which fell into my shadow side. Just as I normally would paint, I first block in my darks. That's easy, my darkest area has no white in it. Then I would put a small patch of my lightest color down. Usually it is a yellow of some kind. I take care not to add too much white to lose the strength and power of the color. If I get those two colors down right, then it is comparison just like painting in the shade.

By knowing where my colors are on my value scale, it helped me tremendously. At one time, I even brought some paint samples with me so that I knew how light  in value and how dark in value to go. While I was painting my shadow started to move onto the palette. I had to readjust my pochade box so that again I was in consistent sunlight with my palette and my canvas.

After learning my limits with my colors, I am now able to paint in full sun. A plein air umbrella, not for me. Maybe I'll use it next time it rains. I do want to add here that I always use a broad brimmed hat to shield my eyes from the sun. Painting with your canvas in the sunlight isn't something that I normally do, but sometimes it is the view that I want and it is the best alternative. Take care of your eyes and be careful with the sun.

Becky

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How to Paint Looser and Juicier

How to Paint Looser and Juicier

I receive emails from artists telling me they want to learn to paint looser and with more paint. We all start painting tight, detailed paintings, painting what we see. I thought would make a list of things to help you move in that direction.
  • First squint, paint only what you see when you squint, blocking out detail
  • Use a large brush. I regularly use a #12 or #10 on a 6x6" painting. The larger the painting, the larger the brush.
  • Don't end up with a small brush. Use the big one right up to the end. Use a side or the tip of the brush in different ways for different strokes.
  • Mix lots of paint. I will often paint thin in the color and value that I want, then mix more paint and pile the paint on.
  • Use strokes to define shape and movement, paint the contours of things.
  • To lay paint on the canvas, load the brush. Then hold the brush so that it is parallel with the canvas like a palette knife rather than perpendicular to the canvas. This will create a bolder stroke.
  • Don't use thick paint all over the canvas. Keep it thin in the darker areas and build up with thicker paint.
  • Use more paint in the foreground, keeping it thinner in the background.
  • When you lay a nice thick, juicy stroke down, leave it alone.
  • Use larger brushstrokes in the foreground, smaller in the background.
  • Keep detail only in the focal point, that will bring your attention right to it.
  • Learn to leave the painting alone before you get too many details.
  • Lose some edges, make them soft. Take the brush and swish through an edge.
  • Keep working on it. The more you paint, the more confident you will become with your strokes.
And most important of all, have fun with the paint. Use it!

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Using Shapes to Construct Your Scene

Using Shapes to Construct Your Scene

The shapes of the scene need to be viewed as if looking through a gauze curtain. This would make it hard to focus on anything or see any detail. You can achieve this by squinting at a scene. By squinting, you will just see the major values and shapes.

Open your eyes and you will see the proper shapes and the proper colors and values. These shapes need to be edited and simplified. Look at the shapes as if they are colored pieces of paper cut out with scissors. Design these shapes, overlap them, move them around. The placement and relationship of each of the shapes should give the illusion of distance, space and objects. This is the foundation of your painting.

The details that you choose to put into the scene will help to tell the story. This foundation should give enough information so that you know what you need in the painting to make it complete. This is the foundation, the composition.

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Use Values To Create Strong Compositions

Use Values To Create Strong Compositions

Values or tones are the relative lightness and darkness of colors with the color removed. It has nothing to do with color. It is the backbone of a painting. The most important design element of a painting. If you took a photo of a painting and converted it to black and white, that would give you the values of each color.  The lightest value being white and the darkest black. Key is another term used by artists. A painting can be low key, using the darker values of a gray scale. A high key painting uses the lighter values. Below is a simple gray scale.

values in composition

To use the values in painting, let's keep it simple creating a painting with three shapes of varying sizes. Now, use three values, light, medium and dark. Each of those three shapes have a distinct value. But, you can have an infinite variety of color within each shape.

Once you start painting different values within a shape, you start breaking that large, simple shape into small pieces. Each of the three shapes should be a different size. If you make your largest shape a dark value, the painting will have a different mood and feeling than having that same shape in a light value.

So, you must be careful or you will soon lose the power of your composition. Be consistent with your values within those simple, large shapes to hold your composition together. I used a "real life" painting that demonstrates the simplicity of shapes and values. This is a plein air painting in which I made the decision to move the trees and group them into one large, dark shape. I placed them against the light of the mountain in the background.

By making these changes, my painting has a better composition than what I saw in reality. I do have color shifts in the trees and mountain with warmer and cooler colors, but basically I kept those large shapes intact with the values. Below is the  color version of the painting so that you can see the color shifts and variety of colors in the shapes. In the grass I have bits of violets, pinks, greens, golds and yellows, creating a visually more exciting painting, but again, keeping those values consistent.

values-color

I hope this post gives some clarity to the use of shapes, values and colors. What do you think? How have you used values? Have you changed your subjects to unify your paintings? Becky Joy

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How Do You Know When Your Painting Is Done?

How Do You Know When Your Painting Is Done?

This has been a universal question of many artists from beginner to advanced. If you look back in art history, you can see detailed paintings of the old Masters, less detail in the impressionists and even less in a minimalist painting. Detail is up to the individual artist. How much detail do you like? Do you want to have some areas suggesting objects? Render all the detail? Or, have a painting more like a sketch?

To help you know how far you should go, make sure that you start with your statement in your painting. Make sure that you have communicated why you painted your subject. Have you said enough to clearly communicate to your audience what you intended to say? If you have, it may be time to stop. If not, what do you need to do more or change in your painting to get that across to the viewer.

In the featured painting, "Desert Rain", I wanted to get across to viewer the sense of being in the rain while viewing the desert. I love the contrast of light that will shine across parts of the desert while it is raining. In this painting, I moved the falling rain closer to the viewer.

I could have gone farther with the details, although that isn't something that appeals to me or is fun to paint. I painted enough to get across to the viewer what was happening, so that is as far as a went with the details. Try painting a scene  with as little detail as possible to get across your idea. Is it enough details for your aesthetic senses?

Stop when you feel you got your idea across to the viewer, no more no less. It's your call.

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Abstracts, Are There Rules?

Abstracts, Are There Rules?

I've got a pet peeve about abstracts! Abstracts are not just a feeling or paint thrown on a canvas. Some of you may disagree with me, but I've gotta tell you what I believe.

Are there rules? Of course there are! If you have been reading my blog, you know that I am a believer in the foundations of good painting and abstracts are no exception. I very seldom have painted abstracts, but I do love a good one and own a couple.  An abstract or any painting for that matter, to be successful has the same rules for composition as a realistic painting. To lead a viewer into a painting, you still need the same tools.

  • Contrast and values
  • Color, saturated and unsaturated
  • Edges, soft, hard and in between
  • Shapes, variety in sizes and shapes
  • Detail vs looseness (it's all relative)
  • Activity, active vs passive
  • Paint application, variety
All of these concepts can be applied to abstracts. All artists study the same concepts whether you are an abstract painter, realistic painter or a sculptor.

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Problems You May Encounter Painting in Plein Air

Problems You May Encounter Painting in Plein Air

The number one problem I hear beginning plein air artists talk about  is that they feel overwhelmed by what they see. How do they distill a scene to the essence? I have told painters to consider what they can't get from a photo: light and color.

When you approach a location, the first thing you need to consider is what drew you to the scene. Is that what you like about the scene? Is that what you want to convey to the viewer? Is is a feeling? Is it the color of an object? Is it the light quality? What is it?

Then you will need to figure out how you will orchestrate your painting to convey that idea. Will you move things around to lead a viewer to the focal point? What will you eliminate that is not needed? Do you need to change the color of an object to make the painting read better? These are all questions you need to ask before starting a painting whether in the studio or on location.

When first starting in plein air, these questions and answers can be overwhelming. I tell artists to take a photo. Then paint the values and the colors in the scene. Use a large brush to eliminate details and squint! Take that loose sketch back to the studio to compose a painting from the photo and your study.

You can get your details from the photo. As you become more accustomed to painting outdoors, think about the questions above and start composing your plein air paintings. Time is always a factor in painting outdoors. With the shifting light, you need to paint quickly before the shapes change.

Again, use as large of a brush as you can. Block in the painting with shadows to get your pattern and composition. Then paint in the lights. You can adjust the values and temperature of the shadows later as you are painting. When I approach a scene,

I will look to see if there are any areas that I think will change quicker than another area. I will often paint that area first. You have to about 2 to 2 1/2 hours to paint a painting so you need to make quick decisions and get in there.

If you are painting at sunset or dawn, your time can be less. I have taken canvas out at sunset, premixed some colors and just record a progression of color without composing a painting. I was after learning how the color changes and relates to each other. The more you paint, the more you will see color.

Other problems encountered can be weather, bugs, critters, sunburn, thirst, people, equipment malfunctions, forgotten supplies and I'm sure you all can think of more. In light of these "problems", I have found that painting outdoors is exciting, challenging, and the greatest learning tool.

You can learn so much more painting from life whether it is in the studio with models, still life or plein air. The nuances in color and values that you can't see in photos are the main thing that you are after. After becoming more comfortable with recording scenes, you can compose and go after a feeling in a scene.

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Brush Sizes to Use, Resist the Little Brushes!

Brush Sizes to Use, Resist the Little Brushes!

Whether you are painting with a bristle brush of soft-haired brush:
  1. With your paint thinned with solvent , sketch in the main shapes using a small, round brush. Now, put it away!
  2. Using a BIG, FLAT brush, and paint thinned just a little to a creamy stage with medium or a touch of solvent, block in the big shapes.
  3. Start to refine and adjust your shapes and colors, still using the large brushes.
  4. Now you can move down to a smaller brush, not small, just smaller.
  5. As a final touch move down to your smallest brush to put in a few details and adjustments. Don't overdo the small detail. Think of it as being in the focal point, not much anywhere else.
The right size brush to use is the largest one you can use to do the job. It may seem to big, but it will be more efficient, more effective and fresher looking with a larger brush rather than smaller. And remember, hold that brush by the end of the handle, not like a pencil!

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What is Negative Space?

What is Negative Space?

Today as I was driving to the mall to buy a couple new outfits (an event in itself, I'm not a clothes horse), I was thinking about this article I wanted to write. I found myself trying to look at the negative shapes between the trees and buildings. It isn't easy. We tend to look at objects and to define our paintings by the objects in them.  

I've talked about shapes before, but not specifically about negative shapes. Negative space is the space around or between objects. It is as important as positive space, the identifiable object or objects themselves. They are both shapes, negative and positive.

 As artists and viewers we often get caught up in looking at the object.  It is important that you redirect your focus, not on the objects themselves but on the shapes. To keep a painting fresh and interesting you need to work on the negative shapes as much as the positive.

Subconsciously, I will paint negative shapes, but there are times I need to focus and consciously work on the negative. I definitely paint negative shapes when I paint trees. The sky holes! I paint a lot of palo verde trees here in the desert. They have very small leaves which is typical of desert plants (less evaporation). This lets a lot of light through the leaves.  So, it is a lot of painting back and forth, back and forth, negative and positive.  

I squint a lot while painting so that I can see those shapes. I want variety in my negative shapes just as I do my positive shapes. With larger shapes you also need to make sure that you have variety of sizes and shapes in the negative space, such as between the trees.  

From the very beginning when you lay in your composition, you should be looking at those negative spaces just as much as the positive. Do you have variety?

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