Underpainting with acrylics for oil paintings

Underpainting with acrylics for oil paintings

Underpainting with acrylic paint can save you time, but give you the same advantage as using oils. Of course, oils and acrylics don't mix. One is oil based, the other water based. But, there are ways to combine the two. Acrylics are essentially a plastic. They have the advantage of drying quickly either thick or thin, but they do not have the blending that oils have.  Acrylics can be thinned very easily using water and can be used for glazing.

Begin with a thin wash of acrylic over the gessoed canvas or board. Once it has dried which will be a few minutes, you can then draw your design with a brush and thinned acrylic. Blocking-in of the shapes can also be done with the acrylic paint. Remember to keep your paint thin and flat. Do not have thick glossy acrylic paint. The oil will not adhere properly to the acrylic paint in this case.

Now, it's time to start with the oils. Make sure that your acrylics are absolutely dry. Start with thin oil paint, then build texture. Always remember the adage "Fat over lean" or "Thick over thin". Thin paint, then thick. This lets oil paints dry properly. Golden Paints has printed some information about the guidelines of oil over acrylics.

I've used the acrylics and oils in this way before as a time saver when I have deadlines. I've also accidently grabbed a couple of acrylic paint tubes thinking they were oils. Oil and acrylics definitely don't mix. I had a mess!

Read more →

How to Paint Realistic Rocks With Form

How to Paint Realistic Rocks With Form

Today as I was painting on my 4'x5' canvas a painting of Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale, I was asked about the colors in the rocks. "How do I know what color to paint them? I see so many different shades in your painting."

I started the painting by blocking in the large shapes in light and dark, which is the normal process. I then started in the shadow side looking at the warms and cools of the rocks. There are reasons for the variations in the warms, cools, and different values in both the shadow side and light side.

First, I'll explain by using the example of one, single rock. The color of the top side of the rock is altered by the color of the sky. In the case of the example here, it is a blue sky. So, the top of the rock in both the shadow and light side are cooler. The rock is warmer as it turns to the underside.

If the rock were on bright green grass, the underside would pick up some of the green color. The vertical side of the rock isn't affected as much and will be more of the local color of the rock. Now, onto the values, the top of the rock picks up more light from the sky, thus it is lightest even on the shadow side. The underside and crevices are, of course, darker.

The larger the crevice, the darker it is. Look for small nuances of temperature differences, warm or cool in the the space between the light and shadow. Most often I have seen a cool transition when looking at the cool light of the top of a rock gently curving into the shadow. I've seen a warm transition  between the light and shadow when it is a sharper angle from light to shadow.

Besides just looking at color, you will want to think about your brushwork. When you see sharp edges and strong shapes, use strong brush marks. Don't overwork it. Place a brushstroke down and leave it! The gentle curves can be softened and smoothed out. Use different sizes of brushes and different strokes.  And, use larger brushes as you move forward into space. This will help to give your painting more depth.

I also want to add, in this painting the composition is kept simple and strong by not varying my values a lot. In the shadow side, the range between the light and dark is very limited. The lights, the same way. That will make this painting read very well from a distance. I didn't break it up with too many shapes and too many lights within my darks. I hope this was helpful to you for painting strong rocks with form to them. Happy painting! Becky Joy

Read more →

Easy Tips For Better Paintings

Easy Tips For Better Paintings

Composition Elements of a Painting

As I paint I try to keep in mind that a strong, interesting painting is strengthened by the use of opposites. I have at times used a list of elements to refer to that I taped to my easel (an easel note).

Following is a list of some of the things that I look for in my paintings. edges: soft/hard values: light/dark color temperature: warm/cool color saturation: neutral/intense color hue: opposing colors on the color wheel paint application: thick/thin paint character: opaque/transparent brushwork size: small/large shapes: small/large detail vs. looseness activity: passive/energetic direction: opposing lines fields: near/far

This list can go on and you may think of more that you would add to it. Each of these elements should be in unequal proportions and not used indiscriminately. They can all be used to unify your painting and strengthen your composition. You are the composer, directing all of these notes in the painting to lead the viewer through your composition to your intended focal point.

Read more →

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

Read more →

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!

Read more →

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.

Read more →

How to Adapt to Changing Light in Plein Air Painting

How to Adapt to Changing Light in Plein Air Painting

Have you ever wondered what to paint first and how to get it all when the light is changing so quickly while you are plein air painting? I'll tell you what I think about and my process. As you know, it isn't wise to start chasing the light. Once you do that your painting can be all over the place, inconsistent and not hold together in a strong composition. The first thing that you need to do is assess your situation with the weather.
  • Which direction is the light moving?
  • What time of day is it?
  • How much time do you have?

You need to anticipate. If you know which direction the light is moving, you will be able to tell what may be in shadow. If it is early in the morning or late afternoon, you will have less time for the light to change. After I have thought about those variables, I look at the scene and try to figure out what will change first. Is there a rock face in shadow that may be exposed by the sun in a half hour by the moving light?

In that case, I will paint the rock shadows first. Is there a tree shading something that I want in shadow? I may start there first. Anything that is important to my story and will change quickly, may be a good starting point.

A large field on sunlight probably won't change much in a short period of time. In the middle of the day, the sky won't change much. But it will change with clouds, sunset or sunrise. So, that may be the first thing that I paint in the scene.

Leave the things that won't change as rapidly to the end of your painting session. It varies with each scene and sometimes the light is fairly steady and doesn't change appreciably while you are painting. In those cases, you can paint a little more leisurely. So, assess your scene. Paint the things that change the quickest. Then move onto the parts that will be more constant. Enjoy painting out there! Becky

Read more →

What is the Color Harmony of the Scene?

What is the Color Harmony of the Scene?

Look at the scene you are about to paint. Is there a color that dominates? What color do you see more than others? Or, is there a color that stands out from all the rest? Is there a mood you want to capture using color? Color harmony is a harmonious arrangement of colors in a painting that is pleasant to view. The color wheel (primary and secondary colors) can serve as a guide to you. There are colors that work together both in the color families and the intensity. At the other end will be colors that are opposites.

 

  A monochromatic color grouping can be achieved by using one color family, adding interest by increasing or decreasing color intensity.  Analogous colors are colors right next to each other on the color wheel. The variety can vary by how far on each end  you go with colors next to each other. An analogous palette will give you more variety, but will still be calming and soothing. If you choose opposite colors on the color wheel, you choice will give you more energy and excitement.

12-color-wheel

The most frequently used group of colors is the triad, a little of each of three colors all spaced evenly apart around the color wheel.  A triangle will form when connecting all three colors on the color wheel.  Example: blue-violet, yellow-green and red-orange or any other combination of three colors evenly spaced around the color wheel.

 

 

  A split complementary is similar to the complementary color harmony.  Choose one color to start with, such as orange. In the complementary scheme you would choose blue as the opposite color. In the split, choose the two colors on each  side of the blue, such as the blue violet and blue-green. This gives the split in split complementary. Beyond the color wheel, harmony is also created by using similar purities of color or tonal qualities. This isn't always a very practical use of harmony in paintings. To create a successful painting you will use color harmony in some way. You will need to:
  1. use a limited palette to start with
  2. use the colors in the scene in front of you
  3. pick out a color in the scene and emphasize it
  4. impose a color scheme which you don't see to create a different feeling
  5. use color families in unequal amounts in the painting
As a final thought the color harmony that you paint is up to you. You have choices that you can make.

Read more →

Experimentation and Pushing Myself When Painting

Experimentation and Pushing Myself When Painting

Experimentation - Beginning Painting

Recently, I received an email asking me several questions about my painting, supplies and process. I thought I would respond by creating a free mini course for beginning painting. To access the course, go HERE to "How to Begin Painting".

Do I push myself when painting to the point of failure? You bet! Do I come home from plein air trips with failures? YES! I can't tell you how many paintings have gone in the garbage. Sometimes I've looked at a pile of paintings and thought "what a waste of materials". But, in actuality, each painting I paint, failed or successful, is a lesson learned. And often, those failed attempts are the most valuable. They can be the path to a new technique, an aha moment, a new creative path or "Now I know, I'll never do that again".

I continually stretch myself trying a new technique, tool or subject matter. I really think continuously stretching myself has enabled me to improve at a rapid rate. It also keeps things interesting. I find that I'm a person, as many creatives are, that likes continuous change.

I've seen artists that 10 years later are painting the same subject matter in the same way. You know those people, they found something that sold and they stayed there, nice and safe. They never improved and often are left behind by their contemporaries. So, stretch yourself, get out of your comfort zone. Try new things. Buy new tools or products. Get your creative juices going. And, be willing to fail.

Read more →

Successful Plein Air Painting - 13 Steps Before You Start

Successful Plein Air Painting - 13 Steps Before You Start

I started painting outdoors in the late 80's and I have learned a few things for successful plein air painting that are important to outdoor painting before the brush ever touches the canvas.
  1. Dress appropriately, make sure that you are wearing neutral clothing and no whites.
  2. Then have a clear vision of what you want with your painting before you start.
  3. Make sure that your palette and canvas are out of the sun. Keep in mind how the sunlight will move.
  4. Make note of your light source, light and dark sides. Is there reflected light? Strong or diffused light?
  5. Where is your lightest light and your darkest dark. Every other value falls in between.
  6. Color intensity. Where is the brightest, strongest color? Every color relates to that.
  7. What will be your focal point? How will you support that idea? How will you make the focal point more important.
  8. What are the edges like? Hard edges are usually reserved for the focal point.
  9. Look at the colors. Is there harmony?
  10. Is the light warm or cool?
  11. Will you have to be extra careful about drawing or perspective?
  12. What can be eliminated in the scene?How will you handle brushwork?
  13. Should some areas be handled differently?

These are some thoughts to consider before you even put the brush to canvas. Your best paintings will be when you take some time to evaluate the scene and think it through.

I know, it's tempting to get in there with the paint and color right away, but I promise you, if you spend time thinking about it first, you will have much less frustration in painting. And, it can be frustrating. I've been there. But, when it works, there's nothing better.

Read more →