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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Best Still Life Paintings

“Transparent bowl with fruit and vases” – mural painting in Pompeii, Italy, 1 st century a.c. – It is extremely difficult to determine when the genre of the still-life was born. We know that even the ancient Egyptians decorated the tombs with paintings of fruits, vegetables and other foods, aimed to feed the deceased souls in the afterlife. This example, discovered in the ancient city of Pompeii, is extraordinary for its naturalism and the gentleness with which each piece of fruit is represented, using a different pigment for each piece of the bunch of grapes that constitutes the center of the painting. It is also notable the contrast between the solid transparent bowl -glass was a very appreciated material in ancient Rome- and the sensation of instability caused by the inclined jar.

Sanchez Cotán: “Still Life with Game Fowl, Vegetables and Fruits”, 1602 (Madrid, Prado Museum) and “Still Life with thistle and carrots” (Museum of Fine Arts, Granada) – Spanish Painting from the 17th century has a high number of still-life painters, including names like Luis Meléndez, Juan van der Hamen or even the great Francisco de Zurbarán. Nevertheless, none of them were as original as Carthusian painter Juan Sanchez Cotán, unique among all of them for his apparently simple compositions, but full of force and intensity, in which the emptiness, as in the painting in Granada (another similar version is now in Philadelphia), has a fundamental importance, even competing with the object of the picture.

Abraham van Beyeren (Abraham van Beijeren): “Banquet Still Life”, c.1660 (Los Angeles, County Museum of Art) – Van Beyeren was an almost unknown painter in his day, but today he is considered a key figure of the still life painting in Dutch painting from the 17th century, which includes names like Jan Davidsz de Heem or Frans Snyders. His still life paintings -especially the banquets ones- are authentic pictorial extravaganzas, tremendously rich in all kinds of elements and details. The work illustrated here is one of his most celebrated compositions.

Jean Siméon Chardin: “The Ray (la raie)”, 1728 (Paris, Louvre) – Chardin is one of the masters of the still life painting of any era, and “The Ray” is one of his undisputed masterpieces. The work was widely published and admired by important names like Diderot -who called Chardin “the great magician”-, Marcel Proust and even Henri Matisse, two centuries later. An unusual element in this still life is the inclusion of a living animal -the cat- creating a stranger and veiled dynamism within the triangular composition of the painting.

William M. Harnett: “Violin (the old violin)”, 1886 (Washington, National Gallery of Art) – Irish born American painter William Harnett was one of the pioneers of the Still Life Painting in the United States. “Violin” (a.k.a. “the old violin”) is one of the best examples of his trompe l’oeil style (“fool the eye” style) in which the painted elements can be mistaken for real, physical objects. In fact, when this picture was first exhibited, many visitors tried to touch the violin depicted in the canvas, believing that the instrument was a physical object placed over the picture.

Vincent van Gogh: “Sunflowers (Vase with fifteen sunflowers)”, 1888 (London, National Gallery of Art) – Van Gogh’s “sunflowers” are not only one of the artist’s favorite subjects (he painted seven canvases of vases with sunflowers, plus three earlier works depicting the sunflowers alone), but they also rank among the most famous paitings ever created. “The sunflower is mine in a way”, said van Gogh to his brother Theo. The work illustrated here is one of the brightest of all the series, with a fabulous spectrum of yellow pigments. One of these ‘sunflowers’ by Van Gogh broke the auction record for a painting when it was sold to a Japanese investor for almost $40 million in March 1987. Recent rumors have suggest that the work could not be a genuine van Gogh, but a copy by Emile Schuffenecker.

Paul Cézanne: “Still life with fruit basket (the kitchen table)”, 1880-1890 (Paris, Orsay) – Cézanne is arguably the greatest master of still life painting of any era, and this shining painting constitutes one of his most ambitious compositions. The first element we see is a wood table partially covered with a white blanket, and nine pieces of fruit over it. Curiously, the enormous green pear of the right is not placed over this white blanket, as if its scale did not allow it to be placed along with the rest of the pieces. Two white ceramics jars, along with a larger jar behind them, form a particular triangular subcomposition. This group of figures could created an exceptional still life by themselves, but Cézanne has reserved us an extraordinary illusion: the fruit basket. Where is this basket? Placed in a very unstable position in the upper right corner of the table, or -thanks to a complex perspective- is on the ground along with the wood piece partially depicted at the right of the painting? Here Cézanne has created a double perspective to paint a sensational work in which the cubism begins to appear.

The Secrets of Perspective Drawing Made Easy

Why Knowing How to Draw Perspective Is Important

I will be the first to admit that learning and practicing linear perspective is a little bit like eating your veggies when you are a kid. You aren’t sure about them even though you know they are good for you but, in the end, you learn to love them. But what is really worth remembering about perspective drawing is that if you know the basics, you’ve got all the capabilities of a 3D drawing in your hands. That’s why understanding linear perspective is so important for artists, beginners included.

Linear perspective revolutionized the way artists perceived and incorporated spatial depth in their work. Established in solid, mathematical terms in the 15th century, linear perspective creates the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface.

How to Tell the Difference Between One-Point Perspective and Two-Point Perspective

To create effective linear perspective, artists establish a horizon line, a vanishing point on that line, and multiple orthogonal, or vanishing, lines. The horizon line is a horizontal line that runs across the paper or canvas to represent the viewer’s eye level and delineates the sky meeting the ground.The orthogonal lines, which distort objects by foreshortening them, create the optical illusion that objects grow smaller and closer together as they get farther away. These imaginary lines recede on the paper to meet at one point on the horizon called the vanishing point.

The difference between one-point perspective and two-point perspective is the number of vanishing points and where they are placed on the horizon line. For more on the basics of drawing perspective, consider the digital download of our best-selling perspective drawing workshop, Perspective Made Simple, which breaks down all of linear perspective into simple, focused steps that anyone can learn.

Practicing Your Perspective Drawing Lessons: Where to Start

When first learning how to incorporate perspective into your composition, concentrate on one-point perspective with one vanishing point (two-point perspective and three-point perspective use two and three vanishing points, respectively). One-point perspective is helpful when drawing or painting roads, railroad tracks, or buildings that directly face the viewer.

According to linear-perspective instructor Patrick Connors, “The components of perspective are three: the eye (the artist or viewer), the picture plane, and the figure (or object). The science is about the relationship among the three. An introduction to perspective will enhance an artist’s appreciation for the perceptual underpinnings of the illusions of space.”

Things Every Beginner Should Know About Painting with Acrylics

Lesson One: Understanding the Medium

Of the many acrylic lessons you will certainly learn, many would argue that the first lesson should be understanding the medium itself.

Simply put, what is acrylic paint? The answer is a water-soluble medium made from a synthetic resin binder mixed with pigments. The water soluble aspect of acrylic paints means that a painting dries quickly and you do not have to use solvents to dilute the paint or for cleaning brushes or a palette.

All Dry! After an acrylic painting on canvas dries the surface becomes water resistant, and a canvas can be rolled up and stored with no fear of cracking or damaging. This is all in contrast to oil paints, which need to be thinned with solvents, take much longer to dry and harden as they do so, making them quite fragile and not so easily transported. This medium can be an exciting prospect because acrylics have so much versatility.

You’ll notice when painting with acrylic paint that they dry to a flat finish. But mediums abound that can be added to the paints to:
-Increase luminosity and surface shine
– Get a matte or semi-matte finish
– Create watercolor-like transparent washes
-Thicken acrylics for more noticeable brushstrokes as you put acrylic paint on canvas

Getting Started

To get started, a few acrylic painting basics include choosing a painting surface that does not contain oil or wax, to which acrylic paints just won’t adhere. Also, certain pigments aren’t always available by the same name from acrylic paint manufacturers. The brand of paint you choose will likely have the colors you want, but you just may have to search through a few name variations.

Another of our tips is try to resist mixing pigments too much or adding more than two or three colors to a mix because you run the risk of muddying your acrylic paints. Also, when acrylic paint is first put down, colors can look lighter than and not as bold as they will when they dry, so be patient as you first start out.
To get you in the painting mindset here are our 5 Top Tips for Acrylic Painting!

  1. Acrylics dry super quick, so embrace your inner speed demon. Paint fluidly and embrace layers!
  2. In almost every case, acrylic paints are more affordable than oil paints so if you are a painter starting out or considering a gift for a new artist, go with acrylics!
  3. Work on any surface you want. Acrylics adhere to pretty much any surface without peeling.
  4. Acrylics dry darker than they appear when first put down.
  5. Use acrylics straight from the tube for intense color or as a thin fluid for when you want to drip, pour, or use it in an airbrush.

Having Fun with Acrylic Paints: Painting Outdoors (Tips & Guidance)

Once you feel like you have a familiarity with how to use acrylic paint in your art, take your acrylic paints outdoors! It’s a thrilling and exciting way to explore acrylic painting. You’ll want to remember that because acrylic paints dry very quickly, especially when you are painting outdoors, you may want to:
-Keep a spray bottle of water on hand to keep the paints moist.
-Remember not to squeeze out a ton of paint on your palette so it doesn’t dry out and end up wasted.
-Get a stay-wet palette.

If you want to learn more about the acrylic painting techniques that you can use when painting the landscape or cityscape, check outMastering Acrylic Painting with Marcia Burtt as she paints ocean waves and palm trees in sunny California, or John Harrell’s DVD onPainting Scenes from the City. Plus Stephen Quiller’s acrylic landscape painting digital download gives you immediate access to professional art instruction on landscape painting with acrylic paint, so you’ll be all set for using acrylic paint outdoors because of the acrylic painting lessons that Quiller shares based on his own painting experiences.

Next Steps

If you are more content to stay in the studio while exploring your acrylic painting techniques, consider taking the still life as your subject, or using acrylic paint with a more decorative mindset. There are many specialty acrylic colors and pigments out there:

– iridescent colors
– fluorescents
– glimmering metallics

You can take any ideas you have and ramp them up for artworks that are really eye catching if you use these special mixes.

10 Watercolor Painting Techniques for Beginners

1. Research is underrated

Delve into a lot of watercolor instruction resources. As often as you can, hear directly from practicing artists–what they think of their chosen medium and what they have to share in terms of tips that might help you. Consider a subscription to Watercolor Artist Magazine. It is a great place to start as you will receive an entire year’s worth of step-by-step watercolor articles and demos to explore during your studio time, growing in your creativity and skill with each issue you receive. Splash: Best of Watercolor—Digital Collection is the resource I keep close at hand to learn the methods of contemporary watercolor artists. With more than 350 paintings showcasing contemporary watermedia, this collection truly celebrates all the unique innovations and explorations of watercolor painting.

2. Don’t buy a premade palette

Create your own watercolor palette rather than going the easy route with a premade one. Painting this way allows you to better understand what each color is capable of doing and how you can work with it. A good starter palette might include:
-Cadmium yellow
-Cadmium red
-Permanent rose
-French ultramarine
-Cobalt blue
-Raw sienna
-Burnt sienna
-Burnt umber
-I also add Cerulean blue and viridian because I love those colors

3. Learn to hold your brush right so you can get the strokes right, too

Start with watercolor drawing exercises that allow you to get comfortable holding each brush. Make stroke after stroke with all your different brushes to see the results. You want to better understand how to diversify your brushstrokes in watercolor painting and so your strokes end up the way you want.

4. Practise painting wet into wet

It once struck terror into my heart! Yes, you can’t anticipate the results, but that is part of the fun! Just be sure to practice working wet paint into wet paint and with paint applied to wet paper—the two get very different results.

5. Learn to “lift off”

Lifting out is a watercolor painting technique used to create highlights and it sounds pretty much like what it is—you lift out color with a tissue or sponge while the paint surface is still wet. Certain colors like alizarin crimson are more stubborn than others and can leave a residue when you lift out so be aware of that.

6. Practise making blooms or backruns

To create blooms or backruns in watercolor painting, you only need to remember two steps. One: Lay down a wash and let it dry for a bit. Two: Add a second wash where you want your bloom or backrun to appear. (For more detail on this technique, download the Splash 16: Exploring Texture eBook. Filled with the best watercolor artists our editors could find, this resource highlights the techniques of 100+ artists who push textures like this to the max.)

7. Practise making smooth washes

This is not just a beginner watercolor painter’s struggle—most watercolor artists no matter how experienced are challenged by this. One way to finesse smooth washes is to practice using a large brush to make the fewest, broadest strokes you can, working them from paper edge to paper edge. Remember to tilt the board your paper is resting on and your wash will course down in the direction of your tilt without dripping messily.

8. Experiment with wet watercolors on dry surfaces

Painting wet strokes onto paint that has already dried keeps each layer you put down relatively intact, but before you do this “for real” take a few practice runs on scratch paper so you know what expect and you can experiment with how wet to make your second layer and what kind of color dimension you get with these successive layers.

9. Don’t rush

When you are warming up with watercolor painting or any other artform, remember not to think of what you are doing as a race or as something to rush through. There is no finish line. It is a journey not a destination, so be present in all that you do and embrace all that you learn as you learn it, pursuing each watercolor painting technique like it is brand new to you.

10. Work without preconceptions

When you gather your brushes and paints and are standing in front of the blank page or canvas ready to lay down your first watercolor painting stroke, clear your mind. Don’t paint with any preconceptions. Your mind will be clear to make discoveries that really matter in your process, which is truly what allows each of us to go from watercolor painting beginners to artists with more advanced skills.