Painting in Black & White

September 24, 2011

Brownstone Shadows, Philadelphia, oil on panel, 8x10 in.

There is something very unique about painting in black and white with oil paints. I don’t miss working with color, I could easily work in black and white more often, however, there does not seem to be as much demand for works created in monochrome. I find it appealing the same way that black and white photographs seem to reveal more about the subject than those taken in color.

When working exclusively with values, your composition in its purest form really becomes apparent. You only have darks and lights with which to create balance and interest.  Working this way also forces your eye to really analyze the subtleties of the subject. The fewer value changes you have in your range, the more graphic your image will appear, the more you have, the more realistic, so you have a lot of options depending on the style in which you choose to paint.

I like to have a range of about 4 or 5 values. Sometimes, I think of my black and white images as layers in a silk screen, which creates a more graphic feel. I also don’t do a lot of blending, which also helps to reinforce the graphic qualities of my black and white work. Other artists, create soft, realistic blends–neither way is better than the other, they just produce completely different outcomes.

Experimenting with black and white techniques is a great way to improve your drawing skills and your ability to see values. For me, values are the underlying structure in every successful painting, without them, there is no depth.

This particular piece was created with Gamblin’s Torrit Gray, Ivory Black and Titanium white. For information about their 2011 Torrit Gray painting competition, visit



Abstracting an Image

September 19, 2011

Pastel study of construction site (WTC Memorial tower), acrylic and pastel on PastelMat, 9x12 in.

When I paint a subject, it can be any subject, I don’t focus on “what” I am painting. I don’t give objects names, instead I view darks and lights purely as shapes, focusing on form and value to get my drawing mapped in. Doing so allows me to abstract the imagery and yet still come up with a drawing that describes the subject, accurately yet in a simplified, geometric manner.

In this case, I began with a wash of cobalt blue acrylic on white PastelMat. On top of this, I mapped in my darkest values with NuPastel #353 (dark brown-purple). I did this while the paper was slightly damp, which resulted in some great bleeds. Next, I began adding in the local colors of the elements in the composition. This piece has dramatic lighting, with very dark shadows and very bright lights, so there was not a lot to do in terms of middle values.  Additionally, the blue background helped a lot for establishing a middle toned base, on top of which I applied similar tones in soft pastel.

I plan to do a large painting of this landscape in oil or possibly acrylic. Working out the idea for it in pastel is very helpful, and this sketch will be used far more than any reference photos I have once that process begins.

Experimenting with Acrylics

September 7, 2011

Figure study on cardboard, acrylic, 8x10

If you are looking for a class where you have the opportunity to focus on acrylics, Experimenting with Acrylics might be right for you.

This course will feature demonstrations of acrylics on both paper and canvas, as well as on alternative surfaces such as cardboard, gessobord and other supports. Working both transparently with water and opaquely with mediums, students will have the opportunity to try a variety of techniques including underpaintings, wash drawings, monochromatic studies and much more. A still life set up will be provided but students may choose to work on their own individual projects. The course runs for 10 weeks on Tuesdays from 12:30 pm to 3 pm beginning Sept. 13.  For more info and to register, click here.

Paint It Your Way!

September 4, 2011

Riverside cafe in winter, Clinton, NJ - ink wash drawing over splatter background

If you are looking for a course that will help you to discover and develop your own individual style of painting, Paint It Your Way! might be right for you.  This course focuses on universal concepts of drawing and painting that can be applied regardless of the medium and painting style that you prefer to work in. Demonstrations are done each week in alternating media such as oil, acrylic, pastel, charcoal, and water media. Students are encouraged to experiment and try new media while identifying and clarifying the painting style which suits them best.

The course is held on Wednesdays from 9:30 to noon at the Visual Arts Center of NJ in Summit and runs for 10 weeks beginning Sept. 14. For more information on all of my courses, visit the art center’s web site. Questions? Call the art center at 908-273-9121, or send me an email at

It’s that time again…

September 2, 2011

Delancey Place, Philadelphia - watercolor 6x9 in.

It’s September! How quickly the summer went by. It’s time once again to register for fall courses at the Visual Arts Center of NJ and the Center for Contemporary Art. This week, I’ll be posting about my course offerings so you can select the class that will best suit your interests. First, I’ll talk about my newest offering at the Visual Arts Center of NJ:

Wet & Wild: An Alternative Approach to Watermedia – 10 weeks beginning Sept. 13, Tuesdays from 3:30 pm to 6 pm

This is NOT a traditional watercolor course!!! In this class, we will explore alternative methods of working in watercolor as well as other water-based media such as drawing inks, acrylics and markers. We will also combine mediums and work on alternative surfaces such as cardboard and Yupo paper.

Students who sign up for this course should be open to experimentation and ready to try something new. Basic drawing skills are needed if you plan to work representationally (an understanding and ability to apply concepts such as form, value, proportion and perspective).

Here are just a handful of the topics I plan to cover:

  • Splatter backgrounds with ink and watercolor – an exciting way to add interest to both representational and abstract subjects
  • Masking fluid and other “resist” methods of creating with water-based mediums
  • Figure studies in acrylic on cardboard – improve your understanding of the figure and the importance of gesture while working with acrylics on this fabulous recycled surface
  • Monochromatic ink wash drawings on cold press watercolor paper – build your knowledge and ability to see form and value with this fluid medium
  • Markers as a sketching medium – one of the most convenient ways to sketch on location
In this course, you may choose to try as many or as few of the mediums and techniques demonstrated. Bring what you have to the first class (pick any water-based medium) and we can discuss materials further so you don’t have to run out and buy things you won’t need.  I will also have a supply of acrylics on hand that first day that will be suitable for the first project–whatever you bring, we will make it work! 🙂 Looking forward to seeing you in class. Questions? Call the Visual Arts Center of NJ at 908-273-9121, to register, click here for a link to all of my fall courses.