Pastel Demo – Brighter vs. Lighter

March 27, 2011

pastel demo of metal and satin, 7x9 in.

This was my demo in Friday’s pastel class, purple satin cloth, a silver coffee urn and some green apples.  In this demo, I stressed the importance of knowing the difference between lighter and brighter. For example, this cloth is a very deep purple with magenta highlights. If you really look at the cloth closely, you can also see some iridescent blues in the shadow areas. However, nowhere in the cloth is there a “light purple” or lavender, which is the color many artists might reach for if they are thinking light areas on a purple cloth. This cloth has a satin finish to it, so it is very reflective and bright, much like the surface of the coffee pot. Using white or lighter shades of the cloth’s color will not create the illusion of shininess, it will make the cloth appear flat.

Always LOOK at the object you are drawing or painting, do not rely on what you think are the colors present.


Pick 3 colors…

February 18, 2011

pastel study using 3 colors: one dark value color, one mid-value and one light

This landscape study is an example of using different colors purely as values to prove that it is value, not color, that creates dimensionality in a painting. Pastel is a great medium for this experiment, start by picking one dark value color, one middle value color and one light. They should not be the same color, in other words, don’t pick 3 values of blue to create a monochromatic drawing, instead, vary the colors, but be sure to pick 3 distinct values.

In this example, I’ve used a dark blue-green, a middle value rust and a light salmon pink. Begin by mapping in the dark values with the darkest color. Add in the mid tones with a lighter touch, still using the dark color. Then switch over to the middle value color and go over the areas you have mapped out as mid tones. Last of all, add in your brightest brights with the lightest of the 3 colors. Regardless of your color choices, you should get a realistic, 3 dimensional result as long as the values you selected represented a dark, middle and light tone. Try it, it’s an interesting experiment that will convince anyone who is not sure about the relationship of value and color that value is the determining factor in making an image appear 3D. It will also force you to focus on moving around your composition if you block in one value at a time, rather than finishing one area before moving on to the next.

Second Prize!

January 30, 2011


Apples in an Old Wooden Bowl, oil on canvas, 12×12 in.

I got a nice surprise yesterday, I found out this painting won second prize in the Salmagundi Club’s “Square Foot, Round Feet” exhibition. All paintings had to be either 12×12 in. or a circular format with a diameter of 12 in. (I can’t imagine doing a circular painting but that’s just me.) Awards are always a nice surprise, we should never expect them, and definitely not put too much weight in what it means to win, but it’s always nice to get recognition from an organization like Salmagundi where the quality of the work in the exhibits is always high.

I love painting a still life, I always do them from life and typically paint them alla prima, finishing them in one session and working wet-into-wet. Most of the ones I paint are in the 11×14 or smaller size which allows me to work quickly. This is usually important as I don’t have much room to leave a still life standing for an extended period of time. I like to get a lot of movement in my compositions, therefore, my set ups are relatively complex with a lot of elements in them that contain repeating forms, colors and textures. Setting up a still life is composition in 3D, if you get the rhythm going in the set up, it’s going to be present in your painting and make it come to life.

This exhibit is currently on display at the Club until Feb. 11, along with the Black and White Show. The reception is on Feb. 4 from 6 to 8 pm, I hope to be there for the awards ceremony, stop in if you are in the neighborhood. For more information, visit or call 212-255-7740.

Chinatown, Alla Prima Oil on Linen

January 24, 2011

Chinatown, alla prima oil on linen, 9×12 in.

Salmagundi Spring Auctions are coming up, and this spring, there will be LIVE online bidding, so you don’t have to be at the Club to bid on the pieces in the auctions. I want to put 3 pieces in as I usually do, so I have started gearing up since the first auction is in early March. The first piece I plan to submit is this little alla prima of Chinatown. I painted this today, I did a much larger, horizontal version of this a few years ago. It was purchased by a collector this summer. I’ve always wanted to revisit this idea in a vertical format, and so I thought this would be a good opportunity to do so.

I used a limited palette (burnt umber, ultramarine, alizarin, cadmium red, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, naples yellow, king’s blue and titanium white). I like working this size, it allows me to get in enough information yet prevents too much detail, particularly on the figures in the foreground. This creates more of a mass of people, or crowd-like feeling, which in turn enhances the sense of motion and spontaneity in the painting.

Gift Ideas for Artists & Collectors

November 29, 2010

Click on the image above to preview my book! It makes a great gift for the artists on your shopping list!

Not sure what to buy the artists on your holiday shopping list? How about something they can use to build their confidence while practicing their techincal skills? My book, “Loosen Up! Drawing and Painting with Style and Confidence” is designed to assist artists of all levels who want to gain confidence in their work while developing their own unique style. The book is filled with exercises that can be done to help achieve specific goals. There are individual chapters dedicated to drawing, form and value, color theory, composition, and style development, each with illustrated examples and specific exercises to help build skill in each area. There is also specific information that can help you to choose the right medium for you, or to find out which new mediums you might wish to try.

The book will make a great stocking stuffer for your favorite artists! Order your copy today.

If don’t have any artists on your list, but have some art lovers, how about an original work of art? Tomorrow, I’ll list several NY Metro area venues offering great opportunities to acquire affordable, original art by professional artists.

Market Day, Annecy France, oil on canvas

November 28, 2010

Market Day, Annecy France, oil on canvas, 8x8 in.

This is another painting I plan to put in the Salmagundi Thumbox Exhibition. I sketched this previously in acrylic and pastel on corrugated cardboard and had always intended to do a “real” version in oil, now I have. I enjoy painting figures in an urban setting, this one has a little bit of a different twist though, it is more festive rather than urban. The colors are brighter and it is a little flatter because of the grey day it is based on.

I think I have found the theme for my second solo show: urban figures. Now I can focus on developing the large pieces for both of the shows I have coming up in the spring. Being organized and having a plan is vital to a successful exhibition, particularly a solo show. Being an artist is not an excuse for being flaky, lazy or a bad business person. If you put the time in and plan ahead, you will have a professional looking show that galleries are proud to hang. You’ll also have a higher chance of selling the work you exhibit if it is cohesive and based on a central theme.

Same Subject – 2 Interpretations

October 20, 2010

Rockaway Road - pastel demo on Wallis paper toned with yellow ochre, 9x12 in.

Rockaway Road, pastel demo on cobalt blue toned Wallis paper, 9x12

Here is a good example of how the background color of a pastel painting can change the mood and tone of the finished piece. Actually, the background color influenced my color choices in both of these demos. I did the one on the yellow ochre first, playing off the color of the paper with violet-blue shadows on the road and in the darks of foliage. The lighter colors in this version are not quite as autumnal or vibrant as in the second, they are more subdued and the overall feeling is one of warmth and sunlight.

The second painting uses the stronger oranges and rusts against the blue background to make a bolder statement. The overall tone of this piece is cooler, a bit more woodsy and very fall like in feeling. I had not intended to do two demos of the same subject, however my workshop students were quick studies and finished the still life set up sooner than I thought they might, so I decided to introduce the landscape and a bit of abstraction. These were both done as a means of demonstrating how to use a reference photo purely as a departure point rather than something to slavishly copy. Always think of your painting as something new, not a copy of something that already exists in real life, or on paper.