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.


Workshop this Sunday, Aug. 14 “A Day at the Beach” – Visual Arts Center of NJ, Summit

August 11, 2011

Nauset Beach, oil on canvas, 18x24 in.

I will be offering a one-day workshop at the Visual Arts Center of NJ in Summit entitled “A Day at the Beach”. Students will learn to capture the motion and vibrancy of the ocean in the medium of their choice (oil, acrylic and pastel will be demonstrated). The workshop runs from 10 am to 4 pm on Aug. 14 and costs $100 to attend. Call the art center at 908-273-9121 for more information and to register.

Pot of Onions, oil alla prima on canvas

February 13, 2011

Pot of Onions, oil alla prima on canvas, 9×12 in.

This is another in my series of small still life paintings. I started this one as a demo in one of my oils classes and ended up really getting into it. I love the colors in the onion skins and the copper pot. I chose the rusty red-orange, blue and gold cloths to create a strong primary color harmony with an earth-toned flavor. The props are just things from the Center for Contemporary Art’s closet. It’s fun to see what a little imagination can do with some everyday objects. A still life set up allows you to have the most control over your subject versus any other subject you choose to paint. You control the lighting, the colors, the shapes and the mood of your departure point. Painting from life forces you to see so many colors, you have to really concentrate and that improves your observation skills so much. Am I repeating myself? Probably. There are certain concepts that go a long way in improving any artist’s skills, painting still lifes from life is an exercise that will serve you well no matter what your level of experience or preferred medium or subject.

Pastels: Underpaintings and Toned Paper

November 16, 2010

Fall landscape pastel demo, 9x12 in on toned Wallis paper

This is the demo from my pastel workshop the other day, the workshop focused on fall landscapes as the subject. One thing I find very important when working in pastels, regardless of subject, is to start on a toned surface. Wallis paper is wonderful and comes in 2 colors–Belgian Mist or Off White. I accidentally bought a pad of off white, I really prefer the Belgian Mist. Belgian Mist is a warm grey sheet, a perfect middle value to do your under drawing on. I find covering a light or white sheet difficult, so if I have a white sheet, I tone it with acrylic. You can use any color, I typically stay with something in the earth tones–yellow ochre, red ochre, sienna, any of those are a good choice. You can also use a color that is the complement to the predominant color of whatever your subject is, for example, a reddish tone would be perfect for a landscape that has a lot of green in it. This is because it neutralizes the local color and helps to establish color variation in the shadow areas with the complementary color.

The study above was done on off white Wallis paper toned with red ochre. Additionally, I did an underpainting in the sky area using a medium blue hard pastel and some water. On top of the underpainting, I began my under drawing with an eggplant colored hard pastel. From there, I worked from dark to light adding in color, staying with hard pastels for the beginning of the painting, and moving into soft pastels to establish the darkest darks and brightest highlights. Working with hard pastels first allows me to save the tooth of the paper to get maximum layering capabilities.

I will have a new pastels course starting on January 14 that runs for 10 weeks at the NJ Visual Arts Center. For more details, click here.

Fall Foliage in Pastel Workshop Nov. 14

November 11, 2010

Fall Foliage in Pastel Workshop, Sunday Nov. 14

Join me this weekend at the NJ Visual Arts Center for a special one-day intensive workshop, Fall Foliage in Pastel. Working from their own reference photos or sketches, students will use hard and soft pastels to create fall foliage landscapes. Expressive use of color and composition will be emphasized. Demonstrations will be given on layering, color mixing, drawing natural looking trees, water and other elements of the landscape. Request a materials list. Registration fee is $100, call the art center at 908-273-9121 to register.

Register for NJ Visual Arts Center Classes TODAY to Avoid Late Fees!

September 3, 2010

Manchester Center, Vermont - pastel on Pastel Mat paper, 7x9

If you are planning to take any courses at NJ Visual Arts Center this fall regsiter today to avoid late registration fees! The center charges a $10 late registration fee for fall courses beginning tomorrow.

Many students have already signed up and some even registered early and were able to take advantage of the pre-registration discount offer before August 3.  The center needs to finalize the fall course schedule and instructors need to know exactly which of their courses are running so they can prepare efficiently. So sign up today (not just for my classes, but for any you are planning to take at the center this fall) and SAVE!

To register, call the art center at 908-273-9121. I am offering a total of 6 ten-week courses and 3 one-day workshops this fall, for details visit the center’s  web site.

The Challenges of Painting Large Works

August 15, 2010

Midtown in Motion, oil on board, 40x30 in.

close up of finished details

Painting large works presents a whole new series of challenges, an idea that works beautifully as a small or medium size painting, does not necessarily translate well into a larger format. And even if it does, there are the technical aspects of getting the paint onto the surface that may present issues that are not a problem when working smaller. For example:

  • Choosing a subject – whether you are working on a landscape, still life or figurative painting, you have to be sure you have “enough” material to warrant a large format.  Are there enough elements in your composition to keep the viewer engaged on a large scale? Or, will they become bored after a quick glance?
  • Choosing a surface – This is somewhat subjective, but knowing what choices you have and their characteristics is good to know up front. If you like a smooth surface, like to work in layers but with some all prima touches, Ampersand Gessobord is a good choice. However, you should be aware that it absorbs the paint rather quickly and you will likely have to adjust the amount of medium you use if you are used to working on canvas. The advantages of a smooth surface also include easier coverage of large areas. If you have difficulty covering your canvas on a small scale, this problem will be magnified when working large. On the other hand, if you like the texture and feel of canvas, and prefer working with thick paints or a palette knife technique, canvas is probably a better choice–but either way surface preparation is key to success.
  • Surface Preparation – this is one of the most important steps when working large, preparing your surface. In this phase, you are beginning the process of covering the surface with paint. I stress this although it may seem like an obvious concept, many times artists don’t realize how much work it takes to get every bit of the surface covered with pigment by the time the painting is done. Regardless of the surface type, I always use a coat of tinted gesso, which I tint with a bit of acrylic added to the gesso–any color will work, I typically choose either a neutral color like yellow ochre or burnt sienna, or a color that is complementary to the predominant color harmony of the piece. This gives me a head start in getting tone and color on the canvas and gives me a middle value to begin working in the underpainting. I use a trim roller to apply the tinted gesso, it makes the job go faster and provides even distribution of the gesso.
  • Underpainting – this is the most important stage of any painting, but it is critical with a large piece. This is where you work out composition and get all of the elements placed in correct position, proportion and perspective, and work out the values. Spend time on this part, don’t rush through it, get it right in this stage and your painting is almost guaranteed to be a success. Ignore this stage and you will be “fixing” things all throughout the painting process which makes for an unpleasant painting experience and a poor end result.
  • Applying Color – once you begin applying color, be sure to mix enough up in order to cover all of the areas in the painting that require the color.  Again, an obvious point, but one that becomes a nuisance if you have to constantly remix colors. However, using a limited palette (I use 3 primaries, a dark neutral and white, sometimes a warm and cool version of each) allows you to easily remix in the event that you have to.
  • Finishing – last of all, you need to protect your painting with a coat of varnish. You’ll want to use a re-touch varnish if you cannot wait the 6 months to 1 year for applying a permanent varnish on oils, if you are working in acrylic, just wait at least a week or 2 to be sure the acrylics have fully dried (particularly if you are working with one of the slow drying brands like Chroma Atelier Interactives or Golden Open). Apply a THIN layer of varnish with a sponge applicator working diagonally from a corner. Do not put too much varnish on the painting, if it is pooling, you are using too much. Covering a large surface takes patience, don’t rush the process by glopping on the varnish, you will ruin the painting!

All of these issues will be covered in detail in a new course I am offering at the NJ Visual Arts Center in Summit this fall. The course is called The Big Picture and runs for 10 weeks from 9:30 am to noon on Mondays beginning Sept. 13. For more information or to register, please visit the art center’s web site , or call 908-273-9121. Register by Sept. 3 to avoid late registration fees!